Why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word 'hero'? I feel uncomfortable about the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.No, he wasn't wrong about that. I actually think his words were measured, sensitive and circumspect in addressing a subject deserving of a lot more outrage and vitriol. But such was the outrage from all over the political spectrum that he was soon forced to issue an apology, which ended thusly:
But in seeking to discuss the civilian-military divide and the social distance between those who fight and those who don't, I ended up reinforcing it, conforming to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war. And for that I am truly sorry.Since Hayes is one of the few bona fide journalists gracing the airwaves today, I think that his apology, in retrospect, was a relatively small price to pay for keeping his job. He was even considered ready for primetime and given a promotion recently by his corporate bosses of the media industrial complex.
This is not the usual story. There is a long history of other fine reporters who have been fired from media empires or otherwise marginalized for speaking truth to power about our great American War Machine.
The late Howard Zinn had his Boston Globe column cancelled in 1974 after he spoke out against war. On Memorial Day, no less:
Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.
It will also be celebrated by the display of flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking applause.
It will be celebrated by giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President.You can read the whole thing here. It remains a classic of anti-war literature, even more timely than when it was written nearly forty years ago.
Chris Hedges resigned from the New York Times rather than hang around waiting to be fired, having been booed off the stage for delivering an anti-Iraq war college commencement address in 2003. An excerpt:
Because we no longer understand war, we no longer understand that it can all go horribly wrong. We no longer understand that war begins by calling for the annihilation of others but ends if we do not know when to make or maintain peace with self-annihilation. We flirt, given the potency of modern weapons, with our own destruction.
The seduction of war is insidious because so much of what we are told about it is true -- it does create a feeling of comradeship which obliterates our alienation and makes us, for perhaps the only time of our life, feel we belong.
War allows us to rise above our small stations in life; we find nobility in a cause and feelings of selflessness and even bliss. And at a time of soaring deficits and financial scandals and the very deterioration of our domestic fabric, war is a fine diversion. War for those who enter into combat has a dark beauty, filled with the monstrous and the grotesque. The Bible calls it the lust of the eye and warns believers against it. War gives us a distorted sense of self; it gives us meaning.I.F. Stone had already been blacklisted from the mainstream press for decades when he became the first and only journalist to challenge Lyndon Johnson's veracity on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident in the Vietnam War. Since no corporate outlet would have him, he'd started his own weekly newsletter, the archives of which can be found here. You might even call him the prototype of the independent blogger, answerable to nobody. His mantra has been largely ignored or forgotten by the sycophantic propagandists of war masquerading as contemporary journalists:
All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.See my previous post about smoking and drones. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
But to its credit on this platitude-heavy Memorial Day, the New York Times did use the occasion to finally criticize President Obama's backdoor proposal to modernize our fleet of nukes. As I laid out in a post last month, Obama's actions in this regard once again directly contradict his campaign promises. Here's my own Times comment to help counter today's outbreak of war glorification sentiment:
According to Hans Kristensen of the Federation of Nuclear Scientists, what Obama is proposing is nothing less than the development a stealth nuclear weapons system, every bit as streamlined and precise as his beloved drones, one "that expands the targets you can hold at risk from Europe, because by placing the explosion closer to the target you can choose a lower explosive yield. That is very important as there is less radioactive fallout. For many people this is a great concern because it means making nuclear weapons more 'usable'."
This should be sending a chill right up your spine, especially since there has been little fanfare in the media about this sneaky, deadly backdoor item in the president's budget -- not to mention lack of reaction from leaders of Congress. If they can't even rein in gun violence here at home, I suppose it's too much to ask that they put the kibosh on bigger, deadlier killing machines abroad.
When it comes to maintaining the military-industrial complex, no price is too high, no weapon too lethal, no defense contractor's pocket too deep, no politician too hypocritical.