Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Post July 2, 2014
More Excerpts from Chapter One

The Costly War Habit

America’s chronic war habit is clearly no ordinary habit. Ordinary ones range from harmless indulgence to expensive and harmful addictions. America’s war habit has much fewer variations but all go far beyond self-indulgence, typically are dreadfully consequential in monetary and human costs, and usually affect not just individuals but also the socioeconomic and political conditions of entire nations, with the U.S. invasion of Iraq being a recent example, not to mention the adverse effects on all elements of America’s society. 

The Human Costs, Statistically Speaking

Over two and one-half million Americans have been sent to their graves from military interventions authorized by America’s warriors-in-chief. [23] The most deadly internal war, the Civil War, sent over 600 thousand Americans to their graves. Add to all of the foregoing blood spilling the six to seven million civilians who died from U.S military intervention in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. Add to that a former CIA agent’s estimate that six million people have died from covert CIA operations alone. Then add the mounting death toll from President Barack Obama’s drone killings by the thousands in far away places like Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and probably more that are still secret. [24] Based on his exhaustive study, James Lucas, a retired social worker and currently an anti-war activist and writer, estimates that U.S. military interventions have been directly responsible for between 20 and 30 million civilian deaths throughout 37 countries just since after WWII and only up to 2007. [25] 

To the casualties and human suffering from America’s use of force must also be added the human suffering from America’s use of sanctions to bring countries to their knees. In an admission that would be indictable as an international war crime if not made by American officials, in this case Vice President Joe Biden and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “both openly admitted that the US-led sanctions against Iran (and Syria) are politically motivated and constitute a “soft-war” against the nearly 80 million people of Iran (23 million people in Syria) in order to achieve regime change.” [26] The administration’s claim that there are no sanctions on medicine, food, and other necessities belies the known fact that multinational corporations are reluctant to ship supplies to a sanctioned country for fear of violating a bureaucratic technicality.


In what must be one of the most morally outrageous and barbaric remarks by a U.S. official was the televised answer by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to reporter Lesley Stahl’s question about whether the price of sanctions against Iran were worth it considering half a million children died as a result. “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it,” the Secretary of State answered. [27]

The Human Costs, Human Beings’ Speaking

Dead men by mass production—in one country after another
—month after month and year after year. To you at home
they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went
away and just didn’t come back. You didn’t see him lying
so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.
We saw him, saw him by the multiple thousands.
That’s the difference.
--Ernie Pyle [28]

Those were the posthumous sentiments of the WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle. He was acknowledging a simple truth about human nature. Numbers about humanity cannot speak to humanity like human beings can. As Mr. Pyle knew, even tabulations of horrific consequences of war tend to numb and depersonalize reactions to them (with the exception of the casualties on America’s home land, September 11, 2001). Adding personal stories like the few selected below helps to elicit some form of emotional response at least to all but the most hardened and insensitive of people, including sociopaths (who may be overrepresented among America’s warriors and spies).

Michael Moore, Oscar, Emmy and book award winner collected and published letters from soldiers in Iraq and their families back home. This vignette is from one of those letters:

                        “---my son was killed in Iraq---. He was going to be
                        a proud father of a baby boy. ---the Army would not
pay for us to go to his funeral. Several months later they
offered to fly us free to meet with President Bush.
No thanks.” [29]

Not all deaths happen on the battlefield. Many soldiers who escape death there meet it back home by their own means. According to a Veterans Affairs report a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. It is the final stage of what clinicians call “post-traumatic stress syndrome.” A case in point among thousands is William Busbee, who was in the Army Special Forces, airborne and the Army Rangers:
           
                        ---Mr. Busbee “sat with a .45-caliber gun pointed to
the side of his head. ‘Look at me,’ his mother cried
out as she tried to get her son’s attention. ‘Look at
me. Don’t you do this. Don’t do it. He wouldn’t turn
his head to look at me.’ [Then he] took his life---with
his mother and sister looking on.”

“He told me how he picked up the body parts and
loaded them onto a helicopter so their families would
have something to bury,” his mother said. “She said
her son had tried to commit suicide in Pesh Valley of
Afghanistan. He told me, ‘Momma, the William you
knew died over there.’ ” [30]

Like the legendary Mafia don with his hit list or like a “one-man death panel,” Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama sits in his office and picks people from the drone hit list handed to him by his chief terrorism advisor. [31] Later, people thousands of miles away get hit. Thousands have been hit and killed so far. Among them are innocents not connected to any terrorist group who the killers euphemistically refer to as “collateral damage.”

