Catching Rachel Maddow’s Drift

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— Former Air America radio show host Rachel Maddow has, by now, become MSNBC’s de facto ‘liberal watch dog,’ long since the network kicked Keith Olbermann to the curb and told Cenk Uyger that Washington ‘doesn’t like his tone.’

In a world where the Republican propaganda machine has been able to characterize a network part-owned by software giant Microsoft and General Electric, one of the world’s biggest
corporate conglomerates, as the ‘liberal media,’ black is white and up is down.

In an interesting twist, Rachel Maddow has now come out with a book, MSNBC’s version of an anti-war history lesson.  Even Glenn Greenwald, one of our favorite authors here at Media Roots, seemed comfortable lavishing praise on Maddow’s masterful work of omission, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power.  Another writer and journalist,  David Swanson, has a very different take on the matter.  (David Swanson has also appeared as a guest on Media Roots Radio back in 2011.)  

Written by Robbie Martin of Media Roots


WAR IS A CRIME — Maddow’s book picks out episodes, from the war on Vietnam to the present — episodes in the expansion of the military industrial complex and in the aggrandizement of presidential war powers. Some of the episodes are extremely revealing and well told. Maddow’s is perhaps the best collection I’ve seen of nuclear near-miss and screw-up stories. But much is missing from the book. And some of what is there is misleading.

Missing is the fact that U.S. wars kill people other than U.S. troops. The U.S. Civil War’s battles, in Maddow’s view “remain, to this day, America’s most terrifying and costly battles.” That depends what (or whom) you consider a cost. A listing of U.S. dead on the television show “Nightline,” Maddow writes, “would be a televised memorial to those who had died in a year of war.”  Would it really?  Everyone who had died? Victims of U.S. wars make an appearance in these pages as the sex slaves of U.S. mercenaries, but not as the victims of murder on a large scale. This absence is in contrast to a large focus on the damage done to U.S. troops, and a much larger focus on financial costs — and not even on the tradeoffs, not even on the things that we could be spending money on, but rather on the “threat” of deficits and debt. Maddow notes the dramatic conversion from weapons factories to automobile, tractor, and refrigerator factories that followed World War II, but she does not propose such a conversion process now.

Missing is resistance and conscientious objection. “War will exist,” wrote President John Kennedy, “until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today.”  That day grows more distant with books like Maddow’s. In “Drift,” everything warriors do is called “defense” (except with the Russians whose actions are called “strategic (aka offensive)”; when the troops do things they are “serving”; they are “patriotic”; and in times when the military becomes widely respected that is considered a positive development. Jim Webb is “an extraordinary soldier.”  Soldiers in Vietnam “served honorably,” but sadly the military was “diminished” and the troops “demoralized.” Or is it de-moral-ized?  Maddow fills out her book with dramatic accounts of Navy SEALs trying to invade Grenada that appear to have been included purely for the adventure drama or the pro-troopiness — although there’s always some SNAFU in such stories as well.

War, in Maddow’s world, is not in need of abolition so much as proper execution, which sometimes means more massive and less hesitant execution. LBJ “tried to fight a war on the cheap,” Maddow quotes a member of Johnson’s administration as recalling. On the other hand, when Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf propose five or six aircraft carriers for the First War on Iraq, Maddow recounts that this “would leave naval power dangerously thin in the rest of the world.” Dangerous for whom?

Read more about Catching Rachel Maddow’s Drift.

Photo by upstateNYer from Wikimedia Commons

One thought on “Catching Rachel Maddow’s Drift

  1. I think that she tried to preach to the sheep, those rednecks who cant really understand that anyone else hurts, those brainwashed by the “patriotism” to whom if you say “our heroes died aplenty and we could instead not send them to war”their flacid brains will register , whereas if you state “war is bad, the non US citizens are people too and we are the murderers” they wont even understand or close themselves to consider.
    Sadly I do think the U.S will burn and I think the rest of the world will rejoice. Not because of all the americans (some are decent, peace loving and caring) but because the government and most americans have been so selfish, greedy and downright inhumane in their dealings with other nations that they earned nothing but contempt from their neighbours.
    And trust me wont be any terrorist , the terrorist hoax wont fly this time =/

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