Meet the New Year, Same As the Old Year

As the new year clicked over last Thursday night I pondered the situation in the world, as if I have any idea what the hell is going on.

All the major stuff is bad: The economies of the world are reverting back to feudalism, leaving only the super-rich and the dirt poor. The earth herself may be dying, and the very governments and corporations who might be able to stop it are either denying that it is even happening or blaming each other and refusing to act until somebody else does. Christian and Islamist extremists alike have evidently decided that the murder of innocents is OK with God as long as it’s done in the proper spirit. And here in the richest country the world has ever seen our legislators are bargaining away another chance for us to provide health care to all of our people, while big corporations are demonstrating — again — who is really in charge of things.

The British being massacred in Afghanistan, 1842.

On a personal note, while half the wannabe workers in the world don’t have jobs at all, I have to work at a job that I detest, doing the work of the devil.

Now forgive me for my one-track mind, but of all the major stuff that will be stinking up the new year, our various wars around the world are the ones that truly break my heart and sink my spirit. I see that I was conned again during the last presidential campaign. Not that I would have voted for John McCain anyway, but I let myself think that Obama was against the war and that if elected he would take immediate steps to extricate our country from the horrific and useless games we are playing in the Middle East. These days the best spin I can put on it is that his heart may be in the right place, but the War Machine has let him know that it won’t pay for another term if he tries to stop the carnage.

It’s not good enough.

I’ve said before — and pretty much lost all my readers because of it — that I don’t support the troops. (See also here.) They are, after all, the ones who pull the triggers. I got some half-hearted support in this, and at least one holier-than-me comment that I obviously don’t know any military people, because if I did I would know that they hate war more than anybody. That may be true, but there seem to be a couple hundred thousand of them right now who like it just fine.

But I am a poor writer, and I’m afraid I have never adequately been able to convey here the horror in my heart about war. Luckily, Chris Hedges has stepped up to help me out. Hedges is a divinity student turned war correspondent turned rabble-rousing author and columnist (at He has been to war and seen it for what it is:

War is brutal and impersonal. It mocks the fantasy of individual heroism and the absurdity of utopian goals like democracy. In an instant, industrial warfare can kill dozens, even hundreds of people, who never see their attackers. The power of these industrial weapons is indiscriminate and staggering. They can take down apartment blocks in seconds, burying and crushing everyone inside. They can demolish villages and send tanks, planes and ships up in fiery blasts. The wounds, for those who survive, result in terrible burns, blindness, amputation and lifelong pain and trauma. No one returns the same from such warfare. And once these weapons are employed all talk of human rights is a farce.


War’s effects are what the state and the press, the handmaiden of the war makers, work hard to keep hidden. If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be harder to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the mangled corpses of the eight schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan a week ago and listen to the wails of their parents we would not be able to repeat clichés about liberating the women of Afghanistan or bringing freedom to the Afghan people.

Read the rest of Hedges’ column here. Caution, though: it’s a little more shocking (and sickening) than what you’ve been getting from the TV and the press and our politicians. Mostly, we see and hear about Freedom, Democracy. Human Rights and safety for the American people. The unspoken subtext in all this, of course, is Glory, Bravery and Dominance.

I call bullshit on all of it.

To you politicians who say we have to win by killing them all, bullshit. The more of them you kill, the more of us they will kill. To you generals and admirals and commanders who pretend to hate war, bullshit. Do you think we haven’t noticed that your lives are devoted to it? To you chickenhawks who want someone else’s kids to go kick some ass and lose their lives, limbs and minds, bullshit and shame on you.

To you young men and women who think you are “defending freedom” by killing the enemy and destroying the countryside, well, sorry kids, but that’s bullshit too. I fear for you, and I weep for you. Like me, you have been conned. When you strap on your weapons and your uniforms and march into someone else’s home, don’t you see that you are the enemy, and all the stuffed animals and candy you hand out to the children cannot counteract the hatred you engender when you haul their uncle off to “enhanced” interrogation or shoot down their brother for running a checkpoint?

I know I’m a fool. I thought we were electing an antiwar president, and except for Dennis Kucinich, Obama did seem to be the strongest antiwar candidate. But he has already sent 60,000 more troops to Afghanistan (to fight an estimated 100 al Qaeda). And let’s not kid ourselves — there’s no way to bring that many people home in 18 months. What use is it to finally get out of Iraq if all he does is bring the ongoing invasion of Afghanistan to the front burner? Obama is the first president in my lifetime with both the requisite crises that demanded action and the juice to actually change the old, corrupt ways in U.S. government. That’s what he said he was going to do. And I, like a fool, believed it.

But here in the cold light of this harsh New Year, it looks like business as usual.

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3 Replies to “Meet the New Year, Same As the Old Year”

  1. It’s insane. We’re trying to kill about, what? 80 murderers, and instead murder 8 kids.

    I don’t even know how to follow that thought. I.. I .. Are we all of this country, not just Rush & the Pats and good ol Dick Cheney, but all of the United States’ legal residents, H Sapes and corporate alike, not on trial? If any God exists if only in one’s heart then one has to admit the guilt of murder committed by this country, this Sovereign Entity that is our legal and usually heartfelt home, the United States.

    With a body count equal to that of all jihadist bombs since the PLO’s plight took off in popularity in the 50s, that’s a lot of Apologizing that’s only half assed been done. Doesn’t murder come with a Life sentence? Where’s the Law of the Bigger Stick to hold the U.S., us, responsible? I wish I could let it go sometimes.. but it’s even people I’d hoped better from/for/of that let us down. Time and f time again.

    Happy New Year bro! {sigh} idk Don’t forget that Rock-n-Roll is the D man’s game as well. ,-)

  2. Ah. So this is what it feels like to be a grown-up. This is what the death of idealism means. This is where the calm, quiet, eery peace of hard-won wisdom puts down roots. It’s here in the realization that the world is what the world is, and all our striving and yearning really only counts in the small circle of our own lives. This is where we learn, finally, how to love.

    Perhaps it’s here, at this crux of the real, that our real work begins. What do you think?

  3. Bains – The world holds many horrors. Let’s not be blaming them all on one country. But let’s try to make that one country a better place.

    Wren – I really feel like I won’t need to learn this lesson again. My new role model and hero will be Captain Renault, the Claude Rains character in “Casablanca.” I am shocked, shocked that gambling is going on here!

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