Book Club with Jeffrey Sachs

Season 3, Episode 5: Norman Solomon, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine

March 05, 2024 Jeffrey Sachs Season 3 Episode 5
Season 3, Episode 5: Norman Solomon, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine
Book Club with Jeffrey Sachs
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Book Club with Jeffrey Sachs
Season 3, Episode 5: Norman Solomon, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine
Mar 05, 2024 Season 3 Episode 5
Jeffrey Sachs

Join Professor Jeffrey Sachs and political and media analyst Norman Solomon as they discuss Solomon’s important new book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine

Listen in as Solomon and Sachs explore the intricate interplay between the mainstream media and powerful political forces that promote America’s disastrous “wars of choice” – including the US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and currently the US-Russia proxy war in Ukraine and the US backing of Israel’s war in Gaza.   

Solomon’s book explores how American foreign policy has become one of perpetual war, and how the media systematically hide the tragic human and political consequences of these wars, thereby enabling the US Government to perpetuate these conflicts.


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Show Notes Transcript

Join Professor Jeffrey Sachs and political and media analyst Norman Solomon as they discuss Solomon’s important new book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine

Listen in as Solomon and Sachs explore the intricate interplay between the mainstream media and powerful political forces that promote America’s disastrous “wars of choice” – including the US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and currently the US-Russia proxy war in Ukraine and the US backing of Israel’s war in Gaza.   

Solomon’s book explores how American foreign policy has become one of perpetual war, and how the media systematically hide the tragic human and political consequences of these wars, thereby enabling the US Government to perpetuate these conflicts.


⭐️ Thank you for listening!

➡️ Sign up for the newsletter:

➡️ Website:

🎉 Don't forget to subscribe and share your favorite episode with your friends!

📣 Leave a rating and tell us what you thought about this episode!

Speaker 1 (00:00):

Hello, I'm Jeffrey Sachs. Welcome to Book Club, a monthly conversation with world-leading authors who have written scintillating, inspiring, and remarkably important books about history, social justices, and the challenges of building a decent world.

Speaker 1 (00:19):

I am absolutely delighted and thrilled to have with me today, Norman Solomon. Uh, you're going to meet him and learn about his very important work over many, many years. Today, we're going to be discussing his new book, absolutely wonderful book, war Made Invisible. Just in perfect timing for the book. We have so many wars and, uh, so many prospects for more wars. And Norman Solomon has been making the point for a very long time that these wars are carried out supposedly very often in the name of the American people, uh, without, uh, any public awareness or knowledge of the truth about them and of the horrendous devastation that they cause. Uh, Norman Solomon is, uh, a longtime journalist, but I think even a longer time peace activist, from what I understand. Uh, he began his peace activism somewhere in grade school or maybe in high school, <laugh>, but it goes back a very long time.

Speaker 1 (01:20):

He is a media expert who has established many media organizations, all pushing towards one basic point, truth and accuracy in journalism, something which I feel, uh, and I know he feels from the book is, uh, not only sorely lacking right now, but disastrously lacking because of its consequences for how war continues outside of the awareness and knowledge of the public that is paying for it. He is a, uh, critic, longtime critic of the US War machine. He ran for Congress, uh, and I want to hear about that. He's been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention on a couple of occasions. Bernie Sanders delegate. I was an economic advisor to Senator Sanders in 2016 in that election race. So we definitely share that. But today we are talking in the context of two raging wars, one in Ukraine that the United States has largely funded, and in my view, has largely provoked and, uh, second War, Israel's war in Gaza, that the United States, uh, arms each day, uh, almost literally, uh, by the hour, providing munitions with risks of wider wars in the Middle East and with a lot of war, talk about war even with China in East Asia.

Speaker 1 (02:51):

And Norman, I feel the same way. My earliest political activism was, uh, marching on the streets of Detroit back in 1967 and 68 as a junior high school and high school student against the Vietnam War. And for us as Americans of our generation, it's been war nonstop, basically for our whole lives.

Speaker 2 (03:12):

Well, when you were marching in Detroit, I, as a high school student, went to New York for the big march, April, 1967, where Martin Luther King spoke and was getting trashed by the news media. And really ever since, with fluctuations and different strategies, we basically have had what I sometimes think of as a repetition compulsion disorder in the political economy, in the politics, in the media, the styles change, the regions of the world that are affected, the types of war, sometimes direct, sometimes indirect as in Ukraine, and we're supposed to have the informed consent of the governed. That's what I learned in high school. In civics class, what we have is the uninformed pseudo consent of pseudo democracy. And we have seen the consequences from the Vietnam War era to today. And as you mentioned, we've got two wars that have been raging into this year, and perhaps no end in sight.

