Ted Rall: When War is Abstraction, No One is War Weary

On claims that Americans are hesitating at a Syria strike because they are “war-weary,” our political columnist Ted Rall calls– bull&%t. Here’s why.

aNewDomain.net — Media pundits of late say they know the real reason Americans aren’t keen on U.S. President Barack Obama’s hard-on regarding firing cruise missiles at Syrian cities. It’s because they are “war weary.”

What bullshit.

Yes, wars cost us big time. Now 12 years old and counting, America’s illegal and unjustified occupation of Afghanistan is the longest war the U.S. has ever engaged in. And for 10 years, we’ve been in Iraq, following one of the most-brazen acts of aggressive warfare in our country’s blood-soaked history. As a result of the war on both fronts, the U.S. has lost 8,000 American soldiers and 50,000 have returned wounded.

These numbers avoid even more-bloody detail. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalis and others in and around our fronts have so far been slaughtered by U.S. invasion forces.

It’s tragic and wasteful, every one of these casualties. But, by historical standards, the cost of war isn’t what it used to be. Consider: Roughly 700 U.S. troop combat deaths a year is tiny compared to the 6,000-a-year rate of American soldiers killed during the conflict in Vietnam. And it’s small compared to the Korean War — 12,000 soldiers died every year in that conflict. As for World War II, the rate was 100,000 dead U.S. soldiers a year.

No wonder the post 9/11 war on terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere has become a remote, irrelevant abstraction to most Americans.

‘Our work is appreciated, of that I am certain,’ General Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff told graduates at West Point. Mullen continued: ‘But I fear [civilians] do not know us. I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle.’ “

According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, just one third of Americans aged 18 to 29 have a direct family member who has served in uniform since 9/11. That’s the lowest rate in memory.

About 2.2 million Americans so far have suited up to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq.

That’s not so much fewer than the 2.7 million young Americans who reported to Vietnam for duty.

The difference? Today’s volunteer military just isn’t representative in any broad sense of American society writ large.

A woman recently introduced me to her brother. ‘He just got back from Iraq,’ the woman said. He corrected her. ‘Afghanistan,’ he said. And this was his sister! ‘Thank you for your service,’ a man walking by told him as he passed us, not even waiting for a reply. The vet’s face hardened. Nobody gets it. Civilians never did get war — not fully, anyway. But the disconnect was never this big. ‘War weary?’ Please. You have to notice something in the first place before you can get tired of it.”

Until the Syria debate of late, such antiwar liberals as New York Congressman Charles Rangel are busily decrying the civilian-military gap.

His proposed solution? Bring back the draft.

Rangel and others reason that if more people — not just poor, undereducated and underprivileged yokels from the sticks — had “skin in the game,” it would be harder for politicians to start one war after another.

‘A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war,’ Rangel argues. After Obama proposed bombing Syria, Rangel renewed his proposal to bring back the draft.”

The United States has been at war for fully 90 percent of its history from now going back to 1776.

I am 50 years old, born a few months before the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

My only peacetime president has been Jimmy Carter.

War weary? Please. Like Orwell’s Oceania, the United States of America is always at war. We love war.

War isn’t just what America does best, war is what America does most. The U.S war machine comprises 54 percent of the federal budget!

As I noted above, it’s true that, compared with wars of yore, there have been relatively few American casualties in our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But there are terrible atrocities most Americans never hear about. This is because media coverage is so sanitized and pro-military. I’m counting such gruesome atrocities as the My Lais and napalm attacks that used to upset people so. Consider Mahmudiya, Panjwaii. The white phosphorus that literally dissolved people in the battle of Fallujah — journalists barely reported this and they are “embedded” anyway.

So you get few Vietnam-type images piped into our living rooms to elicit disgust or guilt. Even the fiscal effects are deferred. Officially, our wars are off the books. That means they aren’t tallied as part of the budget deficit.

Given how little the current wars personally affect us, why would we be war weary?

If Obama doesn’t get his war against Syria, he has no one to blame but himself. People aren’t war weary. And that dude is just lazy.

Think of the list of American wars, just since 1990: the Gulf War, Serbia, Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, Libya … it’s easy to con Americans into a war.

But, unlike Bush and his warmongering predecessors, Obama isn’t willing to do the propaganda work.

These things aren’t for the impatient. Bush spent a full year and a half making his phony case to invade Iraq. That included countless speeches, endless bullying, plus tons of twisted arguments and faked Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction (WMD) reports.

By comparison, Obama wanted to go to war four days after the chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.

You’ve got to wonder how many Americans were even aware of the story? Remember, this was late summer, peak vacation season.

First you tear Americans away from the barbecue grill. Then you get to barbecue the Syrians.

As has been widely noted, Obama’s messaging is all over the place, creating a confused public on whom subtlety is lost. It’s a public programmed to digest its politics in bumpersticker slogans and talking points.

As for Obama, please. Allowing yourself to be seen golfing right after you call for war hardly conveys any requisite sense of menace, much less the urgency of an imminent threat.

When JFK wanted the public to sign off on nuclear brinksmanship with the USSR, he went on television with spy plane photos of Cuba’s missiles.

Despite considerable evidence that the rebels or a rogue officer were responsible, Obama says he has proof that the Sarin gas attack was ordered by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Yet unlike Kennedy, he won’t pony up the proof. France tried to offer something up, in a recently-unclassified intelligence document aNewDomain posted on ScribD, but Obama will not.

Why not?

As Russian President Vladimir Putin wryly observed, this is crazy fishy.

‘Claims that proof exists but is classified and cannot be shown are beneath criticism,’ Putin said. ‘If the U.S. says that the al-Assad regime is responsible for that attack and that they have proof, then let them submit it to the U.N. Security Council.’ “

Militarism is our thing, but Americans aren’t cool with war until they believe their enemies pose a direct threat.

Team Obama admits that Syria is not a direct or imminent danger to the U.S. Rather, it claims we must attack them as a deterrent to other supposed future possible maybe enemies, namely Iran and North Korea.

Sorry, but no dice.

Only one in five Americans buys that weak argument. If Iran and North Korea are the threats, Americans rightly wonder, then attack those countries, not Syria.

Obama’s verbiage is telling:

‘I put it before Congress,’ Obama said, ‘because I could not honestly claim that the threat posed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians and women and children posed an imminent, direct threat to the United States.’ “

He could not honestly claim it? As opposed to what? Something like: “Assad’s use of chemical weapons is not an imminent, direct threat, so we have time for a Congressional debate.”

Americans are good at reading between the lines.

Another reason — and it isn’t war weariness — is that Obama might not get his Syria war.

Based in Boston, Ted Rall is a senior commentator at aNewDomain.net. The above is a version of his syndicated, Pulitzer Prize nominated political column. Email Ted at Ted@anewdomain.net and find out more about him and his work at TedRall.com.