Robert Scheer SI Podcast

Norman Solomon: Bipartisan Obsession With War

In War Made Invisible, journalist Norman Solomon explains that Biden is as guilty as Trump in ushering a potential nuclear holocaust.
Norman Solomon. Photo courtesy of The New Press

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There is no rationality, logic or hope left in the U.S. government’s obsession with war. There is no complexity, awareness or nuance left in the U.S. media and its pundits’ perception of other nations as the enemy. There is only greed, jingoism, hypocrisy and belligerency left to define the current state of affairs, as the proxy war in Ukraine draws nearer to a dreaded nuclear confrontation. Norman Solomon joins host Robert Scheer for this episode of Scheer Intelligence to discuss his new book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, and explain the bipartisan cheerleading for war that goes largely unnoticed.

As Scheer points out numerous times in previous episodes of SI, there has always been a precedent for the other side: a peace movement, rational politicians acting against nuclear escalation and simply a recognition of profiteering from war. “Even during World War II, when Harry Truman chaired a committee, they talked about in the Senate war profiteering. You can’t even get that phrase anymore. So it’s lucrative, but hardly mentioned in mass media that the billions and billions of dollars going to Ukraine are making extremely wealthy CEOs and major stockholders even more extremely wealthy,” Solomon explains.

Diplomacy, Solomon says, has now become a dirty word. Anything other than the complete commitment to funding and continuing the war effort is seen as a threat to the country and status quo. The loss of the ability to even talk about it, has infected both sides of the aisle. But it is the Democrats, as Scheer mentions, who have become the perpetrators of this new jingoism and xenophobia towards Russia. “What we’ve lost now is any sense of complexity and the Democrats are leading the charge of simplification. They did Russiagate. They are the ones who say you can’t negotiate with Putin,” Scheer says.

This simplification exposes hypocrisy in the face of all these politicos and corporate pundits. Putin is a war criminal but Bush is not. “The de facto leader of Saudi Arabia leading that slaughter in Yemen, who got fist bumped a year ago by the president of the United States, Biden, and we’re on a higher moral ground… Some even handed assessment of U.S. foreign policy says that we have no position or right in logical terms, to hold ourselves above Russians in terms of foreign policy,” Solomon says.

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Robert Scheer


Joshua Scheer


Diego Ramos


Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, which would be an arrogant title for a show but the intelligence comes from my guests and in this case it’s Norman Solomon. He’s written a large number of books and we can discuss them. But this one is really critical, and it’s an examination of the American military industrial complex. It’s just out and I’ve been accused of babbling on too much at the beginning of these shows. So let me turn to you, Norman. Tell us the book, why you wrote it now, how it fits into an emerging presidential race, how it fits into a war in the Ukraine that I think threatens all of life on this earth. But you tell me, show us to cover. Let’s sell the book. Because I think, first of all, let me say one great thing about this book. I’m so tired of reading thousand pages and 1500 page books that don’t really say that much. This is a mercifully, what, 200 pages, right. So it’s a joy to read it. It’s fast. It engages, honestly, all the arguments. That’s my endorsement. You should buy it. It’ll only take an afternoon. It won’t take a week out of your life if you actually read these things. And so but but really, why this book? Why now? Show us the title. Tell us the publisher and the rest. 

Norman Solomon: Hey, thanks a lot, Bob. Well, the title is War Made Invisible, and the subtitle is How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine. It’s just been brought out by the New Press in hardcover, and basically I feel that it addresses what is largely hidden in plain sight, that it’s almost ineffable. It’s almost virtually a de facto taboo in the U.S. corporate media and in general, with media across the board in the United States to not deal with what we could see and I describe as two tiers of grief. War, we know, is ongoing. When Americans die in war, when they come back injured physically and psychologically, when their loved ones grieve, that is validated and really glorified as a service to the nation by the media and political complex of the United States. But when we think about or don’t think about people who are at the other end of U.S. firepower, then it’s all across the board, a different matter, their silence, their dehumanization. And if there is reference to those at the other end of U.S. missiles and bombs, it’s been rather cursory and sporadic. When we look at the electoral situation, Bob, I think that, in terms of the Democratic and Republican parties on domestic issues, there’s a huge difference. Health care, education, housing, what elements of democracy have existed in this country under threat from the Republican Party? On the other hand, when you look at foreign policy, militarism, military budget, it’s really difficult to see the difference. And my book is named War Made Invisible, not only because increasingly the U.S. is relying on air power, few boots on the ground, little media coverage, but also the decimating effects physically, infrastructure, health care, psychological disruption, normalization of violence on the home front. This is also rendered invisible and yet, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, the spending on out of control military outlays really involves what he called a demonic suction to what he described as the madness of militarism. And as we sit here at the start of summer 2023, we are immersed in that madness. We are in a militaristic society. It is bipartisan and extremely dangerous. 

Scheer: Let me push this a little bit. And I would say, yes, it’s bipartisan. First of all, I agree with you on the domestic issues and human rights issues involving gay marriage and the extent of free speech and accountability on income and distribution and so forth. I’m not sure the Democrats are so much better, it took Bill Clinton to push through the banking deregulation, in fact, end the New Deal. But that’s a subject for another book. The power of your book really is to describe the way war was made invisible was that for the people who have power in America and believe we should have a central power and military power and central to our economy and so forth. The Vietnam War was a disaster because even though there were many millions of more Southeast Asians who died than the 59,000 Americans, there were body bag pictures, people we cared about as our neighbors and so forth. Their lives were destroyed. You have very moving description of really probably the most well-known person to come in at war, Ron Kovic, who remains injured but has spoken out against the endless wars and so forth. And we had a draft, so everybody was up for it. I know I went to Vietnam as a journalist, but when I was there, I still had a number. And so I was writing about something that I might have to actually be fighting in while I was covering it. And it seems to me the response to that, what was recognized as a failure was that, you know, we wouldn’t have a draft and we would have a professional army. And even that ran into trouble because, you know, after all, you have to rely more on technology. And then we had in your book brilliantly describes the second Iraq War as as a video spectacle and describes, you know, really the reporters and everything drawn into it as if they’re watching a movie and it’s compelling writing, by the way. And you really nail these network people in everything, the fun they’re having. And one reason they can have fun is that they’ve dehumanized the Iraqis who are getting killed the same way Vietnam. Now you have a situation where they’ve taken it to the ultimate level because we stopped believing in that war on terror. We stopped believing that torturing people in Iraq was really going to make us safer. And now they’ve gone back to really, which was the premise of the Vietnam War, which was that we’ll harness the cause of human rights and that we have an evil empire, this sort of thing Orwell was talking about. And so Vietnam was never Vietnam at first. It was an extension of the Soviet Union. It was an extension of communist China. And that became more, you know, the dominoes will fall. Now you have, it seems to me, in the Ukraine, a situation where we got finally the war that they’ve always wanted. You know, they got white people whose, you know, they forget that the Russians on the other side are also white, but they’re Slavs and it’s very easy to hate Slavs. And these somehow are different people, even though maybe their view of Christianity is not that different. And yet, you know, they’re gleeful almost. And for the first time in my life and why I wanted very much to interview you is for the first time in my life, I, you know, really feel that we may blow up the whole planet. I really feel that because I’ve covered wars, I’ve been out there a little bit longer than you. There was always a peace movement. There were always people of conscience. There were always, you know, who stood out. You mentioned Martin Luther King. There was Benjamin Spock. There were Protestant ministers. There were scientists who spoke out. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have an enemy. We had enemies. You know, they were real. You know, Nixon made peace with Mao. But, you know, Mao in China was led by a much more fiercely nationalistic, radical leader than it is now. And yet now we’re talking about possible confrontation with nuclear armed Russia and maybe by extension, China. And there’s almost no talk about the consequence, the end of life on the planet. I know you have been making some kind of film with Daniel Ellsberg, who’s unfortunately very ill right now, but he’s probably, in addition to his great achievement in exposing the folly of Vietnam, has written compellingly about something he worked in the Pentagon, nuclear war planning and so forth. So maybe you can join this. Your book comes out at a moment where you’re going against conventional wisdom. Your book is basically saying these wars are very costly, they destroy democracy at home, they prevent us from doing things that we should be doing. Right. But yes, these wars…

