Vijay Prashad: ‘The Only Way to Confront a War Economy is to Confront a Culture of War’
The culture of war is a celebration of death, which is what President Trump is promoting and which we must confront, argues Vijay Prashad at the Code Pink Summit
VIJAY PRASHAD: Thanks a lot, Jodie. Firstly, can you imagine that Code Pink is 15 years old? My daughter came with me today and she’s 16 years old. She’s a year older than Code Pink. It’s been 16 years since you pink-slipped Dick Cheney. Congratulations, Code Pink. 15 years. Great.
It’s really difficult to fly into Washington D.C. Every time I come here, I’m surprised at the airports that you have to choose between. Two war criminals. Either you pick the Dulles Brothers, war criminals, destroyed Guatemala, destroyed in fact much of Central America, tried to destroy Cuba, but defeated by the Cuban people, Venceremos; the Dulles Brothers is one set of scoundrels. And then there’s Reagan.
I mean, Reagan…who attempted to destroy the world. And in many ways, let’s not do what the mainstream is doing, which is using Trump as a benchmark, as a sort of amnesia-producing machine. So that because Trump is such a horrendous person, suddenly George W. Bush, a war criminal, is sanitized – or even worse, some people might look back and think of Reagan, Ronald Reagan, as a human being.
These are war criminals and this city, the capital of the United States of America, celebrates war criminals in the names of the airports. Because of campaigns like Divest from the War Machine, I’m looking for a time when we fly into Malcolm X International Airport. I’m ready for the day when I take the short flight from Hartford to the IWL’s National Airport.
The only way to confront a war economy is to confront a culture of war and really, that’s what I very much want to talk about, but before we get to the culture of war, let’s face it. This might be the last presidency of the United States of America. This very well might be.
I’m not generally a pessimistic person. I’m typically optimistic because I believe that as long as we’re resisting, we haven’t been defeated and we’re resisting. We’re resisting in our minds. We’re resisting with our bodies. We’re resisting with our imagination because we can see a different world.
It’s not a slogan to say another world is possible. It’s not a slogan. It’s part of our imagination. We believe that it’s possible. If it is indeed possible, if we continue to resist, we have not been defeated, but I still feel that this might be the last president of the United States, and I say that on two levels.
The first level is, and I think Larry Wilkerson said it as well at lunch, I’m not sure if this country’s façade of democracy is going to last. I think the façade might disappear sooner than the planet is destroyed, and so this might very well be the last president under the façade of democracy, and I think we should think about that a little bit, not pessimistically, not hopelessly, not in fear, but in order to sharpen our sense of what we need to do.
This might be the last president because they might annul formal democracy. This might also be the last president because this president is not a Republican. He’s not even necessarily an imperialist. This president is an annihilationist. He is an annihilationist.
Not only is this president, in other words, the last president, this last president, not only is he committed to fully destroy the planet through this carbon civilization that we live in … I quite agree. There is no such thing called climate change. There is capitalist planetary destruction. We are facing capitalist planetary destruction, not climate change.
Climate change somehow suggests that the climate has decided to change, that somehow the winds in the Atlantic Ocean have decided, “Let’s spin a little faster. Let’s provide more dangerous hurricanes.” God might be involved in this. Dispensationalism. The dispensation might be producing some sort of shift.
This is not climate change. This is engineered by the carbon civilization required by capitalism. This is capitalistically-produced planetary destruction. He wants to speed up capitalistically-engineered planetary destruction by increasing the carbon civilization.
He’s also eager to destroy the world. I mean, you said, “North Korea,” but I’ll throw in there Iran. You say, “Iran.” I’m throwing in there the whole damn planet. Who is he not willing to bomb? It’s not just a question of nuclear. Nuclear is terrifying. He dropped the largest, and I like the vocabulary in the media, the largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan and nobody blinked. Nobody blinked. That bomb is as vicious as anything that’s been dropped on the planet Earth by human beings.
You know what, they didn’t allow journalists to enter the kill site, where MOAB was dropped in Achin, in Southeastern Afghanistan. They didn’t allow journalists in there because they said it’s still a security zone. We don’t even know how many civilians were killed there. We do know that around the kill zone, people said it felt like the Earth was being destroyed. It felt like the heavens were falling on us.
