NYT Reverses on Merits of ‘Perpetual War’

President Obama’s decision to expand U.S. attacks against ISIS radicals into Syria without that government’s approval is fraught with risks, including that U.S. forces might be sucked into yet another Mideast civil war, but the New York Times seems all right with that, notes Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

The editorial board of the New York Times has an Orwellian knack for war. Sixteen months ago, when President Barack Obama gave oratorical lip service to ending “perpetual war,” the newspaper quickly touted that end as a democratic necessity. But now — in response to Obama’s speech Wednesday night announcing escalation of war without plausible end — the Times editorial voice is with the endless war program.

Under the headline “The End of the Perpetual War,” published on May 23, 2013, the Times was vehement, calling a new Obama speech “the most important statement on counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America.” The editorial added: “For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.”

President Barack Obama delivers an address to the nation on the U.S. Counterterrorism strategy to combat ISIL (or ISIS), in the Cross Hall of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama delivers an address to the nation on the U.S. Counterterrorism strategy to combat ISIL (or ISIS), in the Cross Hall of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Times editorial board was sweeping in its conclusion: “Mr. Obama told the world that the United States must return to a state in which counterterrorism is handled, as it always was before 2001, primarily by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. That shift is essential to preserving the democratic system and rule of law for which the United States is fighting, and for repairing its badly damaged global image.”

But the “essential” shift is now dispensable and forgettable, judging from the New York Times editorial that appeared hours after Obama’s pivotal speech Wednesday night. The newspaper’s editorial board has ditched the concept that the state of perpetual war is unsustainable for democracy.

Under the headline “The Attack on ISIS Expands to Syria,” the Times editorial offers only equivocal misgivings without opposition “as President Obama moves the nation back onto a war footing.” Without a fine point on the matter, we are to understand that war must be perpetuated without any foreseeable end.

The concluding paragraph of the New York Times editorial in the Sept. 11, 2014 edition is already historic and tragic. It sums up a liberal style of murmuring reservations while deferring to the essence of U.S. policies for perpetual war: “The American military’s actions in the Middle East has (sic) often fueled Arab anger, even when the United States was spending billions of dollars on beneficial programs, including health and education. Mr. Obama expressed confidence that the plan against ISIS will work and, at the moment, seems aware of the risks he takes.”

Like the vast bulk of the rest of U.S. mass media, when push comes to militaristic shove, the New York Times refuses to make a break from the madness of perpetual war. In fact, with rare exceptions, the dominant media outlets end up fueling that madness. A strong challenge to it will have to come from elsewhere. From us.

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

10 comments for “NYT Reverses on Merits of ‘Perpetual War’

  1. Randal Marlin
    September 11, 2014 at 19:43

    F.G. Sanford’s remarks are very appropriate.
    I am reminded of the poster circulated before the U.S. went to war against Iraq in 2003.
    It showed a picture of Osama bin Laden, finger pointing at the viewer: “I want YOU! to invade Iraq.”
    If I were in the Middle East and a displaced Moslem, I would be angry beyond measure at the United States for all the damage done by the invasion and fallout. Read Riverbend for a compelling description of the impact of U.S. forces in Iraq. Do we know that sending more troops to that part of the world won’t cause many or all of the opposing forces to join in a common cause, namely getting revenge on the U,S.? The poster was right about who would “win” from the 2003 action. Bin Laden may be dead, but his followers appear to be more numerous than ever.

  2. Abe
    September 11, 2014 at 16:27

    Beyond American determination to hit back against
    the perpetrators of [FILL IN THE BLANK] attacks,
    beyond the likelihood of longer, drawn-out battles
    producing more civilian casualties
    in the months and years ahead,
    the hidden stakes in the war against terrorism
    can be summed up in a single word: oil.

    Energy future rides on U.S. war / Conflict centered in world’s oil patch
    By Frank Viviano

  3. Abe
    September 11, 2014 at 16:19

    “We should have been taking out Riyadh, and the Saudi royal family…
    We hit the wrong people.”
    – Gore Vidal on Understanding America’s Terrorist Crisis

    Vidal is the author of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Came To Be So Hated (2002), Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (2002), and Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (2004)

  4. Hillary
    September 11, 2014 at 15:26

    “U.S. forces might be sucked into yet another Mideast civil war”
    Says Norman Solomon.

    But this is what the neocon PNAC crowd has called for since before 9/11.
    The first and most important point to understand is that the idea that a few Arabs were the ones to brought the towers down is utter nonsense.

