By Kathy Kelly
(War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine by Norman Solomon, The New Press, 2023)
Following a string of United States “forever wars,” a profusion of well-written, often riveting novels, memoirs, and analyses have been published. Talented authors have aimed to promote an understanding of the human cost of war.
In the same period, mainstream media sources have continually developed ways to make war appear normal –something necessary, justifiable, or in some cases, “humane.”
Norm Solomon’s War Made Invisible erects an edifice of evidence showing deliberate, consistent, coordinated, and well-funded efforts to squelch movements opposing the vicious consequences of war.
Solomon asks why people identify more with the bombers rather than the bombed. Then he traces the history of embedded reporters. He shows how the presence of “embeds” (journalists who live among and travel with units of the military) has changed the way wars are covered. The embeds are beholden not only to the military that protects them but also to corporate heads who collude with war profiteers and war planners.
Militarists’ justifications for wars often emphasize the terror wielded by insurgents using bloody tactics. Solomon points out the similarities between suicide bombers causing slaughter on the ground and sophisticated warplanes maiming and killing civilians from the air.
The legendary peace activist Phil Berrigan once likened racism and threats of nuclear war to the many faces of the hydra written off in Greek mythology. Cut off one head and another appears. The many-faced hydra of racism and war now turns to all corners of the globe. Any country refusing to subordinate itself to serving US national interests risks being devastated by US. military and economic wars. Increasingly, war planners invoke the nuclear threat.
Authors and orators who challenge the status quo of glorifying and justifying wars face well-organized opponents with deep pockets and a vice-like grip on mainstream media. Astonishing past efforts, in US history, to outlaw war and denounce the “merchants of death” reached millions of people after the industrial slaughter of World War I.
Eugene Debs, the indefatigable campaigner imprisoned for opposing US foreign policy, ran for president from his jail cell and won nearly a million votes in 1920. The Kellogg Briand pact outlawing war was written into US law in August of 1928. In April of 1935, the New York Times reported that over 60,000 students went on strike, declaring they would never enlist to fight in a foreign war. Former US Representative Jeanette Rankin voted against entering both World War I and World War II.
Norman Solomon shares the moral compass and honorable intent of these heroic resisters. His highly worthwhile book invites readers to embrace his clarity, expose the military machine’s human toll, and campaign to end all wars.
This review first appeared in The Progressive Magazine
–Kathy Kelly, a peace activist and author, co-coordinates the Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal and is board president of World Beyond War. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.