Speaker 2 (04:19):

And yet the window in the world is, you know, tinted red, white, and blue through the news media with, with some exceptions. And, you know, as I say in the book, exceptions are important, but that's not what propaganda is about. Propaganda is the drumbeat, the code words, the catchphrases, the, the window in the world. And so what Martin Luther King Jr in 1967 called The Madness of militarism is very much with us and it rebounds into our own country. You know, if you go to Detroit or New York City or any other urban or rural area in this country, we see the devastation, the kickback, the blowback from the weaponry, from the warfare. And so here we are in early 2024, and there's a lot of reason that I and many other people feel despair. And yet, uh, we need to push back. We need to organize and say that the warfare state is just not acceptable.

Speaker 1 (05:15):

You quote Martin Luther King in a line that I didn't know of, guided missiles and misguided men <laugh>, which is an incredible line, which, uh, again, goes back almost 60 years now. And what you're grappling with, and I you've been grappling with this in your wonderful books for a long time, is the enormity of this. And what I've seen, I do international economics and I've been engaged in international economics for more than 40 years out in the world. So I hear a lot. I see a lot, but the propaganda is nonstop from the us and it's not simple to pierce through, actually. Uh, it's strange, even though it's such nonsense, often it's so overwhelming. And your point about the repetition is really something, it's almost deafening how we hear the same tropes day in, day out. They're false. But if you try to say something against them, you get an onslaught of the public saying, no, it's not like that. Because they have heard this drumbeat over and over again.

Speaker 2 (06:26):

Piercing through those layers of propaganda, as you say, is just, it's an ongoing challenge. And a lot of it is through omission, just what is not mentioned, and it's overwhelmed. What is omitted gets just deluged and avalanche by just the facts or supposed facts that argue in a certain war direction and also distort. And so the media distortion is, as you say, it's 24 7. It's the water that we swim in. And like the proverbial fish question would be asked, well, well, well, what water? We're in it all the time. Jeff, I remember you had a piece as I recall in the that's that's

Speaker 1 (07:06):


Speaker 2 (07:07):

Yeah. Financial times a couple of years ago, uh, leading up to the Russian invasion, right around that time. But it was expected. And you said there was no serious negotiations from the United States or the NATO block. There was not diplomacy, but the whole mythology in that instance as we've had so much myth propagation, was and is that the United States tried to avert this invasion. Well, well, no. When you look at the facts, it's quite opposite. I, I recall that before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, president Biden did a news conference and he was asked point blank, do you think that Ukraine should join nato? And he said, well, that's their choice. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> that response was a way too hot wire the invasion at that point. Whereas in retrospect, if sanity had prevailed in the mind and in the words of President Biden, and he'd said, well, of course not, uh, what we need to use a historical example, a Finland kind of arrangement, Austria kind of neutrality, of course not.

Speaker 2 (08:26):

We wouldn't 40 years ago, have wanted the Warsaw Pact to be joined by Canada or Mexico. It should be obvious. But you can listen to NPRs all things considered in Morning Edition. You can read the news and the New York Times or whatever. I'm not even talking about, you know, the war mongers at Fox and the liberal tropes are that history doesn't matter. And so I think we're deep in an Orwellian zone that has always been present in mass media and Capitol Hill discourse dominant on foreign policy. But in many ways, sorry to say, it's really worse now, you know, in many, many contexts. And when you have Anthony Blinken, who was chief of staff at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while then Senator Joe Biden swung the gavel in the summer of 2002, a hearing on the prospective invasion of Iraq, that green lighted that invasion, which then occurred, uh, eight or nine months later, we have today.

Speaker 2 (09:33):

And for the last couple of years, blinken as Secretary of State, and of course the president saying, point blank, we can't have a world order when one nation invades another. Well, these people were cheerleading the invasion of Iraq, and in this year, the US is still bombing Iraq, you know, and asserting the prerogative now against the wishes of the Iraqi government. So we're hearing all this nonsense, this pernicious lying nonsense from the Secretary of State and the president and the administration about a rules-based order. You know, that should be laughed out of the court of public opinion, but instead exactly, we have this serious and the ponderous punt. Oh, yes, we must have a rules-based order. It really means we make the rules, we break the rules.

