Death of Anti-War Movement is Greatly Exaggerated

I’ve been involved in some nice discussions recently with Skepoet at his blog, Left Turn At the Crossroads of Critical Thinking. It’s a helpful discussion (the particular discussion at issue in this post is from his post On power, ideology, and class, part 1). We share some similar views and yet come from very different directions.

I identify with liberalism for the reason it tends towards moderation and mediation, liberals being the only US demographic to show majority support for compromise. I can’t speak for Skepoet’s predisposition, but I could make some general guesses based on his jumping from one wing to the other (right to left) apparently without spending much if any time in the middle. He is unsurprisingly more critical toward liberalism than I, an attitude I assume he carried over to some extent from the earlier right-wing period of his life.

This brings me to the specific point I wish to discuss. In our discussion, I’ve defended liberalism against some of his criticisms. His initial views of liberalism seem to put it into the context of the policies of the Democratic Party or thereabout. That isn’t entirely wrong, but just too narrowly defined for my own understanding.

As I pointed out to him, almost half of liberals are independents and the other half that is in the Democratic Party only represents a third of the party membership. I’m an independent liberal and so I’m specifically defending the broad sense of liberalism that goes beyond partisan politics with emphasis on the psychological understanding of what motivates the liberal mindset. With their desire for compromise, partisan politics probably bothers liberals more than any other political group, partisan polarization being the complete opposite of bipartisan compromise. In this sense, liberals don’t like dogmatism or at least don’t embrace it in the way and to the extent more often seen on the far right (or even on the far left). This makes perfect sense when one looks at the psychological research where ‘liberalism’ practically equates to ‘openness to experience’, this ‘openness’ both being a strength (e.g., compromise) and a weakness (e.g., capitulation)… or, as some conservatives have stated it, don’t have a mind so open that your brains fall out.

Even though the Democratic Party isn’t specifically a liberal party, it is the party that ends up representing liberalism in the minds of many non-liberals and in the minds as well of many more mainstream liberals. Whether or not Obama is genuinely a liberal, I understand he does play the role of and uses the rhetoric of liberalism (although not in the way that makes independent liberals happy).

In the discussion with Skepoet, I was comparing the Occupy movement to the Bush era anti-war movement. Skepoet responded with the following:

How large was the anti-war movement in the US and how sincere was it? Because it effectively died when Obama went into office, but we are now in three wars instead of two.

I must admit that I was annoyed by this. Sincerity in this context seemed to imply an ideological or moral purity. As a liberal, this left-wing demand for ‘sincerity’ comes off as elitist or else just plain self-righteous. The average person doing their best to get involved is simply not good enough. I realize I might be reading too much into Skepoet’s question, but for some reason it rubbed me the wrong way. Even so, I chose to keep my emotional response out of the discussion and so responded more neutrally:

How large was the anti-war movement in the US?

As I recall from research I’ve done in the past, the US anti-war movement during the Bush administration was the largest protest movement in the US at that time. It was supposedly the largest protest movement in the world. The previous protest movement that I’m aware of that had been the largest in US history and which went global was the nuclear disarmament movement in the 1980s.

How sincere was it?

Sincerity is a relative trait. As the largest protest movement at that time, I’d say it had more sincerity than most political movements. It included libertarians, liberals, anarchists, minarchists, isolationists, pacifists, veterans, social justice Christians, and on and on.

I can’t speak for the whole movement, but I can speak for the part of the movement I was involved in here. There was a protest camp that lasted for months, having started in spring and continuing until the weather turned cold. Besides that camp, anti-war activists regularly protested for years and continues to this day. I constantly hear about anti-war protests in the US, although they get less attention in the MSM. It is far from dead. In my entire life, I’ve never experienced such a long-lasting protest movement.

Yes, the wars have continued and increased even. But you can’t blame that on the protesters. The protests continued. Also, the outrage that fueled those protests is the same outrage that fueled the Tea Party movement and now the Occupy movement. The Ron Paul libertarians were major supporters of the anti-war movement and many of them supported the Tea Party and now many of them support OWS. This is true for other political groups as well. You tend to find the same activists supporting each new manifestation of protest. They are all connected. An Occupy protest camp was formed a while back and it is the first protest camp we’ve had in Iowa City since the peace camp. Many of these people voted for Obama, but it hasn’t stopped them from voicing their outrage.

Skepoet then gave an answer that could be taken as final proof of the failure of the protester’s and of liberals in general:

Really? There is fairly good scholarly evidence to the contrary: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mheaney/Partisan_Dynamics_of_Contention.pdf

I’ve been meaning to respond to this for a while, but I wanted to be very clear in my refutation of this supposed proof.

Let me point out some of the limits of generalizing too much on the basis of this “scholarly evidence”. But first let me consider the complaint itself: Democrats stopped protesting after Obama was elected. Is that true? What were the conclusions of the research?

Did Obama’s Election Kill the Antiwar Movement?
By Ann Arbor

After Obama’s election as president, Democratic participation in antiwar activities plunged, falling from 37 percent in January 2009 to a low of 19 percent in November 2009, Heaney and Rojas say.

So, the complaint was that only 1/5 of Democrats (instead of slightly above 1/3 of Democrats) were willing to protest against the wars once Obama was elected? Accepting that as true, Democrats still represented one of the highest if not the highest portions of the anti-war movement during both Republican and Democratic administrations. That is supposed to be damning evidence? That is the great failure of all liberals and Democrats? This is proof of the superiority of more radical activists?

Anyway, it’s not as if the protests against the wars stopped. And certaintly it’s not as if liberals and Democrats stopped protesting for what they believed in simply because a Democrat was president.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protests_against_the_Iraq_War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protests_against_the_invasion_of_Afghanistan
http://www.thenation.com/blog/163762/occupy-wall-street-why-so-many-demands-demands

Just because the media isn’t covering it, that isn’t to say it isn’t happening.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_coverage_of_the_Iraq_War

To continue, what are the specifics that the researchers focused on?

Antiwar No More?
Scott McLemee

From surveys conducted during national antiwar actions, the researchers found that people who self-identified as Democrats represented “a major constituency in the antiwar movement during 2007 and 2008,” accounting for 37 to 54 percent of participants. Those who identified as members of third parties represented 7 to 13 percent. (The rest indicated that they were independents, Republicans, or members of more than one party.)

As I was arguing, the movement included a diversity of supporters. Democrats were at most 1/2 of the participants and possibly only ever represented a 1/3 of the movement. The anti-war movement was never just about liberals, especially not just liberal Democrats (I’m a liberal who isn’t a Democrat; I participated in the anti-war protest movement and didn’t vote for Obama). What about all of the other groups involved? Why did the Ron Paul libertarians abandon the anti-war movement in order to campaign for Ron Paul and then later to join the Tea Party?

