Dual Paths in Dark Times: Despair Or Hope For Antiwar Dreamers

| Educate!

Above Photo:  U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Isbell, left, incoming base command sergeant major, and Lt. Col. Mark Tyndall, incoming base commander, salute the American flag during the base command transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Taji, Iraq, March 18, 2020. Caroline Schofer/U.S. Army.

“Red” (Morgan Freeman): “Hope is a dangerous thing my friend, it can kill a man…”

Andy (Tim Robbins): “Remember, Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

~ The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Two futures lie before us. Like the classic visions of late-Old Testament prophets, contemporary observers – perhaps voyeurs – of U.S. national security policy can, at this precipice of pandemic, discern, however vaguely, as dual, dichotomous prospective paths unfurl. The first, and Washington’s long-preferred, course is one of militarist escalation. It’s contours are there for us to see.

In the past couple of weeks, the Pentagon has unapologetically ramped up its proxy war with Iran – on the soil of an unmistakably unwilling “sovereign” state which has politely, if futilely, asked the US military to leave – by bombing, and killing, third-party “allies” of the Islamic Republic.

Then, though it was hardly covered or noticed, Washington killed a Somali child and an elderly disabled man in an airstrike: the 31st such US attack-from-the-sky in a Trump-accelerated campaign upon yet another country we are not at war with. US Africa Command announced, of course, that five “terrorists” had been killed in the strike with zero reports of civilian casualties. Well, naturally, it helps to have folks on the ground (hardly the norm for America’s techno-killers) to accurately access victim-status. Which is probably one reason – besides flagrant duplicity – that a UK-based airstrike monitoring group’s relevant report estimates Somali civilian casualties in US attacks since 2007 may be 73 times higher than official Pentagon claims.

Nor should anyone forget that the U.S.-backed and critically enabled Saudi/UAE terror war on, and blockade of, Yemen hasn’t ceased. Back when most folks thought “Corona” was just a cheap brand of cerveza, that unlucky nation – already the Arab World’s poorest – had the ignoble distinction of being the globe’s grimmest humanitarian disaster area. With more than 100,000 war-related deaths and counting, Yemen still faces the world’s worst cholera outbreak. Now, hidden under the veil of pandemic-media-blackout, America’s ostensible Saudi and Emirati “allies” – I think the kids call them frenemies – have just violently turned on each other in South Yemen. It seems a predictably failed US policy on the Arabian Peninsula has finally reached it’s absurd destined denouement, as Washington’s treasured, theocratic, authoritarian, Arab state “partners” turn fratricidal.

Finally, in a fit of remarkable sadism – even for him, and the late-stage empire he “diplomatically” represents – last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly (unsuccessfully) urged President Trump to use this pandemic opportunity to bomb Iran. For this former military academy valedictorian – the current administration is literally loaded with members of Pompeo’s Class of 1986, calling themselves the “West Point Mafia” – chickenhawk who never saw a shot fired in anger, waging proxy war with Iran isn’t sufficient. That’s right: Mr. Pompeo sought to attack a sovereign state the congress has not declared war upon, which is riddled with Corona, and has already had its public health response crippled by brutal US economic sanctions.

Sanctions are usually – as is empirically provable – ineffective, and always tantamount to murder (of innocents), especially in times of disease-pandemic. That’s by design; the inherent nature of the blockade beast. Need proof? Consider the case of Iraq: the absolute gold standard of U.S.-imposed (1990-2003) sanctions-cruelty. We now know – actually have long known – that, according to a widely cited UNICEF report, economic sanctions killed more than 500,000 children there, by increasing the infant mortality rate. Lest one naively suppose this to be the unintended cost of doing business, recall that Defense Intelligence Agency documents (DIA) uncovered in 2001, proved that the US purposefully “used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country’s water supply after the [1991] Gulf War,” and admitted that “This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease.”

So, sure, one potential path is to tighten the embargo-noose on Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Yemen, and other states that Uncle Sam deems disagreeable. Recent events and administration pronouncements indicate that to be the Trump team’s opportunistic inclination. This in spite of a litany of credible reports showing such sanctions have killed, and will kill, thousands upon thousands of innocents. What’s certain is that “maximum pressure,” applied to Iran or others, will doom countless more.

All of which is to say nothing about the final – and perhaps most treacherous – threat on the potential Corona-contemporaneous path: that of government’s proven penchant for opportunistic domestic suppression. The disturbing writing is already on the wall in reports that the US military plans to temporarily seize power in a Corona-pinch, and that the Justice Department seeks indefinite detention authority in this, or a similar, emergency. And why not? We’ve seen it before.

