Wednesday, May 4, 2016
America’s RAW Deal
America’s Wars Are Endless and Everywhere
America was born in the womb of war. Whether she dies there is an open but realistic and pressing question. After George Washington left office America continued being a warrior nation without missing a heartbeat except for just two occasions when the hearts of two presidents stopped beating shortly after entering office in the 19th century. Since his time the U.S. government has built a massive war bureaucracy, once honestly and officially known as the Department of War before being renamed in 1949 the Department of Defense.
Since his time America has engaged in declared and undeclared wars 11 times and has conducted approximately 13,000 to 14,000 other overt and covert military interventions and there is little chance of them stopping anytime soon. Hardly a spot on the globe has been untouched by the terror of and casualties from America’s show of force. Noam Chomsky, emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and noted critic of American foreign policy, has concluded that the U.S. “is the world's leading terrorist state,” and polls taken in other nations say the same.
Raw Deal for Whom?
War is a raw deal for countless millions of human beings. The human costs of wars are unfathomably huge and incalculable, like trying to count sand on the beach. But these costs can be described and estimated.
Wars Destroy and Kill
Wars destroy everything in their path; lives, livelihoods, villages, whole cities, hospitals, cultural landmarks and treasures, and everything else touched by war.
Lost lives are the greatest human costs never to be recovered. Over two and one-half million Americans have been sent to their graves from military interventions authorized by America’s warriors-in-chief. 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. 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.
War as Murder and Surrogate Murder?
Murder is murder and a murderer is a murderer. Surrogate murder is like hiring a hit man to be the substitute murderer.
Einstein said war is an act of murder. If that is so, would it seem to follow that all the people who use weapons of war to kill are murderers (war is an international crime), and that all the people who make, promote, glorify, sell, profit from, and authorize the use of weapons of war are surrogate murderers?
If war is murder, does it also make all but two U.S. presidents in America’s history surrogate murderers of millions of people through overt and covert military and CIA operations (the two died too early in office to do any harm)?
If war is murder then what does that say about people who accept and/or are silent about war? Not for a second would I think of them as surrogate murderers. Since silence, a sage once said, is consent, Americans who do nothing more than acquiesce to war could, I suppose, be thought of as accomplices. But that judgment seems too harsh for the millions of Americans duped by the propaganda of the government and the mainstream media, are preoccupied with families and making a living made harder because of the revenue draining military budget (more on that point in a later post), and sensing the odds against peace and thus the futility in opposing war.
Honor Veterans, Dishonor War
For several years author Ann Jones followed America’s war-wounded from Afghan trauma units onto planes to a U.S. hospital in Germany, then on to Walter Reed hospital in America and finally to their homes. I must share two of her true stories with you in case you have not read her work.
In the first story a mother says she was told by the doctor that her son, a Marine, lost both legs, one testicle, part of the penis and urethra, and has a blasted away right hand that will make operating a wheelchair extremely difficult.
In the second story an older Army officer on the plane tells her that war is a con (you may recall General Smedley Butler’s famous remark that “war is a racket”). Mentally wrought, he tells her his two sons are in college and that he’ll shoot them if they want to join the Army.
Those two stories help explain why I honor veterans. They do not start wars. They suffer from them. I also want to make it perfectly clear that I dishonor and hold in utter contempt everyone who promote, glamorize, authorize, and profit from war.
About War Victims Generally
Some are the combatants. Some are not. About one-half of the grand total of all war dead are not combatants but civilians, like the hundreds of people attending weddings, going to village meetings and the like who are bombed to oblivion by President Obama’s drones (see below).
Soldiers, by the way, don’t all die on the battlefield. Some who don’t die later by their own hand from the trauma of what they remember doing and seeing. About every 80 minutes a war veteran commits suicide. Then there are the mentally wounded veterans who suffer from what is called the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Depending on which war they fought in, their chances of becoming a PTSD victim range around 15 percent. A WWII veteran friend of mine who was a VA psychiatrist says that PTSD vets are overwhelming the VA clinics and those vets who can’t get help or help fails are committing suicides and murders in record numbers. The clinics, incidentally, are overwhelmed because they are underfunded by our vile, war mongering Congress!
About War Victims Personally
Number killed, number wounded and maimed are faceless, unnamed statistics. They beckon neither remorse nor tears quickly. Ernie Pyle knew the difference:
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.
Those were the posthumous sentiments of this WWII correspondent. 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 ought to help elicit some form of emotional response at least to all but the most hardened and insensitive of people, excluding sociopaths, who may not necessarily be overrepresented among America’s warriors and spies (my friend, Charles Derber, a political sociologist, has written a book claiming America is a sociopathic society).
-A Few Heart Wrenching Personal Stories-
Michael Moore, Oscar, Emmy and book award winner collected and published letters from soldiers in Iraq and their families back home. The following 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.
The story of the late William Busbee, who was in the Army Special Forces, airborne and the Army Rangers ought to bring tears to even the most callous of people:
---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.
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. 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.
Sometimes the dead were more than a dozen members of a wedding party.
Scorched vehicles and body parts were left scattered on the road.
Here’s a mainstream media’s headline about that story: “Bride and Boom;” hardly a heart wrenching story to that journalist.
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, blown to bits while outside picking okra---.
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.
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?
In war no one wins except those who profit from them and thus keep perpetuating them.
Next Post Pending: The Other Costs of War