There are many explanations. But it should be pointed out this research was done years after the point when protest movement had some of its early strong support. The anti-war protests started in 2002 and gained their strongest momentum in 2003. Why would anyone reasonably expect the movement to sustain that same energy for the next 9 years following those first protests?

The anti-war protests began as an attempt to stop the invasion in Iraq from happening at all. It failed in that, but certainly the protesters can’t be blamed for what has followed since the invasion. Being against the invasion and being for pulling out are two separate issues. I was against the invasion and yet I believe we should fix what we break. The challenge, however, has been that if we don’t try to fix it the problem could get worse and if we try to fix it the problem might get worse. There are no clear answers at this point. The only clear answer that ever was a possibility was to never invade in the first place. Once the Iraq War was started, there was little hope that protesters could hold onto. Protest increasingly became symbolic rather than pragmatically effective toward some positive end. Worse just leads to worse.

The other purpose of the anti-war movement was to sway public opinion. It is a fact that public opinion has turned away from supporting the wars, and so on that account the anti-war movement has been an unqualified success. The public has become demoralized with the wars just as the anti-war protesters have become demoralized. Everyone has become demoralized by everything that is going on: endless and pointless wars, crony capitalism, a co-opted democracy, and on and on. Even as public support turns away from the wars, there is no sense of having won anything in the process. The public support has turned away from lots of things (the drug war, the culture war, etc) and yet it feels like nothing changes. The media and the government go on as if everything is the same.

What more is expected of the anti-war movement? Protesters can’t force the government to do anything and protesters can’t solve the problems caused by the very war they’ve been against. Many people have continued to protest against war, but people have had their lives and energies focused on the other issues (such as the economy) for reasons beyond their control. With many people hurting (growing poverty and shrinking middle class, unemployment or underemployment, house foreclosures, debt, lost life savings, struggling small businesses, etc), and so people have joined other causes and movements (fighting the Patriot Act, ending Gitmo, and freeing Bradley Manning; election reform, healthcare reform, tax reform, and regulatory reform; Tea Party, Coffee Party, and Occupy movement; etc) which has diffused the energy of the anti-war movement.

Anyway, I understand the criticisms. I’m critical of almost everything in the world these days. I just don’t see why the liberals should be blamed for everything and why all liberals (nearly half of whom, according to Pew’s Beyond Red vs Blue, are Independents) should be accused of being mindless Obama drones. Were there Obama supporters who withdrew from the anti-war movement? No shit, Sherlock. Was the anti-war movement nothing more than mindless Democratic loyalists? Don’t be silly.

The above commentary I posted in the comments section of an article by Paul Street (Were the Anti Iraq War Demonstrations of 2003 Too Good to Be True?). I received a thorough response to which I added further thoughts. Here is some of what I said:

I must admit that I don’t get the point of the criticism you are making. The support for Bush’s wars was bipartisan. Bush and his policies gained public support after 9/11 and the American public wanted revenge. When the anti-war protests began, most Democrats weren’t involved in it. Certainly, Democratic politicians weren’t involved in those early anti-war protests. I doubt that a majority of Democratic voters have ever been involved at the same time in the anti-war protest movement. It’s too simplistic to speak about Democrats hating Bush. Most Democrats, like most other Americans, were more bothered by the Patriot Act than by the wars. As I pointed out above, most Democrats aren’t liberals.

I wouldn’t be so quick to judge anti-war activists. I looked at the research by Heaney and Rojas. I’m not sure it supports your conclusion. First, the Independents (which would include the liberal independents) have maintained strong involvement in the anti-war protests. Second, Democrats decreased involvement by half, but that still leaves 20% involved which is still a fairly large proportion and which is more than the approximately 0% of Republicans involved. Third, as Democrats involvement decreased, third party voters increased by the exact same percentage which could imply that many of the anti-war Democrats didn’t actually stop being involved but simply became third party voters (maybe as they became dissatisfied with Obama). So, the overall participation percentages somewhat balance out over the two year period, the only clear change being the label by which the anti-war activists identified themselves.

(To which I would add: If some Democrats can be criticized for having left the anti-war movement, it would only be fair to praise the high number of Democrats who remained in the movment. Furthermore, it would only be fair to criticize almost all Republicans for never having joined the movement and it would only be fair to criticize Independents in not increasing their involvement until after Obama was elected.)

It’s not as if the anti-war protest movement has died. I still see people in downtown Iowa City with signs protesting the war. Also, I was just talking to a friend the other day. He went on a road trip and stopped by an anti-war protest where some people were arrested for stepping onto a military base. I think it might be this protest:

http://www.nukeresister.org/2011/10/04/2092/

Just because the national mainstream media doesn’t report on all of these protests around the country, it doesn’t mean they aren’t happening all the time. Just because a few Democrats you knew left the anti-war movement while campaigning for Obama, doesn’t mean that all or most people left the anti-war movement and it doesn’t even mean those Democrats didn’t later return to the anti-war movement.

http://original.antiwar.com/eisenberg/2011/05/11/stop-knocking-the-peace-movement/

“Oddly, the polls are sometimes cited to prove the ineptitude of the peace movement. With so many Americans against the war in Afghanistan, why isn’t the peace movement stronger? A fair question, yet one that omits the possibility that the efforts of local peace groups have contributed to that public skepticism.

“If the continued existence of the peace movement is unrecognized, how can this be explained? One is the complete freeze-out by the mainstream media. Since 2003, there have been no fewer than four national demonstrations attended by more than 100,000 people, yet the only one to receive coverage was the huge New York City gathering in the run-up to the Iraq War. The others were so many trees falling in the forest, which nobody could hear or see unless they were personally marching.

“But while the silence in the mainstream media is perhaps predictable, more surprising and less excusable has been the failure of progressive news outlets to provide positive attention to peace organizations. Since 2001, these alternative outlets have done an extraordinary job of reporting American actions abroad and providing sophisticated analysis of international events that are elsewhere ignored. Barely mentioned have been the mass antiwar mobilizations of the past eight years, the ongoing campaigns to move the Congress, or the steady, creative work of antiwar activists in towns and cities across the United States. The demoralizing result is a constant imbalance between the depressing news about U.S. foreign policy and the apparent lack of resistance here. Individuals who are not already part of the existing peace networks often conclude there is nothing useful to be done and focus elsewhere.

“In recent weeks, the silence has been broken by a handful of articles lamenting the absence of a peace movement and attributing its collapse to a misplaced enthusiasm for President Obama and the Democratic Party. In this narrative, the antiwar movement is characterized as nothing more than a partisan club to beat George W. Bush over the head with. Therefore, the story goes, once this particular “evildoer” had retired to Texas, the peace activists simply folded up their tents and abandoned the field. But this description takes no account of the thousands of people across the country who have organized protests for the past decade out of the conviction that the wars are wrong.”

