hearts and minds

August 6, 2006

Call the War Question

Filed under: Class warfare,Hurricane Katrina,Iraq,Politics & elections,War on Terror — Hearts & Minds @ 7:16 pm

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”.

October, 2006


  1. The total absurdity of this (referendum) wording is shown by the fact that in the history of humanity from cave man days into the forseeable future there never has been and most likely never will be a time when citizens of all countries can be free from the threat of terrorism and can go about their everyday tasks in safety. So a vote for this statement is a vote for an infinitely long war, a total draining of the treasury, and an end to the empire.

    Comment by Ken — February 16, 2007 @ 5:47 pm | Reply

  2. Dear Clyde: Just as was I beginning to wonder again why the media is held in such disrepute, I read a column like yours in today’s News Graphic, so filled with misstatements that it boggles my mind. An easy one is your designation of Representative John Murtha as a Republican when he is a Democrat. That kind of destroys your logic considering the hatred that most Democrats have for President Bush so that most of them hope that America loses the war.

    Secondly, most people define organized terrorism as a method of opposing a government through the use of terror tactics. So your definition and rationale is so much nonsense. Declared war has never been synonymous with terrorism as you allege. Terrible things have been done by governments including the holocaust but no one has defined these acts as organized terrorism. War does not breed and spread terrorism as you cavalierly state. Having served in the Pacific Theater of Operation in WW II including the occupation of Japan, I can state with certainty there were no acts of terrorism by the Japanese. I do believe that the same holds true for those who served in the occupation of Germany.

    Granted the referendum you oppose is a bit flowery in language but it reflects the ideal condition we can all aspire to. What’s wrong with that? I suspect the 18th century media made the same negative comments about the Declaration of Independence and even the US Constitution back at the dawn of our country.

    Then your comments about Hurricane Katrina and the Department of Homeland Security in that they failed to lift a finger to protect or rescue residents is so far out it missed left field and is completely out of the park. The Coast Guard did yeoman work in the rescue area as did the Air Force helicopters under the aegis of Homeland Security. Granted that the coordination was not up to par, but sensible people look at it first as a huge failure by the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana. If a similar disaster hit Milwaukee do you think our response locally and state-wise would have been similar? No way! We wouldn’t have even needed the Feds except to pass out money. You must be one of those people who think the Federal Government is the nanny for all our citizens.

    As for the Zogby pole, let me tell you that they would have gotten the same result almost anytime during WW II. What marine, soldier or sailor didn’t want to come home?

    I keep hearing that chestnut: “Well, we support the troops but not the war.” That’s an exercise in wooly thinking, worthy of a King Solomon decision to cut the baby in half. If you support the troops you support their mission. This is not Viet Nam when draftees did the fighting and the Reserve and National Guard stayed home. This is an all volunteer military — Army, Navy, Air Force & Marines — and they are doing a magnificent job under trying conditions, especially when bozos like you use the print media to spew out junk information intended to erode their support. Matt and Phil should be ashamed of themselves to give you a platform to publish such crap.

    Comment by Warren — February 16, 2007 @ 6:59 pm | Reply


    I apologize to you and to readers for the misinformation in my last op-ed column that incorrectly asserted the political affiliation of Jack Murtha. I especially apologize to Congressman Murtha.

    Mr. Murtha had a 37 year career in the U.S. Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve. He enlisted during the Korean War, was a D.I. at Parris Island, and was commissioned at Quantico. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V”, and two purple hearts for combat in Vietnam. He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and retired as a colonel.

    Mr. Murtha has been a Congressman since 1974. For that entire time, he has been a member of the Democratic Party. The serious blunder I made in misidentifying his party affiliation does not, however, destroy my logic.

    Your suggested definition of terrorism is faulty, Warren, first because it defines terrorism as the use of terror. That’s like defining stupidity as the condition of being stupid, or defining courageous as manifesting courage. In the second place your definition is faulty because while terrorism MAY be employed to oppose a government, it certainly does not have to be so employed. And terrorism is a tactic widely employed BY governments, although it certainly can be, and has been employed by other individuals and associations.

    Despite what you said in your letter, I did not define terrorism in my essay. However, I think the following sentence, while not copied out of a dictionary, is an accurate definition.

    Terrorism is the use of violence against non-combatants as a means to achieve political ends.

    You mentioned the Holocaust. The Holocaust is more accurately described as genocide. However terrorism was an important tactic used to accomplish that genocide, and it was employed by a government and a political party.