Solomon: Yeah, these wars which are ongoing, I call the book War Made Invisible, largely because U.S. wars are continuing. They’ve been nonstop since October 2001 with the invasion of Afghanistan. And as you allude to, the trajectory is not only in the present disastrous at home and abroad, but it is leading us predictably, foreseeably, towards the ultimate disaster. And I write in the book that if there’s any war that would be profoundly invisible afterwards, it would be nuclear war. As Daniel Ellsberg has said, the best science is 99% of the people on the planet would be exterminated by nuclear war. And yet the United States well, let me put it this way, I mentioned this in the book, after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, just days after, President Biden gave his State of the Union address. And in that very long speech, he did not say one word about the threat or danger of nuclear war, not one threat about the reality of nuclear weapons, the dangers of the two nuclear superpowers facing off in Ukraine. It is all almost like the Emperor’s new clothes story, where we’re encouraged to just pretend that the people in charge are in a safe and sane way pursuing U.S. foreign policy. I think it’s quite the opposite. I think that, you know, C. Wright Mills phrase is quite appropriate here. Crackpot realism. They are in step the Washington press corps, the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties. They are on the war train. They’re greasing the wheels to get it move more and more forward faster and faster, of course. We know it’s extremely lucrative, which is also another topic, virtually taboo. Even during World War II, when Harry Truman chaired a committee they talked about in the Senate war profiteering. You can’t even get that phrase anymore. So it’s lucrative, but hardly mentioned in mass media that the billions and billions of dollars going to Ukraine are making extremely wealthy CEOs and major stockholders even more extremely wealthy. And meanwhile, the word diplomacy has been stigmatized to the point that it’s a dirty word. And how can we have two nuclear superpowers facing off and yet we have a political and media culture that says, go right ahead, throw more weapons in, throw more oil on to the fire, proceed to escalate this war as much as possible. And I think it comes down to the fact that we have an unhinged, militarized political economy, media, which is jingoistic, and it’s essential, first, that we name this. If we can’t bring it out into the open, we can’t address it effectively. That’s our challenge, I think. One fact that we should recognize is that the Democratic Party has turned into a war party as much as the Republican Party. You know, we can remember during the war on Iraq and the first years after the invasion, how the Democratic Party was split. Democrats of the base generally opposed it. The picture on the war was that of George W. Bush. Things have really flipped now, and the madness of militarism that exists now is getting a pass from most loyal Democrats. I really think that needs to change. 

Scheer: Oh, I think you’ve been too kind to the Democrats, frankly. I’m serious. You know, I think as you know, I’ve covered politics all my life. I interviewed Richard Nixon after he was president. I interviewed Ronald Reagan before he was president. And, you know, Richard Nixon went to China to negotiate with. Now, Mao had been described as the most brutal, worst irrational communist dictator in the world. And he went there with Henry Kissinger and they negotiated this incredible change in the whole… 

Solomon: But, you know, meanwhile, Nixon was overseeing the slaughter of people on the Plain of Jars and allows slaughtering, slaughtering people in Cambodia. So we shouldn’t pretty him up. No, no, no. This is all one picture, because as we speak, Anthony Blinken is in China. They do diplomacy on their terms. It’s like Clausewitz said, every conqueror is a lover of peace. This administration, like previous ones in Washington, they want peace on their terms. They want the U.S. government and the military to dominate the planet as much as they can. That’s their modus operandi. That’s how they’re proceeding. 

Scheer: Okay. So instead of advancing my own views, let me advance yours in this book. Your description of Barack Obama as president, whatever his other achievements was, as much a pro-military spending person as anyone, and he’s certainly a Democrat I voted for with considerable enthusiasm, at first. You describe Bill Clinton that way. You certainly described Biden that way. And and my point is not to give the Republicans a blank check here. My point is that we don’t have a peace movement because a lot of people who should know better have bought into the idea that we can’t really negotiate with Putin. He’s another Hitler. That virtue is only on one side in this war. In order to have negotiation, that’s why I brought up Richard Nixon. It certainly was not to, you know, make him more attractive as a political figure. But there was no question that with Kissinger and Nixon, there was a recognition that we have to get along with China. That was a very different China than now. And yet one of the agreements they had was that they were not going to challenge China’s claim, historical claim, supported by Chiang Kai-shek, the Kuomintang and actually, you know, the second biggest party in Taiwan, that Taiwan was part of China. You can disagree with it, agree with it, but they weren’t going to make that an obstacle to normalization. Yes, China could be in the U.N. Red China. Yes, we can negotiate. Yes, we could trade with them. What we’ve lost now is any sense of complexity. And the Democrats are leading the charge of simplification. They did Russiagate. They are the ones who say you can’t negotiate with Putin. The conditions that are being put down now are these other people are war criminals, that there is no side to their story, that there is no complexity. You can’t have negotiations on that basis. You know, Henry Kissinger, whatever you want to say about him, you know, and my old friend Christopher Hitchens wrote very devastating work on him. The fact of the matter is, you know, they went and negotiated. And what we now have is the joining of a human rights claim and a self-righteousness about our putting precisely these weapons into the Ukraine, urging, in effect, an expansion of the war. And you don’t seem to your book suggests that this is you know, the Democrats in charge really are not to be trusted any more than, okay, let’s put it equivalent, any more than Republicans. 

