RSSCategory: War

Getting upset about the right things.

September 2, 2017 | By | Reply More

Here’s a post by Darrell Lackey, a pastor challenging Christians to get save their energy and frustration for the right kinds of things. He begins the post with this statement that Tony Campolo has been known to use when addressing Christian audiences:

I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night.

There is some good food for thought for all of us in this post, whether or not we are religious (I am not).  For example, many of us often get much more upset about the minor irritations of our own local lives than the enormous suffering and stark injustices over the next hill or the next continent. For instance, our own country has been bombing many countries in the Middle East for many years.  We’ve been bombing Afghanistan since 2001, and according to reliable sources, we have been killing many innocent civilians in a “war” regarding which we are utterly unable to articulate any meaningful objective or metric of success. Therefore, that “war” goes on, largely unchallenged and unnoticed, our news media almost never mentioning that we are even at war.  Out of sight, out of mind for most of us.

If we want to be morally cohesive, we need to use unceasing effort to make certain we are focused on the things that matter.  That is often not easy to do.  Trying to stay focused on important things in a sustained way wears us down.  It’s not easy to be moral.  It’s much easier to complain about that the microwave burned the popcorn.

To live moral lives, we need to stay focused on important things, and focus is another word for attention, a psychological resource that humans have in short supply.  Attention is like a spotlight.  When we look at a thing, we often exclude attending to most other things.  that’s how we are wired; we are almost the opposite of omniscient, even though we want to believe that we are generally aware of most things that are important.

Because attention is so limited, our attentional decisions and habits (maybe we should call this our “attentional hygiene”) gives us great power to define our “world.”  Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, we are capable of manipulating what we pay attention to, and whatever we choose to ignore simply doesn’t exist for us; if we are not paying  attention to something, it holds no moral sway over us because our attentional choices turn it into nothing at all. Most of us aren’t at all bothered by world starvation most of the time because  we are not thinking about that horrific problem.  Further, human animals are capable of not paying attention to things that are right in front of us.  This is especially true when we are emotionally motivated to not see.   See no evil and hear no evil functionally means that there is no evil.

I have long been fascinated by this confluence of attention and morality and, in fact wrote a detailed paper on it, drawing from many domains of cognitive science:  Decision Making, the Failure of Principles, and the Seduction of Attention.”  Feel free to take a look, if you find this general topic compelling.

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When perpetrator of terror attack is muslim, attack receives 5X more media coverage

July 6, 2017 | By | Reply More

From the U.K. Independent:

Terror attacks carried out by Muslims receive more than five times as much media coverage as those carried out by non-Muslims in the United States, according to an academic study.

Analysis of coverage of all terrorist attacks in the US between 2011 and 2015 found there was a 449 per cent increase in media attention when the perpetrator was Muslim.

Muslims committed just 12.4 per cent of attacks during the period studied but received 41.4 per cent of news coverage, the survey found.

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How safe is it to have even one nuclear weapon?

April 27, 2017 | By | Reply More
How safe is it to have even one nuclear weapon?

When I was a child, my school would have nuclear attack drills, which involved quickly climbing under a desk of walking quickly to the basement of the school. I think the general strategy was to go somewhere special to essentially kiss your ass goodbye.  That was in the 1960’s where a neighbor in Florissant had actually built a bomb shelter in the front yard, and you can still see the entry to that shelter.  In the decade since the 1960s, I’ve gradually stopped thinking so much about the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, even though they are extremely dangerous to possess, even for a country that has them for the supposed purpose of using them against another county.

See time code 1:17 of this excellent documentary by Eric Schlosser, “Command and Control,” where it is revealed that a declassified military report indicates that there have been more than 1,000 U.S. accidents involving nuclear weapons, at least 31 of these posing serious risks of accidental detonation, risking the lives of countless Americans.

It is a miracle that none of these have resulted in nuclear detonations. From the American Experience Website: “Based on the critically-acclaimed book by Eric Schlosser, this chilling documentary exposes the terrifying truth about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal and shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us.”

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Insanity in every corner in these times of needless war

April 12, 2017 | By | Reply More

We have reached unprecedented levels of dysfunction on both the political right and the political left. I agree with each of these conclusions by Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept:

1. New wars will always strengthen Trump: as they do for every leader.
2. Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability – or desire – to oppose Trump’s wars.
3. In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.
4. Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.
5. How can those who view Trump as an Inept Fascist now trust him to wage war?
6. Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.
7. The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.
8. Support for Trump’s Bombing Shows Two Toxic U.S. Conceits: “Do Something” and “Look Strong”
9. Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.
10. None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

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On Reverse-Engineering a Soldier’s Death to Justify More of the Same

March 3, 2017 | By | Reply More

From Glenn Greenwald, of The Intercept:

While there is certainly truth in the claim that Trump’s use of the suffering of soldiers and their families is politically opportunistic, even exploitative, this tactic is hardly one Trump pioneered. In fact, it is completely standard for U.S. presidents. Though Trump’s attackers did not mention it, Obama often included tales of the sacrifice, death, and suffering of soliders in his political speeches — including when he devoted four highly emotional minutes in his 2014 State of the Union address to narrating the story of, and paying emotional tribute to, Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

George W. Bush also hauled soldiers wounded in his wars before cameras during his speeches, such as his 2007 State of the Union address, where he paid tribute to Sgt. Tommy Rieman, wounded in Iraq.