The US warfare state has run amok since the end of the Second World War, and veritably gone “off-the-rails” since September 11, 2001. It is behaving as badly as ever in the wake of this Corona-outbreak. That much is undeniable. Still, reasons remain to not slip into apathy or despair. As the great Leonard Cohen once sang, “There is a crack, a crack in everything; That’s how the light gets in.” Staring straight into the ugly face of COVID-19, a growing number of antiwar scholars and activists are today widening those very fissures in the edifice of American militarism.

Despite the impending darkness, there have been (exponentially) growing – domestic and international  calls for the US military to finally march out of Iraq. There’s even been unprecedented talk of the need to evacuate and close American bases in the Mideast writ large. The severity of the Corona-plague is such that it appears the military is even quietly “repositioning” (read: leaving) some of its smaller bases in Iraq, as part of an unprecedented DOD-wide response to the pandemic.

Most vitally, the activist (and to some degree policymaker) appetite for a complete moratorium on worldwide US sanctions (which, until now, have rarely raised any meaningful public ire) is particularly encouraging. What’s remarkable, and potentially decisive, is that the rationalizations raised for a demilitarized foreign policy hold the weight of both prudence and morality.

Traditionally, policy arguments centered solely on “sensible” strategy, or “emotional” ethics, respectively, rarely garner mass appeal. This reality reflects the nature of the human condition. Homo sapiens are a rather peculiar species, driven by neither reason nor passion, exclusively. Such is the duality of Man. Usually, the positions that ultimately carry the day – for good or ill – appeal to both the cerebral cortex (or “Mammal“) and limbic (or “Lizard”) portions of the collective brain. There are hopeful signs that such dual-rationales are available with respect to ending America’s deadly sanctions regime.

In the midst of the current pandemic, twin-track arguments for relief range (quite effectively) from ethical clamors for mercy – consider it a form of Love in the Time of Cholera Corona – to tactical self interest. After all, mass outbreaks in one country inevitably affect public health in our own; as even the most stringent travel-bans and blockades inescapably leak like sieves in this increasingly interconnected, technologically-advanced, world. Straddling both lines of argument, are a respected group of economists – hardly known as a particularly emotive lot – who recently called for the lifting of all US sanctions worldwide. Such penalties on Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and others, they astutely asserted, have the effect of “feeding the coronavirus epidemic,” and that the prevailing “policy is unconscionable and flagrantly against international law.” Whether such arguments will ultimately prevail remains uncertain, but this is nevertheless a powerful, persuasive line of reasoning.

This sort of uncomfortable self-awareness and conscience-consistency would demonstrate a level of national policy maturity that could serve as an example to the world from a country that (generally) has been historically hypocritical as a self-styled democratic “beacon,” and “indispensable,” shining “City on a Hill.” Words matter; so do their meanings. Never underestimate the potency of semantics in public policy.

Consider one more, somewhat ideological, aperture for an antiwar positional explication. The increasingly self-evident necessity of interstate cooperation, for global responses to a global calamity, presents a unique opportunity for scholars, sympathizers, and street activists to forcefully shrug-off the pejorative poundage of the “isolationism” label – a convenient descriptive cudgel to dismiss all war critics – and avow their own internationalism, of sorts. An antiwar movement which necessarily spans the spectrum from the faintly socialist to vaguely libertarian, need not tip towards extreme, much-maligned (with some reason) positions of “globalism” to effectively counter the security-state establishments go-to accusational canard that such opposition is wholly “isolationist.” That would be a victory in itself.

Whatever one thinks about the severity of this pandemic, its logical conclusion, or the evolving government (and global) response, these are unquestionably crucial times. Folks are really frightened and downright dying. Understandable, this, but all must remain critically cognizant that History shall not end, that the force of events will carry on. The Empire will act out, in these tumultuous times, like the petulant child it truly is.

History is ceaselessly contingent; human beings are inherently imbued with agency; and nothing is inevitable. What is certain, is that the American Republic, and its people, are about to be tested on a grand, epochal scale.

Let us hope, or pray, that they are not found wanting…

  • 0040

    Iran is a wannabe backward looking theocracy, and panics such as the Coronavirus are far more debilitating to the states apparatus of control in such nations , but then again the US appears to embrace the same tendencies. American failed at its attempt to establish a post WW2 Empire in 1950 despite what Mr Sjursen was taught at West Point . America is not the “Albrightian” indispensable nation.

  • Western exceptionalism

    Warring is natural for the empires. Ever since the rise of the first civilizations in 3600 BC up to today, there is no single empire in the history of mankind that did not fight its way to the top with constant warfare and bloody massacres.

