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Empire of DefenseRace and the Cultural Politics of Permanent War$
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Joseph Darda

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226632896

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226633084.001.0001

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Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome with Human Rights

Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome with Human Rights

(p.123) Chapter Four Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome with Human Rights
Empire of Defense

Joseph Darda

University of Chicago Press

This chapter traces the emergence of human rights as an instrument of war at the end of the Cold War. Although humanitarianism is most identified with the Clinton administration’s wars in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, it also informed the Gulf War—a conflict that, while remembered for its association with live television and oil, laid the groundwork for a decade of “one world” humanitarian wars. The first Bush administration created a right–left consensus behind a war in the Persian Gulf by channeling the kind of humanitarian affect associated with the antiwar movement of the 1960s, forming a martial bridge from the Vietnam War to the “interregnum” of the 1990s. The Gulf War, as the first humanitarian war, marked not the last shot of the Cold War but a continuation and reconfiguration of a liberal empire that had fought communism in Korea and Vietnam and narcotics in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the United States, all in the name of defense. Humanitarian militarism created an enduring obstacle for liberal antiwar filmmakers, including David O. Russell and Barry Levinson, and a new struggle for June Jordan and other radical antiracists.

Keywords:   Gulf War, Vietnam syndrome, human rights, Nayirah testimony, David. O. Russell, Barry Levinson, June Jordan

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