Monday, September 16, 2013

The Warmonger Song-And-Dance Routine

Or, Meditations on a Military Empire

I do not believe the claims Syria possesses chemical weapons for a minute. Anyone who does clearly learned nothing from this nation's last major military conflict.

And so here we go again with Washington's favorite warmonger song-and-dance routine. Another Middle Eastern country has weapons of mass destruction--err...excuse me, "chemical weapons" and so, in the United States' self-appointed role as Supreme Law Enforcer of the Globe, we must forcibly disarm them. Damn any innocent civilians killed in the process.

Didn't President Obama get the memo? Conventional war sold as propaganda to a skeptical public is so 2003. These days, we just assassinate the evil-doers (and their children) via unmanned predator drones with no public debate whatsoever. Can't we just send a drone after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and be done with it?

Of all the ink spilled in the decade since George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sent the country to war in Iraq based on lies and fabricated intelligence, I still think Michael Moore's succinct assessment best cuts to the heart of why their deception was so successful:

"I blame the New York Times more for the Iraq war than Bush," he wrote in a 2010 article for The Daily Beast ("Liberals Sold the Iraq War," 09/15/2010).

He writes,
I expected Bush and Cheney to try and get away with what they did. But the Times--and the rest of the press--was supposed to STOP  them by doing their job: Be a relentless watchdog of government and business--and then inform the public so we can take action. (Bold and italics his.)

Moore's understanding of the role of a free, independent press is much the same as I learned studying journalism in college. Alas, like so many academic theories those concerning the Fourth Estate remain thoroughly detached from reality.

The fact is we do not have a free or independent press in this country. And when your broadcast news network is owned by the world's third-largest weapons manufacturer (NBC-General Electric in this case), that network has an inherent interest in promoting the war and the views of Establishment warmongers.

Since the launch of the Iraq war, many media outlets and op-ed writers who were so gung-ho for the invasion have engaged in (or, at least, offered the pretense of engaging in) various degrees of self-reflection concerning their collective failure in their watchdog role. Yet, once again, we have those same outlets and reporters swallowing the Obama administration's fuzzy rationales for striking Syria.

To that end, NYT columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof assails critics of a military intervention ("The Right Questions on Syria," 09/05/2013):

"...[W]hat do you propose other than that we wag our fingers as a government uses chemical weapons on its own people? So far, we've tried peaceful acquiescence, and it hasn't worked very well."

We have...? Oh, so Israel's week-long bombing of Syria earlier this year was an instance of "peaceful acquiescence." Here I misunderstood it to be an act of, you know...war.

Kristof, like so many proponents of a Syrian strike, grossly oversimplifies the debate as consisting of two polar extremes: Using military force to "punish" Assad, or doing absolutely nothing. He writes, " is being 'pro-peace' in this case much different in effect from being 'pro-Assad' and resigning oneself to the continued slaughter of civilians?" Such an attitude further perpetuates the American logic that the only truly effective means of pursuing peace throughout the globe (often from dictators the U.S. put in power in the first place) is through military force.

Kristof, in a stunning bit of self-serving historical revisionism, casts himself as a critic of the

Nicholas D. Kristof
Iraq war. "A decade ago, I was aghast that so many liberals were backing the Iraq war," he writes.

That's funny, because during the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, Kristof wrote this:

"President Bush has convinced me there is no philosophical reason we should not overthrow the Iraqi government, given that Iraqis themselves would be better off, along with the rest of the world" ("Wimps on Iraq," 08/27/2002).

Two years later, Kristof, in typical NY Times' double-speak, chastised Moore's documentary film, Fahrenheit 9/11 for "calling Bush a liar," while conceding, in the same column, "Of course, Mr. Bush did stretch the truth." Then again, Kristof was likely following The Times' cardinal rule, as explained by reporter Elisabeth Bumiller, "You can't just say the president is lying."

Contrary to conventional thinking, liberals are just as hawkish as Republicans when it comes to matters of war and peace. In particular, liberals routinely fall in line for the logic of so-called "humanitarian intervention," which was how Bill Clinton presented his bombing of Serbia in 1999 and, more recently, the Saddam-Hussein-is-as-bad-as-Hitler rhetoric for the war in Iraq.

Yet, in both the media and public opinion, Democrats are still held up as eternal champions of peace and diplomacy. All those "anti-war" liberals who were so convinced Obama was the "lesser evil" during last year's presidential election seem oblivious to the fact that both the gargantuan Pentagon budget and our military presence throughout the globe have increased under Obama. In fact, the president's proposed FY 2014 military-spending budget is the largest request since World War II. But he gets the Nobel Peace Prize, and not a true humanitarian like Chelsea Manning.

Yet all is not lost.

As of this writing, Obama's plans for a coordinated air-strike over Syria have, at least temporarily, been stalled. Russia's recent deal is one reason for this. Assad's agreement to disclose his (again, alleged) chemical weapons is another. (Recall that Saddam Hussein, even when faced with the prospect of war with the United States, continued to falsely insist he possessed weapons of mass destruction.)

But the real reason Obama's war is, at least for the moment, a no-go is not likely to be mentioned on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, or The PBS News Hour. It is because the American people do not want it.

Public opinion remains vastly opposed to military intervention in Syria. A recent CBS/New York Times poll finds 61 percent of Americans--Democrats, Republicans and Independents--oppose the strike. That is a ratio of six in ten opposed to military action. A late August Reuters/Ipsos poll, reported on in The Washington Post finds only 9 percent of Americans support an attack on Syria ("New Poll: Syria intervention even less popular than Congress," 08/26/2013).

The American people have spoken on the prospect of another Middle Eastern war. And by wide margins they have rejected it. Americans are finally saying "No!" to war. And, to his credit, President Obama, unlike members of his predecessor's administration, seems to be listening.

As it is, there are serious doubts surrounding the claims Syria even has chemical weapons at all. According to a recent story by Hannah Allam and Mark Seibel for McClatchy ("To some, U.S. case for Syrian gas attack, strike has too many holes," 09/02/2013), the Obama administration's case for war is "riddled with inconsistencies" and "hinges mainly on circumstantial evidence." The reporters note, correctly, "After the false weapons claims preceding the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the threshold for evidence to support intervention is exceedingly high."

Whether the allegations are true or not, Obama's failure on Syria is a victory for those of us on the anti-war left. And, whether or not the television news pundits are willing to admit it, right now we are winning.  


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