FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War Politics

by NORMAN SOLOMON

Playwright Lillian Hellman said: “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.”

The statement was in a letter to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The year was 1952. We tell ourselves that the McCarthy era was vastly different than our own — but what about the political fashions of 2010?

This year’s fashions cut mean figures on Washington’s runways. Conformities lie, and people die.

While the escalating disaster of war in Afghanistan keeps setting deadly blazes, the few anti-war voices on Capitol Hill usually sound like people whispering “Fire!”

In 2010, this is what the warfare state looks like: a largely numbed state, mainlining anesthetics that induce routine torpor. In that context, the conformity of mild dissent is apt to be mistaken for outspoken moral acuity.

On the back of an envelope, or anywhere else, check this math:

$1,000,000 x 100,000 = $100,000,000,000

In round flat numbers, that’s the cost of deploying 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for one year — $100 billion. The initial “cost” includes none of the human consequences.

In a numbed process, filtered through media and political buzz phrases, we talk about one number, then another. Numb and number.

For domestic acceptance, a far-off war depends on the pumped-up anesthetics of verbal abstractions and hollow numbers, permeating news media and political discourse. Wooden words and figures, bolted together; every number a lie when wrenched into claiming to tell a human truth.

The number we get, the farther from warfare’s human consequences. While more lives are being shattered elsewhere, conscience hems and haws to fit this year’s fashions.

When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech on April 4, 1967, he told listeners that he had moved during the course of two years, finally, “to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart.”

At the podium of Riverside Church in New York City, he said: “I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.”

Dr. King noted that the human spirit has “great difficulty” moving against “all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.”

In his own way, King was saying what Hellman had said 15 years earlier — when she declared herself unwilling to “cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.”

This year, with the escalating occupation of Afghanistan widely believed to be on automatic policy pilot, conscience is fashionably cloaked with acquiescence. Many in Congress who say they don’t support the war keep voting to fund it — and keep their voices muffled. The brandished wrath of the House Speaker or the White House chief of staff is most effective as a preemptive club.

A dozen years after Hellman defied HUAC, a senator defied the fearful conformity of 1964. Seeing the escalation of the Vietnam War on the near horizon, Wayne Morse spoke truth to — and about — power. The contrast with today’s liberal baseline on Capitol Hill is painfully evident if you watch footage of Senator Morse for two minutes.

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of Made Love, Got War.

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
Rob Urie
Meet the Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs
Eric Sommer
U.S.-China War: a Danger Hidden from the American People
Andrew Levine
Are Democrats Still the Lesser Evil?
Linda Pentz Gunter
What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal?
Robert Fantina
Trucks, ‘Terror’ and Israel
Richard Moser
Universal Values are Revolutionary Values
Russell Mokhiber
Build the Bagdikian Wall: “Sponsored News” at the Washington Post
Yoav Litvin
Establishment Narcissism – The Democrats’ Game of Thrones
David Rosen
Return of the Repressed: Trump & the Revival of the Culture Wars
Robert Koehler
War Consciousness and the F-35
Rev. William Alberts
The New Smell of McCarthyism Demands Faith Leaders Speak Truth to Power
John Laforge
Federal Regulator Halts Move to Toughen Radiation Exposure Limits
Norman Pollack
Farewell Address: Nazification of Hope
David Swanson
Imagine the Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Peace
CJ Hopkins
Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works
Ron Jacobs
Striking in Reagan Time
Missy Comley Beattie
The Streep
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: The Potential Impacts of Collective Inaction
Uri Avnery
Confessions of a Megalomaniac
Kenneth Worles
Black Without a Home: King’s Dream Still Deferred
Geoff Dutton
The Russian Patsy
Jill Richardson
The Coming War on Regulations
Jeremy Brecher
Resisting the Trump Agenda is Social Self-Defense
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail