“On a planet so circular in so many ways, what goes around comes around.” Norman Solomon on the American Military Machine in his new release ‘War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine’ 

By Hannah Terry

In his book “War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine” Norman Solomon sheds light on the United States’ engagement in perpetual warfare over the past two decades. The public’s awareness of ongoing military engagements remains limited, shaped by media bias and government influence. We spoke to Solomon to delve into his insights, examine the pivotal role of the international community, and outline crucial steps towards a more comprehensive understanding of the far-reaching impacts of perpetual war and its implications for the future. 

 “What caused this shift to a ‘perpetual war’, and how has it changed how the US conducts itself in war?”  

The launch of the ‘War on Terror’ in 2001 marked a significant turning point in American militarism. However, according to Solomon, the groundwork for this shift was laid in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks, particularly during the Gulf War of 1991. These conflicts received widespread support from the American public, media, and were praised by Pentagon contractors who benefited momentously from perpetual war.  

As the American military continued its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, public support began to wane, leading to a transformation in how the United States approached warfare. Technological advancements, such as the advancement of drones, played a crucial role in this shift. The notion of having “boots on the ground” became less appealing as alternative methods of engagement emerged. Solomon aptly describes this new approach as being “above it all,” allowing the U.S. to maintain involvement without physical presence, and thus, feeling the impact of the wars less and less.  

What are the effects of ‘perpetual war’?  

Solomon brings the harsh realities of war to the forefront of readers’ minds. He highlights Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of the “madness of militarism” illustrating the profound effects on both the U.S. economy and global society. Research conducted by Brown University’s ‘Costs of War’ project provides a sobering perspective:  

  • Human Casualties: At least 929,000 individuals have lost their lives directly because of war violence, with a staggering 387,000 of them being civilians. 
  • Displacement Crisis: The number of displaced people due as a result of the conflicts stands at a staggering 38 million. 
  • Global Anti-terrorism Operations: The U.S. government’s anti-terrorism operations have extended their reach to over 85 countries across the globe, signifying the far-reaching implications of perpetual war. 

“Overall, America has been conditioned to accept ongoing wars without ever really knowing what they’re doing to people we’ll never see.”  

-Norman Solomon

 How does the concept of perpetual war affect the international community that is not directly engaged in armed conflicts? 

When faced with the immense power of the American military machine, members of the international community may wonder how they can contribute to the fight against perpetual war. In his book, Solomon highlights the crucial role that these nations, many of which are intertwined with the U.S. government, can play in holding it accountable for the violence perpetrated by its military.  

“Grassroots social action is necessary as feasible in all countries where it can be implemented and expanded.” Solomon emphasizes the need for civil society to assess and expose the true extent of irresponsible and often deceitful conduct by governments engaged in warfare. 

“While pressure should always be brought to bear on the United Nations and other international bodies, they are frequently compromised by internal power dynamics tied to powerful nations and financial interests. Authentic civic action is crucial, inside nations and internationally.”  Furthermore, “Independent institutions have a responsibility to research and publicize actual consequences of war as well as develop civic pressure to create humanistic policies to replace deadly ones.” By publicizing these findings, they can generate civic pressure that pushes policymakers to replace deadly policies with more compassionate and humanistic alternatives. 

“After all, everyone lives in the same world and all are apt to be affected by war, one way or another.”

-Norman Solomon  

Looking forward, how do you envision the trajectory of perpetual war, and what can be done to disrupt it? 

“Nationalism will continue to combine with lucrative militarism, conflicts over geopolitical power, struggles for favorable access to raw materials and markets, opportunistic short-sighted leadership of many nations – these are obstacles to decency and a life-sustaining world order that humanity must confront and overcome.” Although it is difficult to be optimistic about the current projections of perpetual war, Solomon encourages his audience to imagine what can be accomplished and the lives that can be saved through ending the ongoing warfare.   

Norman Solomon is an American journalist, media critic, antiwar activist, and former candidate in 2012 for the United States House of Representatives. Solomon is a longtime associate of the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). Thanks to Norman Solomon and Mark Worth for their assistance in putting together this piece. 

Photo by Chandler Cruttenden on Unsplash