I recently got a chance to discuss American militarism and antiwar politics with Ralph Nader. The Center for Study of Responsive Law created this video in affiliation with the Amherst Political Union.
At this summer’s Freedom Fest, our Director of Operations, Angela Keaton, debated historian and archaeologist Ian Morris on his recent book War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots.
Morris’ general thesis is that over human history war has created larger more organized governments which made for a more peaceful society. Keaton disagrees. Antiwar.com columnist Dan Sanchez weighs in with pre-debate commentary at No, War is not the Health of Peace and Prosperity.
William Pfaff died on April 30, 2015. His death is nothing less than a serious loss to the shrinking number of American daily newspaper columnists who question and contest American Exceptionalism and its “unnecessary and unwinnable” wars.
Pfaff was the singular heir of American writers who preceded him in condemning our historic addiction to war. And the more he criticized the U.S. for shooting first and thinking later, the fewer America dailies printed his columns. The New York Times, which owns the International Herald-Tribune where his work regularly appeared, rarely if ever published his piercing anti-interventionist columns. He was, after all, an outspoken opponent of the Iraq invasion when the paper went overboard in favor of the war. His few daily newspaper outlets were limited essentially to Newsday and the Chicago Tribune though liberal journals like the New York Review of Books, William Shawn’s New Yorker, which printed some seventy of his pieces, and Commonweal, the liberal Catholic magazine, welcomed him.
I was hired in 1972 by the American Jewish Committee to serve as editor of a new magazine I named Present Tense. My vague assignment was to be more “Jewish” than the well-established and influential Commentary magazine, which, while also parented by the AJC, had shifted its primary attention to more worldly interests under Norman Podhoretz, its smart and creative editor, who had abandoned his and the magazine’s traditional liberalism and moved right, very far right, into the brawling territory of U.S. foreign policy and national politics. From 1972 to 1990, when we were closed down, my office was one flight below that of Commentary.
From the very beginning Present Tense was “a sort of counter-Commentary,” as Susan Jacoby, one of our regular columnists, shrewdly noted in her illuminating book, “Half-Jew: A Daughter’s Search for Her Family’s Buried Past.” Early on, a reader wrote us that we were doomed to obscurity and worse because the further we veered left, the more we became too liberal for the AJC’s conservative donors (they also had liberal donors, equally unhappy with Commentary). Even so, we lasted for many years, sometimes taking on the Israel Lobby, disdainful of Reagan for Iran-Contra and his proxy war in Central America, while celebrating his anti-nuke huddle in Reykjavik with Gorbachev and publishing all sides of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and I mean, all sides, including right, center and left. We also refused to forgive and forget the ugly legacy of McCarthyism and how its impact still blunted dissent in the American Jewish world, as the novelist and journalist Anne Roiphe, another of our intrepid columnists, pointed out in our final issue. Continue reading “The Neocons: First in War, Last in Peace”
“Leave them to their sectarian religious wars. They’ve been killing each other for thousands of years, and it will continue unabated no matter what we enlightened, secular westerners do. Best not to get mixed up in it.”
This sentiment is prevalent within certain strands of anti-interventionist thought, and it betrays an incredible ignorance and arrogance. It neglects the central fact of Muslim civilization since World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and especially since World War II and the establishment of the state of Israel: the western imperial domination and exploitation of virtually all Muslim lands and people, whether through occupation, puppet dictators, civil war sponsorship, or chaos-inducing regime changes. Westerners sigh derisively at “backward” Muslim culture, yet it is western culture that, by sanctioning such a foreign policy, has proven to be far more barbaric.
A splendid 2011 Ron Paul presidential campaign ad invited viewers to imagine how Americans would respond if another country ever did to America what the U.S. government does to Muslim countries on a routine basis.
Of course, as the ad indicates, the response would be an armed insurgency. Think the “Wolverines” in the 1984 film Red Dawn.
From realizing that, it is only takes a little more reflection to realize that such an American insurgency would draw resolve and inspiration from its dominant religion, Christianity. Moreover, the vanguard of any “American intifada” would be deeply Christian in character, and the more desperate the struggle became, the more dominant would be its religious aspects, and especially its most radically religious aspects.
Continue reading “Religious Zealotry and Imperial Domination: Infection and Inflammation in the Body Politic”
The empire is in a particularly testy and truculent mood. Two of its appendages have, virtually simultaneously, eschewed ceasefires in their respective campaigns of aggression. Both have bombarded civilian centers with airstrikes, and Ukraine has been rolling in armored vehicles, while Israel is preparing to do the same. As Jason Ditz reports:
Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich today ruled out any ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, as the Israeli military continues to escalate airstrikes against the tiny Gaza Strip, and is building up for a ground invasion.
Having taken Slovyansk earlier this week, Ukrainian officials are increasingly bellicose about their ongoing civil war, demand unconditional, unilateral disarmament by the rebels before any future discussions. “There will be no more unilateral ceasefires” by Ukrainian troops, announced Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey, while other officials promised a “nasty surprise” for any of the eastern rebels that continue to resist their takeover. (…) “…the Ukrainian military is increasingly using not only airstrikes, but armored vehicles in its offensives.”
With Ukraine, as it always does with Israel, the U.S. government, which funds and arms both, defends its actions as “defending itself.” Propping up such merciless savagery is unbelievably reckless on the part of U.S. policymakers. It is precisely this kind of mass brutalization of Arabs that has resulted in incidents of blowback like 9/11. And now, even as the empire doubles down on this treatment of Arabs, it is so suicidally stupid as to actually extend it to Russian-speaking people, right on the border of nuclear Russia.
Demonize Putin all you want, but never forget that control over Russia’s mountain of H-bombs is, in the final analysis, in the hands of the Russian people. And it is far from impossible that the “blowback” rage and hatred to come from grinding Russian-speakers under the imperial boot will not be dissimilar from the blowback of doing the same to Arabs; only this time with potentially thermonuclear consequences. How, after all, do you think it makes Russians feel to see pictures like this, which is from a Ukrainian airstrike on Russian-speakers in early June?
And no, you hubris-addled neocons, not even regime-change against Putin would solve the problem. If anything his popularity is putting a lid on the outrage, because the Russians trust him to stand up for them, and therefore give him leeway for compromise.
Stop the madness now.