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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/15/12

Abolishing War: One Last Step

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Second, that war is a form of defense, even if we provoked the enemy's attack, even if the enemy hasn't attacked, even if the enemy is incapable of attacking, even if the enemy hasn't yet thought to develop the capacity to attack. We're one step ahead, that's how smart we are.

Third, that war is a generous sacrifice, the noblest deed imaginable, something so beautiful it ought to be multiplied a thousand fold, and so we only go to war as an absolute last resort in order to benefit the evil dark people who need to be wiped off the face of the earth.

It doesn't matter if the reasons for war conflict. It doesn't matter if they change through the course of a war. If an individual believes that the war makers mean well -- these being the same politicians that nobody would trust as far as they could thrown them on any other topic, and if he believes that warriors are heroes who must be cheered for no matter what they do, and if he takes some vicarious pleasure in the primitive notion that lashing out makes him safe, then it doesn't much matter what the pretense is. Let some back war as philanthropy and others as enlightened genocide, as long as enough of them back it or tolerate it, it will get started. And once started, it must be continued for the sake of the soldiers doing most of the killing and a little bit of the dying.

In Afghanistan, the top killer of U.S. troops is suicide. Continuing a war so that our troops will not have been killing themselves in vain brings a new level of blindness to the question of what types of destructive madness are simply and unavoidably in vain. Of course, U.S. troops are in Afghanistan to spread democracy, while the vast majority of U.S. residents oppose keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the casus belli has been assassinated and given a proper Muslim sea burial, according to our president, who occasionally brags about such killings while refusing to officially say whether they exist. He has said, however, that we're leaving Afghanistan, and the primary way in which we're leaving is, oddly enough, by staying, at least for the next two and a half years, after which we're staying in an unspecified smaller way for another 10 years. Then we'll see.

Will the third poorest nation in the world be able to keep fighting off our loving embrace, night raids, and drone strikes for 12.5 more years? It will if we keep paying for it. Imagine how many of that last 25 percent of Americans would turn against this war if they knew they were paying for both sides of it while their schools and fire stations and ecosystems collapse. A report by the congressional Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by Rep. John Tierney, found that $360 million per year was being handed over by the Pentagon to insurgent groups or their warlord front men for the safe passage of truck convoys carrying US military supplies, from one trucking contract alone. We're paying for permission to drive down roads without being shot at. What a war! Imagine if the British had thought of that in 1776. Maybe we could still be colonies.

We don't need to abandon Afghans, or Libyans, or Syrians, or for that matter Bahrainis or Saudis. But effective financial aid and reparations would support nonviolence and independence. As Ralph Lopez has been pointing out, there are good examples of humanitarian programs in Afghanistan that could be built on. Most foreign aid, however, is a scam, with 40 to 50 percent never reaching Afghanistan. Aid profiteers rival war profiteers in their greed, while 60 percent of Afghan children are in various stages of starvation and 23 froze to death last winter outside Kabul. And half the so-called aid money has gone to training soldiers and police. I remember the late Richard Holbrooke telling Congress that civilian operations in Afghanistan were subordinate to the military. That dooms them to failure, and Afghans to suffering.

I went to Afghanistan last year with Kathy Kelly and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. I met there a man named Hakim who has organized a group called Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Last week I heard from Kathy that he wanted to visit the United States but had been denied a visa. So, Voices and Global Exchange and Fellowship of Reconciliation and the group I work for flooded the State Department with emails and calls. And they reversed their decision and gave Hakim a visa. He'll be here soon. Sometimes our voice is loud enough. Other times it's just one tiny little whisper short and we imagine it's nowhere close.

