By a very narrow, reconsidered vote, the Ozaukee County Board of Supervisors has placed a question about war on the November ballot. Some say it shouldn’t be there. After all, this County Board just refused to place a question about the health care crisis on the ballot on the strange grounds that health care is a local issue, and asserting, unaccountably, that health care is a battle we can’t win. But I’m glad for an opportunity to send a message on war from the people straight to the top. Since the true cost of war is always and primarily borne by the people and their local communities, there is no good reason why we shouldn’t express our opinion on such an important single issue.
The question asks if you support the U.S. military in waging war “throughout the world…until…terrorism is eliminated and citizens of all countries can be assured of their safety”. Every good American supports our troops, nobody is in favor of terrorism, and everybody wants to be safe, so what’s not to like here? There are three things not to like.
First, terrorism has been around since history began. War cannot eliminate terrorism, any more than it can eliminate militarism, religious fundamentalism, atheism, socialism, or capitalism. Terrorism is as European as sauerkraut or a stiff upper lip, as Asian as sampans and kim-chi, as African as a pride of lions, as American as tacos or apple pie, as ubiquitous as religious conflict. Terrorism has been employed by all our enemies, all our allies, by our predecessors, and by us since the dawn of history.
The idea that an idea or a tactic can be eliminated by war is absurd on its face. War could defeat the Third Reich of Hitler, and Mussolini’s regime, and Imperial Japan. But even the immense conflagration of the Second World War could not eliminate Nazi, fascist, and imperialist thought or action. Even more emphatically, war cannot eliminate terrorism, unless it eliminates humanity. War breeds and spreads terrorism. Terrorism, like fear, greed, and hatred, is nourished by war, not eliminated by it.
Crucifixion was a widely applied form of organized terrorism employed by invading, conquering legions. Chaining heretics, rebels, and witches, to a stake, and burning them alive in public display, was employed with liberality by monarchs and religious tyrants. War has always employed terrorism, including torture and slaughter of captives, torching of villages, and bombing and shelling that consumes entire cities.
Second, how many Americans think that the United States should actually be responsible for assuring the safety of the citizens of all countries through military war. Do you want the U.S. to remain at war, and pay the demonstrated high costs in blood and tax dollars and skyrocketing national debt, until America has assured the safety of the citizens of all countries? The occupation of Iraq has already cost a third of a trillion dollars. That’s over a thousand dollars for every man, woman, and child in America. That’s just Iraq. So far. How much will “war throughout the world” cost?
After four years of (supposedly) highest priority planning and preparation to “protect the American people”, the Department of Homeland Security(!) failed to lift a finger to protect, evacuate, or rescue residents of the Gulf Coast states from a predicted, approaching hurricane. Cuba routinely does much better in protecting her citizens from harm due to impending storms. Do you actually believe the same Administration and Congress that created the huge failed bureaucracy that couldn’t do a thing to help fellow Americans in an expected crisis, could successfully wage a protracted worldwide WAR that would assure the safety of the citizens of all other countries?
Does anyone really imagine that waging war throughout the world is a realistic means to assure the safety of the people of all nations?
Third, “Support the Troops” must begin by only undertaking war based on sound justification, and by providing the military with a specific attainable goal for winning and ending the war.
Military invasion and occupation of Iraq was justified in advance by false assertions that Iraq was responsible for the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and that Iraq had CBR weapons of mass destruction that threatened America. Confusion and misinformation has reigned from the start regarding our intentions and the facts.
Regardless of how our military got sent to Iraq, a true “Support the Troops” policy must provide a clear, attainable goal for ending the war. But waging military war, in the midst of a burgeoning civil war, until terrorism is eliminated and we have assured citizens of all nations of their safety, is neither specific nor attainable.
War can be declared to defeat a specific enemy that has attacked us. War is not legally employed to eliminate an idea or a tactic that has been with us since civilization began. Some argue that aggressive war can be unleashed against a specific entity or country that truly intends and threatens us with imminent destruction even if it has not yet attacked. Iraq has never come close to meeting that definition.
Voting “Yes” on the War Question is not a vote to “Support the Troops”. It’s a vote to support a policy to persist trying to fight fire with gasoline.
American and hard-fighting Allied troops won unconditional surrender from the powerful Axis of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, in less than 4 years, with America inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s assurance that “The only thing we have to fear is … fear itself.” We now have a perpetual war policy devised and directed by ivory-tower chicken-hawk neo-con Keystone-cop theoreticians, who say they intend to “eliminate” terrorism, but can’t even catch Bin Laden in five years.
Sadly, fear itself is now being employed by the Machiavellian politicians in Washington to manipulate and cower Americans. Fear, anger, hate, and terror are the cornerstones of the Abu Ghraibs, the Guantanamos, and the secret prisons and detentions that hold hostage our American Dream of liberty and justice, our precious Constitution and Bill of Rights, even the most basic of human rights won from absolute monarchs in the Magna Carta over 700 years ago. Our heritage of democracy, our responsibility to nourish and strengthen that legacy, and our mantle of inspirational world leadership are currently at stake. And the threat is from the neo-cons currently holding the reins.
Effective planning and wise steps to reduce the risk of fanatic terrorist attack would contribute to a realistic measure of personal safety. However, botched planning and failure to focus effectively must result in continuing and mounting costs, and losses in so many important and now-neglected aspects of the American dream and potential.
The elimination of terrorism and assuring the safety of all the people throughout the world are not viable or attainable military objectives. And so the policy represented by this referendum question is not a policy to “Support the Troops”. Instead, it is a policy to consign the troops, and America, to a futile, perpetual war of attrition that drives our friends from our side, and multiplies our enemies faster than it kills them. The costs of attempting this futility have already become evident.
If you read carefully and think just a little, you really can’t help but Vote NO, NO, NO in NOvember.
Ref.: At the “Hearts and Minds” weblog, check out the following essays in the category, “War on Terror”:
“A History Lesson Learned the Easy Way”, “The Madness Must End”, and “Mea Culpa”.