“In a sane and just society, the architects of the nearly 17-year-old war in Iraq, which is still ongoing and has left an estimated half-million people dead, would face war crimes charges and those who cheered them on would be thoroughly discredited.”
— Jessica Schulberg, HuffPost
Amid swirling tensions between President Donald Trump, Iran, and the potential for a new war in the Middle East, a historic clip resurfaced on social media of comedian George Carlin, bemoaning the pattern of American militarism in which the United States, often with the help of a conspiring media and a lazy public, jump into a major war just about every twenty years.
Carlin recorded the routine entitled “Rockets and Penises in the Persian Gulf” as part of an HBO special in 1992, on the heels of the first Gulf War launched by President George H.W. Bush. The clip was shared on Twitter, as a War Powers Resolution to block Trump from additional attacks on Iran was debated on Capitol Hill. The message of Carlin’s routine was proven once again relevant.
“You know my favorite part of that war?” Carlins asks in the routine. “It’s the first war we ever had that was on every channel plus cable… and the war got good ratings too, didn’t it? Got good ratings! Well, we like war! We like war! We’re a war-like people! We like war because we’re good at it! You know why we’re good at it? Cause we get a lot of practice. This country’s only 200 years old and already, we’ve had 10 major wars. We average a major war every 20 years in this country so we’re good at it!”
He goes on to describe that the U.S. government is especially fond of waging war against countries populated by brown people. He explains that bombing people is a good thing to be good at if you don’t have any other national talents.
“Can’t build a decent car, can’t make a TV set or a VCR worth a fuck, got no steel industry left, can’t educate our young people, can’t get health care to our old people, but we can bomb the shit out of your country all right! Huh? Especially if your country is full of brown people—oh we like that don’t we? That’s our hobby! That’s our new job in the world: bombing brown people. Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya, you got some brown people in your country, tell them to watch the fuck out or we’ll goddamn bomb them!”
Widely heralded as one of the great standup comedians of all-time, Carlin died in 2008 at the age of 71. He was known for his sophisticated social critiques, which included irreverent attacks on conventional thinking and cultural norms.
“Now you probably noticed I don’t feel about that war the way we were told we were supposed to feel about that war, the way we were ordered and instructed by the United States government to feel about that war. You see, I tell ya, my mind doesn’t work that way,” Carlin says in the Gulf War routine. I got this real moron thing I do; it’s called ‘thinking. And I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions. I don’t just roll over when I’m told to. Sad to say, most Americans just roll over on command—not me.”
In order to maintain this position, Carlin explained that he had certain rules that he lived by. His first rule? Don’t believe anything the government says. Carlin had other rules when it cam to U.S. war-making.
“I don’t take very seriously, the media or the press in this country, who in the case of the Persian Gulf war were nothing more than unpaid employees of the Department of Defense,” he continued, “and who most of the time, most of the time functioned as kind of an unofficial public relations agency for the United States government. So I don’t listen to them, I don’t really believe in my country and I gotta tell you folks, I don’t get all choked up about yellow ribbons and American flags. I consider them to be symbols and I leave symbols to the symbol-minded.”
On January 9, U.S. House of Representatives passed a war powers resolution with bipartisan support, 224-194, to limit further military escalation with Iran. The Senate will soon vote on a similar bipartisan war powers resolution, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and introduced by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) that would force a debate and vote in Congress to prevent further escalation of hostilities with Iran.
“The Constitution is very clear that only Congress has the authority to declare war and I support Senator Kaine’s resolution to ensure that President Trump comes to Congress first before pursuing any military action against Iran and starting another war in the Middle East,” said Senator Baldwin. “If the President wants to send more young men and women to war, he cannot take a ‘go it alone’ approach and repeat the mistakes of the past. We must have a public debate in Congress, and have a conversation with the American people who are sick and tired of war in the Middle East.”
War powers resolutions are privileged, meaning that the Senate will be forced to vote on the legislation. The resolution underscores that Congress has the sole power to declare war, as laid out in the Constitution. The resolution requires that any hostilities with Iran must be explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force, but does not prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack. The resolution will force a public debate and vote in Congress as intended by the framers of the Constitution to determine whether United States forces should be engaged in these hostilities.