A Response to The Ultimate Burden by Bob Herbert (NY Times 8/25/09)

The Consciousness of the American People

Posted on May 10, 2010 by John Joseph Kehoe, MA (姜唘豪)

If you want to get a little bit of a sense of what the wars are like in Afghanistan and Iraq — a small, distant sense of the on-the-ground horror…….-The Ultimate Burden – Bob Herbert New York Times Op-Ed

 

It is a bleak picture of the American ethos, one that has slowly been gobbled up by the production teams at Fox News, Pentagon briefing rooms, and sound studios of NPR.


The op-ed emphasizes a stark reality, the amount of money and domestic blood being spent in these two absurd and obscene conflicts is not commensurate with the consciousness of the American people, meaning the ethos of America has been gliding on distractions, as well as media orchestrations that present the conflicts more as an event for the History Channel, or entertainment.”

-John Joseph Kehoe, MA

The Ultimate Burden is the title of an op-ed from August 25 2009 (NYT), by Bob Herbert. It highlights a new book by a photographer that has spent time following combat troops in Afghanistan, and Iraq. Depicting what many Americans are sheltered from, the age old adage ‘horrors of war’, we could say. Echoing what I myself, have stated, and believe, that the economic downturn, and words such as ‘bail-out’ and ‘overhaul’, work, however intended, or not, to override realities of what Bob Herbert states as absurdities, and obscene conflicts. Does he substantiate his definitions that he uses for these wars? I think so.

First off, in the text he states that the overrides of the economy, has caused Americans to allow the reality of ”young people getting their faces and their limbs blown off’ to stay out of conscious awareness. Why with the reports heard on NPR, ABC, and the like, the military operations seem to be auxiliary to nation building, as news reports broader pictures of elections and tugs of war between Taliban and US forces for control of communities. The sectarian violence in Iraq is reported as if it is ‘their’ problem.

War Reality, Upton Sinclair, and Public Ignorance

Casualties of Iraqi civilians, the numbers, are conflicting, while the horrors inundating combat soldiers are glossed over like the hellish environments of the 1906 meat packing industry, eventually exposed in Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’.

 

The op-ed emphasizes a stark reality, the amount of money and domestic blood being spent in these two absurd and obscene conflicts is not commensurate with the consciousness of the American people, meaning the ethos of America has been gliding on distractions, as well as media orchestrations that present the conflicts more as an event for the History Channel, or entertainment. Tea parties, health care, and cash for clunkers, are the threads that insight participation in political processes, but the waste of domestic resources on conflicts that are projected to last into the indefinite future, hover in the background, with little debate isolated to call in AM talk shows, in the most simplistic terms, of ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘keep America safe’ (by obliterating infrastructure in foreign lands, and killing people). Phrases such as ”keep Americans safe”, ”fight terrorism” go hand in hand in the hours of talk by syndicated talk radio shows, and over years of hearing them, along with terms such as ‘deployment’, ‘wars’, ‘our men and women in uniform’ create a myopic reality in the minds of the listener. That reality is the one created and maintained by the Pentagon, the Media and ideologically guided policy that aims at supporting corporate interests that are guaranteed profits in time of wars.

What this writer sees as Pentagon meddling in reportage, and news offerings of the two conflicts and all the elements of those realities that are impinged upon by them, has testimony in Democracy Now’s broadcasts of Winter Soldier. The audio testimonies of veterans from the two conflicts, presented by IVAW.org bring the realities of these conflicts into focus, but such a reality is seldom featured on main street media outlets. This is an under reported area, but some headlines indicate the reality:

Quote “Senior US war reporters have launched a scathing attack on new rules issued by the Pentagon detailing how the media will be allowed to cover any conflict in Iraq.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2003/feb/27/pressandpublishing.Iraqandthemedia

The bigger picture, perhaps not absent from the minds of some people, is that the both wars highlighted in the words ‘absurd’ and ‘obscene’, as Bob Herbert states, are sustained conflicts of hegemony, (political, cultural, and economical hegemony). What these conflicts truly represent is kept out of the minds of the American people.

Media, Pentagon and Influence, keeping the consciousness of the people in check:

Standard propaganda for the American. These books issue from the Military’s hold on popular culture. Such titles are supplemented with interviews and more, of former soldiers who glorify their roles, and are seen in a light that is quite different from the reality that they truly come from. One of racism, stupidity and destruction of good.

An example of such confining and limiting of reality, or searches for truth, is found in the delineation of topics on call in shows, FOX, and other networks, as well as NPR. I truly believe that it is no accident that the reality of thermite found throughout low Manhattan, after the events of 911 is confined to news sources that also deal with UFO disclosure (a distraction, or simply entertainment). This reality is one of keeping the consciousness of the people in check, by the media, reporting, and AM talk show hosts, who are required not to veer off well defined and carefully demarcated discourses. Any questions that dip into the historical and cultural developments of politics and societies of the Middle East, or the duplicities of the State Department, are thrown into the waste bins, or never make it to production studios. But than again, even in academia, the money speaks louder than quests for truth:

Quote “The new rules even worm their way into academia. Take the friendly little university of Purdue in Indiana, where I lectured a few weeks ago. With federal funds, it’s now setting up an “Institute for Homeland Security”, whose 18 “experts” will include executives from Boeing and Hewlett-Packard and US Defense and State Department officials, to organize “research programs” around “critical mission areas”. What, I wonder, are these areas to be? Surely nothing to do with injustice in the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict or the presence of thousands of US troops on Arab lands. After all, it was Richard Perle, the most sinister of George Bush’s pro-Israeli advisers, who stated last year that “terrorism must be decontextualized ” end quote – Robert Fisk: (http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0104-01.htm

Confine the Dialogue and Control the Thoughts of the People

So, these days, talk of thermite found in the debris of the Twin Towers, and questioning the motives of the deployment of troops in Iraq, (not to mention the bombing of a sovereign nation), will send you to the margins of academia, or to the broadcasts which line ups include UFO researchers.  Any discussion of rudimentary elements in the historic development of Islamic Extremism, and what the presence of US forces means, outside of the agendas of the Pentagon, are may have been confined to academic circles, university classes, and cafes on the strip of New Heaven, a decade ago, but these days, even these arenas of critical thought are being made over.

It is a bleak picture of the American ethos, one that has slowly been gobbled up by the production teams at Fox News, Pentagon briefing rooms, and sound studios of NPR.

Bob Herbert states that “If we had a draft-or merely the threat of a draft-we would not be in Iraq or Afghanistan. But we don’t have a draft so it is safe for most of the nation to be mindless about waging war. Other people’s children are going to the slaughter”. What is important, seemingly, is turning that old clunker into a dealership, thus contributing to clearing burning and more fuel efficient transportation. This is political participation, and don’t forget to tote your guns to an Obama Town Hall meeting, to display your recognition of the right to bear arms. These should take precedence over domestic expenditures and blood, in foreign lands. Just as getting apps for the latest handheld device is more important than getting the Obama Administration to stop the killing of innocent people by way of CIA drones, don’t you think?

Perhaps not.

Related article:

Drone Pilots could be Tried for ‘War Crimes’ Law Profs. Says:  http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/04/drone-pilots-could-be-tried-for-war-crimes-law-prof-says/#ixzz0nXvpKslV

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