By Joan Brunwasser, OpEdNews
President Obama has been credited with “ending” and “drawing down” this war [in Afghanistan] not only while expanding it to triple the size but also for a longer period of time than various other major wars combined.The catch is that this war is not over or ending. This year was more deadly than any of the previous 12. War is optional, that it is not imposed on us, that we have the responsibility to scale it back or to end it.
My guest is David Swanson, blogger, author, peace activist and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Welcome back to OpEdNews, David. You wrote a recent piece, Renaming Afghan War, Renaming Murder . Is that hyperbole or is this war really being renamed?
Oh, it’s no secret, although the news seems to have downplayed it by declaring the war over. This actually confused a fair number of people who remembered the recent announcement that troops would be staying for another decade and beyond. But when they declared the war over, they declared Operation Enduring Freedom over (long may the memory of its horrors endure!) And then, almost as a footnote, most reporting noted that troops would remain in place — not to mention (literally unmentioned) drones. And the thing those remaining troops will keep doing has the little-reported and highly laughable name of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. But if you take both the war before this week and the war beyond this week to be a war, then what happened was a name change.
By the way, I’m also director of WorldBeyondWar.org
Duly noted. Your article begins with an amazing fact about the length of this war, David. Would you recap it for our our readers, please?
I said of the ongoing U.S. war on Afghanistan: “The war thus far has lasted as long as U.S. participation in World War II plus U.S. participation in World War I, plus the Korean War, plus the Spanish American War, plus the full length of the U.S. war on the Philippines, combined with the whole duration of the Mexican American War.” That’s an accurate statement as far as it goes. President Obama has been credited with “ending” and “drawing down” this war not only while expanding it to triple the size but also for a longer period of time than various other major wars combined. The catch is that this war is not over or ending. This year was more deadly than any of the previous 12.
Wars are different now in many ways, fought against groups rather than nations, fought without limits in time or space, fought with proxies, fought with robots, fought with over 90% of the deaths on one side, fought with over 90% of the deaths civilian (that is, people not actively fighting against illegal invaders of their land). So, to call this a war and the war that stole Mexico a war is like calling both an apple and an orange a fruit — we’re mixing apples and oranges. That war was fought to expand territory and slavery by stealing half of someone else’s country. This war is fought to influence the control of a distant land for the benefit of certain profiteers and politicians. Yet both involved mass murder, wounding, kidnapping, rape, torture, and trauma. And both were lied about to the U.S. public from beginning to end. The war on Afghanistan has been easier to lie about, in something of the manner in which World War II was lied about during the war on Vietnam, because the war on Afghanistan has taken place at the same time as a less popular war on Iraq. Averse to even considering the idea that war itself could be a bad idea, people across the super-narrow U.S. political spectrum have insisted that because the Iraq war was bad, the war on Afghanistan must be good.
Try to get them to prove that it’s good, however, and they pretty much come down to “There have been no more 9-11s.” But that was true for centuries prior to 9-11 and isn’t really true now, as attacks on U.S. and Western facilities and personnel have been rising during the War on Terra (the name some of us give the so-called War on Terror because you can’t fight a war against terror as war itself is terror, and as Terra means the earth), along with opposition to U.S. foreign policy — with a Gallup poll a year ago finding the U.S. widely considered the greatest threat to peace on earth. The U.S. also pulled its troops out of Saudi Arabia, actually addressing one of the causes of 9-11, even while devoting most of its energy to further antagonizing the world.
Hold on. There’s a lot to talk about here. You just said “in something of the manner in which World War II was lied about during the war on Vietnam”. Did you mean to say that, David? Please clarify. What lies were told about WWII and what did that have to do with Vietnam? You lost me there.
