David Swanson |
The first point to point out is the idea that the Middle East is culturally a violent place that can be made less violent by bombing it. The primary problem with this is that bombing a place makes it more violent, not less. Nobody is shocked or awed into nonviolence, not 14 years ago and not for the past century. The second problem is that the Middle East’s violence cannot be compared with that of other cultures without figuring out how to factor out the influence of the West. A hundred years ago, the Britain and France carved up Western Asia, and not to spread democracy.
The West has been propping up brutal kings and dictators ever since. Outside of Israel, which is essentially a Western colony, the Middle East does not manufacture weapons. Just as the West once pushed opium on China, the West pushes weapons on Western Asia, and the top weapons dealer to the world, to poor nations, and to the Middle East is the United States – with records set under President Obama, likely to be smashed under Trump.
In eight countries, in or near the Middle East, four said the United States was the greatest threat to peace; three placed the US second behind Israel; and in Afghanistan, those surveyed placed the US second behind Pakistan.
Virtually the weapons used in all the wars around the world – and all the major wars around the world, apart from Afghanistan and Mexico, are in the Middle East and Northeast Africa – come from six nations. These include the five permanent members and saboteurs of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) plus Germany. These are the nations that will be working hard to defeat and disrupt, the treaty negotiations beginning Monday in New York to ban nuclear weapons. These are also the nations whose weapon dealers profit from the blood of millions of innocent people too far away to see and too valueless to be reported on the US television.
Yesterday, a racist drove up to New York to kill black men, thinking that would make big news. He forgot that someone white might be attacked in London. At the same time, the US government was busy murdering scores of people in the Middle East. Guess which of these three killing sprees is labeled terrorism, and which other two see the media slander the victims and completely ignore the terror and trauma to the survivors. Imagine being a black man walking in Manhattan today. Imagine being anyone living in the Middle East today.
Free Flow of US Weapons, Snatching Innocent People’s Rights
US weapons flow to Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Turkey, not to mention Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and to non-governmental organizations that the US government itself calls terrorists in places like Syria. Most, if not all, forces against which these weapons are used also use US weapons previously given, sold, traded, or stolen.
Trump says the US-initiated wars of the past 16 years have made everything worse, so we should have more of them.
The US military brings its own weapons to Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and in fact every single nation of the region, plus the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the skies above, with the possible exception of what’s left of Palestine to which genocidal cause the United States philanthropically donates billions of dollars of weapons to the Orwellian Israeli Defense Forces. Each overthrow that the US leads, including those in Iraq and Libya, results in massive proliferation of weapons, creating chaos, and death as far off as places like Mali.
In December 2013, Gallup surveyed 65 countries around the world, and most said that the United States was the greatest threat to peace on earth. In eight countries, in or near the Middle East, four said the United States was the greatest threat to peace; three placed the US second behind Israel; and in Afghanistan, those surveyed placed the US second behind Pakistan. It’s nice to be appreciated. It wouldn’t take much to actually be appreciated. Stop selling weapons. Stop giving weapons. Stop bringing weapons. Withdraw troops. Send food, medicine, farm equipment, clean energy equipment. Doing that would cost a tiny fraction of what it costs to keep making everything worse.
Trump says the US-initiated wars of the past 16 years have made everything worse, so we should have more of them. He’s drone murdering at 4 times Obama’s pace. He’s moving more troops into Syria and Kuwait. And he wants to defund everything else to fund a yet more expensive military. Charlottesville City Council to its great credit has opposed this, but one of its five members would only do so if the resolution pretended that all the killing protects US rights.
Virtually the weapons used in all the wars around the world come from six nations. These include the five permanent members and saboteurs of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) plus Germany.
What we fail to understand is how murdering Yemeni children can guarantee more rights for us? Several weeks back, both the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent out national fundraiser emails quoting a Gold Star father from Charlottesville claiming that US war-making in Iraq serves to protect the Bill of Rights. These are the organizations whose entire purpose is to oppose some of the symptoms of the wars, yet they promote the wars because they have so internalized the propaganda that they literally cannot imagine questioning it.
Afghanistan – The Most Heavily Bombarded Region on Earth
As you’ve heard about Yemen and Syria, let me add a couple of comments about Afghanistan and Iraq. The current US war in Afghanistan is well into its 16th year, though US violence there began much earlier. The US military now has approximately 8,000 US troops in Afghanistan, 6,000 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors (of whom about 8,000 are from the United States). That makes a total of 41,000 people engaged in the foreign occupation of a country 15 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government.
The United States is spending $ 4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment.
Afghanistan is the most heavily bombed country of all the current US wars, the bulk of that bombing carried out under President Barack Obama, who also tripled the level of US troops in Afghanistan, before reducing them. During each of the past 15 years, the government in Washington has informed that success was imminent. During each of the past 15 years, Afghanistan has continued its descent into poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and instability.
The United States is spending $ 4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment. Thus far, the United States has spent nearly $ 800 billion with virtually nothing to show for it except the death, injury and displacement of millions of Afghans, and the death of thousands of US soldiers plus the injury of tens of thousands and the endangerment of people in the United States, the erosion of our rights, the shame of Guantanamo, and destruction of the earth’s environment.
