The Business of America Is War

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William Astore: If patriotism is famously the last refuge of the scoundrel, it’s also the first recourse of those seeking to mobilize customers for the latest bloodletting exercise in combat as commerce.

We Lost Our Humanity in Vietnam

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William Astore: In a war in which commanding generals rewarded American troops for generating high enemy body count and punished those “slackers” who didn’t kill enough of the enemy, small wonder that Vietnam became an American killing field and a breeding ground for atrocity.

War Is a Dirty Business

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William Astore: War should never be debated in the abstract; it’s only at our own peril when we reduce it to mindless entertainment. We must always remember how hideous the face of war can be, and how pitiless it is to those caught in its path of destruction.

Washington’s Endless Wars

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William Astore: Our wars and their impact are kept in remarkable isolation from what passes for public affairs in this country, leaving most Americans with little knowledge and even less say about whether they should be, and how they are, waged.

Baseball Has Lost Some of Its Soul

Derek Jeter

William J. Astore: But I despair at the way money and media and mercenary players have invaded the game and changed its character from a pastime to a business. Just one recent example: today’s opener between the Red Sox and Yankees was moved to 8:05 PM for the benefit of ESPN Sunday night baseball in the hopes of garnering higher ratings and advertising revenue. Few seem to care about inconveniencing the fans, or flouting the tradition of opening day played in the afternoon under God’s natural light.

The United States of Euphemism

George Orwell

Judging by the local newspaper that serves the rural area of Pennsylvania where I live, hunters no longer shoot and kill deer: they harvest them. “Harvest” is the latest euphemism of choice for killing, and it’s applied not just to the culling of the deer herd but also to the killing of bears, bobcats, and [...]

American Torture: No Knowledge of History, No Sense of Tragedy

"Judgement at Nuremberg" Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich 1961 U/A Photo by Al St. Hilaire - Image courtesy mptvimages.com

Recently in the New York Times, Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti showed that the Bush Administration, the CIA, and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees failed to ask for any historical context before approving so-called “harsh interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, in 2002. No one apparently knew, or wanted to know, that the U.S. had defined [...]

Mary McCarthy in Vietnam, Barack Obama in Afghanistan

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In 1967, outraged by the course of the Vietnam War, as well as her country’s role in prolonging and worsening it, Mary McCarthy, novelist, memoirist, and author of the bestseller The Group, went to Saigon, then the capital of South Vietnam, to judge the situation for herself. The next year, she went to the North [...]

Why We Need a “Truth Commission” to Investigate Torture

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The American people’s faith in their government—even with the election of Barack Obama—remains compromised. One reason is obvious. Americans see low-level military operatives being imprisoned for mistreatment, even murder, of prisoners. At the same time, high-level officials go uninvestigated and unpunished. In their case, we’re told to look forward rather than backward, an empty phrase [...]

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