War Politics: Weapons of Mass Distraction

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

On January 17, 1961, President and former General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower in his Farewell Address to the Nation predicted what was to come when the balance of power shifted to the military industrial complex:

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction…This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Wag the Dog, a 1997 black comedy about a Washington spin doctor who days before a presidential election must distract the public from a sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood film producer to construct a fake war with Albania, has many similarities to presidential scandals of recent years. The scheme includes a country music singer who creates several songs for the war, a fad king and a costume designer who creates a fictional special forces unit to fight the war. The movie is based on the novel American Hero by Larry Beinhart but differs greatly as the book was specifically about George H.W. Bush and a real war, Desert Storm, while the movie did not name the president and the war was entirely falsified. The movie released ironically just before President Clinton’s sex scandal, subsequent bombing of terrorist strongholds in Africa and the eruption of anarchy in Albania. The book by Beinhart speculates that Operation Desert Storm was scripted and choreographed in order to get George H.W. Bush elected to a second term while analyzing why the conflict was so popular. The inspiration for Desert Storm, asserts the author, came from Margaret Thatcher’s war in the Falkland Islands.

With every war, comes the protests meant to draw attention to not only the wars themselves but the reasons behind them. The Vietnam war and subsequent protests took place in the 1960s and 1970s mainly in the United States. Many opposed the war as the youth were forced to fight a war they did not believe in because of the institution of the Draft. Some famous anti-war slogans included “One, two, three, four! We don’t want your fucking war!”, “Draft Beer, not boys”, “Hell no, we won’t go”, “Make love, not war”, “Eighteen today, dead tomorrow”  and “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”  While many protested the war in Vietnam, many also supported the efforts of the troops and the government by shouting “Love our country”, “America, love it or leave it” and “No glory like old glory.”  Those that used the anti-war slogans were called “doves” and those that supported the war were called “hawks.” The reasons behind the war varied but one strong reason was the fear of communism and the idea of a domino effect with many countries including the U.S. succumbing to communism. In recent years, the Iraq War or Desert Storm Part II has sparked the debate between supporters and protesters alike of  whether the justification for war was present. The reasons behind the invasion for President Bush during the early years of the war were to save the world from Iraq’s supposed WMD when in actuality no such weapons were known to exist. The real reason for initiating  a war that is still going today was to capture Bin Laden especially after the events of Sept. 11 and to settle an old score with an Iraqi leader put into power by the United States. As the United States continues to fight wars all around the world in the name of freedom and prosperity, the war against terrorism and human rights violations has now replaced old excuses with new excuses.

Adding to the mass distraction is one of the biggest weapons in the government’s arsenal, the media. The Boston bombing of recent memory has become old news and the lamestream media as Scott Lawrence puts it has refocused its attention on the Hilary Clinton Benghazi scandal and the sequestration. For the media, it’s business as usual eating up every word of what they are being told in order to profit from others misfortunes. The sequestration as the media tells it has forced furloughs of air traffic controllers due to lack of money, but the compromise or rather sacrificed made by air travelers and their safety has allowed the Secretary of Defense to deliver a $450 million check to Egypt’s Islamic regime. More and more of these weapons are being deployed in order to distract the public from the real issues going on. As Scott Lawrence eloquently puts it,

“There is a good military term that describes this country. It starts with ‘cluster’ and ends with, well, something else. But that’s just me. Wake Up America! Throughout the 400-year history of the United States, Americans have fought on battlefields both near and far, in clashes both large and small, alone and with allies at their sides. From the American Revolution of the late 18th century to the Iraq War in the early 21st, these conflicts have shaped the country’s policies, influenced its culture, defined its borders and cost thousands of lives.”

Since the creation of the War Department in 1789 and the Navy in 1798 by the United States Congress, many even the president have questioned the authority and power of the military. President Harry Truman in a special message to Congress on December 19,1945 proposed a unified department of defense citing wasteful military spending and inter-departmental conflict as reasons. After months of deliberations in Congress over the role of military in society and the threat of granting too military to the executive, on July 26, 1947 Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 setting up a unified military command as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, National Security Resources Board, United States Air Force (formerly the Army Air Forces) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The act place the National Military Establishment under the Secretary of Defense and was renamed the Department of Defense on August 10,1949. Under the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1958 written and promoted by the Eisenhower administration, authority was streamlined within departments while maintaining the authority of the Military Departments. The legislation also named a centralized research authority, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, known now as DARPA. The act moved decision making from the Military Department to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense as well as strengthened the command channel of the military over U.S. forces from President to the Secretary of Defense.

