WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
– Major General Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)
Yesterday’s post, Empire Destroying Wars Are Coming to America Under Trump – Part 1, outlined my view that President Donald Trump, despite campaign slogans to focus on “America First,” is likely to entangle the nation in major new wars which will precipitate a chaotic and dangerous collapse of U.S. empire.
I base this view on his actions since coming into office, as well as the bloodthirsty war hawks he’s increasingly turning to for advice, with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton being the most concerning of all.
Today’s post will dig into how Trump will attempt to sell his wars, and will also address the role corporate media is likely to play in the legitimization of any future destructive conflagration.
To understand how Trump will attempt to rally his base to support another idiotic overseas conflict, all we have to do is look at his recent obsession with promoting fake patriotism via the NFL national anthem controversy. As I noted in the recent post, Thoughts on Trump, Fake Patriotism and ‘Taking a Knee’:
When I look at Trump’s commentary and tweets in aggregate one thing becomes crystal clear. Trump is trying to redefine America and what it means to be a patriot in superficial and jingoistic terms. He’s essentially grooming his supporters into thinking that worshipping a piece of fabric is what separates those who love this country from those who hate it and want to destroy it. By making this about a symbol as opposed to the ideas that this symbol represents, he allows his supporters to feel they are a part of “taking America back” while not even remotely comprehending what the country is actually all about. It’s like losing weight while eating whatever you want, all you have to do is vomit afterwards. Trump is essentially conditioning his supporters to follow him as he regurgitates all over the Constitution, because as long as they stay true to a piece of fabric or song, they honor the country. Patriotism made easy.
Which is why what Trump did here is the most dangerous thing he’s done since becoming President. He’s using an issue that existed and was already divisive as a way to redefine what patriotism means in America. It’s no longer about free speech, the right to privacy and the rest of it, but rather patriotism now revolves around a song and a flag. A societal embrace of this sort of fake patriotism is how horrible things happen, and I hope most Trump voters are wise enough to see this.
In case you haven’t noticed, Trump isn’t dropping the NFL thing, which makes me even more convinced I’m on to something. If he can convince his diehard supporters and other segments of the U.S. population that patriotism is as simple as flag worship versus adherence to our founding principles, he can surely convince them to support anther stupid war because it’d be unpatriotic not to.
This is precisely why I focused on the NFL issue a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think it’s a distraction at all, rather, I think it’s part of a much larger campaign to get his supporters to accept President Trump as the arbiter of what’s considered patriotic and what isn’t. Today it’s standing for the national anthem, tomorrow it’ll be whether or not you support a new crazy military adventure. He’s preemptively conditioning his groupies to follow him into cataclysm and cheer their own destruction along the way. Mike Pence was a willing participant in this manufacturing of fake patriotism over the weekend via his cheap stunt at the Colts game.
This will be Trump’s play. Given his clownish and undeniable betrayal when it comes to economic populism, he will increasingly focus on the culture war, and then ultimately, real war.
In order to successfully sell war, Trump will probably need one other thing in addition to a passive, slobbering base of fake patriots. He’ll also need the corporate media.
I know, I know, the media hates Trump, right? There’s no way they’ll support a major war launched by Trump you say. On this, I unfortunately will have to disagree.
On the question of war, the corporate media has proven itself to be craven bloodthirsty sycophants to the foreign policy establishment irrespective of who resides in the Oval Office. I suspect the same will be true when it comes to Trump, especially if Iran becomes the key target of mindless imperial aggression.
In order to understand how shamelessly and dishonestly the corporate media gets behind war based on total fabrications, let’s take a look at some comments from Chris Hedges in a recent must read interview.
I was on the investigative team at the New York Times during the lead-up to the Iraq War. I was based in Paris and covered Al Qaeda in Europe and the Middle East. Lewis Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and maybe somebody in an intelligence agency, would confirm whatever story the administration was attempting to pitch. Journalistic rules at the Times say you can’t go with a one-source story. But if you have three or four supposedly independent sources confirming the same narrative, then you can go with it, which is how they did it. The paper did not break any rules taught at Columbia journalism school, but everything they wrote was a lie.
The whole exercise was farcical. The White House would leak some bogus story to Judy Miller or Michael Gordon, and then go on the talk shows to say, ‘as the Times reported….’ It gave these lies the veneer of independence and reputable journalism. This was a massive institutional failing, and one the paper has never faced.
Have we seen any evidence that The New York Times or Washington Post have changed their ways? I say no, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see them ultimately war-monger behind Trump on Iran. At the end of the day, they don’t dislike Trump’s policies so much as they dislike his personal style and demeanor. They prefer a slick marketer for the status quo like Barack Obama in the White House — a charismatic executioner, a man who calls Wall Street executives fat cats one day, then endorses trillions in no strings attached bailouts the next. The foreign policy establishment has been salivating about taking out Iran for decades, and if Trump goes there, I suspect corporate media will enthusiastically cheerlead him into battle.
Today’s post discussed how I think Trump will sell his wars, and explored the possibility that corporate media ultimately will get behind them. Tomorrow’s post will dig into why I think any major new wars under Trump will lead to an acceleration in U.S. imperial collapse. A decline we need to accept as both highly probable and dangerous, but also one that could provide once in a generation opportunities for meaningful positive change.