Speaker 1 (10:29):

Norman, I could just add a couple of personal reflections on this. When it comes to the war in Ukraine, we had every chance to avert that war because exactly contrary to what Washington has claimed, Russia was repeatedly trying to negotiate. So the line in Washington is there's no one to negotiate with. They're not interested in negotiation, always putting words in the other mouth. But the fact is, <laugh> not listening at all to what the other is saying, because the Russians were saying, for years, we have agreed you the United States and US Russia, and the entire UN Security Council on the mince two agreement as a way to make peace in Ukraine. We don't want Ukrainian Donbas as our territory. We want you to honor a global agreement to make peace within Ukraine. The United States was laughing it off all the time. The United States and Ukraine were neglecting, absolutely throwing into the garbage what they had signed but not implemented.

Speaker 1 (11:39):

Then in December, 2021, on December 15th, 'cause I remember these days so vividly, the Russians put on the table a specific draft agreement to avert the war. They not only said we should negotiate, they put a draft agreement between Russia and the United States. I called the White House, then I spoke to Jake Sullivan, our national security advisor, and I said, avert this war, you have something you can negotiate on. Stop the NATO enlargement, leave Ukraine as a buffer. You don't have to go right up to the Russian border. And he said, no, no, it's an open door nato. You know, that's not something we can <laugh>. It's just you can't even make this up. We have an open door policy if they wanna join, but they're not gonna join, and Jake, if they're not gonna join, well then we can avert this war. The fact of the matter is the United States refused one moment of negotiation, either on Minsk two, which was backed by the UN Security Council, or on the NATO enlargement, which was the Cas Bei the cause of this war.

Speaker 1 (13:01):

And what's incredible, and I wanna ask you about this, you know, it's clear, because I had been engaged as an economic advisor to the Ukrainian leadership, to the Russian leadership. I knew this region for years and years. NATO was so provocative to move NATO to Ukraine was reckless. And every American diplomat knew this, but the politicians like Biden and Newland were pushing it. The military industrial complex was pushing it. And in the end, the US refused to negotiate over it. And Russia's military operation, what they call special military operation on February 24th, 2022, was to push Ukraine to the negotiating table. Now, just to finish this, uh, piece, uh, quickly, the Ukrainians immediately said, okay, we'll be neutral. And the war could have stopped. And the US directly intervened to break the negotiations. And I know that also firsthand, I flew to Anchora where the negotiations were being mediated to understand what really happened.

Speaker 1 (14:14):

Here, I have a detailed accounting. The US stopped negotiating, stopped Ukraine from accepting neutrality 'cause they wanted Ukraine to fight on. Now, the question for you, and I cannot figure this out honestly, and it's your expertise. The New York Times editorialized from that moment on, this was a completely unprovoked war. And when I contacted the editorial board, they said, nato, NATO doesn't have anything to do with this. Now I know the editorial writers what could compel a paper that's supposedly our paper of record to utter what can only be regarded and pardon me as, what can lead a major paper like that to not even try to explain the truth?

Speaker 2 (15:12):

This is an instance where it's difficult sometimes to see the dividing line between political analysis and psychoanalysis. People often have their own career interests. They have relationships. There's a revolving door not only between the arms, merchants and those who work in the Pentagon and the major relevant committees on Capitol Hill, but also a sense of ongoing career. And inside the bubble, conventional wisdom, what is excluded, what must be harped upon, you know, just becomes, uh, a drumbeat. And history when it's inconvenient, is just an inconvenient truth. I mean, how often do we hear about, uh, what George f Kennon warned the guru, you know, of exactly containment

Speaker 1 (16:02):

And just to say, he said specifically, don't do NATO in large amount of you crazy. This will be the worst thing. <laugh>.

Speaker 2 (16:10):

Absolutely. And, uh, president Bill Clinton, you know, always the smartest guy in their room. He, he blew that off. And as I document in my book, war Made Invisible. This is another form of invisibility of warfare. It's sort of the, the lead up war to the actual war. There was a letter that was also at the same time when Clinton was moving ahead as president. Not only kenon, but dozens and dozens of not only liberal commentators or analysts or so-called national security experts from previous administrations. But right wing ones were saying this would be the worst step of US foreign policy since World War ii to expand NATO and motives, as is often the case personally, internationally, I think are multifactorial. And just as with journalists, uh, there's, as you rise up in the hierarchy and prestige, conformity gets worse. And relationships and having a, what they're called beat sweetener, but good relationships with people at the top mm-hmm, <affirmative> of the government.

Speaker 2 (17:17):

That becomes more and more important. There were the, the dinner tables together, et cetera, et cetera, providing information and disinformation. This is a process that ends up making the fourth estate largely a fourth branch of government. And so when you look at a bit of history, why is it not included? Well, it's expunged. Uh, not to get melodramatic, but Winston, in the Orwell novel, 1984, he could have gotten a pretty high pay grade in the US media, because those inconvenient facts are just sloughed off. And just sort of the, the logical or illogical inconsistencies we're seeing that we've seen this for several months with the carnage in Gaza. The whole reality of US history, rhetoric versus reality. I was already writing about US foreign policy and media in the 1990s. I was writing a weekly column. And in 1999, it became a moral truth. We were told that the Kosovar Albanians must be protected, that ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity.