The Department of Defense budget has increased significantly over the years as demand by the U.S. government for more military action has increased. Spending 2010 was 4.8% of the GDP accounting for 45% of budgeted global military spending more than the next 17 largest militaries combined. The Department of Defense accounts for a majority of federal discretionary spending accounting for 21% of the U.S. Federal Budget in the 2010 fiscal year and 53% of federal discretionary spending not including  nuclear weapons research, maintenance, cleanup, and production, which is in the Department of Energy budget, Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Department’s payments in pensions to military retirees and widows and their families, interest on debt incurred in past wars, or State Department financing of foreign arms sales and militarily-related development assistance. Besides this lengthy list, DoD spending does not include non-military defense spending such as the Department of Homeland Security, counter-terrorism spending by the FBI, and intelligence-gathering spending by NASA.   The 2010 U.S. federal budget allocated $533.7 billion along with $75.5 billion adjusted from 2009 and $130 billion for overseas contingencies, however according to 2010 DoD Financial Report the total DoD budgetary resources for that fiscal year were $1.2 trillion with $1.1 trillion going to obligations and $994 billion being disbursed.

After a decade of non-compliance, Congress has set an audit readiness deadline for the DoD for fiscal year 2017. The department was the largest consume of energy in the United States in 2006 using 30,000 gigawatt hours of electricity at a cost of $2.2 billion and equivalent to the power supplied to 2.6 million American homes. The amount used, according to the CIA World Factbook 2006, is slightly less than Denmark but more than Syria ranking at number 58 in the world if the DoD was its own country. The DoD consumed 93% of all US government fuel for 2007 using 4,600,000,000 US gallons (1.7×1010 L) of fuel annually, an average of 12,600,000 US gallons (48,000,000 L) of fuel per day. According to the 2005 CIA World Factbook, the DoD would rank number 34 in daily oil use if it were a country just behind Iraq and ahead of Sweden.

The United States besides its large expenditure for military use and consumption of resources to benefit its military industrial complex, has also managed to divert attention from its own stockpile of  WMD technology for decades. The three known types of weapons of mass destruction the United States has has in their possession at one time or another include nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons. The U.S. has the prestigious title of being the only country to ever use nuclear weapons in combat and used chemical weapons in World War I. It had secretly developed the earliest atomic weapon during the 1940s under the “Manhattan Project” as well as pioneered the development of nuclear fission and hydrogen bombs. As the world’s first and only nuclear power for four years until the Soviet Union, the United States then and now has the largest number of deployed nuclear weapons in the world with 300 more than Russia formerly the Soviet Union. Nuclear weapons have been deployed twice in war with two being used by the United States against Japan in WWII in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing a combined 200,000 Japanese citizens and injuring 130,000. The United States conducted extensive nuclear testing between 1945 and 1992 totaling 1,054 tests with the exact number of nuclear devices unknown. The last known test was September 23,1992 as the U.S. has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. As one of five Nuclear Weapons States under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ratified in 1968, the U.S. Senate in 1999 rejected ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty having already ratified the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Though testing has ceased, many non-nuclear components and powerful supercomputers have been developed to duplicate the knowledge gained from testing without testing. The United States since the 1990s is now dedicated to stockpile stewardship to maintain and dismantle its aging arsenal. The exact number of nuclear weapons is unknown as different treaties and organizations have different criteria for reporting especially those in reserve, dismantled or rebuilt. In 2003, the U.S. rejected a Russian proposal to reduce nuclear stockpile to 1,500 each, while in 2007 for the first time in 15 years the United States built new warheads as part of the Minuteman III upgrade program to replace older warheads. Overall, stockpiles and deployment systems have seen a decline under the terms of the New START treaty with the Pentagon disclosing that the current size of the nuclear arsenal is at 5,113 warheads operationally deployed in active and inactive storage not including some 4,600 that are retired or scheduled to be dismantled and 1,968 operationally deployed strategic warheads.

