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Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Austin Rose

Oh, look, it's our favorite professor of Critical Thinking, Robert Jensen of the University of Texas. He's in today's Houston Chronicle (read it while it's free) with an article entitled, "G.I., do you really know what you're fighting for?"

(Don't ask me, I don't give a damn. Next stop, whup Saddam.)

This article ends with an address to the troops; it was [originally?] on Counterpunch on January 2 of this year (no, no damn link, go find it yourself). Do many troops read Counterpunch, I wonder?

....those troops will not be defending our freedom but defending America's control over the strategically crucial energy resources of the Middle East. They will be in the service of the empire, fighting a war for the power and profits of the few, not freedom for the many.

This is the pundit's stock-in-trade, omniscience, as noted way, way back in October, 2001, by Matt Welch, who was talking about Jensen, then, too (Matt, by the way, is terrible in his righteous wrath; I'd forgotten he could do that). As you read down, you'll find that Jensen's conclusions about the Afghan war (quoted by Matt), made when it was just begun, are unchanged here. Wow! Maybe Jensen was right after all, huh? Or maybe he just made up his mind beforehand and twisted or ignored any contradictory facts, such as his facile assurance that the Taliban could have been persuaded to hand over Bin Laden to some sort of outside court, a suggestion we now know to be ludicrous.

That's right, war in Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism, UN resolutions, or psychotic dictators; instead it's all about the oooiiillll. I feel like the arguments against this are so worn, so tiresome, and so obvious that I don't want to go through them again, nor do you want to read them, but here goes: If we want to "control" oil, aren't there easier and less expensive ways to do it? Wouldn't it be just a lot smarter to drop the sanctions, lavish money on Saddam, and let him kill as many Kurds as his heart desires? Hell, that'd be easier and cheaper in the long run, we'd enjoy the support of Russia and France, and the only people complaining might be some leftist journalism professors.

I'm also aware that many of those who find themselves on those lines may have joined the military primarily for economic reasons. But if I am truly to respect them -- as human beings and as fellow citizens -- I should be willing to state clearly my objections to this war.

Check. Those poor little brown people, who were only told that this was a way to develop skills and earn some cash, and didn't know they might actually be expected to fight! In a war! How unfair.

That requires distinguishing between the rhetoric and reality of U.S. foreign and military policy. Every great power claims noble motives for its wars, but such claims usually cover an uglier reality, and we are no different.

Actually, I've often wondered about those carefree, innocent days of the Empires, when you didn't have to come up with an ideological excuse for a war. If it meant retention or expansion of the Empire, that was a good enough reason. You didn't have to dribble on about self-determination, freedom, or the glorious struggle of the working classes. Good old-fashioned avarice, or defending the honor of the Empire, that was enough in those days.

To be honest, I'm all for us staying out of the icky parts of the earth, and not charging to the rescue of rag-tag bands of rebels who want to instill "democracy" (nudge-nudge) in some godforgotten spot. If it weren't for Saddam cooking up some nukes and handing them to Al Qaeda, et al, I'd be all for letting him alone, on the theory that it's not our business to take care of him.

(Juan Gato, among others, is appalled at the notion that it's OK for Saddam to kill Iraqis because "they're his people". It doesn't make it OK, but you can argue that it doesn't make it our business, either.)

For most of the post-World War II era, the United States' use of force against weaker nations was justified as necessary to stop Soviet plans for world conquest. The Soviet regime was authoritarian, brutal and interventionist in its own sphere, and it eventually acquired the capacity to destroy us with nuclear weapons.

But the claim that the Soviets were a global military threat to our existence was also a political weapon to frighten Americans into endorsing wars to suppress independent development in the Third World and accepting a permanent wartime economy.

Ah, so the Soviets were brutal, authoritarian, and expansionist, and could nuke us---and we let that worry us! I love the idea, which I see more and more these days, that "fear" is an innappropriate response to a genuine threat. Oh, yeah, he's mean and armed and wants to kill you, but you shouldn't let that influence your behavior. (Den Beste discusses, in a post of, well, Den Besteal length. To get to my point, skip down to "Getting back to Josh's original post". That's where he differentiates between rational fear based on real threats, and hysterical, knee-jerk panic. Unfortunately, then he wanders off again.)

With the Soviet Union gone, American planners needed a new justification for the military machine.

I thought the War on Drugs was supposed to fill that role.

Terrorism may prove more durable a rationale, for organizations such as al-Qaida are a real threat, and we have a right to expect our government to take measures to protect us.

"But..." You can hear it coming, right? This is far too sensible an statement to just let stand. There's got to be a

But the question is, which measures are most effective?

Ta da!

U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged that the U.S. attack on Afghanistan did little to reduce the threat and may have complicated counterterrorism efforts.

Really?? Which officials? What exactly did they say? "...little to reduce the threat..." And yet we've not had a serious incident since 9/11, the Taliban no longer rules Afghanistan, and the Al Qaeda roaches have bolted to other holes (where we'll get to them eventually). Above, Jensen says that planners needed a new threat to justify a role for the military after the Cold War; yet he swallows this assessment whole. If the threat has been so slightly reduced, that would mean more money for the military, right? So why does he trust these vaporous "intelligence officials" to tell the truth?

So we have to separate what may motivate people in the armed forces from the real role of the U.S. military.

I have no doubt that many who serve believe they are fighting for freedom, an honorable goal we should respect. But they are doing that for a government with a different objective -- to shore up U.S. power and guarantee the profits of an elite -- that we should not support.

There is no disrespect in urging fellow citizens who have joined the military to ask, "What am I really fighting for?" and "Who really benefits from the risks I take?"


My message to the troops would be: "Thank you for being willing to defend freedom, but please join the resistance to this unjust war."

That is a message of support for the troops and a plea for solidarity among ordinary people who want to build a better world, not serve the empire.

So when does he get to the part where he tells them Bart Simpson is sleeping with their wives?

Naturally, a prospective soldier should think carefully before joining, but Jensen's not talking to those still mulling it over. Jensen doesn't say, "Young people, think carefully before you sign up." He's talking to the ones already in the military.

Seriously, isn't this the sort of thing Tokyo Rose was doing, trying to undermine soldiers' morale? Isn't there a law against "incitement to desertion", or something?

I wonder if he'll do the jail time for a soldier who takes him seriously, hmmm?