Speaker 2 (18:37):

There are stirring quotes from then President Bill Clinton saying, as Americans, a moral truth is that we cannot stand by and watch this ethnic cleansing going on Sloan MoVI, Syria. They must be stopped. And so for 78 straight days, the US led NATO bombing in Kosovo, in Serbia, and part of the triumph that was trumpeted. And I read Bill Clinton's, you know, 900 page, uh, memoirs, he doesn't mention before you <laugh> the use of, uh, yeah, suffering the cluster bombs that were used. The fact that speaking of diplomacy, the Romble accords that were touted at the time by Secretary of State Metal Albright, they were demanding surrender, essentially let us have our jet planes and military forces on the runways throughout Serbia. Oh, you don't want to turn over your country to us, then you're being inflexible. Only that was in the fine print was not reported until afterwards. And I know from work at the Institute for Public Accuracy, my colleagues there, we were jail using news releases at the time in real time. The Romble Accords are a demand for surrender. It's not an effort to have diplomacy. Well, anyway, fast forward,

Speaker 1 (19:53):

By the way, just a footnote to that, very interesting. I was told in Serbia recently that Madeleine Albright was so intent on war. And a key reason was that if it had stayed peaceful, she was afraid that Richard Holbrooke would be appointed as Secretary of State in the Gore administration, and that she was trying to make sure that Holbrooke had a failure. So the failure of peace was aimed not at Serbia, even as much as it was at undermining her rival for the Secretary of State ship in what would be the Gore administration. Of course, gore didn't become president yet. This is quite plausible, by the way, because as you say, the terms that she was demanding were not serious terms, they were war terms.

Speaker 2 (20:43):

Yeah, that is very plausible. So much of this is marbled in the foreign policy with personal ambition, and it's sort of a loop. The editorial writers and the policy makers, they use each other as frame of reference. And if there's not a wide debate on Capitol Hill or in the New York Times or Washington Post, that's considered to be the boundaries of reasonable discourse, which is, uh, imperial activities. And so in the case of ethnic cleansing, it is, to use that term again, unfortunately, it fits the Orwellian history where in 1999, the US government is bombing Serbia and Kosovo through NATO in the name of stopping ethnic cleansing. And here we are in 2024, and the Israeli government is engaging in massive ethnic cleansing, and by most definitions, genocide in Gaza. And that truth is scarcely mentioned in the mass media of the United States. It is mass murder, it is ethnic cleansing.

Speaker 2 (21:51):

The facts coming out now overt, not just unnamed sources, statements, uh, from the Israeli top leaders, they want to expunge Palestinian people from Gaza. There are all sorts of measures taken slaughtering, tens of thousands of people directly with bombs, but predictably known that an additional larger amount of people, Palestinian civilians, are dying and will die because of the bombing from disease. And this is calculated. Now, how do we reconcile as a case in point, it's hard not to be, and I think we should be outraged about this. How do we reconcile 1999 US goes to war to prevent ethnic cleansing in 2024? The US foreign policy is to aid and abbet literally aid and abbet ethnic cleansing on a massive scale to implement genocide. And you know, the, the subtitle of my book is How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine. I think we should make no mistake about this, the Israeli military, the Orwellian named Israeli defense, yes, defense forces, it's part of the US military machine.

Speaker 2 (23:09):

And by any measure, I mean, how do you, uh, evaluate in any other way the extraordinary 10 year Hotwired aid military aid from the US government were a little bit past half of that 10 years, automatically 3.8 billion with the B dollars military aid from the US paid for by the US Treasury to the Israeli military. And then after the US sees and abates that Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing in Gaza with massive bombing emergency provisions. The White House pushing for 14 billion with a b dollars of military aid to Israel to help them accentuate and escalate their ethnic cleansing,

Speaker 1 (23:58):

Right? With the explicit point, no conditions on this aid.

Speaker 2 (24:02):

And the third rail, which only a few members of Congress, courageous ones led often by Rashida Taleb, Ilhan Omar, a few others, taking a moral position. And so I think we're in a place, and I think about this a lot, Jeff, and I think a lot of people elsewhere in the United States and certainly around the world, think about this. We are now in a situation where the most powerful military force on the planet has plunged the United States into a moral abyss that is so deep, so wide, and so murderous that in the case of US citizens, we have this, this challenge. What do we do about it? Sometimes words fail. We're committed to non-violence. And at the same time, just talking about it is necessary, but insufficient. And to add on one other factor, as if it wasn't bad enough, we're looking at a presidential election later this year where the probable nominees of the two major parties pit a fascist who's a milit against a neoliberal, who's a militar, and we're supposed to have a democracy. This is our evident electoral choice.