    I dont see how usa could be an exception to this rule. There is only ONE way to stop being a warmongerer: Stop being a superpower. Stop promoting the American interests abroad. As long as you, the American people, consider your country a superpower, or the police of the world, or the leader of the free world (and other silly statements), America will never cease wars.

    HOWEVER, do not dare to assume that a peaceful America will make the world better. Human nature has it that when one empire falls, or retreat, another empire quickly take its place. If usa stop warring here and there, that wont make mankind more peaceful, as another empire (China, India, or perhaps Russia) will quickly fill in the empty space America left behind. And wars will continue to happen as normally, only the name of the empire will have changed.

    Are you ready to abandon American interests abroad?

    Are you ready to see the rise of a new empire taking over economical and resourceful regions that originally benefitted American interests?

    Are you ready to see your allies switching sides and following the new bully-empire?

    Are you ready to stop stealing the natural resources of other countries?

    Are you ready to switch stance (from an offensive one to a defensive one) and possibly get threatened by the next superpower that will replace you?

    As long as the majority of the American people do not answer “YES” to ALL of the above, dont expect your country to become peaceful.

  • jemcgloin

    “Coronavirus is simply a strain of viral pneumonia that appears most years.”

    You offer no evidence that banks this statement, which contradicts what every virus expert I have heard from.

    As a paranoid, ever vigilant against government attacks on freedom, I have considered the possibility that this will be used to end democracy, while we are all locked in our homes, but with no evidence to back this theory versus many other equally plausible theories, I don’t go around saying it.

    A scientific understanding of the world requires that you consider all possibilities, then eliminate possibilities based on evidence that contradicts them. Just picking a possibility and running with it because it makes you feel comfortable is what the Trump base does.

    In the comment that I am about to write, above, I will accuse Trump of wanting to start a war with Iran in October to help his election. I will give evidence for why I think that is true, and I will give evidence for why I think other explanations are false.

    Yes, it is reasonable to assert things that you think are true, but if you want to contradict all of the actual scientists, you need to present a lot of evidence, because scientists are really not a bunch of liars (as the Right claims). Otherwise science wouldn’t work and we would not have cell phones, cars, planes, or any of the other things science creates.

  • 0040

    There is massive evidence that this pandemic has been manufactured , if not by a click of a mouse , then by simply looking around you. Another bleating sheeple herd/ heard from ?

  • Alan MacDonald

    Thanks, Western exceptionalism, I had forgotten the third leg on this Empire’s planned looting and take-over planning of the Empire — which you and Maj. Danny recognize as incorporating WAR, onto my only two legged stool of Looting, and population reduction by Covid-45 (Emperor Trump), but your and Danny’s addressing of War is outside what I have written below:

    Yes! The expendable faux-Emperor Trump (or the Disguised Global Crony
    Capitalist Empire’s WMD Covid-45 as I call him) is IMHO, behind the
    UHNWI, “Ruling-Elite”, < 0.001% ers, and self-appointed and
    uber-selfish "Masters of the Universe” — which constitutes the
    Disguised Global Crony Capitalist EMPIRE, is focused on two initiatives:
    another economic looting program beyond the 2008/9 looting scheme to
    extract more trillions from America's out-sized 'sovereign wealth' (from
    what Barry Eichengreen writes in his "EXORBITANT PRIVILEGE" The Rise
    and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary
    System, [Oxford University Press.] Kindle Edition), and secondly, a
    possible global population reduction program. Call me paranoid, but …

    On the first element of the Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Empire's
    2020 version of an economic looting plan going forward, I reviewed the
    tactical aspects of the euphemistically named Economic Rescue Plan, and
    there, IMHO, appear to be some notable planned loose ends:

    Just yesterday afternoon I read the Term Sheet the FED released for their
    Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility — which is as loose as a
    shitting goose. It actually allows that new FED facility (open door) to
    purchase ETFs (vehicles which corrupt and sleazy front running
    speculators use to defraud retail investors, and which under pressure
    the SEC wrote an ‘opinion letter’ that allows said ETFs to sell virtual
    ‘baskets’ of simply index positions which do not provide any ‘underlying
    interest’ for the retail investor). These phony instruments are nothing
    more than fraudulent and dangerous vehicles like CDOs, CDSs,
    derivatives, or synthetic EFTs, which have no inherent value at all, and
    the FED is buying up billions of dollars of these special purpose
    vehicles (SPVs) that Ralph Nader, and more importantly Joseph Stiglitz
    or Elizabeth Warren, would call junk vehicles like Chevy Corvair
    turn-over vehicles.

