Why body bags prompt support for war September 19, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Media, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, big muddy, body bags, david sirota, Iraq war, military, military industrial complex, pete seeger, roger hollander, sunk-cost effect, war, war casualties, war propaganda, warmongers
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Roger’s note: those of us who experienced the Vietnam slaughter remember the notorious episode where CBS, under pressure from Lyndon Johnson, refused to allow Pete Seeger to sing the anti-war song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the notorious (ly wonderful) Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. “We were knee deep in The Big Muddy / But the Big Fool said to push on.”
Full lyrics are posted below the article.
Monday, Sep 19, 2011 14:01 ET
Research confirms the pathology of staying the course
“One of the things that’s very important … is to never allow our youngsters to die in vain. And I’ve made the pledge to their parents. Withdrawing from the battlefield of Iraq would be just that. And it’s not going to happen under my watch.” — George W. Bush, April 14, 2004
In this memorable quote — which was one of many similar statements –George W. Bush gave us probably history’s most explicit example of how the “sunk cost” argument suffuses today’s national security politics.
While logic suggests mounting casualties should be a reason to end wars, the “sunk cost” phenomenon posits that the more casualties a nation suffers during a war, the more that nation is psychologically committed to the war. The idea is that because we simply don’t want to face the possibility that our countrymen “died in vain,” our natural instinct is to not only push away evidence that they died for lies (WMD), misguided theories (the Vietnam “domino” effect) or petty personal vendettas (“this is the guy who tried to kill my dad!”), we also are prone to “stay the course” for that elusive victory that will supposedly make all the blood and pain and suffering worth it. As Sen. Barack Obama said in criticizing the Bush administration in 2007, the sunk-cost phenomenon basically says, “We’re doubling down; we’re going to keep on going … because now we’ve got a lot in the pot and we can’t afford to lose what we put in the pot.”
Behavioral economists have long hypothesized about this psychological pathology in many different parts of human interaction. In investing, it’s called “throwing good money after bad.” In casino gambling, it’s refusing to cut your losses, and instead trying to big-bet your way back to profitability. I could go on with examples, but you know what I’m talking about because you’ve seen it in your own life.
Until now, the “sunk-cost” impulse was seen as entirely reflexive — a natural human reaction hard-wired into our brains and therefore determinative of our politics, whether we like it or not. But this week, a social psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis published the results of a study that is “thought to be the first non-anecdotal demonstration of the ‘activation’ of the sunk-cost effect”–and how that activation can be entirely manufactured.
Here’s the crux of their findings:
Subjects were put into two groups; in one they were asked to solve three decisions, all related to sunk-cost effects; in the other, they solved three different problems, not related to sunk costs …
Those participants exposed to the sunk-cost scenarios unknowingly were being primed to think of the aversiveness of throwing away previous investments, what Lambert calls “the don’t-waste” goal.
In Phase II of the experiment, all subjects were assigned one of two short reading assignments: One assignment was about war casualties, the other about the weather. Next, all subjects took an attitude questionnaire of 25 generic questions about the particular war. Lambert and his group found that those subjects exposed to the don’t-waste goal who read the story about war casualties tended to be significantly more in favor of the war than those controls who weren’t primed the same way.
Considering this, we see that standard calls by politicians to “stay the course” lest we “allow our youngsters to die in vain” are less reflections of the country’s natural psyche than sophisticated efforts to artificially “prime” that psyche for an emotional lurch toward a desired pro-war policy position.
With the Obama administration now threatening to break its Iraq withdrawal promises, and with the Afghanistan war still going strong in the face of record casualties, this priming remains powerful. Though the current president (to his credit) isn’t explicitly referencing the “sunk-cost” effect in his rhetoric, that effect still defines our emotional reactions to yet more militarist status quo.
For conservative warmongers, that emotional reaction means remaining steadfastly behind these conflicts, painful consequences be damned. For liberals and independents naturally suspicious of the wars, it means opposing the conflicts in theory (as polls show the country does), but giving up the kind of intense protests and activism that marked those early war years before the costs and casualties skyrocketed — that is, before the huge costs were “sunk” into the endeavors.
The result is exactly the neoconservatives’ original desired effect — a kind of passive preference for “stay the course.” Indeed, we are now so programmed to see news of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan as reason to continue those wars — so fearful of “losing” our investment of blood and treasure — that we barely even discuss what “winning” actually means.
- David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at http://www.davidsirota.com. More: David Sirota
Waist Deep in the Big Muddy
Words & Music : Pete Seeger
TRO © 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY
It was back in nineteen forty-two
I was a member of a good platoon
We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That’s how it all begun.
We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.
The Sergeant said, “Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?”
“Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
‘Bout a mile above this place.
It’ll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We’ll soon be on dry ground.”
We were — waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.
The Sergeant said, “Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim.”
“Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,”
The Captain said to him.
“All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I’ll lead on.”
We were — neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.
All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain’s helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, “Turn around men!
I’m in charge from now on.”
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.
We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper
Than the place he’d once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
‘Bout a half mile from where we’d gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.
Well, I’m not going to point any moral;
I’ll leave that for yourself
Maybe you’re still walking, you’re still talking
You’d like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We’re — waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!
Words and music by Pete Seeger (1967)
TRO (c) 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, answer coalition, derrick kirkland, Iraq, Iraq war, march forward, memorial day, ptsd, roger hollander, Sgt. Kirkland, soldiers, spc andrew bussy, spc cary ellis, spc joseph chroniger, ssg kevin baker, suicide, va, veterans administration, war casualties
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more deaths from Wall Street’s wars!’
their own words
The following is a statement from veterans and
active-duty troops in the organization March
Forward!, an affiliate of the ANSWER Coalition.
On Memorial Day, we are asked to remember those who
have died in Washington’s wars. Of course, we’re only asked to remember the
lives of U.S. troops; the lives of civilians killed in the current wars are
supposed to not exist. As veterans, we know the human toll all too well, and
cannot forget the more than one million innocent Iraqis, and the tens of
thousands of Afghans, including an entire home just obliterated yesterday by
NATO that killed ten children–cut from life before it had even begun.
In the United States, there are many families who
will be mourning a loved one this Memorial Day: over 6,000 U.S. troops have been
killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past ten years. That number is climbing by
the day as casualties hit record numbers in the hopeless Afghanistan war, and
troops continue to be killed in the “ended” Iraq war.
But what this government doesn’t want us to remember
is the record number of troops who have lost their lives to suicide. They, too,
are victims of the U.S. military’s wars. Over the past two years, more
active-duty troops have killed themselves than have been killed in combat.
Outside the military, veterans commit suicide at a rate of 18 per day.
This epidemic is the result of criminally negligent
mental health care from the U.S. military and Veterans Affairs—but no matter how
much the mental health care system is improved, it doesn’t stop the constant
flow of thousands of young people who are sent to be traumatized in the first
place in two imperial wars. A recent study found that now 80 percent of soldiers
and Marines have witnessed a friend killed or wounded in combat. Morale is down
Under these conditions, the wave of suicides can only
Active-duty troops are standing up and fighting back.
This Memorial Day, let’s remember those killed by the U.S. government’s actions,
and honor those who are memorializing a fellow soldier by speaking out and
fighting to punish those responsible for his death.
Sgt. Derrick Kirkland, from 4-9 Infantry at Fort
Lewis, Wash., deployed to Iraq twice. He was rated a “low risk” for suicide
after three consecutive suicide attempts, was publicly ridiculed for seeking
help by his superiors, then placed in a barracks room alone in violation of Army
regulations. Days later he killed himself, on March 19, 2010.
Kirkland’s mother, Mary Corkhill, told March
Forward!: “the Army has massively failed him … I am very angry at the Army and I
feel they killed my son.”
March Forward! members in 4-9 Infantry immediately
sprung into action upon his death to expose those responsible. They have been
heroically organizing and speaking out. They are still working today to expose
Sgt. Kirkland’s case and the criminal treatment given to all troops, and to
organize against the wars.
You can help their voices be heard by signing their
petition and circulating their statements widely.
Help build the campaign to win justice for Sgt.
Kirkland, to hold the government accountable for their mistreatment of
traumatised soldiers, and to end the wars!
For more on the Kirkland
Lies About the US Civil War 150 Years Later April 13, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in History, War.
Tags: civil liberties, civil war, david swanson, history, lincoln, permanent war, roger hollander, slavery, war, war casualties, war deaths
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Tuesday marks 150 years since the start of the US Civil War. Newspapers everywhere are proclaiming it the deadliest war in US history, the costliest US war in terms of the loss of human life. That claim, like most things we say about the Civil War, is false.
