The Worst Cancer of All

Deploy them only when needed, and in wars only when approved by a formal Congressional declaration

Deploy them only when needed, and in wars only when approved by a formal Congressional declaration

W.J. Astore

Also at Huffington Post.

President Obama’s decision to deploy 3,000 troops to Liberia in Africa to assist in efforts to contain Ebola got me to thinking about the military as white blood cells. As a military officer, I took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In a sense, I was vowing to defend the collective body politic just as white blood cells defend our individual bodies against “enemy” invaders.

But when was the last time the United States faced invaders who posed a virulent and direct threat to our existence? Invaders who directly attacked (or planned to attack) and utterly defeat our body politic? You’d have to go back to World War II and Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor; similarly, Nazi Germany did have plans (that were never implemented) to take its world war to U.S. shores once the Soviet Union and Britain were defeated. Fortunately, our body mobilized its “white blood cells” and defeated (with lots of help from our allies) these enemies before they could afflict our vitals here at home.

Jump ahead to 2001 and the al Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Yes, they were serious and shocking and traumatic. But compared to the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II (true cancers), al Qaeda was the equivalent to a 24-hour “bug,” violent in the extreme, but ultimately not a serious long-term threat to the health of America.

By calling 9/11 a “bug,” I don’t mean to diminish the tragedy of 9/11 for those who lost loved ones. It’s just that repeats of 9/11-like attacks were not possible: al Qaeda simply lacked the resources to sustain them. There was no “cancer” that could metastasize. So there was no need to deploy our white blood cells (our troops) in extended wars, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, the latter country of which had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.

Now we have the President referring to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) as a “cancer” that must be eradicated, even though that “cancer” has no means of attacking the body that is our country. Despite this fact, the U.S. is deploying its white blood cells yet again to quash a threat that for our nation simply doesn’t exist.

From medicine, we know that overactive white blood cells can be as dangerous as underactive ones. White blood cells are part of our immune systems; when these systems are overactive, they convert non-threats into threats. Sometimes that results in violent allergic reactions that can lead to death. Other times, one’s own immune system turns on healthy tissue within one’s body. The immune system itself becomes a cancer, eating away at the body in misdirected attempts to defend it.

Whenever the U.S. faces a “threat” nowadays, our leaders treat it aggressively as a “cancer” even when the threat poses no direct peril to us. American presidents, whether they’re named Bush or Obama, eagerly deploy America’s antibodies — the military — to search and destroy bad terrorist cells. But the USA is like a patient whose antibodies have run wild, a patient whose antibodies have turned on external threats even when they’re not threats, a patient whose antibodies are now attacking healthy tissue within the American body politic.

Consider the fact that U.S. presidents commit the troops — our nation’s antibodies — to wars against “cancers” without formal declarations of war by Congress. In the name of protecting America, they violate the Constitution that our troops are sworn to uphold. They fail to recognize it’s their actions that pose the true threat to the Constitution. It’s their actions that constitute the cancer.

The invasive “cure” of continuous military action without oversight exercised by the people is truly worse than the disease, for it’s a “cure” that violates our Constitution and weakens our body politic.

And that is indeed the worst cancer of all.

A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history, William Astore edits the blog The Contrary Perspective.

15 thoughts on “The Worst Cancer of All

  1. I suggest an alternative metaphor: namely, the U.S. Government as a medieval “doctor” who treats every suspected illness by bleeding the patient (with the U.S. military knife) so as to let out all the harmful demonic “vapors.” On the handle of the knife — put there by the makers and sellers of knives — reads the exhortation: “USE ME! YOU CAN’T ABUSE ME!”

  2. Watched a retired CIA guy who contends that before he dies, the U.S. will need the white blood cells. He is making rounds of the news shows. He is about our age. Shire Seyouy. Some S. He must have a new book out.

    Well, I’m going to go rattle around and see if I can find something we can pissed off about.

