By Amir Haidari
The latest book by renowned journalist Chris Hedges gives us an incredible account of the victims of wars and the horrors they suffer. Entitled The Greatest Evil is War, it also examines the inner workings of war ideologues and the ‘permanent war industry’.
Drawing on his own personal experience as a war correspondent in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Central America, Hedges illustrates how war destroys individuals, families, communities and countries. He speaks with US war veterans including those who served in Iraq about their struggle to survive once they return home and how the same institutions that sent them to war, often abandon them.
He speaks to civilians in many war torn countries to give a first hand account of the physical and psychological horrors they suffer, and provides us with this graphic description:
“I have heard the wails of those convulsed by grief as they clutch the bodies of friends and family, including children. I hear them still. It does not matter the language. Spanish. Arabic. Hebrew. Dinka. Serbo-Croatian. Albanian. Ukrainian. Russian. Death cuts through the linguistic barriers. I know what wounds look like. Legs blown off. Heads imploded into a bloody, pulpy mass. Gaping holes in stomachs. Pools of blood. Cries of the dying, sometimes for their mothers. And the smell. The smell of death. The supreme sacrifice made for Eies and maggots.”
The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist condemns all wars including the conflict in Ukraine and says; ‘there is no good war. None.’ He criticises the media for masking the true horrors of war by providing us with only the ‘visceral thrill of force’. According to Hedges, the media does not show us what guns, tanks; bombs do to individuals and make us soon forget about the dead, the wounded and even the soldier that comes home. ‘We do not see them. We do not hear them.
“War’s effects are what the state and the press, the handmaiden of the war makers, work hard to keep hidden. If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be harder to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the mangled corpses of the schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan or Ukraine and listen to the wails of their parents, the clichés about liberating the women of Afghanistan or bringing freedom to the Afghan or Ukrainian people would be obscene. Therefore, war is carefully sanitized.”
Hedges argues that the ideologues in the US who promote wars overseas do not experience war themselves. They do not see the ‘corpses of their victims’, ‘the paralysing fear of death’ or the ‘smell of death’. Neither they, nor their children serve in the military. The merchants of death as he calls the permanent war industry, are keeping us afraid so they can justify endless wars to profit from.
“The corporations behind the doctrine of permanent war, who have corrupted Leon Trotsky’s doctrine of permanent revolution, must keep us afraid. Fear stops us from objecting to government spending on a bloated military. Fear means we will not ask unpleasant questions of those in power. Fear means that we will be willing to give up our rights and liberties for security. Fear keeps us penned in like domesticated animals.”
Chris Hedges book comes at a time when the calls to reform war powers in Australia experienced a setback. In early October Defence Minister Richard Marles, stated that he was against reforming the current arrangement that allows the executive to commit Australia to overseas wars without parliamentary authorisation.
In a letter written to the recently announced parliamentary into war powers he said that the current arrangement ‘should not be disturbed’. Despite his view civil society organisations will use the inquiry to highlight the anti-democratic nature of the current outdated system.
People like Marles and other ministers and prime ministers, who might send Australian troops to overseas wars will rarely see the horrors of war firsthand. If they did, they may have second thoughts.
Amir Haidari is an Afghan-Australian and has a BA and MA in international studies from UNI SA and the University of Adelaide.
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