Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.
-John F. Kennedy
Monday, September 15, 2014
While much of the western world was sleeping, the United States escalated its airstrike campaign against ISIS targets in Iraq, in a theater of operations that may expand into Syria. In an ostensible justification for the intensification, President Barack Obama went prime-time last week and labeled ISIS militants as “terrorists…unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage.” Obama went on to evoke the beheadings of two American journalists to emphasize the brutality of ISIS, thus reinforcing the rationalization for a renewed bombing campaign. In truth, both ISIS and the United States are guilty of serious war crimes and egregious human rights violations, the difference being that the United States government and military usually get away with murder.
Since the beginning of the 2003 Iraq War, the United States has humiliated, tortured, and killed numerous Iraqi prisoners of war in Abu Ghraib, a former prison of the Saddam Hussein regime. In its frenzied foreign military campaigns throughout the Middle East, the U.S has murdered thousands of innocent mothers and fathers, destitute villagers and nomads, little girls and boys and newborn babies. Extrajudicial airstrikes have destroyed homes, weddings, buses, and killed foreign journalists and American citizens. U.S government security contractors have committed large-scale massacres of Iraqi civilians. U.S military soldiers have raped teenage girls, covered-up civilian deaths, and thrown puppies off cliffs. In Afghanistan, they’ve desecrated the bodies of the slain by urinating on their corpses and collecting their fingers as war trophies. Through the practice known as extraordinary rendition, the U.S has abducted and transferred an unknown number of persons to secret prisons across the world and continues to hold nearly 150 untried detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The list of recent transgressions goes on and on – from the use of depleted uranium munitions to endless cruise missile and drone strikes on civilian populations, we have created a living hell for millions of innocent families that have lost loved-ones and fled their homes. The sad truth is that our corporate-sponsored politicians and pundits utilize a hypocritical, arrogant, and selective logic when justifying further aggression in response to the “acts of barbarism.”
The United States government has cloaked its immorality in executive orders and cryptic laws. Under the guise of humanitarianism, the white-collared barbarians of high-technology conduct airstrikes with 1.5 million dollar cruise missiles launched from state-of-the-art fighter jets and multi-billion dollar aircraft carriers. Using expensive weapons, the U.S military prefers to slaughter from above, away from the cameras. (As for beheadings, the U.S usually leaves that to its allies such as Saudi Arabia, or its pawns such as the Free Syrian Army, whom the CIA is funding now just as they have funded al-Qaeda in the past.) We have granted ourselves the legitimacy to commit these crimes by citing bureaucratic mandates spawned from corrupt political systems. Along with our NATO allies, we have hosted decadent conventions in France and England in effort to prove that support for ISIS airstrikes is broad even if it includes the undemocratic regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, and Turkey – states whose support has been bought through billions of dollars of military aid. The result is a cadre of wealthy officials – who usually have political and financial interests in perpetuating war, and whom often have ties to media corporations that have invested interests in weapons sales – assuming the moral highground and using humanitarianism as an excuse to exact their own form of barbarism (in which murder is called collateral damage) for the unstated objectives of establishing a western caliphate comprised of embassies and military bases that subjugate the people in the Middle East, props-up dictators and puppet governments, and assures access to their oil and rare earth minerals.
Those who beat the drums of war are consistently manipulative. Americans and others are never presented with sound, peaceful, or diplomatic options, only ultimatums: you are either with us or against us, we either fight them there or we fight them here, we either go to war or let the terrorists win. We claim that our reasons for launching attacks are noble, but it is no secret that the history of United States Empire is soaked in the blood of innocent masses and based on a foundation of hypocrisy and lies. The wholesale slaughter of Native Americans and the enslavement of millions of Africans set the stage for the evolution of a nation that would become the only one to drop a nuclear bomb on other people; a nation which helped to overthrow numerous elected-governments throughout the Cold War and conducted secret bombing campaigns across the world. At home, Americans must contend with the possibility that internal forces within their government may have facilitated the assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. As our politicians and government officials claim to fight for freedom, they line their pockets with corporate donations, they transfer billions of dollars of military weapons to local police forces, they have been caught unlawfully spying on millions of Americans, and they do virtually nothing when it comes to addressing the social maladies of poverty, immigration, and the prison industrial complex, nor tackling the great environmental challenges that lie ahead.
As the United States continues to embark down a dark path of violence and war, which is one the greatest causes of human and environmental destruction in history, there seems to be little Americans can do to change the course of our nation’s future. So day to day, many of us remain immersed in a pattern of addressing our personal matters and enjoying our lives, which is fine. Yet for those of us with the luxury of free time, it is becoming increasingly important to discard those habits which diminish our intelligence, health, and connection with the natural world. If we turn a blind eye to problems others face, if we remain inert and mentally lethargic - failing to experience the beauty of nature - and instead choose television shows, video games, and other meaningless forms of entertainment over expanding our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us, then the barbarians will prevail.
In conclusion, I leave you with an excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Beyond Vietnam speech, given April 4, 1967, a year to the day before his death:
I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message—of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history….
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
The Pale Blue Dot, the Earth suspended in a sunbeam like a mote of dust. Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot