Warmongering

steve_bannon_-_caricature3

Caricature of Steve Bannon. (Credit: DonkeyHotey / Wikimedia Commons)

“Our big belief, one of our central organizing principles [at Breitbart] is that we are at war.”

November 17, 2015

“We’re in a war. We’re clearly going into, I think, a major shooting war in the Middle East, again.”

November 27, 2015

“It’s war. It’s war. Every day, we put up America’s at war. America’s at War. We’re at war.”

December 14, 2015

Steve Bannon

A warmonger, by definition, is someone who promotes war—urges it, stirs it up. Warmongering is especially foreboding when it comes from a person who is the Commander-in-Chief’s political advisor, chief strategist, senior counsel, and foreign policy guru. Philip Rucker, the Washington Post’s White House Bureau Chief, observes that, “Trump considers Bannon a savant and is allowing him to shape his presidency and especially his foreign policy.”[i]

Steve Bannon does not mince words on the prospect of war. The quotations above were reported in a recent story in USA Today, written by Steve Reilly and Brad Heath and based on a review of dozens of hours of Bannon’s comments in his 2015 and 2016 Breitbart radio talk shows. From Bannon’s far-right standpoint, this war is a civilizational struggle. It is a clash-of-civilizations vision, Ann Hornaday reports, also expressed in Bannon’s documentary films, which feature “distinct Manichean themes” and “echo the same urgent, apocalyptic anti-globalism he’s espoused in speeches and on Breitbart News.”

Bannon now brings these views to the table as a member of the Principals Committee of Trump’s National Security Council.

On January 6, 2016, he commented that Islam today is “actually much darker” than Hitler and the Nazis were in the 1930s.

On February 25, 2016, he allowed that an “expansionist Islam” and an “expansionist China” were “on the march” and that “they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”

On March 10, 2016, he insisted there was “no doubt” that “we’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to ten years.”

On August 17, 2016, Bannon became Chief Executive of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. On January 20, 2017, in his inaugural address, President Trump said he “would unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.” On February 2, 2017, at the annual interfaith prayer breakfast, the President spoke of straightening out a troubled, chaotic world of “violence carried out in the name of religion,” which threatened Jewish people with “extermination” and Christians with “genocide,” a threat not seen “since the Middle Ages.”

The devil myth, about which Oscar Giner and I wrote in Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture (University of Alabama Press, 2015), has been resurrected in yet another US presidency. In Jungian terms, our shadow is being projected. At the level of the presidency, the nation is denying its own unconscious impulses by attributing them to others.

Bannon, himself, is a dark figure who says “darkness is good,” that it is the “power” of “Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan.” Dark power triumphs, Bannon says, when political opponents remain “blind to who we are and what we are doing.” Indeed, there is a “dark anti-otherness” tenor in Trump’s appeal to evangelical Christians, David Leonhardt observes in a recent New York Times Op-Ed.

Projection is blinding, whether political opponents attribute to Bannon their own dark impulses (and thus fail to understand the power Trump has harnessed) or the country at large unreflectively assigns dark impulses to Muslims in order to justify civilizational war. Projection is the darkness within the body politic that goes unacknowledged and unaddressed. It is an exercise in self-righteousness that promotes militancy and militarism. It is the engine of warmongering.

RLI

(This piece also appears on PublicSeminar.org)

[i] Quoted in Ishaan Tharoor, “Today’s Worldview,” Washington Post, January 30, 2017.

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