First of all, I’m sorry for not being around much lately, but there’s something about being the parent of a soldier that makes you feel really helpless when something happens. As many who read this blog know, my son Tim was deployed to Afghanistan this past August. He’s serving his country in one of the most dangerous areas of one of the most dangerous countries in the world, just so he can better afford to go to college. But that’s another column for another day.
About a week ago, my son and the others he serves with were scouting for IEDs, and one of them went off, a little too close, and he was thrown back. From the way he describes his symptoms, he’s definitely suffered a concussion, but it’s difficult to tell if it might be worse than that. Tim has this tendency to “not want to worry me,” and still hasn’t figured out that it’s not what he tells me that worries me, but what he doesn’t tell me.
So, for the last week, I’ve been trying to go through channels to speak to a doctor, and talking to him via instant message and email as much as possible, trying to gain any information I can. This is my baby we’re talking about here. I’ve raised him by myself since he was an infant, and the very thought of losing him to a “war” that should have been over years ago really pisses me off. The former Vice President, Dick Cheney, made me want to reach through the television screen and slap him when he accused our current president of “dithering” last week. What in the bloody hell was HIS administration doing for seven years, if it wasn’t “dithering”? For shit’s sake, folks; our mission over there was to wipe out a couple of thousand scumbags who were behind the terrorist attack that killed 3000 of our people. We had them cornered eight goddamn years ago; why are we still there? Oh, yeah; it’s because we stopped in the middle, and started a war with another country not too far away; one that was a pain in the ass, but which didn’t attack us at all. That’s not dithering? Roosevelt and Truman beat the Nazis and the Japanese in half the time that it’s taken to wipe out a small group of people who are apparently so lacking in weapons that they had to use four of our airliners and box cutters as weapons when they got here.
Okay, I got off track. I don’t really give a shit about Dick Cheney or any of his evil spawn. I won’t be satisfied until Dick is sitting in a jail cell for all of the crimes against humanity he’s committed, but he won’t ever hold public office again, so screw him.
As I sat there by the computer the last 5-6 days, waiting to hear anything from or about my son, positive or negative, I had time to think. (I do that, you know – it’s why I’m not a wingnut.) Why the hell is this country so freaking war-happy? My son is not the only person I know who has served over there; there have been many. But I have to tell you; having your only kid, and the most important person in your life, sitting in a war zone has to be the most stressful thing imaginable; it’s not something we should ever wish on anyone. I have always been something of a pacifist, but this experience is making me more so. And I understand that tens of millions of people either are, or have been at some time, in my position. So again I ask: what is it that makes us so war happy?
Yes, I’ve seen the film “Why We Fight.” It’s an excellent film that I recommend to everyone. But it explains the reasons why many of those in the government want to ratchet up the war machine; too much of the economy is dependent upon it. But why the hell are they so successful at ratcheting it up? There has to be something inside of us that makes us so susceptible to warmongering, because we do it so often. If tens of millions of us have been through the stress I’ve been through the last few months, what the hell is inside of us to want to see it done over and over again? We have this tendency to think of all of our soldiers as heroes; are we so in need of heroes that we have this insatiable need to create more, and this is the only way we can think of?
The last war in which we had a justifiable role was World War II. I’m a pacifist, but that doesn’t mean every war is wrong. Our involvement in Korea was pointless, especially given that it’s still not even over. The cease fire is nearly 60 years old. Vietnam goes without saying. Grenada was a short, pointless testosterone fest, in which people died so that chickenhawk wingnuts could crow about the size of their peckers. The Gulf War should never have happened; George Bush, Sr. had the means to prevent it, but chose instead to rally the wingnuts behind yet another pointless war against a hapless foe, because he had no idea how to do anything else. To his minimal credit, Bush 41 at least put together a war plan with an end game and stuck to it, pulling out relatively quickly. On the downside, he established a permanent presence in the Middle East, which is a really stupid move, if our actual goal is to promote peace in the region. Of course, oil companies don’t want peace in the Middle East, because then they can’t use the instability over there as a phony rationale for increasing the price of oil. But again; that’s another column for another day. Then, Bush went into Somalia, another pointless exercise, and Clinton intervened in Kosovo, which was also unnecessary on many levels. But the neocon era was about to hit its peak, when we “elected” the greatest warmonger in US history, George Bush, Jr., and his evil puppetmaster, Dick Cheney, who proceeded to conduct two wars and screw them both up royally. But then, in the next election, he actually received more votes than a war hero who promised to stop both wars.
What the hell is wrong with us? Why do we seem to like war so much? Even when it’s stupid and pointless, a large portion of us talks about “winning” and “losing” as if it was a goddamn sports contest. It’s not, folks. NO ONE “wins” a war. Getting the other side to surrender just means you slaughtered so many of their people, they can’t fight any longer. Who “won” World War I, exactly? Have you ever thought about that? We got the Germans to cry “uncle!” and sign the Treaty of Versailles, but the terms of that treaty were such that it pissed the Germans off enough that they put all of their money into a war machine and started yet another one. Then, after we “won” World War II, we headed straight into a “Cold” war, in which the entire world was stressed out over the possibility of nuclear annihilation, so did we really “win”?
