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Killing for the Flag

The U.S. is the only nation-state to have been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism. The U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on governments to observe international law. After deliberately targeting the civilian public health infrastructure, the U.S. military imposes a continuing economic blockade on Iraq which has directly resulted in the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of children. The U.S. government is the primary financier and arms supplier for the decades-long Israeli war against the entire Palestinian people. The U.S. armed forces and U.S. organized and/or financed ally or proxy forces have killed millions upon millions of civilians since the end of World War II. This is the not-so-hidden meaning of the Stars and Stripes as the vast majority of people around the world understand it.

Now the U.S. government has begun what it bills as an open-ended “War on Terrorism,” which conveniently ignores the fact that in the late Twentieth Century and the beginning of the Twenty-first Century it is the United States of America that, by its own definition, is the most prolific terrorist force in the world. While at the same time U.S. leaders are choosing to target whichever individuals, organizations, regimes and/or nation-states–among the wide array of opponents of U.S. policies–are deemed most convenient this week, leaving the rest for next week, next year or the next decade. This is, of course, a recipe for perpetual war, which is as well understood by President Bush and the other architects of the “New World Order,” as it was by the architects of a similar project of world empire that was proudly proclaimed the Third Reich, under a flag with a similarly not-so-hidden meaning.

Perpetual war serves a number of purposes for the present administration. It is under wartime conditions that the U.S. state will, at least initially, face the least resistance as it finishes the now over two century-long process of gutting the Bill of Rights and voiding the inconvenient parts of the U.S. Constitution. It is under conditions of war that the campaign to defeat the anti-globalization movement can be fought with increasingly militant and dirty tactics. It is under wartime conditions that all opponents of U.S. policies anywhere in the world, including within the U.S. itself, can be most easily labeled “terrorist,” at the same time that the mass media can be most easily mobilized as a total propaganda machine. And it is under conditions of war that the arms production, oil production and military technology corporations that funded President Bush’s election by the Supreme Court will be most handsomely rewarded without too many questions ever being asked. And best of all, wartime conditions lend themselves to the easy mobilization of xenophobic, politically reactionary, flag-waving patriotism. The kind where a complete and utter absence of popular intelligence is made up for by the cathartic release of long pent-up anger at being forced to live under frustrating conditions in an alienating world with no real hope for any beneficial social change in sight.

However, while conditions of perpetual war may be fortuitous for the fortunes of the current regime and its backers right now, there is little reason to believe that the game won’t end a lot earlier than they think. In fact, there are already clouds on the horizon that will only grow more threatening: the unhappy reactions of regimes the world over that are disquieted by an American rogue state increasingly out of control, the pleas of would-be allies that will continue to be destabilized by their bullying, rapacious “friend,” the glaring failure to derail the anti-globalization movement around the world (with only a partial exception within the U.S. itself, where it has been slowed more effectively), the meltdown of the Argentinean economy under the conditions imposed by the IMF (with the threat of others always looming), the failure of the current Israeli strategy of an accelerating campaign of war crimes, and the growing wave of international opinion condemning the American project of empire-which the massive, ongoing covert and overt propaganda war has so-far failed to dent. Waving a hundred million flags all around the country won’t make these problems for empire go away.

And even within the U.S., it’s only a matter of time before the population tires of a war without any foreseeable resolution against enemies that must be continually manufactured. The longer the war on terrorism continues, the less enthusiastic will be the flag-waving and cheering for more bombing campaigns, the mass starvation now in full-swing in Afghanistan, and the continuing delays and frustrations demanded for internal security. Even with the full complicity of the mainstream U.S. media in its efforts to promote perpetual war, dissatisfaction and dissension will once again arise, until even the biggest, most impressive American flags fail to cover up all the crimes against innocent men, women and children throughout the world required to keep the empire of American capitalism growing.

Jason McQuinn, Chuck Munson and Tom Wheeler serve as the editorial collective at the Alternative Press Review.

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