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What’s So Complex About It?


The U.S. bombing of Afghanistan is a barbaric assault on defenseless civilians. It threatens a nearly incomprehensible human calamity. It is pursuing abominable goals.

When people say, but doesn’t the U.S. have a right to defend itself?. I understand their hurt, pain, anger, and confusion. But I also have to admit that I want to scream that the U.S. is increasing the likelihood that a million or more souls will suffer fatal starvation. Is that self defense?

You think I exaggerate?

So what’s complicated in all this?

When I was a kid and first learned about Nazi Germany, like many other kids, I asked how could the German population abide such horrors. I even wondered if maybe Germans were somehow genetically evil or amoral. I have long since understood that Germans weren’t different than Brits or Americans or anyone else, though their circumstances were different, but for those who still don’t understand mass subservience to vile crimes induced by structural processes of great power and breadth, I have to admit that I mostly just want to shout: Look around, dammit!

It is possible, with considerable effort, for the average person to discover that this “war” is potentially genocidal. One can easily get much more background, context, and analysis from ZNet, sure—but of course only one out of roughly every five hundred or one thousand U.S. citizens has encountered ZNet–but one can get that single insight, the possibility that genocidal calamity is imminent, even from the NY Times or Washington Post or any major paper that one might read, if one digs deep into it and reads it very carefully. Of course, the fact that such information isn’t prime time news in every outlet in the land reveals how supinely our media elevate obedience above performance. They are seeing the AID and UN reports and calls for a bombing halt, of course, and seeing the articles in periodicals around the world, and they are simply excluding it from U.S. communications. But even with this massive media obfuscation, how hard is this war to comprehend, supposing one actually tries to comprehend it?

Yes, a never-ending trumpet beat of patriotism proclaiming U.S. virtues and motives contributes to our blindness. Of course accumulated confusions, augmented daily, cloud our understanding and push the sad facts of potential starvation out of our field of vision. And yes the human capacity for self deception to avoid travail contributes, no doubt, to the process. But I suspect most people’s blindness is largely due to resignation. The key fact, I suspect, isn’t that people don’t know about the criminality of U.S. policies, though there is an element of that at work, especially in the more educated classes, to be sure. But even among those carefully groomed to be socially and politically ignorant – which is to say those who have higher educations — I think many people do know at some broad level Washington’s culpability for crimes, and of those who don’t know, many don’t in part because they are deceived, sure, but also in part because they are more or less actively avoiding knowing. And in my view the key factor causing this avoidance isn’t that people are sublimating comprehension to rationalizations due to cowardly fearing the implications of dissent and wanting to run with the big crowd instead of against it. I think instead that people can find deep resources of courage, when they think it will do some good. Witness those firefighters, average folks, running up the stairs of the WTC.

It follows that the task of those who understand the efficacy of dissent is of course to counter lies and rationalizations and to clear up confusions by calmly and soberly addressing all kinds of media-induced concerns and confusions that people have, but it is also to demonstrate to people their capacity to make a difference. We have to escort people, and sometimes ourselves too, over the chasms of cynicism and doubt to the productivity of informed confidence.

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