New Column at Salon: How Reverence for the Military Shuts Down Intelligent Debate

In my new column for Salon, I examine how the manipulation of Americans’ sympathy and “support for the troops” shuts down intelligent and important debates on US foreign policy, Pentagon spending, and scandals of sexual assault within the armed services.

Read it at Salon.

New at Salon: Interview with Award Winning Toxicologist on The Deadly Legacy of the Iraq War

In “Last to Die,” his protest song against the war in Iraq, Bruce Springsteen sings, “We don’t measure the blood we’ve drawn anymore. We just stack the bodies outside the door.”

When the U.S. government and the world’s most lethal military force subject an entire country to torture and torment, the wounds fester long after bored Americans direct their attention elsewhere, and explosions and bloodshed, thousands of miles away and across the ocean, fail to attract news cameras.

The American people and their politicians might have moved on from Iraq, but the American presence of violence and devastation still hurts and haunts the lives of Iraqis. As a direct result of the U.S. invasion and occupation, Iraqi children now have high levels of lead contamination, and pregnant women and the elderly population suffer from expensive and painful health problems. There is an epidemic of birth defects and disabilities throughout the beleaguered country, but much of the world, and especially the U.S., continues to ignore the health crisis and moral catastrophe.

The casualty count, even if the war is over, continues to rise. Bombs and bullets damage the lives of millions of Iraqi civilians, subsequent to their detonation, and penetration of human skin. In America, the war in Iraq is too often reduced to a “mistake,” but for Iraq it is a merciless reaper that will continue to visit the homes of innocent people for generations.

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, winner of the 2015 Rachel Carson prize, is a toxicologist, author and researcher at the University of Michigan. Since 2004, she has organized research expeditions in Iraq to measure the contamination and pollution that’s causing widespread sickness and death. Her team’s conclusions should horrify any thoughtful and ethical person and galvanize the entire world, with U.S. leadership, to react immediately and aggressively to save the lives of Iraqi children. Just as America is responsible for the war in Iraq, it is responsible for its consequences.

I recently interviewed Savabieasfahani via email about her work.

Read the conversation at Salon.

New Essay for Salon: America’s Great Mistakes – The Stupid and Unnecessary Wars in Vietnam and Iraq

In a recent essay for Salon, I break through the cacophony of maudlin discussion of military “service” and “sacrifice,” to ask the taboo questions: Serve what? Sacrifice for what?

There is no longer any debate among reasonable people that the wars in Vietnam and Iraq were unnecessary, unjust, stupid, and destructive. Both wars created widespread death and devastation for reasons that remain painfully mysterious – The advancement of cold, self-interest that never materialized? The edification of cold war, and later, neoconservative theorists?

Read the entire essay on the fatal and permanent consequences of America’s imperial ambitions at Salon.

New Essay for Salon: Military Violence and Scandal

One of the most hideous scandals of American culture is the continued indifference toward the high rates of rape in the United States military, and the regularity of domestic violence in military homes.

The universal application of the honorific title of “hero” to combat veterans is one, among many, cultural obstacles preventing honest scrutiny and deliberate action to reduce pain and suffering among military women and the wives of military men.

Read my essay on the subject at Salon, and pay particular attention to my summary of the truly heroic life and work of Stacy Bannerman, the leading advocate for military spouses who fall victim to domestic violence.

New Essay at Salon: The Military is Buying Patriotism

In a new essay for Salon, I analyze how America has become a garrison state and military economy by dealing with the recent scandal of the Pentagon paying the NFL to ceremoniously honor soldiers and veterans before kickoff and during halftime.

The essay examines America’s militarized culture in which it becomes easy to glorify war and condemn advocates for peace, but it also explores the economics of the American government, where half of discretionary spending goes to the military. Such a large percentage of every dollar leaves little room for schools, hospitals, libraries, public transit, infrastructure, and social services – the hallmarks of civilization.

Read it in full at Salon.

New Article at AlterNet: Interview with Stacy Bannerman

I recently had the privilege and pleasure of speaking with Stacy Bannerman, a true hero of American life.

From the opening of the article:

Stacy Bannerman is an elegant, but intense amplification of American conscience competing with a cacophony of cruelty and neglect. In 2003, her husband, a member of the Army National Guard, was mobilized to fight in the Iraq War. She summoned the passion of her personal investment, along with the knowledge of her education – a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations – to act as a board member of Military Families Speak Out, the largest anti-war organization comprised of military families.

Her advocacy for peace and veteran’s care quickly commenced a confrontation with the consequences that ensue “When,” to quote the title of her book, “The War Came Home.”

Bannerman has now become a leading advocate for the spouses and children of combat veterans. Thousands of women become casualties of America’s wars when their partners return from the battlefield, often with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury, and target them for assault and violence. Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs studies both demonstrate that rates of domestic violence are dramatically higher in homes where one parent served in a combat role, and the Army Times recently reported that since 2009, child abuse in Army families has risen by a staggering 40 percent.

In the words of Bannerman, “The veterans enlisted. Their families were drafted.”

The lack of attention politicians and pundits give to crises of abuse and neglect in veteran families is criminal. Bannerman has dedicated her life to bringing comfort and consolation to spousal abuse victims, and more importantly, fighting to convince the political establishment – at the state and federal levels – to allocate resources to assist and protect the women and children whose real combat begins when their family member in uniform receives his discharge. She has testified in front of the House and the Senate, and met with over 80 Congressional representatives. Stacy has argued for the passage of the Kristy Huddleston Act, a bill that she wrote and named after a close friend, whose combat veteran husband murdered her.

Bannerman continues the story she began with When The War Came Home in her newest book, Homefront 911 (http://www.amazon.com/Homefront-911-Veterans-Families-Wounded/dp/1628725699/ref=as_at?tag=thedaibea-20&linkCode=as2&) an important and insightful look at how war destroys the lives of military families.

I recently discussed Stacy Bannerman’s heroic work with her on the phone…

Read the interview at AlterNet, and learn about one of the most important moral and gender issues of American politics. It is an indictment of the feminist left, American government, and mainstream media that the threat military spouses face as a matter of routine does not receive more coverage and provoke more outrage.

New Essay at Salon: My Week in the Right Wing Lie Machine

In my new essay for Salon, I react to the reaction my essay on America’s idolatry of the military. I expand on America’s indifference to the rape epidemic within the military. I describe my own personal connection with veterans (my grandfather, my father, and former students), and I analyze the meaning of the death threats and hateful campaign my article provoked. The poison of propaganda from Fox News and right wing media became clear, as did the hideousness of the social media sewer.

Most importantly, I write about the moving story of Fred John Boenig, and his son, Austin, who committed suicide while serving in the Air Force in Afghanistan. Fred and I spoke at length on the phone after the publication of my original essay on the military. His kindness and honesty moved me profoundly, and the journey of his son is worthy of mourning, but also examination from all Americans.

Read the essay at Salon.

New Essay at Salon: You Don’t Protect My Freedom

Easily, my most read and controversial essay is criticism of how idolatry of the military prevents American culture and politics from acknowledging and addressing the important issues of sexual assault within the military and a war friendly foreign policy.

Calling every troop and veteran a “hero”, and ending the conversation there, is inaccurate – even though some are heroes – but also irresponsible. The conversation must continue to include questions about the culture within the military that allows for one third of all women serving to suffer sexual assault, and the politics of the American government that, in the words of Gore Vidal, a World War II veteran, keeps us at “perpetual war.”

Thousands of people who sent me hate mail and death threats, along with the commentators of Fox News, attacked me, without actually reading the article, for “hating the troops.” Such a slander is pure nonsense.

Read it and find out yourself.