Friday, February 7, 2014

The Iraq Syndrome? AIPAC's Drive for War with Iran Runs into the Vietnam Syndrome's Successor, and Shatters

Horrified at the prospects of negotiations between the US and Iran that could lead to serious diplomacy and even (shudder) peace, APAIC and its minions revved up its standard steamroller campaign to save the day. Until now, whenever the lobby goes on the warpath, its targets immediately surrender and swear total fealty to the AIPAC/Israel juggernaut. But times have changed and AIPAC failed to get enough Democratic senators to sign on to a bill to increase sanctions against Iran, with the obvious goal of sabotaging any treaty between the US and Iran over its nuclear program.

The failure of the Israel lobby in the US to prevail in the Senate is a very big deal. The only comparable event was the failure of AIPAC's all out drive to stop the US government from selling advanced AWAC aircraft to Saudi Arabia which happened decades ago. It looks like a turning point ,which, considered along with the successes of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and the growing alarm about this among the Israeli government and its apologists in the US, appears to be a serious blow to Israel, AIPAC, and the cheerleaders for a continues US military action in the Mideast.

Thus, Chris Hedges recent column “The Menace of the Military Mind” is all the more disconcerting for its failure to realize the actual existence of a growing resistance to militarism in the US,and the misleading pessimism he encourages. But more on that later.

Israel does not want peaceful relations between the US and Iran. They want to use Iran as a bogeyman to whip up support for a US/Israel military attack against Iran. They don't want any independent counterbalance to Israel's total military and political hegemony in the region. Iran says that it has the right to nuclear power like any other nation and it has no plans to build a bomb. The proposed treaty with the US allows inspection to verify that they have no nuclear weapons under development. The idea that Iran, even if it did end up with nuclear weapons, would be stupid enough to attack Israel is, in terms of reality, total idiot nonsense.

As a country, Iran is not small change. It is a large, technologically advancing country that can play a role in stabilizing the Mideast. Israel hates this possibility. It wants other countries in the region to be weak and unstable, easy prey for expansionism and bullying. The designated role for Iran as far as Israel is concerned is to be the major existential threat that will justify unlimited US dollars and political support for whatever Israel wants to do.

But despite all its past triumphs (remember the joint session of Congress with Democrats and Republicans jumping up and down like puppets on a string to give innumerable standing ovations to Netanyahu?) This time AIPAC/Israel lost. Obama dug in his heels and faced down the lobby. They gave up, for the time being, their legislative sabotage plan to scuttle the negotiations with Iran.

Why did this happen? What gave Obama some backbone?

He could see which way the winds were blowing. The arrogant over-reaching of Israel and AIPAC's foaming at the mouth slandering of anyone with the slightest questioning of Israeli policy has finally blown up in their faces. Zionism's partisans are now being seen in a more critical light by the population in general—it's hard not to notice that the Israel lobby is always cheerleading for war (by us) on behalf of Israel.

Unlike the Republican/Fox News/AIPAC axis of dimwits, Obama represents a smarter policy for preserving US military and economic dominance of the world. He knows the US has to put Israel in it's place—it is an adjunct of US imperial rule, not the opposite. Israel's bull in a china shop approach is too risky for intelligent capitalist politicians like Obama to put up with.

Obama is also discerning enough to see that people are tiring of warmongering bombast. And the change in public opinion is larger than just the growing discomfort with Israeli/US Zionist stridency for military action; there is the rise of a general unhappiness of the American people with the results of the post 9/11 policy of endless war.

The American people DO NOT WANT ENDLESS WAR. They've had enough. They have finally seen the fruits of the tissue of lies that got us into the Iraq war...which got us deeper into war in Afghanistan, and begat the back door to war in Libya...which begat drone war in Pakistan...which begat US attacks in Yemen. I don't have to keep going on in a biblical way for you to get the picture. The grinding wars and deployments are chewing up soldiers and spitting them out dead or wounded, more trillions go down the drain, while the economic picture is definitely not rosy. Also, did you notice the reception to the idea of the US getting involved in the Syrian civil war?

This is bad news for the people who really run America: the Military/NSA/banking-global corporate raider /Petrochemical axis who rely on military threats and force to maintain world dominance (this is what they really mean when they talk about National Security -- not the best interests of regular people).

The Vietnam war lasted for over 10 years. At first only a handful of weirdos protested. Tens of thousands of US soldiers died and many more were wounded, millions of Vietnamese, Laos, and Cambodians were killed. At its height there were 500,000 US troops there. Slowly the population realized that something was not right with the story they were being told by the media and politicians. The population turned against the war, protests were gigantic (a million marching in Washington...more than once). Finally, the troops—unwilling draftees—refused to fight, and in 1973 the US had to just stop the war and go home. They lost the war. Why? Due to the resistance of the Vietnamese to colonial domination and the organized power of the mass anti-war movement.

The Vietnam experience resulted in a strong resistance by the US population to any more wars. Dubbed the Vietnam Syndrome, military and political leaders worried that this could harm any future “needed” US military actions. The establishment and its tamed news media campaigned against this Vietnam Syndrome for decades. The far right waged a cultural and social war to reverse the social gains of blacks and women, and decried the 1960s as a era of loose morals, but the crusade to eradicate the bad memories of the Vietnam war, the lies and seeming pointlessness of it all-- that battle was also joined by supposedly more moderate politicians, the media and, of course, by the Pentagon brass.

The US military response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991was seen by pundits as a good war, a devastating, overwhelming attack on Saddam Hussein's army, a rousing, flag waving victory for the USA, which they hoped would put us back in the world policeman game.

Finally, the 2001 9/11 attack gave a free hand to those who wanted to unleash the dogs of war and, for the greater glory of fortress USA, to jump in and take over Iraq, Iran, the whole 9 yards. The seemingly easy conquest of Afghanistan and the illusory cakewalk of the US military into Baghdad had the political, business and talking head class euphoric. The Vietnam Syndrome is dead and now we can kick ass, take names and show the world who is boss! This neocon dream world took less than 10 years to evaporate. Now we are stuck with the reality of a wrecked, dysfunctional economy; a war on terror that has trashed democratic rights and seems to breed more “terrorists;” reduced US influence in the world; global revulsion against US militarism and world-wide obsessive spying, among other things.

It stands to reason that the recent experiences of constant war, a free fall of the general standard of living, and exposure of government spying and lying would make the US population surly about the prospect of even more war, surveillance and belt tightening. Put these factors together in a bag, shake them up, and Voila! You get the Iraq Syndrome.

There were some very large street demonstrations against the impending invasion of Iraq. Even though hundreds of thousands took part in the protests, it was not enough to stop or even slow the coming war. In the wake of 9/11 the country rallied behind the war drive. The opposition was in the minority.

Some people on the left said, “see, mass protests don't work anymore.” But their point of view proved to be shallow and simplistic. If you don't get instant gratification, and then just give up, nothing will happen. It takes serious work and a long view of events to stand up to a full-throated war hysteria. And the question remains...”so, what's your alternative course of action, besides doing nothing?”

It would take years for the pro-war majority to fade...but fade it did. Pro-war sentiment eroded due to failure of the weapons of mass destruction to materialize, the armed struggle against the US occupation and the resulting US casualties, the massive costs, theft of US funds, and the extensive exposure of the lies that were told to stampede the country to war, among other factors. But the new disenchantment with war didn't happen automatically, anti-war activists and organized groups helped the process along by holding educational meetings, organizing demonstrations, distributing literature, etc...these are the things that progressive activists should do to increase anti-war and anti-imperialist sentiments.

This all leads to some conclusions: As a rule, people don't like war, particularly endless war that bears no relation to any supposed threat. The experience with the Iraq invasion and accompanying US military moves and possible moves (Libya, Syria, etc) has created renewed hostility to war in the country. We need to nurture this hostility and strengthen it. We have to be smart in the choice of our strategy and tactics: don't expect that the election of any party or politician will save us; we need independent organizations and coalitions to educate and to hold protests; we have to do the kind of actions that have the potential to make our movement grow and involve “regular” people, not just reassemble the usual leftist suspects, or engage in immature “more militant actions” (see the Black Block—a topic for a separate article) that spread confusion and push potential allies away.

Another conclusion is that Chris Hedges in his recent article “The Menace of the Military Mind” is off the mark. He paints a fine picture of the psychopathic nature of the military mind, but he is wrong when he says:

“The U.S. military has won the ideological war. The nation sees human and social problems as military problems. To fight terrorists Americans have become terrorists. Peace is for the weak. War is for the strong. Hyper-masculinity has triumphed over empathy. We Americans speak to the world exclusively in the language of force. And those who oversee our massive security and surveillance state seek to speak to us in the same demented language. All other viewpoints are to be shut out. ..”

They have not won the ideological war. They thought they had but the once-slain monster of the people’s desire for peace has arisen and is skulking across the nation (or perhaps slouching towards Washington).

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