Trump Goes Nuclear: Or, How I Learned to Mobilize and Stop the War Machine

Dr. Strangetrump

A pivotal scene in Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb finds George C. Scott’s jingoistic General Buck Turgidson laying out the dire options for U.S. President Merkin Muffley, as the nation hurtles toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

“Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching the moment of truth,” General Turgidson says, “both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation.

TURGIDSON: Now truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable, post-war environments: One where you got 20 million people killed, and the other where you got 150 million people killed.

MUFFLEY: You’re talking about mass murder, General—not war.

TURGIDSON: Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops! Uh, depending on the breaks.

It turns out Kubrick’s dark comedy was more prescient than he realized. In the narcissistic, hyper-masculine, Donald Trump, we have a real-life Dr. Strangelove sitting in the White House. And this past week, he blatantly threatened nuclear rival, North Korea with destruction not once, but twice.

Trump cautioned North Korea to cease its nuclear weapons testing or it would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

The Predator in Chief ratcheted up his warmongering threats a day later, claiming the United States is “locked and loaded”—his most overt warning of pending military action against the North Korean regime, to date. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded to Trump’s initial warning by threatening to fire a missile at the U.S. colony—err, I mean “territory”—of Guam.

Trump’s words and tweets are not just incredibly reckless. (This is a president keep in mind, whose articulate solution to defeating ISIS is to “bomb the shit out of ‘em.”)

As U.S. Army colonel-turned-left-wing-professor-and-author, Andrew Bacevich observed on a recent episode on Democracy Now!, Trump seems to lack the ability to “use the English language with any sort of precision or finesse.”

“Many people have commented … on the narcissism which seems to be such a prominent characteristic of Trump’s personality,” said Bacevich.

And … when you watch the video of him making that “fire and fury” comment, it’s difficult to avoid thinking that the motivation of the moment is to make himself feel good, to somehow demonstrate that he’s a tough guy, that he’s standing up to what he perceives as a threat, and to, somehow or other, derive some sense of personal satisfaction … from issuing that threat—utterly oblivious as to the larger implications… And that’s … got to be very troubling.

In other words, we basically have a petulant 14-year-old sitting in the Oval Office. A petulant 14-year-old with the country’s nuclear codes.

Indeed, a Carnegie Mellon University analysis of the “readability” of the 2016 presidential candidates’ speeches compared to previous presidents, found the grammar and vocabulary Trump employs are just below a sixth-grade reading-level.

(Hence the president’s use of words like, “bigly” and “covfefe,” and his over-reliance on clichéd adjectives like “beautiful,” and “huge.”)

Let’s be clear: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is—like Iran’s–a deterrent. It is in direct response to the United States’ decades of crippling economic sanctions, and its prior assault on North Korea during the Korean War—which never really ended. And recent U.S. efforts at regime change in Iraq and Libya have likely only put Kim Jong Un on further heightened alert.

None of this should be read as an apology for Kim’s repressive, authoritarian regime. North Korea, like China, is “communist” in name only. It is in no way a country the left should strive to emulate. Nor should we ignore its egregious human rights abuses.

Nonetheless, we must understand North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing is less the product of its “madman” leader, and more a legitimate form of self-defense. If Israel–whose nuclear weapons arsenal far surpasses North Korea’s–has a “right to defend itself,” then so does North Korea.

But rather than this childish—and utterly foolish—game of nuclear chicken, the West must attempt to engage the North Korean regime in peaceful negotiations. As Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin points out in a recent op-ed, “Sixty percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support direct negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.”

The left must stand in solidarity with oppressed people not just in our country, but throughout the world. This means opposing U.S. war and imperialism in all its depraved forms. We must understand that there is no such thing as a “humanitarian” war.

“Wars throughout history,” observed the great socialist leader, Eugene Debs, “have been waged for conquest and plunder.”

This is true even of the Second World War (the “good war”) and the ruinous carnage that was the Vietnam War (a war in which we “meant well”).

The U.S. has been locked in a nebulous “war on terror” for nearly 20 years now. This is an Orwellian war which, by design, can never be won–and thus, can never end. George W. Bush used the fear and horror of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq–occupations that continue to this day. (The war in Afghanistan is now the longest in U.S. history.)

And contrary to popular belief, Barack Obama did not scale-down the “war on terror”–he expanded it.