Solomon: There’s no reason to trust the Democrats running the war train any more than trust the Republicans running the war train. This is an intensification of themes we’re getting from the party in power in the White House that really first sprung up in a big way during the bombing of Yugoslavia and Kosovo in 1999, what was called military humanism or responsibility to protect. This was just a new excuse for the U.S. to use its military power to try to work its will on the world. And I do think that the roots of a lot of this have to do with the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016. It’s well documented that 24 hours after she lost the presidential election in the national headquarters in Brooklyn, amid the pizza boxes and the despair, the top executives of the Hillary Clinton campaign decided to blame Russia. And we have and I would say the most dangerous network in the last several years has been MSNBC, totally aligned—we sometimes would call it MSDNC—totally aligned with the Democratic Party. And with the drop of that hat from the Clinton campaign blaming the loss on the Kremlin, we’ve got this incredibly pernicious and persistent drumbeat, especially from Rachel Maddow, who made her stardom that way. But many on MSNBC and aligned kind of political media outlets to say, Russia’s the devil, you know, we used to make fun of George W. Bush as president. Manichean, which side are you on? You know, we’re against the evil doers. And as you’re saying, Bob and I quite agree, to whatever extent we’ve had receptivity in the politics of the country and mass media toward a nuanced view, or one might say a dialectical view, that there’s more than one truth. There is more than much vantage, one vantage point. We’re hearing incredibly of persistent militancy, arrogance, jingoism, or what we used to call Cold War liberalism, going to the ramparts to try to have the United States maximize its military and economic power. We hear the secretary of so-called defense saying that it is necessary to weaken Russia. Can you imagine the shoe on the other foot? Can we imagine a Russia aligned military pact, including Canada or Mexico, putting supposedly defensive ABM missiles along the Rio Grande or the Canadian border? And we know, as in the case of U.S. ABM’s along the Russian border, they can quickly be retrofitted into aggressive, assertive, offensive weapons. So I think that there’s an intensification of what has troubled and been terribly dangerous and sometimes murderous about U.S. foreign policy in our lifetimes, perhaps never worse than now. It’s so extreme now where the window on the world is tinted red, white and blue. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to or watching PBS, NPR, NBC, or CBS. We are the savior of the world as the United States is a preposterous outlook. It is a way of saying do as we say, not as we do. And it’s not going to be convincing to the people of the world. 

Scheer: Yeah, but they don’t care because they’ve divided the world. And I am talking now about the Democrats. And one reason to talk about them is because that’s where the peace movement came out. Yes. When Eisenhower was president, he talked about the military industrial complex. We’ve had liberal Republicans, even Nixon, as I pointed out before, and I don’t want to be accused again of whitewashing Nixon. You know, but the fact of the matter is, you know, Henry Kissinger, they understood diplomacy meant seeing what you can do and what you can compromise and so forth. What I’m worried about now is that we don’t have a peace movement, period. I mean, I can tell you, I teach on a campus, you know, very few people talk about it. And when you talk about it, you’re going to be red baiting, even though, of course, Putin is the guy the US backed against Gorbachev and to run and defeat the Communist Party. So he’s the opposite of a red. He’s probably more of a Trumpian Republican, but that’s not the point. The point is that and you’ve raised two issues here. The question of the domestic and the foreign program. Many of the people I know will vote for even a Biden again, because they’re worried about the domestic part. Right. Okay. And forgetting what we really should have known all along during the Cold War. And more now than ever, you don’t get the choice to make mistakes in foreign policy now. And there’s a cavalier attitude and not just coming from the top, you know, but let’s take your book as an example. I think people need to read your book. And I think if they read your book and they say, you know, they’re not disturbed, because after all, that’s what your book is saying. Your book is saying that this move to war once again will destroy our country, because now the stakes are very high. In Vietnam, for instance, Vietnam was still pictured as a surrogate maybe of China or Russia. It was never that, it was always a nationalist force. But leaving that aside, right now, for the first time in the Cold War, we are going head to head with the other nuclear armed nation with the massive weaponry. And we’re saying humiliation is what we want. We want them to accept their lesser role in the world. And what they are basically saying, then that means giving up. You know, caucuses are giving up your own warm water port. They’re seeing no side at all to how any of us have been no responsibility. Forget about Nuland. Forget about interfering in elections or anything. There’s no complexity of any kind. We are the center of virtue with our European NATO allies. And so there’s no room for negotiation at all. And we’re dragging China into it. We’re basically dragging a dispute with the more successful capitalist communist country that’s beaten the hell out of us economically. And and then we’re saying, Oh, we’re going to drag them in because they don’t want to break with Russia. 