    You know, Warren, I disagree with those who opposed your effort to place this question on the ballot because they felt it was not the business of the county, and because they felt it would be divisive. And I agree completely with the two points you made in your letter to the editor on March 2 that voters here have the right to register their opinion on this issue, and that any referendum that appears on the ballot pits “… taxpayers in favor versus taxpayers against”.

    I have even heard people refer to whoever wrote that resolution question as a bozo, and other insulting characterizations. But I have taken exception whenever I hear that. I don’t think your resolution is stupid, or even flowery. I think it is well-phrased. I think it is important food for thought. And like you say, some are in favor, and some against any referendum.

    Thank you for putting it on the ballot, and thank you for taking the time to comment on my column regarding it. .

    Comment by Clyde — February 16, 2007 @ 7:10 pm | Reply

  4. Representative democracy is, at best, an inexact science, an on-going, unending work in progress. One of its basic tenets is the free expression of opinion. As citizens it is almost certainly our loftiest freedom and we should treasure it. We also should respect it and that means disagreeing with ideas – not personally, with those who happen to express the ideas. And certainly not by name-calling.

    In retrospect, it seems now that a good idea would have been to place two referenda on the April ballot; one that supports the war in Iraq, the other that does not. A choice between the two would have been a real exercise in democracy and might well have brought a much larger number of citizens to the polls.

    Comment by Don — February 16, 2007 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  5. (Regarding) the issue of preemptive war. A Course In Miracles says that to defend is to attack. War is not the way to genuine, true peace. It is the way to a false, temporary sense of security, the kind of security one feels when barricaded behind barred windows, hindered in freedom of movement by fear of bodily harm. That kind of security leads not to freedom but imprisonment, not to peace of mind, but fear, the father of hatred. The only kind of peace that is genuine and lasts beyond all time is the peace of God, wherein one achieves enlightenment, merges the ego consciousness with the God consciousness, and becomes diefied. Preemptive war is not the way to that kind of peace. Preemptive war in which we bomb innocent people, because some small minority in their midst over whom they have no control, does it first, not only is childish and doesn’t work. It actually creates new generations of terrorists.

    We all need to change our paradigm to start thinking generationally. Today’s terrorists are the orphaned, terrorized children of yesterday’s wars. In other words, within the population of orphaned children who survive today’s Iraq and Lebanon (read a first hand account of the bombing here http://www.counterpunch.org/el-khalil07252006.html) live tomorrow’s terrorists. Immediately stop the bombing and make it the number one priority to take care of the children. Adopt the orphans. Reunite the rest with their families. Feed them. Clothe them. This is long road to ending terrorism.

    Our leaders need become like our Native American forefathers, who, when they met in council, weighed carefully every decision for its impact not on four years hence or even forty, but seven generations. Imagine!

    Comment by Laurel — February 16, 2007 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  6. To the Ozaukee County Board of Supervisors:

    The Ozaukee County Board of Supervisors was recently asked to place a referendum question on the November ballot for us to vote on regarding UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE. The referendum would have asked voters the following advisory question:

    “Should the Wisconsin Legislature establish a plan that will reduce health care costs by 15 percent and guarantee access to universal, affordable health care coverage for all Wisconsin individuals and families by 2008?”

    It didn’t even get an up-or-down vote by the supervisors. The County Board Executive Committee unanimously decided to kill it in September and not even let the full board vote on it. Much less let the people vote on it.

    (According to a news report, committee members, for some strange reason felt that this issue was not something that should be passed on to the state, but should be addressed at the local level!?!)

    One County Exec. Committee member explained, “We have to fight the battles we can win.”

    This is the same Ozaukee County Board that a few months ago voted to approve placing a question on the November ballot urging voters:

    “Do you support…the United States…waging…war…throughout the world…until…terrorism is ELIMINATED and citizens of ALL COUNTRIES can be assured of their safety…”

    That doesn’t sound to me like a battle the Ozaukee County supervisors (or anybody) can win. But you put it on the November ballot.

    And it seems that universal, comprehensive health care for all is a battle that EVERY modern industrial nation EXCEPT the United States of America has already figured out how to win.

    Comment by Clyde — February 16, 2007 @ 8:56 pm | Reply

  7. […] Corporate interests expect that issues important to them be handled quietly. If legislative action becomes necessary, corporations prefer that it be unexamined by public hearings or the media. At rare instances, these issues rise to a crisis status and public attention and controversy may ensue. […]

    Pingback by Governing People for Profits « hearts and minds — November 14, 2009 @ 10:11 am | Reply

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