This is an annihilationist president. We might be in the last presidency, but listen, I said earlier it’s not enough to say this is a problem of the American state. I said earlier it’s not enough to say this is a problem of American corporations, of global corporations, the merchants of death. It’s not enough to say that. There is a problem in the culture. There is a serious cultural problem that needs to be confronted.
There is a celebration of death. I don’t mean a celebration of guns, although that is, of course, part of the optic, the range that we have to think about, but there’s a celebration of death and we know there’s a celebration of death because at least, in the last 60 years, there has never been an account of American violence.
Take a look at the fact that in 1945, this country, the United States of America, dropped weapons of mass destruction on Japan, and there’s never been an account for that. They manufactured the idea of the greatest generation to make it appear that World War II was this noble battle.
That greatest generation ideology celebrates the culture of death because it utterly covers over the fact that the United States annihilated two cities, destroyed the lives of tens, hundreds of thousands of people who suffered from great pain because of the use of these barbaric weapons.
Because there was no account, never an account, never a question that the people who used weapons of mass destruction against Japan, there was never a question that they should be called to an account. Because of that, there was carte blanche to use vicious weaponry in Korea, to bomb Korean dams. I’m talking about the Korean war.
Every American generation has had before its sight an annihilationist war. There was the annihilationist war of 1945 in Japan, and then the next saw the annihilationist war against Korea.
There is utter amnesia about what the United States did to Korea. Destroying Korean agriculture, bombing cities with complete freedom, bombing civilian areas, and writing in military documents to each other that this was precisely what they were doing. They were trying to break the will of the Korean people, collaborating with former Japanese, essentially Nazis, fascists, to go after the communists in Korea.
There was never any accountability for what the United States did in Korea, and that is why there is utter bewilderment about the fact that the North Korean government now is petrified of the United States. The North Korean government is not a belligerent government. It is in sheer terror of what the United States might unleash against North Korea.
There was never any accountability for what the United States did to Korea, and then because there was no accountability of what the United States did on the one hand in Japan and then in Korea, you get Vietnam. Mass use of vicious industrially produced chemicals – Agent Orange being the most famously known – pesticides, fertilizer-type machinery used against human skin.
Human skin, the target now of the merchants of death of the United States. Targeting human skin. Throwing chemicals that burn on human skin and cannot be washed off. Nothing more vicious than that could have been imagined in the ancient world, when our ancient texts, from the Hindu scriptures to the Bible, conjured up some pretty nasty weapons of mass destruction of their own “God smote x, smote y.” I don’t think they could’ve imagined smoting by Agent Orange. Never any accountability for the kind of vicious attack.
There is no Vietnam War. This is part of the culture of death in the United States. There is no Vietnam War. There is an American war on Vietnam. There’s no Korean War. There is the American war against the Korean people.
Because there was no accountability for what was done to the Vietnamese, you get George W. Bush in Iraq and in fact, you get his father talking about the Vietnam syndrome, the need to get over the Vietnam syndrome.
There would have been no Vietnam syndrome if the criminals who prosecuted that war against Vietnam had been brought to some kind of international attention, including the Kennedy family.
All of them, all of them were responsible for using weaponry that should well never have been invented by human beings, and they used it against people who didn’t even know it was coming. You get Iraq. I was very happy to participate in the Code Pink organized tribunal on Iraq. Iraq is completely forgotten. Over a million people most likely killed by the American war in Iraq.
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN released a report last month, which was barely covered in the international press. The FAO report showed that 815 million people on the planet suffer from acute hunger. 489 million of them live in this conflict zone that goes from North Africa, across West Asia, into Central Asia, that is to say, Afghanistan. 489 million of the world’s hungriest people live in the same zone where the United States has prosecuted its wars from Libya, through Iraq, to Afghanistan.
Now you might wonder, “Why aren’t they fed?” An American scholar in the 1960s, Paul Ehrlich, wrote ‘The Population Bomb.’ You might be tempted to think, because we are saturated in the culture of death, that it’s their problem. They are having too many children. They don’t understand how to feed themselves. They don’t have good agriculture.
