Tuesday, August 17, 2010

After Nine Years of Militarism and War

Militarism has been tried and found sorely wanting. It's time for change

Over my lunch hour, I listened for a few minutes to "World Have Your Say," a BBC radio show that invites listeners from all over the world to call in and e-mail in about a topic of current--even breaking--interest.  The day's conversation: getting people's responses to former Prime Minister of Great Britain Tony Blair giving $7 million dollars from proceeds from his memoir to an organization that cares for soldiers maimed by war.

The responses ranged: everything from "it's guilt money" and "let him die like my son did" to "it's a wonderful gesture" and "nice, but he's not forgiven" for agreeing with then-U.S. President George W. Bush to join in the attack on Iraq.  Of course, Blair's choice to go along with GWB resulted in high casualties for British youth, widespread protest in Britain and, ultimately, cost Blair his leadership and perceived loss of integrity by millions.

So, the conversation resurfaced a range of lingering thoughts and feelings that I continue to grapple with regarding America's leaders deciding to declare war on Afghanistan and Iraq in reaction to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  I feel like the news media, led by influences determined to obfuscate the realities of what has occurred and been left unresolved over the past nine years, has minimized or all but abandoned these stories.  Sifting through my thoughts and feelings--many of which you can track by reading the archives of this blog since 2002--I state my ongoing concerns here in a fresh way.

I am no expert. I am just a concerned citizen who opposed these wars and spoke out publicly against them before they commenced.  Every warning I uttered regarding these wars has come to pass.  I thought Barrack Obama would move to reverse Bush policies and end these wars.  Though saying he is committed to ending them, his Administration has thus far followed similar lines of justifications as GWB.  I regret this and I will continue to advocate with his Administration.

Here are ten responses to nine years of American military muscle-flexing (I could list more):

1. War and militarism was the wrong, irresponsible and ineffective reaction to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  Instead, a response of a strategic, cooperative, and unprecedented international police action would have not only prevented further attacks, but gained the understanding and support of many who now despise America. The syntax of "war" short-circuits whatever untapped, legitimate international civilian and legal possibilities that exist.

2. The policy of preemptive war, outlined by GWB before attacking Afghanistan and Iraq, is morally indefensible, a reversal of historic American and international standards, and continues to foment excuses and unethical justifications for one group or nation attacking another.  The policy needs to be soundly and utterly denounced and reversed.

3. The oft-repeated phrase "they hate our freedoms," referring to militant Muslim extremists, was wrong, misguided, misleading and incoherent jingoism.  Instead of labeling and name-calling and misidentifying sources of Islamist frustrations with the West, America's leaders could have committed to try to deeply understand--and help all American and Western interests understand--the religious roots of militant Islam, and, understanding, to have ceased unwittingly and repeatedly and often blatantly offending basic Islamist sensibilities.  We are no further down the road to understanding a decade later. Labels persist and anti-Muslim jingoism thrives.

4. Failure to deal in a timely and fair manner with the Palestinian issue fomented militant Islamic terrorism and continues to do so.  As long as Palestinians are perceived to be treated unjustly, militant extremist Islamists will have fuel and new recruits--and well beyond the Middle East region.  But, apparently, Israel seems to be no closer to acting on its promises regarding Palestine then ever.

5. If the attack on Afghanistan was unwise, America's attack on Iraq was completely unjustifiable.  The primary justifications given for attacking Iraq have proven invalid.  In fact, it has become clear that there was a coercive misuse of information and a directive use of misinformation by the Bush Administration regarding rationales for attacking Iraq.  Still, in the face of this, in the face of hundreds of thousands of casualties on every side, and in the face of Americans committing torturous atrocities in the name of freedom, no decision-maker is held accountable, no torture-memo-writer is held responsible, no official is called to justice.
6. Americans' elected leaders, by their choice to commit multiple billions of taxpayer dollars to what have become the longest wars in the nation's history, are as responsible for the fragile economic situation our government's spiraling debt is causing as anyone or anything else.  As I write, more billions of taxpayer dollars are flowing to Afghanistan and Iraq and into the profit margins of hundreds of defense contractors and the military sector.  Even as it is celebrated that "combat operations" in Iraq have ended, citizen taxpayers remain indefinitely on the hook for 50,000 troops and 50,000 contracted personnel in Iraq.  Yet, some U.S. Senators have the gall to call unemployed worker compensation extensions irresponsible?

7. This extended period of war has produced the highest suicide rates and largest number of returning American troops experiencing PTSD on record.  As American troops are still engaged in these wars and the time-frame for PTSD to fully develop and play out is still short, we may well just be experiencing the tip of this iceberg.

8. America's leaders, once vowing never to put America in the position of another Vietnam, have, in fact, done so. We are ever-so-slowly leaving Iraq, but leaving it in a most weakened and fragile and more violent state than it was when we attacked it.  We have no valid end game in Afghanistan, no end in sight, and no way to claim even a moral victory there.  Both regions are more fragile militarily, economically, and in terms of statehood than they were when America attacked them.

9. These wars were supposed to wipe out terrorists and also "dry up" the sources of terrorism. Neither has occurred.  In fact, these wars and the "war on terrorism" has produced untold numbers of new recruits to terrorism and seeded multiple new reasons and causes for it flourishing in another generation. The promises of rebuilding and compassionate assistance have paled in comparison to what was promised.  In the face of continued American drone air strikes killing Afghani and Pakistani civilians, assistance is hardly registering.

10. The past nine years of war have been disastrous at so many levels and for so many people, it is time and past time to end them without reference to "winning."  America has not won these wars. It is not winning these wars.  It will not win these wars.  Cut the losses, and abandon military involvement.  In the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq, America's leaders need a long period of reassessment regarding its integrity and international role.  Let there be an end to American war-making as a solution to problems.  Let other responsible interventions guide international policy as we move into a very changed future--a future that is changed, not because America is weaker, but because America is wiser.


  1. Hey John,

    Always appreciate your prophetic voice on these things.

    Wondered if you you know or read this FM pastor's (Rick Reynolds) blog about peace making and conscientious objection in the FM church: http://fmpeacemaker.blogspot.com/

  2. Thanks. I wasn't aware of Rick's page. I will go there. I've tried to post a range of articles, threads and references to peacemaking in the Wesleyan-holiness tradition on my blog http://peaceandholiness.blogspot.com.


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