Now I’ll respond to some of your other points.

“you ask where are all the Ron Paul anti-war activists? While there may have been some of those voices involved the bulk were clearly people who identified with the Dems & MoveOn who made it their mission to hate Bush.”

I always had the sense that a fair number of libertarians were involved in the anti-war protest movement, but I’ve never seen specific data. Is there a source of data you are basing your opinion on? Why would you assume many libertarians weren’t involved? Libertarians have tended to be anti-war for a long time. The oldest and most prominent anti-war website (antiwar.com) was started by a libertarian in 1995. The most well known libertarian (Ron Paul) is vocal about being anti-war. Certainly, libertarians hated Bush (with his policies such as the Patriot Act) about as much than liberals. It is true, though, that libertarians haven’t been known for their supporting the activism that liberals are involved in. As one article stated it:

http://www.salon.com/2011/08/30/lind_libertariansim/

“For that matter, where was the libertarian right during the great struggles for individual liberty in America in the last half-century? The libertarian movement has been conspicuously absent from the campaigns for civil rights for nonwhites, women, gays and lesbians. Most, if not all, libertarians support sexual and reproductive freedom (though Rand Paul has expressed doubts about federal civil rights legislation). But civil libertarian activists are found overwhelmingly on the left. Their right-wing brethren have been concerned with issues more important than civil rights, voting rights, abuses by police and the military, and the subordination of politics to religion — issues like the campaign to expand human freedom by turning highways over to toll-extracting private corporations and the crusade to funnel money from Social Security to Wall Street brokerage firms.”

Even so, I’m not the only person on the left who recognizes the role libertarians have played in the anti-war movement. Thaddeus Russell said:

http://themoderatevoice.com/119372/whither-the-anti-war-movement/

“I’m a man of the Left. I was raised by socialists in Berkeley. I’ve always been on the Left. But I stumbled upon antiwar.com about three years ago and was blown away. I said ‘This is what the Left should be doing! This is what the Left should be saying!’ Libertarians and sort of paleocons–but especially libertarians like antiwar.com . . . like Ron Paul–have been the leading voices of the anti-war movement. They’ve been the most principled–the most consistent–no matter who’s president. They’ve been saying again and again and again, ‘These wars are disasters. The Empire must end.’”

On the other hand, there are libertarians who mistrust and denounce the anti-war protests as being merely ‘liberal’. In response to such a libertarian, here is what one self-identified “anti-war liberal” (username Southern Guardian) said in a forum discussion:

http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread752060/pg1

“I never saw the anti-war protests as a political movement, and it’s very interesting that you label the anti-war protests as purely those of liberals. Are you admitting that you and other Ron Paul supporters/libertarians never participated? The protests in 2003-2005 were anti-war, that’s it. I never saw myself apart of any political movement, infact I never even saw myself as anti-war as I personally believe it is necessary at times. My stances along with others were rather a protest against the governments campaign against Iraq specifically and lies contained within. Myself and many others supported Afghanistan efforts until the recent capture of Osama Bin Ladin. ”

He expresses my own view. I’ve never been a partisan. In fact, I can’t stand party politics. When I was involved in the anti-war movement, I never thought of it as being a movement of only or mostly Democrats. There definitely wasn’t any Democratic Party material lying around or anything. It always seemed a diverse group to me. At the Iowa City peace camp, there were students, non-students (like me), hippies, veterans, and even some homeless kids. I never asked anyone who they voted for and it didn’t seem to matter since no one asked me either. I knew Republicans were against the peace camp since at one point they temporarily set up a counter-protest camp, but at no point did I ever get the idea that libertarians weren’t welcome in the peace camp. The anti-war protest movement was a part of the protests against Bush policies in general, and it was out of that defense of civil libertarianism that the Ron Paul libertarian movement gained momentum.

“The third point is a classic liberal response that “we have to fix” the mess we made. The Iraqis have been saying for years that they want us to leave, so they should have the primary say in this matter. More importantly, the US has never had any intention of “fixing” Iraq. US policy put Saddam Hussein in power, funded his war with Iran, provided him with the WMDs, invaded and bombed Iraq in 1991, imposed the most brutal sanction regime on any country in history for 12 years, then invaded/occupied again in 2003. During this current occupation the US has set up permanent military bases, privatized much of the economy, including oil as a means to have greater longer term influence on Iraq’s economy……see Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine.””

I’m familiar with all of that. You seem to have misunderstood me. My point was that, if the US destroys the infrastructure of a country in a pointless and unjustified war, then it would be fair and just for the US to at least rebuild that infrastructure to some extent (make roads passable, make water and electric plants operable, etc). I wasn’t talking about nation-building.

I added one even more important point that critics seem oblivious of:

As for Obama, he promised that he would withdraw troops and that is what he is doing. I realize he didn’t do it as quickly as his critics would have preferred, but this seems to prove valid the anti-war protesters who decided to support Obama. If McCain had been elected, maybe there would have been no troop withdrawal at all. I’m not a fan of Obama, but I try to be fair in my assessment of his presidency.

Skepoet would have a point if Obama hadn’t fulfilled his basic promise, however imperfectly. We can argue over various factors, but the broad point remains the same.

The anti-war protesters, Democrats included, managed to accomplish two of their main goals:

  1. They helped swayed public opinion away from supporting the war effort.
  2. They helped bring the Iraq War ever closer to being ended.

Considering their powerful opponents, that is a massive success… even if qualified by the larger context of the War on Terror that continues in that region. It is hardly inspiring to criticize protesters even when they have victories, no matter how minor you may think those victories are. Yes, it would have been better if the wars had ended earlier, but it seems to be clear at this point that they are coming to an end. Yes, military bases and contractors will remain in Iraq for the time being; still, you should accept the victories you can get.

Looking at other criticisms, I came across the following which mentions in some detail the anti-war movement in Iowa City, the location of the peace camp I was involved with in 2003. This critic brings up some good points about what went wrong:

Were the Anti Iraq War Demonstrations of 2003 Too Good to Be True?
By Jeff Smith

There is no longer an antiwar group of any relevance in Iowa City. The UIAC is dead, thanks to the departure of the best activists, the nefarious activities of an FBI informant, internal squabbles over personalities and Israel, and – last but not least – the significant demobilizing impact of a Democratic president who deceptively ran as an antiwar candidate.

What caught my attention was the reference to the FBI. I had forgotten about that. The FBI has a long history of disrupting and even destroying grassroots movements. With the Patriot Act, the FBI had been newly empowered to go even further than they would have prior to 9/11.

