I recently made an online comment expressing horror and sympathy for the tragedy in Norway. A commenter took issue with my statement. He jumped from Norway to suggesting that I have a complete lack of concern over those killed in America’s current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and that I give President Obama a “get out of jail free card” regarding his role as Commander in Chief. Trying to reason with him, I replied that to me there is a difference between a drone dropping a bomb on an intelligence-identified location of terrorists, Taliban or “the enemy” that ends up mistakenly killing innocents and a gunman in Norway purposely planning and attacking innocents. The operators of the bomb-dropping drones or pilots of helicopters and others involved in these wars know there might be – perhaps even probably will be – innocent people nearby when they drop their bombs. I will assume that they hope no innocent victims are being killed. The gunman in Norway not only planned his slaughter, he intentionally selected his innocent targets, planning to kill as many as possible. He deceived the teenagers and others on the island into thinking he was there to keep them safe; he looked some of them right in the eye and pulled his trigger, knowing and wanting to end their lives.
My response didn’t sit well with my now comment thread adversary and he continued his off topic attack. He would not be dissuaded, and continued to call me warmonger, supporter of killers, etc. Since the topic had now definitely changed, I decided to let him know how I really feel about war. Simply put, I do not believe there is a “just” war, at least not in the last hundred years.
In the pre-war days of 2002, the political machine propagandized Americans (quite successfully I might add) to convince us that Iraq was the real enemy post-9/11 and Saddam was an accomplice in that act of terror on U.S. soil. I live and work in a community where people would go to church on Sunday, preaching Christ’s peace, love and brotherhood, and then wear backpack patches and drive around with bumper stickers such as ”Nuke Iraq,” “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iraq” (thanks, John McCain) and/or “These Colors Don’t Run” and no one saw a contradiction. When I tried to tactfully question this dichotomy in conversations, the response was usually something like, “well, this war is justified. After all, we have to remember 9/11.”
When President Bush and his team, enabled by a responsibility-abdicating Congress, were selling their whitewashed story to the American public in the lead up to the war in Iraq, having failed to get bin Laden in Afghanistan, I was horrified– horrified that we were forgetting the lessons of Vietnam, horrified that we were being told and believing lies again, horrified that SO MANY people were going to die. There were many who cried out warnings as loudly as possible to not do this, that there were so many things wrong with the arguments, but they were ridiculed, even threatened. Anyone who spoke out against this war of choice or suggested that WE were the aggressors here, was accused of being un-American. A not-so-distant family member vehemently spat out that John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran serving in the House of Representatives (D-PA), should have his medals stripped and be tried for treason after he stood on the House floor and called for a withdrawal from Iraq. Those in power would not accept any criticism, even when the facts proved that we, the citizenry of this country, were being, and had been, lied to.
Part of the problem is that people don’t want to see themselves as having fallen for a lie. We don’t want to be considered gullible. We would rather just forge ahead in our blind, bullheadedness and let ourselves be led down the proverbial path. This is a prideful flaw in character and flawed human beings cannot be trusted to make correct, just judgments regarding war. People die in war. Lots of people die in war. Part of the justification for the war in Iraq was that the dying would be “over there” and not here. Why is that okay? Why is it okay that the Iraqis die instead of us? We do not know enough, nor do we have the RIGHT to make that call just because we can.
Both wars, Iraq and Afghanistan have continued not only through the remaining Bush years but unfortunately into Obama’s tenure as well. We’re still in both countries, both wars. The commenter that attacked me about Norway somehow made the jump to an assumed support of Obama’s war policies. He, however, made no mention of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the long list of others complicit in the manufacture of the wars that have killed thousands and thousands of people, many, many completely innocent. In the midst of the budget crisis that we have been going through the last few weeks, he made no mention as to how a large part of that crisis actually began when a budget surplus in 2000 was eaten by two wars that were not financed and paid for by the country that decided to wage them. To the commenter, everything is Barack Obama’s fault. I disagree. I think the wars are OUR fault. We didn’t hold our leaders accountable for their falsehoods. We didn’t speak up, we were timid and afraid of being called “unpatriotic,” and through our inaction we let a war be waged in our name and allowed our national character to erode.
These are the things that influence my determination to be anti-war. We simply do not know enough, are too proud to admit when we are wrong, we see only our very own selves in our little patch of the world and think, as Americans, that we are the most important of all God’s children (i.e. “God Bless the USA”). We are flawed human beings that take it upon ourselves to decide that one person or a group of people is “evil” or otherwise unworthy to continue living. That is NOT our call.
It’s not often that I actually articulate my “anti-warness,” mainly because I rarely think it will do any good and, being honest, my own personal insecurities in the face of criticism and antagonism cause me to shrink from conflict. Going back to the comment discussion, I ask, do you think it matters anymore who is president? The other commenter said it does; he has decided it is all to be laid at the feet of the current president, Obama. I, however, do not. I don’t believe a true advocate for peace rather than war or conflict will be elected as long as war makes money and campaigns need rich donors. The gluttonous war machine will be fed, it will just be on the lives and livelihoods of innocents. But, beyond that, people in this country — I guess in much of the world — have forgotten the spirit of peace. That is how horrors like Norway happen. That is how tragedies like Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma City happen and that’s how Americans can know that there are thousands and thousands and thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis, Sudanese, and the list goes on and on, who have died, but we don’t care. All we seem to care about is vengeance and ‘making them pay for what they did.’
This is the final reason, for this essay, why I am anti-war — we kill people for the wrong reasons. If you don’t agree, please study history again — Dresden bombings in WWII, firebombing of Tokyo, the unleashing of the atomic bomb on Japan — not once, but twice (anyone want to bring up innocent victims?)– Vietnam, Iraq — and those are just the war and actions of the United States. We’re not alone in warmaking, but we have certainly done our best to take it to new levels. Is it human nature to break down, deteriorate to excessive cruelty and inhuman actions? If not, how can it happen? Do we all have within us a heart that can turn stone cold regarding other human beings?
I do not have the answers to the above questions but will continue searching. In the meantime, I simply continue living my life, doing what I can–writing and calling the congressmen who supposedly represent me, and try to be a life, a voice, that speaks for peace, love of other human beings and life itself.