There are reasons presidents routinely use the suffering and deaths of U.S soldiers and their families as political props. The way in which these emotions are exploited powerfully highlights important aspects of war propaganda generally, and specifically how the endless, 15-year-old war on terror is sustained.

. . .

By dramatizing the deaths of Americans while disappearing the country’s victims, this technique ensures that Americans perpetually regard themselves as victims of horrific, savage, tragic violence but never the perpetrators of it. That, in turn, is what keeps Americans supporting endless war: These savages keep killing us, so we have no choice but to fight them.

Greenwald points out that our natural sympathy for family members of brave dead soldiers is consciously reverse engineered at events such as President Trump’s recent speech, such that the heroism of the soldier appears to make the war a worthy war and the President a worthy President.

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Lee Camp: U.S. Prepares to Attack Iran to Assure Dominance of the U.S. Dollar

February 19, 2017 | By | Reply More

There are many illegitimate reasons for the U.S. to have begun killing people in the Middle East.  They include bigotry, control of oil and a Middle East country’s resistance to U.S. imperialism.   Lee Camp offers another reason, the dominance of the U.S. dollar.  He argues that this factor has been behind the U.S. attacks of Libya and Iraq, and it is the reason the U.S. is now posturing to attack Iran.  See the first 11 minutes of a recent episode of Lee Camp’s Redacted Tonight.

One might wonder how difficult it would be to drum up a fake excuse to start a war in the U.S. It’s not difficult, once the President decides to go to war behind closed doors.  This is a time-tested prescription, addressed in the video “War Made Easy.” Chris Hedges discusses the intoxicating attraction of war:

The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves. And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble.

Therefore, it’s not going to be difficult for the U.S. to publicly justify a war with Iran, especially given the detached electorate, given the U.S. public’s distaste for all things Muslim and the warmongers President Trump has gathered as his primary advisors.

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Bill Maher: Republicans Are Merely Posing as the “America First” Party

February 18, 2017 | By | Reply More

So much hypocrisy in the air, as Bill Maher points out:

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Rogue Navy Seals

January 20, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

Navy Seals are legendary for their combat skills and courage, but like any group of humans on the planet, some members fall sometimes far far short, and for those inevitable occasions, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Perhaps some will think it is inappropriate to investigate and expose abuses members of a group that so many people revere, much as one hears about rogue police, but the issue is the same with Naval Seals or any other other group. Being held accountable is what all responsible professionals do invite. Responsible Navy Seals stepped forward as part of this investigation conducted by The Intercept because of the lack of internal checks and balances.

Neil Roberts was the first member of SEAL Team 6 to die in the Afghan war, and among the first elite operators who died after 9/11. Beyond the dehumanizing manner in which the al Qaeda fighters had treated his corpse, Roberts’s death pierced the SEALs’ self-perception of invincibility.

The battle of Roberts Ridge, as it came to be known, has been frequently described in books and press accounts. But what happened during Objective Bull, the assault on the convoy in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, has never been previously reported.

Roberts’s death, and the subsequent operations in eastern Afghanistan during the winter 2002 deployment, left an indelible impression on SEAL Team 6, especially on Red Team. According to multiple SEAL Team 6 sources, the events of that day set off a cascade of extraordinary violence. As the legend of SEAL Team 6 grew, a rogue culture arose that operated outside of the Navy’s established mechanisms for command and investigation. Parts of SEAL Team 6 began acting with an air of impunity that disturbed observers within the command. Senior members of SEAL Team 6 felt the pattern of brutality was not only illegal but rose to the level of war crimes.

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MLK’s anti-war message often overlooked

January 16, 2017 | By | Reply More

Martin Luther King vociferously objected to U.S. imperialism accomplished by military violence, but this important part of his message is often overlooked, as pointed out by the U.K. Guardian:

The civil right achievements of Martin Luther King are quite justly the focus of the annual birthday commemoration of his legacy. But it is remarkable, as I’ve noted before on this holiday, how completely his vehement anti-war advocacy is ignored when commemorating his life (just as his economic views are). By King’s own description, his work against US violence and militarism, not only in Vietnam but generally, was central – indispensable – to his worldview and activism, yet it has been almost completely erased from how he is remembered.

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