"The warfare state doesn’t come and go. It can’t be defeated on Election Day," writes media critic Norman Solomon in his new book, Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State. Like it or not, it’s at the core of the United States — and it has infiltrated our very being." Norman Solomon joins us in our firehouse studio to about the book. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: From privatized war, we now to a discussion of permanent war. "The warfare state doesn’t come and go. It can’t be defeated on Election Day. Like it or not, it’s at the core of the United States — and it has infiltrated our very being." That’s a quote from media critic, best-selling author Norman Solomon’s new book. It’s called Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.
The book traces the panic generated by the launch of Sputnik 50 years ago tomorrow to the current warmongering with Iran. It’s the story of the U.S. government’s preoccupation over the past half-century with "the business of killing and being killed."
Norman Solomon is a nationally syndicated columnist, author of over 12 books, including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Norman.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Thanks, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Fifty years ago tomorrow, Sputnik — what does that have to do with today?
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, the official storyline is that the U.S. went from humiliation, with the Soviet launch of Sputnik 50 years ago, to triumph, man on the moon in ’69, technological superlatives ever since.
But there’s a shadowy side, a terribly damaging and destructive shadowy side, which many people in the United States and around the world have been subjected to, and that is the hijacking and the channeling of technological expertise and scientific research in billions of dollars for purposes of what Dwight Eisenhower called in ’61 the "military-industrial complex" and, in a less well-known phrase in his farewell address in ’61, a "scientific technological elite." That elite is sending 2,000-pound bombs into urban areas of Iraq. It is not only paying off outfits like Blackwater to, out of sight and often out of mind, slaughter Iraqi people in our names and with our tax dollars, but also pursuing missions that are very far from the official storyline.
And so, you could say, just as Sputnik was said to have launched a trajectory of U.S. technological expertise, Silicon Valley and all the rest of it, we have the underside of what we could call a political culture of hoax that has counterpointed all of the rhetoric about democracy and scientific progress with what Martin Luther King called in 1967 a dynamic of "guided missiles and misguided men," of using our talents of our country, our resources, our scientific brilliance, for purposes of enriching a few and building a warfare state, which is part of us every moment.
AMY GOODMAN: You talk about innocence on the eve of destruction and revulsion and revolt. Talk about the grassroots response.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, in the 1960s and, in a way, as of today, there’s the counterpoint between the official story, the fairy tales, the U.S. missions that we’re told are so heroic and on behalf of democracy, and the reality, the destructiveness, the way in which in the 1950s and ’60s the very bones of children were infiltrated, not in a way that J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI was worried about, but in human terms, with Strontium-90 from nuclear fallout. Those nuclear weapons are still being developed with U.S. tax dollars at Los Alamos and Livermore. And when I visited the Los Alamos Laboratory just recently, I talked to people who again believe that technology will save us. And this is a trajectory that is very much part of the warfare state.
Just a few minutes ago, we heard a clip from the Blackwater hearing yesterday about the way in which, supposedly, Blackwater, as one congressperson put it, a Democrat, a critic of Blackwater, said that Blackwater is undermining the U.S. mission in Iraq. And all too often the insidious nature of the warfare state gets us to at least tacitly accept the idea that there is something in that mission to be supported. And yet, $2 billion a day going into the Pentagon’s coffers, that’s our money. That’s money that should belong to the people of this country for healthcare, education, housing.
And yet, we are tamped down, our numbing process, which is part of the warfare state, gets us to be passive, to accept. And often, you know, Amy, I travel around the country. I talk with people. Many are concerned. They watch this program. They’re active. We get in a room. There’s 50, there’s five, there’s 500 people. And often, the question comes up: "Well, aren’t we just preaching to the choir?" And that is a concern. We have to go outside our own constituencies as progressives. But the reality is that the choir needs to learn to sing better, to challenge more fundamentally the warfare state, because right now it’s our passivity, our acculturated acceptance, that’s causing so much damage.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you really think that it’s a choir right now that is a very confined to a certain group of people? I mean, in this country now, the level of opposition to the war in Iraq, doesn’t it go far beyond any particular category of people?
