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Tomgram: David Swanson, All War All the Time

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I'm sad to report that Chalmers Johnson died on Saturday.  He was a stalwart of this site, writing for it regularly from its early moments.  Without the slightest doubt, he was one of the most remarkable authors I've had the pleasure to edit, no less be friends with.  He saw our devolving American world with striking clarity and prescience.  He wrote about it with precision, passion, and courage.  He never softened a thought or cut a corner.  I dedicated my new book to him, writing that he was "the most astute observer of the American way of war I know.  He broke the ground and made the difference."  I wouldn't change a word.  He was a man on a journey from Depression-era Arizona through the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and deep into a world in which the foundations of the American empire, too, began to shudder.  A scholar of Japan, one-time Cold Warrior, and CIA consultant, in the twenty-first century, he became the most trenchant critic of American militarism around.  I first read a book of his -- on Communist peasants in North China facing the Japanese "kill-all, burn-all, loot-all" campaigns of the late 1930s -- when I was 20.  I last read him this week at age 66.  I benefited from every word he wrote.  His  Blowback Trilogy  (BlowbackThe Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis.) will be with us for decades to come.  His final work, Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope, is a testament to his enduring power, even as his body was failing him. To my mind, his final question was this: What would the "sole superpower" look like as a bankrupt country?  He asked that question.  Nobody, I suspect, has the answer.  We may find out.  "Adios," he invariably said as he signed off on the phone.  Adios, Chal.  Tom]

These last years of blissful peace have left Republican Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, soon to be the new chair of the House Armed Services Committee, in a true panic. How, he wonders, will a starved military ever get the necessary money for the weapons it needs to keep us safe, and where exactly is that military heading, anyway?  "My concern is we end up back with a "bow and arrow' -- I'm hoping not," McKeon said about Obama-era austerity measures at the Pentagon.  Get ready America: the dovish days of the Obama presidency are over.  With the midterm elections successfully behind them, the hawks are taking flight and they're bound for Washington.

Don't you remember those halcyon days under Obama when we traded guns for butter, the military shrank, and peace was at hand?  Me neither.  These last years, of course, have seen the largest military budget in history, the repeated doubling down on one war, a pretend conclusion to another, the building up of the structure of U.S. military bases across the Greater Middle East and a massive build-up of such bases in Afghanistan, as well as the violent escalation of conflicts in nations not at war with the U.S., and record numbers of Special Forces troops -- the military's expanding secret military -- sent into 75 countries (15 more than at the end of the Bush era).

With doves like these, who needs hawks?  And yet, you're going to see a new batch of Republican hawks landing anyway.  There may be so many competitors, when it comes to war funding, that -- as David Swanson makes clear -- you won't know whether our conflicts are Obama's wars, McKeon's wars, or... well, you'll have plenty of choices when it comes to continuing to boost military budgets well beyond Bush-era levels.  TomDispatch regular Swanson, an antiwar organizer and all-around dynamo, who now runs the website War Is a Crime, among other things, is just publishing his latest book, War Is A Lie, as this post appears.  In his usual vigorous fashion, he takes on every argument used to justify war and all the lies we've unfortunately grown so painfully familiar with these last years.  Tom

The New War Congress 
An Obama-Republican War Alliance?
By David Swanson

To understand just how bad the 112th Congress, elected on November 2nd and taking office on January 3rd, is likely to be for peace on Earth, one has to understand how incredibly awful the 110th and 111th Congresses have been during the past four years and then measure the ways in which things are likely to become even worse. 

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Oddly enough, doing so brings some surprising silver linings into view.

The House and Senate have had Democratic majorities for the past four years.  In January, the House will be run by Republicans, while the Democratic majority in the Senate will shrink.  We still tend to call the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "Bush's wars."  Republicans are often the most outspoken supporters of these wars, while many Democrats label themselves "critics" and "opponents."

Such wars, however, can't happen without funding, and the past four years of funding alone amount to a longer period of war-making than U.S. participation in either of the world wars.  We tend to think of those past four years as a winding down of "Bush's wars," even though in that period Congress actually appropriated funding to escalate the war in Iraq and then the war in Afghanistan, before the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was reduced.

But here's the curious thing: while the Democrats suffered a net loss of more than 60 seats in the House in the midterm elections just past, only three of the defeated Democrats had voted against funding an escalation in Afghanistan this past July 27th.  Three other anti-war Democrats (by which I mean those who have actually voted against war funding) retired this year, as did two anti-war Republicans.  Another anti-war Democrat, Carolyn Kilpatrick of Michigan, lost in a primary to Congressman-elect Hansen Clarke, who is also likely to vote against war funding.  And one more anti-war Democrat, Dan Maffei from western New York, is in a race that still hasn't been decided.  But among the 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans who voted "no" to funding the Afghan War escalation in July, at least 104 will be back in the 112th Congress.

That July vote proved a high point in several years of efforts by the peace movement, efforts not always on the media's radar, to persuade members of Congress to stop funding our wars.  Still a long way off from the 218-vote majority needed to succeed, there's no reason to believe that anti-war congress members won't see their numbers continue to climb above 114 -- especially with popular support for the Afghan War sinking fast -- if a bill to fund primarily war is brought to a vote in 2011.

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Which President Will Obama Be in 2012?

The July funding vote also marked a transition to the coming Republican House in that more Republicans (160) voted "yes" than Democrats (148).  That gap is likely to widen.  The Democrats will have fewer than 100 House Members in January who haven't already turned against America's most recent wars.  The Republicans will have about 225.  Assuming a libertarian influence does not sweep through the Republican caucus, and assuming the Democrats don't regress in their path toward peace-making, we are likely to see wars that will be considered by Americans in the years to come as Republican-Obama (or Obama-Republican) in nature.

The notion of a war alliance between the Republicans and the president they love to hate may sound outlandish, but commentators like Jeff Cohen who have paid attention to the paths charted by Bill Clinton's presidency have been raising this possibility since Barack Obama entered the Oval Office.  That doesn't mean it won't be awkward.  The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), for example, is aimed at reducing the deployment and potential for proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Obama supports it.  Last week, we watched the spectacle of Republican senators who previously expressed support for the treaty turning against it, apparently placing opposition to the president ahead of their own views on national security.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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