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The United States and Its Dark Passenger, Part II: Act Of Valor

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The United States is finding the occupation of other nations more and more challenging. Witness the clueless US soldiers or contractors who burned a dozen Korans at the Bagram Air Force Base trash dump in Afghanistan. The uproar in response has only begun.

Then there were the ace troopers who filmed themselves urinating on corpses. And let's not forget the perplexing US assault that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Plus a host of other disasters. We're failing at Occupation 101. Economic challenges at home only add to the difficulty.

Meanwhile, as the US tries to control an occupation AND be the nice guy, dictators like Bashar Assad in Syria and Omar Bashir in Sudan employ classic scorched earth counter-insurgency tactics and hold onto power. In such a frustrating quandary, what is a poor superpower to do? Washington and Pentagon leaders have decided to fall back on what they feel the US does best: Secret killing.

In Part One of this story , I suggested there were similarities between the new US military doctrine of Special Ops hunter-killer teams and Dexter, the popular novel and TV character who is an upstanding police forensic expert by day and a gruesome psychopathic killer by night. Dexter calls his killer persona his "dark passenger," a killer "dressed in red, white and blue 100 percent synthetic virtue" who kills only people who deserve to die.

In Part Two, we go to Hollywood.


A Chinook and the August 6 wreckage in Afghanistan by unknown

The US government wants its war machine to look good when the budget crunch is on. So with our ten-year Iraq occupation going south and Afghanistan headed in that direction, it's understandable the Pentagon might want to shill its new, shiny War Doctrine in the marketplace of popular culture.

After two controversial wars, we're now watching a situation in which Israel could attack Iran, but do it so ineffectually that it would pull the US into what could snowball into a Third World War. This is happening in the context of the Arab Spring upheavals that suggest people around the world are rising up and demanding the removal of the repressive yokes around their necks. China and India and Brazil are on the way to being competitive peers in the capitalist rat race. This dynamic is already driving gasoline prices higher and higher. The future is getting very troublesome and foreboding to contemplate for the average American.

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So what better time to crank up the Pentagon propaganda machine and assault the popular American public mind with a thrilling distraction like Sylvester Stallone and Rambo, who single-handedly won the Vietnam War on the screen after the United States had failed to do it with millions of troops and materiel.


Tom Clancy, left, with retired General Anthony Zinni and the novelization cover by Unknown

I'll let Tom Clancy, the master, establish the nature of the new feature film Act Of Valor . Clancy wrote a preface to the novelization of the Act Of Valor screenplay by Kurt Johnstad. The novelization is now on grocery store thriller and romance shelves all across the nation. Although his name is in 60-point type at the top, Clancy, who has become an industry in himself, only "presents" the book, which was actually written by Dick Couch and George Goldorisi, whose names are in much smaller type at the bottom. Here's Clancy's opening sentence:

"Navy SEALs are Olympic athletes that kill people for a living."

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That's a marvel of a sentence that exploits admiration for the Olympics and the idea of athleticism at the pinnacle of excellence and then presents the killing of other human beings as the equivalent of an Olympic sport. Cool! It also establishes the reverent tone of the movie, which, as the advertising touts, is "the ultimate in action adventure ... starring active-duty Navy SEALs."

Clancy writes that when he heard that SEAL leadership was planning this movie and popular novelization he reached out to them. It seems he had no trouble getting his crack action thriller writing team the mission to produce the novelization. This thriller, we're told, is different from all the other assassin and serial killer thrillers on the grocery store shelf: This one is the real deal.

But is it?

There is really no way for the ordinary citizen to know if anything in the book is "real" as far as what an actual Navy SEAL hunter-killer team does, because SEAL activities are so absolutely secret, especially the unpleasant, illegal and embarrassing aspects of SEAL missions. What SEALs really do is not what's most real about this movie and book. What's most real about the movie and the book is that they are both pure forms of pop culture propaganda mobilized in the war to occupy the American mind.

The movie and book will certainly help the Pentagon obtain greater funding priority for its developing Special Ops program. Plus, ironically, cultural products like Act Of Valor will take the pressure off efforts to lift the government secrecy that keeps most Special Ops missions from public consciousness and, more importantly, reduces political accountability.

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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)
 

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