War spews hell in all directions. Just ask the guys at Talon Anvil, a secret US “strike cell” recently exposed by the New York Times as a unit with a reputation for ignoring rules of engagement and killing many civilians with drone strikes while waging war on ISIS.
Part of the problem, a source told Timesis that “the day-to-day demands of strike-after-strike supervision seemed to erode operators’ perspective and fray their humanity”.
In other words, participating in America’s endless War on Terror has turned them into…terrorists. An example: early one morning, as a Predator drone circled over the Syrian farming town of Karama, operators zeroed in on a particular building which they decided, with virtually no evidence, to be a “ enemy training center,” and dropped a 500-pounder. bomb through the roof.
“As the smoke cleared,” a former officer told the Times:
“…his team stared at their screens in dismay. Infrared cameras showed women and children staggering out of the partially collapsed building, some missing limbs, some dragging the dead.
“Intelligence analysts began taking screenshots and tallying casualties. They sent an initial battle damage assessment to Talon Anvil: 23 dead or seriously injured, 30 slightly injured, most likely civilians. Talon Anvil stopped just long enough to acknowledge the message, the former officer said, then headed for the next target.
Oh, frayed humanity! Here’s what didn’t happen: the operators looking at what they had just done from the perspective of the victims. This would have been more than just “dismay”.
What I mean here is that war is a collective enterprise. Multiply that incident by the size of the US military budget – practically half of the country’s discretionary spending, about $1 trillion a year, all told. And the money is still there, ready and waiting for the security state to consume it. The endless lie is that he protects us. Imagine, once again, “women and children staggering out of the partly collapsed building, some missing limbs, some dragging the dead”, and savor the security you have now.
William Astore, reflecting on the endless growth of the defense budget despite the collapse of our official Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union, three decades ago, asks:
“Why, then, every year [National Defense Authorization Act] soar ever higher in the troposphere, drift with the wind and poison our culture with militarism? Because, to state the obvious, Congress would rather engage in outlandish spending than exercise any real control over the national security state.
The keywords could well be these: poison our culture with militarism.
When we wage war, we dehumanize – and then kill – a specific segment of humanity. In the process, we “unravel” our own humanity…we become less human ourselves, and therefore more in tune with the evil we seek to annihilate. This is what is happening to us right now. How is our culture poisoned?
One obvious way is the suicide rate among vets: about 60,000 over the past decade. And of course there is the so-called militarism of the lost and armed souls, which makes mass murder a recurring aspect of the daily news feed. Add hate crimes. Add in the prison-industrial complex:
“The prison industry in the United States is massive and growing,” according to the American Friends Service Committee:
“Since 1970, the number of people incarcerated in the United States has increased by 700%, to the point that the American prison population is the largest in the world, both per capita and in total number. In 2019, there are an estimated 2.3 million people behind bars and 4.5 million people on probation or parole. The estimated cost of the mass incarceration system in the United States is $182 billion a year, with hundreds of private companies competing for government contracts.
Our enemies are everywhere! They are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. They are massing at our southern border. And they are at home here, crammed into ghettos and poverty zones. By waging war, we dehumanize the world, breaking down its complex interconnection. It doesn’t make us any safer.
Even the “good war” hasn’t made us any safer, though it’s the trophy cup still wielded by defenders of militarism today. Consider this observation by Paul Tritschler on just one of our late World War II bombing campaigns:
He writes that in March 1945:
“…seemingly endless waves of B-29s roared through Tokyo, dropping a million bombs containing 2,000 tons of incendiaries. Within three hours, more than 100,000 people lay dead and a million were without The firebombing of 67 towns over the next five months resulted in the deaths of at least half a million people – a deliberate policy of annihilating civilians living in the densely populated poor neighborhoods. Air Force General Curtis LeMay openly stated, “They were burned, boiled and baked to death. Although this did not dampen their enthusiasm, the bomber crews said the stench of burning flesh was rising high.” into the air, forcing them to use oxygen masks to prevent vomiting.At the end of this five-month period came atomic destruction.
It’s not about blaming. It’s not about shame. It is about change. We still have our finger on the nuclear trigger. Robert Kohler ([email protected]), syndicated by voice of peace, is an award-winning journalist and editor in Chicago. He is the author of “Courage Becomes Strong in Injury”.