Most humans, it will surprise our newspapers to learn, are not US citizens. World War II killed 100 times as many people as the US Civil War, with World War I not far behind. US wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq are among those that have killed far more human beings than the Civil War killed.
The South, we’re told, merely wanted to be independent; slavery had nothing to do with it. Of course, this is nonsense. The South wanted to be independent in order to maintain slavery.
The North, we’re told, merely wanted to free the slaves; power, empire, profit, and politics had nothing to do with it. Of course, this too is nonsense. The war was well underway before Lincoln “freed the slaves.” Actually he did not free those slaves whom he actually could free in the border states, but only those he could not free unless the North won the war. Freeing the slaves, like bringing democracy to Iraq or saving the Jews from Hitler, was a belated justification for a war that had other motivations. Adding that moral mission to the war helped keep European nations from backing the South and helped keep Northerners killing and dying in sufficient numbers.
Regardless of who said what when, the war did end slavery and was therefore justifiable. Or so we’re told. Yet, every other nation that ended slavery did so without a civil war. Similarly, we justify the American war for independence because it brought independence, even though Canada and countless other countries achieved independence without war. If we had used a war to create public schools, we would denounce critics of that war as opponents of education. To seriously justify a war, however, would require showing that anything it accomplished could not have been accomplished without all the killing, wounding, traumatizing, and destroying. What if the North had allowed the South to secede and repealed the fugitive slave law? What if an independent North had used trade, diplomacy, and morality to pressure the South to end slavery? Would slavery have lasted longer than the Civil War raged? If so, we are still talking, at best, about a war to hasten the end of slavery.
Even if the war was really launched for national power, to keep states together in a nation for the nation’s sake, we are all better off as a result. Or so we’re taught. But is it true? Most Americans believe that our system of representative government is badly broken, as of course it is. Our politicians are bought and sold, directed by corporate media outlets, and controlled by two political parties rather than the citizenry. One reason it’s difficult to bring public pressure to bear on elected officials is that our nation is too darn big. Most US citizens can’t join a protest in their nation’s capital if they want to. A resistance movement in Wisconsin can’t very well spread to other key cities; they’re all hundreds or thousands of miles away. In the years that followed the “preservation of the union,” the United States completed its conquest of the continent and began building an overseas empire, driven in large part by pressure from the same interests that had profited from the Civil War.
Secession has as bad a name as socialism, but Wisconsin could secede, ban foreign (US) money from its elections and create a government of, by, and for the people by next year. A seceded California could be one of the most pleasant nations to live in on earth. Vermont would have a civilized healthcare system already if not for Washington, DC Yes, the North helped end Jim Crow in the South, but the South did most of that on its own, and we all helped end Apartheid in South Africa without being South Africa. In the absence of viable representative government, we won’t do much else on a national scale that we can be proud of. We now, in the United States, imprison more people of African descent than were enslaved here at the time of the Civil War, and it is national policies, completely out of the control of the American people, that produce that mass incarceration.
Those who fought in the Civil War, regardless of the politics or results, were heroes. Or so we are told. But most of the men who killed and died were not the generals whose names we are taught. They were soldiers, lined up like cogs in a machine, killing and dying on command. The vast majority of them, as with soldiers on both sides of all wars prior to late-20th century conditioning, avoided killing if at all possible. Many simply reloaded their guns over and over again, fetched supplies for others, or lay in the dirt. Killing human beings does not come easily to most human beings, and many will avoid it — unless properly conditioned to brainlessly kill — even at risk to their own lives. To be sure, many killed and many who did not kill died or lost their limbs. There was much bravery and sacrifice and even noble intention. But it was all for a tragically pointless exercise in collective stupidity, lunacy, and horror. Reassuring as it is to put a pretty gloss on a tragedy like this, we would be better served by facing the facts and avoiding the next one.
A century and a half after this madness burst forth, the United States has established a permanent military and permanent war time, with military bases in over 100 other countries, multiple major wars, and numerous small-scale secretive wars underway. Our weapons industry, born out of the Civil War, is our biggest industry, the world’s biggest arms supplier, and the source for the armaments used by many of the nations we fight our modern wars against. The civil liberties, the right to habeas corpus, everything that Lincoln temporarily stripped away for the War Between the States, also known — quite accurately — as the War of Northern Aggression, has now been stripped away for good by Justice Department lawyers and prostituted pundits pointing to Lincoln’s example. The legacy of the Civil War has been death, destruction, the erosion of democracy, and the propaganda that produces more of the same. Enough is enough. Let’s get our history right. Let’s glorify those years in our past during which we did not all try to kill each other.
