Iraq

Ghostly Metaphor: War at a Bargain

Creditor's_Ledger,_Holmes_McDougall_(4271445364)

Creditor’s Ledger Payments Book detailing creditor payments between 1958 and 1977 by companies commissioning work from Holmes McDougall. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Like a ghost, the metaphors embedded in war talk go largely unnoticed. They are a specter haunting our speech and thought, just below the threshold of awareness. Calling attention to them can reveal an unexamined pretext for continuing to fight an interminable war.

Ghostly metaphors do not call attention to themselves as figures of speech. They operate furtively as though they are just ordinary words conveying literal meaning. With guard down, we allow them to shape the message and form our thoughts. When we draw on the literalized language of accounting to think about military matters, for example, we reason figuratively, drawing a tacit analogy between conducting business and fighting wars. (more…)

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US Imperial Decline in Geopolitical Perspective

Eurasia_(orthographic_projection)

Eurasia (orthographic projection). Credit: Keepscases / Wikimedia Commons

Historian Alfred McCoy has quickened my interest in the discourse of geopolitics applied to the waning state of US empire.  His book, In the Shadows of the American Century:  The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (Chicago:  Haymarket Books, 2017), makes a clear case that the end of global dominance is near.  The question is what kinds of disruption and what degree of violence the imperial fall will occasion.  What might a post-imperial era mean for Americans and others caught up in the transition?  From the perspective of geopolitics, McCoy sees a number of mostly disturbing possibilities.  His observations are valuable for indicating the challenges ahead.  (more…)

Last of the Cold War Warriors

Senator John McCain, 1936-2018. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Even the tempests of Caliban’s island must pause at the passing of John McCain.

Writing about the three great Liberators of the Americas—Bolívar from Venezuela, San Martín from Río de La Plata, Hidalgo from México—José Martí once taught us:

Men cannot be more perfect than the sun. The sun burns with the same light with which it heats. The sun has spots. Ingrates talk only about its spots; grateful ones talk about the light.[1]

As a resident of Arizona, I have had occasion to witness John McCain’s services to his constituency with punctilious efficiency and graciousness. The tag of “maverick”—an unfortunate banality that often diminished the complexity of the man—has led commentators in the last few days to praise his memory as follows: “I disagreed with him on many issues, but …,” usually followed by a lengthy encomium. I will add my voice to this chorus of praise and condemnation. I will write, reducing “a person’s entire life to two or three scenes,” not only about my disagreements with John McCain, but also about the good that should not be interred with his bones.[2]

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Iraq Veterans Against the War

The Lafayette hillside memorial in Lafayette, California. Photographed on January 3, 2007. (Credit:  Hno3 / Wikimedia Commons)

The Lafayette hillside memorial in Lafayette, California. Photographed on January 3, 2007. (Credit: Hno3 / Wikimedia Commons)

They were founded in July 2004 at a convention of Veterans for Peace to give voice to recent veterans and active duty servicemen and women “under various pressures to remain silent.” Their aim was to “educate the public about the realties of the Iraq war.” Nonviolence was their chosen means of antiwar advocacy.

This and more we can learn on the IVAW website about Iraq Veterans Against the War. What can we learn from their direct experience and alternative standpoint if we choose to listen? What can they tell us about the negative impact of war? (more…)

Wisened Warriors

NEWPORT, R.I. (June 12, 2012) Andrew Bacevich, from Boston University, speaks during a panel discussion that was part of the 2012 Current Strategy Forum at the U.S. Naval War College. This year’s forum explores global trends and the implications they have on national policy and maritime forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich/Released)

NEWPORT, R.I. (June 12, 2012) Andrew Bacevich, from Boston University, speaks during a panel discussion that was part of the 2012 Current Strategy Forum at the U.S. Naval War College. This year’s forum explores global trends and the implications they have on national policy and maritime forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich/Released)

West Point graduate. Vietnam War veteran. Retired career officer. Military historian.   Father of a U.S. Army First Lieutenant killed in action in Iraq.

Andrew Bacevich believes that Americans overestimate the value of military force. Romantic images do not correspond to the actuality of war.

Bacevich has written insightfully about American Empire, The New American Militarism, and The Limits of Power. In Washington Rules, he critically examines the path that led the U.S. into a state of permanent war. In Breach of Trust, he argues that Americans have failed their soldiers and their country.

Bacevich’s young friend “M,” an aspiring academic, completed two tours in Iraq as an enlisted soldier, a rifleman. He is writing a doctoral dissertation on the subject of insurgencies. The U.S. war in Iraq is one of his case studies. (more…)