Language is important in conveying the ideas and attitudes that shape our worldviews and influence our perspectives. And the specificity of the words we use as language is critical to conveying certain ideas influencing those attitudes. With this understanding, I must take issue with the language of the public dialogue that writes me (and you) into the murderous imperialism of the United States government. The language of the debate assumes that the vast majority of ordinary American citizens are actually engaged or involved in the State’s imperialist overseas odysseys, that we have any say or any stake in American Capitalism’s quest for global domination.
A casual examination of the public discourse reveals how easily we all get caught up in the ongoing narrative by Media’s linguistic dragnet. Some common examples from the mainline media include references to “our invasion” of Iraq and “our occupation” of Afghanistan, and of course there are the incessant references to “our troops.” Questions are raised about whether “we are fighting to prop up a puppet regime” in Afghanistan, and if “we are scapegoating the puppet (Ahmed Karzai) for our problems.”
MSNBC talking head Keith Olbermann, one of Media’s vaunted liberals, recently lamented to a guest, “We missed nine-eleven; we missed Iraq’s lack of WMDs; we missed Abdulmutallab (the Christmas Day underbomber); we couldn’t distinguish between guns and cameras…how can we be sure about what we know and what we don’t know?” The ardent anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan recently decried “our genocidal foreign policy” in a piece about “our troops” and “our military.” Another ostensibly liberal writer expressed some disgust with the now-normal state of permanent war, saying, “Our killing of civilians has spread to Pakistan,” and refers to collateral murder by “our military.” The conclusion to this diatribe is, “These are wars we cannot afford, and wars we cannot win.” On that last point the author is spot on – we can’t win it, cuz we aint in it.
I want to make that unequivocally clear: I aint in it, and if you are among the 300 million-plus working people in this country, neither are you. Those of us opposed to the sociocide being perpetrated by the US Empire in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere must be adamant in our opposition. The first step is insisting that we not be included in the stampede of public opinion manufactured by Media that uncritically supports militarized mass murder. At every turn we must insist we neither support nor condone the illegal and immoral military devastation of other nations that pose no threat whatsoever to the American people.
More importantly, we must acknowledge that we have no stake in these military misadventures, and no say in the “genocidal foreign policy” of the United States government. That is, we aint in it. The fact of the matter is that the US military, under the control of its “commander-in-chief,” the President, acts on behalf of American Capital – the corporate business and finance behemoths that control the global economy. Neither the government nor the military are acting on behalf of our interests – those of the majority of Americans - when they invade and occupy sovereign nations, when they slaughter men, women, and children in far away places, or when they build multibillion dollar military bases and “embassies” in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Columbia. That is how we need to conceptualize of these atrocities, as “theirs” and not “ours.” It is their foreign policy, their invasions and occupations, their war crimes, and, yes, their troops – not ours.
In separating ourselves from the creeds and the deeds of the overclass, we’re better able to recognize at least two critical realities: 1) that there is, in fact, an overclass or ruling class with drastically different interests and ideologies than the rest of us; and 2) the rest of us have more in common with the victims of US imperialism and war than we do with those who perpetrate it while wrapped in the American flag. Irregardless of the “Support the Troops” magnet on your family truckster or your American flag lapel pin, America’s wars aren’t about you, and you have no say in the matter.
The faux patriotism that has been whipped up by the corporate media while the present and previous administrations beat the drums of war must be recognized as total fabrication. Militarism and war are now the highest of American ideals around which we are all expected to rally and set aside our petty differences to support. The astounding irony of this is apparently lost on most of us. In contraposition to the cultural narrative that exalts individualism, we’re expected to coalesce into community around the State’s military misadventures. Despite the prevailing ethos of ruthless self-interest that drives this capitalist society, were supposed to rally around some vague notions of “national interests,” that just happen to be identical to the financial interests of American Capital.
The bellicose nationalism that has overtaken much of the populace is the ideal state of delusion that enables these wars to rage on forever and ever, amen.