Before Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a car in Times Square, he had tried to join the war against the United States in Afghanistan. In numerous other incidents, terrorists targeting the United States have stated their motives as including revenge for the US terrorism in Afghanistan, along with other US wars in the region. In addition, Afghanistan is the one nation where the United States is engaged in major warfare in a country that is a member of the International Criminal Court. That body has now announced that it is investigating possible prosecutions for the US crimes in Afghanistan.
Candidate Trump said: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” President Trump is acting contrary to every part of that.
Over the past 15 years, we have been treated to an almost routine repetition of scandals: hunting children from helicopters, blowing up hospitals with drones, urinating on corpses – all fueling the anti-US propaganda, all brutalizing and shaming the United States. The US and allied soldiers now being ordered into Afghanistan were in pre-school on September 11, 2001. Ordering young American men and women into a kill-or-die mission that was accomplished 15 years ago is a lot to ask. Expecting them to believe in that mission is too much.
That fact may help explain another one: the top killer of US troops in Afghanistan is suicide. The second highest killer of the American military is green on blue or the Afghan youth whom the US is training turning their weapons on their trainers. Candidate Trump said: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” President Trump is acting contrary to every part of that.
Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2013
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 2, 2017
Iraq – US Terror Continues
At 14 years since the launch of Operation Iraqi Liberation (to use the original name with the appropriate acronym, OIL) and over 26 years since Operation Desert Storm, there is little evidence that any significant number of people in the United States have a realistic idea of what our government has done to the people of Iraq, or of how these actions compare to other horrors of world history. A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefitted Iraq. A plurality of Americans believes, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are, in fact, grateful.
Iraq had the best universities in Western Asia in the early 1990s and now leads in illiteracy, with the population of teachers in Baghdad reduced by 80%.
A number of the US academics have advanced the dubious claim that war-making is declining around the world. Misinterpreting what has happened in Iraq is central to their argument. By the most scientifically respected measures available, as of some years ago, though the death and destruction have continued, Iraq had lost 1.4 million lives as a result of OIL, had seen 4.2 million additional people injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees.
The 1.4 million dead were 5% of the population. That compares to 2.5% lost in the US Civil War, or 3 to 4% in Japan in World War II, 1% in France and Italy in World War II, less than 1% in the UK and 0.3% in the United States in World War II. The 1.4 million dead is higher as an absolute number as well as a percentage of the population than these other horrific losses. US deaths in Iraq since 2003 have been 0.3% of the dead, even if they’ve taken up the vast majority of the news coverage, preventing US news consumers from understanding the extent of Iraqi suffering.
In a very American parallel, the U.S. government has only been willing to value the life of an Iraqi at that same 0.3% of the financial value it assigns to the life of a US citizen.
A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefitted Iraq. A plurality of Americans believes, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are, in fact, grateful.
The 2003 invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by another 3,900 over the next eight years. The US military targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances. It also made use of what some might call “weapons of mass destruction”, using cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in densely settled urban areas.
Birth defects, cancer rates, and infant mortality are through the roof. Water supplies, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, bridges, and electricity supplies have been devastated, and not repaired. Health care, nutrition, and education are nothing like they were before the war. And we should remember that healthcare and nutrition had already deteriorated during years of economic warfare waged through the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever imposed in modern history.
Iraq – Before and After American “Diplomacy”
Money spent by the United States to “reconstruct” Iraq was always less than 10% of what was being spent adding to the damage, and most of it was never actually put to any useful purpose. At least a third was spent on the so-called “security,” while much of the rest was spent on corruption in the US military and its contractors.
The educated people, who might have helped rebuild Iraq, fled the country. Iraq had the best universities in Western Asia in the early 1990s and now leads in illiteracy, with the population of teachers in Baghdad reduced by 80%.
We’re winning so we need more war as a stand-by. In the reverse case, they’ll be saying, of course, that we’re losing so we need more war.
(The US Policy)
For years, the occupying forces broke the society of Iraq down, encouraging ethnic and sectarian division and violence, resulting in a segregated country and the repression of rights that Iraqis used to enjoy, even under Saddam Hussein’s brutal police state.
Will America Ever End These Wars?
Without Bush and Obama, there would be no ISIS. Obama shifted to the air war and dropped more bombs and missiles on Iraq than Bush did. Obama set records for military spending and for weapon sales and gifts abroad. He created drone wars, including those in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. He ended the idea that presidents need Congress for wars, with his war in Libya fueling the violence in Syria and Iraq among other places. He put more troops in more countries. He bombed eight countries and bragged about it. He firmly established warrantless spying, baseless imprisonment, torture, and assassination as policy choices rather than crimes. He wrote secret and public so-called laws that his successor is picking and choosing from without input from the legislature. He created a new cold war with Russia. He did these things willingly or he permitted his subordinates to do them.
Now Trump says he’ll destroy ISIS, and the U.S. Secretary of Exxon-Mobil said yesterday: “Hard-fought victories in Iraq and Syria have swung the momentum in our coalition’s favor, but we must increase the intensity of our efforts and solidify our gains in the next phase of the counter-ISIS fight.” We’re winning so we need more war as a stand-by. In the reverse case, they’ll be saying, of course, that we’re losing so we need more war.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War. This article was first published at DavidSwanson.org and is republished here with the permission of the author.