    A.J. Hulter Sent from my iPhone


  3. I am compelled to take exception to several statements here, Col. Astore. As I have previously pointed out, the Hawaiian Islands were a colonial possession (more politely, “territory”) of the US on Dec. 7, 1941. Thus I have yet to see a refutation of my contention that the last time the territorial integrity of the US was penetrated by enemy troops was the war with its former colonial master, dear old England, 1812-15. Today, of course, the former colony pulls the strings that make England dance to its tune on matters of war and peace. The attacks of 9/11/2001 were a criminal matter–the true details of which, like the JFK assassination, we may never learn, because of “inside activity”–and not an act of war by one state against another. Next, why would “al-Qaeda” (quotation marks because of the shady origins of the group–though we DO know the CIA set up its putative leader in business in Afghanistan in the 1980s–and the convenience for the proponents of permanent war of its existence) “lack the resources” to launch additional strikes of that nature? There seems to be an endless supply of fanatics willing to sacrifice themselves on suicide missions against The Great Satan. The issue is they only had the element of surprise in their favor for the initial operation. Airport security, though still far from perfect obviously, has been improved. Furthermore, I recently issued a “guarantee” here that there WILL be “blowback” on US soil as a result of the current open-ended (the talk is of a campaign against IS lasting “years” at the least; hey, why not decades?!?) operations against the newest Bad Guys. This should be obvious to anyone with a functioning brain. We are not in the world of “Minority Report.” The government may think, and want the citizenry to believe, that it is capable of predicting who may engage in acts of terrorism (and even “thought crime”) and round them up in advance. Who would care to pipe up and say they believe such nonsense? Over the past few days, transportation hubs in my home state and the New York City subway system were flooded with heavily armed police personnel even though it was stated there was “no known specific threat.” Get used to this, my fellow citizens. This is the new normal in the Age of Perpetual War.

    As for US troops being dispatched to Liberia to deal with the Ebola outbreak…this is both highly peculiar and disturbing. I have also previously noted here that the US military has been highly interested in this disease since it first emerged. Are these all medical personnel? Was the US embarrassed that tiny Cuba, partially economically crippled by decades of sanctions imposed by its monstrous neighbor 90 miles distant, had already dispatched medical assistance? And even if these US troops are fundamentally serving a benign role, why should the US be once again acting unilaterally? Where is the UN and W.H.O. in all this?? This does not pass the “smell test” for this commentator.

    • Good point about NYC, Greg. Total overreaction. We should have just laughed, but instead the response is an overwhelming show of security. When did we scare so easily? When did we overreact so violently?

  4. BLOWBACK.. We have already had the first blowback from our involvement with ISIS. An employee in the Carolinas with a criminal history and of an oppressed race in the south became an unaffiliated, online Moslem. He was fired from his job and in a fit of rage walked out of the office and with his work knife copied ISIS and beheaded the first poor women worker in the plant he ran across.

    Now this fellow probably didn’t know an Imman from a rabbi but his frustration with living in a society that limited his education, discriminated against his family and himself since childhood, then incarcerated him as punishment without using that time to give him job and education skills led to his identification with this deadly group. That is the American BLOWBACK we are going to see more than the phony threat made by Obama and our military that ISIS is a direct threat against us. What hath god wrought?

    We have noticed that none of our military or political leaders have told us what the “end game” to this intervention in Syria and Iraq is. Thus it is a nihilistic policy bent solely on violence with no end in sight.

    As a result, I predict we will see more acts of individual nihilistic violence copying ISIS by frustrated, disenfranchised citizens, like this recent case, in our country. We are descending into chaos.

    • Such a sad story. All this media attention to IS beheadings — all the sensationalism — has its impact, especially on those who are angry and who are not playing with a full deck.

  5. “When did we scare so easily?”

    I would turn the question around and ask: “When haven’t we scared easily?” As the late Gore Vidal once accurately observed: “Americans are among the most easily frightened people on earth.” As I wrote at the beginning of my poem, America the Dutiful:

    In the Land of the Fleeced and the Home of the Slave,
    Where the cowed and the buffaloed moan,
    Where seldom we find an inquisitive mind
    And the people pay up with a groan.

    The two recent You-Tube videos produced by the Evil Muslim Acronym Du Jour only highlight the absurd ease with which anyone can stampede Americans into doing anything their cynical corrupt government wants them to do. After all, as Orwell wrote in 1984: “The enemy of the moment always represented pure evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.”

    Only a nation with so few real enemies could bankrupt itself conceiving of — and then crusading against — purely imaginary ones. On this time-dishonored truth, both the Supra-National Corporate Oligarchy and the Evil Muslim Acronym Du Jour can both agree — to their mutual profit.

