Sunday, June 10, 2012

Most Americans want an end to war and more money spent on healthcare - could this be the beginning of their awakening?

Last week, I wrote about veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who gave back their medals to NATO, just like an earlier generation of Vietnam War veterans had done at the White House in May, 1971.

Now, as then, I wrote, the anti-war veterans have the support of most Americans - roughly two-thirds now want America to withdraw from Afghanistan, the same as wanted out of Vietnam in 1971. And yet, the elite media not only ignores both groups, it actively divides them - both against one another and against themselves.

The veterans returning their medals to NATO were generally blunt and to the point. "I did two tours in Iraq," Sgt Maggie Martin told the crowd. "No amount of medals, ribbons or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by these wars. We don't want this garbage. We want our human rights. We want our right to heal."

"I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in those countries and around the globe," said Jason Hurd, who spent 10 years as an Army combat medic. "I am proud to stand on this stage with my fellow veterans and my Afghan sisters. These were lies. I'm giving them back."

These were just two of the dozens and dozens of veterans who returned their medals that day. A number of others cited Private Bradley Manning, imprisoned and awaiting trial for allegedly "aiding the enemy" by passing on classified material later published by the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks. The celebrated Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg has also spoken out on Manning's behalf.

"Bradley Manning is acting in the interest of the United States and against the interest of our enemy al-Qaeda," Ellsberg said last year. "There's a campaign here against whistleblowing that's actually unprecedented in legal terms." From Ellsberg's perspective, there is no basic difference between what he did in releasing the Pentagon Papers - which made him a hero to a generation of Americans - and what Bradley Manning is accused of, releasing a treasure trove of embarrassing and illuminating classified cables via Wikileaks - which could end up keeping him in prison for the rest of his life.

In short, both the anti-war veterans and the pro-health care nurses represent solid supermajority positions of the American people as a whole. Yet political and media elites treat both groups as little more than Stalinist "unpersons". Without vast sums of money in the Citizens United era, they might as well not exist. Optimists may call America's democracy "dysfunctional", pessimists may say that it's dead. But another possibility is that it's a sleeping giant that's only just begun to awake - along with hundreds of other democracies all around the world.

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