Let me just give you statistics from two districts in Iraq, Nineveh and Saladin districts. These two districts, combined, used to produce 40% of Iraqi wheat and 30% of Iraqi barley, two very important components of the Iraqis’ diet.
After the American war against Iraq, more than half the land in these two districts was compromised. Farmers were not able to grow their crops because of the level of bombs that were thrown on these districts and the chemicals that entered the water. These were no longer able to be produced for agriculture for human consumption. God knows who can consume water after it’s been hit by the kind of munitions that the United States uses in its war on the planet.
Now you will say, “Well, what does this have to do with us? What does this have to do with me?” I’m trying to say that you cannot have a campaign that targets this bank, that college, this pension fund, that institutional investor. You cannot have that campaign, unless you also confront the iron that has entered the soul of this country.
If you don’t have a cultural campaign that tackles the amnesia, the lack of acknowledgment of this history, the lack of understanding of this narrative, you will always be surprised when the Pew Research Institute delivers to you those findings about how people abroad don’t look so kindly towards America.
You will then read those reports and you’ll feel, “Why are these people so ungrateful? After all, the West has given $1.3 trillion of aid to the developing world,” this was in 2012, but you will not look at other statistics, other data points.
In 2012, the West delivered $1.3 trillion in aid. At the same time, the developing world sent to the West $3.3 trillion in debt servicing, in repatriated profits from western-based corporations.
In other words, on the one side, it’s the poorer nations of the world that are sending $2 trillion to the West, subsidizing the West, having their wealth drained and on the other side, you are gifting them bombs.
They are paying money to you for debt servicing, and then you are paying them back by destroying the agriculture, whether through Monsanto seeds or through bombs produced by God knows, General Dynamics.
I don’t pay attention to all that, and then you say, “Why do they hate us?” You say, “We’ve done all of this for Pakistan. Why do the Pakistanis continue to hate us,” and then the politicians say, “They hate us for our freedoms.”
You see, they hate us for our freedoms. After all, you well know that the United States is such a free country. You are free to starve. You are free to, if you are poor, join the military. You’re free to be pulled over by a police officer and if you don’t obey and you are shot, then somebody will write and say, “Well, why didn’t they just obey?” You are that free that you are supposed to obey.
“They hate us for our freedoms,” says George W. Bush. “They hate us for our freedoms,” George W. Bush, now the painter, painter of himself, self-portraits himself in a bath tub, where you see his legs poking out. God forbid he paints the rest of his body.
Rehabilitation, he is now on Ellen. Ellen welcomes George W. Bush. The New York Times and others say, “George W. Bush critical of Trump.” What a great guy. One million Iraqis dead. Iraqi agriculture destroyed. Pakistan once more in a spiral. Afghanistan wrecked beyond measure.
“Why do they hate us? Why do they hate us? We give them so much.” What about asking a different question instead of “Why do they hate us?” What about we think about the fact that they don’t personally hate anybody. They don’t have a high opinion of the United States.
See, somebody was asking me a question, “What is your opinion of the United States?” Just because I say my opinion is low, that doesn’t mean I hate the United States. Opinion is low. That’s what the Pew question actually asked, “George W. Bush made it. Why do they hate us?” “They hate us because of our freedoms,” and everybody believes that, because we take what politicians say at face value. We haven’t thought our movements properly to disregard or to question power. The culture of death has saturated us. We believe everything they say.
They don’t hate us, but why do they disapprove? Why are they scared of the United States? Maybe they are scared of the United States. Maybe I am scared of the United States. Maybe the world is scared of the United States, not because of the freedoms in the United States, but because the United States has spent at least the last 60 years taking away everybody else’s freedoms. Maybe they are worried about the United States because it’s a thief of freedoms. It steals everybody’s freedom and brings it to the United States and says, “Look, we are free.”
It is accumulating freedom against everybody. We can start this from our bends in Guatemala and come forward today to the deals made with places like the Central African Republic and so on, maybe even Rwanda, Renaissance leaders of Africa. How free are the Renaissance countries today? They hate us for our freedoms. I think the opposite. They are terrified that the United States will use this massive force to take away freedom. Thanks a lot.