While building a healthy stockpile of WMD technology, the United States extensively explored the use of biological agents during the peak of the biological weapons program. The program officially began in spring 1943 on orders from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and continued after WWII as the U.S. built up a large stockpile of biological agents and weapons. Over the official 26 year history of the program, the United States weaponized and stockpiled the following seven bio-agents as well as many others: Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Francisella tularensis (tularemia), Brucella spp (brucellosis), Coxiella burnetii (Q-fever), Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE), Botulinum toxin (botulism), and Staphylococcal enterotoxin B. The United States bioweapons program was kept secret for many years until later it was revealed that laboratory and field testing on non-consenting individual was common. The official policy was to first deter the use of bio-weapons against U.S. forces and secondarily to retaliate if the first failed. There exist no evidence of U.S. ever using biological agents against enemies, however here is a short list of alleged uses: Cuba (agricultural implementation), Korean War (biological warfare in the North, disease outbreaks, biological weapons tests), entomological testing (Cold War, Operation Big Itch, Operation Big Buzz, Operation Drop Kick, Operation May Day), Experiments on consenting individuals (Operation Whitecoat), testing on unwitting military personnel (“Project 112”), testing on unwitting civilians (Subway Experiment), and GAO Report (GAO-08-366 titled, “Chemical and Biological Defense, DOD and VA Need to Improve Efforts to Identify and Notify Individuals Potentially Exposed during Chemical and Biological Tests”).

The program in 1969 due to President Richard Nixon had ended all aspects of the U.S. bio-weapons program, however some believe the U.S. have violated the Biological Weapons Convention. In 1975 the U.S. ratified the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1972 BWC international treaties outlawing biological warfare. Recent U.S. Bio-defense Programs, have raised concerns that the U.S. could possibly be conducting research forbidden by the BWC. From the beginning in 1943 through the end of WWII, the United States has spent $400 million on bio-weapons mostly on research and development. When the program officially ended in 1969, it had developed seven mass produced battle ready bio-weapons in the form of agents that cause anthrax, tularemia, brucellosis, Q-fever, VEE, and botulism as well as staphylococcal enterotoxin B  as an incapacitating agent. In addition, the U.S. conducted research into the weaponization of 20 other agents including smallpox, EEE and WEE, AHF, Hantavirus, BHF, Lassa fever, glanders, melioidosis, plague, yellow fever, psittacosis, typhus, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever (RVF), CHIKV, late blight of potato, rinderpest, Newcastle disease, bird flu, and the toxin ricin. Beside the numerous pathogens, the U.S. had developed an arsenal of anti-agriculture biological agents including rye stem rust spores (stored at Edgewood Arsenal, 1951–1957), wheat stem rust spores (stored at the same facility 1962–1969), and the causative agent of rice blast (stored at Fort Detrick 1965–1966). On Plum Island, along with foot and mouth disease, five other top secret biological weapons projects were commissioned including RVF, rinderpest, African swine fever, plus eleven miscellaneous exotic animal diseases. The first mass produced biological delivery system came in the form of the M33 cluster bomb in 1952 with a complete battle ready M114 bomb the same year. Both the U.S. bio-weapons ban and the BWC restrict defense biological warfare research, yet many of the BWC member states can still conduct bio-warfare research due to no provisions for monitoring of enforcement.  The treaty acts as more of a gentleman’s agreement among its member not to use them in battle. The U.S. has ran a series of experiments with anthrax code named Project Bacchus, Project Clear Vision and Project Jefferson in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In recent years critics claim that the U.S. stance on biological warfare and use of agents differ from the historical interpretation claiming that the U.S. maintains Article I of the BWC does not apply to non-lethal biological agents. However according to the definition in the Public Law 101-298 of the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989:

“any micro-organism, virus, infectious substance, or biological product that may be engineered as a result of biotechnology, or any naturally occurring or bioengineered component of any such microorganism, virus, infectious substance, or biological product, capable of causing death, disease, or other biological malfunction in a human, an animal, a plant, or another living organism; deterioration of food, water, equipment, supplies, or material of any kind…”

The Federation of American Scientists believes the U.S. work on non-lethal agents exceeds limitations in the BWC.

