FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Search for War

by NORMAN SOLOMON

In times of war, U.S. presidents have often talked about yearning for peace. But the last decade has brought a gradual shift in the rhetorical zeitgeist while a tacit assumption has taken hold — war must go on, one way or another.

“I am continuing and I am increasing the search for every possible path to peace,” Lyndon Johnson said while escalating the Vietnam War. In early 1991, the first President Bush offered the public this convolution: “Even as planes of the multinational forces attack Iraq, I prefer to think of peace, not war.” More than a decade later, George W. Bush told a joint session of Congress: “We seek peace. We strive for peace.”

While absurdly hypocritical, such claims mouthed the idea that the USA need not be at war 24/7/365.

But these days, peace gets less oratorical juice. In this era, after all, the amorphous foe known as “terror” will never surrender.

There’s an intractable enemy for you; beatable but never quite defeatable. Terrorists are bound to keep popping up somewhere.

A permanent war psychology has dug a groove alongside the permanent war economy. And so, we hear appreciably less about Washington’s ostensible quest for peace.

Right now, we’re told, President Obama is wrestling with the question of how much to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. It’s a fateful decision, and we should pressure members of Congress and the White House, pushing for military withdrawal and an end to the air war.

But, just as the reduction of U.S. troop strength in Iraq allowed for escalation in Afghanistan, a search for enemies is apt to be inexhaustible. When Uncle Sam’s proclaimed global mission is to prevent other countries from being used as a base for a terrorist attack on the United States, the Pentagon’s combat tasks are bottomless.

Whether or not the “war on terror” buzz phrase gets official use, the tacit assumption of war without end is now the old normal, again renewed in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death. Every day, the warfare wallpaper inside the mass-media echo chamber is a bit more familiar, blurring the public vision into more drowsy acceptance of perpetual war.

Years ago, U.S. military spending climbed above $2 billion per day. Some of the consequences can be understood in the context of words that President Dwight Eisenhower uttered in April 1953, during a speech that began by addressing “the chance for a just peace for all peoples” and ended with the word “peace.”

In the speech, Eisenhower declared: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. ? This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

Maybe, as a former commanding general, Ike felt some freedom to talk like that. But in the current era, trapped within the “war on terror” matrix, Washington’s political framework leaves very little space for serious talk of peace.

When war (“on terror”) is touted as the embodiment of eternal vigilance, war must be eternal — and in that case, why bother to talk much about striving for peace?

So, peace might be a good goal to recommend to some others — but if the United States is terrorism’s biggest target and most powerful foe, then this country is the last place that should expect, or seek, peace.

In the process, the warfare state pins a multitude of hopes on war — with a perverse acculturated faith that it will right wrongs, avenge cruelty, straighten the crooked, cleanse the fetid, prevent violence. Countless times, those delusional hopes have boosted the spirals of suffering. But who’s counting?

In one of Kabul’s poorest neighborhoods, when I spoke with a group of about twenty very poor women in the late summer of 2009, I asked what they needed most of all. Their unanimous response translated as one word: “peace.”

But at the top of Washington’s hierarchy, the yearning is very different. The nation’s decade-long war effort in Afghanistan, where it costs $1 million to deploy one U.S. soldier for one year, is a grisly symptom of chronic war fever. More enemies are easy to find, and even easier to make.

A country that’s committed to being at war will treat the real potential for peace as an abstraction.

Norman Solomon is president of the Institute for Public Accuracy and a senior fellow at RootsAction. His books include “Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation” (1982), co-authored with Harvey Wasserman.

 

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 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Women’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail