Apocalyptic Stupidity: The Just War

 by Michael I. Niman

ArtVoice, Buffalo NY – October 25th, 2001

             OK.  So now we’re tossing around the term, “Just War.”  WW II was a just war.  Hitler had to be stopped.  And if he wasn’t, in all likelihood, I wouldn’t be here.  And bin Laden is no better than Hitler.  No argument here.

             After decades of lame propaganda with the US government and corporate mass media routinely likening all of our official bogeymen to Hitler, we’ve finally got a ringer in bin Laden.  His “apocalyptic terrorism,” as The Nation’s Richard Falk describes it, knows no boundaries.  It targets Americans, Jews and the West in general.  His aim is not world domination, but global cataclysm: A final war between Islam and the West.  The apocalypse.

Sept. 11th 1683

             He is a haunting shadow emerging from Western civilization’s unsavory past.  His war picks up where Islam and Christianity left off on September 11th, 1683, when the unstoppable armies of Islam were defeated by Polish forces at the gates of Vienna.  His holy war is over a thousand years old.  His Christian crusaders have been replaced with secular globalists, but he fights on, carrying the bloodiest war in history into a new millennium.  There will be no peace.  There will be no negotiated settlement.  The sky will “rain airplanes.”  The threat is real and immediate.

             Bin Laden doesn’t represent Islam any more than Hitler represented Western civilization.  His perversion of Islam is as big of a threat to Muslims as it is to the rest of the world.  The attack on the World Trade Center killed more Muslim civilians than any Israeli bombing raid in the last 30 years. 

             Bin Laden must be stopped.  This is a just struggle.  We may differ on tactics, but we’re all in this war together. 

Warmongers & Psychopaths

             That all said and done, don’t be blinded by the cheers of the warmongers.  They’re latecomers to the war on terrorism.   This battle was begun by the American Peace movement in the mid-1980s when they decried the Reagan administration’s military aid to the Mujahideen.  It was built upon the foundations of earlier struggles against the Contra War, the covert War against Cuba, the less covert war against Guatemala, and so on.

     It was a smart war built on what seemed like a simple premise: Don’t give modern weapons to medieval psychopaths.  Don’t let them take over a country, build training bases, and spread their ideology of hatred to angry disenfranchised uneducated young men.  Think long term, not short term.  Yes, we rid Afghanistan of Soviets, but now we’re inviting the former Soviets back in to help us rid Afghanistan of the former Mujahideen.  Damn, we must seem stupid.

Now that we’re neck deep in shit we need to start thinking straight – and working together. We need to win this war.  By this, I mean we need to dismember our Frankenstein, al Qaida.  We need to defend ourselves and we need to diminish the very real physical threat against us. We need to strike against the people who would kill us and disable their ability to wreak havoc.

To win, however, we need first to realize our weapons are obsolete.  Throwing more money at a military machine designed to fight against a superpower nation-state won’t cut it against al Qaida.  Missile defense systems, still in the science fiction stage, are already obsolete.  They won’t protect us from pathogens delivered by the mailman.  They won’t save us from a nuclear bomb in a terrorist’s minivan.  Our missile defense investment just served to anger friendly nations while starving our education, health and social service budgets of badly needed funds.  Stupid. 

The Strangelove Doctrine

Our nuclear bombs are also useless.  They are only weapons in the hands of terrorists.  That’s all they ever were: tools to wipe out a population center and poison the earth.  Their very existence engenders terror. They were designed for the Strangelovian 1950s doctrine of mutually assured destruction.  Insane. 

They’re useless to us now as we search for terrorists hiding in over 60 countries.  But our cold war race to build more of them has left the crumbling countries of the former Soviet Union littered with warehouses full of warheads, just waiting to be sold to, or stolen by, maniacal terrorists.  Our weak stance on nonproliferation and our opposition to strong test bans has allowed this evil technology to spread.  Way to go.

We’re still caught up in the same outmoded way of thinking.  Weapons systems were hardly ever funded with our defense in mind.  They were funded as political pork for corporate campaign contributors.  And we’re still at it.  As we struggle to catch cave dwellers with box cutters, we’re funding Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets at a cost of over $200-million per plane. They were originally designed to fight against the next generation of Soviet warplanes.  But they never came. 

At the same time, according to the Federal government’s General Accounting Office, security gate personnel at 19 of our busiest airports were hired at $6 per hour or less.  These underpaid and undertrained workers often toiled at two jobs to make ends meet, arriving exhausted to both workplaces.  The airline industry lobbied for years to keep this formally “cost-effective” system from being taken over by the Federal Aviation Administration.  The same industry now finds itself the beneficiary of one of the largest acts of corporate welfare in history, while laid-off airline workers are told to fend for themselves. 

McLuhan Called It

As we scour the globe for terrorists we need to pay heed to Marshall McLuhan’s adage that World War Three would be an information war.  If we’re to win the hearts and minds of the world’s citizens and convince them to rout out terrorists in their midst, we don’t need smart bombs, we need smart public relations (PR).  But despite corporate America’s global media hegemony, we’re losing on this front.  There’s just something about the world’s most powerful nation launching all of its military might against the world’s most pathetic nation that works against us.  Again, our bombs are useless.  There are no targets in Afghanistan.

Former UB professor Charlie Keil, in a recent article (available at http://mediastudy.com/ckeil.html), suggests that the best long range plan for a safe world is to eliminate the conditions that breed terrorists.  To this end he calls on the industrial nations of the world to fund a sort of Marshall Plan, “waging peace” to eliminate hunger, homelessness, acid rain and illiteracy while providing clean water, health care, debt management, child care, AIDS prevention and refugee relief to all the people of the world.  Add to that, reversing deforestation, ozone depletion and global warming, building democratic institutions, and stabilizing the world’s population.  He cites the World Game Institute as quoting an annual price tag of $229 billion.  By comparison, the US alone will spend $375 billion on defense this year.

Smart Patriotism

At home we’re awash in patriotism.  But it’s all useless jingoism unless it produces the sacrifices we need to win this war.  We need “smart patriotism.”  Slapping a flag decal on a gas-guzzling SUV just doesn’t cut it. 

We need to focus as one united nation to win this war. In Washington they call it “bipartisanship.”  But I don’t see any of it.  George Bush, in his new role as master orator, recently called for us to unite together and show the world what Americans are all about.  He sang the praises of a multicultural country where people of many faiths have come to live together in peace.  No one will divide us.  It’s the Kind of stuff that makes us proud to be Americans.  

I was almost ready to go out to Kmart myself and get one of those little Chinese American flags when he added that, in order to win the war on terrorism, congress needs to (roll over and play dead and) give him what amounts to “fast track” authority to negotiate new trade bills without congressional approval.  He went on explain how the war on terrorism also mandated a new oil policy (no doubt calling for drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife refuge and the Gulf of Mexico) and, get this, corporate tax breaks! 

This is all the stuff that former Alcoa CEO, now Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neil had on his wish list.  In August he was dismissed as a wacko.  Suddenly his agenda is central to our war on terrorism.  This is opportunism at its worse.  And it undermines the real war on terrorism – A war that requires us to abandon opportunism and pull together for the common good, be smart, and work for a safe secure world.

Let’s get our shit together.


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