Separating the Cross and the Sword

What is a gaffe but an inadvertent uttering of an awkward truth? For instance:

"This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while."

The "gaffe" part of George W. Bush’s post-9/11 announcement that the War on Terror had begun was, of course, his calling it a crusade. Doing so, as the Wall Street Journal put it at the time, was "indelicate," because:

In strict usage, the word describes the Christian military expeditions a millennium ago to capture the Holy Land from Muslims. But in much of the Islamic world, where history and religion suffuse daily life in ways unfathomable to most Americans, it is shorthand for something else: a cultural and economic Western invasion that, Muslims fear, could subjugate them and desecrate Islam.

And of course we didn’t want them to think that when we started killing them, when we launched our shock-and-awe bombing campaign. War is secular, rational and absolutely necessary, period. A generation or so earlier, Bush’s use of that word in the context of war wouldn’t have been particularly controversial, because religion was still overtly part of the mix. But by 2001 its casual reference was no longer politically correct . . . even though its quiet blessing of the war machine was still crucial.

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We Need a National Rite of Passage That Doesn’t Include War

A recent New York Timesop-ed was perhaps the strangest, most awkward and tentative defense of the military-industrial complex – excuse me, the experiment in democracy called America – I’ve ever encountered, and begs to be addressed.

The writer, Andrew Exum, was an Army Ranger who had deployments in the early 2000s to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and a decade later served for several years as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy.

The point he is making amounts to this: The last twenty years of war have been a disaster, with our pullout from Afghanistan sealing history’s final judgment: We lost. And we deserved to lose. But what a crushing blow to the men and women who served with courage, indeed, who sacrificed their lives for their country.

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Let’s Open the Books: We Need a Truth Commission for the Afghan War

“Ten members of one family – including seven children – are dead after a US drone strike targeting a vehicle in a residential neighborhood of Kabul . . .

“The youngest victims of Sunday’s airstrike were two 2-year-old girls, according to family members.

“Relatives found the remains of one of the girls, Malika, in the rubble near their home on Monday.”

Ho hum, life goes on – especially if you call it collateral damage and refuse to imagine the corpse of your own loved one lying in the rubble. The deaths, described in a brief CNN story, resulted from a retaliatory airstrike following the ISIS suicide bombing at the Kabul airport last week, as the U.S. was allegedly ending its 20-year war with Afghanistan . . . 80,000 bombs dropped, several hundred thousand people killed, 2.3 trillion dollars wasted, a country left utterly shattered and impoverished.

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Nukes, Lies, and Invisible Murder

Let’s listen in for a moment to the gentle, awkward language of mass killing:

"The employment or threat of employment of nuclear weapons could have a significant influence on ground operations. . . . Integration of nuclear weapons into a theater of operations requires the consideration of multiple variables. Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict."

This is a sneak peek into a 2019 report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff called "Nuclear Operations," which Brian Terrell quoted recently. The document was, for some reason, publicly posted in the waning days of the Trump administration, then – oops – quickly removed, but not before it was downloaded by the Federation of American Scientists.

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Can Biden End the Endless Wars and Learn To Wage Peace?

Will Joe Biden end the endless wars or won’t he?

I have serious doubts that he has the will or political acumen to do so. But that’s only a fragment of the question that needs to be asked, as we approach the twentieth anniversary of our global “war on evil.”A far, far bigger question looms, a question with answers scattered across the global landscape: Can we learn to wage peace? Can we create a united world, free of borders and scapegoats? Can we transcend our alienation from and exploitation of the planet that is our home and our nurturer? Can we stop being afraid of people we don’t know, people who are “different”from us? Can we let go of our need for an enemy?

Millions of global citizens believe the answer to these questions is yes and are committed to creating a different world – I call it participatory evolution – but at the highest levels of collective human organization, cynicism and ignorance rule. Or perhaps I simply mean cluelessness. Militarism is embedded in the infrastructure of the nation state. It’s not simply that borders and interests have to be “defended”; the easiest way to maintain the illusion of national unity is to present the people with a powerful enemy, imaginary or otherwise.

“Ours is the cause of freedom,” George W. Bush declared in November 2001, a month after the U.S. began its war on Afghanistan and two months after 9/11, recently quoted in an essay by Andrew Bacevich. “We’ve defeated freedom’s enemies before, and we will defeat them again. . . . My fellow Americans, let’s roll.”

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Robert Koehler on Nuclear Hubris

One thing that becomes clear to me when I wander into the world, and the minds, of geopolitical professionals – government people – is how limited and linear their thinking seems to be.

When I do so, an internal distress signal starts beeping and won’t stop, especially when the issue under discussion is war and mass destruction, i.e., suicide by nukes, which has a freshly intense relevance these days as Team Trump plays war with Iran.

The question for me goes well beyond democracy – the right of the public to have a say in what "we" do as a nation – and penetrates the decision-making process itself and the prevailing definition of what matters . . . and what doesn’t. What doesn’t matter, apparently, is any awareness that we live in one world, connected at the core: that the problems confronting this planet transcend the fragmentary "interests" of single, sovereign entities, even if the primary interest is survival itself.

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