Endless war served by endless distraction

Glenn Greenwald writes:

The Washington Post woke up a few days ago and realized that despite everything that has happened since 9/11 — no successful Terrorist attacks on the Homeland in 10 years, a country mired in debt and imposing “austerity” on ordinary Americans, and the election of a wonderfully sophisticated, urbane, progressive multinationalist from the storied anti-war Democratic Party — we are still smack in the middle of “the American era of endless war” with no end in sight.  Citing the Pentagon’s most recent assessment of global threats, the Post notes that in contrast to prior decades — when “the military and the American public viewed war as an aberration and peace as the norm” (a dubious perception) — it is now clear, pursuant to official doctrine, that “America’s wars are unending and any talk of peace is quixotic or naive,” all as part of “America’s embrace of endless war in the 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001.” 

We are now enduring a parade of wistful, contemplative, self-regarding pundit-meditations on The Meaning of 9/11 Ten Years Later or, far worse, self-righteous moralizing screeds about the nature of “evil” from war zealots with oceans of blood on their unrepentant hands (if I could impose one media rule, it would be that following every column or TV segment featuring American political commentators dramatically unloading their Where-I-Was-on-9/11-and-how-I-felt tales, there would be similar recollections offered from parents in the Muslim world talking about how their children died from the pre-9/11 acts of the U.S. and its client states or from post-9/11 American bombs, drones, checkpoint shootings and night raids:  just for the sake of “balance,” which media outlets claim to crave).  Notwithstanding this somber, collective 9/11 anniversary ritual descending upon us, the reality is that the nation’s political and media elite learned no lessons from that attack. 

The mere utterance of the word Terrorism (which now means little more than: violence or extremism by Muslims in opposition to American or Israeli actions and interests) is — at least for America’s political and media class — as potent in justifying wars, civil liberties assaults, and massive military spending as it was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.  And worship of the American military and all that it does — and a corresponding taboo on speaking ill of it except for tactical critiques (it would be better if they purchased this other weapon system or fought this war a bit differently) — is the closest thing America has to a national religion.

But it’s not merely the existence of ongoing Endless War that is so destructive — both to the nation perpetrating it on the world and to its victims.  Far worse is what is being done to prosecute that war, the transformation of government institutions and their relationship to the citizenry to sustain it, and, most enduringly of all, the mentality that it has spawned and entrenched.

In his conclusion, Greenwald says, “Renouncing the duty of holding accountable political leaders who exercise vast power makes one directly responsible for the abuses they commit.” But what is that facilitates this form of political indifference among most Americans?

First and foremost it springs from a profound and pervasive sense of impotence. Few people believe they have any real capacity to effect political change. So why take much interest in the contours of a political landscape over which one apparently exerts no influence?

Second, we witness that those who wield great power generally do so with impunity. However great their blunders, they never seem to pay any price. It’s easy enough to say that we should hold them accountable, but how exactly is this demand to be meaningfully expressed?

Third, the experience of powerlessness and the indifference this engenders feeds the desire for sensations which even if they are meaningless restore some feeling of our own existence. We both lose and find ourselves in endless distraction.

America’s endless wars continue not because we believe in them but because they have become nothing more than white noise in the background of the well-anesthetized American way of life.

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