Dedicated to Abolishing War, Establishing Justice, and Fighting Climate Disaster

Dedicated to Abolishing War, Establishing Justice, and Fighting Climate Disaster

Spring 2022 Editorial

Last month our park system in Toledo sponsored a lecture by a renowned ornithologist, describing the international attention our part of the Lake Erie shoreline attracts during spring bird migration.

He explained that large birds like ducks and eagles travel typically by day, navigating by land features, whereas songbirds and warblers fly at night and navigate off the stars. Some birds, weighing barely an ounce, fly 450 miles a day for a week straight, sometimes over long stretches of open water, just to get back home to their natural breeding grounds. He described how the shapes of certain land masses, like in the Middle East, can channel large numbers of birds into narrow corridors.

When the U.S. was the culprit killing all these civilians, you just couldn’t get it covered.
From the audience, one woman asked, “For birds that fly during the day and navigate by what they see on land, will the ones flying over Ukraine be able to make it?”

Instantly, everyone’s attention and emotions riveted on what had dominated the 24-hour news cycle for weeks – the war in Ukraine.

One needn’t be even an armchair psychologist to reckon how deeply into the national subconscious two weeks of constant war news had permeated for someone listening to a lecture on bird migration, in Toledo, Ohio, to ask a question like that.

Since our speaker had also mentioned bird migration in the Middle East, I wondered if anyone in the audience had considered the plight of migrating birds or people there, one of the most heavily bombed regions on Earth?

Returning home I was glad to see these words from Jeff Cohen, founder of the media watch group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), from online comments and a Free Speech TV interview. In a nation that prides itself on freedom of speech, his statements are not only rare but unfortunately in the current atmosphere, downright courageous.

“I’m happy to see that the U.S. media is covering the violation of international law committed by the Russians. I’m happy to see its empathetic coverage of all these civilians that are being terrorized because of missiles and bombs dropping in their neighborhoods. That’s a great thing because in modern warfare civilians are the main victims. That’s what journalism should do. But when the U.S. was the culprit killing all these civilians, you just couldn’t get it covered.

“When I hear about the pregnant women giving birth in shelters in terror (in Ukraine), do you think during the weeks and months of Shock and Awe—one of the most violent bombing campaigns in global history that the U.S. committed in Iraq—do you think that magically, women in Iraq quit giving birth? There’s this magical thinking when the U.S. is dropping the bombs.”

It’s not surprising most people here didn’t think of the death and destruction endured by civilians when U.S. bombs fell on Iraq. Why would they when, as many of us recall, U.S. network reporters waxed nearly orgasmic describing the “beauty” of the Shock and Awe images, or the excitement they felt witnessing a cruise missile launched from a Navy warship, or hearing America’s most popular network anchor, Dan Rather, refer to George W. Bush as “my commander-in-chief?”

And in case heartfelt reportorial jingoism doesn’t generate sufficient subconscious magical thinking, network executives step in to assure it, as related in a FAIR article describing top CNN officials telling reporters how to spin stories to downplay civilian casualties caused by U.S. bombing in Afghanistan.

Wars, all wars, cause tremendous suffering to all life, but only an incalculably small number of Americans have seen this to be true with our own eyes. Since our people have been spared what millions in other nations have seen firsthand or heard from elders, it’s understandable that America’s purposefully hypocritical news reporting can anesthetize a citizenry into forgetting the starving in Afghanistan now that the war is “over” or unsee millions in Yemen enduring famine from years of our war-making, or disregard thousands of ethnic Russians killed in Ukraine’s Donbas with U.S. weapons.

Most Americans wouldn’t believe these things can be done by the Land of the Free Press because it runs counter to a lifetime of received popular culture steeped in untruths. Wrenching free of that is psychologically painful, indeed impossible for some. Harsh realities await. Magical thinking feels so much better.

“Wars are always unjust.” – Pope Francis
But just sometimes, as difficult as it is, magical thinking can be set aside. Like in this case, when Pope Francis dropped what has to be the exact opposite of a bombshell, by denying 1600 years of Roman Catholic tradition with just four words.

“Wars are always unjust,” he told Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in a video conference on March 16. Mark that date because the “just war theory” has sent millions to slaughter – every one of whom had God on their side – since St. Augustine proposed it. One can easily say it is the very cornerstone of magical thinking.

Francis sealed his historic statement with this universally-resonant reason even the spin masters at CNN and the temporary resident of the White House can’t deny, “because it is the people of God who pay.”

—Mike Ferner

Mike Ferner was a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War and has travelled to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a senior editor of Peace & Planet News and a past president and executive director of Veterans For Peace.

For updates from antiwar veterans and others in the movements for peace, social justice and our planet, subscribe to our newsletter.

You have Successfully Subscribed!