What Would It Take for the Pentagon Budget to Shrink?

W.J. Astore

In my latest article for TomDispatch.com, I examine what it would take for the Pentagon budget to go down. You can read the entire article here. What follows is the concluding section.

Ever since 9/11, endless conflict has been this country’s new normal.  If you’re an American 21 years of age or younger, you’ve never known a time when your country hasn’t been at war, even if, thanks to the end of the draft in the previous century, you stand no chance of being called to arms yourself.  You’ve never known a time of “normal” defense budgets.  You have no conception of what military demobilization, no less peacetime might actually be like. Your normal is only reflected in the Biden administration’s staggering $813 billion Pentagon budget proposal for the next fiscal year.  Naturally, many congressional Republicans are already clamoring for even highermilitary spending.  Remember that Mae West quip[Too much of a good thing can be wonderful]?  What a “wonderful” world!

And you’re supposed to take pride in this.  As President Biden recently told soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division now stationed in Poland, this country has the “finest fighting force in the history of the world.”  Even with the mountains of cash we give to that military, the nation still “owes you big,” he assured them.

Well, I’m gobsmacked.  During my 20-year career in the military, I never thought my nation owed me a thing, let alone owed me big.  Now that I think of it, however, I can say that this nation owed me (and today’s troops as well) one very big thing: not to waste my life; not to send me to fight undeclared, arguably unconstitutional, wars; not to treat me like a foreign legionnaire or an imperial errand-boy.  That’s what we, the people, really owe “our” troops.  It should be our duty to treat their service, and potentially their deaths, with the utmost care, meaning that our leaders should wage war only as a last, not a first, resort and only in defense of our most cherished ideals.

This was anything but the case of the interminable Afghan and Iraq wars, reckless conflicts of choice that burned through trillions of dollars, with tens of thousands of U.S. troops killed and wounded, and millions of foreigners either dead or transformed into refugees, all for what turned out to be absolutely nothing.  Small wonder today that a growing number of Americans want to see less military spending, not more.  Citizen.org, representing 86 national and state organizations, has called on President Biden to decrease military spending.  Joining that call was POGO, the Project on Government Oversight, as well as William Hartung at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.  And they couldn’t be more on target, though they’re certain to be ignored in Washington.

Consider the recent disastrous end to the Afghan War.  Viewing that conflict in the aggregate, what you see is widespread corruption and untold waste, all facilitated by generals who lied openly and consistently to the rest of us about “progress,” even as they spoke frankly in private about a lost war, a reality the Afghan War Papers all too tellingly revealed.  That harsh story of abysmal failure, however, highlights something far worse: a devastating record of lying on a massive scale within the highest ranks of the military and government.  And are those liars and deceivers being called to account?  Perish the thought!  Instead, they’ve generally been rewarded with yet more money, promotions, and praise.

So, what would it take for the Pentagon budget to shrink?  Blowing the whistle on wasteful and underperforming weaponry hasn’t been enough.  Witnessing murderous and disastrous wars hasn’t been enough.  To my mind, at this point, only a full-scale collapse of the U.S. economy might truly shrink that budget and that would be a Pyrrhic victory for the American people.

In closing, let me return to President Biden’s remark that the nation owes our troops big.  There’s an element of truth there, perhaps, if you’re referring to the soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen, many of whom have served selflessly within its ranks. It sure as hell isn’t true, though, of the self-serving strivers and liars at or near the top, or the weapons-making corporations who profited off it all, or the politicians in Washington who kept crying out for more.  They owe the rest of us and America big.

My fellow Americans, we have now reached the point in our collective history where we face three certainties: death, taxes, and ever-soaring spending on weaponry and war.  In that sense, we have become George Orwell’s Oceania, where war is peace, surveillance is privacy, and censorship is free speech.

Such is the fate of a people who make war and empire their way of life.

To read the entire article, visit TomDispatch.com.

The New Cold War

W.J. Astore

In my latest article for TomDispatch, I tackle the new cold war and the consensus in Washington that future Pentagon budgets must soar ever higher in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. You can read the entire article here. What follows is the concluding section of the article.

Your Role as a Loyal American in the New Cold War

My fellow Americans, in this new cold war of ours, the national security state expects both all too much and all too little of you. Let’s start with the little. It doesn’t expect you to enlist in the military if you’re rich or have “other priorities” (as former Vice President Dick Cheney said about the Vietnam War). It doesn’t expect you to pay close attention to our wars, let alone foreign policy. You don’t even have to vote. It does, however, expect you to cheer at the right times, be “patriotic,” wave the flag, gush about America, and celebrate its fabulous, militarized exceptionalism.

To enlist in this country’s cheerleading squad, which is of course God’s squad, you might choose to wear a flag lapel pin and affix a “Support Our Troops” sticker to your SUV. You should remind everyone that “freedom isn’t free” and that “God, guns, and guts” made America great. If the godly empire says Ukraine is a worthy friend, you might add a blue-and-yellow “frame” to your Facebook profile photo. If that same empire tells you to ignore ongoing U.S. drone strikes in Somalia and U.S. support for an atrocious Saudi war in Yemen, you are expected to comply. Naturally, you’ll also be expected to pay your taxes without complaint, for how else are we to buy all the weapons and wage all the wars that America needs to keep the peace?

Naturally, certain people need to be collectively despised in our very own version of George Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate.” So, when Putin’s visage comes on the screen, or Xi’s, or Kim Jong-un’s, or whoever the enemy du jour is, be prepared to express your outrage. Be prepared to treat them as aliens, almost incomprehensible in their barbarity, as if, in fact, they were Klingons in the original Star Trek series. As a peaceful member of the “Federation,” dominated by the United States, you must, of course, reject those Klingon nations and their warrior vision of life, their embrace of might-makes-right, choosing instead the logic, balance, and diplomacy of America’s enlightened State Department (backed up, of course, by the world’s greatest military).

Two Minutes’ Hate: Still from the movie “1984”

Again, little is expected of you (so far) except your obedience, which should be enthusiastic rather than reluctant. Yet whether you know it or not, much is expected of you as well. You must surrender any hopes and dreams you’ve harbored of a fairer, kinder, more equitable and just society. For example, military needs in the new cold war simply won’t allow us to “build back better.” Forget about money for childcare, a $15 federal minimum wage, affordable healthcare for all, better schools, or similar “luxuries.” Maybe in some distant future (or some parallel universe), we’ll be able to afford such things, but not when we’re faced with the equivalent of the Klingon Empire that must be stopped at any cost.

But wait! I hear some of you saying that it doesn’t have to be this way! And I agree. A better future could be imagined. A saying of John F. Kennedy’s comes to mind: “We shall be judged more by what we do at home than what we preach abroad.” What we’re currently doing at home is building more weapons, sinking more tax dollars into the Pentagon, and enriching more warrior-corporations at the expense of the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable. Where’s the democratic future in that?

Sheer military might, our leaders seem to believe, will keep them forever riding high in the saddle. Yet you can ride too high in any saddle, making the fall that’s coming that much more precipitous and dangerous.

Americans, acting in concert, could stop that fall, but not by giving our current crop of leaders a firmer grasp of the reins. Do that and they’ll just spur this nation to greater heights of military folly. No, we must have the courage to unseat them from their saddles, strip them of their guns, and corral their war horses, before they lead us into yet another disastrously unending cold war that could threaten the very existence of humanity. We need to find another way that doesn’t prioritize weapons and war, but values compromise, compassion, and comity.

At this late date, I’m not sure we can do it. I only know that we must.

Orwell Is Alive and Well in the U.S. and Russia

W.J. Astore

There’s considerable support in the U.S. for “No-Fly” zones in Ukraine. It’s a fine Orwellian turn of phrase: by some kind of magic, we simply won’t allow Russian warplanes to fly over key areas in Ukraine. And Russia will be happy to respect our no-fly zones because that’s how wars work. War is always predictable, calm, rational, and moderate, and countries at war are always tolerant of other countries dictating terms on where and when they can fly and fight.

What’s amazing is the number of people, including members of Congress, who have no idea that no-fly zones mean engaging directly in conventional war with Russia: killing Russian air crews in air-to-air combat, clearly an act of war, and one that would escalate quickly as both sides took losses.

Here’s one member of Congress who supports a no-fly zone without even knowing what it is and what it implies:

Well, “freedom isn’t free.” So on we go to World War III.

Then there’s the Orwellian turn of phrase by the Russians that their invasion of Ukraine is really just a “special” operation, a conceit I’ve seen mocked on Facebook with this illustration:

Of course, Tolstoy wrote “War and Peace,” and the changed title is mildly humorous. But let’s not limit this critique to Russia. Think of all those lovely military “operations” that the U.S. military has launched over the years, such as Operation Enduring Freedom for the Afghan invasion beginning in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom for the Iraq invasion in 2003. We are far better than the Russians at camouflaging our wars as “operations.” Indeed, at least the Russians didn’t describe their invasion as “Operation Ukrainian Freedom.” So take that, Russia! We still overmatch you in Orwellian terms.