World War II became known as The Good War in contrast to the War on Vietnam which was the Bad War. In fact, it was very important for people who opposed the war on Vietnam to be able to say they weren’t against all wars and to point to a good one. This has remained the case for most US-Americans for the past three-quarters of a century and it has 99% of the time for 99% of the people been WWII that they point to as the supposedly good war. But when Obama campaigned for the presidency and even earlier than that, he liked to stress that he was against only dumb wars (meaning the 2003-begun war on Iraq which he has since praised and glorified, not to mention prolonging and re-starting) and he called Afghanistan the Good War.
This is very common in Washington DC and very uncommon outside of it. There has to be a good war or one risks falling into the principled position of WorldBeyondWar.org that war is an abomination that needs to be abolished along with all preparations for more of it. I interviewed Jonathan Landay on my radio show this week ( TalkNationRadio.org ) — he was one of the very few reporters who did any actual reporting in the corporate media in the lead-up to the 2003 attack on Baghdad — and he, too, claimed Afghanistan was a good war and war in general is good. One has to think that way to work in Washington.
I asked him about Bush rejecting Taliban attempts to turn bin Laden over for a trial, and Landay declared that the Taliban never would have done it because so abusing a guest violates Pashtun culture, as if allowing your nation to be bombed and occupied doesn’t violate Pashtun culture. Landay didn’t dispute the story that it was Bush who had rejected the offer — and we didn’t really have time to get into it — but he simply declared what had happened to have been impossible. He could be right, but I very much doubt it, and in any case that is not the reason that virtually no one in the United States knows the incident ever happened — and had been happening for years. The reason is related to the reason USians (people from the nation of the United States as opposed to the continents of America) danced in the street when bin Laden’s death was announced: to have a good war, one must fight an evil subhuman force with which negotiation is impossible.
I don’t think people really know about the Taliban’s several offers to turn bin Laden over. If that’s correct, that’s a rather big and glaring “oversight”. Where’s the press? Also, I don’t think the average citizen knows that our involvement in Afghanistan has not wound down as advertised. How can we possibly keep up if the goalposts and even the names of military campaigns keep changing? Our ignorance is really dangerous.
Ignorance is the fuel for war like wood is the fuel for fire. Cut off the supply of ignorance and war ends. The Washington Post this past year asked US-Americans to find Ukraine on a map. A small fraction could do it, and those who placed Ukraine furthest from its actual location were the most likely to want the U.S. military to attack Ukraine. There was a correlation: the less one knew about WHERE Ukraine was the more one wanted it attacked — and this after controlling for various other variables.
I’m reminded of a Canadian comedy called Talking to Americans that you can find on Youtube. The guy asks lots of Americans if the nation of ” and he says a fictional name of a made-up nation ” needs to be attacked. Yes, they tell him, solemnly, all the other options, sadly, regretfully have been exhausted. Now, of course, the comedian may have left lots of intelligent answers on the cutting room floor, but I doubt he had to work very hard to find the dumb ones — I’d bet you any sum I could get them right now without leaving the coffee shop I’m in.
Nowhere outside the United States do people think of bombing as being anywhere on the list of options. In the United States, people think of it as the first and only option. Got a problem? Let’s bomb it. But they are compelled to pretend that it is a last option, even when there’s been literally nothing else attempted or even contemplated because a comedian just made up a nonexistent country to ask about. So nobody knows that Dubya told the President of Spain that Hussein was willing to leave Iraq if he could have $1 billion. Of COURSE (!!!) I’d rather have seen Hussein tried for his crimes, but I’d much rather have seen him leave with a billion dollars than have the war happen — a war that has destroyed Iraq.
Iraq will never recover. The dead will not be resurrected. The wounded will not be healed. The reason that people pretend that war is the last resort is that nothing is worse than war. The reason it’s always a pretense requiring falsehood and self-delusion is that other options always exist. So the habit of PRETENDING we need a war or that we need SOME of the wars is so ingrained that it comes to people automatically even in the most absurd situations. And consider which is more absurd: supporting the bombing of a fictional nation or supporting the bombing of Iraq and Syria on the opposite side of a war you were told had to be joined a year earlier, doing so despite the enemy’s clearly stated desire that you do so to boost its recruitment, and doing so despite its constituting the reinitiating of the quintessential dumb war, the war everyone hates, the war whose echoes prevented the launching of missiles 12 months earlier.
