Friday, February 24, 2017

The Hubris Of Endless Wars Brings Down Empires -- In The End

Image courtesy Anthony Freda
No war is really endless, though it can seem that way in comparison with the puny life span of humans. A span which wars typically make even more puny; just ask the relatives of nine babies, toddlers and children killed in Yemen by U.S. special forces on January 29.

Back in 2003 when Bush Jr. proposed to attack Iraq on the basis of lies about their offensive capabilities, millions around the globe poured into the streets to protest. The invasion happened anyway, and the U.S. is still there. 

During the Obama years, liberals in the U.S. went silent. We were still in Iraq and Afghanistan (and building bases as fast as we could in Somalia and Sudan, and bombing Libya, and arming "moderate" rebels in Syria and "pivoting" toward Asia) and the Pentagon's share of budget was still climbing upwards from 50% of the total. But the commander in chief was handsome and his wife and daughters were beautiful and, besides, "terror" and "9/11" were words often heard from his lips.

Image courtesy Anthony Freda

So with the ascendance of the demogogue with bad hair I've been curious to see if people would flood back into the streets to protest the crippling costs -- environmental, financial or spiritual -- of U.S. wars that now seem designed to be endless.

Not seeing it.

Masses of white middle class women whose reproductive rights are threatened will not come out against wars. They mostly supported Hillary or Bernie, both of whom had long pedigrees as warmongers. Their privilege and lack of initiative in finding real news for themselves will continue to blind them.

But there are glimmers of hope.

Alli McCracken and associates January 20, 2017 in Washington DC (photo: Nony Dutton)
A 20-something friend who recently left her job at an NGO reported that she has found plenty of young people in Washington DC organizing around anti-imperialism and committed to opposing wars and occupations. Pushing back against U.S. enabling of Israel's brutal occupation of Palestine is one aspect of their work, and this will surely become more important under the current regime.

Today I'm taking a meeting with two young people in Maine who responded to my "Open Letter to Young Organizers: I'm Against Imperial Wars, How About You?". My pitch was basically, I'll gladly support your issues and I invite you to consider supporting my opposition to wars.

Image courtesy Anthony Freda

Environmental advocacy is what young people care fervently about as they contemplate their future on a devastated planet. My job in my remaining years here is to connect the dots between militarism and pollution. 

Decades of failing to count the carbon output (and other pollutants) generated  by the Pentagon and its contractors has enabled the elephant in the room to evade notice. As Professor Tom Hastings of Portland State University noted, each time a new administration comes into office, advances in holding the Pentagon accountable for its carbon footprint are swept away by the "new" regime.

Plenty of signals indicate the waging of war will continue apace no matter whether the occupant of the White House has a D or an R after his or her name.

An inaugural promise by the demagogue with bad hair to "eradicate completely from the face of the Earth" the threat of "radical Islamic terrorism" is idiotic of course. For one thing, terrorism is a strategy and not a thing that can be eradicted. Secondly, our relentless bombing and invading of oil-rich nations and strategically located nations has only produced (as predicted) far more radical Islamic warriors. As intended. How else to keep the profit mills spinning so that the CEOs of war profiteers like General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin can continue to rake in the spoils of war? 

Conversion to a peace economy is the only path forward out of this wilderness, but that possibility will be squelched and silenced by squeals about terror.

cartoon by Will Park

My friend organizer Bruce Gagnon is convinced that the master plan is to cut social programs to the bone to continue funding Pentagon-affiliated profit centers. This is hopeful in the sense that most people will not rise up and demand change until it is their ox that is being gored.

Are the powers that be just waiting until the elderly voters of the baby boom generation are out of the picture? I predict they will be amazed at the rising generations of resistance.
Kecia Lewis as Mother Courage in a 2016 production by the Classic Stage Company 

German playwright Bertolt Brecht created his historical play Mother Courage and Her Children to comment on how a society at war makes everyone dependent upon the conflict even as it consumes its own young. Created in resistance to the rise of Fascism and Nazi warmongering, the setting is the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe from 1618 to 1648. It probably seemed endless to those who endured it. 

In 2002 then U.S. Ambassador Richard Haass laid out the master plan in effect to this day:

There can be no exit strategy in the war against terrorism. It is a war that will persist. There is unlikely to be an Antietam, a decisive battle in this war. An exit strategy, therefore, will do us no good. What we need is an endurance strategy.

Ours is not the first empire to fall prey to this kind of hubris. Romans, Ottomans, Persians, Nazis, Japanese imperialists: all thought they were mighty unto eternity, and all wheezed to a halt when their resources had been exhausted.

Image courtesy Anthony Freda

This time the resource we exhaust may be the capacity of the planet to support our form of life. Earth may have the ultimate endurance strategy, and it many very well not include us.

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