Dishonesty of language isn’t just mendacious: it’s downright dangerous.

Finally, remember when nuclear war and World War III was supposed to be the end result of the madness of evil geniuses, Dr. Strangelove-like figures? What if World War III is the end result of ignorant dumbasses who think nuclear annihilation is worth it because “freedom isn’t free”?

Orwell’s “1984” Holds Many Lessons for the New Cold War

Jeffrey G. Moebus

Anybody attempting to understand what is unfolding in Ukraine and over in the South China Sea and Taiwan should read George Orwell’s 1984. When you do, you will recognize and realize the following.

To use Orwell’s terms:  What we have here and now is a Eurasia with its Putin and an Eastasia with its Xi. All that is lacking is an Oceania with its Big Brother. And we have a whole gaggle of folks on the American political landscape ~ on the Left and on the Right ~ who would love to have the chance to fill that slot.

America’s twenty year “Forever War” after 9/11 was, is, and ever will be a half-time show designed to keep the troops occupied, the defense contractors profitable, and the American people comfortably numb to protracted conflicts in places many of them cannot find on a map of the world.

For now, Russia has recovered from the disintegration of European Communism and the USSR ~ and China has recovered from the madness of Mao ~ sufficiently for either [or especially both] to present viable, credible “threats” to America’s 30-year reign of global, unipolar hegemony since the end of Cold War I in December, 1991.

For now looms Cold War II, with Ukraine, the South China Sea, and/or Taiwan set to kick it off in fine fashion.

And to understand what is happening in Ukraine, in particular, one must also be familiar with the history of Russia’s interaction with Western Europe over the past 200 years.  Napoleon and Hitler both tried to bring the “blessings” of the West to Mother Russia, and failed at terrible cost, particularly to the Land, Country, Nation, and People that was ~ and still is ~ Russia.  

NATO is hard on all of Russia’s borders except in Ukraine; and, given that history spanning over two centuries, it is not at all difficult to understand why Russia wants to keep it that way.  This in no way justifies, excuses, or exonerates Putin and his illegal, immoral, and quite insane invasion of Ukraine.  It merely speculates on a very real possible motive. 

And beyond all that is the fact that a major force at work here in the United States is the possibility of a War, and the effect that that can have on the Citizens of a nation already hammered by a failed national response to a pandemic, inflation kicking in big time, a national Debt that just broached $30 trillion, a crumbling infrastructure increasingly vulnerable to disruptions by weather, cyber attack, and social unrest, and the disintegration of anything even close to a national consensus on virtually every hot-button issue: from vaccine and mask mandates, voting rights, and critical race theory, to gun control, police violence, and crimes against persons and property, to drug overdoses, suicides, and vehicular deaths, abortion, wokeness and cancel culture, “domestic terrorism,” and so forth.   

So that’s the “long answer” to what’s up in Ukraine and East Asia.    

The short, bottom-line, bullet-hits-the bone answer is that it is a very convenient distraction for Putin, Xi, and Biden [ie, his owners, operators, and script writers, America’s Ruling Elite] as they each attempt to deal with very serious economic and social problems within their own kingdoms. 

While the wings haven’t fallen off quite yet, rivets are popping loose and hydraulic fluid is streaming back across the wing tops.  And the folks up in the cockpit are very aware that it is increasingly visible to the other folks back in 1st, Business, and especially Tourist Class. 

Add all that to the fact that this is an election year in the US, and this is shaping up to be a very interesting Chinese “Year of the Black Water Tiger,” indeed.

Note:  One of the biggest differences between 1984 and today is that we all carry our very own portable, personal telescreen around with us. Certainly makes the job of the Thought Police a whole lot easier, eh?

Jeffrey Moebus, a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant, spent two years in Vietnam in the 1960s and two years in the pre-Operation Desert Storm Middle East in the 1980s.  He lives in Sitka, Alaska on the sailboat he brought up from San Francisco Bay ten years ago this summer, and is the POC for Veterans Against War [Sitka Platoon] at vaw.sitka@gmail.com.

We’re Mad As Hell — And Fighting Each Other

Peter Finch in “Network”

W.J. Astore

In the movie “Network” from 1976, a TV news anchor played by Peter Finch builds a mass following by promising to kill himself on the air while declaring that “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”  The network execs are all too happy to encourage him – as long as his outrage is good for ratings and doesn’t threaten the system.  But when Finch starts to step on corporate agendas, he has the riot act read to him by Ned Beatty, who explains “There is no America.  There is no democracy” and that “The world is a college of corporations.”  A visibly shaken Finch realizes he’s in over his head.

I’ve always liked that catchphrase from the movie, for we the people should be as mad as hell, and we should refuse to take it.  We should act.  But what’s interesting is how our anger is redirected before we can act.    

We’re not supposed to be mad at the oligarchs – that “college of corporations” – who own it all and who push all the buttons. No — our anger is supposed to be tribal. We’re supposed to hate Republicans, or Democrats, or anti-vaxxers, or Trump supporters, or someone — someone ultimately like us, without much power. The anger is ginned up to encourage us to punch down while keeping us disunited.

Being mad can be good if the anger is channeled against the exploiters; it’s not good when it’s exploited by the powerful to keep us divided and weak.

America’s two-party system is designed to deflect anger away from the moneyed interests and toward each other.  What we need is a new political party that truly represents the people rather than the oligarchs.  Neither major party, Republican or Democrat, seems reformable.  Both are captured by moneyed interests.  After all, if money is speech, who can yell louder: you and me, or Lockheed Martin and Amazon? Even the “anti-establishment” voices in either major party have largely been neutralized. Or they get sicced on the enemy of the day, whether it’s evil woke Democrats or evil unwoke Trumpers.

Hence nothing really changes … and that’s the point.

America needs an anti-imperial party, a “Come home, America” party, a party that puts domestic needs first as it works to downsize the military and dismantle the empire.  Yet, in the spirit of Orwell’s 1984 and the Two Minutes’ Hate, Americans are always kept hating some putative enemy.  Russia!  Radical Islamic Terror!  China!  Immigrants at the gate!  Maybe even an enemy within.  We’re kept divided, distracted — and downtrodden

If we continue to be at war with each other while punching down, we’ll never turn righteous anger against the right people.  We’ll never effect meaningful change.

It’s said that power never concedes anything without a demand.  Why do we demand so much from the powerless and so little from the powerful?  Isn’t it high time we reversed that?

Operation Enduring War

W.J. Astore

War Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

It’s another very warm and very humid day here in the Bracing Views HQ.  As the situation in Afghanistan continues to go poorly, at least from the perspective of the U.S. government, I thought I’d reflect on a comment I made with the theme of “Wherever we go, there we are.” In other words, wherever America makes war, we bring certain aspects of ourselves and our culture with us.  What do I mean by this?

When America intervenes in (or invades) countries like Iraq and Afghanistan in the stated cause of “freedom” (recall these operations were unironically named Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, proving that the U.S. government can out-Orwell George Orwell), we bring anything but freedom.  That’s because our “freedom” wars feature an almost total reliance on the military (no surprise there), and the military simply isn’t about freedom. That military is trained for kinetic ops, i.e., murderous violence; and that military features “force multipliers” (bombs and missiles and chemical agents of various sorts, otherwise known as weapons of mass destruction) to subdue various “enemies” while limiting American casualties.

At the same time as lots of foreigners are being killed, Americans generally maintain a stubborn ignorance of the foreign country in which we’re involved.  Their history doesn’t matter; all that matters is putting bombs on target and killing the “right” people, the bad guys, whoever they are.  Even as the war starts going poorly, predictably because we don’t really know who the “bad guys” are, nor are we sensible enough to recognize we’re the “foreigners” and often the real bad guys, the U.S. military proceeds to engage in a mindless pursuit of “victory,” however poorly defined, which in the end degenerates to a desire not to be labeled a “loser” in any war, no matter how stupid and unnecessary it is.

Related to this is the reality that once a war gets ginned up, there is an overwhelming desire by war profiteers in the U.S. military-industrial complex to keep the good times rolling.  Look at how long the Vietnam war lasted, or the Afghan war for that matter.  Decades of “good times” await war profiteers as long as American troops are kept in harm’s way, busily hammering away at “freedom,” because “our” troops must be “defended” at any cost.

Americans in general, ignoring obvious evidence to the contrary, have a strong bias that U.S. troops are always fighting on the side of the angels.  Who really wants to believe otherwise?  Such a bias makes it easier for us to wash our hands of the whole sordid affair.  And whether you like it or not, the U.S. military always fights in your and my name.

