• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Will We Always be This Way?

“The people do not want war!”

These were the words that did it, that knocked the composure out of me. I was standing at what felt like the heart of Chicago on a January afternoon, corner of Wabash and Wacker, next to the river and beneath the tower known as Trump. The crowd had swelled by this time to nearly a thousand.

I kept looking up at the letters. They were two stories high: TRUMP. Smugly in command of God knows what — the whole world? As their presence became ever more unbearable, the speaker’s words suddenly pulled me back into the present moment. They put the matter as simply as possible. They were what brought us all down here, clustered together in the bitter wind: THE PEOPLE DO NOT WANT WAR.

There was no “unless” attached to this statement. The raw simplicity tore me open. I burst into tears as the wind cut through me.

This was Jan. 4. It was one of 70 protests across the country the day after Trump ordered a drone strike that “took out” (as the media love to put it) Iranian Major Gen. Qassim Soleimani as he was leaving the Baghdad airport in a two-car convoy. Some dozen people were killed in total. It was, as the world grasped in stunned disbelief, an act of war.

And the mainstream analysis that has spun into motion since the drone strike has mostly been a strategic rolling of the eyeballs. Soleimani was a bad guy, but what did the president think he was accomplishing? A New York Times editorial, for instance, quoted Trump’s bellicose post-strike tweet, in which he warned Iran not to retaliate or the U.S. would start bombing the country’s revered cultural icons, then asked:

Why was Mr. Trump’s threat on Twitter even necessary? Wasn’t the death of General Soleimani supposed to have stopped the threats the president now claims America still faces? . . . Killing General Soleimani seems to have deterred and de-escalated nothing. Otherwise, why would the State Department have needed to advise all Americans to leave Iraq?

War is a complex game of strategy and tactics, politics and “interests,” but here’s what the analysts and commentators usually forget to acknowledge: War begins with a moral compromise of incalculable proportions. It requires participants to dehumanize a designated enemy and commit mayhem and murder. It requires them to set their conscience — their soul — aside and do what they’re told, in the name of strategy, tactics and victory. And war always creates consequences well beyond the imaginations of its planners.

It is, ahem . . . hell. This is not a metaphor.

For instance, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, my friend and peace activist extraordinaire, who was one of the speakers at the rally, spoke of a boy she learned about when she was in Iraq in 2003, during the U.S. shock-and-awe bombing campaign. The boy not only lost the rest of his family in one of the bombing raids, he was so badly injured that a surgeon had to remove both of the boy’s arms at his shoulders. When the boy awoke from the surgery, so Kathy was later told, he was so bewildered he asked, “Will I always be this way?”

Kathy then threw the question out to the world, asking: “Will we always be this way?”

This puts the question of war in its appropriate context: the context of manmade hell. Whether it is justified or unjustified, necessary or unnecessary, war from the perspective of its victims is hell. And an indispensable part of the global war machine is public relations, glorifying and justifying the violence committed by one side and relegating evil only to the actions of the enemy.

Thus, even as the Times editorial board questioned the credibility and perhaps the sanity of the Trump administration’s act of war (and impeachment diversion tactic), it remembered to describe Soleimani as “one of the region’s most powerful and, yes, blood-soaked military commanders.” No doubt. But for some reason the Times forgot to acknowledge the blood on the hands of the country Trump represents: the millions of people it has killed, maimed and displaced, the eco-devastation it has unleashed, over the last two and a half centuries (or simply the last two decades).

So I leave that to Brett Wilkins, who points out that “the U.S. has exponentially more blood on its hands than Iran,” noting that it has attacked or invaded no fewer than 22 countries since World War II. He writes:

“Perhaps this sanguinary legacy is why, in survey after international survey, the United States is perennially voted the world’s greatest threat to peace in most of the world’s nations. After Soleimani’s assassination, Trump boasted that ‘his bloody rampage is forever gone.’ If only the same were true of Trump. . . .”

And then there’s the racism of American militarism, so discreetly unnoticed by the mainstream media, which the late George Carlin blew open three decades ago, in the wake of the first Gulf War, in a standup routine on HBO called “Rockets and Penises in the Persian Gulf.” Rep. Ilhan Omar shared a clip on Twitter a few days ago.

Carlin laments the country’s vanishing jobs and increasing ineptness: “Can’t build a decent car . . . can’t educate our young people, can’t get health care to our old people, but we can bomb the shit out of your country all right! Huh? Especially if your country is full of brown people — oh we like that don’t we? That’s our hobby! That’s our new job in the world: bombing brown people. Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya, you got some brown people in your country, tell them to watch the fuck out or we’ll goddamn bomb them!”