According to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address, the military industrial complex must be watch carefully and kept in check in order to assure the balance of power. The term is commonly used to describe the policies and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces and the military industrial base supporting it. The relationships included political contributions, political approval for military spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies and oversight of the industry. Sometimes the term is also used broadly to describe the entire network of contracts and flow of money and resources among individuals along with corporations and institutions of the defense contractors, The Pentagon, the Congress and executive branch. This sector is internally prone to principal agent problems, moral hazard and rent seeking as cases of political corruption have surfaced regularly. In Daniel Guerin’s 1936 book, Fascism and Big Business, he defines the military industrial complex as “an informal and changing coalition of groups with vested psychological, moral, and material interests in the continuous development and maintenance of high levels of weaponry, in preservation of colonial markets and in military-strategic conceptions of internal affairs.”

With advancement in technology, warfare has evolved into its own industry. The Neolithic, Bronze and Iron age saw the rise of complex industries in the manufacturing of weaponry, however these industries had practical peacetime applications moving from swords to plowshares in times of peace for example. Not until the 19th and 20th century did military weaponry become so complex as to require a dedicated industry as firearms, artillery, steamships, and later aircraft and nuclear weapons were markedly different from their ancient predecessors. New developments in technology required skilled labor, knowledge and machinery to produce weaponry therefore the time and support necessary to construct a weapons systems of increasing complexity and integration made it harder to create assets just in wartime. This led to nations dedicating portions of their economies for full time production of war assets. The increasing dependence on industry for military production led to a stable relationship and the military industrial complex. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military spending in 2009 was at $1.531 trillion with 46.5% or $712 billion belonging to the United States. In Nick Turse’s book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, published in 2008 Turse explores the role of the industrial complex of the United States Military in everyday American life by examining the relationship between the Pentagon and Hollywood, military actions in civilian life and joint projects between military and companies like NASCAR and Marvel Comics. Some great examples include Apple giving PowerBooks to military tacticians and recruiting through MySpace and Facebook. As of recent, the worlds five largest military spenders are the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France of which all are recognized as world powers who wield the veto power of the United Nations Security Council.

The war profiteers of today make more money than their predecessors especially the arms industry yet in recent years has seen a slight decline in their pocketbook. The global arms industry manufactures weapons, military technology and equipment including commercial industries involved in research, development, production, and service of military equipment and facilities.  Also known as defense contractors, arms producing companies produce mainly arms for the armed forces of states while departments of government buy and sell weapons, munitions and other military items such as guns, ammo, missiles, military aircraft, military vehicles, ships, electronic systems and more. 2.7% of the World GDP or about 1.5 trillion dollars annually goes to military expenditures worldwide a decrease from 1990 when it was at 4% GDP. Many industrialized nations have a domestic arms industry for their own military, while some countries have a flourishing illegal and domestic trade in weapons for use by citizens especially where political instability exists. Contracts are given by the government to produce the necessary materials making arms contracts of substantial political importance as many are often worth many billions of dollars and bid on by private and public corporations. Sometimes bidding competitions take place where the contract is awarded based on the better design, however no bidding or competition has taken place like in the Cold War where arms exports were used by both the Soviet Union and the Untied States to influence standing in other countries especially third world countries. War profiteers also come in the form of political figures taking bribes and doing favors for corporations involved in war production. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s first Secretary of War Simon Cameron resigned in 1862 due to corruption charges related to war contracts and in 1947, Kentucky congressman Andrew J. May, Chairmen of the Committee on Military Affairs, was convicted of taking bribes for war contracts which surely has become common place in Washington today.

More recently, the suppliers for coalition forces in the Iraq War have come under fire for overcharging for their services come in the form of both military and civilian contractors. Companies like Bechtel, KBR, Blackwater and Halliburton are all examples of modern private military companies who can be defined by the term sanctioned war profiteers, while on the opposite side Huawei Technologies has also faced such criticism as well. Groups that profit from war or the threat of war as far as military contractors are concerned include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics, to name a few. Since old military material must be replace with new and different technology, it is necessary to enlist the help of such companies in order to maintain strategic advantages over foreign nations who may become or are hostile. In an attempt to prevent excessive profiteering, legislation has been put into place called excess profit tax especially in wartime, however the definition of such legislation remains ambiguous leading to instances of profiteering going unchecked and reducing the income of other war related business even to loss making levels. Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation accused former CIA Director James Woolsey of profiting and promoting the Iraqi War. As the Center for Public Integrity reports, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum, are making millions from Iraq and Afghanistan contracts through his company, Tutor Perini Corporation. The War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007, often falling under the Civil False Claims Act of 1863, was created to penalize war profiteers and others who exploit taxpayer funded efforts in Iraq and around the world. Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, in his book War Is a Racket,  criticized war profiteering companies of World War I who increased their earnings and profits by 1700%  with many willingly selling equipment and supplies not relevant to the U.S. war effort.

