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Anti-war protesters gather in London at the start of a demonstration against war on Iraq, February 15, 2003. (Photo: Reuters/Peter Macdiarmid)

Caligula with Orange Hair

Robert C. Koehler

So maybe this is how the U.S. demilitarizes, or the American public at least returns to the consciousness of the late ’60s, when protests rocked the streets and people demanded an end to the savagery in Vietnam:

Donald Trump, the Fool in the Tarot deck, the harbinger of change, removes the political correctness and public relations sensitivity from U.S. foreign policy and goes naked about conquering the world. Suddenly the U.S. president is Julius Caesar (or maybe Caligula) with orange hair, hugging fellow tyrants, ramping up the military budget, decapitating social spending, bombing Fourth World civilians without restriction and making America great in the only way he can imagine: “fighting to win.”

And Trump is so blatant he awakes the snoozing American conscience. And the awareness and the anger stirred into being become a movement, and the movement isn’t mere protest over Trump’s behavior but a deep and profound cry for atonement for the colonial conquest, the genocide and slavery, out of which this nation created itself, and a demand that we begin acknowledging it rather than feigning ignorance of it — because the face of ignorance is the face of Trump — and in this acknowledgement we begin to undo the armed insanity of its contemporary manifestation.

“We have been trying for years — many years — to get a broad-based consensus among social justice and environmental groups that the bloated military budget was affecting all of their work,” CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin said in an interview with Common Dreams. Suddenly, with Trump in office, “it seems like people are getting it.”

And thus on April 4, the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s soul-stirring speech at Riverside Church, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” CodePink and a coalition of organizations launched the #No54BillionforWar campaign, referencing the military-spending increase in Trump’s proposed budget. This blatant cash grab would simultaneously strip spending from crucial social and environmental programs and further bloat the Pentagon’s budget, which already consumes two-thirds of U.S. discretionary spending in pursuit of perpetual war.

“Our environmental and human needs are desperate and urgent,” reads the campaign’s website. “We need to transform our economy, our politics, our policies and our priorities to reflect that reality. That means reversing the flow of our tax dollars, away from war and militarism, and towards funding human and environmental needs, and demanding support for that reversal from all our political leaders at the local, state and national levels.”

Let us imagine, just for a moment, this and other movements blossoming across the country and across the planet, pulling in the young and the wounded and the aware, who begin committing their lives to the evolution of nations beyond militarism and violent confrontation. Let us imagine a presidential candidate — one running in the 2020 election — emerging from these movements, who articulates a vision of this country beyond militarism so compellingly, and garners so much backing, that she or he cannot be ignored by the media or mockingly dismissed by establishment insiders.

Let us imagine the collapse of the military-industrial status quo, which, at least in its current form, began entrenching itself in the U.S. political and social structure both economically and psychologically since World War II.

Of course, it’s the money part that will be hardest to undo, but the Trump phenomenon certainly begins waking the nation up psychologically.

Consider, for instance, the media shockwaves he generated recently when he fawned so lovingly over Egypt’s dictatorial president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as though, good God, this repressive tyrant is a friend and ally. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman decried the White House visit as “another morning in Trump’s America,” inspiring Glenn Greenwald to note:

“Krugman believes — or at least wants his Democratic followers to believe — that supporting and praising savage despotism in Egypt is a new development that only happens in ‘Trump’s America.’”

However, Greenwald continues, “the U.S. has been supporting, funding, and arming the Sisi tyranny for years under the Obama administration. In March 2015, as Sisi’s human rights abuses intensified, Obama personally told the Egyptian tyrant in a call the good news that he was lifting a ban ‘on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits’ and — in the words of the White House — ‘also advised President al-Sisi that he will continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt.’

“What Trump is violating is not any Washington principles or ethics but Washington propaganda tactics.”

Yeah, that’s Trump, beloved violator of protocol and military-industrial discretion, even as he plays the same game that’s always been played. He’s our self-proclaimed Caesar, attempting to bring back the days when military glory spoke for itself, when the enemy was the enemy and killing him didn’t have to be cloaked in the language of political correctness.

Or as the New York Times, guardian of the military-industrial consensus, put it: “Two months after the inauguration of President Trump, indications are mounting that the United States military is deepening its involvement in a string of complex wars in the Middle East that lack clear endgames.”

A decade and a half into the War on Terror, the Paper of Record has noticed a “lack of clear endgames” in our Middle East carnage, which of course it initially supported to the hilt! Could it be that Donald Trump is undoing the crucial alliance between the militarized economy and its mainstream media purveyors? Could it be that the future has woken up?


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Robert C. Koehler

Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Koehler has been the recipient of multiple awards for writing and journalism from organizations including the National Newspaper Association, Suburban Newspapers of America, and the Chicago Headline Club.  He’s a regular contributor to such high-profile websites as Common Dreams and the Huffington Post. Eschewing political labels, Koehler considers himself a “peace journalist. He has been an editor at Tribune Media Services and a reporter, columnist and copy desk chief at Lerner Newspapers, a chain of neighborhood and suburban newspapers in the Chicago area. Koehler launched his column in 1999. Born in Detroit and raised in suburban Dearborn, Koehler has lived in Chicago since 1976. He earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Columbia College and has taught writing at both the college and high school levels. Koehler is a widower and single parent. He explores both conditions at great depth in his writing. His book, "Courage Grows Strong at the Wound" (2016). Contact him or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

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