One of my favorite political columnists, Robert Scheer, runs the Truthdig website, where today he writes about the so-called end of American combat in Iraq. Much of his column today is highly quotable, but one sentence took me aback for its optimism. After justly noting the massive disaster the Iraq war has been for the U.S. (not to mention for Iraq), Scheer writes, The one positive outcome is that with the formal end of the U.S. occupation many Americans have finally learned the lesson that imperialism does not pay. Really? I hope to God that is true, but Im not so sure.
Its true that many Americans are sick of our country fighting wars 24/7 while our own small businesses, infrastructure, schools and overall economy circle the drain. But its hard to intuit how many of those same Americans make the connections between the sorry state of the nation and our governments ongoing wish to run the world via hundreds of military bases and foreigners fear of our big stick.
If Americans are finally realizing the correlation between endless military ventures and a decreasing quality of life at home (how could throwing away $1 trillion on an ill-conceived and poorly executed disaster such as the Iraq war not weaken our country?), thats welcome news. Maybe Scheer is right after all, at least 60 percent of us, according to polls, are aware enough to realize the Afghan war is another needless mess. But you have to wonder how deeply our leaders' 65 years of post-WWII strutting and hair-trigger military escapades and the propaganda that came with them have sunk into the national subconscious.
One of the most common examples of our collective, pro-war indoctrination pops up whenever someone describes the soldiers who fight our governments nasty little wars as defending America or protecting our freedoms. I have respect for anyone who puts his/her life on the line in the military, but the plain, legal and moral truth is that unless our soldiers are fighting off an attack on U.S. soil by a foreign army, those soldiers aren't fighting for "our freedoms." (And, no, disjointed terrorist attacks here and there dont count as a foreign army, no matter how many paranoid radio jocks want us to think so.) It may sound good, and it may make us feel better, to think that Junior is lying in pieces on an Iraqi roadside because he's "fighting to protect America," but the truth is that Junior and his fellow soldiers are, essentially, being abused by their own government for reasons that have exactly zero to do with protecting Americans' freedom.
As Scheer writes today,
It is utter nonsense for Obama . . .to now state: The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We paid a huge price simply to assuage the arrogance of a president that was unfettered by the restraints of common sense expected in a functioning democracy. Particularly shameful was the betrayal by the Congress and the mass media of the obligations to challenge a president who exploited post-9/11 fears to go to war with a nation that had nothing whatsoever to do with that attack.
Then again, as weve written before, wars are always marketed as glorious, necessary exercises in freedom, filled with flags, balloons, a tsunami of P.R., and supported by a citizenry that, by and large, falls for the B.S. every time. Its too bad that Obama now has his own useless war to promote; otherwise, he could have been more forthcoming about just how disastrous to our economy and, ironically, our international influence Cheney and Bushs stupendous blunder has been.