To completely understand the relationship between war and politics, one should have a general understanding of a just war by Western standards in order to distinguish a legitimate war from a weapon of mass distraction. The principles of Just War are as old as Western Civilization and still greatly influences the thinking about the morality of war and violence. The Just War theory dates back to the creation of the United Nations and International Law’s regulations on legitimate war. These two position cover both the philosophical and ethical bents of mainstream society, while other theories like Marxist and Fascist deserve an honorable mention as from time to time have influenced history in some way. Neither of the latter theories involves ethics as they are both based purely on the practical nature rather than the morality of war  as violence is necessary and good in order to benefit society even advance society or in a more direct sense the ends justify the means. On the other end of the spectrum, Just War theory is a doctrine of military ethics of Roman philosophy and Catholic origin where violent conflicts must meet philosophical, religious or political criteria. The principles of the Just War are as follows:

  • A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.
  • A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.
  • A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient–see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with “right” intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.
  • A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.
  • The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.
  • The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.
  • The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

According to Jeff McMahan’s article, Rethinking the ‘Just War,’ Part 1, political leaders will invokes the theory in order to justify or explain the reasoning for war. For example, Jimmy Carter, prior to the United States invading Iraq in 2003, argued in the New York Times that an invasion was not justified according to the just war theory as it violated the requirements of last resort, discrimination, proportionality and legitimate authority. Even Barack Obama mention during his Nobel Prize speech the theory’s principles of last resort, proportionality and discrimination. Although the theory has continued to come up in political circles, many cracks have begun to appear as the character and practices of war has changed over time. The most recent wars have not been able to apply the theory directly as these wars are not fought between regular armies of the state but rather rogue forces not under state control such as the United States’ wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as the recent smaller-scale civil conflicts in Libya and Syria. Other types of conflicts like those involving Al Qaeda do not follow the state centric framework of traditional theory making them resistant to moral evaluation under these guidelines. The practices of war has caused philosophers to change the way they apply the traditional theory shifting it from a state centric approach to an individual approach in the revisionist theory. One change returns the theory to the individual rather than the state who kill and are killed in war therefore the person rather than their state bear responsibility for their participation and action in war. Unlike the traditional Just War Theory, the revisionist Just War Theory is a school of thought not doctrine as many choose not to follow this approach.

In theory, the Just War tradition makes complete sense but in practice must fight against something more dangerous…emotions and attitudes. Propaganda is a tool often used not just by the United States government but foreign and domestic entities in order to spread information, ideas or rumors to influence opinions and incite action through media such as newspapers, posters, books and anything else the public has access to. Propaganda uses only one side of the argument or formally known as lies by omission or loaded messages in order to gain support for a particular position. It can be used as a form of ideological or commercial warfare such as Nazi propaganda used to justify the Holocaust or in a innocuous sense as public health recommendations, signs encouraging citizens to participate in a census or election, or messages encouraging persons to report crimes to law enforcement, among others. U.S. news media infamously uses this sort of bias coverage in order sway public opinion promoting the economic and political interests of large companies that own or advertise with them. For example, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC are accused of leaning toward the left, while Fox News tends to lean toward the right. Why We Fight is a famous series of U.S. government propaganda films made to justify the U.S. involvement in World War II leading to public skepticism because of the heavy handed nature leaving the post war government to abandon the use of propaganda. In 2002, the  U.S. Department of Defense lauched an information operation in order “to spread the administration’s talking points on Iraq by breifing… retired commanders for network and cable television appearances” calling them independent analysts. On May 22, 2008, the program was exposed by the New York Times forcing the House to pass an amendment banning the use of domestic propaganda previously included in the annual military authorization bill. The effectiveness of propaganda on the U.S. population was summed up in André Siegfried’s America at mid-century:

“The United States is par excellence a country where public opinion plays an important role, inspiring, orienting, controlling the policy of the nation. Nothing can be achieved or endure without it, and its veto is final. It is characterized by the fact that it is both more spontaneous than anywhere else in the world and also more easily directed by efficient propaganda technique than in any other country.”

