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Everywhere is War

June 17, 2014

Summer approaches and the stench of war is all around. Or, as the great Bob Marley put it, “Everywhere is war”. Start with the commemorations over a five-week span of Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day, all presented varyingly as celebrations of our war dead, symbols of our greatness, the freedoms we love so dearly and seek to export to every corner of the world and, perhaps most important, the unquestioned rightness of our cause.

In reality, the celebrations are of imperialist war, with the talk about the hallowed dead just so much cover for the murderous nature of US foreign policy. Celebrating the dead – note that the dead celebrated are just the American dead, not any of the millions killed by US aggression or client states – is a no-lose proposition designed to render anyone who asks the wrong questions a traitor or a terrorist. The notion that the US regularly commits war crimes and that polished, well-educated men like John Kennedy and Barack Obama are war criminals is unthinkable; war criminals look like Osama bin-Laden and Saddam Hussein and those other nasty people far away, over there.

It’s also the summer of the centennial of the start of what in its time was known as the Great War, the greatest blood-letting in history except for that of the Second Great War barely two decades later. Of one thing we can be sure and that is that the lessons drawn from mainstream discussions of World War I will be all the wrong ones. Worse, the spectacle of the intelligentsia waxing eloquent about the horrors of war while unflinchingly cheering on the warmakers in Washington will be accepted by one and all of their kind as perfectly reasonable – as beyond discussion, in fact.

In recent weeks, meanwhile, mainstream commentators have been shocked to discover that things in Iraq are not alright, in fact are worse than at any time since the second US blitzkrieg in 2003. Gee, who knew? Who knew that an invasion predicated on a lie of weapons of mass destruction, designed to secure control of massive oil supplies, would go wrong? The political class and intelligentsia didn’t, or at least they pretended they didn’t, but millions around the world who demonstrated against the invasion in the weeks before it was launched certainly did. And one of the points those demonstrators underscored was that a US invasion would fuel sectarian divisions and violence, precisely as has happened. Al-Qaeda, which did not exist in Iraq prior to the invasion, now flourishes while a new group, the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), rampages through the country.

The response of many elites in the US, naturally, is for more war. Calls from certain factions for a third US invasion are growing louder and Obama likely would have done so by now if not for grave ruling class concerns about how much more a war-weary populace can endure. Weary or not, people in the US came together in a remarkable groundswell of protest last summer that prevented Obama from attacking Syria. Given Obama’s penchant for resolving virtually any problem with violence, however, as in his determination to provoke war with Russia in Ukraine, his reluctance to invade Iraq may very well be temporary.

Also on the war front is the Veterans Affairs’ disgraceful neglect of ex-soldiers in need of medical care. For years, political elites have been slashing benefits for veterans while increasing spending on weapons and cutting taxes for the Super Rich. That the problem came to a head with a Democrat in the White House is simply an accident of timing, and it is especially outrageous that the most enthusiastic cheerleaders of the illegal Bush-Cheney invasions, as well as reductions to the VA’s budgets and the tax cuts for 1%, now pretend that they care about soldiers.

Equally farcical is the commencement of yet another round of hearings on the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. Such hearings would certainly be valuable if everything related to US actions in Libya since the launch of the 2011 assault were up for review, but there is virtually no chance of that happening. The deaths of tens of thousands of Libyans in yet one more illegal military strike, as well as the resulting chaos and violence in that country, is of no concern to those who long for the good old days of Bush-Cheney interested only in scoring political points.

Last but not least is the saga of the much-vilified Bowe Bergdhal, a heroic young man who came to see the criminal nature of the US invasion of Afghanistan. The refusal of working class youth to fight for Empire is the ruling class’s biggest nightmare and the attacks on Bergdahl, like the show trial that convicted Chelsea Manning, show how far they will go to punish those in uniform who dare challenge their objectives. A hidden aspect of the movement that ended US carnage in Southeast Asia is that it was the widespread opposition of soldiers, both as embodied by organizations like Vietnam Veterans Against the War as well as active duty resisters, that decisively turned the tide.