NORMAN SOLOMON: The opposition is registered in opinion polls, but largely quiescent, and if we look at the progression of the Vietnam War, year after year, from the late ’60s through the first years of the ’70s, opinion polls show that most Americans were opposed to the war, even felt it was immoral. You fast-forward to this decade, for years now most polls have shown most people are opposed. But what does that mean? Our political culture encourages us to be passive, not to get out in the streets, not to blockade the government war-making offices, not to go into the congressional offices and not leave, not to raise our voices in impolite or disruptive ways. We have to become enemies of the warfare state, not in a rhetorical way, but in a way that speaks to the American people in terms of where our humane values are and should be.
AMY GOODMAN: You recently wrote a piece called "Thomas Friedman: Hooked On War."
NORMAN SOLOMON: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: You take on the pundits on a regular basis. Why Thomas Friedman now?
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, he’s very outspoken in terms of criticizing the Bush administration about this war now, although he supported it at the time. We’re told he’s the most influential pundit in the United States. And yet, you scratch the surface, and there is an acceptance of the enormous expenditures for military power. He has written that to have McDonald’s around the world, you need McDonnell Douglas, the military contractor subsidized by the U.S. government. Just yesterday in his New York Times column, Thomas Friedman waxed nostalgic for what he called pre-9/11. And this is part of the mythos that, well, our problems with militarism began with 9/11 or began with the George W. Bush administration.
As my book, Made Love, Got War, goes into in detail, we have lived, we have been incubated by a warfare state for five, six decades. And the effects of that are terribly pernicious. Martin Luther King talked about the "spiritual death" — his phrase, the "spiritual death" — that accompanies a society which year after year spends more on military defense than on social uplift. That was 40 years ago. What are the effects then of that spiritual death? And so, we have a chance to counteract those sort of dangerous, horrible trends with such terrible results, but we need to activate ourselves to do that.
AMY GOODMAN: What is a vision of the future that you work towards, as you look back at your forty years of activism?
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, a vision of the future that I have is not particularly optimistic. It is certainly not fatalistic. All of this is up for grabs. The momentum that we’re up against, in terms of the military-industrial complex and all the rest of it, can be counteracted. I believe — not to be Hallmark card about this — in the human spirit. The human spirit can’t be killed, but it can be sedated. And we need to be able to shake off that sedation. It means wake up, get past the psychic numbing, help each other to do that, and organize and organize.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, looking at the film you made, War Made Easy, and the previous book, do you feel like any progress has been made, when you talk about the pundits spinning us to death?
NORMAN SOLOMON: The spinning is a repetition compulsion disorder. It’s part of the corporate media. If we’re going to counteract it, we need to support this program and many others around the country, websites, publications, radio outlets, all the different efforts that are necessary, because if we leave it to the punditocracy, they will go back to square one as they’re doing with Iran, this danger of an attack on Iran boilerplate with what we saw five years ago. We have to stop it.
AMY GOODMAN: Iran, talk about Iran in this last minute.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, I was in Tehran two years ago during the election that brought Ahmadinejad to some power. The reality is that the United States is led by people who are, in practical terms and moral terms, deranged. And the prospectus now — and you had Sy Hersh on yesterday talking about this — for U.S. attack on Iran, under whatever guise, whatever rationale, is a horrific scenario. There is an axis of fanatics, the small-time ones who are running the Iranian government, the big-time global fanatics of the Bush administration. We have to do all we can to restrain them and roll back this warfare state.
AMY GOODMAN: You went there with Sean Penn?
NORMAN SOLOMON: I went there with Sean Penn.
AMY GOODMAN: You also went with him to Iraq, is that right?
NORMAN SOLOMON: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: Why does Sean go to places like Iran and Iraq, you know, the Academy Award-winning actor?
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, without trying to speak for him, I know that he has a very deep caring about children in the world, not only because he has two of his own, but because, as we said — we were talking circling Baghdad three months before the invasion of Iraq. He looked at an Iraqi child in the next row, and he said, "When I forget about why I’ve taken this trip from San Francisco, I look at that child and I remember what it’s all about."
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Norman, for being with us. Your latest book, Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State, with a forward by Daniel Ellsberg.