When put that way, it’s clear that we’re caught in some sort of vicious cycle. The example of the fictitious country we’re happy to bomb is terrifying, actually. What can we do to bring that cycle to an end?
I think we have to stop opposing each new war in isolation. Slavery wasn’t ended (to the significant extent that plantation slavery was ended) by opposing one particular plantation. Peace groups have focused on the cost to the aggressor to such an extent that nobody knows that wars are mass-murder against weak countries that can barely fight back. The damage to U.S. troops is horrific, as is the financial waste. (In fact, the lives lost by not spending the funding on useful measures far outstrips the lives killed in wars.) But we won’t get people to oppose mass murder until we start behaving as if they might be capable of it. That requires that we start telling them what these wars are: one-sided slaughters. We have to make a MORAL case against the greatest evil we’ve created — with the possible exception of its partner in crime: environmental destruction.
To make a case for abolition, we have to satisfy people’s logical arguments by explaining that war doesn’t make us safe, doesn’t make us rich, doesn’t have any upside to be weighed against the destruction. And we have to satisfy people’s illogical urges and unstated demands as well. People need love and community and participation in something larger than themselves, they need their fears addressed, they need their passions released, they need their models and heroes held up, they need the opportunity to be or to imagine being courageous, self-sacrificing, and comradely.
But now I’m beginning to answer the question that the WorldBeyondWar.org website answers far more comprehensively. That site is a work in progress, as is the project it outlines and reports on. The first step, however, I can state very concisely: We have to admit that war is optional, that it is a choice, that it is not imposed on us, that we have the responsibility to keep it as our greatest public investment or to scale it back or to end it.
I’m glad you provided the WorldBeyondWar.org website so people can learn more. Anything you’d like to add?
Please, everyone, join people from some 90 nations and growing who have pledged to work to end war: http://worldbeyondwar.org/individual
Or sign that pledge as an organization: http://worldbeyondwar.org/organization
For online activism, check out http://RootsAction.org
And make your own effective petitions at http://DIY.RootsAction.org(OpEdNews should do this as follow throughs to some of its great articles!)
Thanks for the suggestion!
Find lots of great bloggers at http://WarIsACrime.organd let me know if you want to be one.
I’m at http://DavidSwanson.org
My books are at http://DavidSwanson.org/storeand I have a new one just out.
My radio show is at http://TalkNationRadio.org and it airs on a lot of stations and is free to any station that wants it — let them know! — and can be embedded on any website.
You are one busy guy. Readers, take note of all these resources. Anything else before we wrap this up?
Peace, Love and Understanding!
Happy New Year — May it outgrow hope and change while changing what we hope for!
Amen to that! Thanks so much for talking with me, David. It’s always a pleasure.
Submitters Website: http://www.opednews.com/author/author79.html
Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning. Since the pivotal 2004 Presidential election, Joan has come to see the connection between a broken election system, a dysfunctional, corporate media and a total lack of campaign finance reform. This has led her to enlarge the parameters of her writing to include interviews with whistle-blowers and articulate others who give a view quite different from that presented by the mainstream media. She also turns the spotlight on activists and ordinary folks who are striving to make a difference, to clean up and improve their corner of the world. By focusing on these intrepid individuals, she gives hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be turned off and alienated. She also interviews people in the arts in all their variations – authors, journalists, filmmakers, actors, playwrights, and artists. Why? The bottom line: without art and inspiration, we lose one of the best parts of ourselves. And we’re all in this together. If Joan can keep even one of her fellow citizens going another day, she considers her job well done. When Joan hit one million page views, OEN Managing Editor, Meryl Ann Butler interviewed her, turning interviewer briefly into interviewee. Read the interview here.
While the news is often quite depressing, Joan nevertheless strives to maintain her mantra: “Grab life now in an exuberant embrace!” Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at Huffington Post, RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz.