The Dangerously Vague Romance of War

Which sounds better, to “die for your government”, or “give your life for your country”?  The first could be interpreted, after a mountain of bodies pile up, as a mistake.  As something that would seem to require scrutiny, admissions of having been wrong, of blame to be placed.  Dying for a government, or more precisely, dying for a select group of political figures at a certain moment in time for very specific reasons, doesn’t hide behind a fluttering flag quite as well as “dying for country”.  Which is why we never hear it.  War, in the mind of the Middle America that still thinks on it, is shrouded in a sepia-toned composite of images and sounds, stories of soldiers, duty to country, service, songs, movies, and myth that give politicians far more leverage than they would otherwise have, when executing another war.  No, “service to country” is the emotional and moral narcotic we administer to ourselves, almost automatically, at the inception of a new war.   War is all wrapped up in our American Mythos so tight that it seems astonishing that we haven’t descended utterly into a pure American-style fascism.  Maybe a few more 9/11-style attacks and the transformation would be complete.  9/11 was an unparalleled opportunity for the explosion of government growth, and as much as “war is the health of the State”, so are foreign attacks on the home State, attacks that can be perfectly molded so as to stoke the maximum amount of nationalist rage from the citizens.  Those attacks were a godsend for a government that had been starved of an actual threat for far too long.  And they took full advantage of the opportunity.  Fourteen years later, the Warfare State is petering out from the evaporating fumes of 9/11, and their looking for a new fix. 

But what of those who lied the country into igniting a regional dumpster fire after 9/11?  Once the war hysteria evaporates, where are What would it really take to hold any one politician for a military disaster halfway around the world?  It is blindingly obvious that there will never be a reckoning for those who hustled us into the Iraq war.  What about Libya?  Syria?  How bad does it have to get for there to be something resembling accountability?  War atrocities seem to have become less of a chance for justice and lessons learned than as a new precedent that the progenitors of the next war can point to when their war goes bad.  And creators of war did learn a few things from Iraq and Afghanistan.  They learned that flag-draped coffins do focus the attention of the citizenry.  And drone strikes don’t, really. 

That hazy collage of feel-good nationalism is trotted out every election year, and every candidate engages in it to one degree or another.  Peace is a hard sell next to the belligerent effusions of a Donald Trump.  His crazed rantings against immigrants, his bizarre fantasies as to how he would handle world leaders via telephone call, as well as his boorishness in general, has thousands flocking to hear him speak.  But what they’re cheering is an avatar of a blood-soaked ideology, one that cloaks itself in the native symbols and culture, breeding hate and intolerance, until the bilious nationalism reaches just the right temperature and then boils over into lawless fascism.  As Jeffrey Tucker points out, Trump is nothing new.  The graveyard of twentieth century tyrannies is a testament to just how much death and destruction can be induced by a charismatic parasite bellowing the tenets of a flag-wrapped tyranny.  Most of what we hear coming from leaders today is fascism to a greater or lesser extent.  If what we mean by fascism to be a Religion of the State, a militant nationalism taken to its logical conclusion, then every leader engages in it, because it ignites something primitive and sinister in the minds of voters.

We understand war theoretically, and distantly, but what of those who are forced to carry out the fever dreams of politicians?  Blindly thanking veterans for their service, we feel a sense of duty discharged, and never think to look more deeply into their traumas, or the scheme they were tricked into executing.  Military recruiters, the unscrupulous peddlers of military slavery, are treated as a benign influence on young people today.  Their pushy, overindulgent attitude toward our 18-year olds should piss us off more than it does, since what they are conning the young into is becoming the expendable plaything for the whims of the current Administration. 

War is the pith of total government.  The source of all its power, war and the threat of war provide the excuse for every injustice, every outrage, every restriction of liberty or further bilking of the citizen-hosts.  As the Warfare State trots out the familiar sermons of threats from abroad, potential greatness at home, and wars to be fought, one would do well to reflect that war enriches the State at the expense of the rest of us.  It consumes our lives, our liberty, our wallets, and the future of our children and grandchildren.  The current crop of candidates who peddle military greatness are the enemy of peace and prosperity, and when they so openly declaim their lust for war, we should frankly believe what they say.  And after hearing them, we should recognize the would-be tyrant in our midst, hawking hyper-militarism under the guise of national greatness, and treat them like the vermin they clearly are.

Shane Smith lives in Norman, Oklahoma and writes for Red Dirt Report.