    • I know what you mean, Mike. But I don’t think Americans were easy to scare until after World War II. Fear-mongering coincided with the rise of the military-industrial complex. Even then, I think men and women like my parents, who went hungry during the Great Depression and who knew hard work in factories, were not scared by the Commie Bogeyman. Something has happened in the last couple of decades, an expansion of fear. Difficult definitively to document, but it’s there. Think about how fear has risen even as violent crimes has generally fallen. Fear is the mind-killer, and fear is being used to kill thought, or to channel it along certain paths.

      • The “something” that has happened, Bill, since the end of WW II is clearly the mastery of mind manipulation by the corporate media. Though radio of course had been around for decades, I suspect most people in the 1940s relied on that morning newspaper, on the ride to work or a coffee break, for “news of the world.” Then came television and the mastery of marketing via that medium–not just marketing new cars, that Valentine’s Day gift your gal can’t live without, the secret cavity-fighting ingredient in your toothpaste–but the selling of the insane notion of “American exceptionalism” (where have we heard THAT phrase lately?). That Orwell foresaw this in 1948 when he was writing “Nineteen-Eighty-Four” is one of the more remarkable things about that brilliant novel. Currently the Two-Minute Hate is aimed at “the Islamic State,” with Arch-Fiend Putin demoted temporarily to the back burner. The proliferation of virtually instantaneous communication these days–already mastered by “the enemy,” though their beheading propaganda can only strike sick individuals as something appealing–just gives the Established Order many more opportunities to repeat the Big Lies, Hitler-style, that are intended to make us little folks jump through whatever hoops they command us to. I opined earlier that we are not living in “the world of ‘Minority Report,'” but I’m telling you now we have been living in the world of 1984 for quite some time.

  6. Again, I agree with you colonel. We always seem to be on the same page or very close to it.

    It should be noted that evidence is starting to surface such as being reported over at that Khorosan, an offshoot of ISIS, Al-Quada, or whatever, is nothing more than a fabrication created by the White House in order to justify yet another deployment of US Forces. Whatever it may be, it is appears to be nothing more than a convolution of other Al-Quada groups called by another name. Reporting is showing that Syrian militants have never heard of such a group.

    I would add also that the actual cancer that is growing is the entirety of the US government that has become so corrupted in the past 50 years it no longer functions as a government but merely as a supplicant to special interests and self-aggrandizing persons and groups.

    “Cancers” also always attack the host and the US is in fact being attacked by the consistent use of military force from a sociological perspective in that our institutions are dying along with our nation’s infrastructure, both of which are being sacrificed on the alters of warfare and profits.

    In addition, the constant deployment of US military forces is exhausting them to a degree that is not reparable. At some point soldiers cease being soldiers and simply become automatons of war or desertion starts to take hold, or even mutiny. Eventually, US soldiers will turn on their masters when they have had enough…

    • Glenn Greenwald, as one would expect, offers a great deconstruction of the the so-called “Khorosan” group propaganda gambit here. Just another farcical scam.

      It escapes me why anyone would accept at face value the obvious, self-serving leaks coming from anonymous U.S. Government “sources.” President Obama has once again hit the panic button, ordering spastic bombing of two sovereign nations, Iraq and Syria, without a Congressional declaration of war or authority from the UN Security Council,. And since the ratified UN Treaty forms part of the U.S. Constitution, President Obama has clearly committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” and merits impeachment for violating his oath to preserve and protect the U.S. Constitution. If the rabid Republicans really wanted to hang this guy, he has given them all the rope they need.

  7. Thanks for another good commentary, Bill.

    Of course, neither the executive nor legislative branches has any incentive to change the current system of things. Presidents want leeway to do as they wish, whether out of conviction or in response to momentary public opinion. Members of Congress benefit mightily from never having to vote one way or the other and take the unacceptable risk of, heaven forfend, endangering their all-important re-election and fund-raising campaigns.

    Not only should the War Powers Act be enforced, but also there should be automatic tax-hikes triggered after U.S. forces have been deployed for, say, 90 days.

    Clay Bonnyman Evans

  8. @Michael Murry I’d love to see the rest of your poem – clever as hell!

    In the Land of the Fleeced and the Home of the Slave,
    Where the cowed and the buffaloed moan,
    Where seldom we find an inquisitive mind
    And the people pay up with a groan.

    Clay Bonnyman Evans

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