In Nancy Snow’s compilation entitled, 10 Things Everyone Should Know about Propaganda, and sourced from Jacques Elllul’s Propaganda explains the truth about propaganda as follows:

“Truth is not the absence of propaganda; propaganda thrives in presenting different kinds of truth, including half truths, incomplete truths, limited truths, out of context truths. Modern propaganda is most effective when it presents information as accurately as possible. The Big Lie or Tall Tale is the most ineffective propaganda.”

“Propaganda is not so much designed to change opinions so much as reinforce existing opinions, prejudices, attitudes. The most successful propaganda will lead people to action or inaction through reinforcement of what people already believe to be true.”

“Education is not necessarily the best protection against propaganda. Intellectuals and “the educated” are the most vulnerable to propaganda campaigns because they (1) tend to absorb the most information (including secondhand information, hearsay, rumors, and unverifiable information); (2) are compelled to have an opinion on matters of the day and thus expose themselves more to others’ opinions and propaganda campaigns; and (3) consider themselves above the influence of propaganda, thereby making themselves more susceptible to propaganda.”

“What makes the study of propaganda so problematic is that it is generally regarded as the study of the darker side of our nature; the study of their evil versus our good. Those whom we consider evil thrive in propaganda, while we spread only the truth. The best way to study propaganda is to separate one’s ethical judgments from the phenomenon itself. Propaganda thrives and exists, for ethical and unethical purposes.”

“Propaganda seeks to modify public opinion, particularly to make people conform to the point of view of the propagandist. In this respect, any propaganda is a form of manipulation, to adapt an individual to a particular activity.”

“Modern forms of communication, including mass media, are instruments of propaganda. Without the monopoly concentration of mass media, there can be no modern propaganda. For propaganda to thrive, the media must remain concentrated, news agencies and services must be limited, the press must be under central command, and radio, film, and television monopolies must pervade.”

“One must become aware of propaganda, its limitations, its strengths, its influence, and its persuasive qualities, if one is to master it. To say that one is free of the influence of propaganda is a sure sign of its pervasive existence in society.”

“Modern propaganda began in the United States in the early 20th Century. During World War I, the mass media were integrated with public relations and advertising methods to advocate and maintain support for war. The Creel Committee established the first American publicity campaign to spread and disseminate the gospel of the American way to all corners of the globe.”

“In the United States, private commercial propaganda is as important to notions of democracy as governmental propaganda. Commercial appeals to the people through advertising, which plays on irrational fantasies and impulses, are some of the most pervasive forms of propaganda in existence today.”

“Propaganda in a democracy establishes truth in the sense that it creates “true believers” who are as ideologically committed to the democratic process as others are ideologically committed to its control. The perpetuation of democratic ideals and beliefs in the face of concentrated power in propaganda institutions (media, political institutions) is a triumph of propaganda in modern American society.”

With all this knowledge in mind, we must all face the reality of why we fight and why we go to war as so often the excuses are freedom and justice when in reality war more so serves the purpose to advance the corporate interests of the wealthy, steal land or resources from other nations, war profiteering, installing a friendly government or to destroy a government who does not follow acceptable ideologies. The excuses allow not only the government but through propaganda and half truths the American people to believe that they fight for a reason and not an excuse. With the exception of self-defense which is a rarity nowadays, war serves only the purpose of individuals not nations as no nation will disclose the whole truth to its people as this is political suicide therefore professional suicide as well. To admit the reality of the situation will reflect poorly on the aggressor both to the world and its own people. Everyone needs and wants a hero whether legitimate or made up. This is what makes nations appear virtuous and resilient to their people instilling a sense of trust and self-preservation. The government feeds and bets on appealing to the patriotism in its citizens in order to get young people to fight wars based on these half truths rather than tell the American people that the war is solely based on benefiting the few rather than the whole. Considering current global crises such as poverty, hunger, resource depletion and global warming, the future of life on this planet depend more on sustainability rather than war therefore resources should be given to solve these larger problem and not to support the few rather than the many.

