How Do We Push Back Against the US Warfare State?

David Barsamian: American Justice Robert Jackson was the chief prosecutor on the Nuremberg trials. He made a gap assertion to the Tribunal on November 21, 1945, as a result of there was some concern on the time that it will be an instance of victor’s justice. He stated this: “If sure acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they’re crimes whether or not the US does them or whether or not Germany does them, and we’re not ready to put down the rule of felony conduct towards others which we’d not be keen to have invoked towards us.”

Norman Solomon: It goes to the purpose that, until we now have a single customary of human rights, a single customary of worldwide conduct and struggle, we find yourself with an Orwellian train at which authorities leaders are at all times fairly adept however one which’s nonetheless intellectually, morally, and spiritually corrupt. Right here we’re, so lengthy after the Nuremberg trials, and the supreme crime of aggression, the launching of a struggle, will not be solely widespread however has been sanitized, even glorified. We’ve had this expertise in a single decade after one other by which the US has attacked a rustic in violation of worldwide legislation, committing (based on the Nuremberg Tribunal) “the supreme worldwide crime,” and but not solely has there been a scarcity of regret, however such acts have continued to be glorified.

The very first quote in my guide War Made Invisible is from Aldous Huxley who, 10 years earlier than the Nuremberg trials, stated, “The propagandist’s function is to make one set of individuals neglect that sure different units of persons are human.” Right here we’re in 2023 and it’s nonetheless a problem to research, illuminate, and push again towards that important function of propagandists world wide and particularly in our personal nation the place, in an ostensible democracy, we should always have essentially the most capability to alter coverage.

Proper now, we’re in a state of affairs the place, sadly, throughout plenty of the political spectrum, together with a few of the left, of us suppose that you need to select between aligning your self with U.S. international coverage and its acts of aggression or Russian international coverage and its acts of aggression. Personally, I believe it’s each applicable and essential to condemn struggle on Ukraine, and Washington’s hypocrisy doesn’t in any approach let Russia off the hook. By the identical token, Russia’s aggression shouldn’t let the US off the hook for the large carnage we’ve created on this century. I imply, in the event you add up the numbers, within the final practically twenty-five years, the nation by far essentially the most chargeable for slaughtering extra individuals in additional lands by means of wars of aggression is… sure, the US of America.

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What’s your evaluation of the struggle protection of PBS and NPR? You already know, a rarified, well mannered media the place individuals communicate in full sentences with none shouting. However have they introduced dissident voices to problem the hegemonic assumptions you simply cited relating to American struggle insurance policies?

The fashion there’s totally different, in fact, however think about it only a lengthy type of the exact same propaganda framework. So, you’ll be able to take heed to a 10-minute phase on All Issues Thought-about or a panel dialogue on the PBS NewsHour and the fashion and civility, the size of the sentences, as you say, could also be refreshing to the ear, but it surely additionally normalizes the identical attitudes, the identical status-quo assumptions about American international coverage. I received’t say by no means, however in my expertise, it’s extraordinarily uncommon for an NPR or PBS journalist to assertively query the underlying prerogatives of the U.S. authorities to assault different nations, even when it’s stated with a extra erudite ambiance.

You’ve obtained NPR and PBS unwilling to problem, however all too keen to propagate and perpetuate the belief that, sure, the US would possibly make errors, it’d even commit blunders — a well-liked phrase for the U.S. invasion of Iraq that resulted in actually a whole lot of hundreds of deaths. Nonetheless, the underlying message is invariably that sure, we are able to (and will) at instances argue over when, whether or not, and the way to assault sure nations with the firepower of the Pentagon, however these selections do must be made and the U.S. has the appropriate to take action if that’s one of the best judgment of the sensible individuals within the higher reaches of coverage in Washington.

Jeff Cohen, the founding father of Equity and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), has talked in regards to the visitor listing on such PBS and NPR packages. There’s a golden Rolodex of what he calls “formers” — former undersecretaries of state, former lieutenant colonels, retired generals, et al. However what about dissident voices like Medea Benjamin, your self, or Noam Chomsky?

