Perspectives: A Review of 2012
by Jonah Raskin
(Swans - December 17, 2012) Drones have been around for decades, but 2012 was for me the year of the drone and drone warfare, which has extended the technology and the weaponry of the military-industrial-complex that President Dwight David Eisenhower warned us about 50 years ago, in 1962 to be precise. How ironical that a general would alert us, as he left public office, to the dangers of the arms industry, the proliferation of warfare, and to the machinations of a whole society given over to killing and the destruction of whole populations, whole countries, and cultures. How ironical, too, that General David Petraeus, the commander of US Forces in Afghanistan and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), would be caught in 2012 in an extramarital affair with his own biographer whose job it was to make him look good.
My own personal feelings about the General are surely irrelevant to everyone except myself and perhaps to some of the readers of Swans. But let me say that I think that Petraeus is a war criminal and that he is responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of Afghanis and Americans. I doubt that he has blood on his own hands; generals rarely do. If he did have blood on his hand, his biographer probably washed it away long, and without Lady Macbeth's anguish or her chant, "out, damned spot! Out." The grunts in the field usually do the killing for the generals and then come home and find themselves abandoned by the nation they thought they were fighting for. Too many returning soldiers commit suicide. Too many of them have broken lives and broken families. In that regard, the soldiers home from Afghanistan are like the veterans of every other war that the United States has fought in the last hundred years or so, including the veterans of the Vietnam War, who recently filed suit against the military claiming wrongful discharges on the grounds that they suffered, through no fault of their own, from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Most of us who live and work in the United States and around the world suffer to one degree or another from PTSD. Some obviously suffer more than others. General Petraeus probably doesn't suffer much, nor does George Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton and legions of generals and senators who have approved of or acquiesed in the mass bombings of civilian populations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In Macbeth, Shakespeare's evil Scottish lord of the same name is haunted by his crimes, including regicide, a reign of terror, and a civil war that he unleashes. In real life, the agents of the military-industrial-complex don't seem to suffer pangs of guilt. They're far too insulated from bloodshed and battlefields. Drone warfare is clearly meant to insulate ordinary soldiers from a sense of guilt and responsibility. Operating technology thousands of miles from their targets, and physically detached from human beings living their lives in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, the soldiers in the new automated army exist in an artificial, unreal, and immoral environment of death and destruction.
How much longer can the killings go on? How much longer can drone warfare be allowed to continue? However long it is, it's too long. The simple, basic fact is that some other way -- call it negotiation, or non-violence resolution of conflict -- has to be implemented to end the clash of political, economic, religious, and tribal forces. As long as human beings resort to war there will be more war and more killings. I don't see an end to war any time soon, and I don't see a swift decline and fall to the American Empire. I realize that change can occur quickly, or so it seems. Friends and family members point to Egypt and the Arab Spring when they argue that revolutions take place seemingly overnight and that tyrants can be and are overthrown quickly.
But let's not forget that a tyrant controlled Egypt for decades. The French kings ruled France ruthlessly for hundreds of years before the fall of the Bastille. The American colonists suffered under British kings for hundreds of years before they drafted the Declaration of Independence. I'm not waiting for an imminent revolution in the U.S., China, or Russia. I'm not calling for a revolution, either. If anyone I know were to call for a revolution I would probably argue with them. Rather than hope and plan for a revolution at some time in the future, what's needed now is immediate help for the victims of drone warfare in Yemen, for Palestinians recently bombed by Israel, and for American soldiers afflicted with PTSD. Stop the wars. Stop the killings. Stop the bleeding and the anguish. And bring Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth to military and civilian populations around the world.
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About the Author
Jonah Raskin is a professor emeritus in communication studies at Sonoma State University in California and is the author of Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating and Drinking Wine, The Mythology of Imperialism: A revolutionary Critique of British Literature and Society in the Modern Age, and For the Hell of It: the Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman. He lived and taught in Belgium in the 1980s. He is the editor of The Radical Jack London: Writings on War and Revolution. He also worked in Hollywood in the 1980s and wrote the story for the movie Homegrown. To learn more about Jonah, please read his entry on Wikipedia. (back)