War and Meaninglessness in America

W.J. Astore

Joe Biden is America’s new president, but nothing has changed on the war front. In Iraq, a U.S. airstrike has killed the top leader of the Islamic State, notes today’s New York Times. The paper notes that “the United States has about 2,500 troops left on three Iraqi military bases. While Iraqi capability in fighting the Islamic State group has improved, the country still relies on intelligence, surveillance assets and air support from the US-led coalition.”

Remember when U.S. forces pulled out of Iraq at the end of 2011? Of course, despite all the military training and equipment the U.S. showered on a new Iraqi military, that military totally collapsed in 2014 under pressure from the Islamic State. Naturally, the U.S. military took no blame, even as the collapse opened a door for more U.S. military intervention. And so the fighting persists, but at a low-enough level that it stays off of most American radar screens.

Revealingly, this is how the Iraqi parliament responded to the latest U.S. “victory” on terror: “After the drone strike, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution demanding the government expel US forces from Iraq, a move that has not been implemented.”

Do you think President Biden will listen to the Iraqi parliament and withdraw U.S. troops once and for all?

War has been made much too easy in America. Imagine if Joe Biden, or Donald Trump, or Barack Obama, or George W. Bush, actually had to lead troops from the front, exposing themselves to potential harm as they waged America’s wars overseas. It’s easy to sit in the Oval Office and push paper that translates into killing people. I’m not getting nostalgic for the age of Napoleon or the time of kings and queens, but there’s something to be said for physical and moral courage and a willingness to sacrifice oneself for what one believes.

This put me to mind of a passage from Tana French’s novel, “The Likeness,” from 2008. French writes the following “rant” for one of her characters:

“Look at the old wars, centuries ago: the king led his men into battle.  Always.  That was what the ruler was: both on a practical level and on a mystical one, he was the one who stepped forwards to lead his tribe, put his life at stake for them, become the sacrifice for their safety.  If he had refused to do that most crucial thing at that most crucial moment, they would have ripped him apart—and rightly so: he would have shown himself to be an impostor, with no right to the throne.  The king was the country; how could he possibly expect it to go into battle without him?  But now…Can you see any modern president or prime minister on the front line, leading his men into the war he’s started?  And once that physical and mystical link is broken, once the ruler is no longer willing to be the sacrifice for his people, he becomes not a leader but a leech, forcing others to take his risks while he sits in safety and battens on their losses.  War becomes a hideous abstraction, a game for bureaucrats to play on paper; soldiers and civilians become mere pawns, to be sacrificed by the thousands for reasons that have no roots in any reality.  As soon as rulers mean nothing, war means nothing; human life means nothing.  We’re ruled by venal little usurpers, all of us, and they make meaninglessness everywhere they go.” (pages 320-21, emphasis added)

Tana French

It’s a powerful passage that has much to say about America’s seemingly eternal wars against someone somewhere.

For America’s rulers, war has largely become “kinetic action” at an entirely safe distance, so far away as to become almost an imaginary construct, except for the vast profits earned from it. To most Americans, as French suggests, it has become an exercise in meaninglessness. And whatever else war is or should be, it should have meaning, otherwise it’s just killing for nothing.

45 thoughts on “War and Meaninglessness in America

  1. Powerful observations, Professor. Especially in light of the fact that, like our leader, even some “warriors” can now fight remotely, like the drone controllers in Nevada who rain down death and destruction half a world away.

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  2. More meals of melancholy served up on profit platters for the forever inmates who wander through the mess hall of dreary Camp Penitentiary MIC.
    Fortunately you have smuggled a cup of bootleg white lightning from the still of Tana French to wash down the contaminating toxins that weaken our common bonds. It has helped to numb the sorrow; appreciate the tug on that bottle of truth.
    Tanya’s words have been copied and will be offered to those who sit at my table and need a stiff belt of reason. Thank you for the most excellent inspiring words after such horrible news about our current national addiction.

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  3. Look for a video of Rand Paul laying into Mr Blinken the other day. It was a lesson in the results of not learning the lessons of history.

