Saturday, November 25, 2006


This month, I've been reading the popular fictional work HART'S WAR(1999) by John Katzenbach . It is more than just a historical thriller that was the basis for a film, which came out a few years back, with Bruce Willis in it. It is a book that asks the reader to understand the basis for which people, especially soldiers, follow orders of their government. It is also about questioning orders and decisions made in the heat of war.

This is very important for us to understand in 2001-2007 America as for the first time in history a popular cry is now being heard for the simultaneous impeachment of both the president and vice-president of the United States.

In Katzenbach's novel, a Lt. Hart is out searching for truth in a world where lies rule the day. At the sametime, another Tuskagee Air pilot named Lt. Scott has become a victim of runaway leadership in the military. He has been charged with a crime that the reader clearly knows from the beginning that Lt. Scott, and African-America, has not committed.

As Lt. Scott is going through courtmartial for premeditatied murder, Lt. Scott confronts one of his persecuters (and prosecuter). He asks why the officer has made up his mind to have him be charged, tried and executed for a crime that he has not committed.

The biased Major Clark is certain he has right, duty and reason on his side and claims in respons to the question as to whether he would or should send an innocent man to his death, "Of course. And so would you if you were in my situation. So would any officer in charge. So you die and we protect a larger good. Why is that so strange for you to understand?" p. 467-468.

From a soldier's perspective, there certainly was some sense in what the major stated. The problem is that fear is the only logic, and fear is the only mantra behind an argument for Americans to sacrifice the lives of both their young and parent-age soldiers around the world in this 2001-2007 period.

Fear and discrimination has taught the U.S. little in the last two centuries. It has led to occupation of the Philipines, Mexico, and Cuba in the past. Fear after 9-11 led to the Middle Eastern debacle today. FEAR without asking WHY people oppose the U.S. abroad is bound to be a losing motivator in American international relations.

Fear leads to fascist trends at home and even crimes of injustice as in the lynchings that marked pre-1960 America for our black brotehrs and sisters--a theme that comes up time and again in Katzenbach's World War II memories painted in the aforemetioned novel. We certainly have seen similar media lynchings of those claimed to be linked with terrorism in the USA after 9-11.

Fear of radical Islam led the Bush and Reagan administration of the 1980s to crawl in bed with Sadam Hussain in selling Iraq arms--even as he massacred his own peopl. It led to support so strong for the dictator that former government official Donald Rumsfeld hugged his good buddy in now famous photos from that era. This friendship also encouraged Saddam Hussain to believe he could take over Iraq in 1990.

Worst of all, FEAR leads to war and endless war--much like the modern Bush neo-cons encourage Americans to accept as the norm for all of us in the 21st century--as if we really have no choice in the matter but to beleive in the "concept of WAR on Terrorism".

The fact is that fear is not the only response to 9-11 nor is war the only option Americans have to terrorism.


Only fear and prejudice can confuse people enough not to see WAR as a form of terrorism!

Howard Zinn, the amazingly popular critique of failed media, politics, and Bush's poor historical analysis, has recently noted,

... [Y]ou know, bizarre thinking is possible when you create fear and hysteria. And we’re facing, of course, that situation today with this whole business of terrorism. And if you added up all the times in speeches of George Bush and his Cabinet and all the times they used the word “terrorism” and “terror,” it’s a mantra they have created to frighten the American people.

I think it’s wearing off. You know, when you -- I think there’s beginning to be some recognition, and that accounts for the fact that public opinion has turned against the war. People no longer believe that we’re fighting in Iraq in order to get rid of terrorism, you know, because the evidence has become so overwhelming that even the mainstream media has reported it -- you know, the National Intelligence Estimate. And this is the government’s own intelligence agencies saying that the war in Iraq has caused a growth of terrorist groups, has increased militancy and radicalism among Islamic groups in the Middle East.

But terrorism has supplanted communism as an attempt to get people to do things against their own interests, to do things that will send their own young people to war, to do things that will cause the depletion of the country’s wealth for the purposes of war and for the enrichment of the super-rich.

Yet, we American still find young men and women siding with the idea that terror is fought by terror: WAR. Older Americans who have served in wars certainly need to explain the concept that both terrrism and war are quite similar and both are HELL.

Why is this not being done? Why don't Americans know that most of the world questions U.S. policies that see only white and black between war and terrorism? They think "What a blind and dillusional world view?"

Non-Americans also claim meanwhile,"I like Americans but the U.S. leadership manipulates them too easily. I hate what the U.S. government is up to. It is so un-American."

They add, "The U.S. government and the private media that supports it are certainly just manipulating Americans who are ignorant of the facts on the ground, in war, and for suffering peoples around the globe."