Though Obama dropped the use of the asinine phrase, “war on terror,” as well as Bush’s jingoistic, cowboy swagger, he nonetheless continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and launched drone-strikes in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton oversaw the overthrow and extrajudicial killing of Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

Indeed, perhaps Obama’s greatest contribution to the “war on terror” was his ability to simultaneously enlarge its scope, while shifting it to the background, making it almost an afterthought in Americans’ minds. His reliance on unmanned predator drones, targeted assassinations, extrajudicial killings, and increased use of the elite Joint Special Operations Command in place of traditional “boots-on-the-ground,” effectively rendered the United States’ various military campaigns little more than white-noise.

The lack of critical media foreign policy coverage, combined with liberals’ reluctance to challenge the president when he is “their guy,” left the anti-war movement paralyzed.

Trump is now posing himself as the necessary course correction to Obama’s alleged “weakness” on fighting terrorism. His petit-bourgeois supporters relish his “tough guy” rhetoric and alpha-male braggadocio, which they believe will “put America first.”

As the remaining segments of the dwindling middle-class, Trump’s supporters view themselves as the beleaguered, “forgotten” members of the working class, even though most of them likely have more in common–economically and politically–with the upper-middle class and the rich. Forget the misleading media narrative linking Trump’s presidency to a “Rustbelt Revolution.” Trump’s base consists mostly of small-business owners who resent government, regulations, and immigrants and who dream of joining the ranks of the wealthy.

Now is the time to reconstitute the anti-war movement. The left must reconnect itself to its long history of anti-imperialist activism. Many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, for instance, shrugged off his hawkish foreign policy positions as “secondary issues.”

This attitude is a grave mistake.

The left must rediscover the centrality of opposing war and imperialism, as well as its interconnectedness to domestic issues like racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and economic insecurity. (Fifty-four percent of our federal tax dollars go to the military “defense” budget.)

The subversive, Dr. Strangelove brilliantly illustrates the utter madness of nuclear war. Perhaps worst of all, it lays bare the complete ineptitude of the president, the military generals, foreign leaders, and the rest of the ruling class “experts” to halt the course of mass civilizational destruction, once it is initiated.

Let’s mobilize now to ensure Kubrick’s film remains a dark satire–and not an ominous premonition.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Rage of the Dispossessed

Manchester Memorial
Mourners gather in Manchester’s St. Ann’s Square to pay respects to the 22 people killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device outside an Ariana Grande concert, on May 22, in Manchester, England.

Pop-star, Ariana Grande is correct:

There are, simply, no words—of comfort, consolation or condolence—to offer the families of the young victims following the horrific explosion outside Grande’s concert in Manchester, England last week. The fact that the 22 people killed were mostly children and teenage girls makes the terrorist attack especially heinous.

Concerts should be a place for leisurely escapism from the mind-numbing monotony of work and school—if not even a more meaningful form of musical transcendence. (I suspect Grande embodies more of the former.) They should not be a venue of fear and repulsive violence.

Following an attack such as the one in Manchester, politicians inevitably single out the Muslim community, calling for the moderate Muslims to “isolate” and “report on” their more radical counterparts, in the hope of preventing similar terrorist attacks. (“If you see something, say something!”)

This was the crux of Donald Trump’s lecturing (and completely unoriginal) speech in Saudi Arabia. “A better future [for the Middle East] is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists, Trump said. “Drive. Them. Out.”

Trump went on:

“Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth.”

Yet, in the 16-years that the U.S. and its allies have waged the so-called “war on terror,” when has a similar call ever been made to Christian communities? When have politicians or world leaders exhorted “moderate” Christians to “isolate” and “weed out” the radical members in their ranks? Nor has any effort been made to curb the growing influence of Zionist, pro-Israeli Jews–particularly those who falsely mischaracterize the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement as “anti-Semitic.”

Indeed, by all assessments Americans face a far greater threat from right-wing, nationalist and Christian extremist groups than from what Trump insists on calling “radical Islam.” This home-grown, quasi-fascist threat has grown exponentially since Trump’s election. And the discrepancy in rhetoric proves the utter hollowness of presidents’ assurances—from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Trump—that the U.S. is not “at war with Islam.”

No doubt, our decades-long war on Islam is almost certainly what motivated the Libyan-born suicide bomber, Salman Abedi to commit this heinous act. Abedi targeted the wrong people, to be certain. His victims were innocent and completely undeserving of having their young lives cut so short in such a brutal fashion.

