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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

U.S. Militarism and Perpetual War

U.S. Militarism and Perpetual War

By Jeff Cohen
April 10, 2013

I spent years as a political pundit on mainstream TV – at CNN, Fox
News and MSNBC.

I was outnumbered, outshouted, red-baited and finally terminated.

Inside mainstream media, I saw that major issues were not only
dodged, but sometimes not even acknowledged to exist.

Today there’s an elephant in the room: a huge, yet ignored, issue
that largely explains why Social Security is now on the chopping
block. And why other industrialized countries have free college
education and universal healthcare, but we don’t.

It’s arguably our country’s biggest problem – a problem that
Martin Luther King Jr. focused on before he was assassinated
45 years ago, and has only worsened since then (which was the
height of the Vietnam War).

That problem is U.S. militarism and perpetual war.

In 1967, King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of
violence in the world today” – and said, “A nation that continues
year after year to spend more money on military defense than on
programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Nowadays MSNBC hosts yell at Fox News hosts, and vice versa, about
all sorts of issues – but when the Obama administration expanded the
bloody war in Afghanistan, the shouting heads at both channels went
almost silent.

When Obama’s drone war expanded, there was little shouting.
Not at MSNBC, not at Fox. Nor at CNN, CBS, ABC or so-called
public broadcasting.

We can have raging debates in mainstream media about issues
like gun control and gay marriage and minimum wage, but when
the elites of both parties agree on military intervention, as they
so often do, debate is nearly nonexistent.

Anyone in the mainstream who goes out on a limb to loudly
question this oversized creature in the middle of the room
known as militarism or interventionism is likely to disappear
faster than you can say ‘Phil Donahue.’

I know something about mainstream journalists being silenced for
questioning bipartisan military adventures because I worked with
Phil Donahue at MSNBC in 2002/03 when Bush was revving up the
Iraq invasion with the support of Democratic leaders like Joe Biden,
John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid. That’s when MSNBC
terminated us for the crime of JWI.

Not DWI, but JWI – Journalism during Wartime while Independent.

JWI may be a crime in mainstream media, but it’s exactly the
kind of unauthorized, unofficial coverage you get from quality
independent media today and from un-embedded journalists like
Jeremy Scahill, Dahr Jamail and Glenn Greenwald.

Unfortunately, many liberal journalists who were vocal about war,
human rights and civil liberties during the Bush era lost their voices
as Obama continued and, in some cases, expanded Bush’s “War on
Terror” policies.

It says something about the lack of serious national debate on
so-called national security that last month one of the loudest
mainstream TV news questioners of the president’s right to
assassinate Americans was Sean Hannity on Fox.

That’s obscene.

And it says something about mainstream TV that the toughest, most
consistent questioners of militarism and defenders of civil liberties
are not on a news channel, they’re on the comedy channel.

A few weeks ago, I watched a passionate Jon Stewart taking on
the U.S. military budget:

“We already spend more on defense than the next 12 countries
combined, including China, including Russia. We’re like the lady
on Jerry Springer who can’t stop getting breast implants.”

What our mainstream media so obediently call the “War on Terror” is
experienced in other countries as a U.S. war OF terror, kidnappings,
night raids, torture, drone strikes, killing and maiming of innocent
civilians, that creates new enemies for our country.

Interestingly, you can easily find that reality in mainstream media
of allied countries in Europe, but not in the mainstream media of
our country.

Needless to say, it’s our country that’s waging this global perpetual

In a democracy, war must be subjected to questioning and debate.

And not just on the comedy channel.

Jeff Cohen is founding director of the Park Center for Independent
Media at Ithaca College and an associate professor of journalism
there. His latest book is “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures
in Corporate Media.”

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