    They are allowing the FED and SEC to authorize this financial junk to be
    sold for real money which may never be repaid. The terms and
    Termination of the Program is only to September 30, 2020 — but the
    market purveyors of this junk will jump on this give-away fast and heavy
    to unload their piles of this crap ASAP.

    During the 2008/9 bailout/gifts from the FED at least the loosey goosey
    stuff only violated FDIC rules on some small numbers of bankrupt
    organizations making their customers whole on Money Market Funds which
    would have gone south, but now this new crap that the FED is doing could
    endanger the FDIC insurance funds in total (given the $6.3 trillion in
    the ETF markets — which would mean we could go back to the post '29
    Great Crash days of Bank closures for the ‘little people’.

    This entire Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Empire is going on a
    ‘Death Star’ trip in these unsafe and empty vehicles as I just commented
    in the “Times”:

    "Did the Great Recession (or Great Wall Street looting) cause essential
    “lessons to be learned”?

    No!

    In point of fact, the “Occupy WS” national movement to clean-up and
    reform our corrupted and manipulated markets was not only ignored, but
    the internal militarized intelligence arms of the (not 'Our') government
    came down HARD on the progressive efforts of Kevin Zeese in 2011
    Washington to expose, ‘Occupy’, and ‘excise’ this Disguised Global Crony
    Capitalist Empire, while Chris Hedges (formerly of the “Times”) tried
    vainly to prevent “Democracy Dies In Darkness” under Empire, as the
    “Washington Post” posts each day on its front-page mast-head banner, and
    when Earl Shorris, on his death-bed from cancer wrote “American
    Vespers” in Harper’s, saying that:

    “Without ethics, politics has no limits. America broke the rules of
    living systems, and lost its balance. All the oxygen flowed to a smaller
    and smaller section of the body politic. The history is brief and
    unquestionable: close to toppling, the society momentarily pulled itself
    upright, and then became even less ethical, less balanced, more
    endangered than ever as a lawless financial system came back from death,
    and like a foolish patient after a heart bypass operation, continued in
    its old ways." —- all to no avail.

    There can be no lasting regulation of those “animal spirits” (or more
    accurately, “carnivorous crimes”) of a crony capitalist cancer of
    Empire, which makes faux-profits by dumping massive 'negative externality costs"
    onto all others.

  • 0040

    Another lie you seem to have mistaken for truth is that Mr Trump wants war with Iran . Some in his regime , many Clintonites , and other deep state denizens may desire that , but Mr Trump , a hedonistic/game show host by inclination , desires to build more adult oriented playgrounds to profit from and little else . In fact since the departure of Mr Obomber military violence globally has been wound down considerably.

  • jemcgloin

    This Corona virus may save Iran from invasion, because Trump can use it to abuse emergency powers, and run as a “war president.”

    I have been confidently predicting the future, saying that Trump would invade Iran in October, to run as a war president in November, or if he is afraid of losing, to abuse emergency war powers to suspend elections and the Constitution. (This is a bold prediction, but I believe the evidence makes it likely, or did until a few weeks ago.)

    Why do I think Trump has been planning to invade Iran a month before reelection all along?
    Back in 2012, Trump said that Obama would invade Iran in October to help his reelection, so he has obviously considered the idea.
    Then Trump ran on ending the Iran nuclear deal, which was nurturing cooperation between our countries.
    Then he ended the nuclear deal, which naturally led Iran to be more belligerent against the USA, and to increase its efforts to influence it neighbors (as all countries do, but the US claims some countries are not supposed to).
    Then Trump looked like he was starting a war with Iran when he assassinated their leading militarypolitical leader, but when Iran retaliated, Trump lied about American casualties, rather than escalate. Why would Trump pull back, if he doesn’t want a war? Because he is smarter than Pompeo. Trump knows that if he starts a war with Iran too early, that it will be unpopular by the time the election comes. In order to get the maximum benefit in November, the war must be perfectly timed.
    Isn’t Trump invading Iran becausee it is anti-Democratic, a theocracy, that is aggresive and promotes terrorism. If that were the case Trump would be demanding an invasion of Saudi Arabia which is worse than Iran on all of those counts. Trump loves SA.

    Why do I believe that Trump wants to abuse his war powers and emergency powers to manipulate the election. Everything he ever said. Trump makes it clear every day that he is the “chosen One,” and should be “president for life” (4 terms, maybe five”) because president for life is just like king,” while he governs like a king, making every decision based on his personal whim and private interests, claiming “Article II says I can do anything I want,” while calling for violence against critics without due process, etc.