In recent wars, the excuse seems to boil down to one word rather than many different…terrorist. Before the Cold War, we had many different reasons for war and not until the Cold War did the government begin to focus on one set of excuses. Like the Cold War claims of communists and socialists, the “War on Terror” in recent years allowed the government to target a nation for whatever reason by simply stating that the nation harbors terrorist. Of course the old excuses still apply to the U.S. militarism and imperialism, however since September 11,2001, the government has added some new and different excuses to their weapons of mass distraction arsenal. It is well known during the Bush administration (and continued through the Obama administration) that the government  systematically tortured individuals in the name of this so called “War on Terror” leading to an unknown number of deaths of supposed terrorists, the dissolution of the eight centuries old right to habeas corpus led to the indefinite detention of thousands of men and boys and let us not forget our fearless leader manufacturing evidence in order to throw the U.S. into another war with a country who poses no imminent threat with a now dead leader the U.S. helped to put into power. The new bogeyman on the block now folks or the new buzz word to replace “communist” and “socialists” comes in the form of “terrorist.” The buzz word of the hour has even led Congress to pass a law giving the President the power to imprison anyone whom he sees as a terrorist such as those who defend their country against U.S. invasion or occupation and journalists who report anything contradictory to the official stance of the administration.

Much like his predecessor, Obama exhibits many contradictions in his behavior and speeches. Obama maintains before and after his election the need to maintain and restore moral leadership, yet continues to emphasize the need for a strong military. Why do we need both? Every year, the United States spends more and more of its much needed resources to build the biggest and strongest military in the world neglecting the needs of its own people while criticizing other nations for doing exactly the same. As a civilization we are doomed to fail as long as we continue to spend more money on our military than the rest of the world combines, accept the myriad of excuses politicians feed the American people on a daily basis as to why we fight, violate basic human and civil rights granted under the Constitution  and continue to pervert our national even international laws in order to fight an unjust war. Suzanne Moore sums it up well in her article in the Daily Mail entitled Ten excuses for war, and every one a lie explaining how the current Iraq War is full half truths and weapons of mass distraction:

“Lie number one: the rescue of Private Lynch was a heartrending moment that showed America at its best. The truth is Jessica Lynch was not shot by brutal fedayeen. She was badly injured in a road accident when her blundering convoy took a wrong turn. She was nursed by Iraqis who tried several times to return her to the Americans. The televised midnight rescue by US special forces was not quite as dramatic as it looked. They met no resistance. Conveniently, Private Lynch, who is being circled by Hollywood and all the TV networks, cannot remember any of this. It’s important, however, to note one significant truth in the midst of all the misinformation: she is blonde.

Lie number two: we went to war because Saddam’s weapons represented ‘a real and present danger to Britain’. Even then, experts said the missiles could reach only as far as Cyprus. It was equally difficult to comprehend what had happened suddenly to make them a threat, except for the massing of American troops on the Iraqi borders.

Lie number three: this would be a quick war.We are now talking about keeping troops there for at least four years at terrific financial cost. Doubtless we shall suffer more losses as our soldiers continue to be shot at daily.

Lie number four: Saddam had tried to get hold of uranium from Niger and was therefore about to nuke us at any second.The (non) evidence for this claim is now so deeply questionable that the White House has said it should never have used it. George Bush cleverly passed the buck in a speech in January in which he said: ‘The British Government has learnt that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.’ Bush knew that if this information were false, he could always blame the Brits. Strangely enough, the Brits in question are still standing by this so-called evidence.

Lie number five: It doesn’t matter if weapons of mass destruction are not found as Saddam is so bad anyway. We all agree that Saddam was an evil dictator but this was not the basis on which we went to war. It was the supposed link between Saddam, terrorism and the weapons of mass destruction which was meant to terrify us into acquiescence. What would have happened, we were repeatedly asked, if Al Qaeda had got hold of these weapons? Everybody would be astonished they had located them in the first place when nobody else could.

Lie number six: evidence of weapons of mass destruction programmes is the same as actual evidence of weapons of mass destruction. In other words, scribbled plans on scraps of paper are worth going to war over. What do you take us for?

