Sunday, July 05, 2009

What War Brings: the series

I decided to write up a story a day (for however long I can) on what war brings to people who are unfortunate enough to get caught up in it. I choose to start on July 4th, the fortieth anniversary of the song “Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Video posted below on this blog.

I have seen, time and again, attention paid to what war does to those who choose to participate – that is, the combatants.

I have seen memorials with the names of dead combatants on them, but I have yet to a memorial with the names of dead civilians on them. I see statutes to combatants in every conflict under the sun. Even the losers erect statutes and memorials to those who died as combatants. I never see statutes to the UNKNOWN CIVILIAN who fallen…. And I think only once have a seen a grave maker for the unknown civilian.

I don’t think we pay enough attention to what happens to those civilians who are victims of US aggression. I think that would change significantly if the victims were American civilians, but fortunately for us, they are not. I don’t think we pay enough attention to other negative repercussions of our wars and occupations – for example, the impact on the environment.

I was thinking about this a lot over Memorial Day weekend, and I decided to write up a series of blogs that will be called “What War Brings” or WWB. It will cover various aspects of the results of war and occupation: civilian deaths, civilian injuries, civilian health problems, poverty, disease, stress, brain drain, corruption, lies, disappeared people, rape, torture, environment destruction, and a host of other problems.

The Veterans for Peace get it:

Veterans For Peace Asks "Who Dies In War?"

Few really think about it, but many more innocent civilians die in war than soldiers. That is the message that Veterans For Peace would like people to think about on Memorial day.

Veterans For Peace National President Mike Ferner comments, "We have been taught that the purpose of Memorial Day is to remember fallen service members. Veterans For Peace is here to tell the nation that the number of innocent civilians who die in war far outnumbers the combatants. It would be immoral to only remember those who fought and died in war and not pay respect to those who are victims. In the final analysis, the best way to remember both is to abolish this scourge of humanity."

You can bet those veterans also understand the true nature of our military, along with understanding how it has been abused.

Time and again.

Americans have a deep aversion on saying anything that might reflect poorly on our military – indeed, they seem to hold some idealized, and totally unrealized, vision of what our US military does. They don’t have a historically accurate idea of what our military has done over the centuries, both good and bad. And, as Noam Chomsky said about torture, this is dangerous:

“Historical amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon, not only because it undermines moral and intellectual integrity, but also because it lays the groundwork for crimes that still lie ahead.”

And some Americans actually promote and propose that the US military do more humanitarian projects, like build schools or hospitals or give toys or candy or soccer balls to the children of the lands we are brutally occupying. (That has got to be confusing to the kids – get a bomb dropped in your neighborhood one day and a soccer ball the following week.)

When the general American public hears about a bombing incident, they are quick to believe that the US either is not at fault or the other side – the ‘bad guys’ are the ones who actually did it. They never bother to look on the internet for the pictures of locals holding the shrapnel that clearly shows it was made in the USA. They seldom hear the follow up ‘investigation’ that often leaves the US military actions looking very destructive and deadly against unarmed civilians.

And our corporate media rarely bothers to show them. This insanity goes so far that in the early stages of the Iraq war, one CNN anchor asked whether an Iraqi boy (who was without arms from a US bombing, and who also had his entire family killed) appreciated what the US was doing for his country.

Americans in general fail to note public statements from our military men and women about the reality of the wars they are conducting. Here is some commentary by Rick Reyes, who severed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was speaking to our US Senators:

As an infantry rifleman in the Marines Corps, I saw so much of these wars through nightly patrols. We were trained to approach a point of interest on foot, coordinating with translators whose sole vested interest in supplying us intelligence was to earn money and aid. We would gather information that often proved faulty, and question locals to the point we felt comfortable conducting a raid. After receiving an order, we would ransack homes, destroying windows and doors, chairs and tables, families and lives--detaining and arresting anyone who seemed suspicious. The problem, of course, was that it was impossible to distinguish militant Taliban members or Al Qaeda from innocent civilians. Everyone became a suspect.

