Oct
16
2007

The Pro-War Undertow of the Blackwater Scandal

The Blackwater scandal has gotten plenty of media coverage, and it deserves a lot more. Taxpayer subsidies for private mercenaries are antithetical to democracy, and Blackwater’s actions in Iraq have often been murderous. But the scandal is unfolding in a U.S. media context that routinely turns criticisms of the war into demands for a better war. Many politicians are aiding this alchemy. Rhetoric from a House committee early this month audibly yearned for a better war at a highly publicized hearing that featured Erik Prince, the odious CEO of Blackwater USA. A congressman from New Hampshire, Paul Hodes, insisted on […]

Oct
04
2007

Sputnik, 50 Years Later

The Launch of Techno-Power

A story could start almost anywhere. This one begins at a moment startled by a rocket. In the autumn of 1957, America was not at war ... or at peace. The threat of nuclear annihilation shadowed every day, flickering with visions of the apocalyptic. In classrooms, “duck and cover” drills were part of the curricula. Underneath any Norman Rockwell painting, the grim reaper had attained the power of an ultimate monster. Dwight Eisenhower was most of the way through his fifth year in the White House. He liked to speak reassuring words of patriotic faith, with presidential statements like: “America […]

Oct
01
2007

Political 'Science' and Truth of Consequences

Contempt for the empirical that can’t be readily jiggered or spun is evident at the top of the executive branch in Washington. The country is mired in a discourse that echoes the Scopes trial dramatized in “Inherit the Wind.” Mere rationality would mean lining up on the side of “science” against the modern yahoos and political panderers waving the flag of social conservatism. (At the same time that scientific Darwinism is under renewed assault, a de facto alliance between religious fundamentalists and profit-devout corporatists has moved the country further into social Darwinism that aims to disassemble the welfare state.) Entrenched […]

Sep
12
2007

Here's the Smell of the Blood Still

When Martin Luther King Jr. publicly referred to “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government,” he had no way of knowing that his description would ring so true 40 years later. As the autumn of 2007 begins, the reality of Uncle Sam as an unhinged mega-killer haunts a large minority of Americans. Many who can remember the horrific era of the Vietnam War are nearly incredulous that we could now be living in a time of similarly deranged official policy. Despite all the differences, the deep parallels between the two war efforts inform us […]

Sep
10
2007

Six Years of 9/11 as a License to Kill

It evokes a tragedy that marks an epoch. From the outset, the warfare state has exploited “9/11,” a label at once too facile and too laden with historic weight -- giving further power to the tacit political axiom that perception is reality. Often it seems that media coverage is all about perception, especially when the underlying agendas are wired into huge profits and geopolitical leverage. If you associate a Big Mac or a Whopper with a happy meal or some other kind of great time, you’re more likely to buy it. If you connect 9/11 with a need for taking […]

Sep
06
2007

Thomas Friedman

Hooked on War

Reading his “Letter From Baghdad” column in the New York Times on Sept. 5, you’d never know that Thomas Friedman has a history of enthusiasm for war. Now he laments that Iraq is bad for the United States -- “everyone loves seeing us tied down here” -- stuck in the “madness that is Iraq.” And he concludes that the good Americans who have been sent to Iraq will not be deserved by Iraqis “if they continue to hate each other more than they love their own kids.” The column, under a Baghdad dateline, is boilerplate Friedman: sprinkled with I-am-here anecdotes […]

Aug
22
2007

Let's Face It

The Warfare State Is Part of Us

The USA’s military spending is now close to $2 billion a day. This fall, the country will begin its seventh year of continuous war, with no end in sight. On the horizon is the very real threat of a massive air assault on Iran. And few in Congress seem willing or able to articulate a rejection of the warfare state. While the Bush-Cheney administration is the most dangerous of our lifetimes -- and ousting Republicans from the White House is imperative -- such truths are apt to smooth the way for progressive evasions. We hear that “the people must take […]

Aug
16
2007

Backspin for War

The Convenience of Denial

The man who ran CNN’s news operation during the invasion of Iraq is now doing damage control in response to a new documentary’s evidence that he kowtowed to the Pentagon on behalf of the cable network. His current denial says a lot about how “liberal media” outlets remain deeply embedded in the mindsets of pro-military conformity. In mid-August, the former CNN executive publicly defended himself against a portion of the War Made Easy film (based on my book of the same name) that has drawn much comment from viewers since the documentary’s release earlier this summer. As Inter Press Service […]