by Joe Shea
November 12, 2015
THE FOREVER WAR
BRADENTON, Fla., Nov. 12, 2015 == I believe it was retired Gen. John Allen who told CNN today that the war against ISIS "will go on forever." But we need to stop it. Soon.
Randolph Holhut has written in this journal of endless war; he thinks it is bred by the martial personality of the U.S. government and its self-propelled military expansion, fueled by bipartisan policy-makers who are beholden to the huge defense industry manufacturers whose bread and butter flows from the armaments of war.
Our last three wars are the longest in our nation's history; only Vietnam, a war never declared, has ended; in one way or another, two more undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan go on, with us and almost, but not quite, without us. We fought in Vietnam from as early as 1959 to 1975, or 16 years (that span of years includes the first advisors sent by Eisenhower, and those of Kennedy). From those modest seeds, hundreds of thousands of casualties grew. In the new wars, the casualties - the dead and the wounded - surpass a million, and they're only 12 or 13 years old..
We've just introduced 50 Special Forces "advisors" into the war against ISIS and their proposed caliphate, the fifth in Islamic history. In my 2009 article, "The War Against the Caliphate," written while Osama Bin Laden was still alive, I warned that fighting ISIS in the presumption that superior military power would always out was incorrect, because the Fifth Caliphate is in fact an idea buttressed by ideas whose combined power is enormous.
There are certainly plenty of arms, knives, grenades and other instruments of war employed by ISIS, whose brutal tactics of burning, beating, raping and beheading innocents don't seem to be the stuff of philosophers or of the traditional world of ideas.
Just hours ago, in fact, "senior U.S. officials" have told CNN that the infamous ISIS executionaer "Jihadi John" was killed in a vehicle in Raqqa, Syria, by a drone strike operated by specialists at Fort Bragg, N.C. No one thinks it will affect the outcome of the war, but it is as much our style to sing the praises of those who killed him as it is to mourn the loss of those he killed.
But ISIS, of course, is unmoved. Losses only feed the bloodlust that is idealized by ISIS as a pathway to martyrdom and mere steps in their progress toward the domination of the Middle East.
Now that not only Russia, the U.S., Iran and Syria but the Chinese are fighting ISIS, the specter of World War III and the biblical Armageddon is gathering a great crowd of pessimists together to witness the End of Days, a theme our movie industry has been developing in a serial narrative, story and plot line for the past 30 years.
Encouraged by the doomsday rhetoric of hard-line Chrisitan preachers, who actually inspire some of the novelists and movie-makers who knit the fabric of catastrophe in our emptiest imaginations, we have an idea of our own. But it is probably not the idea we want to fight ISIS'es idea with.
And that, indeed, is the question that compels this essay: What is our idea, or what idea can we create, that can thwart their idea? In 2009 I proposed that the answer might be to acknowledge the existence of the "Islamic State," as they prefer to call their caliphate. By doing so, we hang them with all the abundant unnecessary trappings of statehood, like the need for ambassadors and peace talks.
The war in Vietnam ended with the victory of the North Vietnamese when they drove us madly out of Saigon, but that was the victory of a state that, parenthetically, went from rogue to rebel to revolutionary to regularity, or a passable version of it. We trade with them, make their country a tourist destination, enjoy its golden beaches in blessed sunshine, bemoan its cheap labor and gape at its economic success, even as we play in the graveyard of 58,000 young American men.
Is that what ISIS is shooting for? Or, when their imaginations become fevered by its glorious future, do they see neat rows of devoted Muslims praying on their knees all at once in cities studded with golden minarets and massive mosques, where every woman is hidden away from temptation, handless thieves populate the prisons, and the bloody heads of Christians and crusaders decorate the fenceposts that surround their earthly Paradise?
There is no question that there are better ideas. Can they be shaped like torpedoes to explode in the minds of Islamic extremists? Where would they get their motive force? As a messiah named Jesus gave us the original energy of His life that engendered a billion Christians, can a new Osama arise that leads ISIS to a peaceable Caliphate? Can our songs and poetry and plays and novels and newspaper stories and plays infest the closed culture of ISIS and make it rethink itself?
