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Aprés Nice: Why We Need an Antiwar Movement

The recent attack in France by individuals or groups unknown but assumed to be Islamic State was particularly disconcerting. The truck barreling into holiday festivities and killing dozens was like a scene from a JG Ballard novel describing the atrocities of modern life; or maybe a page from Robert Anton Wilson’s vision of the future in his Illuminatus Trilogy. Or maybe just another “bring on the apocalypse” moment from a religiously-inspired group intent on some kind of earthly gain. Whoever was responsible, the fact that something as common as a traffic accident is now another tool in the terror toolbox has to make folks a bit uneasy. Then again, Palestinians have been dealing with bulldozers knocking down their homes and killing residents and their supporters for years. That was never called terrorism in the mainstream media.

As Counterpunch Editor Jeffrey St. Clair pointed out in a Facebook post after the truck attack in France, both presumptive presidential candidates seem to think unleashing further terrorism and calling it war is the best answer to the Nice incident. He quotes Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton to prove his case:

Trump: Asked by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly if NATO troops should now launch a ground and air offensive against unspecified terrorist targets. “I would say that would be just fine,” Trump reportedly replied. He said “I would, I would” when asked if he would seek a formal declaration of military action from the US Congress. “This is war,” Trump continued. “If you look at it, this is war. Coming from all different parts. And frankly it’s war, and we’re dealing with people without uniforms. In the old days, we would have uniforms. You would know who you’re fighting.”

Hillary: “I think it is clear we are at war with these terrorist groups and what they represent. It is a different kind of war and we need to be smart about how we wage it and win it. So I think we need to look at all possible approaches to doing just that.” Asked who, precisely, the US was at war against, Clinton said: We’re at war against radical jihadists who use Islam to recruit and radicalize others in order to pursue their evil agenda. It is not so important what we call these people as what we do about them.”

In other words, bomb the hell out of people who look like what we say terrorists look like and let god sort them out. Same old approach with the same likely results—war and more war.

Millions of folks around the world are opposed to being in the crossfire between imperial militaries and the enemies they have created and continue to create. Of course, millions of others want their national military brand to bomb and kill more in what is obviously a vain effort to kill all of their enemies. That is why those of us in the former demographic need to get off our asses. Over a dozen years of an official “Global War on Terror” has done nothing but expand the interchangeable elements of war and terror, with their never-ending body counts. The politicians’ answer seems to be to never leave countries their militaries have occupied and expand that presence under various guises in other nations, too.

So, despite a promise to bring all US troops home from Afghanistan by 2016, almost 10,000 regular troops and an unpublicized number of Special Forces (death squads) and mercenaries remain there. Meanwhile, in Iraq, the numbers of US forces grows monthly in a conflict that should never have started and should certainly be over, at least as far as the United States military is concerned. The nature of US involvement in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Bahrain and other nations in the Middle East and South Asia remains unclear. However, there is definitely military involvement.

One of the primary elements missing from the world polity the past nine years—especially in the United States—is the antiwar movement. Its nonappearance in political discussions across the spectrum is a damning indictment of the popular movements, especially those on the Left. From Occupy to Black Lives Matter, from the Fight for 15 to the Sanders campaign, any role played by antiwar forces has mostly gone unnoticed. What this means in the greater political landscape is that wars and the Pentagon go unchallenged, ultimately creating a dynamic where they become the phenomena like that described in George Orwell’s 1984. In other words, simultaneously omnipresent and unreal, like a phantasm that kills like an unseen hand of some god while making profits for men and women without faces.

Antiwar movements make those faces real. They also make the killing real, throwing the bloodshed, destruction and burning of flesh into an otherwise apathetic (or unwilling to know) public’s face, with the intention of stirring their sense of morality in order to end that killing. Antiwar movements force politicians and generals to get off the pedestals they have placed themselves on and answer for the crimes they commit in our name. Antiwar movements force a public that idolizes its military to confront what their men and women in uniform are actually called to do.   Antiwar movements demand an accounting of the billions spent on perpetrating unending death and destruction.

Unless we revive an antiwar movement in the United States, none of this will occur in the present time. It is war that is destroying our economic being and our future. Ultimately, it will be our refusal to oppose and work to end war that will destroy our souls.

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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