Cartoon published by James Gillray in 1803 showing Napoleon in a fury over relations between France and England. (Credit: Library of Congress)
Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William Astore conveys the essence of America’s war on terror under the sign of addiction. War is a drug, and the US is addicted, metaphorically speaking.
In the realm of reality-defining language, terms intermingle and entangle. Thus, we declare a war on drugs while high on the drug of war, seemingly without noticing the irony. And while we are at it, we declare war on poverty and crime, anything actually. It’s a totalizing mindset that constitutes what Astore calls “America’s omnipresent war ethos.”
Addiction is a useful metaphor because it readily conveys how being high on war shuts down deliberation on foreign and domestic policy and replaces reflection with rage. (more…)
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of the Australian Parliament in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra on November 17, 2011. (Credit: Pete Souza / Wikimedia Commons)
Speaking to the Australian Parliament on November 17, 2011, as his administration declared its intention to pivot to Asia, President Obama expressed his commitment to peace. We “partner to keep peace,” he said. We seek a world in which “disagreements are resolved peacefully,” he insisted. “As we plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region. We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace,” he concluded.
What does the President mean by peace? Budgeting for war equals a commitment to peace?
Hunt the Devil is a timely and illuminating exploration of demonic imagery in US war culture. In it, Robert L. Ivie and Oscar Giner examine the origins of the Devil figure in the national psyche and review numerous examples from US history of the demonization of America’s perceived opponents. Their analysis demonstrates that American military deployments are often part of a cycle of mythical projection wherein the Devil repeatedly appears anew and must be exorcised through redemptive acts of war, even at the cost of curtailing democratic values.
Meticulously researched, documented, and argued, Hunt the Devil opens with contemporary images of the United States’ global war on terror in the aftermath of 9/11. In five chapters devoted to the demonization of evildoers, witches, Indians, dictators, and Reds by American writers in presidential rhetoric and in popular culture, Ivie and Giner show how the use of demonization in the war on…
Official logo of the videogame “Scarface: The World is Yours,” distributed by Vivendi Universal Games. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In the summer of 1980, in spite of race riots in Miami and the failed military mission to rescue the American hostages in Iran, the U.S. unleashed a vast and welcoming generosity upon the Mariel Cuban refugees.
Military planes carrying ambulances, trucks, tents, field kitchens, portable showers, mobile hospitals and tons of supplies were dispatched to refugee centers established in Florida and elsewhere across the nation. Refugees with families in the U.S. who could act as sponsors were quickly processed and released by immigration authorities. Those who confessed to crimes or prison histories in Cuba were sent to Federal Penitentiaries. Refugees who did not admit to felonies (confession was the only means of determining culpability), or who acknowledged crimes not considered serious in the U.S. (such as the crime of “killing a cow without government permission”), were held indefinitely in the camps.
By 15 May 1980, over 46,000 Cuban refugees had landed in the U.S., a number that would swell to 125,000 by the end of that summer. 2,000 of them were violent criminals; 22,000 were “non-felonious criminals and political prisoners.”(more…)
Graffiti art of Tony Montana. (Credit: redleaf / Wikimedia Commons)
By 1980 (35 years ago this summer), it was believed that all enemies of the Cuban Revolution were either dead, exiled or in jail.
On 1 April 1980, a public bus driver crashed a bus with all its passengers into the gates of the Peruvian embassy in Havana. A Cuban soldier on duty in front of the embassy was killed. The bus driver and passengers asked for political asylum. When the Cuban government requested the return of the asylum-seekers, the Peruvian ambassador refused to hand them over. Castro withdrew his armed protection from around the embassy building.
In less than a week, compelled by an unobstructed passage into the grounds of a foreign embassy, 10,000 Cubans flooded the Peruvian legation asking for political asylum. (more…)
“St. Peter’s Denial” by Rembrandt, oil on canvas, 1660. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Armand Gamache had always held unfashionable beliefs. He believed that light would banish the shadows. That kindness was more powerful than cruelty, and that goodness existed, even in the most desperate places. He believed that evil had its limits. But looking at the young men and women staring at him now, who’d seen something terrible about to happen and had done nothing, Chief Inspector Gamache wondered if he could have been wrong all this time.
Maybe the darkness sometimes won. Maybe evil had no limits.
–Louise Penny, How the Light Gets In (Minotaur Books, 2013), p. 271
Perhaps evil knows no limit. Who hasn’t come to that conclusion from time to time? Perhaps it feeds on kindness rather than succumbs to it. Perhaps the light of conscience flickers and eventually dies in the darkest recess of our collective psyche. Perhaps our fears and insecurities ultimately prevail over the impulse to goodness and compassion. (more…)
Battle of Chancellorsville, May 2-4, 1863; lithograph, Kurz and Allison, 1889. (Credit: Library of Congress)
John Keegan, the renowned British military historian, writes: “The American Civil War is one of the most mysterious great wars of history, mysterious because unexpected, mysterious also because of the intensity with which it took fire.” Among the war’s mysteries, he lists the following:
Why should men who lacked a rational interest in the war struggle so fiercely against Northerners who … were frequently not to be distinguished from their poor Southern opponents?
After all, Keegan notes, “many Southerners had no personal connection with slavery at all, neither as owners of slaves nor as employers of their labour. The considerable slave owners were … often resented by their non-slave-owning neighbours, though that did not deter them from joining in their thousands in the new Confederate army.” (more…)
“Battle of Kennesaw Mountain” by Kurz and Allison, c. 1891. (Credit: Library of Congress)
How exquisitely American, after a psychotic racist with a gun kills nine people who were studying the Bible in church, to address the incident not by taking guns away from psychos, or limiting their future access to guns, but by lowering a flag!
And what a historical flag! This is a flag which Southern Americans followed when fighting Union forces, an emblem of the cause that captured the devotion of fervent Christians like Stonewall Jackson and brilliant commanders such as Robert E. Lee.
Readers of this blog may remember that in a previous post (“On Waving Flags”) I confessed both my respect for flags and my general dislike of them. Future readers of our book, Hunt the Devil, will come to know that we warn against the perils of demonization of enemies and opponents as an activity that is conducive to war and detrimental to a vibrant democracy.
The problem with de-humanizations and devil hunts is not only that we distort the nature of our enemy to our disadvantage, but also that we fall prey to a fatal illusion: when we say that our enemy is evil, we also say that we are good. Since “they” are bad they do bad things; since “we” are good, nothing we do can possibly be “bad.” For thousands of years, spiritual leaders have warned us that this is the moment of doom before the fall. (more…)
“The White Rabbit,” illustrated by John Tenniel, for “The Nursery Alice” by Lewis Carroll, 1890. (Credit: British Library / Wikimedia Commons)
Who hasn’t found themselves tongue tied in a surcharged debate, especially when defending an unconventional opinion while everyone else postures on the side of conventional wisdom. There’s no room in the debate, nor is there sufficient time, to reframe the issue; the operative premises (presumed and expressed) work against your position; you are rushed and interrupted when you do try to speak up; and you are outnumbered. Only afterwards, when the debate is lost and long over, do you think of a brilliant reply.
It happens to the best of us. Maybe that is why so few of us care to express a dissenting opinion even though we are convinced that the war on terrorism is wrong headed.
War critic and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich recently took the hit and lived to report it. (more…)