    Thanks for the Tana French quote. Here is one from Ward Just’s great novel, “American Romantic”, in which a hopeful young CIA man agrees to meet a North Viet Nam captain in the jungle. The captain summarizes the facts on the ground:

    “Throw everything at us. Throw everything you have. Throw the hydrogen bomb, and at the end of the engagement we will remain and you will be gone.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here’s the link to Rand Paul questioning Tony Blinken. Blinken responds in weak, vague, and unspecific ways.

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      1. Like his father, Paul is very much against the American empire project. Both men have been curiosities in DC in that they are mavericks eloquent in making their cases. It wouldn’t hurt to have a few more like them. I don’t agree with Rand Paul all the time, but on this issue I believe his case is irrefutable. This video shows him at his best. Thanks for posting the link.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Watching this exchange of ideas is telling. I do appreciate the points made about regime change expeditions and their failed outcomes. But, I am still waiting for one of our elected officials to maybe move past the spectrum of solutions, from diplomatic to militaristic.
        I’ve been batting around this idea based on what I have read from Daniel Sjursen (his article on the West Point class of ‘85) and also material from TomDispatch; and I believe you have said similar words on Bracing Views.
        It’s a question that keeps gnawing at me. If we spend over 60% of our budget on the MIC, couldn’t one argue that our economy is a war economy? If we don’t have conflicts then profiting in the industries that support the MIC go down. Fortunes are not as widely or easily made. I’m wanting someone to ask each administration; Isn’t our perpetual war creation always about wealth creation, and what will your administration be doing to stop the profiteering in our country from the creation of overseas conflict? Are you going to end arms sales to other nations; because it doesn’t look like we are ever committed to, or cared much about installing democracy; somehow this just seems to be a false reality sold to the taxpayers so that we keep creating fortunes for those in the industries of war?….? Maybe I’m missing the point of what I’m reading, but I’m not the sharpest axe in the woodshed… to be sure!

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        1. jettisoning the knife metaphor, you are better than that, utejack; you are the brightest bulb in the chandelier. your comments are as arresting as WJA’s and denise donaldson’s… and inspiring to bracing view’s readership for their humility and self-effacement. if only the MIC CEOs, trumpanzees, and disgraceful political hacks would log onto the blogs we read… indeed a chimera, i fear.

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          1. Jeanie, my dictionary is extremely happy since I first met you on Bracing Views. It has become muscled up and well toned, due to the rigorous workout regimen I have put it through while deciphering your most interesting ways of serving us all with such sumptuous organic word salad. I always find it yummy. Although I haven’t heard the Mangyan Forest People use their native tongue, you kinda remind me of one who’s original style just may be much akin to their spirited articulations. Following the seeds you leave along this path is authentic expansion indeed!
            Reading each comment that follows WJA’s wellspring posts keeps the flow of living commentary bringing and enlivening the best from all who come to quench the thirst of never more war. I get so much inspiration knowing that there are those who enjoy opening their hearts through ideas and voice. It never sounds like people speaking ideas; it sounds like a wiser voice that is emanating from a spiritual spring that bubbles truth for today’s war weary species. I believe we are leaving living documents each conversation we all have; sustenance for others who are weary of the battles also. From this place, and others in kind, the future can know that threads of truth, that are tied to the garments that have been warn by all war resistors, continue to be woven. Anyone who feels ashamed and naked for stepping out from under the common habits of belligerence will be able to put on the protection of anti war awareness that this sights words weave into all of our being. They can become strengthened and be heartened to join the ranks and tell the story in their own unique way.
            I have so much faith in this fact; the Precious Spirit winds all clocks, and this Holy Sprit is in us all and it has brought us together to speak of these anti war intentions that reveal loves true nature. There is no individual here; we are completing each other’s ideas that come from a higher calling and combined they are a powerful lesson for anyone who is just passing through.
            If you do find a war hawk wandering this way; I’m not sure they would be able to withstand the pressure these truths would put on the archaic concepts of war that they have invested in; certainly there response would be wobbly due to the foundations they have believed were stable. Beliefs in war are beliefs in destruction, even one’s own. Live by the sword….
            Here’s a final thought for all those who are in charge, prominent and high minded, and who believe they own their wonderful inventions to dispense to us all as they enrich themselves through such fantastic creations. Maybe you were just a vessel and your gift should have been scrutinized for purity. If found to bring life and life more abundantly then one should share freely for all to benefit from. Taking full credit for something that was freely given to one’s understanding is a selfish act that fails to recognize the gift creation was trying to bless It’s creation with. You increase the great divide between all beings and pay no heed to the unifying principles of spirit, when you selfishly grasp all credit. AND!!!! If it doesn’t bring life; please bury it deep within a concealed vault, never to see the light of day.
            Sorry for the sermon, I tend to get a bit melancholy and preachy when I read about further destruction of our natural environment. I gotta go hug a tree.
            May God have mercy on all who come in contact with this toxic Aldicarb. Migrant workers, infants, young children,birds, bees, mammals, aquatic organisms; and to all vegetation especially the Florida citrus….please forgive us. What was the EPA thinking.

