Newsbusters and Fox are stoking up the outrage over this segment aired Saturday morning on the Melissa Harris-Perry show. Wow. All I can really say is, they're really digging deep into their little bag of archetypes to come up with the appropriate trigger.
Harris-Perry actually made a really important point about affirmative action and the military, which was a theme of her Saturday show. In different segments, she showed how minorities' military service fueled the civil rights movement, and helped minorities to overcome prejudice and barriers to advancement in civilian society.
It's not the substance of this segment that so inflamed these conservative media bastions. It's her intro, where she made a statement of fact:
It is a surprising historical truth that the U.S. military, despised as an engine of war by many progressives, has been a leading institution in America's fight for racial equality.
This statement shouldn't surprise anyone, progressive or conservative. Progressives do view the US military as an engine of war, because that's what it is. Progressives despise war. This seems like a reasonable viewpoint to have, don't you think? Why would this be a surprise to anyone?
Indeed, it appears that the only words Newsbusters heard was "progressives despise the military" so they could use that as an excuse to raise the spectre of Vietnam, or something. Forget Harris-Perry's real message, which is compelling and far more important in the larger scheme of things. No, they simply want their base to be outraged and shocked -- SHOCKED -- that progressives despise war and view the military as an engine of war.
But wait, conservatives. Progressives aren't alone. Who said this?
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.
Yes, those words were uttered by that paragon of progressive values, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his final speech to the nation before his term ended. The one where he warned about the military-industrial complex, where he also spoke of concerns about the military war machine:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
If you're Newsbusters, this offhand remark of Harris-Perry is now the center of everything. It overshadows her arguments about how the military has not only been an engine of war, but also an engine of progress. In their words, "when you need a war to be fought, you want the biggest, baddest military around." This presumes, of course, that all wars are begun and fought on the basis of need. They're not. Afghanistan and Iraq had no foundation in "need." There was no need to fight either one of those wars, there was no need to invade and occupy their countries, there was no need whatsoever to sacrifice thousands of our own and hundreds of thousands of their people. None.
The American military is an engine of war, not peace. Saying so doesn't subtract from the sacrifice and service of service men and women at all. It's not a slap at the military. It's simply a fact that over the past century or so, our armed services have been used as engines of war, rather than engines of peace. They're the first option rather than the last one.
Why was Newsbusters so anxious to stoke the outrage machine over what was a throwaway line? Maybe because the substance of her argument about affirmative action is one they'd like their readers to ignore.