Solomon: You know, what you’re pointing to, Bob, is really central to the purpose of why I wrote this book, War Made Invisible because essentially boiled down my message to readers is wake up. If you are complacent, you’re not paying attention. Not only is the ongoing warfare state of the United States and the foreign policy so dangerous in the short term, but in the not so long term, it foreseeably can lead us into a nuclear conflagration. And if you don’t care about anything else, you care about the people you love and the people you love are in danger. One example and I did get to write a piece for The Nation magazine, and I cover this ground in the book. I got to write it with Daniel Ellsberg a couple of years ago. And this is really a connection to Ukraine that I have almost never seen in U.S. media. The fact that the U.S. unwillingness to engage in diplomacy with Russia about Ukraine increases the chances of nuclear war. And a key reason is ICBMs, the land based nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles, that are on hair trigger alert. The submarines with nuclear weapons are not on hair trigger alert. Neither are the air based weapons. But the ones that are in five U.S. states underground in silos are ready to go off and incinerate and obliterate humanity within a matter of minutes. I almost never see anything about that in the media. I don’t hear it from people on Capitol Hill, even the ones that have opposed upgrading, the euphemism, upgrading ICBMs. They won’t even talk about that aspect. They just say let’s save money by not sinking a quarter of a trillion dollars into a new generation of ICBMs. They want to keep the same ones. This is madness because having ICBMs at a time of great tension that is escalating between Russia and the United States means that the chances that a flock of geese will be mistaken for incoming nuclear missiles, some kind of other accident, the tension that exists, the freak out, the paranoia that is increased on both sides, that increases the chances that the entire world will be blown up. So even if you don’t care about anything else, you should really want to have a diplomacy policy rather than the current policy vis a vis Ukraine. And I read a great book several decades ago called With Enough Shovels by Bob Scheer. And that was an era when people rose up and said to the Reagan administration, we don’t want you to destroy life on Earth. And people rose up enough to get the policy to some significant degree changed. But I think, as you’re alluding to now, Bob, we don’t have that kind of uprising. 

Scheer: Yeah. Which, you know. And War Made Invisible. I mean, look, war was being made into a video game. And getting back to my first point and your point, your book, without a draft, without those, there are lots of consequences anyway, because you end up sending advisers and so forth. But this is the ultimate, it’s not just making it invisible, it’s making it entertaining. It’s like, you know, your description of the second Iraq War. It was great television, great fireworks, great excitement. And these anchor people even got off on it. The you know, the beauty of the power. The scary thing now and this is why we haven’t had a time like this since the Cuban Missile Crisis, really. And this is, you know, to your credit, you try to amplify Daniel Ellsberg’s warning. I mean, the great hero of the last half century or maybe century in America, because he’s the guy not only told us that we our government was lying to us about Vietnam in the Pentagon study, that we had every right read. But he started out as a nuclear planner. He was one of the very best and brightest, and he saw the horror of it. And that horror has been forgotten now. And I just want to stress this, the reason I brought up Nixon going to China and amazingly enough, Nixon wrote some pretty good books after he was president about the need for the detente that he had supported and so forth was and, you know, I actually had a discussion with Ronald Reagan about this writing the book that you mentioned, where Reagan said, look, you have to be a monster to believe in using these weapons. That’s gone now. Yeah. People on both sides think these weapons are usable, that you can survive somehow. It’s not even discussed. And there is this problem of use them or lose them with those land based missiles, they could take them out. So all of that stuff centers in it. You’ve got, dare I say, a president that’s not and I’m speaking as an older guy, not necessarily fully alert at three in the morning when they wake him up. And what Nixon and Kissinger said to the world when they went to talk to Mao, they said, look, at the end of the day, it’s not our job to give China democracy or anything else. It’s our job to make U.S. relations with China as safe as we can make them for the American people and by extension, the rest of the world. That has been lost now. And you put your finger on it with the election that Hillary Clinton lost, had the enemy. And, you know, yes, it’s Russia now. They mess up our democracy. They’re responsible for it. They created Trump. Everything. Everything sticks there and there. Law and there’s vengeance, irrational vengeance now aimed at Putin. And when you say they’re all war criminals, that goes down to even people were on the lowest level of their military. They’re all committing war crimes. We never, by definition, commit war crimes. 

Solomon: Yes. You know, we’ve had so many so many editorials in recent weeks and months from the U.S. press that Putin is a war criminal, which I agree by the same criteria, then George W. Bush is a war criminal. I haven’t found one major media outlet in the United States to suggest that that’s a rational position. As a matter of fact, if one would say it, one would be denounced to some sort of ultra leftist or whatever. We have a reality now where in glass houses throwing a lot of stones from Washington. Look at what’s happening in Yemen. For now, eight years, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia leading that slaughter in Yemen, who got fist bumped a year ago by the president of the United States, Biden, and we’re on a higher moral ground. More than 200,000 dead people in Yemen, the biggest cholera epidemic in history occurred there because of the U.S. supported war by the Saudi-led coalition. So on the high horse it’s really absurd. Some evenhanded assessment of U.S. foreign policy says that we have no position or right in logical terms, to hold ourselves above Russians in terms of foreign policy. That in no way justifies what Russia is doing. What it says is we need a single standard of human rights not to be led by the nose by somebody in the White House. 

Scheer: Yeah, but the real question and the value of diplomacy is to recognize the complexity of the world. There are competing nationalism. You even suggest that, first of all, we never identify our posture in the world as U.S. nationalism. We deny. We denied it when we did the westward expansion, which anything we do is always in the name of some universal values that we represented, it’s an absurd position. Clearly, the world is still divided by religious differences, nationalist differences, concerns and so forth. To deny you just, you know, kind of, again, he’s a war criminal, okay? But his claim, Putin, would be, you know, wait a minute, how did we end up in this Russian Federation? What happened to the Soviet Union? What was the understanding about what would happen after the collapse of the Soviet? Did you tell us NATO would expand or did you not take a pledge that NATO would not expand..

Solomon: Not one inch eastward was the promise. 

Scheer: Why isn’t even NATO? Why couldn’t you work out something about the, you know, our Black Sea fleet where we had a 100 year contract and our only… Why isn’t there any recognition, any move in negotiation? And so I think… 

Solomon: What you’re touching on, Bob, just a reality that is so fundamental to the jingoism and the arrogance and the might makes right implicit attitude of U.S. foreign policy and U.S. media. And that is when push comes to shove, only the United States has a right to define its own national security interests. Russia has no right or legitimacy, according to this narrative, to have any concerns about its own national interests or national security. So it gets back to missiles on the U.S. borders. Absolutely unacceptable. Missiles on the Russian borders. Great. Why not? That’s called NATO. 

Scheer: Yeah. And, you know, I think we’ve got to throw something into this conversation, and that’s China. And I think if you go back to, you know, what the Project for a New America Century, the neocons, first of all, the neocons, everybody forgets, came out of the Democratic Party. I remember when Richard Perle was a Democrat, you know, and they came out of the Scoop Jackson wing. You were a Bernie Sanders, you don’t need any lectures from me about the other side of the Democrat Party. But the fact of the matter is the neocons are now happier in the Democratic Party. And most of the voices that are being raised, you know, Rand Paul, you know, is saying, well, wait a minute, does this war make sense? You got libertarians, some of them speaking out against it. You’ve got, you know, the Electronic Frontier Foundation saying, wait a minute, the Internet is being swept up by people who want to suppress debate. And I want to get back to what really concerns me in talking to you. You’ve been a principal organizer, leader, thinker, writer on the American progressive side of things. And you were a Bernie delegate. Right. And last time I saw you, you were organizing part of that caucus at the Democratic convention. And it seems to me we are paying the price for the rejection of Hillary Clinton by a significant part of the Democratic Party and by the American electorate, just like Trump is into election denial. You know, and everybody says that’s terrible for democracy. You know, Trump says this election did so well. And we do know that the first second President Bush, there was a lot of argument about what happened in that election with Al Gore. But the fact of the matter is, a good chunk of the Democratic Party still thinks that it wasn’t the American people that rejected Hillary Clinton, that it was Russian manipulation. There is no evidence of that of any significance. And every report that comes out, they do what Trump does. They deny reality. Right. And including the media. So it doesn’t matter that there’s investigation after investigation showing it doesn’t hold up. And that’s what scares me, maybe this is a good way to start wrapping it up, but I won’t accept. You know, here, I’ll give an editorial. I won’t accept the lesser evil argument anymore. And I have accepted it, sometimes I haven’t admitted I’ve accepted it, but let me say, I’ve probably accepted it every single time. You know, I’ve always chickened out when I went in there and I voted for people who ended up doing terrible things. And we’re again, once again in that position. Now, if you dare challenge Biden, you are strengthening Trump and and that’s not the way to have a democracy function. We do not have, as far as I know, one single member of the Democratic side of the House or Senate that is speaking up in any serious, clear way in objection to this move to war. 

Solomon: I think we have a responsibility to speak as truthfully as possible. And the fixation from mass media and as you point out, Democratic Party, so-called leadership on scapegoating Russia for so many problems in the United States went back five, six years ago. And quite ironically, it wasn’t Putin that helped lead the January 6th assault on the Capitol while Rachel Maddow was upping her salary and her ratings year after year, pounding the drum on Russiagate. And by the way, the media watch group FAIR documented that she virtually ignored the U.S. backed slaughter in Yemen during that time, the right wing was gathering force and the United States government was increasingly vulnerable to the right wing neo-fascist that now have essentially taken over the Republican Party. I would just put it in a sense this way. If you look at the risk of nuclear war and you look at the rampant militarism of the U.S. government, there is virtually no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. And given that the Democrats run the executive branch, it’s the Democratic Party leading the way towards disaster. If you look at civil rights, if you look at the environment, if you look at some semblance of democracy that has still existed in the United States, there is no way to conflate the Democratic and Republican parties. And if you’re a low income person and you’re dealing with the results of racism and income inequality, there’s a huge difference between policy of the Democratic and Republican parties. If you want an abortion and you’re in Texas, there’s a huge difference. And so that’s part of the dialectic and the challenge that we have. 

Scheer: Well, you know, I don’t know if it is. I think maybe it’s the Democrats, you know, paying lip service to the domestic, liberal side of the agenda, while at the same time the people they really serve are the people that, you know, the Republican elite, not every Republican, have always consistently served. It took Bill Clinton to negotiate the deal with Phil Gramm that brought about the reversal of Glass-Steagall, reversed a whole New Deal control on finance capital. They made a lot of noise, the Democrats when Trump was in about immigration. Immigrant rights. They’ve abandoned that issue totally. You know, I just think you know, every once in a while I read a book for this show and then I get the guest on and I wonder, wait a minute, do you realize how powerful your book is? So let me bring it back to your book. I think anyone reading your book and I think it’s an accurate book, I’m not trying to hold you to something that’s not warranted and not justified. Reading your book and I try to put myself in the shoes of other people, not just someone who’s been around a long time. It seems to me you’ve offered a devastating critique of a bipartisan commitment to a war policy, bipartisan commitment to a war policy that prevents human progress, including on the domestic level, that basically it betrays working people. That’s why we have so many people who are in our working class group that are angry and have abandoned the Democratic Party, betrays immigrants who don’t have the right papers and really only serves one master, and that’s this military industrial intelligence complex that Eisenhower warned us against. That’s what the real issue. Let me, okay, let me stretch this a little bit. Maybe the real issue is this issue of American hegemony. Maybe the real issue is because, what’s going on with China? They can’t have a super chip. They can’t make advanced material. They just have to be in the business of getting women from the farms to work and assemble Apple iPhones. But if they make 5G, then they’re a threat. I mean, what you really have is an international struggle over whether other people matter. And that’s why there’s the southern Hemisphere opposition. That’s why South Africa is now not on our side. You hardly hear any liberals raising that question now. There’s a movement in Congress to punish South Africa. You know, it’s like the old days, but we’re not punishing them for being racist. We’re punishing them for having maybe a more open view of foreign policy. We want to punish Brazil. We’re angry. We’re actually going to push India and China together, the historic enemies. We are uniting a large part of the world, including our cousins in NATO, with the exception of Turkey. And it’s a bizarre moment. And reading your book, frankly, I felt angrier. I don’t want to get you in trouble, but I found I felt angry about the Democrats because your book reminded me that they’re not in any way the lesser evil on how we spend our resources overall. What is our focus, how we live with the rest of the world? Those are the big questions. 

Solomon: In terms of militarism. I think that’s definitely true. And frankly, I wrote the book very methodically, put in all the endnotes. I wrote it through gritted teeth. And when I thumb through it now, I find it enraging the reality that the United States, quote unquote, my country, is engaged in policies that could decimate humanity. And we really need to confront ourselves and each other. Are we going to go along to get along with what is basically an omnicidal policy from the U.S. government? And I think you really put your finger on a lot of the dynamic. It’s a belief that the United States and it is a prevailing belief that the United States is the gift to the world. American exceptionalism, indispensable nation, all the rest of that. And it boils down to what I sometimes think of as a term jingo narcissism. We are so great. We are so wonderful. We’re the best. Well, that’s not only in the longer run, a suicidal course for the U.S., but it could really lead to the end of humanity on this planet through nuclear annihilation. 