The following is a better overall analysis:

Where have all the war protesters gone?
The largest demonstrations ever have largely dissipated, even as we’ve launched new wars. Why a movement sputtered

 By Todd Gitlin

The outrage that greeted the run-up to the Bush-Blair Iraq war debacle generated what must have been the largest antiwar rallies and demonstrations in the history of the world. Sometimes in subzero temperatures, millions of marchers in New York, London and elsewhere took to the streets to interrupt the roar of self-righteous crypto-imperial bravado, to barge through George Bush’s strutters’ ball and its fevers of fantastical, deceptive and self-deceptive claims about Saddam Hussein’s danger to the United States and Washington’s promise to parachute democracy into Saddam’s stricken land. In the well-chosen words of one London sign, the marchers were “Shocked, Not Awed.”

Then the marches stopped.

The author then goes on to give many reasons, all of which I agree with. Grassroots is never easy even under perfect conditions, and the situation the anti-war movement faced was challenging to say the least. In response to that analysis, here is a good argument for why the death of the peace movement is greatly exaggerated:

Don’t Exaggerate the Death of the Antiwar Movement
by Medea Benjamin

In an article in Salon.com, Todd Gitlin writes a convincing obituary for an antiwar movement killed by a thousand blows: crushed by Bush’s pigheadedness, dumped in the media’s black hole, rendered invisible by a volunteer army and drones, overshadowed by more urgent financial crises, chastened by the “unpleasantness” of adversaries from Taliban to al-Qaida to Gadhafi. He leaves out some other daggers to the heart of the movement: grass-roots election campaigns that lured away millions of activists; betrayals by the president and groups like MoveOn who used and abused the antiwar sentiment; craven congressional reps who violate the will of their constituents by continuing to fund war; powerful lobbyists for the war industry who wield enormous power in Washington; and the utter exhaustion that sets in after 10 years of standing up to the largest military complex the world has ever seen.

Despite all these challenges, however, the reports of the death of the antiwar movement are greatly exaggerated. Sure, there are no longer millions marching in the streets — but there aren’t millions marching in American streets for any cause these days. Lacking the staying power of Tahrir Square, our weekend rallies failed to effect policy and left people disillusioned — and bored. That’s why creative and media-savvy activism 2.0 tactics — like flash mobs, Twitter culture jams and YouTube videos — have emerged that engage with the younger generation.

And that’s why the movement has transformed as well. Rather than marching in circles and chanting slogans to ourselves, we’re reaching deep into our communities to make connections between the economic crises our neighborhoods face and the wars that rob us of scarce resources.

The author then goes on to give the examples of the continued activism. Then the author concludes with the following:

Finally, we have been busy trying to insert the anti-war message in the broader movements for social and economic justice. While our message is sometimes rebuffed or marginalized in activities closely linked to the Democratic Party, at every major rally for jobs, civil rights or corporate responsibility, you’ll find anti-war activists.

As Todd Gitlin knows well, movements ebb and flow. We are certainly not at our zenith, but we are still breathing. The Arab Spring has given us new inspiration, and as the 10th anniversary of the senseless war in Afghanistan approaches in October, you can expect to see the antiwar movement not just breathing, but kicking into high gear with an open-ended mobilization in D.C. starting on Oct. 7 and artistic actions throughout the country under the banner of 10 Years and Counting. We invite Todd and others who have been writing about our demise to come join us.

Also, take for example these comments to the above article:

Posted by orbit7er
Jul 21 2011 – 8:56am

My own local Peace Group has been having a Peace Vigil every Friday since
September 11, 2001. We are still there…
At first when Bush started the Iraq War we got middle finger salutes..
But within some months those turned to peace signs and honks of support.
And every week still we get peace signs and honks of support…
The vast majority of Americans want to END these Wars!

Posted by suhail_shafi
Jul 21 2011 – 8:25pm

I do not think that the anti war movement is dead at all. Much of US and Western public opinion is opposed or at least skeptical of the US invasion of Iraq and the NATO attack on Libya.

If the mission of the anti war movement was to end all wars, it has indeed failed miserably. But if the mission of the movement was to galvanize public opinion against the wars, it has been an unqualified success.

————————————————————————

My Criticisms: Liberals vs Conservatives

I can be quite opinionated… as anyone knows who knows me.  I’m not shy about my opinions most of the time.  But my opinions are ususally nuanced and I don’t tend to shove them in people’s faces.  I’m open to listening to the opinions of others.

On the other hand, I can be outright aggressive in stating some of my opinions.  Some statements seem so obviously true based on the facts that I find irritating anyone who denies them… which isn’t to say my opinion is black and white even in those extreme cases.

I don’t try to hide my liberal bias.  Part of my liberal preferences are just my personality and some are based on research I’ve done.  I can’t help but be who I am and so my inborn liberal tendencies do cause me to be a bit unfair in my assessments at times.  Usually, though, my desire to be fair and reasonable wins out.

My liberal bias particularly shows when I’m talking about certain topics related to conservatism.  I don’t like Fox News, Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, etc.  I don’t like them not simply because they’re conservatives, but because they represent the worst of conservatism, the worst of mainstream, the worst of human nature in general… and I’ve written many blog posts with examples and data to back up this conclusion.  That said, I’m not therefore promoting Democrats as a better solution to what ails the world. 

Yes, Fox News is propaganda, Roger Ailes is a Republican operative, and Glenn Beck is a political hack… then again, I don’t generally trust any mainstream media.  I find other mainstream news sources less annoying, but I never let my guard down when checking out the news.  My annoyance with Fox News is that it’s slogan is “Fair and Balanced” which is an obvious lie.  The other mainstream news outlets don’t make such ostentatious claims.  No news source is fair and balanced… which doesn’t mean that reporters shouldn’t strive towards this ideal.

Anyways, I prefer alternative news sources because you have a better sense of seeing what you get and getting what you see.  In mainstream media, any story has gone through numerous layers of people who decide what to approve, who decide how to present it, and who edit it down.  The final product often is closer to fiction than reality.  In the alternative media, there is less funding and so there are less layers between you and the information… and, if there is a bias, it tends to be more obvious.

In the political realm, yes, George W. Bush was one of the worst presidents that we’ve ever had and yes Karl Rove was a sinister mastermind… then again I don’t generally trust any mainstream politician.  I pick on the Republicans partly just because their evil behavior can be just more blatantly obvious (the Patriot Act being a prime example.  When Bush told a lie or was trying to obfuscate, it was obvious because he lacked (or maybe just pretended to lack) political slickness.  Some liked Bush because he appeared to have no pretense and just said things as he believed.  Assuming that is true, a lie blatantly told annoys me all the more because it insults my intelligence.  The way Bush acted seemed to me like a child pretending to be a grownup, a child playing at some game… ya know, the whole Texas cowboy act or his wearing a flight suit.  Whatever game Bush was playing, he wanted us all to play along and just ignore the man behind the curtain (ahem, Karl Rove).

