by Chris Hedges: The
We are approaching
a decade of war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq is in its eighth
year. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands more Afghans
and Pakistani civilians have been killed. Millions have been driven
into squalid displacement and refugee camps. Thousands of our own
soldiers and Marines have died or been crippled physically and psychologically.
We sustain these wars, which have no real popular support, by borrowing
trillions of dollars that can never be repaid, even as we close
schools, states go into bankruptcy, social services are cut, our
infrastructure crumbles, tens of millions of Americans are reduced
to poverty, and real unemployment approaches 17 percent. Collective,
suicidal inertia rolls us forward toward national insolvency and
the collapse of empire. And we do not protest. The peace movement,
despite the heroic efforts of a handful of groups such as Iraq Veterans
Against the War, the Green Party and Code
Pink, is dead. No one cares.
The roots of
mass apathy are found in the profound divide between liberals, who
are mostly white and well educated, and our disenfranchised working
class, whose sons and daughters, because they cannot get decent
jobs with benefits, have few options besides the military. Liberals,
whose children are more often to be found in elite colleges than
the Marine Corps, did not fight the North American Free Trade Agreement
in 1994 and the dismantling of our manufacturing base. They did
nothing when the Democrats gutted welfare two years later and stood
by as our banks were turned over to Wall Street speculators. They
signed on, by supporting the Clinton and Obama Democrats, for the
corporate rape carried out in the name of globalization and endless
war, and they ignored the plight of the poor. And for this reason
the poor have little interest in the moral protestations of liberals.
We have lost all credibility. We are justly hated for our tacit
complicity in the corporate assault on workers and their families.
has resulted, however, in much more than imperial adventurism and
a permanent underclass. A slow-motion coup by a corporate state
has cemented into place a neofeudalism in which there are only masters
and serfs. And the process is one that cannot be reversed through
the traditional mechanisms of electoral politics.
I traveled to Washington to join Rep. Dennis Kucinich for a public
teach-in on the wars. Kucinich used the Capitol Hill event to denounce
the new request by Barack Obama for an additional $33 billion for
the war in Afghanistan. The Ohio Democrat has introduced H. Con
Res. 248, with 16 co-sponsors, which would require the House of
Representatives to debate whether to continue the Afghanistan war.
Kucinich, to his credit, is the only member of Congress to publicly
condemn the Obama administration’s authorization to assassinate
Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and cleric living in Yemen, over
alleged links to a failed Christmas airline bombing in Detroit.
Kucinich also invited investigative journalist Jeremy
Scahill, writer/activist David
Swanson, retired Army
Col. Ann Wright and Iraq war veteran Josh
Stieber to the event.
held in the Rayburn Building, was a sober reminder of our insignificance.
There were no other Congress members present, and only a smattering
of young staff members attended. Most of the audience of about 70
were peace activists who, as is usual at such events, were joined
by a motley collection of conspiracy theorists who believe 9/11
was an inside job or that former Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died in
a plane crash, was assassinated. Scahill and Swanson provided a
litany of disturbing statistics that illustrated how corporations
control all systems of power. Corporations have effectively taken
over our internal security and intelligence apparatus. They run
our economy and manage our systems of communication. They own the
two major political parties. They have built a private military.
They loot the U.S. Treasury at will. And they have become unassailable.
Those who decry the corporate coup are locked out of the national
debate and become as marginalized as Kucinich.
have any sort of communications system in the country,” said
Swanson, who co-founded an anti-war coalition (AfterDowningStreet.org)
and led an unsuccessful campaign to impeach George W. Bush and Dick
Cheney. “We have a corporate media cartel that overlaps with
the war industry. It has no interest in democracy. The Congress
is bought and paid for. It is absolutely corrupted by money. We
kick ourselves for not being active enough and imposing our demands,
but the bar is set very high for us. We have to try very, very hard
and make very, very big sacrifices if we are going to influence
this Congress prior to getting the money out and getting a decent
media system. Hypocritical Congress members talk about money all
the time, how we have to be careful about money, except when it
comes to war. It is hypocritical, but who is going to call them
on that? Not their colleagues, not their funders, not the media,
only us. We have to do that, but we don’t in large part because
they switch parties every number of years and we are on one team
or the other.”
Hedges has been a war reporter for 19 years, most recently for the
New York Times. He is author of What
Every Person Should Know About War a book that offers a critical
lesson in the dangerous realities of war. He’s also author of War
is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. He writes a weekly column