Sometimes the dead were elders riding in a bus to a village meeting to resolve a community issue having nothing to with America:

                        "the loss of 40 leaders on a single day is devastating for that
                        community." ---the strike actually removed, in one fell swoop,
the most stabilizing forces in an entire community. A nearby
villager remembers the attack, which also claimed four of his
cousins. The villager’s six-year-old son was later afraid -- to
sleep in their house, saying ‘We cannot go home. We have
to spend the night in the tree.’" [32]

Sometimes the dead were more than a dozen members of a wedding party:

“Scorched vehicles and body parts were left scattered on the
                        road.” [33]

“Bride and Boom” headlined the insensitive New York Post, referring to that scene in Yemen. From an entirely different perspective, one of humanness and disgust was the comment by Tom Engelhardt, journalist, editor, book author, and university instructor that “‘Till death do us part’ has gained a far grimmer meaning” [34]

Sometimes the dead were beloved grandmothers:

“---a father with his two children—came all the way from the
Pakistani tribal territory of North Waziristan to the US Capitol
to tell the heart-wrenching story of the death of the children’s
beloved 67-year-old grandmother. Watching the beautiful
9-year-old Nabila relate how her grandmother was blown to
bits while outside picking okra softened the hearts of even the
most hardened DC politicos.” [35]

That last scene was depicted in an article by Medea Benjamin, book author and staunch critic of war and drone strikes. While I respect her eyewitness account, I doubt that “the hearts of most hardened DC politicos” were softened because she reports that only five members of Congress attended the hearings. [36] That leaves out over 500 more hardened politicos who didn’t bother to attend it.

Sometimes the dead from drone strikes were children, several hundred so far; among them infants of 1, 2, 3 and 4 years old; sometimes the dead were brothers and sisters of an entire family:

Four sisters, ages 4 to 9 years were struck and killed by an
American drone strike. Four children, ages 3 to 13 years old
in a different family in the same country were struck and killed
by an American drone strike. [37]

Pause for a moment and ask yourself this question: What kind of a human being is it in the Oval Office that authorizes these deadly strikes? 

Drone strikes, of course, are just the newest technological age of U.S. barbarism that kills people, among them children. It’s an old story, with just the technology having changed.

Margaret Kimberley, a New York based writer and activist for peace and justice issues notes that “America has a long history of killing little children. Hundreds of thousands of children were taken from Africa to be enslaved in America, little children were lynching victims and children are now killed by drones, sanctions, and the other aggressions that this country meets out to the rest of the world.”

She estimates that “the number of children killed by American militarism and covert wars since WWII is easily in the order of 20 million.” [38] I have no idea how much of these 20 million children are included in the estimate of 20 to 30 million civilian deaths cited earlier.

But does a more precise estimate really matter? Children of the world, at the mercy of stronger and older people, are meant to be loved and nourished, not murdered.

Sickening---Sickening--- Sickening. I can’t say it enough times.

Another sickening form of America’s war habit is the practice of torturing captives. Torture sometimes amounts to death cruelly delayed. The U.S. reportedly has authorized torture chambers in more than 54 countries, a revelation that “should make all of us in this country cringe with shame. [39]. How are people, judged guilty by the torturers, actually tortured? Think about a U.S. regime that relies on torture to try and extract confessions and information from human beings held captive in “black sites, borrowed prisons and by borrowed torturers in many cases” [40]. Think about an American regime that approves of treating human beings like this:

•           Can’t sit, stand or lie down.
•           Beaten, excruciating pain, testicles whipped.
•           Deprived of sleep.
•           Given inadequate food and water.
•           Hooded.
•           Humiliated,
•           Jammed into small boxes.
•           Naked.
•           Shackled.
•           Slammed into walls.
•           Sodomized.
•           Water poured into mouth and lungs.

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year veteran Foreign Service Officer (since retired) at the State Department, has pointed out that “Horrific as it may be, pain fades, bones mend, bruises heal. No, don’t for a second think that the essence of torture is physical pain. If, in many cases, the body heals, mental wounds are a far more difficult matter. Memory persists.”  That is especially so, h points out, with the victim’s sense of humiliation from being so helpless. [41] 

23. Wilson, S.B. Op. cit.  
24. Wilson, S.B. Op. cit.
25.  Lucas, JA. Deaths In Other Nations Since WW II Due To Us Interventions.  Countercurrents.org, April 24, 2007.
26. Lamb, F. US Officials Confess to Targeting Iran’s Civilian Population. Cyrano’s Journal, February 16 2013.
27.  60 Minutes, May 12, 1996.
28. Hedges, C. Murder Is Not an Anomaly in War. Truth Dig, March 19, 2012.
29. Moore, M. Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the War Zone. Simon & Schuster, 2004.
30. Madrak, S.  Soldier's Mom: Military Suicides Are 'Out of Control.' Crooks & Liars, November 27, 2012.
31. Pollitt, K. America Doesn't Torture'—It Kills. The Nation, February 13, 2013.  
32. Huffington, A.  'Signature Strikes' and the President's Empty Rhetoric on Drones
Huff Post Politics, July 10, 2013.
33. Engelhardt, T. The US Has Bombed at Least Eight Wedding Parties Since 2001. The Nation, December 20, 2013 
34. Englehardt, Op Cit.
35. Benjamin, M. Drones Have Come Out Of the Shadows. Dissident Voice, November 4, 2013.
36. Benjamin, Op. Cit.
37. Chossudovsky, M. The Children Killed by America’s Drones. “Crimes Against Humanity” committed by Barack H. Obama. Global Research, Center for Research on Globalization, January 26, 2013.
38. Kimbereley, M. Freedom Rider: Killing Children. Cyrano’s Journal, January 5 2013.
39. Scheer, R. America's Global Torture Network. OpEdNews, February 8, 2013.
40. Van Buren, P. Torture Superpower. TomDispatch.com, December 18, 2012.
41. Van Buren, Op. cit.




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