Lie number seven: intelligence works. We may all love a good spy story but what has been exposed is a monumental failure of both British and American intelligence. The vast majority of what we have been told since September 11 has been wrong. Heathrow may have been ringed with tanks and Americans may have rushed to the shops for gaffer tape but no one knows if Saddam and Bin Laden (remember him?) are dead or alive.

Lie number eight: Tony Blair is an eloquent, sophisticated and moral politician while George Bush is a dumb oilman who understands very little. Oh yeah? How come then that Blair’s standing in the polls is falling while Bush is still master of all he surveys? How come Bush hasn’t bothered even trying to help out his friend over his recent troubles? And how come we still have to plead behind the scenes to get British nationals tried in Britain rather than in the kangaroo court of Guantanamo Bay?

Lie number nine: the rest of the world will fall into line once the war is over. Well, the war is not really over and the rest of the world continues to view America with alarm. Donald Rumsfeld’s statement that Iraq was invaded not because of any new intelligence about arms programmes but ‘because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light’ – through the prism of 9-11 – merely confirms what the rest of the world already thought.

Lie number ten: none of these lies is a lie. They are, on a good day, simply ‘honourable deceptions’. Anyway, lies are not lies if the person telling them really, really believes them at the time. That’s Tony Blair’s line and he is sticking to it.”

The Obama administration has now given up on the excuses of the previous administration and now believes no justification is in order at all. As top military adviser Anthony Cordesman explains, the objective now after years of U.S. war and occupation in Afghanistan is to lower expectations that the country will ever be more than a war torn and divided society while securing  a portion for future U.S. operations. The rationale now adopted by the Obama administration is “Afghan good enough.” The Obama administration has been successful in creating the impression that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is winding down much the same that was done with the Iraq war, but why are we still involved then? The New York Times explains the mantra by saying the phrase is “making the rounds at the White House, State Department, the Pentagon and inside the many research organizations scattered around Washington.”  The Times even quoted an unnamed administration official who spelled out the full implications, complete with overtones of racial superiority: “Look, this is Afghanistan. Is it going to be Switzerland? No. But is it good enough for Afghanistan? That’s where we need to get to.” The plan does not include withdraw from the country, but the strategy aims to politically and militarily position the U.S. in the critical region for future conflicts in Asia. Unfortunately, the man obstacle in this plan would be the repeated drone strikes that have claimed many lives inside Pakistan combined with an air strike killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in November which led Pakistan to close the main supply route for U.S. trucks that provides massive amounts of supplies to sustain military operations in Afghanistan. The U.S. has had to move to a single Soviet built tunnel to connect the northern Central Asian republic to Afghanistan. According to a New York Times report:

“So a tunnel built to handle 1,000 vehicles a day, and until the Pakistani boycott against NATO in November handling 2,000, now tries–and often fails–to let 10,000 vehicles through, alternating northbound and southbound truck traffic every other day. “It’s only a matter of time until there’s a catastrophe,” said Lt. Gen. Mohammad Rajab, the head of maintenance for the Salang Pass. “One hundred percent certain, there will be a disaster, and when there is, it’s not a disaster for Afghanistan alone, but for the whole international community that uses this road.” He said 90 percent of the traffic now was trailer and tanker trucks carrying NATO supplies.”

So after a decade of war, countless lives lost and the U.S. occupation depending on a tunnel supplied by its former rival, the U.S. will eventually be forced to give up their plan for long term occupation for purposes of geopolitical advantage. This may take the form of tunnel collapse, more resistance from Afghanistan, anti-war movements in the ranks of the U.S. military or on the streets of U.S. cities, or something far worse than just one of these situation which may include several of these scenarios. While examining all the evidence, one must pay special attention to these so called virtuous goals used to justify “humanitarian intervention” like Syria or any other place for that matters as the only reason the U.S. deploys its military is for its own interests and strategic advantages. As General Smedley Butler, a military veteran with numerous interventions under his belt during the early 20th century, once explained, “I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.” He also once wisely explained that the motives for intervention must be kept from the public view in order to convince the population to support the real reason for imperialist war:

“Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one told them that dollars and cents were the real reason. No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits.”

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