"This war is simply an obscenity, a depraved act by weak and miserable men, including all of us, who have allowed it to go on and on with endless fury and destruction -- all of us who would have remained silent had stability and order been secured. It is not pleasant to use such words, but candor permits no less."
Noam Chomsky wrote these words in 1967 in the thick of the American aggression in Indochina. His comments are equally relevant today, with one caveat. If one were to speak in America in 2010 about "this war", it would beg the question "which one?"
Indeed, the United States has engaged in two incredibly destructive invasions of foreign countries in the past decade, with disastrous consequences that will be felt for decades more to come.
For one brief illustration of the gravity of the situation in the smoldering ruins of Asia, we can turn to a story in the UK Independent, where Patrick Cockburn reports "Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945."
Another gruesome tale could be found at the WikiLeaks web site, whose recent "Collateral Murder" video -- which shows Iraqi civilians being gunned down by a US helicopter gunship -- generated much outcry. Unfortunately, the furor following the video's release focused more on the decision to release the video rather than what the video actually shows. Such incidents are a regular occurrence, and it is a rare event when the American public catches a brief glimpse of the carnage that transpires in Iraq daily.
Sadly, these stories are merely the tip of the iceberg. It is impossible to know just how many Iraqis have been affected by the war, but there are some estimates. In 2008, the UK Guardian reported that 2 million Iraqis have fled the country, an additional 1.5 million have been internally displaced and the number of dead could range anywhere from one hundred thousand to one million.
Afghanistan is hardly a pretty sight, either. The group Afghanistan Rights Monitor claims that "In terms of insecurity, 2010 has been the worst year since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001." The terror perpetuated on the Afghan populace is extreme. To cite one example, on February 12th, US forces surrounded a house where a celebration of a new birth was taking place, shot dead two government officials and then killed two pregnant women and a teenage girl. Afterwards, the Pentagon issued a statement declaring dead likely the victims of Taliban "honor killings." Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama has also continued the use of flying robots to murder people not just in Afghanistan, but in the neighboring country of Pakistan as well.
Iraq and Afghanistan are simply the major military actions. Around the world, US counter-terrorism efforts have intensified, a recent New York Times article reports. Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and a host of other countries are now the site of expanding US intelligence activities. A recent Washington Post expose of "Top Secret America" revealed how support for these projects continue to grow unchecked: "33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space."
Quite possibly the most depressing cover story of the year (amongst plenty of competition) was the cityscape of Sanaa, Yemen on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. "Is Yemen the Next Afghanistan?" the headline asked. Let us hope not; one's conscience recoils at the thought of the beautiful skyline being reduced to rubble, the fate of so many previous locations deemed by American leaders to be a threat to democracy, freedom, etc.
These are only the most glaring examples of American militarism. Space limitations prevent me from addressing, for instance, territories in which the United States aids and abets the violence of other states, as in Palestine.
The glimmer of hope amidst all of this suffering and despair is that it is entirely within the American populace's power to prevent current and future American aggression. The mindless march of militarism is only possible with apathy and tax dollars, both plentifully provided by Americans at present. This is why Chomsky includes "all of us" in his condemnation of the "weak and miserable" -- if it were not for citizen collaboration, the war machine would grind to a screaming halt. A sobering realization.
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