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How America’s war machine is bankrupting us, both financially and morally

“Napoleon said that it’s not necessary to censor the news. It’s more efficient to delay it until it no longer matters. In terms of the dead, it no longer matters.”

Norman Solomon on what the media won’t say: “The American people live in a warfare state” by Chauncey DeVaga — Rise Up Times

Author and activist Norman Solomon on how America’s war machine is bankrupting us, both financially and morally, By CHAUNCEY DEVEGA  Salon  September 8, 2021 ” …………….. America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan is now technically over.

…………………The Afghanistan war cost the American people at least $2 trillion. That amount will increase significantly from the interest paid on the massive debt incurred by the war over the next few decades.

America’s ugly withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves behind many “what ifs” that will haunt the nation’s collective memory for years to come. For example, what if the terrorist attacks of 9/11 had been treated as a law enforcement problem and not a military crisis that led to the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq? (Especially since the latter nation had no connection to al-Qaida or the 9/11 attacks.)

What role did the War on Terror and its thousands of U.S. casualties (disproportionately concentrated in the Rust Belt and the American South) play in the election of Donald Trump and the rise of American neofascism? Would Trump ever have become president if there had been no endless war in the Middle East?

The withdrawal from Afghanistan also illustrates how poorly America’s collective memory reflects facts and history. Too many members of the media and political classes, still haunted by the ghosts of Vietnam, the Afghan retreat is being invoked as somehow equivalent to the fall of Saigon in 1975. It is not.

………. These first drafts of history about America’s retreat from Afghanistan are very much works in progress.

As writer and cultural critic Gore Vidal once observed, “We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.” To that point, the American people will not be asked to make sense of Afghanistan and the War on Terror in the context of a much larger history. (And if they were asked, would not generally be able to answer, or interested in doing so).

Here is the central question that is being avoided: What does all this illustrate or exemplify? The answer: America is addicted to war. Since the end of World War II, the country has been involved in dozens of conflicts and interventions around the world. In that sense, America’s war in Afghanistan is part of a much older and much longer story.

To discuss both that longer story and the one before us now, I recently had a conversation with author, activist and journalist Norman Solomon (a frequent contributor to Salon). He is the author of many books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.” Solomon is the national director and co-founder of the online activist initiative and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy,

In this conversation, Solomon explains how he believes the American people are propagandized into supporting war by political leaders, the mainstream news media and other elites. He also reflects on how Afghanistan, Iraq and the larger War on Terror have been counterproductive on their own terms — leaving the American people less safe and less secure — as well as profoundly immoral and ruinously expensive.

He explains how human rights and justice demand that the American people learn to practice radical empathy for the Afghan people and others around the world who have suffered immeasurably from American military power. Toward the end of this conversation, Solomon explains that the lives of average Americans could be greatly improved if the U.S. did not spend vast sums of money on a military machine used almost entirely for destructive ends.

As a whole, the news media and the pundit class are generalists and professional “smart people.” They have little specific policy expertise on America’s forever wars or the Middle East, yet are presented as authoritative voices on that subject and too many others. How does the business of “expertise” and “punditry” actually work?

The qualification is largely that you have some type of institutional credential or be in a powerful position in Washington. You also have to stay more or less within the parameters of the bipartisan consensus about American politics, especially in terms of foreign policy.

What is verboten in such conversations?

In terms of U.S. foreign and military policy, there is a type of mass media housekeeping seal of approval. It is not completely monolithic. There are cracks in the wall. However, just because there are cracks does not somehow mean that the wall no longer exists.

The essence of propaganda is repetition. I believe there is a paradigm, a rule where there’s terrain that the corporate media tends to be very comfortable having discourse and debate on and within. Essentially, the mass media are part of the war-making apparatus.

How do you make sense of this public rehabilitation project for the likes of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, two of the most prominent figures who made the decisions that led to these disastrous wars?

Consider all the praise, for example, that was visited on the late Donald Rumsfeld during his obituary period. There were so many members of the mainstream American news media who just basically licked Rumsfeld’s boots when he was giving his daily briefings during the war. Top journalists in the United States, on camera, were saying to Rumsfeld that he was like a “rock star,” that he was a “stud,” because he was articulating U.S. policy so well during those first weeks of the bombing of Afghanistan. I think of that spectacle all the time, where the media bows down to the warmakers in this country………..

The press is supposed to help the public understand current events so they can make better decisions about government, policy and leadership. But relatively few in the mainstream news media gave extensive coverage to the “Afghanistan Papers,” which were leaked not long ago and extensively documented that the war in Afghanistan had been lost for years. There is much fake surprise about the sudden end of the war and the Taliban taking over so quickly. The United States government knew of this highly probable outcome some time ago.

There is tremendous conformity-pressure. Being ahead of the discernment curve is very rarely a career enhancement. Whereas going with the herd, or being a little ahead of the curve but not going too far out on a limb, is a winning strategy for so many people who have risen through the ranks in mass media — and for that matter in government.

Napoleon said that it’s not necessary to censor the news. It’s more efficient to delay it until it no longer matters. In terms of the dead, it no longer matters. The last mistake is chalked up as in fact being just an error. But people who are going deeper in the analysis are saying, “There’s a fundamental dynamic here.”

We, the American people, live in a warfare state. As President Dwight Eisenhower warned as he was leaving office, we have a military-industrial complex. It’s striking how rarely we even hear that term being uttered by a prominent Democratic or Republican leader in Washington. It’s almost verboten………..

How do we better explain to the American people the role of profiteering by private interests and big business in the country’s wars?

When we hear that the war in Afghanistan was a “failure,” it really depends on what vantage point one is talking about. Every war is a colossal success for the military-industrial complex and huge numbers of Pentagon contractors. We call it the “defense industry.” That is a benign term.

I’m not against a defense budget. Too bad we don’t have one! We have a military budget that’s so much larger than a genuine defense budget would be. The profit-taking is enormous.

Where does the $700-something billion a year from the Pentagon go? Add in nuclear weapons and other items that are outside the Pentagon budget, and the number rises to $1 trillion. So much of that money is just going to these huge corporations. How often do we see a serious examination in the mainstream news media of the corporations that are making a killing, literally and figuratively, from the misery and death that’s part of the U.S. warfare state?

How has war been sold to the American people by the country’s leaders? What narratives are used to propagandize them into supporting American empire and war-making?………

Has the mainstream news media ever seen a war they didn’t like?

If there’s a deep division on Capitol Hill within or between the two parties, then the mass media, to some significant extent, might be against it. Again, war is framed around the question, “Is it winnable?”

Ultimately, that is the wrong question. Even now there are critics of the Afghanistan war saying, “It was a terrible idea. It could have never been won.” I can reasonably conclude that the seven-year-old girl I met with one arm didn’t really care if the U.S. won or lost. She didn’t care that Barack Obama was a Democrat overseeing the air war that took one of her arms.


September 11, 2021 - Posted by | media, politics, USA, weapons and war

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