But the inchoate rage and hostility Abedi felt toward England and the West in general is legitimate. Our nations must understand this if we are to have any hope of truly ridding the world of terrorism.

“We have engineered the rage of the dispossessed,” author and Truthdig columnist, Chris Hedges, wrote in the wake of the 2015 Paris attack on the satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo.

The evil of predatory global capitalism and empire has spawned the evil of terrorism. And rather than understand the roots of that rage and attempt to ameliorate it, we have built sophisticated mechanisms of security and surveillance, passed laws that permit the targeted assassinations and torture of the weak, and amassed modern armies and the machines of industrial warfare to dominate the world by force.

Libya was a thriving and affluent country before the U.S.-NATO military campaign deposed Col. Muammar Gaddafi and decimated the nation. Then-Secretary of State Hillary “Queen of Chaos” Clinton oversaw the bombing, which left more than 30,000 Libyan civilians dead, and over 50,000 injured in the ensuing civil war.

Clinton later gloated over Gaddafi’s death on CBS News, laughing that, “We came. We saw. He died.”

Thus it is perfectly rationale that someone like Abedi, after witnessing the destruction of his home-country, might have some animosity toward the global West.

And Libya is just one example. The scope of the ill-conceived “war on terror” (a nebulous conflict which, by design, can never end) has expanded tenfold under President Obama. The U.S. is currently engaged in military strikes in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Afghanistan, in addition to Libya. Indeed, the war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in U.S. history.

And make no mistake about it: These bombing campaigns—what investigative journalist, Jeremy Scahill calls “dirty wars”—would have continued, likely with greater efficiency and professional expertise, had Clinton prevailed in last year’s presidential election.

The left must revive the beleaguered anti-war movement which has been largely dormant for the last eight years. While the recent opposition to Trump’s racist travel ban (the so-called “airport protests”) was certainly encouraging, I lament the left’s failure to connect the refugee crisis to the larger issue of war and imperialism.

As it is, those airport protests have largely subsided—along with much of the initial activism that greeted the first days of Trump’s presidency. Liberals seem content to merely sit back and trust that the courts will, again, strike down Trump’s revised travel ban. But as The Guardian‘s Rob Hunter points out, investing our hopes in the bourgeois legal system, without the necessary pressure of protests in the streets, would be a grave mistake.

Likewise, the thousands of voters who were understandably inspired by Bernie Sanders’ social-democratic presidential campaign failed to truly challenge the Vermont U.S. Senator on his hawkish foreign policy positions. When I attempted to point out Sanders’ “blind spot” on foreign policy—including his Zionist, pro-Israel record—I was promptly dismissed as a rigid “ultra-leftist.”

This, again, speaks to the contemporary left’s overall detachment from matters of war and peace. Attend an anti-war protest today, and you are unlikely to find anybody under the age of 50. And many of these Baby Boomer protesters formed their anti-war politics after having served (whether they were drafted or voluntarily enlisted) in combat themselves.

But I fear that, for millennials my age, war is very much an abstraction.

This is not to suggest young people on the left do not care about militarism. Quite the reverse, in fact. Merely, that most working-class millennials’ lack of direct experience in military combat makes it less of a priority (behind more immediately pressing issues like student debt, affordable housing, health care, and free college education) in activist struggle.

But none of these domestic concerns can ever be addressed (let alone, funded) if we continue to ignore the Pentagon’s giant “pot of gold,” as longtime anti-war activist and blogger, Bruce Gagnon calls it. Fifty-seven percent of our federal income tax dollars go to the bloated, wasteful military-spending budget. And the GOP’s baseless mantra that Obama “depleted” the military of funding should be roundly dismissed as the phony propaganda it is.

Thus, the U.S. war-machine is not a “secondary” issue as many Sanders supporters argued. It is the issue.

“These terrorist attacks are not confined to Europe,” Tariq Ali said on a recent appearance of Democracy Now! “They take place every single day in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and Yemen, Bahrain.”

… We all deplore the loss of lives of innocent people. … Everyone does. But we can’t have double standards, in which we say that someone killed in Europe, their lives are more valuable than the lives being taken in large parts of the Muslim world. And unless the West understands that these double standards provoke and anger more people, it will carry on.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!