Democracy Now! 10/15/15
Newly leaked government documents have provided an unprecedented window into the secret U.S. drone assassination program across the globe. In “The Drone Papers,” The Intercept reveals drone strikes have resulted from unreliable intelligence, stemming in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is insufficient. The documents also undermine government claims that the drone strikes have been precise. In Afghanistan, strikes on 35 direct targets killed at least 219 other people. Among other revelations, they also suggest the strikes have hurt intelligence gathering and that unknown male victims have been labeled as “enemies killed in action” unless evidence later proves otherwise….
continue reading, including interview with Jeremy Scahill and links, at Democracy Now!
Filed under Afghanistan, War
by John Grant, 1/26/15
The following is the concluding paragraph of Chris Hedges’ essay on the Clint Eastwood film, American Sniper, which has become a cultural item of conflict. The essay is called “Killing Ragheads for Jesus: On Watching ‘American Sniper’” and it very thoroughly dissects the film in a way that serves as a public service. Hedges never pulls his punches, and he goes deep in a spiritual manner. Those (like Sarah Palin) who would disagree with Hedges tend to respond with a simple-minded, patriotic defense that reinforces the propagandistic line Hedges is writing about; they never address the meat of such a cultural critique because it’s written in the realm of unpleasant truths. I’ve been in the US Army in Vietnam and I’ve been to Iraq twice as a journalist — and I’ve seen the movie. What Hedges writes about this successful Hollywood film and why it is so insidious is actually important. Please read the whole essay and see why he arrives at this troubling conclusion. – John Grant
The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood. Brutal hazing, as Kyle noted in his book, was an integral part of becoming a Navy SEAL. New SEALs would be held down and choked by senior members of the platoon until they passed out. The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders. This sentimentality, as Baldwin wrote, masks a terrifying numbness. It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman. “American Sniper” caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.
The Hedges essay is located at “Killing Ragheads for Jesus: On Watching ‘American Sniper’“
Filed under John Grant, War
by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 1/14/15
I was happy to have a letter in the Daily Local News on 1/9/15.
Ryan Costello, is the just-elected member of the US House of Representatives for PA district 6. Michael P. Rellahan’s article “Ryan Costello set to take seat in 114th Congress” in the 1/3/15 Daily Local started out:
The politicians from West Chester who have served as U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District hold remarkable and sometimes colorful biographical histories.
Like the private in the U.S. Army during the Civil War (Smedley Darlington, who served from 1887-1891) and grew to be a banker and the eventual grandfather of a military man known as the “Fighting Quaker.” Or the businessman who began his career (William Everhart, 1853-1855) in Congress 30 years after surviving the sinking of the ship Albion off the coast or Ireland.
Or the war veteran (John Hickman, 1855-1863) who led the impeachment hearing of a federal judge from Tennessee in the 1860s; and the Everhart scion (James Bowen Everhart 1883-1887) who supplemented his work as a Harvard-educated attorney by publishing works of poetry, notably “The Fox Chase….”
Yes, Costello joins a distinguished and varied roster. Time will tell whether he will be serving the public or his party.
I felt called on to react after Mr. Rellahan mentioned Smedley Darlington Butler….
continue reading at Politics: A View from West Chester
letter, Daily Local News, 12/12/14
I find myself in sharp disagreement with Sunday’s editorial, “It’s Time We Learn From Our Past Mistakes.” It is not lack of preparation for the next war that is the mistake, because preparing for war is part of what guarantees that war will come. Rather, the mistake lies in not realizing that war itself is our main enemy.
I like George Santayana as a philosopher, but I like his Harvard colleague William James, on the topic of war, much better. James was a pacifist who realized that war has its allure and that we need a “moral equivalent of war” (a war on poverty or grotesque inequality might be one example) rather than the “injuring contest”— as Elaine Scarry has aptly called it — which war essentially is. This nation has had far too many wars in its history, and while not forgetting the sacrifices of those who have served, we must work to get our country out of the war business altogether.
F. R. Struckmeyer Chester County