Monday, February 7, 2011

The Long War

In one way or another, the United States has been at war since the 1940s. This trend has been noted by many before me, notably among them the late Howard Zinn. Our military budget dwarfs that of any other country's, comprising approximately 40 percent of world wide military expenditures.

In case there are any doubts floating around, let me make this perfectly clear: war is profitable, greed and violence inextricably linked. This is not a new phenomenon, for people have used violence to further their interests for probably all of human existence.

What is so insidious about the way the United States makes war is the way we dress it up and try to ascribe a higher moral justification to our actions. I don't believe violence ever solves problems, but don't try to pretend that we aren't seriously disrupting millions of lives in the Middle East for political and economic reasons and for oil. Operation enduring freedom, the war on terror, operation smokescreen-and-flag-waving...complete fallacy and illusion. Right now, as Afghanis and Iraqis and the soldiers who are occupying their countries are fighting and killing each other and dying, other people are making money. The destruction of life, the construction of guns and bombs and bullets, all add to that holiest of statistics, our Gross Domestic Product. "Please, don't mind us while we destroy your country and then rebuild it for you just how we like it..."

Soon, we will need a veteran contractors affairs department for the injured military contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, even though we can't even adequately provide for all of our veterans.

There is no end in sight, to the violence, the lies, and the profiteering. People say we can't pull out now because we would leave Afghanistan in shambles, or we would leave a power vacuum for the Taliban to fill. I say the sooner we leave, the better, for the people who live there and for us. I don't know much about what Afghanistan was like in August, 2001, but I know that there were a lot more Afghanis alive than there are today. I imagine there were more buildings standing and more communities intact too.

We have to end these military occupations of countries we had no business interfering with in the first place. American troops will, hopefully, withdraw from Iraq by the end of this year, but is there any end in sight in Afghanistan?

Instead of funneling government money into the Middle East to protect our "strategic interests," instead of disrupting families and destroying lives with illegal, costly, and despicable "nation-building," let's keep that money inside our borders and redirect that energy to help out with another cause. We are so completely steeped in our almost 19-million-barrels-deep daily oil bath that we fail to see the future that is in stake for this country and more importantly the planet we share with all of humanity.

The way we do business today is not working. Our priorities are out of whack, putting profit and its accumulation first. The engines of production must be fueled and lubricated, the religion of economic growth cannot be questioned; indeed, it would be political suicide to do so in mainstream American politics.

Meanwhile our planet is being consumed and picked apart, degraded and eroded, polluted and exploited. Resources are extracted, the living is converted to the dead: our civilization is waging a steady war against the planet that sustains it, feeds it, and houses it. Our atmosphere is steadily being stuffed full of carbon dioxide; once safely tucked away in fossils deep in the earth, this carbon has found its way up up up into the sky and is starting to throw off the fine balance of gases up there with unfortunately rather ruinous effects.

Beyond global warming, we are facing global climate destabilization: hotter and colder extremes, melting glaciers and ice caps (Northwest Passage, anyone?), changing weather patterns throwing off seasons, ocean acidification, rising sea levels (mostly due to the expansion of warmer ocean water), generally disrupting the natural regulatory and circulatory systems we take for granted everyday. There will be millions and millions displaced by rising sea levels and resource conflicts, especially over precious water supplies.

The list goes on as the science becomes clearer; meanwhile, the world slowly rubs its eyes as it wakes up to a new reality. There were a few early risers who are joined by more everyday, but those with vested interest in the global economy and free trade, those gurus of production and demigods of the neoliberal production paradigm, those who don't want to face the truth, or don't care about it, well, they are hitting snooze and sleeping in.

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What if some of the money we are throwing away on destructive illegal conflicts and the maintenance of our global military network instead went towards securing our nation's future? What if we created a department of Peace, like Dennis Kucinich and others have argued for? What if we diverted some portion, a quarter or even a half, of the annual US military budget to stabilizing and localizing our entire economy, our energy systems, our food systems, our transportation systems, to build resilient sustainable communities? What if we spent that money on public education, or social welfare programs, or the rehabilitation of prisoners?

What if we lived in a country that was not governed by money, controlled by fear, or benefited by war and destruction? What if we declared a war on climate change, or inequality, or racism, or poverty? Would it be any more feasible than a war on drugs, or a war on terror?