  5. F. G. Sanford
    September 11, 2014 at 13:42

    Does anyone remember any of those puerile Tea Party admonitions suggesting that America should manage its fiscal problems like a household manages its budget? “If the United States were a household, what would it do?” A household that is in arrears should implement constraints…no more fast food treats, cut back on frivolous expenditures, stay home on Friday nights, all that stuff must go until the bills are paid. That analogy makes sense if the country is a household, a fixed amount comes in, and spending must be tailored to make ends meet. But the country is not a household, and the economy does not function like a budget. To a large extent, a country’s debts are arbitrarily created, its liquid assets are frangible, and its resources can be manipulated in myriad ways. It isn’t saddled with a fixed income. So, the “household” analogy doesn’t make sense. We are not a household.

    By the same token, the debate over whether or not to continue perpetual war or disengage from that strategy assumes that another suspicious analogy. Suppose we asked, “If the United States were a country, what would it do?” A country with sovereign prerogatives and vital national interests could easily answer these questions. Financially, we do not function as a household. But ask yourselves this: Politically, do we function as a country? Our political and foreign policies suggest that we are no longer a country. We are merely the enforcement arm of a transnational finance, corporate and industrial conglomerate manipulated by interests that have no concern for our citizens.

    We could swallow our pride, buy all our oil from Venezuela, bring home our troops, close all the bases, shake hands with the Russians – who by the way are certainly more our natural allies than the head chopping barbarians of Saudi Arabia – completely disengage from the Middle East, and set about the business of rebuilding our country, developing next generation industry and infrastructure, educating our children, and caring for our poor, sick and disabled. That’s what countries do. And, it COSTS LESS than foreign intervention.

    Watch the recent Anderson Cooper debate between John McCain and Jay Carney. Carney, who is usually glib, articulate and handy with a put-down lets McCain, the doddering senile fool, walk all over him, interrupt him, and bulldoze him. This was clever theater to enhance the legitimacy of decisions already made by the transnational deep state. If Carney and the administration he represents REALLY had an objection to escalation, do you think they would have let that happen? McCain, Kerry, Nuland and NATO spokespersons represent the de facto corporate rulers. Time to ask, America: is this really a country…or just a decaying real-estate project where our households happen to be?

    • Abe
      September 11, 2014 at 14:46

      Alle guten Fragen, F.G.

      Unfortunately, all the mainstream media are paid to offer is not-so-clever theater to enhance the legitimacy of decisions already made by the transnational deep state.

    • Serg Derbst
      September 11, 2014 at 16:03

      Good point, F.G. The US as a country is a mostly beautiful mass of land and its people, both suffering from this god-awful transnational finance/arms/oil and religious world-domination-neocon-fanatics-empire (to which the ever so obliging EU, the other four of the “five eyes” and Japan belong, too) as much as the rest of the world. The US is not a country, it’s a brand (how many clothes do I see here in Germany having the stars and stripes on it just ‘coz it’s cool, yo) and … I dunno, I don’t think there is any precedence to something like this in human history. It is indeed something very perverted. Maybe it’s time for secession. If I were, for example, California, Oregon or Washington State, I’d think about splitting up with those bible thumpers and Wall St/Washington lunatics from the rest of this once-been-a-country. Just a thought…

    • Joe Tedesky
      September 11, 2014 at 21:29

      F.G., you are suggesting we (the US) escape from ourselves, I’m all for that. What a novel idea. The US would do it self a favor if it were to choose some new allies. I could mention a couple allies the US would be wise to lose. (Okay, I’ll be nice for now).

      Stamping our weapons into plow shares could not be to soon, considering the NEO’s are bumping up against WW3!

  6. Abe
    September 11, 2014 at 13:35

    Washington Menaces America With Its ISIS Creation
    By Tony Cartalucci

    The very appearance of ISIS on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria allegedly took the US intelligence community by surprise. The unlikely narrative was designed entirely to maintain plausible deniability between ISIS mercenaries and their paymasters in Washington, London, Brussels, Riyadh, Doha, and Ankara respectively. In reality, headlines over the past 3-4 years such as, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” “First Syria rebels armed and trained by CIA ‘on way to battlefield’,” “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.,” and “Official says CIA-funded weapons have begun to reach Syrian rebels; rebels deny receipt,” indicate precisely how and from where the immense, multinational ISIS mercenary force originated.

    The US has yet to account how its CIA could be operating within territory held by ISIS – including all along the Turkish-Syrian border and within Turkish territory itself – and neither know the existence, movements, or intentions of ISIS forces.

    Between NSA surveillance at home, and the CIA operating side-by-side with ISIS and other Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations, the sudden revelations that Americans are fighting within ISIS’ ranks seem to be more a matter of politically-motivated propaganda, timed perfectly to justify US military intervention in Syria, than a case of yet another convenient lapse in American intelligence.

  7. Joe
    September 11, 2014 at 12:26

    When push comes to shove, the MSM always seems to support the government. Granma. Pravda. NYT.

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