And since then, we can’t honestly even say we “won” a war. How many of them do we have to lose before we figure out that you can’t “win” a war that doesn’t directly involve the safety and security of your own country?
Do we as a nation suffer from such a lack of self-esteem that the only way we can feel good as a country is to beat the shit out of other, smaller countries? I don’t know about you, but individuals who think like that are rightfully called “bullies” where I come from, and we as individuals don’t put up with that kind of behavior from them. Why do we think that acting like a bully makes our nation “safer”? Have you ever watched what happens to a bully, eventually?
I remember the school bully when I was in elementary school; I’ll call him J. He was a real asshole. But it was funny; he only went after kids he perceived as weaker than him; he was always insulting me, but being something of a quiet pacifist-type even back then, I ignored him and let it roll off my back. Of course, being the typical bully-type, which is someone who is generally pretty stupid, he took my quiet as being an inability to defend myself. Well, one day, my friend Howie and I had an argument, and being 11 year old boys, the only way we could figure to settle the argument was to go out on the ball fields and fight after school. The stupid thing was, Howie and I really liked each other, so the fight was half-hearted at best. We were smacking each other, but it wasn’t with the intent of hurting the other. In fact, we were practically laughing, because neither one of us was really into it.
Sure enough, here comes J the bully, who started in on me. He had chosen me to pick on, because between Howie and me, I was smaller and skinnier, of course. Now, I can’t remember exactly what he said or did, but something coming from him made me snap, and I beat the living shit out of that kid, and given that at least 20-30 kids had gathered around to watch it and cheer me, I effectively ended his career as a bully.
Is that what we want as a nation? Do we continue to engage in pointless wars, until one day we end up getting the shit beat out of us by someone we consider to be “lesser” than us? Do we want to be known as a “bully” by the rest of the world?
One of the reasons we have so much to fear from terrorists these days is because we have increasingly become known as a bully on the international stage. The reason we won the “Cold War” against the Soviet Union was because we were seen as the “good guys,” relatively speaking. Of course, we engaged in some questionable garbage in that time, especially the Vietnam War, but even then, our stated intention was to bring peace and stability to the world, while the Soviets just ran over other countries and forced them to adopt their bastardized style of “Communism.”
But since the Cold War ended, it’s almost as if we’re trying to demonstrate to the world that we’re just as “powerful” AS THE OLD Soviet Union or something, and it’s pissing off the rest of the world.
We need to hasten our exit from Iraq; we don’t belong there. In fact, before we pull all of our troops out of the country, we should hand over everything else to the Iraqi government. “Good guys” don’t occupy other countries. Let the Iraqi people rebuild their own country and run their own oil company; we have no business doing any of that. If we want to train Iraqis to protect their own country, fine; fly them off to a remote area somewhere and train them. My kid was apparently ready to fight in a foreign country after about 4 months of boot camp; it sure as hell shouldn’t take years to train Iraqis to fight in and for their own country.
In Afghanistan, we just need to leave. I’m not saying this because Tim is over there; I’m saying this because there is literally no reason for us to be there. If the Taliban takes over again without an election, fine; we’ll help the Afghan people take over their own country from afar. But it’s clear that no one wants us over there, especially the people who live there, who we’re supposedly over there “saving.” One day last week, NATO gave their blessing to sending more troops over there, and all I could think was, “fine; then let the other members of NATO fill in with the extra troops. Who the hell is NATO to be giving an okay to the use of our soldiers to fight to support a government that is corrupt and unpopular, anyway?
This country has to get over its addiction to war as a definition of our worth as a nation. Too much of our economy is tied to what we laughingly refer to as “defense” spending, even though most of our actions since the dawn of the neocon era has been largely offensive in nature. Every war since has lacked any sort of rational basis. They all seem to have been entered into in order to demonstrate the sheer awesomeness of our power to everyone else in the world. And that is just crazy, folks; it’s the kind of lunacy that right wingers engage in, not reasonable people.
It’s time to end these wars as painlessly as possible, and to bring our troops home. It’s time to dedicate ourselves to protecting our own borders, and engaging in diplomacy everywhere in the world. That doesn’t mean we never send troops anywhere, but we should concentrate more on actual “defense.” War has to be rare, and used only as a last resort.
The concept of spending $1 trillion that we don’t have on two wars we don’t need to fight should seem absurd to everyone. It should seem doubly absurd in light of the fact that the same idiots who spent the trillion dollars on two unnecessary wars are now claiming that spending the same amount on health care for everyone over the next ten years would be devastating to the economy. If the government has to constantly rationalize a war in order to fight it, we shouldn’t be fighting it, and these assholes have been rationalizing Iraq and Afghanistan for eight years now. It’s time to stop warmongering.
Being in the position of having a family member in a situation where he could end up dying or maimed is painful for everyone. Let’s see to it that it never happens again. It’s time for American to be about peace.