OP-ED: The American War Machine and U.S.-led Terrorism Rolls on Unchecked This Election Season

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It’s 2016 and another presidential election season is in full swing. The two ruling elite parties have trotted out their stable of champions to extoll the virtues of American exceptionalism and regurgitate the same vague platitudes we’ve heard time and again. What you won’t hear from any of the leading candidates or their supporters is that the United States military and government is the largest and most aggressive terrorist organization in the world. There is no room for such talk in our narrow political discourse. The prevailing strategy among the main players is tried-and-true political grist: play up the fear of existential threats posed by nefarious outside elements. Play upon the visceral fear of immediate violence from armed and organized radical Islamic terrorist groups, and constantly remind us that we are “at war.” The Republicans take the lead with the belligerence of this rhetoric, headed by the inarguably insane rantings of Donald Trump, who has advocated killing family members of terrorists and spoken favorably on the supposed execution of suspected Muslim terrorists with bullets soaked in pigs' blood. While sabre rattling is a surefire way to appeal to the Republican base, the party’s candidates don’t have a monopoly on war mongering. The Democratic establishment juxtaposes the Republicans’ bluster with an illusion of nuance and restraint, but candidate Hillary Clinton has a long track record of hawkish behavior. As a senator, not only did she vote to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq, she made public statements that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear program and giving aid to al Qaeda terrorists – statements that later proved blatantly false. She also declined to vote for the Levin Amendment, which would have required a U.N. resolution to approve the use of force against Iraq as well as required President Bush to report to Congress about the U.N. weapons inspections before taking military action. She went on to vote for the Patriot Act and its reauthorization. Image credit: salon.com As Secretary of State, Clinton aggressively advocated for the bombing campaign and regime change in Libya, and trumpeted the government’s right to launch missile attacks into a sovereign nation without that nation’s approval. Even anti-establishment candidate and progressive darling Bernie Sanders has publicly stated that the use of drone strikes and Special Forces will continue if he is elected President. While he was one of the few in Congress to vote against the invasion of Iraq, he did vote in favor of the 2001 Authorization Unilateral Military Force Against Terrorism (AUMF), which gave President Bush the authority to begin his global war on terror and pursue it wherever he saw fit. Not one of the major candidates will discuss the state-sponsored terrorism orchestrated and executed by the United States in the Middle East – from the inhumane economic sanctions of Iraq in the nineties that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 children, to the wholesale imperial interventionist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that left in its wake untold thousands of dead and crippled civilians, devastated infrastructures of basic necessities, renewed hostility towards the United States, and gaping power vacuums in a destabilized region. We can’t forget the disappearance and indefinite detention of scores of people without trial, often predicated on flimsy or outright false intelligence. Or the drone strikes killing and maiming countless innocent civilians over the last decade, employing terroristic methods such as the “double tap” wherein a strike occurs and then another strike targets the people trying to rescue the victims of the first attack – all clandestinely carried out unchecked by public scrutiny. The mainstream media is complicit in this. Drone strikes receive scant attention from the press, and when they are discussed, the talk is skewed towards the efficacy of the strategy, seldom questioning our moral and legal purview to do it. The media dutifully echoes "official sources" indifferently referring to innocent civilian dead as "collateral damage" – unfortunate but necessary side effects of our just mission. Never are they called what they really are: victims of American terrorism. Take, just for instance, the drone strike of a wedding party in Yemen, or the bombing of a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan, or the intentional targeting of funerals and prayer vigils for victims of a previous drone strike. If terrorism is defined as the act or threat of violence to intimidate or coerce, how can these executions be anything less? If these examples of horrific brutality would happen on American soil or to one of our fair-skinned Allies, a terrific cry for vengeance would rise up along with widespread mourning for the dead. But for victims of American Terrorism we are silent. There is no moral outrage here. No Facebook memes. No candlelight vigils for the loss of innocent life. No benefit concerts, no hand-holding, no prayers. Meme Source: Facebook In regions where U.S. drone strikes occur, the civilian population lives in a state of constant dread – aka terror – that causes PTSD, insomnia, paranoia, extreme anxiety, and even miscarriages in pregnant women. That is terrorism. It's creating an environment of fear, and if that's the goal then drone strikes are effective. If the goal, however, is to disrupt and destroy extremist organizations, it's having the reverse effect.
If these examples of horrific brutality would happen on American soil or to one of our fair-skinned Allies, a terrific cry for vengeance would rise up along with widespread mourning for the dead. But for victims of American Terrorism we are silent. There is no moral outrage here. No Facebook memes. No candlelight vigils for the loss of innocent life. No benefit concerts, no hand-holding, no prayers.
American-led and sponsored violence in the Middle East is the catalyst for hostility towards us. It is not in spite of, but because of our continued reckless disregard for the sanctity of human life in the region that the ranks of terrorist groups continue to swell and gain traction. If martial endeavors create and exacerbate the problem, then it's quite illogical to expect continued or escalated military involvement will one day solve the problem. But really, this is all an aside. Perpetuating an indefinite war is good for the powers-that-be and, of course, lucrative for business. Politicians can skillfully turn the public’s attention away from actual and immediate problems by ratcheting up fear and loathing for a sinister enemy. Throughout our history, war ― or the specter of war ― has been used to erode our civil liberties and limit our criticism of the government. Today, this is manifested in President Obama’s gleeful use of the Espionage Act to attack government whistleblowers (which he has done more than all previous presidents combined), in illegal and dubious NSA surveillance, and in President Obama’s killing of an American citizen and his 16 year-old son with absolutely no due process of law as explicitly required by the U.S. Constitution, and far removed from any battlefield. Perpetual war lines the coffers of the military industrial complex. 54% of our federal discretionary spending goes to the military. We spend more on defense than China, Russia, India, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia combined. So not only is there no incentive to end the bloodshed, either through diplomatic means or a decisive military victory, the incentive is actually to encourage and continue the violence. Unsurprisingly, the stocks of five leading American weapons manufacturers soared immediately following the terrorist attacks in Paris last November. Perpetual war keeps the money funneling to the arms manufactures, but the topic of our bloated and outrageous defense spending ― especially in the light of the poverty and failing infrastructure at home ― is off limits. You see, it does not behoove the weapons industry, nor the politicians whose Super PAC’s they generously contribute to, to bring about a state of peace. Thanks to our farcical two-party "democracy," the unlimited funds of campaign contributions from big-money interests as legalized and legitimized by the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, and the eager complicity of the corporate media that has long ago abdicated its responsibility to speak truth to power and instead acts as its megaphone, there will be no public voice to cry out for an end to American-led violence. Credence is given to the armchair warriors; legitimacy is given to criminality. No matter which party wins the Presidential election and a plurality in Congress, we will not deviate from our destructive path. The means may vary slightly, but the ends shall remain the same. We’re at war you see. Violence is good for business.
Credits Words by Douglas Jewell Artwork by Quinn Kelly Image sources: Salon.com and Twitter.com

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