Are we getting our war on?
By Anna Daniels
Nothing like starting the morning with the Wall Street Journal headline “Cheney Is Still Right” followed by a New York Times correction to their own article in which Dick Cheney was described as “President.” The media has chosen unprosecuted war criminal Dick Cheney as the warm up act for President Obama’s address to the American people this evening, Wednesday September 10, and it does not bode well.
It is impossible to expect any encouraging news tonight about the US’s continued presence in the political and moral quagmire of Iraq and anticipated involvement in the same in Syria. We elected a president–twice– who promised to a war weary citizenry a withdrawal of the US presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Now he is assuring us that we will not be involved up to our collective necks (again) in the complicated geo-politics of the region, only up to maybe our knees or waist.
Obama’s unusually scheduled prime time speech is clearly a response to mounting pressures to provide a comprehensive military and political plan against the Islamic State known as ISIS and ISIL. Earlier this week Obama emphasized that he will not be requesting authorization for a military incursion into Iraq on the scale of 100,000 troops. The reasonable question of course is whether 10,000 troops counts as a military incursion and whether continued airstrikes count as a military incursion.
What is also not clear at the moment is what, if anything he will ask a gutless, bollixed, irresponsible Congress to approve beyond his recent request for $5 billion to fund counterterrorism efforts against ISIS and the re-authorization of airstrikes. Congress, like every previous Congress, has been granted both the constitutional power and responsibility of declaring war.
The majority of our elected representatives don’t want to leave their fingerprints on a Congressional vote one way or the other–it stands to mess up their chances for re-election in the upcoming midterms. But that doesn’t mean that they are unwilling to welcome proxies to represent their views. This goes a long way in explaining the return of unprosecuted war criminal Henry Kissinger to the recent news cycle and of course Dick Cheney, whose political legacy has been written in blood that is not his own.
It is chilling that Kissinger and Cheney are now being trotted out as “elder statesmen.” Cheney has never been willing to take his hands off the levers of power–they will have to be pried from his cold dead hands. Yet both Kissinger and Cheney have been and still are clearly and definitively wrong on foreign policy. They are both utterly unrepentant of the human atrocities they masterminded and supported. Why is the media giving them so much oxygen?
The horrific murders of two journalists are politically expedient reasons for the war hawks to give for ramping up our military involvement in Iraq and Syria. A whopping 94% of the American public stated that they had seen coverage of those brutal executions. Unsurprisingly, more Americans are now willing to approve military strikes against ISIS.
War hawks are appallingly cynical about using atrocities to change the focus of the discussion and generate support for making war. Remember the magazine cover of the young Afghan woman whose nose and ears had been cut off for running away from her abusive husband? Suddenly, our waning interest in waging perpetual war in Afghanistan received a boost of public support when it was seen as a war against the Taliban’s horrific treatment of women.
We should be very wary of images that are being used as emotional blackmail and call them out for what they are–war porn. Obama has said that he does not need a congressional vote on his ISIS strategy. Hopefully the American people feel that they need public debate and a public vote in Congress. Let every single congressperson publicly register his or her position on the ISIS strategy.
Journalist Dan Rather was blunt in his assessment of what it should mean to get our war on. Proxies cannot absolve Congress of taking the responsibility for what that means.
Selected comments from the Dan Rather interview:
My first question to anyone who is on television saying, we have to get tough, we need to put boots on the ground and we need to go to war in one of these places is, I will hear you out if you tell me you are prepared to send your son, your daughter, your grandson, your granddaughter to that war of which you are beating the drums. If you aren’t, I have no patience with you, and don’t even talk to me.
And those of us in journalism — and I can include myself in this — we have a lot to answer for about what we didn’t do and what we did do in the run-up to the war in Iraq, which I think history will judge to be a strategic disaster of historic proportions.
We journalists, including this one, we didn’t ask the right questions. We didn’t ask enough questions. We didn’t ask the follow- up questions. We did not challenge power. And I am concerned that, once again, as the war drums begin to beat and get louder and louder, that there will be a herd mentality of saying, well, we have to go to war in Syria, we have to go to war Ukraine.