            https://www.wmfe.org/extremely-hazardous-pesticide-federally-approved-for-use-on-florida-citrus/171944

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          2. please manumit the not-so-exiguous mercy of striving for brevity here, utejack. brevity is a hopeless challenge for me, but i will endeavour to apply the brakes to my motor-mouth in deference to both your peepers and your much-used and abused dictionary.

            despite being a nullifidian, i am an eclectic, buddhistic one who resonates w/ the same poignant ‘cantus firmus’ of loving stewardship as you… tendentiously applied to all the diverse components that comprise and complement gaia’s richly endowed but fragile space ship orbiting about in this microscopic corner of another microscopic corner of but one of hundreds of billions of galaxies.

            if only our species were not so deleterious to mother earth’s ‘rara avis’ ecosystems, then multifarious species could survive our regnancy. planet earth will survive for awhile, but millions of her boarders will disappear before we do, due in no small part to our species’ shameless esurience and gormless, over-weaning arrogance. as a retired marine biologist, i weep w/ despair over how feeble my decades-long labours have proved to be.

            your metaphors and love-clarions are duvetyn edulcorations to those of us who will soon say goodbye. thank you for your contributions and refreshing imagery… and to WJA for propining us the verbal venues, sounding boards, and inspiration to communicate.

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          3. Please stop frightening my dictionary; it has requested that I ask you to take your foot off the brakes. I believe it fears being ignored and left alone, never feeling the warmth of an inquisitive human hand. Plus it probably doesn’t enjoy sharing this space with someone who can not understand it, someone who can’t hold a candle to it’s brilliance. Please just sing and let the naysayers talk; I came for the wisdom.
            I’m sure inside your humbly expansive heart chakra you know full well that the effort and hours the body has spent nurturing this spectacular creation have left an indelible mark. Your creation continues to ride on longitudinal waves and they echo throughout the fabric of time. Every right action you blessed this planet with will resonantly tune the actions that emanate from future souls. We owe you gratitude for so many selfless acts to right the destructive nature of modern living. Thanks for your healing presence; it’s inspirational. May your body be happy, May your body be healthy, May your be free from suffering, May your body be at peace. It has served the planet magnificently. As for your true nature …. well no words from my dustless dictionary will ever match it’s timelessness…

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          4. yeeeks, i’m speechless! thank you for your ‘ben trovato’ blessings, utejack. i will endeavour to be worthy of them.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for this Articulation Bill! Someone has to do it, and you’re the Man!

    I see it by the Spirit of this letter in the Revelation,
    We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and was, and art to come; because you have taken to you your great power, and has reigned.
    And the nations were angry, and your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should give reward to your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear your name, small and great; and should destroy them which destroy the earth […] Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them.
    Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.

    Who can discern which Wrath is Which?