Over time, FAIR has accomplished quite a lot of research starting from industrial networks to NPR and the PBS NewsHour, and located that, notably when problems with struggle and peace are on the desk, it’s extraordinarily uncommon to have opponents of U.S. army motion on the air, typically beneath one % of the interviewees. And that is thought of “goal journalism” and goes hand in hand with a deeper principle, normally unstated however definitely in play in the actual world: that if an American journalist is in favor of our wars, that’s objectivity, but when opposed, that’s bias.

I’m typically requested: Why do journalists so typically keep in line? They’re not, as in another nations, going to be hauled off to jail. So, what makes them really feel compelled to be as conformist as they’re? And plenty of the reason has to do with mortgages and the like — hey, I wish to pay for my youngsters’s school schooling, I want monetary safety, so on and so forth.

To my thoughts, it’s an amazing irony that we now have so many examples of very courageous journalists for American media retailers going into struggle zones, typically being wounded, sometimes even shedding their lives, after which those who get again residence, again to the newsrooms, turn into afraid of the boss. They don’t wish to lose their syndicated columns, their front-page entry. This harmful dynamic regiments the journalism we get.

And take into account that, dwelling in the US, we now have, with only a few exceptions, no firsthand expertise of the wars this nation has engaged in and continues to be engaged in. So, we rely on the information media, a dependence that’s very harmful in a democracy the place the principle is that we’d like the knowledgeable consent of the ruled, whereas what we’re getting is their uninformed pseudo-consent. Think about {that a} formulation for the warfare state we now have.

On the White Home Correspondents’ dinner President Biden stated, “Journalism will not be against the law. The free press is a pillar, perhaps the pillar of a free society.” Nice phrases from the White Home.

President Biden, like his predecessors within the Oval Workplace, loves to talk about the glories of the free press and say that journalism is a superb side of our society — till the journalists do one thing he and the federal government he runs actually don’t like. A major instance is Julian Assange. He’s a journalist, a writer, an editor, and he’s sitting in jail in Nice Britain being hot-wired for transportation to the US. I sat by means of the two-week trial within the federal district of northern Virginia of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling and I can let you know it was a kangaroo courtroom. That’s the courtroom Julian Assange has a ticket to if his extradition continues.

And what’s his so-called crime? It’s journalism. WikiLeaks dedicated journalism. It uncovered the struggle crimes of the US in Iraq by means of paperwork it launched, by means of the now-notorious video that got here to be known as “Collateral Homicide,” exhibiting the wanton killing of quite a lot of individuals on the bottom in Iraq by a U.S. army helicopter. It offered a compendium of proof that the US had systemically engaged in struggle crimes beneath the rubric of the so-called Conflict on Terror. So, naturally, the stance of the U.S. authorities stays: this man Assange is harmful; he should be imprisoned.

The angle of the company media, Congress, and the White Home has historically been and continues to be that the U.S. stance on the planet might be: do as we are saying, not as we do. So, the USA is sweet at pointing fingers at Russia or nations that invade another nation, however when the U.S. does it, it’s one other factor completely. Such dynamics, whereas pernicious, particularly amongst a nuclear-armed set of countries, are reflexes individuals in energy have had for a very long time.

Greater than a century in the past, William Dean Howells wrote a brief story known as “Editha.” Needless to say this was after the US had been slaughtering a whole lot of hundreds of individuals within the Philippines. In it, a personality says, “What a factor it’s to have a rustic that can’t be improper, however whether it is, is correct, anyway!”

Now, right here we’re in 2023 and it’s not that totally different, besides relating to the size of communications, of a media that’s a lot extra pervasive. For those who learn the op-ed pages and editorial sections of the New York Instances, Washington Publish, and different retailers of the liberal media, you’ll discover such doublethink effectively in place. Vladimir Putin, in fact, is a struggle felony. Properly, I occur to suppose he is a struggle felony. I additionally occur to suppose that George W. Bush is a struggle felony, and we may go on to all too many different examples of excessive U.S. authorities officers the place that description applies a minimum of to Vladimir Putin.