There are many other factors at work to explain the woeful nature of America’s wars, but the ones I mention above are important, I think, as we examine how dreadful America’s “freedom” wars turn out to be.  And when these freedom wars end poorly, as they do, the very last organization to shoulder any blame is the U.S. government.

Perhaps that’s truly the lead feature of U.S. war-making today: Even when you lose, and lose badly, war means never having to say you’re sorry.

For the Pentagon, sorry seems to be the hardest word

No Collusion, Says the Mueller Report

soccer

W.J. Astore

The Mueller Report has finally landed, not with a thud, but with a whisper.  No collusion.  No more indictments.  Inconclusive evidence of obstruction of justice.

Readers of Bracing Views won’t be surprised.  Back in February 2017, Mike Murry wrote an article for this site (Get Another Goat) in which he explained the inept methods and bizarre mentality of establishment Democrats in blaming Putin and the Russians rather than themselves for losing to a two-bit con man:

At any rate, it appears as if the defeated Democrats have chosen Russian President Putin as an attractive scapegoat simply due to (1) his “foreignness” and (2) the nature of transferred nationalism. This psychological transference, Orwell wrote, “has an important function. … It makes it possible for [the nationalist] to be much more nationalistic – more vulgar, more silly, more malignant, more dishonest – than he [or she] could ever be on behalf of [their] native country, or any unit of which [they] had real knowledge” …

it seems like a monumental waste of time, energy, and limited American attention span for the Democrats to scapegoat President Putin for their own stupidity, arrogance, and insensitivity to their party’s traditional base.

Echoing Mike Murry, it has indeed been “a monumental waste of time, energy, and limited American attention span” to connect Trump’s victory in 2016 to an organized campaign of collusion with Russia.  Mainstream networks like MSNBC and high-profile reporters like Rachel Maddow have spent the last 2+ years pushing the narrative of collusion and even treason when they could have been attacking Trump and his administration for its specific policies and decisions that hurt ordinary Americans.  By pushing the collusion/treason narrative and coming up empty, they’ve only made Trump stronger as he prepares to run for reelection in 2020.

As I wrote here in July of 2018, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of Trump to accuse him of being a “puppet” because he’s incapable of serving anyone but himself:

Consider the accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  Trump is never going to side with his intelligence agencies on this issue.  He thinks that, by doing so, he’d be admitting that maybe he didn’t win fair and square over “Crooked Hillary.”  He refuses to countenance Russian meddling, not because he’s a Putin stooge, but rather because he’s an egomaniac.  He’ll admit to nothing that diminishes, however slightly, his victory — and his ego.

Russia doesn’t matter to Trump.  Indeed, America doesn’t matter to Trump.  With Trump, it’s really all about him… Trump lives in his own reality, a narcissistic swirl of fabrications, falsehoods, and lies.  He’s happiest when he’s commanding the scene, when people are kowtowing to him, when he can boast about himself and advertise his businesses…

In short, Trump is not treasonous.  He simply has no concept of public service.  He has no capacity to serve any cause other than himself.

Trump may be a blowhard, a bully, a braggart, a bigot, and a buffoon, but that doesn’t make him a “traitor” who “colluded” with Russia.  By pushing a false narrative for 2+ years, establishment Democrats and the mainstream media have yet again colluded in their usual inept way to strengthen Trump while discrediting themselves.

Ordinary Americans looking for a little more safety and equity in their lives are, of course, the biggest losers.

Facecrime!

plaidshirtguy

W.J. Astore

We’re truly living in Orwellian times.  A 17-year-old high school student, now known as #plaidshirtguy due to his choice of wardrobe, was removed from a Trump rally in Montana because of the faces he was making as Trump spoke.  You can read all about here, and watch an interview with him at CNN.

Not surprisingly, people who stand behind Trump are selected ahead of time and told to clap and cheer.  This young man did that, but he also chose to look quizzical, skeptical, and bemused at times.  This is not allowed!  A Trump staffer eventually intervened to remove him from the audience due to his “face crime.”  To make matters worse, he was then held by the Secret Service for ten minutes, after which he was asked to leave the event.

Leave the event?  For making skeptical and quizzical facial expressions?

You may recall from George Orwell’s “1984” that “Facecrime” existed.  Anyone making skeptical or otherwise unacceptable faces when the Party announced bogus victories, production figures, and so forth opened himself or herself up to serious punishment.

Thanks to plaid shirt guy, we now know that facecrime has come to America.  Just remember, fellow citizens, always to smile and cheer in the presence of Our Dear Leader.  Unless you want to be detained and sent away — perhaps next time to the cornfield.