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  5. A Sorry Solipsistic Siren Song
    (We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here)

    Around him in his court some scribes he kept
    Who with informal nicknames proved adept
    At not reporting all the times he slept
    Or all the tasks at which he proved inept
    As war up on our napping nation crept

    Our vain imposter in a bubble ruled
    A people often and completely fooled
    Rejoicing in a leader so unschooled
    That when he tried to speak he merely drooled
    While in Iraq blood splattered, spread, and pooled

    He felt no urgent need to change or tack
    Because his troops, not he, absorbed the flak
    He vowed to never waver or turn back
    His yokel yodel, yammering, and yak
    Left no doubt that his skull contained a crack

    He found the country’s magic credit card
    Left lying in the country’s open yard
    Which meant he’d caught the country off its guard
    Which others, too, found scarcely very hard:
    A haughty herd hoist by its own petard

    For who had placed such emptiness on top?
    Who harvested this hollow, stunted crop?
    Who let an addict start who couldn’t stop?
    Who’d rather drink a river than a drop
    Who needed babysitters as a prop

    It doesn’t look too good for Uncle Sam
    Whose credit rating just received a slam
    For gambling debts from gamblers on the lam
    Most notably the chief commanding sham
    Who has a brain that doesn’t weigh a gram

    Now trapped within the web of lies he spun
    More dangerous than Cheney with a gun
    (Who, when he aims at quail, the lawyers run)
    His bloody mess he aims to leave undone
    Few lesser “leaders” breathe beneath the sun

    The nightlight shining softly by his bed
    Illuminates an empty sleeping head
    His dreams result in many people dead
    His ancestors now hide in shameful dread
    Embarrassed by the fool their genes have bred

    Yet no one seems to know just what to do
    About a man who governs for the few
    Who takes a jaunty jaded jaundiced view
    Of those he sees as subjects he can screw
    Or troops that he can bleed till they turn blue

    His party and his pundits say they see
    Some pants invisible to you and me
    Which only those with his same pedigree
    Would witness by imperial decree
    Or, when so ordered, drop their own and pee

    Not much is left of that proud liberty
    That once Americans considered free
    Now stolen by this spawn of larceny
    Who stamps as “secret” his known perfidy
    Who cannot face the truth, his enemy

    He says we can’t be trusted if we know
    What he has done and how he plans to blow
    More billions causing needless blood to flow
    With nothing ever offered up to show
    Why he should not up on the scaffold go

    A necktie party, yes, might do the trick
    Some tar and feathers, too, for George and Dick
    Who’ve earned their names: the Codpiece and the Prick
    Who sold some snake oil to the deathly sick
    Who ordered much but never served a lick

    Ulysses chained himself but not his crew
    Their ears he stopped against the sounds that slew
    And thus they rowed through waves and winds that grew
    While he strove with the only gods he knew
    So he could pass, yet hear their music, too

    But our King George the Worst stays on the docks
    And waves “goodbye” as troopships leave the locks
    His motto: “After You!” no longer shocks
    As he hires other men to tend his flocks
    While carpetbagger cronies hump their stocks

    Which leads us to Barack Obama, known
    For making Dubya’s wars his very own
    And adding to them others which have grown
    (Through profligate employment of the drone)
    Into the body-count and free-fire zone

    Which our lost War on Southeast Asia taught
    Us to regard as sure-fire proof of naught
    But only bogus bullshit numbers fraught
    With lies our “leaders” sold themselves, then bought
    Which only left them on the hook and caught

    So Dimwit Dubya has a dark-skinned clone:
    Obama, whose failed wars have only shown
    That no amount of more war can atone
    For waging stupid murder from the throne
    Of presidential twerp testosterone

    A sorry solipsistic siren song
    A darkness deeper than the night is long
    In their mad minds no right can do a wrong
    And fatal weakness only signals strong
    A blind man would have seen it all along

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006-2015

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wonderful reading, Michael. Thank you!

      Even though I’m 77 in my Flesh, Tomorrow is my 46th Born Again Birthday, when I come alive to the Ways of the Spirit.

      I would like to post this in my Blog with attribution to you since it reflects much of my continuing Spiritual struggle.

      This is what happened to me on that February 1, 1975 Day, I try to make as clear as possible in conveying a Spiritual experience.