Speaker 1 (25:21):

One of the stunning events for me, again, exactly on your line in the last couple of days, uh, just before we are meeting now, is that the South African government filed a very compelling complaint or lawsuit with the International Court of Justice calling on the court to stop Israel's genocide. And it's a remarkable document which people should download, uh, and read alongside your book. It's 84 detailed pages of the genocidal intentions and actions of the government of Israel. It's a compendium of statements, any one of which should absolutely be regarded as beyond the acceptable language of any civilized person, much less government official. And yet it's page after page of genocidal intent. Then a long, thorough documented discussion of tens of thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of wounded, hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation and lacking the most basics, a siege stopping the flow of water and food to the 2 million people of Gaza.

Speaker 1 (26:48):

The physical displacement of 2 million people, 2 million people, the entire Gaza population. Then the point I wanted to mention is at the press briefing at the White House, somebody in the press raised his hand or her hand, 'cause I only have the transcript, and it says, Mr. Kirby, who's the spokesman for the National Security Council? Mr. Kirby, just a quick question. What about that South African complaint about Israel? And he says, in one sentence, we find it meritless and without facts, and then no follow up, no other questions. You can't even believe this a real time genocide. It's kind of the ultimate test of your proposition. This is not even subtle, it's not even hidden. The Israelis in their, whatever it is, their rage or their ideology or their bubble are speaking openly about genocide and ethnic cleansing. They're not hiding it. It's all over the media. It's all documented in 84 thick pages of the this document, which I have here because I wanted to discuss it with you.

Speaker 1 (28:09):

And we get a one sentence response from the US government and no follow, follow-up. Nobody even notes that can't understand where are the adults. But as you say, it's, it's such a deeply embedded system. But nobody in that room other than smiling evidently, because even the journalist says, Hey, just a quick question and allows Kirby to make this inane, vacuous, lying vulgar statement and not a word of follow up. Not every journalist rising in the room waving this page. How can you say that? What do you say about page three, page four, page six? Nobody asks a follow up.

Speaker 2 (28:54):

There's often such tacit enthusiasm in the Washington Press Corps when the US is directly involved in war. You know, you might call them, you know, laptop warriors, but then when it's a US ally such as Israel, there's such a trepidation to really take it on directly. There've been some critical coverage, but overall it's, well, we defer to the US line. And so the assumption from a lot of the US public that at least to a significant degree the US press is a watchdog. It's completely wrong, especially on forest policy. It's a lapdog relationship that requires in the minds and the functioning of these media journalists, professionals, and institutions that, Hey, we, we need to build these relationships and maintain them in a cordial, respectful way, even when those in power are lying to us, to the detriment of not only the lives of other people, but endangering the real security of the United States.

Speaker 2 (30:00):

You know, I, I think of there were briefings during the Vietnam War, and the press called them, I think it was the five o'clock follies. They knew they were being lied to. You know, I had experience, I interviewed for an earlier book, I co-authored unreliable sources. I interviewed Ted Koppel about his presence when he was from a, b, C in Laos. And I had interviewed people who documented that the planes were being flown by the CIA that were bombing in Laos, and he had been there. And I said, well, uh, were you aware of that? He said, uh, yes, I, I knew that was true. I said, why didn't you report it? He said, well, I couldn't prove it. You know, so anonymous sources are fine when they're promoting a US government line, but going against the grain, swimming upstream, opening yourself up to criticism of being unpatriotic or whatever, that is usually just off the map.

Speaker 2 (30:58):

And I think that in the situation with Gaza, that the consequences of us support are so horrendous and causing so much misery and widening the warfare in the Middle East, and it requires fallback. You know, we've seen the wave. First, there was justifiable condemnation of what Hamas did on October 7th. Horrible. What was done to civilians justified then the weeks, and then months and months of slaughter with us, support by Israel and Gaza, and the fallback positions, the retrenchment, you know, re retreating, so to speak, metaphorically on the media battlefield. But digging a new trench and then digging in and then firing back from there, the charge of antisemitism, that has been just part of the firepower of the propaganda. So we're hearing about the Holocaust in the 1940s, while essentially the US is supporting a Holocaust of Goins.

Speaker 1 (32:06):


Speaker 2 (32:07):

In 2024. Exactly.

