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The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check

Life (and Death) During Perpetual Wartime
• James Campion
The big story this week is the government has the complete autonomy to kill us. This jives with the previous month's story on why the American people must be armed to the teeth to defend themselves against such cold-blooded attacks. In the meantime, they slaughter each other at the slightest whim.


It is a cycle of madness best depicted in the symbol of Ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail. Or perhaps illustrated with great irony over the past week by the actions of two war veterans that have decided to best utilize their intense military training to murder civilians

This is life (or death) during perpetual wartime; begun in the wake of 9/11/01 almost immediately and continues unabated today over the course of leadership from two separate political parties for a dozen years; Homeland Security, transportation lock-down, racial profiling, Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, enhanced interrogation, multi-colored threat levels, invasive airport surveillance, wire tapping, Enron, Weapons of Mass Destruction, enriched uranium, covert strikes in Libya, random assassinations, weekly drone killings, and on and on. This is a deal made with the mythical devil or the war machine that at times during our lives may have lied dormant but was groaning just the same beneath the surface for this cradle-to-grave environment of fear.

Look, I'm no Glenn Beck. I don't think the government plans to poison our water and force us to worship the ghost of Karl Marx in a secret witches' coven run by the liberal media, and I have grave doubts that any group of human beings could cobble together the collective wisdom to form an Illuminati. Hell, I've begun to swallow the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. But we have slowly but surely had no problem living with the idea that the kind of draconian measures practiced during past wars, especially the first two World Wars, would be upon us in perpetuity. This trade of civil rights and rights of privacy and the right to know the measures our government takes to protect its citizenry for what has been hoisted upon us in the name of "fighting terrorism" has reached absurd proportions, even for a nation with a horrid record of unleashing all measure of bizarrely illegal shit in the guise of security.

We are ultimately to blame that now the anti-war president, the mythical leftist, weak, appeaser has been murdering the odd American citizen along with a host of "enemies" with the kind of ambiguous power given to monarchs or Joseph McCarthy; the suspicion that a citizen might have affiliations with al Qeada is punishable by death -- no trial, no hard evidence, no jury of peers. Even the wording in the recently leaked Department of Justice memorandum re-defines "imminent threat" to something far less than imminent, in fact it reads that deploying a drone on anyone anywhere "does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future." This is the Military Industrial Complex version of the Clintonian qualification on what "is" is.

Of course this reeks of John Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts or Lincoln's suspending of habeas corpus or FDR's Japanese war camps, or Eisenhower's covert international coups or Nixon's plumbers or Ronald Reagan's undercover weapons' trades or George W. Bush's gross abuse of every conceivable executive power, but this is also in the wake of those and more irrational expansions of a kind of Marshall Law.
I come from a generation (the current president's generation) of monumental fuck-ups, not the least of which are Viet Nam and Watergate. These incredibly dangerous and stupid rationales for "protecting the system" at all costs were supposed to be dire warnings of what happens when power runs amok. These were to be the end-all examples of how things can go sideways fast and how much we must bolster our resolve that it should never, ever happen again. And although there have hardly been anything close to these abominations, there are still baseless wars and illegal shenanigans openly practiced today with nary a peep from us.

But really, you say (and I agree) what can we do? There is no alternative to this perpetual war. It is a war against no sovereign nation or political ideology. It is, as stated in this space minutes after 9/11, a war against a concept or at the very least some sort of religious notion; a vague, almost mystical view of a raging fire that will not be doused. And no matter what amount of arguments or lawsuits or elections we engage in this will never end. It is a perpetual war and thus a landscape of perpetual warriors; and with it, casualties.

This perpetual wartime that has hardly slacked during the current administration, regardless of the pullout from Iraq, which was an inevitability that should have been handled long before Barack Obama entered the presidency, has increased. Now, instead of a blustering Texan in the White House being manipulated as a marionette by Cold War fossils, there is a rousing orator with the innate skills of an attorney winning Nobel Peace Prizes while building upon the very national security polices he once openly mocked as unethical.

NBC and NY Times reports this week of the president being handed lists of suspected terrorists and choosing those to be targeted is chilling, but it is nothing new. It is the bargain our parents and their parents struck with our government after WW II to ferret out the "bad guys" by any means necessary. A "You want me on that wall!" mentality of enabling our cushy lives of iPads and reality television, smart phones and internet porn by invisible marauders skulking though the shadows doing nasty things to nasty people all in the name of apple pie.

Through it all the opposition party, now the Republicans, once the Democrats, pounce like indignant purveyors of constitutional purity to rid our leaders of these unchallenged powers; the commander-in-chief clause strangled by each and every member of the executive branch for two-plus centuries.
But it was not life in perpetual wartime.
That time is now and forever more.
A time when a flying kill machine could be aimed at you for...well, anything.

© James Campion Feb 8th 2013

Tobacco, Booze & Firearms
- An American Love Story
James Campion

In the midst of the furious debate on gun violence in America following the Newtown massacre, this space has dedicated over 2,000 words to the silly idea of trying to regulate human behavior and ignore the very core of the American psyche; the gun.

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