In one instance, my squad leader gave me orders to pursue possible terrorists leaving the scene in which we had established a perimeter. My four-man fire team and I followed these suspects undetected for about 100 yards along an exposed ravine. When we were four feet from them, I drew my M-16 and pointed it directly at their faces, yelling, "Get down on the ground!" We beat them in search of nonexistent weapons, breaking limbs in the process. Later that day, I learned these men were innocent. Another time, my squad and I detained, beat and nearly killed a man, only to realize he was merely trying to deliver milk to his children. These raids compelled me to tell Congress we have been chasing ghosts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The end result of America’s idealized fantasy vision of our military leads to a purposeful lack of knowledge about the fundamental immorality of what we are doing in Asian countries today.


To think or suggest that they do something else will lead to massive evil. To send them where we do not have enemies will also lead to massive evil. And that is what we have done, time and again, since World War 2. And we are still doing it today, in both Iraq and Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

In an article published in May 2009 by CNN, they claim that we are only now beginning to realize what has happened in Iraq. I would say that is mostly true for nearly all Americans. This is what they said:

“Now that there is a semblance of so-called stability, we can start to put a face and name to the victims and begin to try and understand and impart the horrors of what millions of Iraqis lived through and tens of thousands died from. It is only now that we can begin to comprehend the magnitude of what Iraqis went through.”

“But it is not over. For Iraqis it's far from over. In many ways it is just beginning.”

Of course, they got it all wrong about the ‘tens of thousands’ who have died. It is at least ‘hundreds of thousands’. It certainly would be something if they tried to name the victims. That would clearly establish that there are hundreds of thousands now dead, possibly over a million.

If you were one of the ones blogging on Iraq, or just reading blogs like Iraq Today (and it’s predecessor, Today in Iraq), then you probably do have some idea what has happened. If you have not done this, then I invite you to follow this series of WHAT WAR BRINGS so that you will have some idea of what your government is doing with your tax dollars.

Here are some recent updates on our ongoing wars and occupations:

U.S. Faces Resentment in Afghan Region

The mood of the Afghan people has tipped into a popular revolt in some parts of southern Afghanistan, presenting incoming American forces with an even harder job than expected in reversing military losses to the Taliban and winning over the population.

You betcha! Dropping those bombs on civilians does not lead to support from the local population.

Of course, in Iraq, we are withdrawing...... Or maybe not.

A Withdrawal in Name Only

…..the first step -- withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 -- is full of loopholes, and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers will remain in the cities after the "deadline" passes.

The failure to fully comply with the withdrawal agreement indicates the United States is looking to withdraw from Iraq in name only, as it appears that up to 50,000 military personnel will remain after the deadline.

The United States claims it's adhering to the agreement, known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), even with so many troops being left in the cities. But the United States is changing semantics instead of policy. For example, there are no plans to transfer the 3,000 American troops stationed within Baghdad at Forward Operating Base Falcon, because commanders have determined that despite its location, it's not within the city.

Clever little trick there – redrawing city boundaries.

Most Iraqis do want the US troops gone, with nonviolent protests in Baghdad and Kirkuk just yesterday. And here is report from The Real News saying that most Iraqis want the US troops really, truly, totally, gone.

And here is a picture of Iraqis burning the US flag in Baghdad, in response to Biden’s visit.

So, what to do? Here are some answers for the regular American citizen to take in this article:

A Plan to End the Wars

There are a million and one things that people can do to try to end the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and to prevent new ones in Iran and elsewhere, as well as to close U.S. military bases in dozens of other nations around the world. Certain people are skilled at or interested in particular approaches, and nobody should be discouraged from contributing to the effort in their preferred ways. Far too often proposals to work for peace are needlessly framed as attacks on all strategies except one.
And, since nothing has worked so far, I recommend trying one or two or a dozen of the suggestions in that article!

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty and democracy?” ~ Mohandas Gandhi.

Of course, using “the holy name of liberty and democracy” is just another example of WHAT WAR BRINGS: lies.

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