I don’t assume that Obama doesn’t lie or that his policies are entirely motivated by some higher moral sensibility.  However, Obama does seem to take the moral authority of his position seriously.  He is just another Washington politician, but at least he makes his lies sound pretty and he inspires us in the process.  Ultimately, I doubt the end result of Obama’s presidency will be much different than the end reult of Bush’s presidency.  I’m of the opinion that presidents have a lot less power than we like to think.  Politics is just politics.  The politics we typically see in the media is just a show and there are people behind the scenes pulling the strings.  But, with Obama, for a brief moment I can suspend my disbelief and let myself be carried away by the rhetoric.  If we must have evil politics, it might as well be entertaining and uplifting.

So, am I being unfair to conservatives?  If most of the mainstream media is propaganda and if most Washington politicians are evil, then why spend more time complaining about one side or another?  I know I’m being biased in my liberal preferences, but I do complain about both sides even if my complaints about one side tend to be stated more strongly and more often. 

The reaon for this is partly just my response to conservatives and mainstream culture in general.  When Bush lied, why didn’t the mainstream media question the administration and do real investigative journalism?  Why did the American public buy into it hook, line and sinker?  Why do many conservatives still believe the lies?  When Obama lies (or simply doesn’t live up to his promises), everyone is all over it.. the media obsesses over it, the rightwingers attack him, and the leftwingers complain that he isn’t progressive enough.  Why did Bush get a free pas so often?  Because of 9/11?  Because he was a “War President”?  Is Obama not a “War President”?  Bush campaigned on bipartisanship and then acted entirely partisan when in office, and what was the response?  There was a public call for national unity and Democrats bowed to his every wish and command.  Obama campaigned on bipartisanship and then sought bipartisanship in office, and what was the response?  There was Fox News attack-fest and the Republicans went into obstructionist mode.

When I look at what goes for mainstream liberalism, it seems fairly moderate.  There are, of course, the polls that show most Americans favor a moderate form of progressivism, but that isn’t entirely what I mean by this.  Obama seeks bipartisanship and his actions seem to be pretty much a carryover from Bush.  Obama is a progressive in words only.  Obama is just a politician.  The so-called liberal media bias is only liberal in that it supports a liberal status quo.  Mainstream America is slightly liberal and the media reflects that and shapes it to an extent, but there aren’t any flaming communists or populist progressives in the mainstream media.  Social liberalism is just the natural tendency of modern society.  Democratic and capitalistic idealism tends lead towards social liberalism.  It isn’t any scheme of the “liberal elite”.

On the other hand, when I look at mainstream conservatism, it’s been moving towards more extreme manifestations.  Maybe this is just the fundamentalist response to modernism as many have pointed out (e.g., Karen Armstrong).  Ever since taking up the Southern Strategy, conservatives have been fighting against the liberalizing elements of modern society.  They do succeed to an extent in obstructing and in riling up populist anger, but they seem to be fighting against the very nature of our society.  Some conservatives try to explain their failure by claiming Republicans such as Bush have moved away from true conservatism.  That is fair as far as it goes, but true conservatism hasn’t been allowed within the GOP for a very long time.  What I consider true conservatism are the “live and let live” libertarians.  The people who don’t want other people trying to control their lives and tell them what to do… whether it’s big government, big business, or big religion.  Despite what they may think, the moral conservatives aren’t the true conservatives.  The desire to control public morality inevitably leads to big government and the oppression of civil rights.

Maybe liberals have strayed just as far from true liberalism… I don’t know.  I guess that I tend to emphasize social liberalism which oddly can at times be fairly in line with true conservatism.  I think of social liberalism as being true liberalism.  From my perspective, true conservatism and true liberalism have more in common than either have to their mainstream equivalents.  The mainstream equivalents do talk the talk (Republicans call for smaller government and Democrats call for progressive change), but they don’t walk the walk.  I’m more forgiving towards the Democrats in that they seem closer in their ideology to the actual emerging public opinion.  Republicans too often just complain about the world, and their attempt to portray their complaint as populist is unfounded.

My ultimate bias towards liberalism isn’t in liberal ideology itself but in the overall liberal attitude.  I’m an intellectual liberal which isn’t necessarily the same thing as a political liberal.  However, there seems more similarity between the two than not.  Mainstream liberals seem on average to be more intellectually respectable than mainstream conservatives.  You can find intellectual liberalism within the conservative movement.  Buckley attempted to make conservatism more intellectually respectable, but Bush was definitely the intellectual bottom of the barrel.  Nowadays, within the conservative movement, the best examples of intellectual liberalism probably can be found among the libertarians.  The problem is that the intellectually liberal libertarians recently haven’t had a place at the GOP table.  Instead, the anti-intellectuals have become the loudest voices of the conservative movement.  That bugs me more than anything.

I’m fine with someone calling Keith Olbermann a ranting pundit if they so wish, but Olbermann isn’t merely the leftwing equivalent of Glenn Beck.  Unlike Beck, Olbermann isn’t an anti-intellectual.  Even the more intellectual conservatives on Fox News such as Bill O’Reilly don’t seem all that impressively intellectual.  I haven’t come across a popular rightwing equivalent of Noam Chomsky, for instance.  I’m not saying that all conservatives are stupid, but I am saying the smart conservatives tend not to be as popular within the mainstream conservative movement.

So, if more conservatives were willing to embrace intellectuality instead of moral righteousness, then I’d be a lot less critical of the conservative movement.  My complaint isn’t against conservatism as a general category.  True conservatism, in fact, seems quite appealing to me.  I wish more conservatives would think for themselves.  I see the Tea Party being promoted by the Republican Fox News and being taken over by the Republican agenda.  I’d love to see a true conservative protest movement.  When liberals protested the Iraq War, no media outlet promoted the movement and the protest remained independent of mainstream politics.  During Bush’s reign, you had to look to the Peace Protests in order to find the true conservative outcasts.  But, now in Obama’s reign, it seems true liberals have less of an outcast status.

Liberals seem more willing to embrace difference and self-criticism.  If there had been as many conservative critics of Bush as there are now liberal critics of Obama, then we might’ve been able to avoid at least some of the mess we now find ourselves in.  I’m critical of conservatives lack of criticalness (and by criticalness I don’t mean calling Democrats names), but maybe it’s just not in the nature of conservatives to be self-critical.

