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The Iraq Syndrome? AIPAC collides with Vietnam Syndrome's successor and Shatters

By       Message Richard Congress     Permalink
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Finally, the 2001 9/11 attack gave a free hand to those who wanted to unleash the dogs of war and, for the greater glory of fortress USA, to jump in and take over Iraq, Iran, the whole 9 yards. The seemingly easy conquest of Afghanistan and the illusory cakewalk of the US military into Baghdad had the political, business and talking head class euphoric. The Vietnam Syndrome is dead and now we can kick ass, take names and show the world who is boss! This neocon dream world took less than 10 years to evaporate. Now we are stuck with the reality of a wrecked, dysfunctional economy; a war on terror that has trashed democratic rights and seems to breed more "terrorists;" reduced US influence in the world; global revulsion against US militarism and world-wide obsessive spying, among other things.

It stands to reason that the recent experiences of constant war, a free fall of the general standard of living, and exposure of government spying and lying would make the US population surly about the prospect of even more war, surveillance and belt tightening. Put these factors together in a bag, shake them up, and Voila! You get the Iraq Syndrome.

There were some very large street demonstrations against the impending invasion of Iraq. Even though hundreds of thousands took part in the protests, it was not enough to stop or even slow the coming war. In the wake of 9/11 the country rallied behind the war drive. The opposition was in the minority.

Some people on the left said, "see, mass protests don't work anymore." But their point of view proved to be shallow and simplistic. If you don't get instant gratification, and then just give up, nothing will happen. It takes serious work and a long view of events to stand up to a full-throated war hysteria. And the question remains..."so, what's your alternative course of action, besides doing nothing?"

It would take years for the pro-war majority to fade...but fade it did. Pro-war sentiment eroded due to failure of the weapons of mass destruction to materialize, the armed struggle against the US occupation and the resulting US casualties, the massive costs, theft of US funds, and the extensive exposure of the lies that were told to stampede the country to war, among other factors. But the new disenchantment with war didn't happen automatically, anti-war activists and organized groups helped the process along by holding educational meetings, organizing demonstrations, distributing literature, etc...these are the things that progressive activists should do to increase anti-war and anti-imperialist sentiments.

This all leads to some conclusions: As a rule, people don't like war, particularly endless war that bears no relation to any supposed threat. The experience with the Iraq invasion and accompanying US military moves and possible moves (Libya, Syria, etc) has created renewed hostility to war in the country. We need to nurture this hostility and strengthen it. We have to be smart in the choice of our strategy and tactics: don't expect that the election of any party or politician will save us; we need independent organizations and coalitions to educate and to hold protests; we have to do the kind of actions that have the potential to make our movement grow and involve "regular" people, not just reassemble the usual leftist suspects, or engage in immature "more militant actions" (see the Black Block--a topic for a separate article) that spread confusion and push potential allies away.
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Another conclusion is that Chris Hedges in his recent article "The Menace of the Military Mind" is off the mark. He paints a fine picture of the psychopathic nature of the military mind, but he is wrong when he says:

"The U.S. military has won the ideological war. The nation sees human and social problems as military problems. To fight terrorists Americans have become terrorists. Peace is for the weak. War is for the strong. Hyper-masculinity has triumphed over empathy. We Americans speak to the world exclusively in the language of force. And those who oversee our massive security and surveillance state seek to speak to us in the same demented language. All other viewpoints are to be shut out. .."

They have not won the ideological war. They thought they had but the once-slain monster of the people's desire for peace has arisen and is skulking across the nation (or perhaps slouching towards Washington).

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adjunct professor teaching ESL in the CUNY system. Old '60s person: active in civil rights, anti vietnam war organizing, spent time in Nicaragua in the '80 & worked against US funding of contras. Currently focused on Palestine struggle for equal (more...)

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