Pew Bias? Poll says 6 in 10 vets have ‘isolationist inclinations’

I originally posted this today at The American Conservative blog, @TAC

Buried in an amazing poll released by the Pew Research Center today that says 1 in 3 post-9/11 veterans believe the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were ‘not worth fighting,’ is an assertion that 6 in 10 such veterans polled also have ‘isolationist inclinations’ simply because they believe “the United States should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home.”

This bit of editorializing by Pew is interesting, and shows how successful the establishment/neoconservative message machine has been in propagating the belief that anyone who wants to pull back from our global military adventures to concentrate on the devolution of our fiscal stability at home is an “isolationist.’ The outrageous thing is that here, we are actually talking about people who fought in the wars. Those pushing the ‘isolationist’ meme with such vigor — think Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Steven Hayes –  have never picked up a gun, much less sat in a line to pick up a measly prescription at a VA pharmacy. Sure, Sen. John McCain, who likes to fling around the isolationist charge quite a bit, was a Navy pilot and POW, but he’s still fighting Vietnam, and thinks every war is worth a go today, and is willing to put every last man and woman in harm’s way to prove it.

But when 1 in 3 soldiers say fighting the wars was “not worth it,” especially those who leave countries still teetering on the brink, come home to apathy and no jobs  (11.5% unemployment rate for post-9/11 vets), marriages on the rocks (51%), disconnected from their children (44%) and suffering from post-traumatic stress (37%), I’d say their “inclinations” to refocus on the homefront are much better informed than the elitist warmongers whose dirtless fingernails have been drumming conference tables for the last 10 years, not the butt of a weapon or a bedside table at Walter Reed.

No, it’s not isolationist, it’s realistic.

But don’t think these vets have gone soft on war or the military as an institution: “84% of all post-9/11 veterans who served in a war zone would advise a young person to join (the military),” according to Pew.

And the beat goes on.

Get Ready for the Next Great Human Rights Crusade

A mere day after the forces of light and progress ensured that no American can be deprived of his or her God-given right to kill foreigners, a new crisis of conscience emerged. A Chicago Sun-Times editorial from Sept. 21 has the details:

Give military women equal abortion rights

Every woman who gets health insurance though the federal government faces a ban on coverage for abortion. We don’t support this policy, but the government at least allows for a few crucial and humane exceptions. For nearly every group, abortion is covered in the case of rape or incest.

But one maddening and profoundly unfair outlier exists: the U.S. Department of Defense.

If a U.S. servicewomen is raped — a shockingly frequent occurrence — she not only must navigate a sometimes sexist military culture as she attempts to get care and justice, she also must pay for the abortion herself.

And because some overseas military bases don’t provide abortions, this can include a costly flight home to find a doctor who will provide an abortion.

So, before we go any further, this is most emphatically not about the right to an abortion.* It’s about who should pay for certain abortions, which is a topic for another site. What I’m interested in is the “shockingly frequent” rape that’s going on in our most trusted institution. Let’s read on:

Servicewomen have lacked a rape exception since 1981, with a brief respite under President Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, the number of assaults against women have skyrocketed. In 2010, nearly 3,200 sexual assaults were reported in the military, a number that studies show represents just a fraction of total assaults. …

One young woman we spoke to, Jessica Kenyon, says she got no support and was ostracized after saying she was raped and sexually assaulted.

Kenyon strongly supports the rape exception but worries women will continue to be left to fend for themselves.

“There is so much torture when you report an assault,” Kenyon told us. “What will women have to do to prove they were raped?”

Given the context — and everything we’ve learned since Abu Ghraib — is there any reason to believe that she’s using the word “torture” in a strictly figurative sense? Do these rapists hold themselves to a higher standard than the Army Field Manual?

That seems unlikely. So what we have here is an organization speckled with rapists and sadists who are so depraved that they can’t even keep their hands (and other parts) off their comrades — yet this doesn’t raise any broader concerns for the Sun-Times. For instance, the editorial makes no mention whatsoever of all the women and girls (and men and boys) who didn’t volunteer to join the U.S. military but who are subjected to its “bad apples” all the same. Who will pay for their abortions (or funerals)? Who cares? Bigger evils must be confronted. Gay soldiers are being booed!

*Rest assured, gentle reader, that when it comes to abortion, you and I are on the same page. I believe wholeheartedly in whatever slogans you believe in, so there’s no need to post them in comments.

Upsetting the Reset

Last week, the Federation of American Scientists released “Upsetting the Reset: The Technical Basis of Russian Concern Over NATO Missile Defense” [.pdf]. The introduction includes a recurring theme of the Bush-Obama years:

In September 2009, the Obama administration discarded its predecessor’s European missile defense initiative that called for powerful ground-based interceptors (GBIs) in Poland with a large radar site in the Czech Republic. … Some Russian critics characterized them as threatening because they could potentially be re-engineered to be offensive nuclear-tipped missiles.

Remember when Putin seized the North Pole? This bear won't forget.
Remember when Putin seized the North Pole? This bear won't forget.

The Obama administration instead proposed the new European Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA), presented as a more flexible alternative based on the roughly ten times smaller SM-3 interceptors. …

The shelving of the original plan was initially greeted with much optimism as it was seen as the first step in “resetting” bilateral relations with Russia, which had suffered under the George W. Bush administration. It allowed the discussions of New START to get off the ground and cleared the way for greater cooperation on areas of common concern, such as addressing the possible military dimension of the Iranian nuclear program.

Over the last two years – as details and analysis of the PAA plan have emerged – Russian officials have voiced increasing concern about its scope and implications for Russia’s strategic deterrent forces.

How dare they! With popular villain big bad Vlad on his way back to the Kremlin, expect a surge in stories about Russian paranoia and expansionism.

In Delusions Begin Responsibilities

Today’s Viewpoints section featured “The Delusion of Missile Defense” by Yousaf Butt. A sample:

Last week marked the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s announcement of what was to be a radical new approach to missile defense — the Phased Adaptive Approach. According to this plan, the United States, working with NATO, would ramp up the deployment of a mix of increasingly sophisticated sea- and land-based missile interceptors around Europe in an attempt to guard against future Iranian missiles.

If there’s one issue that still enjoys bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress these days, it’s that cooperating with Russia on this defensive system would be a swell idea. Contain Iran and strengthen ties with Russia: surely a win-win. Unfortunately, missile defense will neither contain Iran nor strengthen ties with Russia. To the contrary, it will lead to more nuclear weapons and a more dangerous world. …

Chinese concerns about U.S. missile defense systems are a source of great uncertainty, reducing Chinese support for promoting negotiations on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). China’s leaders may wish to maintain the option of future military plutonium production in response to U.S. missile defense plans.

Today, Dr. Butt sent me this note:

V.P. Biden needs to talk to Senator Biden:

“But nothing could be more damaging to global nonproliferation efforts than to go forward with Star Wars. Russia has enough offensive weapons to overwhelm any system we could devise, so the real issue is what happens in China and throughout Asia.

Remember when the Missile Defense Agency was dhimmified?
Remember when the Missile Defense Agency was dhimmified?

“China currently possesses no more than two dozen ICBMs. Our own intelligence services estimate that moving forward with national missile defense could trigger a tenfold increase in China’s expansion of its nuclear capability. And that doesn’t take into account likely Chinese behavior if an arms race ensues, something many experts argue is inevitable when both India and Pakistan respond as expected by ratcheting up their nuclear programs.”

That quotation is from a December 2001 op-ed by then-Sen. Joseph Biden titled, appropriately enough, “Missile Defense Delusion.”

I just hope the administration has finally put Frank Gaffney’s mind at ease.

Are We Not Zombies?

What do zombies and the military industrial complex have in common? Let us count the ways. In fact, let military strategy & policy professor Michael Vlahos (relation, yes!) take you down that thorny path.

"Battle of Yonkers" By Daniel LuVisi

Michael writes in Dark Lord, Dark Victory: America’s Dark Passage, in the latest issue of Kosmos (.pdf), that the 9/11 War has eroded America’s  “redeemer” identity, and instead has made it more akin to the “Dark Lord,” or “the mythic essence of children’s nightmares.” In other words, we’ve sort of lost our way, and where in the past “our historical method to redeem humanity has been war,” the current Long War has done nothing of the sort. In our zeal to recreate the glory and alleged redemption of World War II, the US manufactured another “true evil,” or Dark Faith (Muslim extremism), making it an epoch battle in which Muslims “readily understood it to mean … eviscerating the entire edifice of Muslim life, replacing it with American consciousness.”

But this has only made us weaker, nearly alone, reviled and unsure of ourselves. This Long War is a slow kill and a buzz kill.

So what’s this have to do with zombies? We can see it in the latest AMC series, “The Walking Dead,” but more poignantly, in World War Z, a bestselling science fiction novel of “The  Zombie War” by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft). After nine-years of playing a humiliating game of whack-a-mole with a “rag tag” enemy that was supposedly vanquished after 9/11 but in key areas has seemingly more support from the people we are supposed to be liberating than we ever did, Americans are now indulging in elaborate fantasies, like World War Z,  in which they regain all of the pride and strength and virtue that was lost — by fighting an even more ruthless adversary, the ultimate evil –  the flesh-eating undead.

Maybe, just maybe, we can win that war, and liberate ourselves!

Sounds “fantastical,” and sure, “The Walking Dead” is nothing but a slick soap opera with lots of blood and guts, but as Vlahos points out:

“…are not zombies our former selves — hence, the most terrifying and relentless enemy of all? Are not their ranks also flush with those who had lost American virtue: The passive, the narcissistic, the cynical, the uncaring? Sacred wars are about purification, revival and redemption. By indirection, Brooks is making the troubling point as well, that only zombies — or a national challenge equally existential — can renew America now.”