Scheer: So let me that’s a good way to close this. And you said it better than I can. Let’s just square with people listening to this or watching this. I began by saying, I’m more frightened than I’ve ever been. You’re quite a bit younger, I guess. You look better. But, you know, I question I say that I say that to people and then it’s crazy. We’ve advanced so much in so many different ways. We get so many…. How can it… And, you know, before me, you attack Rumsfeld and, you know, first Bush administration. But two days before 9/11, Rumsfeld was the one talking about cutting the military budget, the great enemy is in the Pentagon. It was the first President Bush who said we could cut military by 40%, shocked everybody. How did we you know, we got wedded to this Cold War, permanent Cold War. What scares me and I’ll end it my last letter, but I’ve been saying it over and over nauseum. I am afraid of my friends. You know, it’s like when I go wander around and I run into some Republicans and so forth, sometimes I’m less afraid. Yeah, there’s some issues. I don’t want to type them all. You know, we have gay Republicans and we have some Republicans, we have black Republicans, We have some Republicans who are quite enlightened in many ways. I don’t want to type the whole group. But yes, Trump is a scary figure. Yes, Republican jingoism seems mad. Yes, DeSantis is a real threat. I’m sure there’ll be a horrible Republican candidate, but really, I am afraid of the people that I used to look to for enlightenment. And we do not have… Answer that one question. You’ve been around the block politically. How could it be that there’s not one known member of the Democratic caucus in the House or Senate who will speak out and has spoken out against this rapid movement towards war with Russia and by extension, with China? Can you name anybody? 

Solomon: Conformity and cowardice. There’s intermittent statements coming from some junior backbench members of the House in the Progressive Caucus, just a few, about militarism, but the core of U.S. militarism is going unchallenged right now. It’s not just about what is the proper time and place and where the United States should militarily intervene. The issue should be does the United States have the right, the prerogative, to intervene militarily and the outlook and the conformity and the willingness to go along to get along is so deep right now. And I hate to use the cliche, but it’s definitely true only when the people from the grassroots lead, then the leaders will follow. If we’re waiting for anybody in Congress to provide the kind of desperately needed leadership, that’s really a fool’s errand. It’s up to us to do that. I am old enough to remember when we did have a few great senators, even at the beginning of the escalation of the Vietnam War. There is no Senator Wayne Morse in Congress. There is no one to say as he did. It’s unacceptable to have U.S. foreign policy. Might makes right. We still need to demand that kind of recognition and opposition to the warfare state. 

Scheer:  Let me ask you, what do you think is going to happen now? And what I’m concerned about is this looking for victory. That’s what scares me. Because, you know, remember the whole thing. We can’t be defeated by these Vietnamese communists we’ll be humiliated and destroyed. Right. But now that’s not the case. Now it’s, we can’t be, just you know, this is what NATO’s seems to be saying. We know we have to humble, we have to destroy Russia. We have to reduce them today. But because China has lined up with them, we have to take it out on them. And now there are bills in Congress, I would remind people, there are bills in Congress to say we have to punish South Africa because they didn’t line up with us and they’re saying they can negotiate a deal with Russia. So I’ll let you have the last word, but do you think this is going to end well? 

Solomon: Well, I say that my crystal ball is in the shop, but I will say that is absolute military madness. And what, again, Dr. King called the madness of militarism, to demand that our goal has to be in Ukraine total victory, that is just a demolition derby approach to the future. And there’s only one logical result of that. More and more destruction towards nuclear conflagration. 

Scheer: And the end of life on the planet. You know, are you going to be releasing a movie that you did with Ellsberg or am I giving away something because I would like… We’re losing Daniel Ellsberg to a fatal illness at a time when we need him more than ever. Let me just put that out there. There’s no human being who has done more to educate us about the folly of war, particularly nuclear war. 

Solomon: Like so many people, I just love Daniel Ellsberg. He is, just as he is put it in a very recently in an interview after his fatal diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, he put it this way. It’s nice and I’m paraphrasing. It’s nice to be told that I have inspired you, but more importantly, what have I inspired you to do? 

Scheer: Wow. Well, let me answer that question. He’s inspired me to push my concern about nuclear war, even though I wrote a book three decades ago. You know, Yes, that’s why we’re doing this. I want to thank you. Can you hold up the book again so we can maybe try to 20-50 people. 

Solomon: The book has just come out. Yes, it is War Made Easy and I’m sorry. That’s my old book. Let me start again. This is a book that’s just come out War Made Invisible. And the subtitle is How America Hides the Human Toll of its Military Machine. 

Scheer: Great. And it’s out now. I just came out, I think, today because I tried buying it a few days ago and I couldn’t download it or whatever. 

Solomon: It’s just out now from the wonderful nonprofit press. The New Press.

Scheer: Yeah, I think they do terrific books, and I’ve interviewed a number of their authors. Okay. So that’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. I want to thank Laura Kondourajian and Christopher Ho at KCRW, the NPR station, very lively one in Santa Monica for hosting these podcast. Joshua Scheer, our executive producer, Diego Ramos, who does the introduction, Max Jones, who does the video presentation, and the JKW foundation, which in the memory of a terrific writer and individual Jean Stein, for helping fund these podcasts. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. 

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