Tea Party, Liberal Elite, & Conspiracy Theories

I was having a discussion (in the comments of an Amazon.com book review) with someone who seems fairly conservative but who says they aren’t Republican.  This person’s views of liberals, however, seem traditionally conservative and this person didn’t make any statements that would contradict mainstream Republican views.  The review in question was of a book by Cleon Skousen who has been popularized by Glenn Beck.  So, it’s likely this person is either a Beckhead or a Tea Party protester… or maybe they just heard of Skousen through the conservative grapevine. 

The 5,000 Year Leap.jpgSkousen is representative of the far right in his association with the John Birch Society.  The John Birch Society was so far right that the staunch conservative Buckley kicked them out of the conservative movement.   Skousen was mostly a forgotten name until the recent rise of the Tea Party (or rather its recent promotion by Fox News).

My understanding is that the Tea Party was originally inspired by Ron Paul’s libertarian movement. 

The Republicans saw Ron Paul as competition because he is closer to traditional conservatism than they are.  Beck helped undermine Ron Paul’s movement, but later apologized after Beck had become the de facto leader of the Tea Party.  Beck is a dissatisfied Republican who has turned to conservative thinkers such as Skousen who have been kept outside the Republican fold for decades, and apparently now that Buckley is gone those outside the fold are trying to get back in again.  There is a weird struggle going on between the Republicans and the Tea Partiers, but unfortunately no matter which side wins the libertarians will be the losers.  I saw a poll that showed Republicans considered libertarians only slightly less negatively than liberals.

I can see some attraction to libertarians such as Ron Paul and I sympathize some of the Tea Party’s complaints (even if not the ideological targets of their complaints).  Even so, I just can’t stand Glenn Beck.  I partly just don’t like Beck’s lack of intellectual depth (along with his fear-mongering and race-baiting), but more annoying is that Beck works for Fox News.  Fox News is headed by Roger Ailes who has for decades been one of the major players in the Republican party (much credit can be given to him for the success of movement conservatism).  I think Fox News’ interest in the Tea Party is a Republican ploy to take over this movement of dissent… which would mean the genuine complaints would get lost in talking points of Republican campaigning. 

Despite the loony wingnuts, my sense is that there probably are quite a few reasonable and maybe even moderate people within the Tea Party movement.  A while back, I posted a video (several videos in fact along with my own commentary) of someone who seemed reasonable and was complaining about what happened to the Tea Party once it was popularized (and practically taken over) by Fox News.  Here is the video in question:

According to a Pew poll, the demographic that is the most loyal Fox News audience are rich white men… which also happens to be the demographic of those who run Fox News (how convenient).  So, I don’t think Fox News actually has the average Tea Party protester’s best interests in mind nor do I think Fox News is genuinely promoting the complaints that drew many people to the Tea Party movement.

I may be a liberal, but I have libertarian leanings and I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy.  During Bush’s administration, the liberals and libertarians joined together to protest the Iraq war.  What did Fox News do?  It (meaning the Fox News pundits such as Beck) defended the administration, ridiculed the protesters, dismissed the 9/11 families, and categorized Truthers as loony conspiracy theorists.  Ron Paul was against the Iraq war which is a major reason he attracted the ire of Republicans and Fox News.  The Peace Protest movement was even larger than the present Tea Party movement.  Republicans and Fox News thought protesters were the scum of the earth, but when a Democratic president was elected based on a populist message of hope by a majority of Americans all of a sudden Fox News overtly started advertising for and generally promoting the Tea Party protests.  Fox News was fine with the Patriot Act and only now do they worry about the government having too much power?  Pardon me if I think this is a bit disingenuous.

So, Beck has been doing his best to popularize conspiracy theories and make them respectable once again for the conservative movement.  The problem is that, in becoming dissatisfied with the GOP, Beck just went even further right.  I prefer my conspiracy theorists to be equally critical of both the left and the right.  Forget Beck.  Give me Alex Jones.  Compared to Beck, Alex Jones’ theories seem quite reasonable to me.  Alex Jones truly stands outside of the mainstream and doesn’t pull any punches.  It’s easy to see the biases of Alex Jones, but Beck is different as he works within mainstream media.  Considering that Beck paid by the rightwing spin machine (otherwise known as Fox News), I can’t even know to what extent he is being honest or, even if he does genuinely try to be honest, to what extent he is being manipulated by his corporate handlers.  Fox News is run by News Corp which is one of the wealthiest and most powerful transnational corporations in the world.  If there is a worldwide conspiracy, I’m sure News Corp is one of powers behind it.

Better than Alex Jones even, give me Robert Anton Wilson or Art Bell.  Robert Anton Wilson made conspiracy theories truly entertaining.  Art Bell, of course, is one of the greatest libertarian talk show hosts to ever be on air and he is a true libertarian… a “live and let live” kind of guy with a strong dose of openminded curiosity.  Art Bell said Fox News sucks for its treatment of Ron Paul.

I started listening to Art Bell back in the 1990s.  I wasn’t even all that interested in politics at that time.  I suppose I’ve always been fairly liberal in my predisposition, but it’s only been in recent years that I’ve researched politics enough to have any clear opinions.  I don’t remember exactly when I started getting more interested in politics.  I remember attending some political meetings at the University, but other than sating my curiosity I didn’t care too much about any of it.  I saw OutFoxed when it came out and that was my first awareness of blatant media bias and political spin.

The one and only time I voted for a president was for Nader in 2000.  The reason I voted for Nader was because I heard him speak.  It was the only time in my life when felt convinced that a politician genuinely believed in what he was doing.  Nader seemed like a truly moral person.  My voting for him wasn’t an ideological decision but was instead based on an assessment of his character.  For whatever reason, not even Obama inspired me as much.  Obama made inspiring speeches, but Nader inspired me simply for what I sensed about who he was.  I have no desire to vote for the lesser of two evils and I refuse to play the rigged two-party game… not that I dislike Obama (I actually do like him as a person to some extent) and I can think of many people who would make much worse presidents (ahem, Palin).

The only political movement I ever was involved with was the Peace protests.  At the University of Iowa, students and locals had set up a Peace Camp and they were there for quite a while.  I hung out at the camp almost every day even when it was cold.  It was the first time I felt like I was a part of something that mattered.  Bush, of course, was the worst kind of politician.  I’m drawn to pacifist idealism, but more importantly it seemed obvious to me how the Bush administration was lying.  I still don’t understand why Bush’s lies weren’t questioned much at the time even by supposedly liberally-biased mainstream media.  Even today, many conservatives still believe some of Bush’s lies that have been disproven for years.  It truly bewilders me.  And the Patriot Act… my God!  The Patriot Act almost made me lose all hope.