Speaker 1 (32:08):

The genocide is in front of the eyes, real time spelled out, detailed. And then even then, this, uh, you call it structural mendacity. It's kind of the greatest test. It's like a thought experiment. Yeah. Could you have a genocide online, real time announced, pre announced, ongoing day after day, and have it go on? You're right. You'd say No, no way.

Speaker 2 (32:36):

Yeah. We can call it a stress test. A stress test of do we have democratic media in this country? We do not accept that the margins, which are very important independent media outlets. You and I write for common dreams, for instance, a great website. There are a lot of people, well, this podcast, people who are working very hard to counter the propaganda system. And it is such a powerful system with such terrible consequences, which include, in the case of the deceptions around the Ukraine war, include the risks of Cy of thermonuclear war because those dangers are increased. The bulletin atomic scientists, 90 seconds, 90 seconds from midnight, the closest to apocalypse in the history of the doomsday clock of the Bulletin of atomic scientists. I've been asked a few times in the last weeks about the title of my book, war Made Invisible in the context of what's going on in Gaza, for instance.

Speaker 2 (33:37):

And my response is, there are many layers of invisibility when you have children in rubble, when you have civilians being massacred on mass, and it is so watered down and so euphemized and so evaded in terms of the human realities by US news media. Then superficially, there are words on a page, words on a screen, pixels on smartphones, but the human reality is still invisible because we're getting this flattened out. It's like a, an iron put on the human reality so that euphemisms prevail. And as I write about in the book, it diminishes our own humanity. We have been acculturated through news media, through politics in the United States to have two tiers of grief, people who matter and people who don't. And that is so insidious and destructive. It causes the capacity for the Pentagon to get away with slaughtering people overseas, but it also diminishes our own humanity tremendously because we, in effect, have internalized, uh, the concept that some people's lives really, really matter, whether it's Americans, whether it's Ukrainian civilians, whether it's, uh, Israeli civilians.

Speaker 2 (35:04):

And of course, those lives do matter. And we also have internalized successfully in terms of news, media messaging and government propaganda out of Washington that some lives, the other tier of grief really doesn't matter. Other people's grief doesn't matter if you are a civilian in Yemen, for instance. Here we have for eight years, the US under three administrations, Obama, Trump, Biden supporting the slaughter of people in Yemen. Try to think of some other word, but what do you call it? But slaughter, there's, there's, uh, the words fail according to the un, the largest cholera epidemic in human history in Yemen caused by this Saudi led war. And yet, barely, 18 months ago, a fist bump between President Biden and the defacto ruler of Saudi Arabia. So morality's got nothing to do with it. Human rights

Speaker 1 (36:07):

And even the most basic facts. Yeah, I have a, a principle, a proposal that the United States should not be allowed to bomb any other country where half the US population cannot name two cities in the place we're intending to bomb because <laugh>, how many people in the United States could point to Yemen on a map? Almost none. I <laugh>, sorry to say, how many could name two cities in Yemen, basically none. Uh, and yet here we are absolutely engaged in war that Americans don't know about killing mass numbers of people in a country that Americans don't have any slightest conceivable understanding of. But it's a machine. The machine goes on,

Speaker 2 (36:52):

It's a continuity. You know, I I I've really read that the Vietnam War architects, the, the Dean Rusks and the AU and so forth, they knew almost nothing about Vietnam, and they really didn't care. That's what comes through in the documents. Dan Ellsberg, who I was just so lucky to get to work with and become friends with, he talked about how when he read the Pentagon Papers, 7,000 pages of top secret documents, there was no discussion of how the Vietnam War was actually affecting Vietnamese people. And you fast forward all these decades later, and that calculus just seems so evident in the foreign policy fought and actions from the top officials. You talk about John Kirby, it's just maddening. The spokesperson, whether for the National Security Council or the White House spokespeople, it's another form of the fog of war. Or, uh, as a saying goes, truth is the first casualty.

Speaker 2 (37:53):

We live in a warfare state in the United States, this warfare state is extremely lucrative. The armed shipments to Ukraine and now to Israel are making a few people very, very rich, or more precisely, some of them even even richer. This is blood money. You can go to history where during the first part of World War ii, even in the midst of war, then Senator Harry Truman gained a claim for hearings in the Senate about war profiteering. And I look now in US news media. Yeah, I don't see even that phrase war profiteers in the context of the United States. We have Raytheon and Northrop Grummond and Boeing, they're literally figuratively make a killing. They love this war in Ukraine. They love the slaughter in Gaza because it's high revenue for them.

