Thursday, May 13, 2010

Afghan and Iraq vets back green power, Fox News declines their ad

If there were any proof needed that Fox News is indeed the communications arm of the far-right of the Republican party, an intriguing recent episode of political theater clinched it.

In a nutshell, what happened was that a new group called VoteVets, which aims to support veterans running for office, created some ads linking support for fossil fuel use to the strengthening of Iran and other worldwide "enemies" of the US. You can see the better of the two that I saw above. I don't think the ad is at all left wing, or even that controversial, but Fox News, in a fit of illiberal censorship, refused to run it, even as a paid commercial.

So VoteVet's money is not good enough for Fox, huh? So much for the marketplace of ideas, unbridled capitalism version.

Ye shall know them by their fruits.

The ad links profits from oil to Iran's material support for the Shia insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. It begs some serious and welcome questions about the overall effectiveness of our strategy in the middle east, given this high oil price which amounts to a subsidy from the American public to the worst Islamist nations. It also looks to a future of energy independence.

I for one was very glad to see it.

As an ex-serviceman myself, I've been asking these kinds of questions since since the 1980s, in fact since I left the UK military in protest (after nearly seven years of service) against Margaret Thatcher's defense, energy and social policies, and in particular her actions against the Greenham Common peace campers, and her undeclared war on the culture and people of northern England, particularly those of us from steel and coal-working towns.

Thatcher and Reagan together forged powerful and long-lasting links between a kind of far-right construction of patriotism, the oil industry, and, particularly in America, the leadership of the military, links that eventually became almost unquestioned and unquestionable if you were a person who lived and worked in one of these three settings.

This coalition succeeded to the effect whereby, by the time 9/11 had added fuel to the fire, very few Americans had it in them to question deeply and carefully whether or not we were in Iraq for WMD, or for oil, whether it was wise to hand so many national interest functions to the likes of Haliburton or Blackwater, and whether or not Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were as wise or as intelligent as they tried to make themselves out to be.

Well, we saw where that got us, didn't we?

At the time I channeled most of my anger and outrage into a single paper on the topics of conscription, respect for service, student financial aid and leadership, which you can still read on the web if you're so inclined. At the time some intellectuals were asking questions about where we'd find the personnel to fight two wars at once, especially if, as was beginning to be apparent, succeeding at both wars would require a more intelligent serviceman or woman. How could we find the quality of recruits needed? Especially when, according to the example of Dick Cheney or George W. Bush, for instance, no one in his right mind who was bright enough to become a corporate and/or political raider would join the service and deliberately put themselves in harm's way? I was and remain proud of the paper, which won a small award and was republished in paperback in an anthology.

One of the things I managed to do in that paper was to envisage a day when the returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, their patriotism now tempered by understanding and knowledge, would take up the mantle of leadership in society. I saw this as a good thing, since I guessed, or assumed from my own very powerful experience in this regard, that their service would lead them to ask better questions and have better, more intelligent ideas about what to do about our very complicated problems in the world, as well as a stronger ethic of public service and national duty. I also advocated for a system of improved financial aid for military and other national service, since I foresaw that these kinds of experiences, not just the military but Peace Corps and Americorps, were just what was needed to get America and thus the west in general, back on track, and I wanted us to create avenues whereby more service led to better qualifications, which would naturally lead to more of those who served being promoted to leadership positions, compared to those who wouldn't serve.

I doubt my paper actually contributed much to the process, but I can look back and see that the ideas were adopted -- although probably quite a lot of other people were having the same ideas at the time. And we eventually got quite a bit of what we wanted. We do now have much better and much more generous systems linking military and non-military national service to student financial aid. We do now, to some much better extent, show more respect to those who have served, and give preference in hiring and in aid for education to them over those who haven't. The result has been and will continue to be, to some extent, to dilute the crass individualism of pure capitalism, and to begin to create a new, more intelligent construction of what the national interest is, one with a more communitarian ethic.

As a result, and I offer the VoteVets ads as one piece of proof, we are now beginning to ask much better questions about where we're going, together, as a society.

And the returning veterans, who've seen for themselves just exactly what a foreign policy decided in back rooms by draft-dodging neoconservative idealogues and their client industries can do for us, are now beginning to show leadership and push back.

All of which makes me very pleased. So hats off to VoteVets. Way to go.

And roll on the day when you guys run the country.

Meanwhile, shame on Fox News. Not only do you show disrespect for the opinions of a group of men and women who have served their country and undoubtedly earned the right to have any opinion they want on any topic under the sun and get that opinion published by any reputable news organization, but you've revealed yourselves as illiberal censors of ideas, immoderate idealogues, a new and insidious Big Brother from the far right.

But how long do you think you can keep that up, once these intelligent, committed, active young men and women with good records of service, who have figured out what is really happening, begin to assume the leadership and power they deserve?

For over a generation the political right and their captive news media outlets have applied a conservative litmus test to help us poor unwashed fools decide who is a person worthy of listening to. That person was an individualist and a capitalist, on the far right in terms of foreign policy, and would certainly never question the wisdom of our energy choices. Oil was king, and we didn't care where we would have to go to get it, or who we would have to get it from. But we've been sending lots and lots young men and women to go get it, and those young people have been part of a very non-capitalist, very non-individualistic operation called the military.

And they all vote.

And so we shouldn't be surprised if, after doing this very difficult thing we asked them to do, and doing it well, especially when we got rid of some of the original and failed leadership, they come back and look around at some of our wider choices, and begin to ask broader questions about what we are doing in the world.

And there's no stopping this process. This genie cannot be put back in the bottle.

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