It was funny that at the time when everyone was blaming Nader voters for Bush’s election.  I knew Bush was bad news, but I had a theory about how good might come out of it.  Even before Bush was voted into office, I knew he would be one of the worse presidents and I thought that it likely could lead to inspiring liberals to put forth a truly progressive presidential candidate later on.  It turns out that I was more or less correct in that Obama’s progressive message indeed did get popular support after the horrors of the Bush regime.  However, I didn’t predict how the horrors of Bush would linger on even after he was gone (Patriot Act, Guantanamo, etc).  I didn’t believe in Obama’s hope hype, but I did want to believe that change was actually possible.  I’m open to the hypothetical scenario that Obama might live up to his own progressive speechmaking, but going by his record so far it doesn’t appear all that likely.  This is one time when I wish my cynicism would prove wrong.

These days, I’m not involved in politics at all other than writing about it.  Obama and Bush, Republican and Democrat… it all seems the same to me or not all that different anyways.  I just think of myself as a curious observer.  I still listen to Art Bell’s show but now it’s hosted by someone else.  Over the years, I have at times noted the wide spectrum of the audience of Coast to Coast AM.  The callers and guests consist of liberals, new age gurus, pro-drug activists, Wiccan priestesses, Satan worshippers, Catholic preists, libertarians, conservatives, conspiracy theorists, cranks of various sorts, and even time travellers from the future.  The slant of the show, since Art Bell started it, has always seemed socially liberal and politically libertarian.  Art Bell himself used to be married to a Wiccan and he was the prototypical independent-minded libertarian.

I’ve recently been thinking about Coast to Coast AM in terms of the Tea Party.  Art Bell was a supporter of Ron Paul.  I suspect that libertarians and Tea Partiers probably represent a significant portion of Art Bell’s fan base.  I’m also a fan of Art Bell, but I’m always wary of conservative libertarians adoration of Ayn Rand and I’m even more wary of the Beckhead Tea Baggers.  On the other hand, I don’t think of myself as a Democrat.  Many Democrats hate Nader voters like me as much as Republicans once hated Ron Paul supporters.  I feel like I’m in a weird niche.  The closest I come to finding a view that I identify with might be Noam Chomsky, but I recently met a Chomsky fan who was a rabid atheist and I don’t much like rabid atheists.

Part of me wishes I could be a libertarian, but in the US the libertarian movement has been taken over by pro-capitalists and the religious right.  Of the conservative libertarians, I’d prefer the pro-capitalists because at least some of them are socially liberal.  I read Ayn Rand in college.  I liked her fiction somewhat, but then I read her nonfiction and it really turned me off.  I just don’t understand the proseletyzing of free market idealism.  As I see it, a free market has never existed and probably never will.  Yeah, it looks good in theory… many things look good in theory.

Maybe I should just forget about all of the various movements and just think of myself as an independent. 

I think I was happier when Republicans were in power.  Republicans are just blatantly evil in how they abused power.  Democrats in some ways just seem more sneaky.  Plus, with Democrats in power, the libertarian movement has become even more conservative because of all the people no longer wanting to identify with the failed and failing GOP. 

It pisses me off.  I’ve been a critic of mainstream politics for much of my adult life.  I’ve always been attracted to conspiracy theories about secret societies, alphabet soup agencies, the military-industrial complex, the Federal Reserve, and the One World Government.  I can’t say I necessarily believe in any given conspiracy theory, but the general attitude appeals to me.  I can’t stand that the likes of Beck has become the mainstream representative of conspiracy theories.  Beck may be mainstream, but he is more whacko than some of the cranks that I’ve heard Art Bell inteview.  I’m sure Beck means well and all.  It’s just that he seems like a dupe.  Maybe I’m being overly critical.  Am I wrong to mistrust the change of heart of a supporter of Bush and the Patriotic Act?  Beck says he leans towards libertarianism, but I’ve never heard him criticize imprisoning American citizens as enemy combatants or criticize the torture of suspects that may or may not be terrorists.  If that is leaning towards libertarianism, I’m sure glad Beck isn’t leaning away from libertarianism.  How can Beck be considered the voice of populist dissent, the defender of constitutional rights?

Okay… there was a point to all of this.  My thinking was partly incited by the discussion I mentioned at the beginning of the post.  The person (who I shall call “he” from now on) I was debating seems like a typical conservative in seeing liberal bias everywhere.  He mentioned the documentary Indoctrinate U which is available in it’s entirety on Youtube.

The person on Amazon.com seems reasonably intelligent and capable of critical thinking to some extent, but his views of liberals is rather simplistic… maybe he hadn’t been exposed to many liberals besides encounters with strangers on the internet and portrayals of “libruls” on Fox News.  I assume that this documentary represents his own views as he seemed to be using it to support his arguments.  This is the type of conservative that befuddles me.  He says he isn’t a Republican even while espousing very conservative views.  He seems somewhat moderate in his attitude all the while saying he wants to read Skousen who represents extreme conservative bias.  All in all, he seems be in the general vicinity of the audience of Fox News (which apparently exists in an alternative dimension from the one I happen to occupy).

I’m fine with criticisms and disagreement.  I’m not one to denounce Beck or the Tea Partiers for feeling that the government doesn’t represent them.  I agree with their general sentiments.  I agree that there is a bias in the media and in education and in the mainstream in general, but what is up with seeing a conspiracy everywhere which is led by some kind of liberal elite (be they Socialists, Communists, Marxists, or Nazis… or, even worse, maybe all of them combined).

I found some decent critiques of Indoctrinate U.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/yet-once-more-political-correctness-on-campus/

http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2008/03/indoctrinate_u_was_it_fair_an.html

http://www.campusprogress.org/soundvision/1562/campus-con

I did end up watching the entire documentary.  Basically, it’s a conservative version of a Michael Moore production but not quite as entertaining.  Many examples are presented with little context.  In response to one of the reviews, the maker of the documentary admitted to being biased and thought it unfair for someone to criticize his bias.

Why is it so hard for people to look at the real sources of oppression and propaganda?  What is the point of blaming one party or another, one president or another, one mainstream news source or another?  One group wants to blame big government and the other group wants to blame big business, but a little bit of research shows that there isn’t any great distinction between the two.  The family and financial connections, the revolving door, the inherited wealth and social position… power is power.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Conservatives buy guns in fear that the liberal elite are going to destroy democracy or something, but who are they going to point the gun at?  When the oppressive forces come (assuming they aren’t already here and haven’t been here for a long time), they’ll come for conservatives and liberals alike.  Anyways, I doubt even the gun-toting paranoids will see them coming because the new form of political oppression probably won’t come by overt force. 

There is no liberal propaganda scheme to brainwash the children of conservatives.  The professors and news reporters really aren’t all that liberal (compared to true socialists and progressives) and anyways most of them are just as deceived (or more so) than the rest of us.  The conspiracy (whatever it may be) is systemic to our entire society.  This is why someone like Derrick Jensen probably is closer to grasping the actual conspiracy than any outright conspiracy theorist.

