The plank of the Forgotten War and the splinter of Muslim rage

Hiding behind the hillCrossposted from As of Yet Untitled.

Two weeks ago, Newsweek published a calculatedly inflammatory cover story in response to the “Innocence of the Muslim” protests in the Middle East. The cover featured a photo of protesters faces contorted in anger with the caption “Muslim Rage”. Newsweek also started an accompanying Twitter hashtag: #Muslimrage. Newsweek was fueling the flames that we already there: U.S. righteous disdain and disgust for the anger of Muslim protesters in response to a Youtube video.

For those of in the United States, I think this is a Matthew 7:5 moment. It’s comforting to settle into our moral high horse as we look at the killings in Libya of the U.S. ambassador. Certainly these deaths are tragic and wrong. But let’s consider what the plank in our own eye might be in this situation.

A week ago, I was listening to NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show. A woman named Sheila called in expressing her anger that neither of the presidential candidates were saying anything about the ongoing war in Afghanistan (full transcript here):

Can anybody there on the panel tell me what of value is going to happen between now and 2014 that is worth one more life? More to the point, why has the congress, the campaign trail, the White House, Romney—this is the third rail. They don’t even mention this war, which is so costly economically. My only grandson just left on Wednesday. That’s heightened my interest but, believe me, I have been interested for six years…

This is not a subject that people want to discuss. And you and I know that the military puts out a few lines about how well it’s going. I did get a letter back from Obama telling me it was just fabulous. So what I’m asking is how can we galvanize American attention and get these people to quit talking about whether or not Mitt Romney drove with a dog on his car and let’s get on to something that might affect real lives.

How striking it is to hear the grandmother of a soldier as one of the few remaining voices speaking out against the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yochi Dreazen, one of the panelists on the show responded to her call with a clear and concise analysis of the situation:

Frankly, I think the caller a moment ago was right, not that this is a third rail but it’s a forgotten rail. No one talks about it, not because they’re afraid that there’ll be massive political repercussions but because there is no political upside ’cause no one notices or cares. It’s something that’s been forgotten—if you look at the polling data—by both parties when—it’s something that just no one remembers. That’s more troubling than the idea that it would be politically untouchable.

That’s right: we’ve forgotten we’re at war. If asked, polls suggest a higher percentage of those in the U.S. oppose the war if Afghanistan then opposed Vietnam, but most of us aren’t asked and really couldn’t care less. It’s gone so far, that Associated Press reporter Deb Riechmann dubbed it our “forgotten war.”

A big part of the reason is that fewer in the U.S. have any personal connections with those in the military anymore. Furthermore, soldiers and their families increasingly live on fewer, larger bases (then a generation ago) where they are isolated from the rest of U.S. society.

This leaves the family members of soldiers (like Sheila) as the only ones with strong and compelling personal reasons to end the Afghanistan war.

If that isn’t enough, the drone killings in Pakistand are a war where we are two worlds away from the deaths: forgotten US soldiers are using remote control drones to kill forgotten tribal people in Pakistan.

But we’d rather tut-tut disapprovingly at the protests and riots in the Middle East as if they appear in a vacuum. Might there be some connection with the continued killings by the U.S. military there? Might there be some connection with the increase in drone attacks? Might there be some connection with the decision by Obama to hit targets a second time to kill rescuers who arrive on the scene?

I must confess my own lack of involvement with anti-war work over the last few years. Despite my full time work for a peace organization, the last time I was out on the street against the war in Afghanistan was in London in 2009. It’s really easy to forget about the drone strikes or figure that Obama will have everything fixed up by 2014, but as long as politicians can count on us to say nothing, the interests of corporations and generals will have the day.

Those living in Pakistan or elsewhere in the region can’t simply forget the drone attacks. A recent study on the drone killings found that, not surprisingly, they “terrorize” civilians in rural Pakistan and cause “substantial levels of fear and stress” day and night. Imran Khan, former cricket champion, has built his rising presidential campaign in Pakistan around his opposition to the drone attacks. In a recent interview with a British television channel he puts it bluntly: “We believe that these strikes are killing people indiscriminately.” He continues, “All it does is it turns more people against the US, hatred grows and the beneficiaries of this insanity are the militants.”

But we in the United States can’t be bothered to notice.

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3 Responses to “The plank of the Forgotten War and the splinter of Muslim rage”

  1. Tim B Says:

    I might be cruelly honest here. My apologies ahead of time.

    I think Americans are so used to perpetual war at this point it’s hard to care. Neither leftists who oppose the wars nor rightest’s who support the military have any reason to vocalize about it. The Islam-Wars continue unabated, a perpetual death machine churning bodies under it’s wheels. We’ve all seen it for so long it doesn’t attract attention.

    Secondly, no one can speak against the military. It is THE NATIONAL RELIGION. Pro football games have fighter jets roar above the stadiums, the games feature live feed of soldiers somewhere dusty rooting for their respective teams. Don’t question the wars. Don’t question the troops. Thank you for your service to our very fine nation. Continue being honorable and all glorious, OOHRAH! We must let them continue bringing hope and democracy to others in the name of our Glorious Nation, Amen. Do we question the gods, Tim?

    Lastly, you abandoned us, Tim. I don’t mean to be a prick here, but once you leftist/progressives got your man in office, you left us. Just like my wife would if Matt Damon asked her to marry him. Us conservatives and libertarians for peace, we stood with you when Bush was in office. We put ideals before politics. But you progressives? No. All talk, no walk. Obama continues and amps up drone strikes. The left is silent. Obama continues said strikes past when he was legally authorized to do so, even when congress said “NO!” The left is silent. Obama continues the operation of Gitmo. The left is silent. Obama co-ordinates assassinations on American citizens. The left is silent. On and on and on. The left never would have let Bush get away with it. Never. They’d organize some sort of radical protest, maybe with naked celebrities. But they got their man, who knew exactly how to Community Organize the left into a shockingly quiet subset of his party’s radical fringe. Give them bread, circuses, and a black Democrat and we’ll hear them no more. And us, the anti-war right? We continue to stick to our peace-guns. FOR SHAME! FOR SHAME! FOR SHAME!

    Where’d you go, Tim? On this issue, we were together. But the left? Nope, at it’s heart it was about partisan politics.

    Just calling it like I see it, because that’s how it exactly is.

  2. Joseph P Says:

    TimB, you’ve basically just taken TimN’s own confession and hurled it back in his face in the form of accusation.

    But perhaps the incendiary accusation is necessary to get folks to pay attention. I largely agree with your critique of the anti-war movement basically amounting to partisan politics. It’s too bad and for many of us its a plank to be removed from our own eye. For others (me), I think we just got burned out on political involvement once the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were a fact of life.

    One question: where do I look to find evidence of the anti-war right sticking to their peace guns? Are they marching on Washington with clothed celebrities? Can we lefties join?

  3. Jnana Hodson Says:

    Even if we haven’t forgotten we’re at war, our nation certainly seems to be numb to its awareness. What amazes me in all of this is how the same voices that cry out so loudly against taxation and public spending (or at least the national debt) are also the most vociferous ones in support of military spending — the largest and most wasteful of all. Can’t they put two and two together? Or is that how one continues to get away with murder?

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