Foreign Policy
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David Swanson |

The Mother of All Lies is this: you can fix things by blowing them up. Alcoholics should not drink, and people who cannot watch TV and distinguish it from reality should not watch TV. Donald Trump watches a lot of TV and may very well believe what it teaches, namely that blowing things up solves problems. He certainly has figured out, as I knew he would, that the way to get love from the U.S. corporate media is to blow stuff up.

An estimated 10,000 people in Yemen have died directly from Saudi/U.S. bombing, estimates place the death toll from war-induced starvation already much higher.

For many of us who do not believe in myths about good wars and just wars and defensive and humanitarian wars, war may have initially struck us as evil because it so directly does harm. Driving a gas-burning car helps render the earth uninhabitable, but only very slowly and only in combination with larger factors. Building a nuclear power plant risks horrible disaster, but it does not intentionally and immediately create it. War, on the other hand, when looked at clearly, consists of mass murder described with other words. It’s direct and immediate and fatal and large-scale violence. What could be more evil?

Read more: US military disaster in Yemen: Trump’s Bay of Pigs?

It’s ironic, then, that the bulk of the damage that war does, and the vast majority of the deaths it causes are caused indirectly. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) put out a statement this week that warned of mass starvation in Yemen without mentioning that there is a war there. The Washington Post yesterday published a shockingly honest article that described the famines in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, and noted that they would be unimaginable without the wars in those countries. At least 20 million people are at risk of starving to death there, a number that dwarfs the number killed directly in wars in a given year – and that is true even using credible numbers, not the super low estimates of which the U.S. media is so fond.

Starvation, best means to kill people in a war?

The biggest contributor to climate change is war and military preparations for war.

People all over the United States will naturally be eager to help hungry men, women, and children at risk of starvation in the impoverished nation of Yemen, where the greatest number are at risk, and where the U.S. government has the greatest ability to quickly reverse destructive policies, if we can inform them that this catastrophe is happening. This is one of the many possible paths to enlarging the peace movement. We can build a movement against starving people to death.

Read more: Yemen conflict: The US cuts arms sales to Saudi Arabia

To reverse the policies responsible in Yemen will require admitting who is behind them, namely the governments of the United States and Saudi Arabia, and – perhaps even harder to admit – that chief among those policies is war making. While an estimated 10,000 people in Yemen have died directly from Saudi/U.S. bombing, estimates place the death toll from war-induced starvation already much higher. UN agencies estimate that 462,000 Yemeni children under five years of age are currently suffering severe acute malnutrition, meaning that they are at serious risk of dying. Much more are approaching that status.

The United States spends close to a trillion dollars a year, every year, on militarism, while $30 billion, or 3%, could end starvation on earth, $11 billion, or just over 1%, could end the lack of clean drinking water.

Contributing to the crisis in Yemen have been:

  1. drone murders in Yemen
  2. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia
  3. purchasing of fossil fuels from Saudi Arabia
  4. European allies’ defense of Saudi Arabia from sanctions by the United Nations
  5. identification of targets for Saudi bombing
  6. mid-air refueling of the bombers
  7. Saudi targeting of agricultural, health, and transportation infrastructure
  8. The bombing of August 17, 2015, destroyed all of the cranes used to unload container ships at the main port of Hodeida, as well as a World Food Program warehouse
  9. Newly escalated targeting of Hodeida and the Red Sea coast
  10. “special forces” raids on Yemeni families
  11. Saudi propaganda falsely implicating Iran in the war in Yemen
  12. Saudi takeover of the Central Bank of Yemen.

Two nations helping to lead the destruction of the earth’s climate joined at the hip by fossil fuel and weapons sales, and both invested in supporting terrorists in Syria, have been collaborating for years on the creation of this other tragedy as well. It is time for us to put an end to it, to send in food and medicine rather than missiles and guns.

Read more: Is Yemen headed for partition?

At least 20 million people are at the risk of starving to death – a number that dwarfs the number killed directly in wars in a given year.

Bombing food supplies and roads and ports and hospitals are not the only indirect way in which war is causing deaths by starvation. Another is this. The droughts now devastating large swaths of the thus-far habitable land areas on earth have been exacerbated by climate change. The biggest contributor to climate change is war and military preparations for war. The U.S. military is the biggest consumer of petroleum we have, not to mention the first tool our government turns to in trying to control the production and transportation of more fossil fuels.

However, the largest way in which war indirectly causes deaths by starvation, as well as indirectly causing many other types of deaths, is something else entirely, something you may want to keep in mind as tax day approaches. The United Nations is trying to raise $4.4 billion for emergency hunger relief and has raised a tiny fraction of it.

Alleviate, do not inflict, starvation

The United States and Saudi Arabia are spending vastly higher sums inflicting starvation than are needed to alleviate it. The United States spends close to a trillion dollars a year, every year, on militarism, while $30 billion, or 3%, could end starvation on earth, $11 billion, or just over 1%, could end the lack of clean drinking water. And so on through countless massive projects that are not massive in comparison with military spending – are, in fact, literally too small to be noticed in the never-audited Pentagon budget, significantly smaller than sums the Pentagon often fails to account for.

Read more: A Roar at a Funeral, and Yemen’s War Is Altered

The major wars now happening in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya all have major involvement by the U.S. military. Other wars across Northeast Africa are being exacerbated by U.S. drone murders, Special Forces, and weapons sales.

The financial cost of war skyrockets if one considers the lost economic opportunities. It was, of course, economists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who found that military spending produces fewer jobs than other spending or even than never taxing the money in the first place. While it strikes me as sociopathic to defend war spending as a jobs program, it is, in fact, a job destruction program. The unfathomable amount of money lost by investing in war balloons further when we consider that war literally destroys trillions of dollars’ worth of goods every year — primarily in the nations where the wars are fought.

The machinery of war extends its horrific destruction far beyond the damage created by one government, even the greatest purveyor of violence on earth, through weapons sales. The war-torn nations facing famines do not manufacture weapons of war. The vast majority of those weapons come from 6 wealthy nations, first among them the United States. The major wars now happening in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya all have major involvement by the U.S. military. Other wars across Northeast Africa are being exacerbated by U.S. drone murders, Special Forces, and weapons sales. It is incumbent upon us in the United States to address this, as those best capable of addressing it. It doesn’t change the fact that numerous other governments and groups also deserve infinite blame for their roles in these slaughters.

Read more: U.S. Ship Fires Missiles at Yemeni Rebel Sites

It does, however, mean that even those who are believers in good wars and just wars and so forth have to make an impossible argument. They have to claim that the chance of their fantasized just war occurring outweighs all the harm done by the investment in war preparations and by all the obviously unjust wars that this preparation produces.

And that’s all before considering that war generates terrorism, that war is the justification for government secrecy and the erosion of our civil liberties, that war militarizes local police, that war is fueled by and fuels in its turn racism and sexism and violence, that those who survive war can suffer and cause others to suffer for the rest of their lives, and – perhaps most significantly – that the institution of war creates the nuclear weapons that will kill us all, sooner or later, unless they are abolished.

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.

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. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, and 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

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