The Insanity of Militarism From McCain to Flynn and Biden

Photograph Source: The National Guard – CC BY 2.0

During the US war in Vietnam, a protester in Providence, Rhode Island set up a tiger cage and lamented that approaching the middle of the decade of the 1970s it was impossible to garner any significant protest against that war from which the US had withdrawn ground troops in 1973.  The Vietnam War ended in 1975. Those who recall will remember that tiger cages were devices of torture that the South Vietnamese government used against its enemies. At play in RI in the middle 1970s was the trend that had swept the US: If a person’s skin wasn’t at risk from the military draft, then protest was no longer chic.

All of the idealism and discussion about the rules of war and atrocities were forgotten by many with the ease of a change in fashion. Being against war was no longer fashionable for some.

Fast forward to the contemporary US where the military enjoys 89% approval. Two issues were recently raised, one about POWs during the Vietnam War and one about the reputation of a member of the Trump administration who received a pardon from Trump for lying to the FBI. The lies had to do with communicating with a Russian official, a whole other ball of wax that deserves separate treatment. The issue of POWs from the Vietnam War involves the late Senator John McCain, and the case of lying to the FBI and a presidential pardon involves retired General Michael Flynn.

It’s a good idea not to lie to the FBI since it’s a felony, but since federal government agencies now know everything about us and all of our communications, why bother to lie. The Patriot Act ended a host of our protections under the Constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures and the idea of the government needing a warrant to search through our communications is a joke. Edward Snowden is living proof of the latter.

CovertAction Magazine reports “New Evidence Reveals That Senator John McCain and Other High-Ranking Vietnam War POWs May Have Lied to the American Public About Being Tortured, “June 21, 2021. This article is intriguing since it documents a much different narrative about the treatment of US POWs at the hands of their Vietnamese captors during the Vietnam War. Additional allegations noted that some POWs intimidated other POWs to toe the line and agree about the purported torture of US POWs to the point of endangering the well-being of some former POWs.

There’s no surprise there since the laundering of the US war in Vietnam began before Ronald Reagan’s “noble cause” propaganda to enable him to launch low-intensity wars in Central American countries and further sanitize the Vietnam War. POW flags became ubiquitous on federal buildings and on some state and local government buildings.

Glorifying past wars is always important in conducting new wars and readying the civilian population to support new wars.

Recently, controversy about an honorary degree granted to the retired general, national security advisor to Trump, and head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Obama, Michael Flynn, was raised. Flynn, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, received an honorary degree from the same school in 2014. There was a debate among the trustees of the University, but not a public debate, about his honorary degree following Flynn’s calls for armed rebellion against the government of the US and his conviction and pardon for lying to the FBI about his dealings with Russia during his tenure in the Trump administration.

Taking away an honor from an earlier time makes no sense whatsoever. It’s about as useful as trying to invent a time machine to change what already is. It’s the present that needs attention and not some relic from the past. There’s more concern that the former general has spoken of violent rebellion to remove the present government of the US, then in some fairly meaningless honorary degree (“Michael Flynn suggested at a QAnon-affiliated event that a coup should happen in the U.S.,” New York Times, June 1, 2021).

Why would readers be surprised at any of this bald-faced militarism when the 2021-2022 military budget stands at about $753 billion? It’s no accident that bipartisan sponsorship of militarism has gained such a hold on most in the US beginning with the acceptance of low-intensity warfare of the 1980s to the endless wars of the 2020s. If 89% of respondents have a favorable view of the military, then militarism can go along unchecked with massive profits for the war planners and war makers with no questions asked. Income inequality soars and the environment tanks and we’re all in a sort of Vietnam-era tiger cage. And few want to protest that condition, while the human and material costs of maintaining an empire soar.

Proof of the bipartisan nature of US wars is reflected in “US Carries Out Airstrikes In Iraq and Syria,” (New York Times, June 27, 2021). In that respect, Biden has not missed a step in these attacks against Iranian-supported militias. The New York Times documents that Biden gave George W. Bush the authorization to go to war in  Iraq in 2002. What could be more bipartisan than that? The cycle of violence goes on and on in the empire’s version of an eye for an eye.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).