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A New Context?

The Bright Side of a Beheading

by BEN SCHREINER

A mere year after having run into both popular and military resistance in their drive to bomb Syria, Washington’s political elite is once again busily prepping a hesitant American public for a plunge further into the Middle East.

Unlike a year ago however, when the pretext of choice was a chemical attack of suspicious origins within Syria, this time around the ruling elite are cynically capitalizing on the brutal execution of American journalist James Foley to justify their push for deeper military intervention.  If only the Islamic State rebels had had the decency to kill Foley—and his whole extended family, for that matter—via a Predator drone.  You know, like a civilized society.

Indicative of the naked cynicism oozing from Washington, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus took to the PBS Newshour Friday to argue that the beheading of Foley was actually quite a good thing, as it just might snap the American people out of their troublesome distaste for more imperial adventurism in that faraway region holding all that American oil.

Asked by a fretting Jody Woodruff just how a war-weary American public is to be rallied to support further military intervention in both Iraq and Syria, Marcus averred: “Well, I want to say this in a way that reflects the horror that the Foley family has had inflicted on them, but, in an odd way, having this quasi-public beheading actually helps move the American people, because we’re not going to tolerate that. And it really does underscore the seriousness of the threat.”

Unfortunately, Marcus, clearly deferring out of immense respect for the Foley family, didn’t go nearly far enough.  You see, it may just take a little more than one grisly murder to fully nudge the American people into assuming a war footing apropos of the times.  Now, if only the rebels in eastern Ukraine could come to do their part by finding some hapless American to behead as well.  I mean, shooting down a plane was nice and all, but they can do more.  And while we’re at it, let’s hope we are soon blessed with videos of Iranians and Chinese beheading Americans, too.  That would certainly do the trick.

Of course, Marcus’s depravity (ensuring her many more appearances on the Newshour) is merely a reflection of those actually holding the levers of power.  Indeed, as the New York Times reported, Foley’s beheading “has contributed to what [American] officials called a ‘new context.’”

“If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you, wherever you are,” the Times quoted President Obama’s deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes.  “We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat and we’re not going to be restricted by borders.”

Borders and things like territorial integrity can be of no interest to the indispensable nation.  Well, unless one is talking about a Russian aide convey headed for the besieged cities of eastern Ukrainian.  In that case, borders most definitely matter.  And as for those perhaps wondering why humanitarian aide is even needed in eastern Ukraine, it’s really best not to concern oneself with such matters.  The important thing to remember is that although when it comes to the exceptional nation borders are merely a series of arbitrary lines drawn on maps, when it comes to Russia borders matter.  After all, as the great moral authority on such matters John Kerry recently reminded us in regards to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, this is the 21st Century, and “You just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretexts.”  This being the very same man who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which just so happened to be sold on completely trumped up pretexts.  But we perhaps ought to cut Kerry some slack on that one.  In the end, America did win the Iraq war—selflessly ridding the world of Saddam’s WMDs (rather quickly, one might add) in the process.

And yet remarkably, doubt continues to persist as to the validity of America’s great triumph in Iraq.  Even from the most respectable circles one can now hear the rising whispers of those wondering if maybe the global force for good didn’t, in fact, win the war.  But oh, how such un-American thoughts are so wrong.  America did win.  And the proof of the war’s great success is evidenced by the fact that nearly three years after America celebrated the end of the war, American fighter pilots are once again prowling the skies of Iraq.  Albeit, this time the search is not for phantom WMDs, but for no less than looted American military hardware now in the hands of the boogeyman of the hour, the Islamic State.  American military victories simply don’t get much better than that.

In fact, the reentry of American forces into Iraq works to sustain the cycle of death and destruction on which the American military-industrial complex feasts.  Consider it: expensive American military hardware is supplied to a client state (Iraq), said equipment is then commandeered by hostile rebel forces (the Islamic State), all of which requires the pilfered equipment to be both bombed and ultimately replenished.  A fine example of creative destruction at its American best.

And as for all the American military gear not currently serving as bombing targets within the liberated Iraq?  Well, it has all long since been hauled back to the homeland and been granted a new lease on life in the suppression of the volatile masses.  An especially useful reprocessing in the event that a peace officer should, I don’t know, blow a hole or two in the head of an unarmed black man.

But it’s really important not to spend much time thinking of such matters, either.  What one really ought to consider is that the real threat to the average working stiff lies overseas with those barbarians beheading white men, not with those mowing down black men in American streets and remotely butchering brown men, women, and children the world over.

One can only hope, then, that James Foley’s death can come to give Americans the courage to once again overcome their perilously irresponsible aversion to war.  After all, another military catastrophe—er, victory—is just there for the taking.

Ben Schreiner is a writer living in Oregon.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com.