“I’m going to be killing people. I’m actually joining the Marines and will be doing this in real life.”
War springs eternal. Compare the words of the 18-year-old boy quoted above by Philadelphia radio station WRTI, as he was wielding a pretend machinegun at a video-game parlor/Army recruiting center at a Philly shopping mall, with those of two neocons, Charles Robb and Charles Wald (retired senator and general, respectively), writing last month in the Washington Post:

“We cannot afford to wait indefinitely to determine the effectiveness of diplomacy and sanctions. . . . Instead, the administration needs to expand its approach and make clear to the Iranian regime and the American people: If diplomatic and economic pressures do not compel Iran to terminate its nuclear program, the U.S. military has the capability and is prepared to launch an effective, targeted strike on Tehran’s nuclear and supporting military facilities.”

We’re running out of time to act, they add, turning the fear crank, ratcheting up the pressure like good used car salesmen. Iran could have a nuclear bomb by the end of the year, they warn, citing no evidence for this assertion. Evidence? They all but cried: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

With Adm. Mike Mullen’s ambivalent acknowledgment several days ago on “Meet the Press” that the military indeed has a plan for invading Iran, to be used if necessary, “the next war” has begun, suddenly, to take shape in the media. No public input needed! We’re the spectators here. Stay tuned. We’ll bring it to you live.

Missing, of course – of course! – in any discussion of a no-nonsense military solution to Iran’s nuclear intransigence is: A) the least reflection on the disastrous quagmire of the current wars, which were sold as quick-strike operations to eliminate immediate threats (which, in the case of Iraq, turned out not to exist); B) any assessment of the damage we have done, to the Afghans, the Iraqis or ourselves, or of the multi-trillion-dollar cost of these debacles; C) any reflection on our own hypocrisy (we have 5,113 nuclear warheads; our allies, including Israel, have as much as a thousand more), or a consideration of the logic of Iran’s own self-protective instincts, i.e., that if they actually possess a bomb the U.S. is far less likely to invade their country.

Instead what we get is the grown-up, Ph.D.-level equivalent of the naïve 18-year-old Marine wannabe playing war at the Army’s entrapment, I mean recruitment, center in Philadelphia. Effective, targeted strikes! This’ll be awesome!

But more worrisome to me than neocon op-eds is the sense of inevitability – indeed, reverence -- that accompanies “impartial” mainstream reportage of war, especially the war that hasn’t been fought yet. The unspoken understanding is that war is a high-level, classified decision made in the public’s interest but utterly divorced from its input or wishes.

In an essay published on AlterNet in March, Frank Joyce wrote: “Thanks to the superseding power of the transnational corporation, democracy ‘peaked’ in the United States some time ago.”

I fear he’s right. The military-industrial consensus has no interest in democratic input. Consider the helplessness even of Dwight Eisenhower, whose famous warning about the military-industrial complex came in his farewell address, as he was surrendering the reins of power. He made his point as a private citizen, not as an elected official with a plan to curb it.

A little-discussed adjunct to the military-industrial complex is the entertainment industry, which, in the 50 years since Eisenhower issued his plea for awareness, has burrowed deep into the American and global psyche, turning violence into an ever more exhilarating abstraction. Thus the announcement of each virgin war generates a wave not of horror but excitement.

“A culture of killing and violence has become embedded in human consciousness,” writes Michel Chossudovsky. This means that World War III, perhaps set off by a U.S. invasion of Iran, is possible.

But there is a latent counterforce to all of the above. The industrial wars of the last century have created an extraordinary blowback problem for the global war profiteers. In the United States, we don’t dare reinstitute the draft. Not only was the draft the focal point of the antiwar movement, but the draftee Army eventually rebelled against the war and brought it to a halt. There is a huge antiwar movement in the U.S. and around the globe, awaiting a single spark of ignition to manifest in the 21st century.

My fervent hope is that this happens sooner rather than later – that the mere threat of an invasion of Iran is enough to shatter the corporate war consensus. Let’s take geopolitics out of the hands of the profiteers. Let’s reclaim our democracy before it’s too late.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, contributor to One World, Many Peaces and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available for pre-orders. Contact him at or visit his website at