*From my copy of “1984”: “In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense.  There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.” (From the end of Chapter 5.)

“Civilian Casualty Incidents”

3450
Just another civilian casualty incident?  Original caption: Mourners carry the coffin of a child at the funeral procession for those killed in an airstrike on a bus in Yemen. Photograph: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

W.J. Astore

Last night, as I was watching the PBS News Hour, I snapped to attention as I heard a new euphemism for murdered innocents from bombing: “civilian casualty incidents.”

A PBS reporter used it, unthinkingly I believe, repeating bureaucratic jargon about all the innocents in Yemen smashed to bits or shredded by “dumb” bombs, cluster munitions, and even “smart” bombs that are really only as smart as the pilots launching them (and the often imperfect “actionable intelligence” gathered to sanction them).

The overall tone of the PBS report was reassuring.  General Mattis appeared to comfort Americans that the Saudis are doing better with bombing accuracy, and that America’s role in helping the Saudis is limited to aerial refueling and intelligence gathering about what not to hit.  Of course, the Saudis can’t bomb without fuel, so the U.S. could easily stop aerial massacres if we wanted to, but the Saudis are our allies and they buy weapons in massive quantities from us, so forget about any real criticism here.

I’ve written about Orwellian euphemisms for murderous death before: “collateral damage” is often the go-to term for aerial attacks gone murderously wrong.  To repeat myself: George Orwell famously noted the political uses of language and the insidiousness of euphemisms.  Words about war matter.  Dishonest words contribute to dishonest wars.  They lead to death, dismemberment, and devastation. That’s not “collateral” — nor is it merely a “civilian casualty incident” — that’s a defining and terrifying reality.

What if innocent Americans were being killed?  Would they be classified and covered as regrettable if inevitable “civilian casualty incidents”?

The Power of Hate and Fear

yoda22

W.J. Astore

Who are we supposed to hate today?  The Russians for allegedly throwing the presidential election?  The Chinese for allegedly stealing our jobs?  The North Koreans for allegedly planning our nuclear destruction?  The Iranians for allegedly working to acquire nuclear weapons?  The “axis of evil” for being, well, evil?

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously told Americans that the only thing they had to fear is fear itself.  However, recent American presidents have encouraged us to fear everything.  Let’s not forget the stoking of fear by people like Condoleezza Rice and her image of a smoking gun morphing into a nuclear mushroom cloud.  That image helped to propel America into a disastrous war in Iraq in 2003 that festers still.

One of the most powerful scenes I’ve seen in any movie came in the adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.  The film version begins with the “two minutes of hate” directed against various (imagined) enemies.  Check it out.  Doubleplusgood!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KeX5OZr0A4

Especially disturbing is the rant against Goldstein, the enemy within.  Here I think of Donald Trump claiming that the Democrats are anti-military for not rubberstamping his budget, a dishonest as well as ridiculous charge, since both parties support high military spending.  Indeed, high Pentagon spending is the one bipartisan area of agreement in Congress.

Screen-Shot-2018-01-18-at-3.07.34-PM
The top tweet is typical of Trump: Accusing Democrats of not caring about “our” troops

This is among the biggest problems in America today: the stoking of hate against the enemy within, e.g. “illegal” immigrants (rapists, gang members, killers, according to our president), Democrats who allegedly don’t support our military, rival politicians who should be “locked up,” protesters who should be punched and kicked and otherwise silenced, high school students who are dismissed as phonies and professional actors, and on and on.

Irrational fear is nothing new to America, of course.  Consider the fear of communism that produced red scares after World Wars I and II.  Consider how fears of the spread of communism led to criminal intervention in Southeast Asia and the death of millions of people there.  Massive bombing, free-fire artillery zones, the profligate use of defoliants like Agent Orange, the prolongation of war without any regard for the suffering of peoples in SE Asia: that behavior constituted a crime of murderous intensity that was in part driven by hatred and fear.

And when hatred and fear are linked to tribalism and a xenophobic form of patriotism, murderous war becomes almost a certainty.  When the zealots of hate are screaming for blood, it’s very hard to hear appeals for peace based on compassion and reason.

Anger, fear, aggression: that way leads to the dark side, as Yoda, that Jedi master, warned us.  Hate too, Yoda says, must be resisted, lest one be consumed by it.  Sure, he’s just an imaginary character in the “Star Wars” universe, but that doesn’t negate the truth of his message.

God is love, the Christian religion says.  Why then are we so open to hate and fear?