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Challenging the Washington Consensus


Challenging the Washington Consensus

Robert C. Koehler

Political wisdom always has a sharp, cynical edge. You can’t utter it without feeling the throb of ancient wounds.

For instance: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

Emma Goldman’s observation nestled into my subconscious decades ago, and each presidential go-around aggravates it with new intensity. The Washington consensus never changes. The mainstream media shills never cease their efforts to bully all seriousness — all reality — out of the process. And money and militarism silently, invisibly rule, no matter who wins.


There is a vicious cycle in which war enriches the rich who then must impoverish the poor to provide cannon fodder for the "volunteer" military. The photo says it all. The Viet Nam debacle destroyed the draft, owing to the sentiment expressed on the banner. The war narrative needs to be expunged from the world. Civilization demands no less. Some, but not all, inequity could be resolved in this manner.


Bernie is a serious candidate. To be electable, he had to defuse the question quickly. If he had gone into a long explanation like Mr Koehler wished, he may have marginalized himself.


Here's hoping you embrace the Bern soon. Perhaps you could offer your services as a consultant. :O)


One of the great ironies of the Vietnam era was the nation's turning its back on its opposition to the idea of a professional army, something at variance with the nation's tradition, to paraphrase Senator J. William Fulbright. The elimination of the draft was a godsend to the militarists, and imperialists. Now the public hardly bothers about foreign affairs, most have no skin in the game. Neither Bernie Sanders, nor the likes of Mr. Koehler ever mention this. Chris Hedges and others are always drawing lines in the sand vis a vis Bernie, well my line in the sand, for Bernie and Hedlges and Koehler et. al., is the return of the draft as a first, but important step, in reversing this out of control militarism.

In what war did Anderson Cooper fight?


I like this essay by Mr. Koehler; and these two quotes stand out to me:

"And money and militarism silently, invisibly rule, no matter who wins." (I term this rule by Mammon and Mars.)

“What would you say to a young soldier in Afghanistan about this?” Cooper asked, his question quietly loaded with implication." Implication, indeed... as in no credible candidate dare threaten withdrawing public homage from the military-industrial complex.

Mr. Sanders is a very smart man and a skilled politician. He may recognize that coming out against the war machine might alienate those voters who have become indoctrinated to decades of pro-military, U.S. as exceptional nation, post 911 shock and awe (AS necessary security measure), and other constantly shoveled psychological shit!

Just as many addicts are given support to slowly detox., I think an analogy could be made to a sizable portion of the U.S. public.

The same Nazi scientists, propagandists, and pioneers in mind control who were imported into U.S. covert organizations after W.W. II (as part of Project Paperclip) brought along solid theories on how to brainwash entire populations.

That was the method.

Corporate capture of mainstream media by interests amenable with War (and maintaining this nation's status through the influence of "the petro-dollar") provided the means.

Method, means, and still lacking was... opportunity. Entire the quintessential false flag.

But attacks of this nature work because out of the trauma produced, many citizens reflexively turn to paternalistic powers to arguably protect them. All of these behaviors are known. And to the extent "the mean" brushes away the fringes--those zone where people do NOT conform to the Official Stories and the conditioned behaviors these are in place to elicit, these fringes are demonized. That's what all the punishment of whistle blowers is really about.

Totally authoritarian govt. does not abide ANY challenge to its Storylines. THAT is a major facet of the control apparatus.

My point is that if Mr. Sanders continues to gain clout, and with a little help from Higher Forces, actual office.... from there he can begin the process of decommissioning, or de-toxing that portion of the body politic that for decades (particularly since 911) was indoctrinated to pro-war, pro-military falsehoods fed to the masses like daily manna from heaven's antithesis.


I don't entirely disagree with this angle; but it has a problem that's easily exploited by right-wing, Libertarian groups and resonant parties. It takes, as its core, primal selfishness: that no one without skin in the game gives a damn. This is a very damning statement about human nature. It presumes that people don't, by nature, care about other human beings.

I think the quote by Goebbels is a better fit: Essentially it argues that MOST PEOPLE do not want war... but they can be convinced that war is necessary if they believe themselves to be under attack. THAT is the motivator.

Most people want basic security. Most people have no wish to harm others.

That's why any war-oriented society must also conduct a War on Information... and use all sorts of lies, mind control, and obfuscation to induce in enough citizens, a willingness to "go along."