What have we been teaching our children in U.S. schools in the last three decades since the U.S. bailed out of the Vietnam War? The false wisdom in schools is what I opposed when I loudly questioned the policy of the high school in Kansas (where I taught in from 1990-1991 as the first Gulf War was called out and my student's parents were sent off to Kuwait) allowing U.S. military and National Guard recruiters to wander the hallways and talk to students in the cafeteria. [Naturally, my contract there was not renewed that year although I had received high marks from everyone as an instructor--including the school principle, teachers, and the board members--visiting my classes.]


Zinn adds that he still hears of a handful of people signing up to go to Iraq. Why is this? According to Zinn,

I remember hearing the same thing when a young fellow went off to Vietnam. And a reporter goes up to the young fellow and says, “You know, young man, you’re going off, and what are your thoughts and why are you doing this?” And the young man says, “I’m doing this for my country.” No, he’s not doing it for his country. And now, she’s not doing it for her country. The people who go off to war are not doing fighting for their country. No, they’re not doing their country any good. They’re not doing their families any good. They’re certainly not doing the people over there any good. But they’re not doing it for their country. They’re doing it for their government. They’re doing it for Bush. That would be a more accurate thing to say: “I’m going off to fight for George Bush. I’m going off to fight for Cheney. I’m going off to fight for Rumsfeld. I’m going off to fight for Halliburton.” Yeah, that would be telling the truth.

Zinn is fascinated by the charge Hermann Goering made to a psychiatrist during the Nuremburg trials. The noted psychiatrist reported that Göring said, “Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country.

This is exactly what the Madison Avenue media types did to the vast American public right up through mid-2003, when Bush mistakenly declared that America's mission in Iraq had been accomplished. The government in the U.S. had bullied and persuaded the journalists to toe the party-line: (1) Scorn or denounce the pacifists or those looking for alternatives to war and (2)appeal to the people's sense of patriotism.

The government was not even asked by 95% of the U.S. media to go beyond hyperbole and prove that Americans were threatened by an Iraqi created doomsday device. No wonder Goering's advice to would-be government manipulators in this first decade of the 21st century has been so successful!

Most Americans don't see pictures of bleeding Iraqis, crying mothers in Palestine, or decapitated family members in Lebanon on 2006 daily in their local newspapers as the rest of the world does. Otherwise, Americans would have more than a clue that WAR is TERROR.


Nonetheless, I believe Americans are coming to do what reporters should have done. Start from the premise that everything is a lie--whether the words come from the religious leader or from a government. As Howard Zinn noted, this view of official statments used to be standard procedures at journalism school. The procedure is like doing a null-hypothesis in the sciences. It is also what good lawyers and detectives do. Americans have got to stop assuming that everything is truer and closer to reality if the government speakers claim something.

Similarly,in Hart's War, Lt. Thomas Hart is charged with defending as counsel the falsely charged Lt. Lincoln Scott. The case against Scott is highly circumstantial--much like Bush and Cheney's case for invading Iraq--but not quite as far-fetched. Yet, Hart--unlike the majority of soldiers in the book and many FOX News-type reporters-- does not give up on getting the facts to get justice for his defendent. Several times, Hart takes his life into his own hands and fights to the end of the novel to get to the bottom of a series of lies and cover-ups. (Admittedly, unlike in the Hart's War movie, in the actual novel Hart does lie and make innuendos in Katzenbach's book, but only in order to defend his client against the unjust and unfair forces manipulating the trial for their own desires and goals.)


I don't wish to give away the ending to HART'S WAR, the novel. However, as in an earlier work of Katzenbach, The Analyst, the book is about memories, truth, lies, facts, and history. When I showed the film, Hart's War, to my students in class I reminded them that Katzenbach is sharing a piece of American History.

The trial of Lt. Scott is taking place in a prison camp in WWII in Germany. Before that war, the U.S. military was segregated. It would take the end of that war and the continued lynching of black U.S. soldiers coming home to America that led President Harry S. Truman to teafully sign into law an executive order disbanding legal segregation in the U.S. military--a move that predated the successes of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

In short, America of the WWII generation--America's Greatest Generation--was filled with flaws in its living out the American Dream.

With that somber fact in view, Americans need to start cleaning up the checks-and-balance flaws that kept Dick Cheney from being investigated by the GAO back in 2001-2002. In turn, America's grandchildren of future generations will point an accusing finger at our generation if we don't take President Bush to impeachment hearings in the next year for promoting torture and for ignoring dozens and dozens of congressional laws passed even during his own tenure--let alone the constitutional rules he has impeded and abused.



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