Can CD-mounted drones bring deafening rap music and sonorous 'Ave Maria' to spark the rhythms of ISIS men and make them dance or dream along their deadly paths? Can pot, LSD, heroin, methamphetamines. crack and hallucinogens - and perhaps a mountain of Percocet and Rohypnol - rained down on their positions overcome them? Can an army of optimists invade their websites and smartphones and Twitter and Facebook feeds so effectively that ISIS recruits collapse into the supine bliss of sexting high school kids?
Maybe that's what we need: A horde of ISIS warmongers, all high on speed, gnashing their teeth and devouring hash brownies, listening to NWA, busting into mosques to singing the praises of the new Mahdi, Osama bin Mohammed. Disorder - that's the idea, and we've got plenty of it.
Joe Shea founded the American Reporter in April 1995 with members of the Society of Professional Journalists General Journalism Discussion List (SPJ-L). At that time, it became the first original online daily news site in the world, and is now the oldest. He was the victim of a terrorist bomb in December, 1971, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he was reporting for the Village Voice.
* * * ON NATIVE GROUND
+ by Randolph T. Holhut Dummerston, Vt. November 5, 2015 socialism 642/$6.42 DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM: AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Pundits still get a case of the vapors when Bernie Sanders calls himself a "democratic socialist."
What Sanders calls "democratic socialism" used to be known as the New Deal (under Roosevelt), the Fair Deal (under Truman), the postwar consensus (under Eisenhower) and the Great Society (under Johnson).
Back when Democrats had spines and still could call themselves friends of working Americans with a straight face, they co-opted many of the ideas and policies first proposed by socialist candidates such as Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas.
When we think of the things that came to be taken for granted in the prosperous years between the end of World War II and the end of the Vietnam War - old age pensions, the minimum wage, the right to unionize, child labor laws, the progressive income tax, consumer protection laws, health care for the poor and aged - socialists first proposed them.
Unfortunately, the reactionaries during the Cold War era succeeded in getting people to equate socialism with communism, even though there is a huge difference between the two.
Communism has totalitarianism at its core. But democratic socialism is about social and economic equality, and giving all people a voice and a stake in the great experiment in self-government that our nation was founded upon.
Sanders likes to say that if you want to live the American Dream today, you have to go to Denmark, Sweden or Norway to do it. That's because those countries have a higher standard of living that the United States, and didn't turn their backs on providing a strong social safety net - as our nation has done from the 1980s onward.
In those three social democracies, no one fears going bankrupt if they get sick, for they have universal health care. No fears graduating from college with crushing debts, because higher education is free. The poverty rate is much lower. The environment is much cleaner. Labor unions are strong, as is public participation in the political process.
If you think businesses avoid Scandinavia at all costs, Forbes magazine recently ranked Denmark as the best country to do business in; Sweden was No. 5 and Norway was No. 7. The United States came in at No. 18.
It might seem counterintuitive to those who equate socialism with being anti-business. But in most social democracies, private enterprise does just fine, as long as they follow the rules and act in a responsible way.
But those in power love the current American political system where money equals free speech and voting laws keep the poor, the young, and the elderly away from the polls.
They believe in their God-given right to make as much money as possible - social responsibility be damned - and oppose the idea of paying workers a livable wage with paid sick days, vacations, and parental leave.
They resist the idea of safety regulations for your workplace as the "nanny state" - interfering with your bottom line - and think the idea of higher taxes to pay for infrastructure repair, higher education, health care, and other social welfare programs comes straight from the bowels of Hell.
Democratic socialism is the antidote for this brand of extreme capitalism.
A country that looks less like an oligarchy and more like a democracy, that reduces the influence of the wealthy and corporations over every aspect of our lives, and that offers everyone a fair chance at living a productive life, is what democratic socialism is all about.
That is why all the attempts by today's reactionaries to equate democratic socialism with communism are falling on deaf ears. People have seen what the past couple of decades of corporate domination has given us. They see who benefits in a winner-take-all economy where the rules are rigged against the average person.
And when they hear Sanders' policy agenda, it doesn't sound communist. It sounds 100 percent American.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.