Aug 082012
Print Friendly

Let's start by defining all war as mass murder,

by David Swanson.

Last fall I helped organize a conference of experts on various areas of damage being done by the military industrial complex, resulting in the book, The Military Industrial Complex at 50. We concluded that this monster, guarded by patriotism, McCarthyism, and financial corruption, is the number one opponent of most campaigns for things decent and good, certainly of campaigns against poverty, for education, against homelessness, for civil rights, against environmental destruction, for peace and prosperity. It's not a coincidence that the United States spends several times the next approaching country on the military while trailing a great many countries in measures of education, health, security, and happiness.


If every movement that should rightfully be targeting the military industrial complex were to do so, it would fall. We would convert, retrain, retool, and prosper. But it's difficult for narrow interests to act on the big picture. Why should the ACLU oppose the military funding that produces the drone strikes and torture cells, when it can oppose the drone strikes and torture cells indefinitely? Why should the Sierra Club oppose the single largest consumer of oil when it can oppose institutions completely lacking flags and hero-worship?…

…Meanwhile, the US military is bigger than ever, in more nations than ever, more privatized than ever, more profitable than ever, more secretive than ever, more at odds with more of the world than ever, and, more recklessly than we've seen in decades, antagonizing both Russia and China for no good reason whatsoever. I don't consider the fact that Russian fossil fuels with which to destroy our atmosphere will become more readily available as our destroyed atmosphere melts the ice a good reason. Nor do I consider the fact that China owns our grandchildren's unearned wages a good reason…

…We're up against the military industrial complex, and we're up against the idea of humanitarian war. Humanitarian war makes as much sense as a benevolent hurricane or a charitable looting.

Humanitarian war is based on the following premises:

  1. There are evil things happening in the world.
  2. We can do nothing or we can bomb people. There are no other options.

The conclusion, of course, is that we must bomb people. But the second premise is faulty. Nonviolent assaults on tyranny are far more successful and long-lasting than violent ones. Even more effective is refraining from funding and empowering the tyrants for decades prior to switching sides, or what is called "intervening." Turning to violence amounts to deciding that the times have gotten tough and we must therefore resort to a less effective tool much less likely to succeed. That many want to do so suggests other motivations, some of them not very flattering…

…Washington is quite open about wanting to overthrow the Syrian government or regime because of its ties to the Iranian government or regime. It is much less forthcoming, however, about how doing so would work out any better than Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Cambodia, South Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the Philippines, and so on.

That wars must be marketed as humanitarian is a sign of progress. That we fall for it is a sign of embarrassing weakness. The war propagandist is the world's second oldest profession, and the humanitarian lie is not entirely new. But it works in concert with other common war lies, some of which used to be more dominant. I tried to collect them all in my book War Is A Lie. A few major themes are:

First, that only war will address the incredible evil of the chosen enemy, almost always an enemy made more evil by racism and other forms or bigotry and distancing.

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 US 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, US troops are in Afghanistan to spread democracy, while the vast majority of US 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…

The military now wants to give medals to drone pilots. I picture them as bronzed joy sticks.

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 General 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…

…A massive urgent program, or what people unthinkingly like to call "a war," is needed right now to prevent catastrophic climate change. Another is needed to rid the world of nuclear weapons and power. Another is needed to pull government out of the hands of plutocracy. And these aren't movements aimed at making life a little bit better. Jeremy Brecher wrote recently of the need for a human preservation movement. This is what we need, a survival movement, part of which will be the full abolition of war.

The Occupy movement is a good start at bringing important issues together. But of course we need to carry with us into the occupy movement the distinctly minority understanding that war can and must be completely eliminated. We can learn from the Outlawry movement. It was moral, educational, non-electoral, and long-term with no expectation of succeeding even in a generation, and no trigger to collapse into despair if it didn't.

We need to recognize that war is not in our genes. It's a relatively new creation, sporadically present and absent in various societies, avoided when we choose and not otherwise. It's not created by mystical forces of history or population or resource shortages or testosterone. It's created by a culture's tolerance for it, or tolerance for an unrepresentative government that engages in it. That's our situation.

War is a creation of the 1% that recruits members of the 99% to support it, as well as to do the dirty parts. War and the weapons barons and the oil oligarchs and the Wall Street banksters and the corporate media and the big business lobbies and the crowd of court jesters and sycophants in Washington who claim to be our government — they look more powerful than they are. They're afraid of their own shadows.

Six years ago they were secretly telling each other to end the wars before we gained more strength. Instead we switched parties and went home, while they breathed a sigh of relief. Yet, now, again they are scared of everything we do. They're spying on every word, comprehending little. What they understand is resistance. Frank Kellogg never understood the Outlawry of War, but he didn't have to. He just had to do what the people demanded. There are more of us in any small town than there are of them in the whole country. We need to realize our strength.

"And these words shall then become," wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley,
"Like Oppression's thundered doom "
Ringing through each heart and brain,
"Heard again — again — again –
"Rise like Lions after slumber "
In unvanquishable number –
"Shake your chains to earth like dew "
Which in sleep had fallen on you –
"Ye are many — they are few."


© Copyright 2012 David Swanson, All rights Reserved. Written For:

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.