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Might as Well Face It, You’re Addicted to War

A.K Gupta Dec 2, 2004

Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism by Joel Andreas; AK Press, 3rd Edition, 2004

Comic books started morphing into “graphic novels” decades ago, but political versions are of a more recent vintage. They came of age with Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and at their best add a dimension to politics that is incapable of being captured solely by words.

Joe Sacco’s Palestine, for example breathes life into the brutal Israeli occupation, capturing its effects in detailed and dramatic drawings. In New York, artists in the World War 3 collective have produced exceptional work on everything from neighborhood politics and feminism to September 11 and imperialism. Since September 11, hundreds of books have been published dissecting every aspect of the U.S.

Empire. Into this deluge arrives an updated version of Addicted to War by Joel Andreas.

Addicted to War was first published in 1992, but has been updated twice in recent years. It’s not an easy task to mesh new illustrations with drawings done a decade earlier, but it succeeds. The book bears a resemblance to the “Beginner’s Guide” series with cartoon narrators guiding the readers, and a mix of line drawings and grainy photographs.

While at times the book seems dated with its numerous portraits of Bush Senior, Reagan and even Dan Quayle, it skillfully weaves the “War on Terror,” the Afghanistan conflict and the Iraq occupation into the narrative.

So we see Dick Cheney’s hand in war profiteering, not just for Halliburton but also for Lockheed Martin. The neocons running U.S. foreign policy take form in Richard Perle and his shady dealings, from the revolving door between government and weapons makers to Perle’s trading on insider knowledge of defense contracts and the plan to reshape the Middle East through the gun barrel of a tank.

Addicted to War is up-to-date, with Abu Ghraib’s iconic image of torture, as well as photos of Iraqi boys throwing stones at a hulking U.S. armored vehicle and demonstrations by Shiites in early 2004.

The peace movement gets plenty of attention, from the Vietnam War to the global protests of Feb. 15, 2003. Andreas also intersperses the book with facts about the domestic and human cost of war.

Addicted to War’s deftly uses footnoted quotes to buttress its arguments, whether it’s a quote from a Special Forces officer proclaiming, “We will export death and violence … in defense of our great nation,” to John Ashcroft declaring, “Iraqis can taste liberty in their native land,” referring to the rebuilding of the Iraqi prison system after the U.S. invasion.

One of the book’s weaknesses is its cursory treatment of U.S. history. It says nothing about Colonial America, and the period up to World War II is barely 10 percent of this 80-page book.

The main strength of Addicted to War is how it breaks down the issues in a simple and understandable format. It also includes a list of more than 20 organizations with information of how to contact them and get involved.

Addicted to War is an entertaining read, but few seasoned activists will learn much. Still, it is an excellent primer on U.S. imperialism (the real topic) for those who are uncomfortable with empire, but don’t know how to articulate their views in a yellow-ribbon bound culture of “you’re either with us or against us.”