Live from Iraq

By Stewart Nusbaumer

Surviving in Mosul Stuggling to survive after a horrific explosion.

Street Without Joy
Will Bush’s surge secure Baghdad’s bloodiest block?

Good Morning, al-Adhamiya
In one of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods.

Squiring Out Of Baghdad
Is the surge ending or dispersing the insurgency?

With PTT in Heet
A Marine unit training and equipping the Iraq Police.

Embed in Trouble
What is a journalist to do with attacked by a U.S. Army biggie? Go to the bigger?

Four Days in Dulab
In a small, dangerous town in the most violent province in Iraq.


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  Articles & Essays: Barstool Patriotism

First Chickenhawks and now Barstool patriots, both demand that other Americans die and be maimed for their phony patriotism.
By Stewart Nusbaumer

"Of course I support the war, I'm a patriotic American!" Bob says in a slightly irritated, heavy Southern draw.

I lean back on my bar stool, "Well, I got one word for you then."

"What's that?"

I can barely hear Bob, the jukebox is screaming about the misery of love and pool balls are cracking in the rear of the bar. I lean toward him. "One word," and lift my Bud for a liquid salute.

Bob lifts his Coors, his youthful forehead wrinkles. "What word?"

We are in Scooby's Bar in Lumberton, North Carolina not far from the South Carolina border. Bob is a local, maybe 21, and I'm traveling through town on my way further south. We've dumped several shots and beers and are now having a real heart-to-heart talk.

"Yeah?" Bob asks impatiently, "What word?"

I say slowly, "The -- Marine -- Corps," and take a long swallow from my beer.

"That's three words," chimes in a nearly toothless old-timer sitting near us.

I come up for air, "The Marine Corps," I repeat ignoring Nearly Toothless. "You know, Bob, there are great career opportunities in the Corps. And free health care, which you'll probably need."

"I don't know," Bob replies.

"Because of Iraq great career opportunities!" I throw an arm around his bony shoulders, giving a quick squeeze, "You got to think about your future, boy."

"I been thinkin' about a trade --"

"What you trying to do," Nearly Toothless butts in again, "get this boy killed?"

I look at Nearly Toothless, "I thought you Southerners were super patriots?"

"Yeah," young Bob says, "but we ain't crazy."

"You tell that Yankee," Nearly Toothless slams a hand down on the bar.

Words, Not Action

This rather blitzed discussion took place in the spring of 2004, during the Presidential campaign, when opinion polls said patriotism in America was soaring. A Roper Poll would proclaim 81 percent of Americans found patriotism "a central component in their lives." George Bush would tap into this soaring patriotism and ride it right into the White House for four more years. But young Americans did not ride their strong patriotism to military recruitment offices to fight George Bush's war. Not because they didn't support the war, the war remained widely popular in the spring of 2004, most popular with young Americans.

In the beginning Iraq had looked like the perfect war for our great American patriots: a cakewalk to victory and home by Christmas -- another victory stripe for the United States battle flag -- expanding freedom and democracy and all that stuff throughout the world. But the initial frenzy of support for the war in the Middle East never translated into enthusiasm to fight the war. Two years later, when I was in Scooby's Bar, public support for fighting the war remained strong and young Americans' disinterest in personally fighting the war also remained strong.

This squeezed our military, turning our all-volunteer force into an involuntary force with personnel forbidden to leave, threatened with stop-loss if they tried to leave, and offered huge bonuses to remain. But that wasn't enough. So National Guard units were conscripted for the overseas war. That still was not enough. So the Army reduced its entry requirements to anyone who had four limbs. And our all-volunteer military took a giant step toward becoming a unique hybrid: volunteer, drafted, mercenary, and stupid. But it's still all-volunteer!

With each shot of Jack Daniels in Scooby's, I was able to see clearer. Eventually I got around to doing my patriotic duty to persuade patriotic Bob to choose the patriotic path and become cannon fodder for George Bush's patriotic war. It seemed like the right thing to do. But it didn't work. Today in America the right thing never seems to work.

Action, Not Words

Todd Gitlin writes in his new book, The Intellectuals and the Flag, that we need a "patriotism of action, not pledges or SUVs festooned with American flags." Although Bob's T-Shirt broadcasted the American eagle of serious patriotism, he refused to embrace Gitlin's patriotism of action. That would require not merely voicing support for the war, but doing something, such as enlisting in the military to fight in the war. But Bob preferred the patriotism of pledges and American flags.

"I'm thinking about becoming a plumber," Bob told me, "but I ain't decided yet."

"Yeah," I shot back, "but freedom isn't free!"

George Bush, Dick Cheney, nearly the entire Bush Administration, Congressional leaders of the ruling Republican Party, in their youth they were just like Bob. Vietnam veterans have a name for them. Chickenhawks! Chickens when it comes to fighting a war that they enthusiastically support, but hawks to have other Americans fight these wars. We used to call these people hypocrites. Or war profiteers. Today they are called patriots.

Chickenhawks are now our most boisterous super patriots; have they corrupted American patriotism? Is Chickenhawk culture now American culture? Has Scooby's Bar in North Carolina been infiltrated by the Chickenhawk disease? Yes, I think so.

The most exploited word in America is not "love" or "democracy" or "truth" or "freedom," although those words are twisted and stomped horribly and stuffed with strange meanings for obscuring and manipulating. The top dog of verbal vile is "patriotism." Patriotism as genuine love of country is fine, good, it can motivate us to do good things, but patriotism divorced from action, patriotism as instrument to harm others -- never their family, never their interests, never their body, always others. That is not patriotism.

It was this selfishness disguised as patriotism that was the passport for George Bush to rush American soldiers into Iraq, to have others die and be maimed. This phony patriotism protects Bob in North Carolina from facing his own hypocrisy, as others fight the war he wants fought. Bob's patriotism, like George Bush's and Dick Cheney's patriotism, is just talk. And just talk isn't patriotism, it's just talk.

Stewart Nusbaumer is editor of Intervention Magazine. He volunteered for the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War to make the world safe from invading Vietnamese. You can email him at

Posted Thursday, January 12, 2006


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By Stewart Nusbaumer


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Sexpots Galore
When sex merges with politics, the Big Dog authorities never win.




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