Obviously most people don't want their children to return home in body bags; and at this point, with the Afghani debacle dragging on 14 years and--as is conditioned into the American psyche (particularly that of males)--no "win" in this war "game," either. (That's a frame that Tom Engelhardt and many of his writers fixate upon.)

I think the really important item missing, and missing from your analysis is how far down the list of priorities TRUTH has been placed.

If a GENUINE investigation followed 911 and if today's thousands of engineers and scientists were given major media time to discuss the obvious false implications of the story of 911; and if REAL footage of all that "collateral damage" of Empire's wars were publicly aired (so that all those "right to life" types whose lives center on protecting fetuses might actually VIEW little children torn apart or left crying in rubble after their mothers and fathers were suddenly killed); and if analysts who were opposed to war had AIR time... a very different public response would not only appear, but blatantly oppose war.

Jeremy Scahill, interviewed on Democracy Now last Friday, I believe it was, stated point blank that "Independent journalism is being criminalized."

IF ONLY "embedded journalists" which is to say sycophants regurgitating the military's "story," are heard and seen... what chance is there for citizens to KNOW what's really going on?

Clapper lies about the full-scale surveillance apparatus, and until Snowden exposed him, who would have known?

The military can claim anything about this latest hospital bombing. Thankfully, Doctors Without Borders are amazing souls with high intelligence and moral backbone to back it up.

It's not just about the draft! In a sense, implementing a draft just continues to justify wars.


Until armies are no more, in a democracy the only legitimate army is a citizen army.

"There seems to be a lack of concern among too many people about the state of the nation, and a too easy acceptance of policies and actions of a kind that a generation ago would have appalled the citizenry. The apparent broad acceptance of the "volunteer army" idea comes to mind- a concept completely at variance with our historic development. Up to now, a blessing of our system has been that those who go into the military service, whether by enlistment or through the draft, could hardly wait to get out. But today, because of the exigencies of the times, there is a chance that we may turn our back on this fundamental principle: a large, standing professional army has no place in this Republic."...Senator J. William Fulbright. The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. 1972.

Take out "skin in the game" and replace with the perfectly human idea that people's interests are often guided by what affects them, and military service no longer affects them. As it affected me that day so long ago when I received the letter with the salutation: "Greetings"


I usually like Koehler's articles as he has a human first perspective but alas no one is perfect. Perfection seems the real issue these days, at least in progressive circles. At least where it concerns Bernie anyway. For Bernie must be in all ways perfect... that is the important thing it seems for progressives for him to get their votes.

Everywhere you look progressive writers and forum commenters snipe at Bernie according to their specific personal issues and announce that he must be perfect else we should not vote for him. Much to my surprise Koehler did the same. He announces that he isn't convinced yet and proceeded to 'weed out' Bernie on an issue of long concern to him. On Koehler's own website he mentions how we live in a society that cares mostly about weeding out each other. Yet here is Koehler doing exactly that (along with everybody else) of taking Bernie to task about a specific progressive issue but letting the other candidates slide by without comment (except for Trump).

You kind of wish that Bernie had never said that he was a progressive. Had never said the words democratic socialist! Had Bernie just showed up as a plain ole candidate and said all the things he says that progressives would love him to death. Instead they are picking apart his candidacy under the guise of purity and doing a fair job of convincing other progressives not to vote for Bernie unless he becomes pure and perfect on half a dozen points among a few dozen issues.

Can Bernie ever be perfect enough for purists? Can he ever satisfy any professional progressive commenter? Progressives are so used to losing that they have developed a 'criticize anyway' perspective. They no longer know how to support a candidate but only to criticize them. Could anyone ever be progressive enough to win their collective support? Ask yourself that question. Could any one person get them all in his/her corner? Yeah sure. Professional progressives seem unable to support but are always ready to criticize. To weed out each other.

I wish Bernie never called himself a progressive... apparently he lost the support of progressives as soon as he said that. (Sarcasm intended). In fact if you look back to when Bernie was filibustering or voting against the Iraq War and against those two trillion in tax cuts etc. that progressives were constantly saying that Bernie would be the kind of President that America needs. Progressives continued to feel this way up until the moment that Bernie actually did announce a run for the presidency. By reflex, the professional progressives immediately went for the jugular. Bernie had called himself a progressive and as everybody knows >>> no progressive is progressive enough for progressives.

What I would like to know is just who should we vote for if not for Bernie? It is all well and good to "start building third parties" as Hedges says but maybe we should do that in between elections instead of waiting to start at the election.

All those who complain that Bernie isn't perfect (and there are many besides Hedges and those still unconvinced like Koehler) ... they should tell us who we should vote for because like it or not, we will end up with a president in any case. If not Bernie then whom? Someone will be president. If not Bernie then Hillary? Trump? Bush?

Only a fool would feel content getting someone they don't agree with elected ...rather than get someone they do agree with on so many issues but who isn't perfect on every single issue.

Or have we progressives truly forgotten what will happen if Bernie doesn't win? What will we get if we don't help Bernie win?


Thank you for this piece, Robert Koehler.

The Washington Consensus was coined to term the economic measures that the US, and Western European powers, would use to funnel money and resources, more rapidly, from the poor in the developing world, to the wealthy in the US and Western Europe.

I use the term to describe the consensus, among the establishment Democrat Party, the Republican Party, US think-tanks, and the mainstream media, regarding unquestionable paradigms - such as the notion that the only viable economic system is capitalism, the notion that the US is a democracy, or the notion that the US military is essential for solving international disputes. I am glad to see Robert Koehler use the term similarly.

I share the concern for the Sanders insufficient critique of the US government's militarism especially given Hillary Clinton's hawkish approach to foreign policy. Bernie Sander's could easily use resources, such as the National Priorities Project ( https://www.nationalpriorities.org/campaigns/military-spending-united-states/ ) to present the US government's outlandish military spending and the social programs that could be supported with some of these monies.

If anybody has insight into how to encourage the Sander's campaign to, perhaps, present positive alternatives to excessive militarism, please let me know.


Your frame is one that accepts militarism as a norm and thus conforms to it.

I stand by what I said, although I do understand your point.

Do you understand mine? That this "without a draft, no one cares" meme is one that essentially reinforces the Ayn Rand version of "reality": Every man for himself. Law of the Jungle. Selfish self-interest... which by necessity, leads to "Might Makes Right."

Your frame is only a part of the big picture.


No, my position is that until there are no more armies, a citizen army is the only legitimate army in a democracy. Now, the poor do all the dying, and nobody cares, including leading lights such as Hedges, et.al.


No. A Thousand times no.

I will not support young people being forced to be trained as killers.


So the poor will die. The notion that the army is going to go away is nonsense, it is convenient to say you will not support young people being forced to serve, but it is alright for the poor to do the dying. Armies are not going away, no way can your reasoning be justified in a democracy. Read Fulbrigtht and others on the dangers posed by professional standing armies. Your positon is in tune with the military pros of the day, the Curtis LeMays, the fire breathing military dragons.


You can't see beyond the Mars-rules paradigm until you find a way to step out of it. Right now, you argue for it.


I oppose both the draft and standing armies during peacetime. I oppose all the wars we are engaged in.

I do not support the poor having only the option of the military. I support an end to the Capitalist system we have that creates this situation.


I think you are right about the draft but that was how it used to be. A democracy could call up an army using a draft but the idea was that there would be a terminus - an end - to a war after which everybody went home like after WWI. Secondly it was the people (through their representatives) that would declare war. A right that protected those called to fight that it wasn't at the whim of a King or Kaiser.

That protection was not defended and congress voted it away to the executive. We are at war before we vote to go to war. Johnson called it a Police Action but then so did Ike in Korea. it would be the king's levy now.

Moreover we see the eerie use of mercenaries in lieu of our military. These better paid mercs become a private military force leaving the everyday combat duties to low paid youths in their early twenties who are exactly who you say they are. The poor and less educated... the cannon fodder.

I can't say that a draft would be better given these new realities but I do agree that were a draft instituted tomorrow, our congress would begin debating an end to the wars the following day.

The situation today uses economic blackmail to fill the ranks. Sadly that has always been the case with armies going back centuries. The grunts - the cannon fodder - came mainly from the poor.


It is nice to hear what you support, in the meantime the poor will continue to do the dying, not to mention the danger posed to our very democratic way of life by a professional army augmented by mercenaries.


If there is to be an army, in a democratic country the only legitimate army is a citizen army, and this reality is true today as it was true yesterday and it will be true tomorrow, brought about by a draft.


I understand and agree but they've changed the rules. The president can involve us in a war on his own say so whereas the constitution says only Congress can do that. Our congress voted that right away and we let them. They play fast and loose like Johnson which is why history calls it the Vietnam War but legally it was the Vietnam Police Action (not a war).

I am in full agreement with the idea that a draft prevents wars and had this war been manned using a draft it would have been over years ago. On the other hand people who don't want to go to war end up being forced to go when there is a draft.

There is also that to consider as well.