Speaker 1 (38:44):

I think this point is so essential and it stares at us. It's so awful. But it's so basic and true, essentially every US foreign policy disaster of the last 20 years. And it's one after another, whether it is for Serbian bombing. Uh, so this a little over 20 years ago, then Afghanistan, which obviously complete failure in every way and human disaster, then Iraq War failed pretenses, horrible war, horrible outcomes. Then the attempt to overthrow Assad in Syria, CIA order given by Obama, then the overthrow of the Libyan government, then the Ukraine War. Now the Gaza War, complete disasters, but on one criterion, phenomenal success. The Pentagon budget's bigger than ever. The contracting is bigger than ever. It's a trillion dollar plus system. It's working. What are we complaining about? Yeah. And in this sense, at the core, we're dealing with such a big monstrous financial bonanza that it buys everybody. It hoovers everybody up. By the way, it's by some estimates, one and a half trillion. You add in <laugh>, the Veterans Administration, the healthcare costs for our veterans. Of course, the CIA, which isn't part of the Pentagon budget, the intelligence agencies, the other security agencies, the whole thing. Yeah, maybe one and a half trillion dollars. What a success story after all. Yes, it doesn't matter that XY, Z-W-A-B-C-D-E have all failed. The budget's bigger than ever

Speaker 2 (40:35):

From some quarters. The US never loses a war <laugh>. People might say, well, you know, the Vietnam War, the Afghanistan war, the Iraq War was not a victory for the us. Well, it was certainly a victory for Raytheon, for Boeing, for, uh, Northrop Grumman, uh, and especially aerospace now is the name of the game. Fewer troops on the ground, but bombing from the air, the, uh, reassurance to us public that were above it all, literally and figuratively we're just bombing a lot of people. Jesus <laugh>, when, uh, president Biden spoke at the UN right after withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, he said, we've turned the page. The US is no longer at war. Well, it was a lie then. Uh, the cost of war project at Brown University that same month was documenting the US involved in counterinsurgency operations in 85 countries now just, uh, look at the news and it at least superficially is reporting.

Speaker 2 (41:34):

The US is at war all sorts of places directly as well as indirectly. And a, a stunning fact, which I was just taken aback by researching this book, is the data from the cost of war project at Brown University. And I think there's a parallel with what has gone on in recent months with Israel. Tragic, horrible, 1200 Israelis killed tens and tens and tens of thousands of Palestinians in quote and news media use this term, retaliation slaughtering tens and tens of thousands of civilians. And that is retaliation. So the ratio it, you talk about asymmetrical warfare, it's asymmetrical carnage involved. In the case of the, so-called War on Terror, which is quite an advertising motto. You know, TMM trademarked War on Terror, 3000 people were murdered on nine 11, and the Brown University study shows 400,000 civilians directly killed by the US post nine 11 war. So you look at the ratio of 3000 to 400,000 people, all equally innocent. And it gets even worse because if you look at the total deaths directly from those wars in the past 22, 23 years, it's 950,000. And when you look at the indirect, the cascading effects, the infrastructure, sanitation, health environment, housing, all the different domino effects of those wars that are called a US War on terror, 4.5 million. So we're talking about nine 11, 3000 people killed. And then in the name of retaliation, 4.5 million people

Speaker 1 (43:30):

Die. Yeah. More than a thousand to one to mention just a numerical ratio.

Speaker 2 (43:35):


Speaker 1 (43:36):

One thing that I want to ask you about, it seems that one thing that the US government and the propaganda machine have not noticed is actually two things. One, the rest of the world isn't buying it outside of the US bubble, which is maybe 15% of the world population. Uh, that is the US and Western Europe, the NATO allies. But across the rest of the world, the US is essentially isolating itself from any normal diplomatic or any other perceptions. And the US is now standing alone, almost literally alone with Israel, against the vote of the entire UN general assembly. And the second thing that strikes me is that as much as the mainstream media dominate the echo chamber that we hear, the New York Times, Washington Post, wall Street Journal, M-S-N-B-C-C-N-B-C, and these core, the public doesn't buy it. Even within the United States, the media have lost any cred. The mainstream media don't have credibility. They're rated at the bottom of credibility of these, uh, typical Gallup surveys, and yet it continues. So truth, somehow, thanks to you, thanks to truth, is breaking through. Just wonder what your reflections on that are

Speaker 2 (45:02):

Parallel to the political organizing and groups like if not Now, and Jewish Voice for Peace and many other organizations challenging the US support for Israel's mass killing of Palestinians. There's been the growth of alternative independent, progressive news outlets using the internet, finding ways to develop cracks in the walls of corporate media propaganda and really reach people. And I think that's had a real percolating effect. And at the same time, some deception is so extreme that even, for instance, the watered down pale version of the realities of Israel's US backed killing in Gaza has caused by recent surveys, about two thirds of the US public as a whole, opposing Biden's policy of support for Israel's military actions. And I think that's a reason for hope. It's sort of the, the soil that we plant seeds in to build the infrastructure, because historically, nothing that we can be proud of in this country has come from the top down, hasn't come from the people at one end or other of Pennsylvania Avenue from, you know, Capitol Hill to Foggy Bottom.

Speaker 2 (46:22):

Those people are in a bubble. Those people are plugged into the machinery and the current way to make a huge amount of money and all the rest of it. As we've been discussing, uh, just a brief digression, Anthony Blinken, he had to, uh, divest himself when he became Secretary of State. He was an arms broker. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> at West Exec. These are people without a moral compass. And so to the extent that I think so many people in the us, if they have the facts, they do guide themselves by a moral compass, but they're getting so much distortion from the, you might say, military, industrial media complex.

Speaker 1 (47:02):

What's interesting also, and I'm not an expert in it, and it's hidden again from view, it's made invisible, but the big internet platforms met. I mean, obviously Facebook and others are busy censoring also, so they are brought into this machinery in an absolutely central way. So it's not simply that digital has allowed a spread of information. Part of it too is completely co-opted. Part of it is completely censored. I mean literally censored on what can be carried on platforms. But then this expansion of truly independent voices who have to hop around because they get taken off the air, they get taken off of YouTube, they get taken off of substack, but then they find other ways to come back. Is part of the, uh, extraordinary dynamics going on right now?

Speaker 2 (47:53):

I think that's right. There's an information warfare that is 24 7 and often, well, routinely, there's literally no mention of the fact that Silicon Valley has a tremendous financial interlocks and relationships with the Pentagon. I remember

Speaker 1 (48:13):

In fact, it started that way. That's how Silicon Valley started, was a Pentagon tie up. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (48:18):

You know, there's a book that I read by John Markoff where in the 1960s and early seventies, people used to drop acid, go to the beach, and then come back to the very forerunner of Silicon Valley and help the early computers to plot bombing runs in Southeast Asia. And that was just the process. So we're looking now at a cultural battle as well. You know, what is the justification for going along with all this? And I think the generation difference, what in the Vietnam War era was called, generation Gap has really come to the fore. You know, when you look at the polling, despite the censorship de facto censorship that exists, a lot of young people and the polling is lopsided, those who are in their teens, twenties, thirties, absolutely opposed to the US policy supporting Israel's, uh, massacres in Gaza. And that shows that, as you're referring to Jeff, the ways that people are finding to get around the corporate blockade of news and information, that has a very powerful effect.

Speaker 2 (49:29):

And there was a leaked recording of a leader of the Anti-Defamation League, which should be renamed if it was Truth in Packaging Defamation of Palestinians leak. They said, we're losing this battle to persuade young people. They're terrified that the younger generations are seeing through this. And sometimes I'll hear people say, oh, you're exaggerating. I saw something in the New York Times. It said, blahdi blah. I saw one time or two times on M-S-N-B-C in contrast to the war drum beating from Rachel Maddow that you're describing. I heard somebody who said something almost like what you said accidentally. And my, yeah, my response is as I have the chapter in the book, uh, repetition omission, the essence of propaganda's repetition, a metaphor is just because there are cracks in the wall doesn't mean there isn't a wall. And then you flip that over, just because there's a wall, it doesn't mean we can't create more and more cracks.

Speaker 1 (50:32):

Norman Solomon, thank you. Thank you so much for helping us to understand this, uh, grim situation. Thank you so much for helping to break down the walls. You've been doing this a long time, but with incredible bravery and I think with a lot of success because people are seeing, you're helping people to see and understand what this machine, this war machine is trying to make invisible. Let me thank you for, uh, joining today for wonderful discussion. Again, we've been discussing, uh, Norman Solomon's book, war Made Invisible, uh, how America hides the human toll of its military machine. It's an absolute wonderful and important contribution and part of a lifetime of wonderful and important contribution. So it's real honor for me to have you as a part of Book Club with Jeffrey Sachs. Thank you so much for joining today.

Speaker 2 (51:28):

Jeff, thanks so much for all you're doing.

Speaker 1 (51:30):

Thanks to everybody. Thank you for joining today's podcast book club with Jeffrey Sachs, with Norman Solomon and his, uh, wonderful and important book, war Made Invisible. Thank you for joining in the conversation. Please subscribe, rate, and write a review on whatever platform you listen for your podcast.