      You will see the Title I chose to describe that Day is of the same Spirit you describe in your siren song.
      https://rayjc.com/2011/12/25/day-of-awakening-david-vs-goliath-vs-armageddon/

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  6. heartfelt gratitude for the rand paul link, wja. w/out your due-diligence and guidance i would never have discovered it. i had no clue rand paul could be motivated to speak so articulately on the subject of US military interventions and their feckless, murderous ramifications.

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  7. The Israeli Star of David is on the back of EVERY American Dollar.

    The Bible warns, ‘Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.’

    I was BORN AGAIN February 1, 1975, making me 77 going on 46. I have all the Time in this World, and the Next, to read and think on what I’m reading.

    Is there is any significance to the fact, Jews hold all the Top National Security Positions in the Biden Cabinet?
    My Faith in Jesus, King of the Jews, makes me a Jew.
    Still, I have to be mindful of Revelation 2:9 & 3:9.

    This is at a Time when Israel wants the US to fight it’s War with Iran, and told Biden, if he returns to the Iran Nuclear Deal, Israel will attack Iran without the US, blowing up the recent Trump-Arab-Israeli Peace Treaties/Arms Deals, and the entire Middle East, as the Revelation of Jesus Christ says will happen during the Revelation, ‘And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.’

    Armageddon was derived from Har Megiddo located in Occupied Palestine when Jesus walked throughout the Land.
    Israel disappeared as a kingdom some 700 years earlier.

    Armageddon/Har Megiddo still exists but is now under the control of Israel re-created from the Bible, and 2000 years later, the Occupation of Palestine is still an unresolved open wound in the ME.

    The Husband of the Vice-President is Jewish as are these People,
    Secretary of the Treasury
    Attorney General
    Secretary of Homeland Security
    Director of National Intelligence
    White House Chief of Staff
    Secretary of State
    Deputy Secretary of State
    Secretary of State for Political Affairs
    Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
    The Office of Science and Technology Policy

    I just read about this 2nd tier staffing,
    On Wednesday, Mother Jones and NBC News reported that a top Biden national security aide who is an expert on Russian cyber had given over half a million dollars to AIPAC in recent years through a family foundation. And the aide’s husband is on the AIPAC executive council in Baltimore.

    AIPAC is of course the leading Israel lobby group, which supports everything the right wing Israeli government does, from persecuting Palestinians to threatening Iran.

    https://mondoweiss.net/2021/01/aipac-demands-nbc-retract-report-on-nsc-aide-whos-a-big-donor-to-lobby-group-and-nbc-complies/

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    1. Do the donations to AIPAC go to promote improving the lives of Palestinians and Iranians as well as Israelis? I’m not familiar with AIPAC’s policies; but if they represent Jewish culture, I am sure that after the struggles of the Jewish community during WWII; they would surely be all about making sure that no population on the planet Earth would be subjected to persecution and marginalization. Right?

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    2. I’d love to know what Chomsky thinks of this. He’s probably the most well-known and respected Jewish American to those outside of America.
      Is there any way we can bring it to his attention for comment if he hasn’t done so already?

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      1. Jewish International Law Scholar Professor Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Rights under the Israeli Occupation, is right up there with Chomsky.
        The 1st Time I heard of him was when Israel, the US and the Secretary-General of the UN, were calling for his resignation. Not knowing any details, my 1st thought was ‘he must be doing something right’

        I posted this to my Public FaceBook page a week ago.
        Noam Chomsky appears to be aging fast, but I agree with this recent analysis of US Power and WAR in this Finite World.
        This will interest The Thinker, not the Superficial.

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        1. richard falk at the venerable age of 90 remains an unsung hero, mentor, and humanitarian scholar that we donnards can only aspire to emulate. his own mentors, whether vicarious through their writings or tête à tête, were karl marx, mills, and herbert marcuse. may falk persist through his own writings for millennia.

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          1. Jeanie, I informed Richard Falk of your kind words in his Blog article,
            https://richardfalk.org/2021/01/23/is-there-an-american-deep-state/

            His Memoir, ‘Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen Pilgrim’ was published only Yesterday and already takes up many pages of Google results, including this Forward by Chomsky,
            “This intimate and penetrating account of a remarkable life is rich in insights about topics ranging from the academic world to global affairs to prospects for a livable society. A gripping story, with many lessons for a troubled world.”