So alarming was this development that two massive disinformation campaigns were immediately launched: the myth of the hostility of the anti-war movement for returning soldiers that sought to drive a wedge between active duty and homefront resistance (see, for example, Jerry Lembcke’s outstanding book The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam); and the completely fraudulent MIA blitz (expertly exposed by Bruce Franklin in MIA, or Mythmaking in America) concocted by the Nixon Administration to shift attention away from the death and destruction wrought by the US to the plight of nonexistent prisoners of war.

Because preventing any similar development of resistance among soldiers is central to imperial objectives, discussion has largely avoided what Bergdahl actually said about his service in Afghanistan, including his telling declaration in a 2009 e-mail to his parents, as quoted by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!: “The future is too good to waste on lies and life is way too short to care for the damnation of others as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I’ve seen their ideas, I’m ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self righteous arrogance that they thrive in.” Rather than joining in the Bowe Bergdhal lynch mob, US soldiers everywhere, not to mention those with loved ones in the military, would do well to heed his words and experience.

Lastly, the same standard that applies to the war crimes of others applies to the US. As articulated by Robert H. Jackson, chief US prosecutor at Nuremberg, a war of aggression such as committed by the US against Afghanistan and Iraq “is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from all other crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” In such a circumstance, what Bergdahl did was proper and, it could be argued, obligatory for anyone party to war crimes. So amidst the flag waving and speechifying that glorifies imperialism, we should support him and prisoners of conscience like Chelsea Manning. We should demand that all services veterans require be provided, that US bases around the world be closed, that soldiers be returned home and that the US cease its campaign of endless aggression. And as enticing as the military may seem in such desperate economic times, we should counsel young people to stay away no matter how bleak the alternatives may be.


About the author: Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning author who has written for Z Magazine, Counterpunch, The Indypendent and many other publications. He can be reached at andypiascik@yahoo.com. 



2 Responses to Everywhere is War

  1. TomP on June 27, 2014 at 11:33 am

    The media continually laud our service men and women calling them heroes. Of course, if they are all heroes, they must be doing good, right? And that’s where the thinking often ends. Propagandists have known for a long time that an effective way to squelch questions, reflection, doubt, and regret, that heaven forbid, might lead to challenges to policy, is to misdirect people’s thinking; to frame the issues in terms that will keep the public in a docile mindset. As a vet I can tell you that there are plenty of immoral people in the military; soldiers who commit crimes and atrocities and never get caught. But who would dare to ask questions, if they are all heroes? Consider the case of Ilario Pantano, who will strike many as an obvious sociopath, and who arguably murdered two unarmed Iraqi civilians he had captured and was exonerated in one of the most troubling and questionable cases. His own testimony would disturb any moral person. We despise foreign soldiers who commit atrocities, and demand justice, yet when Americans commit them, there are a hundred reasons why they should not be held accountable (assuming the case isn’t covered up and forgotten; CYA continues to be a prime objective of many ranking officers in the military. Look at the Pat Tillman case if you have any doubts.): the fog of war, the stresses of combat, mental fatigue, and so on. I don’t mean to over simplify this; it’s complicated; human behavior is complicated and even good people can do bad things in bad circumstances. But war itself should absolutely be a last resort because of that fact. Yet Bush, Cheney, and the Neocons were so eager to take us to war over a lie, they never stopped to reflect upon the cost to others; none of them risking a thing. And the collateral damage of a half a million lives is just so much water under the bridge. What happens to the men and woman who don’t find killing easy? (Assuming they haven’t been killed or disfigured.) They end up with PTSD, memories they can’t get out of their head and a mountain of shit to deal with for the rest of their lives. A vet in my neighborhood lost both legs. And what of President George Bush? He lives in total comfort on his ranch in Crawford or his 8,000 square-foot home in Preston Hollow, painting pictures of famous people he has met.

  2. JasonR on June 27, 2014 at 12:27 am

    The surge itself seems to have been a self-contained, massive criminal act, involving three elements, one of which was death squads which committed extrajudicial killings to eliminate hostile combatants and non-cooperative civilian leaders of the opposition. The other two elements being increased troop strength and paying roughly 90 thousand militia to behave. All temporary fixes with disturbing long term consequences.

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