Our voice was loud in 2005 and 2006. It was loud enough to prevent an attack on Iran in 2007. We've been helping to hold off an attack on Iran for years, since our 1953 overthrow of its government and our aid to Iraq in killing Iranians in the 1980s. Now we hear that Iran may have nuclear weapons, or nuclear weapons facilities, or nuclear weapons program capabilities, and Iran was behind 9-11, and Iran is criminally threatening to put up a fight if attacked again, plus Iran hired a Mexican drug gang to assassinate a Saudi ambassador in D.C. and then called it off just to make us look bad for catching them. There's no limit to the Iranians' evil, which is why we should take an action that the war proponents themselves say would fail on its own terms. Bombing Iran would do no more than the murderous sanctions already in place or the assassinations of scientists already committed to overthrow the government. And for the U.S. to allow Israel to attack Iran would only fool people in a single nation: ours. Iran would strike back at U.S. troops, and it would be a U.S. war by day two.

War is not just reserved for poor nations now, but it has -- in other ways -- changed almost beyond recognition. Mostly the elderly and children die in wars now, mostly civilians. The wars happen where they live. Almost entirely non-Americans die in U.S. wars. Sometimes the U.S. warriors are seated in air-conditioned offices in the United States. Drones are better than armies, someone told me recently, because with drones nobody gets killed. Imagine the terror produced by the buzzing of a drone over your house night and day, able to take your life and the lives of your loved ones at any moment. But don't bother to protest. You're nobody. You're not listed in the war casualty reports in U.S. newspapers. When drones kill, nobody dies, and you -- you 95 percent of humanity -- you are nobody. Harold Koh says that bombing houses is neither a war nor hostilities, under the War Powers Act. Unless Americans are under the bombs, they are not hostile bombs. Perhaps they are friendly bombs, or bombs that are good for people whether they know it or not.

The military now wants to give medals to drone pilots. I picture them as bronzed joy sticks. I actually think there's something unfair about this idea. I think our brave drones themselves should be getting the medals. They show the absolute least hesitation to kill. Or what about the ants fighting in my back yard? They sacrifice their lives and abandon their comrades with complete efficiency. If we're handing out medals for desk jobs, what about the guys who pay the protection fees on Afghan roads? Or the guy who catches Petraeus when he faints in Congressional hearings? Why should some people get medals and others not? "War will exist," wrote John F. Kennedy, "until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today." Therefore, I say, scrap all the medals except for those who refuse to fight.

The key, I think, to getting to that distant day when resisters are honored and warriors are not, is that we stop justifying or ignoring mass-murder. The deaths of 95 percent of the victims of our wars are the most closely guarded secret. The deaths of so-called civilians, of those not understood to be fighting back in defense of their homes, of those not male or fighting age. (Fighting-age males are posthumously declared combatants whenever our government kills them). This is the most forbidden information, because it brings down the war machine. The war machine depends for its existence on being something other than murder on a larger scale, even as it strives to reduce itself to exactly murder on a recognizable scale. Our sacred troops are the war machine's best defense, since whatever they do must be brave and therefore good. And yet some of those troops are the gravest threat, not only because they can refuse to fight, or can speak out in opposition, but because some of them persist in producing videos and photos of themselves posing with, mutilating, and urinating on the bodies of people they kill.

And then we're told to be outraged by the urination. But when you get outraged that someone has peed on the body of a man they just murdered, what does that convey about your attitude toward the murder itself? Surely most of us would object more to being killed than to being peed on after we're dead.

The forbidden thought is that all killing is regrettable, immoral, and criminal. This is the thought of which Lockheed Martin, David Petraeus, General Electric, Buck McKeon, and your neighbors are frightened.

It's all right to call a war a failure and the failure a SNAFU and incompetence the order of the day. The military money machine can generate even more money out of that. It could have done better with another trillion or two to spend.

It's all right to point out the injustice, hypocrisy, and shame in our society's treatment of veterans after they've served their war-making purpose. People can devote their time and energy to bake sales for veterans' needs. That only furthers the acceptance of war in many minds, while a few are awakened. And the Pentagon can shift to fighting its wars with robots.

It's all right to point out the economic trade-offs at stake, the standard of living we could have if we gave up some bombers and some billionaires. I make this point all the time. A few will understand, but the military industrial complex will counter by calling itself a jobs program and threatening congress members with unemployment in their districts.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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