Sometime this year, the 19th in America’s longest, most futile, war in Afghanistan – really any day now – a young man (or woman) will be killed in a war older than he is. In these dark times, it feels like an inevitability, but it’s not quite – if only just. History rolls along, certainly, but its inherent contingency is evidenced by the innumerable actions of human beings. That 18-year-old soldier doesn’t have to die in an unnecessary, unwinnable war. Sure, that decision – or series of decisions – rests mainly with the rich and powerful, the political-military leadership class. Still, We the People, have a roll to play; a vital one at that.
No doubt, what’s left of America’s ostensible republic has faded towards oligarchy, and, on foreign policy, to near an imperial, executive dictatorship. Much of that damage is done, a product of Washington’s post-World War II hegemonic project, and it’s concurrent construction of a formidable national security state both at home and abroad. Nonetheless, citizen activism – though long muted and seemingly hopeless – remains an immensely powerful tool. No government in history, and certainly not this nation’s, has ever willingly relinquished power. From colonial revolutionaries, to abolitionists, to organized laborers, to civil rights activists, to anti-Vietnam War dissenters, generations of citizen activists have wrenched concessions from an often intransigent federal government. That the power structure fears its people is evidenced by ever-tightening surveillance laws, dissipating civil liberties, and an unprecedented police militarization.
The victims are manifold, some famous, most quietly anonymous. When a prominent figure does dissent – think Tulsi Gabbard – she is viciously slandered, accused, essentially of treason. The uniform can’t save her, hasn’t saved me; so what hope do the vast majority of civilian activists have for protection or salvation? And now, more overtly than ever, the militarized security state wages war on the press. It’s a bipartisan endeavor of oppression. On this point, President Obama significantly upped the ante, prosecuting more whistleblowers under the archaic 1917 Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined! Now President Trump has crossed a once forbidden Rubicon and indicted a publisher, Julian Assange, for printing leaked documents. Tell me how this ends? The logical conclusion is terrifying.
In contemporary America, Republicans attack any vaguely alt-left media, whilst Democrats – the self-styled party of free speech – Hillary-pillories anything alt-right, too far left, or modestly amenable to Trump. Indeed, in this crazy inverted world of ours, the MSNBC "left" now only cheers whistleblowers than apparently hail from within the national security state, specifically the intelligence community. All their sins – torture, rendition, illegal mass surveillance – are forgotten as the blue team media transforms into vocal cheerleaders for endless war.
Mark my words, the mainstream press will rue the day they finally sold out, will reap what they sow. To paraphrase (and play on) the famed Holocaust-era quote by Pastor Martin Niemoller, the media’s mea culpa to come will read as follows: first, they came for Chelsea Manning, and I did not speak out because she seemed a dangerous leaker; then, they came for Edward Snowden, and I did not speak out because he worked for the NSA and they said he was a national security threat; then they came for Julian Assange, and I did not speak out because I didn’t like WikiLeaks’ style; then they came for the New York Times, and there was no one left to speak out for me…
Well, Antiwar.com has always spoken out on behalf of the free press – even outlets with viewpoints divergent from its own. That’s called courage, and intellectual consistency. The site was once easily dismissed (by some), especially when it beat the antiwar drum prior to 9/11, in era of "peace." No longer. After 18+ years of endless war from West Africa to South Asia, this organization’s steadiness of message reads as remarkable prescience. Antiwar.com remains in the vanguard of the alternative (is that label even appropriate any longer?) media fight against endless, unsanctioned American conflict. It refuses to trust unelected Mark Zuckerberg with the power to set the scope of "acceptable" debate and discourse.
It has braved, and triumphed, in its fight against the FBI. Antiwar.com will face down any future comers! However, as a nonprofit, reader-supported, outlet, it can only do so with your help. And now, matching funds are available for any donation that you can spare. Your contributions thus carry double their weight! Time is of the essence; this is no hollow alarmism. The national debt is absurdly ballooning, the structures of the republic are failing, and that 18-year-old soldier may be killed in Afghanistan at any moment. Support Antiwar.com: if not now, when? If not you, who?
Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com. His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, Truthdig, Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.
Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen