War is not the solution! – Allan Jones
Let’s consider some data from our recent wars.
· How many people attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11?
· How many people died in the attacks?
· Where were the attackers from?
o Mostly from Saudi Arabia, trained in Afghanistan.
· Who did the US attack in retaliation for the 9/11 attack?
· How many US troops died in the Afghan war?
o According to Wikipedia, “1,850 of these deaths have been the result of hostile action. 20,026 American service members have also been wounded in action during the war. In addition, there were 1,173 U.S. civilian contractor fatalities.”
· How many people have died in Afghanistan as a part of US retaliation?
o Current estimates place the number around 100,000 people — mostly innocent civilians.
· Who else did the US attack — ostensibly (but we now know falsely) because of their role in 9/11 and their potential as a future threat (remember the WMDs?)?
· How many US troops died in the Iraqi war? [From Wikipedia]
o As of May 29, 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,425 total deaths (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 32,223 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom
· How many people have died in Iraq as a part of US retaliation?
o Classified US military documents released by WikiLeaks in October 2010, record Iraqi and Coalition military deaths between January 2004 and December 2009.The documents record 109,032 deaths broken down into “Civilian” (66,081 deaths), “Host Nation” (15,196 deaths),”Enemy” (23,984 deaths), and “Friendly” (3,771 deaths).
You can do the math if you want to, but you do not need to add up the totals to appreciate that an outrageously large number of people have given their lives because of the US military response to the acts of 12 religious fanatics on 9/11/2001.
Now ask yourself, ‘What have we gained?’ Is America any safer than it would have been if no people had died because of our retaliation? On the other hand, from another perspective, if you were living in the Arab World, how would you perceive the US? When you walk to your neighbor’s home and worry about being blown up by a drone-fired Hellfire missile, would you be thinking of America as a protector, or as an aggressor? Consider this: eliminating a specific terrorist leader is a ‘targeted killing’ according to the US. However, Britain’s Reprieve human rights group calculated that it takes about 28 innocent lives to take out a single terrorist leader, often with multiple drone strikes. Meanwhile, the US has spent trillions of dollars for “National Defense” and “National Security” while suffering at home with crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools and social programs, and a disappearing American Middle Class. We have to do better.
Let’s look at why those 12 fanatics flew those four planes into their targets. Was it personal? Not at all. There is no indication that any of the fanatics knew any of the people they killed that day. Some zealous religious leader convinced them they should do it. Note — the leader did not join them on their mission. He stayed behind to send more followers to their death.
Why did the US attack Afghanistan? Our political leaders told us that it was because the country allowed the Al-Qaeda organization to exist and train terrorists. The Taliban and Al Qaeda were a hostile force occupying the country against the wishes of the people; and we were going in to ‘free’ the people from these occupying forces. But wait, what did these occupying forces look like? They were a rag-tag bunch of hungry fanatics inspired by a charismatic leader. Their organization and weaponry were loose and primitive.
There is an old saying, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The US has tanks, Humvees, rockets, bombs, drones, etc. Given these options, how should the US fight the Taliban? In our typical fashion, we threw everything at them.
It is now about a decade later. Did we win? In a larger sense, when is the last time America won a war? Don’t get all patriotic about it. Consider the facts. How would you define win? If we killed more of their people than they killed of our people, does that mean we won? Try telling the families of the Americans that were killed that they won. All they know is that they lost a loved one, and they hope and try to believe it was for something important.
At this point, we probably need to have a discussion of what it means to win in a war. One definition is that we preserved out precious freedoms. Our freedoms are worth preserving, but is going to war the best way to achieve that? Do we need to send our innocent sons and daughters off to kill innocent sons and daughters of another country in order to preserve our freedom?
The only way a war is ever won is if both sides stop killing each other. Everybody wins! Did we win the Vietnam War? In the sense that both sides stopped killing each other, yes. However, by any military or political standard, nobody won; or the North Vietnamese did. President Nixon’s political label for the bombing of Hanoi was to achieve “peace with honor.” To achieve that, in December of 1972, the US dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs, killing more than 1,600 civilians. The Vietnam War cost over 58,000 American lives, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives. The US Navy authorized me to wear the Vietnam Service medal. [I was technically in the “War Zone” for three days and never in any danger.] However, I am not convinced that my service or their sacrifice gained our country anything.
What about the Korean War? Nobody won! Thousands of people died and then we stopped fighting. North Korea is still there, trampling on the human rights of its citizens. Look at Afghanistan and Iraq. Who won? Nobody. Some hawks say we should put more boots on the ground. Then we could win. We cannot win either of those wars — mainly because they are not our wars in the first place. All we are achieving in that part of the world is providing our enemies with minor victories by being there. Our presence and the collateral damage we have caused, and continue to cause, have created a major resentment towards the US — feeding the terrorist splinter groups with a steady stream of recruits. Not only that, our internal response back here at home has been to drastically change our way of life to protect ourselves from the terrorists.
In every war I can think of, we went to war because our leaders and their leaders chose to go to war. If another country commits what we consider an act of war, is the best response to retaliate with a military attack? Who is killed in a military battle? Not the people who decided to attack us. The soldiers and civilians in the attacking country are killed (We’re good at retaliation!) along with some of our troops.
Let’s consider another option. If one country attacks another, consider the attack a crime — an international crime — and go after the people who really committed the crime — the leaders who ordered the attack. Treat it as a police action, not a military one. The police force must be an international one that captures the suspects (leaders) and brings them to trial in a world court. Instead of attacking their soldiers, we should selectively and surgically arrest and try the leaders who caused the attack.
Let’s take a closer look at the US response to 9/11. What was the connection between the Afghanistan population and Al-Qaeda? Basically, the Afghan people were victims of the Taliban and AL Qaeda.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica,
[The] “Afghanistan War, [was an] international conflict in Afghanistan beginning in 2001 that was triggered by the September 11 attacks and consisted of three phases. The first phase — toppling the Taliban (the ultraconservative political and religious faction that ruled Afghanistan and provided sanctuary for al-Qaeda, perpetrators of the September 11 attacks) — was brief, lasting just two months. The second phase, from 2002 until 2008, was marked by a U.S. strategy of defeating the Taliban militarily and rebuilding core institutions of the Afghan state. The third phase, a turn to classic counterinsurgency doctrine, began in 2008 and accelerated with U.S. Pres. Barack Obama’s 2009 decision to temporarily increase the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. The larger force was used to implement a strategy of protecting the population from Taliban attacks and supporting efforts to reintegrate insurgents into Afghan society.”
How did we fight the “war”? The US brought its full military might to bear on the issue. We used sledgehammers to attempt to kill a few ants. The big problem with that approach is that the bad ants lived among the good ants, and a sledgehammer cannot tell the difference. As a result, we killed thousands of good ants along the way. We have become so callous about this effect we have created a euphemism for it. We call it “Collateral Damage.” According to Wikipedia,
“Collateral damage is damage to things that are incidental to the intended target. It is frequently used as a military term where non-combatants are accidentally or unintentionally killed or wounded and/or non-combatant property damaged as result of the attack on legitimate military targets.”
Try telling the survivors of an attack who are digging their dead and wounded loved ones out of the rubble that they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I guarantee the attacker did not make any new friends or allies that day.
Check out the Getty image collection online. This website is a collection of pictures of the homeland of the terrorists. Does this collection of images make you think of a country militarily prepared to attack the US? Of course not! And they didn’t! A small bunch of fanatics did.
· What they did!
o Killed 2,996 people on 9/11 including the 12 terrorists and all 4 planes’ passengers.
· What we did (In Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq)!
o War and occupation directly and indirectly claimed the lives of about a half-million Iraqis from 2003 to 2011, according to a groundbreaking survey of 1,960 Iraqi households. The violence peaked in 2006 and 2007, say public health experts who were part of the study.
According to costofwar.org,
“The ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have taken a tremendous toll on the people of those countries. At the very least, 174,000 civilians have been determined to have died violent deaths because of the war as of April 2014. The actual number of deaths, direct and indirect, as a result of the wars are many times higher than this figure.”
The decade long war in Afghanistan has continued to take lives with each passing year. As of February 2014, at least 21,000 civilians died violent deaths because of the war. The total number of civilians killed in Pakistan may be as high as or higher than the toll in Afghanistan, with NGO estimates ranging widely between 20,000 and 50,000 recorded deaths. In Iraq, over 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence have been civilians. Iraq Body Count conservatively estimates that at least 133,000 civilians died in direct violence due to war between the invasion and early May 2014. In addition to the direct consequences of violence represented by these numbers, thousands more Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis are falling victim to the dangers of a battered infrastructure and poor health conditions arising from wars. In the case of Iraq, excess deaths indirectly resulting from the war add several times the 133,000 civilians killed directly by violence.
Did we win? Remember, “Mission accomplished?” We did not win! Nobody won except for those who profited from the war. According to International Business Times,
“Private or publicly listed firms received at least $138 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for government contracts for services that included providing private security, building infrastructure and feeding the troops.”
Ten contractors received 52 percent of the funds, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.
Who was the №1 recipient? Houston-based energy-focused engineering and construction firm KBR, Inc., which was spun off from its parent, oilfield services provider Halliburton Co. in 2007. The company was given $39.5 billion in Iraq-related contracts over the past decade, with many of the deals given without any bidding from competing firms, such as a $568-million contract renewal in 2010 to provide housing, meals, water and bathroom services to soldiers, a deal that led to a Justice Department lawsuit over alleged kickbacks, as reported by Bloomberg.
That’s right! “The controversial former subsidiary of Halliburton, which was once run by Dick Cheney, vice-president to George W. Bush, was awarded at least $39.5bn in federal contracts related to the Iraq war over the past decade.”
Did Dick Cheney serve in the military? According to Bio.com,
“During his time as a student, Cheney applied for and received five draft deferments and thus avoided being drafted in the Vietnam War, stating that he “had other priorities in the 60’s than military service.”
The US spent $138B just on contractors. Unfortunately, that is only the tip of the iceberg. According to the Congressional Research Office report, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11 is:
“With enactment of the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act on January 1, 2014 (H.R.3547/P.L. 113–73), Congress has approved appropriations for the past 13 years of war that total $1.6 trillion for military operations, base support, weapons maintenance, training of Afghan and Iraq security forces, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the war operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks.”
Because the following is purely hypothetical, I cannot provide you with any actual budgetary evidence, so just consider the following as a conceptual model. I think you will agree that there would be a much greater return on investment than we got for the $1.6T we spent on the wars. More importantly, if we had not attacked the countries, millions of people (theirs and ours) would still be alive and whole. Remember, our goal is to improve the safety and security of our American values and way of life. If we had pursued the following hypothetical model before 9/11, the attacks on the twin towers might not have happened. In the following hypothetical, I assume we will maintain a reduced military posture, as long as it is needed, in parallel with the police force.
Let us, just for the sake of argument, assume that the world could be a peaceful place; and if instead of a focus on military might, we treated all acts of aggression as criminal acts. Instead of huge armies, we would need a truly international police force and court system. If a country commits an act of aggression, instead of attacking the attacking country with military force — killing soldiers and civilians on both sides — we arrest and indict the individual(s) that caused the aggressive act, take him to court and punish him. (I say him, because since the beginning of the 20th century, I don’t think there has been a female head of state that led her country to war.) The head of a country considering an aggressive act towards another nation might have a different perspective if instead of an army doing the fighting; the head of state ordering the aggression was charged with a crime and punished.
We should begin by truly exercising international leadership and calling a meeting of all nations — not just our allies. The purpose of the meeting would be to announce to the world that the US would no longer be the military force for the international community. Instead, we will team up with an international police force, treat any future international acts of aggression as crimes, and seek to identify, capture, bring to trial, and punish the people responsible for the aggressive acts — even if those people are heads of state.
We will invite all countries to contribute people and resources to the international police force and court system in proportion to their population and GDP. (We would need to work out some formula.) This international court will have authority over a short list of international crimes. We would start out with a focus on just acts of aggression in the former military sense. As the organization grows and learns how to work together, there will be a process for adding other areas of concern — like economic and cyber-attacks. The international court will have no authority over internal national activities. Each participating country will maintain its sovereignty for domestic policies and laws. At this point, it’s just an idea, but one worth further consideration.
I was driving home recently and Liam Clancy came on my i-Pod singing “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. It is not the jolly Waltzing Matilda that you may remember. As I listened to the deeply moving lyrics, they reminded me of the cavalier attitude many of the world’s leaders have about sending our young soldiers off to fight and die. The lyrics are as follows:
Better yet, listen for yourself on YouTube.
When I was a young man, I carried my pack.
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray’s green basin
To the dusty outback,
I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in nineteen fifteen, my country said son
It’s time to stop rambling,
There’s work to be done.
So they gave me a tin hat,
And they gave me a gun,
And they sent me away to the war.
And the band played Waltzing Matilda,
As we sailed away from the Quay
And amidst all the cheers,
Flag-waving and tears
We sailed off for Gallipoli
When I remember that terrible day
When our blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk he was ready
Oh he primed himself well.
He rained us with bullets,
And he showered us with shells.
And in five minutes flat,
We were all blown to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.
And the band played Waltzing Matilda,
As we stopped to bury our slain.
And we buried ours and the Turks buried theirs,
And it started all over again.
Those who were living,
Just tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for seven long weeks,
I kept myself alive,
While around us the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell,
Knocked me ass over head
And when I awoke in my hospital bed,
And saw what it had done,
Christ I wished I was dead.
Never knew there were worse things than dying.
And no more I’ll go Waltzing Matilda,
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs
A man needs both legs
No more Waltzing Matilda for me.
So they collected the wounded
The crippled, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless
the blind the insane.
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where me legs used to be.
And thanked Christ there was no one there waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity.
And the band played Waltzing Matilda,
As they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered,
They just stood and stared,
And turned all their faces away
And now every April,
I sit on my porch,
And I watch the parades pass before me.
I see my old comrades,
How proudly they march.
Renewing their dreams of past glories
I see the old men, all tired stiff and sore
The weary old heroes of a forgotten war
And the young people ask,
What are they marching for?
And I ask myself the same question.
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men still answer the call
But year after year,
Their numbers grow fewer
Someday no one will march there at all.
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard
As you pass by that billabong
Who’ll come a’waltzin’ Matilda with me?
There has to be a better way… Why is it that whenever two countries go to war, the leaders, who make the policies that create the situation that leads to war, get to sit back in relative safety while the soldiers and civilians have to fight and die? When all is said and done, what have we really gained?
If we didn’t have to spend so much on military defense, we could spend more on national security, where we redefine national security to mean making every American feel safe and secure; including economic security and physical safety. We could eliminate poverty in America.
This is an excerpt from my book on Poverty — part 26
(Written but not published. If you want a MS Word free copy, let me know.)