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Year: 2019

The Long Goodbye of Antiwar Protest

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The Long Goodbye of Antiwar Protest

Published at CounterPunch on February 5, 2019

It’s been a case of the long goodbye for what’s left of the peace movement in the U.S. On Saturday (January 26, 2019), a small group, very small by historic peace actions go, protested in front of the White House.

Watching the protest and interviews with protest participants on The Real News Network was almost painful. Medea Benjamin’s insightful observations, and a few other people’s, about the ongoing coup against Venezuela were just about the only sane and adult comments in the “room.” Across the globe, the vast majority of governments lined up behind the U.S. administration in its attacks against the people of Venezuela and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. The fallen zeitgeist of peace was as clear as it was after September 11, 2001.

Maduro is not blameless in what has happened in Venezuela, but that nation’s demise is a complicated matter with many domestic missteps along the way, particularly connected to the lack of domestic economic diversity. Venezuela has enormous fossil fuel reserves, along with other highly valued minerals, which makes it open to the predatory wolves of the global market. Look to Iraq as an example.

Then there are the media outlets across the U.S. and Europe pushing for this bald-face regime change in Venezuela. Imagine a major newspaper or other news outlet in the U.S. or elsewhere suddenly proclaiming that some unknown entity ought to be supported as president of the U.S. Imagine again, sanctions brought to bear against the U.S. for failing to heed that regime change advice. Suggesting that U.S. wealth be tied up by legal stratagems and handed over to the newly selected president would automatically be seen in the media as a case of high treason.

Why bother with the CIA or NSA, or other intelligence agencies when regime change is now handled in plain sight? It used to be that the process was slow, sort of like watching a kettle come to a boil, but this is now the stuff of a post 9/11 world and an Orwellian thought process that is truly disconcerting. The government tells us who we are at war with, and woe to those who buck the tidal wave of warmongering. It was as if they gave the merchants of war a ticker-tape parade through the streets of New York City and the sycophants of endless war were the cheerleaders of the confetti brigades.

A comment on The Real News Network piece observed that the disarray in the peace movement reached its apex during the Obama administration when people were sucked in by the empty rhetoric of hope and change and promptly left the streets and ignored Obama’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan.

The long march of the acceptance of regime change through war and subterfuge began long before the Obama administration. Regime change followed upon the heels of World War II and the Cold War. The U.S. championed dictators who toed the U.S. foreign policy line and cared little for issues such as human rights and economic development that would benefit masses of ordinary people.

The September 11, 2001 attacks put regime change on the fast track and a series of nations were placed on one axis of evil list or another and mayhem broke out. Syria and Iraq come to mind as do Venezuela and Iran now. The axis transforms into the troika and few are paying any attention.

Perhaps the cliche fits that when a movement hits rock bottom, then the only way is up. But cliches are always weighed down by the reality on the street and that reality is anything but hopeful. This society has been carefully taught to accept war as a necessity, and not even a necessary evil. Journalist Chris Hedges wrote that War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002). Instead of something to be avoided at all costs, they have sold us a bill of goods about the trillions of dollars that are wasted on wars instead of on social programs. For those of us who were on the streets during the Vietnam War and continued on through the present-day’s endless wars, the writing has always been on the wall. They can fool most of the people most of the time about war. It’s not even seen as sexy to protest war anymore.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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The Government that Knows How to Channel Hate

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The Government that Knows How to Channel Hate

Democracy Now presented a segment on its January 23, 2019 program that featured ACLU attorney Chase Strangio. The segment covered the latest attacks against yet another vulnerable population in the U.S.: transgender people. The Supreme Court and the Trump administration have created what is essentially a system of harassment and discrimination against transgender people in the military, making for a “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” policy reminiscent of the Clinton administration’s harassment of gay people in the military. Yogi Berra may have said, “It’s like deja vu all over again,” but not much of what goes on in U.S. society these days is very funny.

Martin Luther King, Jr. observed: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world: My own government.” (“Beyond Vietnam,” April 1967). Recall how Barack Obama dismissed King as some relic from the past vis-à-vis U.S. militarism? To enforce that violence, it uses its military forces and other global strategies like economic sanctions to punish any nation (and people) who dare to buck U.S. superpower global hegemony. And that’s the rub! The debate can’t end with a separation of U.S. military policy from the military, which is its enforcement tool just as police are the enforcement tool of domestic economic, social, and political inequality on the streets of the U.S. They’re two sides of the same coin. Check out the prison population in the U.S. to see how the latter works.

Following the horrors of World War II, the last time that the U.S. stood for a good cause that the military won, an international set of principles were expanded upon that include the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, the U.N. Charter, and other documents and laws. It took only a few, short years for the U.S. to toss those principles and goals into the trash bin of history. The Cold War and the War on Terror have spawned their own perversions against what was achieved in 1945. Where an international police action could have sufficed in September 2001, now we have endless war. And the latter does not take into account the reasons September 2001 took place. Even a baseline of the rules of war, thousands of years in the making, are not seen as a hindrance to military planners, war profiteers, and their ilk at all branches of the federal government. It’s very, very big business. Trillions of dollars are at stake.

Regarding income inequality and militarism, it is noteworthy that as both the global economy and endless wars have morphed, inequality continues to grow at alarming rates further victimizing groups such as transgender people, people of color, and the poor. It is a vicious cycle that has at its heart and soul the U.S. global empire that is the primary, but not the only, enforcer of the global economic, political, and social order.

Democracy Now and other media outlets are no strangers to the reality facing journalists on the ground today who attempt to report on the global empire. Once, one of the defenses against tyranny, journalism itself has repeatedly seen attacks of all kinds. Even with the proliferation of the Internet, the hegemony of U.S. control of the message and medium is difficult to deny. As I write, the government has become so bold that while they once cooked up plans to overthrow their adversaries behind a veil of secrecy, they now do these dirty deeds on primitive newscasts. Shame is too delicate a word to apply to such wrongdoing and bestial behavior.

Nuclear proliferation and environmental destruction are other suits of the military card that accompany the military’s march across the world in support of the global empire.

The U.S. has about 800 military bases in 80 countries (Politico Magazine, July/August 2015). They are not there to hand out chocolates to local children as some G.I.s did during World War II following their hard-won victories.

The Costs of War Project shows (The Nation, January 4, 2018) that the so-called War on Terror involves 39% of the world’s countries.

Here’s ACLU attorney Chase Strangio:
And I want to say something, too, to a lot of people who I’ve been in community with for a long time, who have very justifiable concerns about the actions of our U.S. military and don’t support the military for many reasons. This isn’t a question about whether or not we support the United States military policy. This is a labor issue. This is a survival issue. This is a question about whether the largest employer in our country can tell transgender people that they are not welcome, that they cannot actively be who they are and retain their employment. So we should be incredibly concerned not only about what this means for trans people, for our employment, for our healthcare, for our survival, in absolutely every context, but also whether or not we’re going to accept a government policy that’s premised on the idea that we don’t exist, and that if we do exist, we should not be protected in any way.

Agreed, transgender people deserve the same treatment as all others in all kinds of federal employment, including the military. That inclusion comes with a hefty moral and monetary price these days.

There is even a more significant issue or two here. Trump orchestrates hate like almost no political figure in the past. He feeds on his base of haters who like nothing more than to see others hurt more than they have already been. Look to the lethal reaction to the historic civil rights movement and the same forces can be seen here today. Faces twisted in anger and hate with the capacity to strike out and give those in power, who don’t care about democratic traditions and institutions, carte blanche.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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