    Trump already abused his emergency powers to misappropriate money to his wall and military parade. I don’t think it was about the wall or the parade at all but practice in abusing emergency powers.

    Trump has now declared the Corona Virus a National Emergency, and claims that gives him “powers that most people don’t even know about.” He is not using these powers to order companies to build ventilators or other supplies. What powers is he talking about?

    Trump was warned last year that we didn’t have equipment for a pandemic. Trump was warned in January that this pandemic could be a threat. He did nothing and is still doing as little as possible.

    Trump put Pence in charge, who as Naomi Klein has carefully documented, used Katrina to remake New Orleans under the rules of neoliberalism. Pence is a disaster capitalist, like Cheney and Rumsfeld who have shares in thieving disaster response/military contractors, like Halliburton.Klein has documented for decades how disasters are used to rewrite laws and Constitutions in favor of global

    Trump seems to be trying to make this virus last as long as possible. If he calls off the response on Easter as he is saying, the experts say it will be catastrophic,

    My best guess is that Trump knows wars are unpopular, so if he can make this thing last until October, he can abuse his emergency powers to ensure he remains “president for life.”
    Trump has claimed that this virus makes him a “war president,” but he is not using his war powers against the virus. Instead he is running psychological operations against a disease, by lying about everything bullying everyone, as usual. Or are the psych ops against WE the People?

    Trump and his cabinet full of anti-democracy billionaires obviously care about nothing but their own wealth and power. Trump would be happy as king of the pile of rubble.

    Corona Virus may make invading Iran unnecessary.

  • jemcgloin

    If Trump doesn’t (or didn’t) want war with Iran, why does he keep rattling his saber at them, then pulling back?

    By the way, (just like Obama), just because Trump hasn’t declared a war, doesn’t mean he is not killing people around the world using the military. Read the article.

    Trump will do whatever he thinks will be good for him. He doesn’t care who dies for it.

  • jemcgloin

    Share the massive evidence.

    Assertions without evidence means nothing.

  • 0040

    Go online and look for it . I am not your google monkey . I have my opinion you have yours what the facts are remains to be seen. That you ask to be spoon fed information from whom you will decide are or are not reputable sources speaks to your lack of critical thinking skills, or just more of the old “attack the messenger” rhetorical device , tediously invoked these days..

  • 0040

    The POTUS position has been ceremonial with a couple of exceptions since The Truman fiasco. All must deliver the script handed to them or suffer the consequences , JFK and Nixon come to mind. Trump as designated scapegoat has worked out rather well for America’s elites regardless of claimed political persuasion.

  • chetdude

    3/26 – In order to get the attention away from the anemic “response” to Covid, the Boys of Trump are ramping up their bogus war on “Socialism” with another set of lies about Venezuela…

    And of course, NPR is a willing tool again…

  • Bassy Kims of Yesteryear

    National Pentagon Radio does… what National Pentagon Radio does.

  • jemcgloin

    “…what the facts are remain to be seen.”
    In other words, you have no evidence, so you will just insult me.

    Trump voter much?

    If you can’t make a logical argument, give evidence, or even your sources, why should I care about your musings?

    See Alan McDonald’s essay above, repleat with direct quotes from government agencies (against their political assertions) and verifiable numbers to see how to construct a logical argument around actual evidence.

    Let me save you some time: baaah. Oh I’m a bleating sheeple. Save me from my evidence based ignorance, please!

    Now where is that google monkey when you need him?

    baaah.

  • 0040

    You insulted me first , transferring the shortcomings of your unproven opinions onto those you disagree with is simply another juvenile rhetorical device? I can quote people who believe that the earth is flat ot that a sky tyrant /god exists and speaks to them personally , but neither of us actually would give them much credence.

  • chetdude

    Yep, piling on pretending that Biden’s nomination is “inevitable” as usual!

  • jemcgloin

    I didn’t insult you. I insulted the idea that just saying stuff makes it true. Make actual logical arguments around shared facts or you won’t convince anyone that doesn’t just believe what you say.

    baaaah We sheeple demand evidence connected by logic.

  • 0040

    Your idea of evidence is based in beliefs held prior to any evidence , and only considers evidence that supports said beliefs as credible . In the communications /computer age Sartre’s notion of self deception frequently overrides attempts at logic using so called “shared facts” which are a very slippery notion . The German agreed Jews were bad , many Americans share the notion that Lee Oswald killed JFK , Bush2 and friends still believe Iraq had WMD, many more share the idea that Jesus is about to return , etc. .