            Here are some excerpts,
            https://books.google.ca/books?id=oYMTEAAAQBAJ&pg=PP1&lpg=PP1&dq=Public+Intellectual:+The+Life+of+a+Citizen+Pilgrim.#v=onepage&q=Public

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        2. It’s too cold here today to accomplish much outside; so…
          I Finally got to see Chris and Noam’s chat…
          I know Chris does Bible studies in prison, so I will just say it was wonderful that you brought him here in our forever war prison camp to preach to the choir…
          Many thanks🙏

          Liked by 1 person

    3. Somewhere I saw that Israel was asking us for $1.2 billions to support a war on Iran. A wag suggested that the money be granted after the war instead of before, as afterwards there would be no one left in Israel to receive the money.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. what a wit! tnx for your comment, bart larsen, and for gifting us w/ a refreshing zephyr of levity. we need it to accompany our morning cup of coffee and concomitant dolorous discussions.

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  8. I assume you’re being facetious with your question, Jack?

    The Old Testament is replete with incidents of God’s Chosen People going so far off track, departing from God, God raised up People who were not God’s People, to bring War to God’s People.

    When God’s People lived by God’s Ways, they enjoyed Peace and Plenty.
    When they departed from God’s Ways, they had War.

    So it is to this very Day!
    This World still operates under the Terms of the Old Testament.
    Few find the Freedom in the New Testament.

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    1. Yes, was being facetious. I get like that occasionally. But if I ever meet someone who wants to praise Israel’s actions; they most certainly have to answer the first question for me. If they try to defend Israel’s nefarious machinations then….
      Maybe I’ll remind them of the Jewish law… Leviticus 19:18 the part about loving your neighbor as yourself… then if they didn’t understand I would walk them forward to Matthew 22:37-40
      The part where the intelligencia of the day tried to trap Jesus by asking him what the greatest commandment was…
      I think it went down sorta like this…
      Well gentlemen …( amazing no ladies were allowed in the good old boys club of Old Testament nerdlings… those Sad-you-see’s and Pharisees and scribes) …
      Let’s let the law speak for itself…
      You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself! On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets too.
      If they weren’t sure I’d wip out some Romans 13:8 on their misunderstanding.
      The only thing you should owe to anyone is LOVE for one another; for to love the other person is to fulfill the law.
      Then I’d reach under the table and produce a sufficient length of rope and maybe ask them if they are all hung up in their interpretations… or maybe ask them … so where does WAR fit into this scheme of interpreting right behavior based on fulfilling the laws of love?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. With apologies to the shade of Percy Bysshe Shelley and his immortal poem “Ozymandias,” I offer here a brief meditation on the current, continuing, and contemplated depredations of the Apartheid Zionist Entity upon those captive Palestinian Arabs who had absolutely nothing to do with the German/Christian persecution of Jews in Europe before and during World War II.

        Cozy, Scandalous

        I met a refugee from Gaza Strip,
        Who spoke to me with empty, staring eyes
        Dumb words whose depth of pain I could not grip
        With all the helping hands the world denies
        While lapping up the lurid lies that slip
        And roll so greasy off the practiced tongue
        Of Zionists whose caged and wounded prey
        Are told to flee and leave their dying young
        To weep beside the corpses of their old
        In darkened shattered former homes where they
        Cannot refute the garbage we’ve been told
        By glib Israeli liars trained to spread
        A veil of darkness over crimes they’ve sold
        As “Peaceful Co-Existence” — with the dead.

        Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2009

        Liked by 2 people

        1. After reading your thoughtful words Michael, this is the 1st opportunity to share this poem I saved in October 2018.

          Running Orders
          Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

          They call us now.
          Before they drop the bombs.
          The phone rings
          and someone who knows my first name
          calls and says in perfect Arabic
          “This is David.”
          And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
          still smashing around in my head
          I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
          They call us now to say
          Run.
          You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
          Your house is next.
          They think of it as some kind of
          war time courtesy.
          It doesn’t matter that
          there is nowhere to run to.
          It means nothing that the borders are closed
          and your papers are worthless
          and mark you only for a life sentence
          in this prison by the sea
          and the alleyways are narrow
          and there are more human lives
          packed one against the other
          more than any other place on earth
          Just run.
          We aren’t trying to kill you.
          It doesn’t matter that
          you can’t call us back to tell us
          the people we claim to want aren’t in your house
          that there’s no one here
          except you and your children
          who were cheering for Argentina
          sharing the last loaf of bread for this week
          counting candles left in case the power goes out.
          It doesn’t matter that you have children.
          You live in the wrong place
          and now is your chance to run
          to nowhere.
          It doesn’t matter
          that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
          to find your wedding album
          or your son’s favorite blanket
          or your daughter’s almost completed college application
          or your shoes
          or to gather everyone in the house.
          It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
          It doesn’t matter who you are
          Prove you’re human.
          Prove you stand on two legs.
          Run.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. magnificent in its poetic and haunting inenarrability, ray joseph. thank you for your ineffable ‘ray’ of light. having volunteered in a palestinian refugee camp during our years in the hashemite kingdom of jordan during 2 intifadas [1988~’91], your poem catalyzed cascades of lamentations that flooded my keyboard.

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  9. Thanks for the link to the video of Rand Paul. While I agreed that regime change needs to stop being a goal, I disagree with his implication that democracies don’t arise because the people over “there” are deficient in some way to Americans in their ability to form democracies.

    My brother Paul who just retired from being a history professor told me that when people told him that American’s helped set up democracies his response was “Name three.” I think the only democracy we actually set up successfully on the ashes of a dictatorship was Japan. (Germany doesn’t count because it had been a democracy prior to Hitler overthrowing it.) We have deliberately toppled more democracies than that. Allende?? Mossadegh?? We have aided and abetted dictatorships. So its not so much that the natives are too “tribal” to build a democracy but that we actively subvert democracies that tell us or our multinational corporations to f– off. The work of Sarah Chayes is solid evidence that we topple regimes to install corrupt ones on their ashes and do so because our regime itself is a corrupt oligarchy.

    By the way, to Senator Paul’s credit he did say that we need to stop supporting bad actors, like Saudi Arabia. So my complaint was really just about the slur against the people in other countries. I wholeheartedly agree with his position on no more regime change and stop supporting bad actors.

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      1. In Japan the occupation authority did eventually implement a democratic form of government that has lasted and seems to be held as legitimate by the citizenry (though the Liberal Democratic Party having been the one in power for about 60 of the 65 years of that system has been pointed to as evidence the system isn’t all that responsive to the people) but other than that, nothing really. South Korea and the Philippines have achieved democracy by popular action but the US hindered that action, not helped it.

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        1. unequivocally correct, RMO. we have been residing in the philippines since 2014, and were astonished but delighted that duterte managed to make it all the through to the presidency, despite the pernicious machinations of the interfering US’s MIC machine. duterte remains a popular president w/ the filipino/-a populace, despite what the US mass media reports which is mostly based on hyperbolic nescience.

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  10. If you think of the president as a CEO then wars are simply a market imperative.No one remembers the war in the provinces except those who profit by it and those under fire

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  11. “Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”— Dylan Thomas

    A Vicious Circle Villanelle
    (after the style of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night”)

    Once folly starts, it cannot ever cease.
    The perpetrators of the crime command:
    More dying, please! We can’t afford the peace!

    Their troubled foreheads, wrinkles deeply crease
    With consequences that they never planned.
    Once folly starts, it cannot ever cease.

    No logic brings intelligent release.
    The unforced errors earn no reprimand.
    More dying, please! We can’t afford the peace!

    The mounting costs leave few sheep fit to fleece.
    Who next will pay the ransom on demand?
    Once folly starts, it cannot ever cease.

    Yet still the sophists ladle on the grease:
    Those ancient fallacies the flames have fanned.
    More dying, please! We can’t afford the peace!

    The lies add up in thousands dead apiece.
    The questions begged, both trivial and bland:
    Once folly starts, it cannot ever cease?
    More dying, please? We can’t afford the peace?

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2008

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