AMC's "The Walking Dead"

Brooks makes his own point, however indirectly, on his own website, below his mention of Mike’s piece. It seems U.S soldiers in Afghanistan have been buying out  “zombie hunter” patches like hotcakes. He points to a summertime piece by the Global Post’s Ben Brody, where soldiers languishing on Forward Operating Bases waiting for some kind of meaning in what they are doing are increasing turning to … zombies.

Dog-eared copies of Max Brooks’ “World War Z,” a first person account of the Great Zombie War, and his definitive undead-fighting manual, “The Zombie Survival Guide,” are found wherever soldiers relax and oil their weapons.

One soldier showed me a huge, razor-sharp Nepalese Ghurka knife that weighed about seven pounds — a lot of extra weight to carry on patrol. He explained that because killing zombies required a decapitating or skull-crushing blow, there was simply no better tool for fighting the undead in close quarters.

As uniforms and body armor become more and more covered in Velcro, Zombie Hunter patches have become hot sellers for tactical suppliers. At the German Post Exchange at Kandahar Airfield, that patch is continually sold out.

The problems of war against the undead have parallels with the problems soldiers face daily in Afghanistan. A zombie needs no food, water or equipment and pursues the living with implacable determination. For soldiers trying to defend a million dollar vehicle against a malnourished, illiterate man wielding a $40 roadside bomb, the similarity must be chilling.

No, more like it’s morally degrading and humiliating and one of the few salves are heroic apocalyptic fantasies, where everything is black and white and good and evil. Indeed, maybe these fantasies do spill over to the battlefield, because it’s easier to think of the Taliban as mindless, flesh-starved creatures. One can hardly see how this helps our cause, or the people of Afghanistan for that matter. In fact, I can’t help but think when i read this, “oh well, there goes the rest of this bloody war.”

Soldier's Zombie Patch in Afghanistan -- Photo by GlobalPost

So how did it get to this point? Its a journey, but Dark Lord, Dark Victory attempts to explain it, noting that it is much of the citizenry’s fault for creating and maintaining this “warrior nation” identity encapsulated in the Defense Tribal Confederacy that is now crippled by its own myopic, misguided vision.  An ambitious read that may leave you wondering just how far off these Zombie Wars really are.

Dubya was right??

From film-maker Oliver Stone’s interview with former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, we discover:

Oliver Stone: "Were there any eye-to-eye moments with President Bush that day, that night?"

Nestor Kirchner: "…I said that a solution to the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. …He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war."

Stone: "War. He said that?"

Kirchner: "He said that. Those were his exact words."

Stone: "Was he suggesting that South America go to war?"

Kirchner: "Well, he was talking about the United States. …All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by the various wars. He said it very clearly. –Fmr. Argentine President Kirchner Dies of Heart Attack, Democracy Now!, Oct. 28, 2010

So, WAS Dubya right?

"War" [1] is indeed a key part of the U.S. economy. Some folks call this "military keynesianism."

Consider: Despite one of the most defensible geographic situations on earth — unless you fear the Canadians — the U.S. Government spends more on "defense" than almost the rest of the world combined. AND, not surprisingly, U.S.A. is the biggest arms merchant in the world.

So, Mr. Bush was exactly right.

If you’re a U.S. Citizen, approximately 43% of your income taxes go to pay for wars, past and present. And that’s before Uncle Sam is forced, kicking and screaming, into officially admitting PTSD is nearly universal in combat veterans, lasts a lifetime, and is expensive to treat. According to former IMF Chief Economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the two current "wars" will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers between four and six trillion dollars. That’s trillion. With a "T."

And don’t fret about the militaryindustrial budget. While Mr. Obama isn’t yet responsible for killing as many men, women and children as Mr. Bush — and hasn’t spent as much doing so, give him a chance — he’s not even two years into his presidency and he’s already sent at least 60,000 new U.S. troops into Afghanistan and has plans to escalate the U.S. presence in Pakistan, and the largely ignoredU.S. presence in Yemen too.

With these kinds of numbers — that 43% of your income tax spent for “wars” for example — maybe a bit of money invested in to stop them might be a good investment, not only for you, but for your kids, grand kids and the yet unborn. What do you say?


[1] The U.S. Government hasn’t been at war according to its Constitution since the end of World War II. That would require the U.S. House of Representatives to vote for war, which it hasn’t done. This means the so-called "wars" — the Korean "War," the Vietnam "War," The Iraq "Wars," the "War" in Afghanistan, etc. — must be something else. Or, since they insist on calling them "wars" anyway, unconstitutional. But as George W. Bush is reported to have claimed, "The constitution is just a damned piece of paper." So, who cares? return