RS: Media and its role in US 'forever wars'
Richard Crawford of Responsible Statecraft dissects Norman Solomon's new book, “War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of its Military Machine,” and analyzes how the media machine either overlooks or is involved in defusing the effects of war.
In his new book, Norman Solomon, an American journalist who covered US wars, depicts how the mainstream media played a vital role in hiding civilian mass suffering and what information is controlled and available to be made public by the US war machine.
Responsible Statecraft, in an article by Robert Crawford, analyzes the book, “War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of its Military Machine,” which gives a critical viewpoint for understanding post-9/11 warfare.
Crawford details that according to the author, maintaining public support is essential for a global power that constantly uses coercive tools and is occasionally exposed to democratic scrutiny. Legitimation activity is continual, requiring not just a high degree of concealment but also attempts to mold that which is accepted without inquiry and deemed unworthy of attention and concern.
Dissenting viewpoints that challenge prevailing narratives are disregarded or mocked. Official accounts are rejected, minimized, and neutralized when information contradicts them. Leakers and even news organizations that publish "top secrets" are demonized as endangering national security and may face imprisonment. The death of Daniel Ellsberg serves as a reminder of the brave insider who risks all to expose the truth about war.
Solomon explains how the horrific effects for civilians in recent US conflicts have been suppressed from public view, with fatalities, injuries, and infrastructure damage being more than the US public ever realizes.
Crawford summarizes the main ways Solomon describes how the media either overlooks or is involved in defusing these effects:
Firstly, Solomon notes that if no large number of US troops are deployed or killed in a conflict, the media often is not that invested in its reporting of the military operations. This includes secretive actions undertaken by Special Operations Command or intelligence agencies, the increasing reliance on drone warfare and other kinds of airstrikes, and the expanding utilization of contractors.
Second, even in well-covered conflicts, journalists seldom report on the implications for civilians in conflict countries. Solomon examines numerous causes for media cooperation, including editorial control, journalists' perceived obligation to assist the war effort and troops, journalists' reliance on military information, and the danger of alienating their sources.
Thirdly, Solomon gives evidence for the media's role in propagating a Manichean vision of America's conflicts. The vocabulary of good and evil, humane and cruel, is ubiquitous, referring to both the need for war and how the adversary employs barbarous techniques in contrast to America's civilized approach to war. The adversary intentionally murders people and conducts other war crimes; the US kills civilians solely by mistake, as "collateral damage" – the stated unplanned, inadvertent, and unfortunate outcome of defeating the enemy.
However, Solomon notes that the real numbers of civilian casualties according to military strategists are quite large and inevitable due to weapons employed by the US.
Crawford touches on a chapter in Solomon's book, "Humane Wars" that disseminates the idea that the US holds the moral high ground. He points to the lives lost in Afghanistan as well as the freezing of funds and ongoing sanctions, which ultimately have caused massive starvation and malnutrition among the population. The author also argues that the establishment media are silent on the repercussions and therefore abolishes any argument of the US being worried about Afghan human rights.
Lastly, whether compelled or by their own free will, media personalities become war supporters, celebrating war and the troops who "sacrifice" life and limb, often obsessed with American military strength or touting what viewers may want to hear.
Solomon also sheds light on how the US wars are legitimized, and according to Crawford "their harmful consequences ignored."
He connects the widespread discounting of civilian damages to the long-term impacts of racism on a worldwide scale. He remarks on the disparity between the outsized media attention paid to the suffering of Ukrainian victims of war in comparison to the rest of the non-European victims of US aggression.
He also touches on double standards regarding "territorial integrity," and "international order," when the US funds "Israel" with billions of dollars despite its "systematically inhuman treatment of Palestinian people."
The "costs of war" are also described as being forgotten by the media, such as trauma among US soldiers and domestic violence in post-9/11 families.
According to Crawford, militarism in the US is based on a culture of wartime conformity. He concludes that in order to detach from militarism, one must illuminate "the deep cultural and historical roots of Americans’ disposition toward war. We need to better comprehend how, despite all their horrific consequences, wars come to be seen as necessary and good, and commemorated and remembered."