And now, before I can even finish this column, the war has escalated. What will happen next is unknown. I cling to the essence of my revelation, that people do not want war. That is to say, they don’t want the moral compromise – the moral disconnect – of murdered or armless children present in their consciences. They don’t believe that victory is worth the price of hell.

At the rally, I felt a possible future emerging. Then the moment passed. I wiped the tears from my eyes. The people do not want war, but right now we have almost no say in the matter. A future without war will not be an easy birth. We must continue learning how to become a democracy.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

May 27, 2020
Ipek S. Burnett
The Irony of American Freedom 
Paul Street
Life in Hell: Online Teaching
Vijay Prashad
Why Iran’s Fuel Tankers for Venezuela Are Sending Shudders Through Washington
Lawrence Davidson
National Values: Reality or Propaganda?
Ramzy Baroud
Why Does Israel Celebrate Its Terrorists: Ben Uliel and the Murder of the Dawabsheh Family
Sam Pizzigati
The Inefficient and Incredibly Lucrative Coronavirus Vaccine Race
Mark Ashwill
Vietnam Criticized for Its First-Round Victory Over COVID-19
David Rovics
A Note from the Ministry of Staple Guns
Binoy Kampmark
One Rule for Me and Another for Everyone Else: The Cummings Coronavirus Factor
Nino Pagliccia
Canada’s Seat at the UN Security Council May be Coveted But is Far From a Sure Bet
Erik Molvar
Should Federal Public Lands be Prioritized for Renewable Energy Development?
R. G. Davis
Fascism: Is it Too Extreme a Label?
Gene Glickman
A Comradely Letter: What’s a Progressive to Do?
Jonathan Power
The Attacks on China Must Stop
John Kendall Hawkins
The Asian Pivot
May 26, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump Administration and the Washington Post: Picking Fights Together
John Kendall Hawkins
The Gods of Small Things
Patrick Cockburn
Governments are Using COVID-19 Crisis to Crush Free Speech
George Wuerthner
Greatest Good is to Preserve Forest Carbon
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Covid-19 Conspiracies of German Neo-Nazis
Henry Giroux
Criminogenic Politics as a Form of Psychosis in the Age of Trump
John G. Russell
TRUMP-20: The Other Pandemic
John Feffer
Trump’s “Uncreative Destruction” of the US/China Relationship
John Laforge
First US Citizen Convicted for Protests at Nuclear Weapons Base in Germany
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump, Resign Now for America’s Sake: This is No Time for a Dangerous, Law-breaking, Bungling, Ignorant Ship Captain
James Fortin – Jeff Mackler
Killer Capitalism’s COVID-19 Back-to-Work Imperative
Binoy Kampmark
Patterns of Compromise: The EasyJet Data Breach
Howard Lisnoff
If a Covid-19 Vaccine is Discovered, It Will be a Boon to Military Recruiters
David Mattson
Grizzly Bears are Dying and That’s a Fact
Thomas Knapp
The Banality of Evil, COVID-19 Edition
May 25, 2020
Marshall Auerback
If the Federal Government Won’t Fund the States’ Emergency Needs, There is Another Solution
Michael Uhl
A Memory Fragment of the Vietnam War
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
Make a Resilient, Localized Food System Part of the Next Stimulus
Barrie Gilbert
The Mismanagement of Wildlife in Utah Continues to be Irrational and a National Embarrassment.
Dean Baker
The Sure Way to End Concerns About China’s “Theft” of a Vaccine: Make it Open
Thom Hartmann
The Next Death Wave from Coronavirus Will Be the Poor, Rural and White
Phil Knight
Killer Impact
Paul Cantor
Memorial Day 2020 and the Coronavirus
Laura Flanders
A Memorial Day For Lies?
Gary Macfarlane – Mike Garrity
Grizzlies, Lynx, Bull Trout and Elk on the Chopping Block for Trump’s Idaho Clearcuts
Cesar Chelala
Challenges of the Evolving Coronavirus Pandemic
Luciana Tellez-Chavez
This Year’s Forest Fire Season Could Be Even Deadlier
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Beijing Acts on Hong Kong
George Wuerthner
Saving the Lionhead Wilderness
Elliot Sperber
Holy Beaver
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail