Tag Archives: militarism

The Curious Case of Sgt. Bergdahl and the Not So Curious Case of American Warmongering

Congressional outcry over President Obama’s exchange of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders, is not due to any real or perceived violation of trust or of the law, or to the emboldening of the enemy or the endangerment of American lives, as some politicians would like us to believe. It is due to the atrocious addiction to warmongering that has plagued our government for longer than we would like to admit. The condemnation of the prisoner swap is nothing more than a thinly veiled defense of American militarism.

The outcry has assumed different shapes and forms, but at the heart of it is a staunch defense of America’s self-attributed right to circumvent, manipulate, and violate the law, in order use military force to advance and protect war profiteering.

The politicians denouncing the swap as a sign of weakness that emboldens our enemies and threatens American lives have used the same argument to denounce the leaking of embarrassing, and in many cases incriminating, information about U.S. government behavior. From reportage of massacres in Haditha and Fallujah, to the whistleblowing of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, any time something comes out that threatens or even questions the ability of the United States to impose its will on other nations, we hear about threats to national security, and about the endangerment of U.S. troops. But those arguments are old and ring shallow to most people in the United States, who are of the belief that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was a mistake.

In reality, what creates enemies of the United States and places American lives at risk is the toxic combination of U.S. government violations of human and civil rights everywhere, the violation of International law, the endless wars and occupations, and the relentless attempts to overthrow democratically elected governments the world over.

The pro-militarist frenzy is also conveyed through careful manipulation of the impassioned opinions and feelings of members of military units who served in Afghanistan around the time of Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance. Those who consider him a traitor have received a powerful platform and sounding board to further exacerbate the right wing’s condemnation of his release. The corporate news network CNN has interviewed some of Bergdahl’s unit members, but mostly those who are calling him a deserter and who are requesting that charges are pressed against him. The network even broadcasted the pictures and names of soldiers who were allegedly killed searching for him, even though there is still no conclusive evidence to prove those claims.

Much is also being said about Sgt. Bergdahl’s disillusionment with the war in Afghanistan and about his expressed shame of being an American citizen. What we are not seeing are corporate media spaces where other service members, who share Bergdahl’s feelings about the war, can openly discuss their opinions.

The mainstream media blackout of public and military antiwar sentiment in the U.S. should not surprise anyone, since opening an honest dialogue about Bergdahl’s case may easily present the corporate elite that dominates the political establishment with a moral challenge to their warmongering agenda.

We are also hearing that the Taliban prisoners should not be released because they have killed Americans, because they are likely to rejoin the effort to kill more Americans, and because the United States has a policy not to deal with terrorists. By this rationale, however, no American prisoner of war should ever be released if there can be any possibility that he or she might have killed the enemy. And this “terrorist” organization, the Taliban, were they not dealt with already, wined and dined in Washington D.C., when U.S. companies were trying to sign pipeline deals with Afghanistan? Did we not deal with them when we were fighting the Soviets during the Cold War? Were they not portrayed as Freedom Fighters in one of the Rambo movies? Have we not been dealing with the Taliban for years? Of course we have. They control most of Afghanistan and they are winning the war. We have been dealing with them simply because we’ve had no other choice!

In truth, President Obama’s executive decision to free the five Taliban without Congressional approval represents a threat and challenge to every politician bent on keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison operational and its detainees outside the legal guarantees and protections to which every human being should be entitled. The exchange of America’s last POW is also an unequivocal sign that the American military is about to leave Afghanistan; the negotiated swap a tacit acknowledgement of the Taliban as an enemy that, in spite of all our military might, we could never defeat.

The hawks are livid!

Media blackout or not, and whether or not we fully understand Sgt. Bergdahl’s decision to walk off from his unit, it is of vital importance that all service members, military veterans, and civilians who are fed up with endless wars and occupations, expose this circus of false indignation for what it really is: a concerted effort by the American warmongering elite to keep the U.S. war machine marching forward.

We must decry the vociferous right wing’s condemnation of President Obama’s prisoner swap, as well as every effort to denigrate Sgt. Bergdahl’s decision to walk away from the war, as a pro-militarist attack against life. This we must do, not as a show of support of President Obama’s appalling foreign policy record, but because it is a step towards ending the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and against perpetual U.S. militarism; It also a step towards closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and towards upholding and honoring the inalienable rights of all human beings, prisoners or not. It is also a show of support of any human being, who for any reason whatsoever, decides to walk away from war. If we are truly committed to peace, then our moral duty is not to judge that decision, but to support it at all cost.



The Forced Resignation of General Shinseki: Not a Veterans’ Affair

Having sought medical care from the Miami Veterans Administration  hospital for my PTSD, years after my return from the Iraq war, I know from personal experience how detrimental it can be for veterans to have to wait weeks, or months, for much needed medical attention. In the most tragic cases the wait turns to be too long, as it is no secret that veterans’ suicides claim more lives than actual combat. And yet, despite the grim reality of appalling care at VA facilities across the nation, I believe  General Eric Shinseki’s resignation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs represents a tremendous loss to all veterans.

It is not that we should not be outraged about the secret wait lists or the inadequate treatment of veterans at VA facilities. No doubt the entire nation should be questioning America’s supposed love affair with its service men and women, and how that affair translates into actual commitment to enhancing the lives of veterans and their families. But the situation should not be used as a political tool  to continue pushing an agenda that has nothing to do with said commitment, but with votes and corporate profit.

We can already see how candidates from within President Obama’s own party are distancing themselves from the Affordable Care Act as a historic change in the way this nation views universal healthcare, namely as human right rather than as a profit-driven industry. We can see Democratic hopefuls embracing only parts of the act that can turn into votes, when they should be embracing the entire law, while recognizing that mishaps are naturally expected, and that the law is a work in progress. Republican politicians and hopefuls have wasted no time in trashing the ACA, but this is hardly surprising to anyone who’s been awake for more than five minutes.

Likewise, the media-driven outrage about the VA is part of a game for political game. For democrats the game is about gaining votes; for republicans it is about attacking government-funded healthcare, which includes the VA, the ACA, and beyond.

The recent “revelation” about the VA secret lists and appalling care is not news to veterans at all. We have known about it because we have been the direct recipients of it. We also know that the situation is not a result of General Shinseki’s negligence, but the result of foreign policies that view war as a first resort to solving any situation in which the financial interests of corporate America are threatened… valuing dollars and wins over and above any cost to human life. It is the result of a policy of war-without-end that’s embraced across the power establishment.

We are beginning to hear calls for a “change in culture” in the VA; read “privatization.” What we are not hearing is how more than ten years of war are creating generation after generation of wounded veterans. The wounds are both physical and moral, and more are created each day. And they are overwhelming the system, regardless of whether or not there is responsible administration and proper funding.

We should be outraged about the culture of endless war that prevails without question not only among politicians, but with the general public as well.

Shinseki is actually an honest man. He’s the one who told Rumsfeld his little Iraq war scheme was never gonna work with the amount of troops they had allocated for the invasion/occupation, and that they would need a force of at least half a million ‘boots-on-the-ground’ to fight off an insurgency. This during a time they were selling the idea that we would be received as liberators by the Iraqi people, and when all the generals were happily reaffirming everything the Bush administration was claiming. However I feel about the Iraq war, Shinseki was honest and actually had the courage to stand his ground and speak truth to power.

My take-home message to everyone who cares about veterans is that this crisis, which is hardly new to any vet, is not about General Shinseki’s mismanagement of the VA, but about our voracious, profit-driven, corporate culture of militarism, disguised as (false) patriotism. What we really need is political representation that actually values life — the lives of not only veterans, but of everyone. Until we stop viewing war as matter of pride and glory, we will continue to deal with the devastating effects of it, regardless of who the shift manager happens to be.