Are you able to discover a single main newspaper that’s been keen to editorialize that George W. Bush — having ordered the invasion of Iraq, costing a whole lot of hundreds of lives based mostly on a set of lies — was a struggle felony? It simply ain’t gonna occur. In truth, one of many issues I used to be notably happy (in a grim form of approach) to discover in my guide was the rehabilitation of that struggle felony, offering a paradigm for the presidents who adopted him and letting them off the hook, too.

I quote, as an example, President Obama chatting with troops in Afghanistan. You might take one sentence after one other from his speeches there and discover nearly similar ones that President Lyndon Johnson utilized in chatting with American troops in Vietnam in 1966. They each talked about how U.S. troopers have been so compassionate, cared a lot about human life, and have been making an attempt to assist the struggling individuals of Vietnam or Afghanistan. That pernicious theme appears to accompany nearly any U.S. struggle: that, with one of the best of intentions, the U.S. is looking for to assist these in different nations. It’s a approach of creating the victims on the different finish of U.S. firepower — to make use of a phrase from my guide title — invisible.

That is one thing I used to be capable of do some considering and writing about in my guide. There are two tiers of grief in our media and our politics from Congress to the White Home — ours and theirs. Our grief (together with that of honorary semi-Individuals just like the Ukrainians) is concentrated on those that are killed by official enemy governments of the US. That’s the actual tier of grief and so when the media covers, because it ought to, the struggling of individuals in Ukraine because of Russia’s struggle of aggression, their struggling is made as actual as might be. And but, when it’s the U.S. slaughtering individuals in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, that’s one thing else completely. On the subject of the individuals on the different finish of U.S. weaponry, the civilians, a whole lot of hundreds of them immediately slaughtered, and tens of millions not directly killed by U.S. warfare, their tier of grief isn’t, with uncommon exceptions, on the media map. These human beings simply don’t matter.

Right here within the USA, individuals discover this disagreeable to listen to and even take into consideration. However our personal humanity has been besmirched, broken, undermined by such silences, which, in some ways, symbolize essentially the most highly effective propaganda of all. We have to break that silence.

The media panorama is radically altering from podcasts to blogs to every kind of recent media. Will that assist?

Know-how’s by no means going to save lots of us. Robert McChesney, the scholar of media historical past, has written eloquently about this. Each advance in expertise was accompanied by these outsized guarantees that subsequently we could have democracy. That’s going again to the primary telegraphs, then radio, then broadcast TV, then cable tv. At each step, individuals have been advised, hey, this expertise implies that not do we now have a top-down relationship to energy, we are able to make the modifications occur ourselves. And but as we’ve seen with all of these applied sciences, and this consists of the Web, expertise by no means freed anyone.

What’s to be accomplished? What sensible steps would you suggest?

I imagine in organizing as the important thing ingredient in turning round such dire circumstances, together with company energy, class struggle waged from the highest down, and the militarization of our society and our international coverage. Which means a shift in mindset to see that we’re not consuming historical past off the shelf like Surprise Bread. Because the saying goes, no matter your first main concern could also be, your second must be the media. We have to construct media organizations and assist those which might be doing progressive work, assist them financially, assist them when it comes to spreading the phrase and in addition of studying extra about the way to — and really implementing the way to — manage each individuals we all know and people we don’t. And I believe that’s fairly antithetical to the messages the media often sends us, as a result of actually, the primary messages from, say, tv contain urging us to exit and purchase issues (and perhaps vote infrequently). Properly, we do must exit and purchase issues and we definitely ought to vote, however the actual modifications are going to come back once we discover methods to work collectively to create political energy each inside and outdoors the electoral enviornment.

Once you take a look at the corruption of the Federal Communications Fee, as an example, that’s not going to alter till totally different persons are in workplace — and we’re not going to get totally different individuals in workplace till we elect them to beat the facility of Huge Cash. And there’s additionally the actual historical past that we must be reminded of: that every little thing we now have to be pleased with on this nation was a results of individuals organizing from the underside up and producing social actions. That’s actually the place our greatest future lies.

You conclude Conflict Made Invisible with a quote from James Baldwin.

“Not every little thing that’s confronted might be modified; however nothing might be modified till it’s confronted.”

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