AlJazeera July 28, 2011
US mainstream media and the public’s willful ignorance is to blame for lack of knowledge about true cost of wars.
Why is it so easy for political leaders in the US to convince ordinary citizens to support war? How is it that, after that initial enthusiasm has given away to fatigue and disgust, the reaction is mere disinterest rather than righteous rage? Even when the reasons given for taking the US to war were proven to have been not only wrong, but brazenly fraudulent – as in Iraq, which hadn’t possessed chemical weapons since 1991 – no one is called to account.
The United States claims to be a shining beacon of democracy to the world. And many of the citizens of the world believe it. But democracy is about responsiveness and accountability – the responsiveness of political leaders to an engaged and informed electorate, which holds that leadership class accountable for its mistakes and misdeeds. How to explain Americans’ acquiescence in the face of political leaders who repeatedly lead it into illegal, geopolitically disastrous and economically devastating wars of choice?
The dynamics of US public opinion have changed dramatically since the 1960s, when popular opposition to the Vietnam War coalesced into an antiestablishmentarian political and cultural movement that nearly toppled the government – and led to a series of sweeping social reforms whose contemporary ripples include the recent move to legalise marriage between members of the same sex.
Why the difference?
Numerous explanations have been offered for the vanishing of protesters from the streets of American cities. First and foremost, fewer people know someone who has been killed. The death rate for US troops has fallen dramatically, from 58,000 in Vietnam to a total of 6,000 for Iraq and Afghanistan. Many point to the replacement of conscripts by volunteer soldiers, many of whom originate from the working class, which is by definition less influential