Why are conservatives so afraid of the government now with Obama in Washington?  Obama hasn’t even come close to passing anything as scary as the Patriot Act.  Obama is no more a Communist than any other president.  I just don’t get all of this paranoid fear-mongering.  Yes, there are real things to be afraid of, but I don’t see much point to all of this blind rage and righteousness, all of this ideological warring.  Many, many people have been warning about conspiracies for decades… yet we’re all still here and the political game continues.  What is behind this sudden sense of urgency?  Is it just the economic downturn that gets conservatives all riled up?  Mess with their jobs, their money, their houses… and there will be a revolution.

Okay, whatever… good luck with that.

Iraq War: righteous cause?

I was thinking about righteousness as it relates to righteous causes.  Righteousness often plays out in politics in terms of patriotrism, and patriotistm often plays out in terms of war. 

As an example, the peace protests that were against the invasion of Iraq were the largest and fastest growing of any anti-war movement in American history, and the most widespread and most well organized in world history.  It had become well organized before the war even started which is very unusual.  It took years for the Vietnam war protests to even begin to gather popular support. 

The anti-war movement gained much support even internationally.  Many political and religious leaders (including heads of states and even the Vatican) around the world have officially opposed the war and occupation of Iraq.  Around 90% of non-Americans in the world are against unilateral action by the US without UN sanction.  Around 3 million people were caculated to be in Rome protesting the war which Guinness Book of Records claims is the largest ever anti-war rally.  In a 3 month period in 2003, it was calculated that 36 million people worldwide participated in 3,000 protests.

In America, since 2005, opponents of the war have outnumbered supporters.  But even before the war started the vast majority (around 70%) of Americans opposed going to war without allowing the UN inspections to finish.  Also, at least 64 US city councils have passed anti-war resolutions (which includes major cities of middle America such as Chicago and Detroit) and some major US religious organizations have passed anti-war resolutions (such as the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops).

What did the government do in response?  Initially, the government’s righteous rhetoric just became more loud.  The Bush administration ignored the opposition and went to war anyways.  Bush saw that his base supported it, and ignored the fact that for instance most blacks and hispanics didn’t.  Bush also ignored the UN and ignored popular opinion in the world at large.  Bush hoped the dissent would disappear if he just ignored it long enough, but it only kept growing.  And the Democrats in Washington were afraid to represent many of of those in their own base who were in opposition to Bush’s patriotic call to arms.  So, no one in power supported this large and ever growing larger anti-war movement.  Furthermore, many US news sources (Fox News in particular) tried their best to ignore and downplay the anti-war protests (even though they’ve given plenty of attention to much smaller protest movements that support the Republican party).

The Iraq war was justified for two reasons (a claim of connections to 9/11 terrorists and a claim of weapons of mass destruction) both of which turned out to be either lies or unforgivable ignorance.  We’ve torn a country a part out of a sense of vengeance at having a couple of buildings knocked down.  Millions of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed, injured, and orphaned so as to free them from Saddam who was supposed to be somehow connected the 9/11 attacks that killed less than 3,000.  But it doesn’t matter because Iraqis are elsewhere.  Iraqis hold no great power in the world, and if it weren’t for oil no one would care about them.

Anyways, it was the American government who in the first place helped Saddam and Bin Laden gain power.  Where is America’s righteousness when morality only applies when the situation is convenient?  It’s not just Iraqis who have suffered because of the US invasion and occupation.  From this site, here are the recent statistcs for deaths in Iraq:

Iraqi troops killed [13] 30,000 Iraqi troops seriously injured [14] 90,000 Iraqi civilians killed [15] 697,523 Iraqi civilians seriously injured [16] 1,255,541 U.S. troops killed [17] 4,343 U.S. troops seriously injured [18] 31,156 Other coalition troops killed [19] 318 Other coalition troops seriously injured [20] 10,821 Contractors killed [21] 933 Contractors seriously injured [22] 10,569 Journalists killed [23] 163 Journalists seriously injured [24] unknown Total killed in Iraq: 733,280 Total injured in Iraq: 1,398,087

Although, a Reuters article argues that the contractor deaths are being undercounted and that this is important as the military is increasingly relying on contractors.

In a Wahington Post article, it was pointed out that certain improvements in the military have had unforeseen consequences.  Better armor and better medical care have saved many lives, but this means that there has been a massive increase of soldiers surviving horrific injuries.  This has led to many more veterans coming home with severe physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  A related issue is that 52% of injured soldiers have traumatic brain injuries (TBI).  Beyond the more publicized injuries, there is an even greater subtle menace.  The US troops have used massive amounts of depleted uranium in the Iraq war.  This depleted uranium is in many populated areas which leads to deaths and birth defects for Iraqis, but it also means many US veterans will end up dying from cancer later on.

Furthermore, there are some more results that I find even more depressing.  There are extremely high numbers of soldiers and veterans committing suicide, and many veterans end up unemployed or even homeless.  Among the homeless, one out of every 3 is a veteran even though veterans are only around 10% of the US population.  Most of these veterans are from Vietnam, but homeless younger veterans are increasing in numbers and no one knows how many there are.  All of this relates to high rates of crime (with the highest rates being violence and sexual assault), alcoholism, and drug addiction.  Interestingly, I was reading about how the military has made a practice of giving prescription drugs to soldiers in the field to help them deal with the stress and trauma.  Vietnam veterans used to self-medicate, but now the military keeps our soldiers drugged up so that they’ll be more properly (or at least temporarily) numbed to the horrors of war.

The Iraq war has been a very damaging war.  Despite the majority being critical of the war, it often seems like there is very little outrage (or very little heard in the media) about the tragic results.  It’s largely because the government has been very controlling of the information it releases and very controlling of the media.  The media has allowed itself to be controlled (such as embedded journalists), has allowed itself to be used for purposes of propaganda (partly by self-censoring).  We don’t see the visceral images of death and destruction which were seen during the Vietnam war and which changed public opinion at that time.  Without pictures, it doesn’t entirely feel real.  Abstract data doesn’t incite the moral indignation of the public.

The War on Terror continues, the anti-war movement has lost its momentum, and the American public have become resigned.  The Iraq War is just about to overtake the American Revolutionary War as the third longest war and the War in Afghanistan is getting closer to being the longest war in US history.  Right now Obama is trying to decide what to do next with a war he inherited, a war that is impossible to win.

So, this is where political faux righteousness leads.  My point for bringing all of that up is to show how the anti-war movement is an example of how a genuinely righteous populist movement can be suppressed.  And it’s just one of endless examples.