The Cost of Choosing Endless War
Ft. Hood has exposed a terrible wound in the fabric of America, but that wound was there long before a lone gunman named Major Hasan decided to go postal on his fellow soldiers. Our ethical and moral values have been obliterated since September 11, 2001.
Racism is on the rise. Religious fundamentalism of the kind that justifies the slaughter of innocents and torture and inhumanity has reared its ugly head. Violence has become more and more the solution too many of us Americans employ to address our grievances and our anger. How many thousands have died as a result of the actions our government took in 2001 – 2009? How many more have suffered irreparable injuries to their bodies and minds? How much hatred has been engendered because our former President chose to make war the first and only option to any problem?
Yet we continue to fight those wars.
We know that millions have been made homeless in Iraq and Afghanistan, and/or have suffered the loss of family members to violence, starvation, unsanitary conditions, disease and lack of medical care, all as a result of our occupation of those countries. We know that more soldiers have suffered the consequences of their own participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from those who died in combat or from suicide, to those who were wounded, to those who have lost their souls.
The names that have become infamous over the last eight years in American history because of these senseless conflicts are legion: Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo Bay, Haditha, Fallujah and White Phosphorus, Blackwater and its founder Erik Prince, John Yoo and “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” the Ft. Carson Murders, Predator drones, PTSD, KBR from its fraud to its use of slave labor to its cover up of the rapes of its female employees to its electrocutions of our service men and women, Sgt. Steven Green. Now we can add the name of Major Hasan to this list.
This is merely my short list, one composed from memory off the top of my head, but it will do. It’s enough to show the damage that we Americans have brought on ourselves and others around the world because so many of us blindly followed the lies and approved the misdeeds of a narcissistic, infantile former alcoholic Leader of the Free World and his sidekick, the sadistic, amoral Power Behind the Throne. That damage to our nation can never be wholly set right. Just as Vietnam, another illegal war fought for reasons that we today find hard to fathom, divided and polarized our country and exposed the nasty racist and immoral underbelly of America, so have the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan led us to our current state of political polarization and a hard core base of people who follow the dictates of right wing extremists who employ the language of hatred and thinly veiled calls for violent revolution masquerading as patriotism.
The victims of that hatred and bigotry include so many people. That one man would choose to impose his own murderous backlash against that tide of hate, and would take the path of violence to slaughter his fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood should not surprise us. If anything, we should be surprised that more such incidents have not occurred, considering the rhetoric of the right, and the hatred and oppression of the American Muslim community.
Was all this inevitable? Some might say no, that murder and rampage and blood lust and xenophobia are ingrained in the American psyche. However, I choose to believe otherwise. And we still have the choice to reverse this evil course. But it seems our new leaders still prefer to stay the course, despite the enormous cost that these wars have imposed upon us, both in terms of the human cost and the financial cost. As the Guardian noted in opining on the current state of Afghanistan, our commitment to continue the occupation truly is reminiscent of the movie Ground Hog Day where nothing ever changes and each day is a repeat of the last:
Afghanistan is a political failure, a fact over which the international community continue to be in denial. If they were not, neither America nor Britain would be toying with the notion that they can pressure Mr Karzai into forming a clean government. Flanked by two vice-presidents, including a notorious warlord that Mr Karzai accepted as a running mate, Mr Karzai vowed yesterday to tackle corruption. This was rather like a cat promising abstinence on the subject of mice. […] The result has highlighted just how elusive the dream of a working democratic state is. It begs a serious question: what does territory cleared, even temporarily, of the Taliban look like? The families of the soldiers fighting for this territory are entitled to an answer. So are the Afghans, who have suffered disportionately more. They are far from getting one.
Until we admit the failure of these misguided wars we continue to pursue, and truly search for alternatives to a policy of fighting wars in countries where ordinary people hate us the longer our military forces remain there killing the innocent along with our avowed enemies, we are doomed to further eruptions of senseless violence on our shores. So long as the Muslim world perceives the United States as a Christian nation engaged in a crusade against Islam, we are at risk of more violence from every extreme corner of our convoluted political landscape. As Homer pointed out over two millenia ago in the Iliad, war is more often than not a futile and wasteful human activity in which the victors suffer as much as the vanquished. In the words of Achilles to Agamemnon:
“I for my part did not come here for the sake of the Trojan spearman to fight against them, since to me they have done nothing,” Achilles declares. “But for your sake, o great shamelessness, we followed, to do you favor.”
How many of our soldiers after countless tours of duty in foreign lands feel the same way? It is time for Americans, including President Obama, to humble ourselves and recognize the truth that we have fought these wars not to defend our nation, but because of the vanity of venal rulers and their senseless dreams of glory and plunder for the few. It is time to call an end to this madness in which we send young men and women to kill and be killed for no purpose or benefit that I can see, except to line the pockets of those who, like vultures, profit from the slaughter of never ending war.