America’s Imperial Wars: We Need to See the Horrors April 11, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Vietnam, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, anti-war, civilian casualties, david lindorff, gaza, Iraq war, marc herold, naplam, phosphorus, us history, us imperial war, Vietnam War, war atrocities, war casualties, war history, war journalism, war media, war reporting
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Published on Saturday, April 11, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
When I was a 17-year-old kid in my senior year of high school, I didn’t think much about Vietnam. It was 1967, the war was raging, but I didn’t personally know anyone who was over there, Tet hadn’t happened yet. If anything, the excitement of jungle warfare attracted my interest more than anything (I had a .22 cal rifle, and liked to go off in the woods and shoot at things, often, I’ll admit, imagining it was an armed enemy.)
But then I had to do a major project in my humanities program and I chose the Vietnam War. As I started researching this paper, which was supposed to be a multi-media presentation, I ran across a series of photos of civilian victims of American napalm bombing. These victims, often, were women and children-even babies.
The project opened my eyes to something that had never occurred to me: my country’s army was killing civilians. And it wasn’t just killing them. It was killing them, and maiming them, in ways that were almost unimaginable in their horror: napalm, phosphorus, anti-personnel bombs that threw out spinning flechettes that ripped through the flesh like tiny buzz saws. I learned that scientists like what I at the time wanted to become were actually working on projects to make these weapons even more lethal, for example trying to make napalm more sticky so it would burn longer on exposed flesh.
By the time I had finished my project, I had actively joined the anti-war movement, and later that year, when I turned 18 and had to register for the draft, I made the decision that no way was I going to allow myself to participate in that war.
A key reason my-and millions of other Americans’–eyes were opened to what the US was up to in Indochina was that the media at that time, at least by 1967, had begun to show Americans the reality of that war. I didn’t have to look too hard to find the photos of napalm victims, or to read about the true nature of the weapons that our forces were using.
Today, while the internet makes it possible to find similar information about the conflicts in the world in which the US is participating, either as primary combatant or as the chief provider of arms, as in Gaza, one actually has to make a concerted effort to look for them. The corporate media which provide the information that most Americans simply receive passively on the evening news or at breakfast over coffee carefully avoid showing us most of the graphic horror inflicted by our military machine.
We may read the cold fact that the US military, after initial denials, admits that its forces killed not four enemy combatants in an assault on a house in Afghanistan, but rather five civilians-including a man, a female teacher, a 10-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and a tiny baby. But we don’t see pictures of their shattered bodies, no doubt shredded by the high-powered automatic rifles typically used by American forces.
We may read about wedding parties that are bombed by American forces-something that has happened with some frequency in both Iraq and Afghanistan– where the death toll is tallied in dozens, but we are, as a rule, not provided with photos that would likely show bodies torn apart by anti-personnel bombs-a favored weapon for such attacks on groups of supposed enemy “fighters.” (A giveaway that such weapons are being used is a typically high death count with only a few wounded.)
Obviously one reason for this is that the US military no longer gives US journalists, including photo journalists, free reign on the battlefield. Those who travel with troops are under the control of those troops and generally aren’t allowed to photograph the scenes of devastation, and sites of such “mishaps” are generally ruled off limits until the evidence has been cleared away.
But another reason is that the media themselves sanitize their pages and their broadcasts. It isn’t just American dead that we don’t get to see. It’s the civilian dead-at least if our guys do it. We are not spared gruesome images following attacks on civilians by Iraqi insurgent groups, or by Taliban forces in Afghanistan. But we don’t get the same kind of photos when it’s our forces doing the slaughtering. Because often the photos and video images do exist-taken by foreign reporters who take the risk of going where the US military doesn’t want them.
No wonder that even today, most Americans oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not because of sympathy with the long-suffering peoples of those two lands, but because of the hardships faced by our own forces, and the financial cost of the two wars.
For some real information on the horror that is being perpetrated on one of the poorest countries in the world by the greatest military power the world has ever known, check out the excellent work by Professor Marc Herold at the University of New Hampshire (http://cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm and http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/10/06/the-imprecision-ofus-bombing-and-the-under-valuation-of-an-afghan-life.html).