What is wrong with us? Have we become so brainwashed and jaded that we can’t see what’s happening? Our young people are being turned into murderers and war fodder by our feckless and imperialistic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And all we do is watch.
There is a video running viral on the web of a US Army helicopter gunning down 12-15 civilians in a Baghdad suburb in 2007. The grim video leaves no doubt that this was an unprovoked attack on civilians by young men caught up in bloodlust, and the Army’s response leaves no doubt it was deliberately covered up. Watch it and decide for yourself.
One of our primary military contractors, Blackwater (now euphemistically and nonsensically named Xe), murdered 17 Iraqi civilians caught in a traffic jam. Even with first-hand accounts by witnesses saying it was completely unprovoked, the murderers walked away.
Afghan investigators claim that US military forces covered up the massacre of five Afghan citizens following a raid on what turned out to be a baby shower. After first claiming US soldiers had stumbled upon the victims of some kind of an honor killing, military officials now admit that our soldiers were responsible. The Afghan investigators charge that American forces dug the incriminating bullets out of the women’s bodies to cover up the crime.
These are only a few of the hundreds of attacks by mistake or malice on the part of our soldiers, contractors and allies. This is how our Afghanistan commander, Stanley McCrystal, recently explained it:
“We really ask a lot of our young service people out on the checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. That doesn't mean I'm criticizing the people who are executing. I'm just giving you perspective. We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”
While we can’t let war crimes go unpunished, there is another side to this issue. What turns normal, well-adjusted young Americans into ruthless, cold-blooded murderers? What are we doing to our young people? Who bears the responsibility?
These wars have become an integral part of our culture, but we have no real sense of the extraordinary damage that is being done to the young men and women fighting in our name. Sure, we see a few of the success stories of those who have recovered from horrific injuries and started a new life with amazing prosthetic limbs, but there are tens of thousands more who have been crippled for life. And the suffering extends to their families whose lives are also permanently impacted.
The insidiousness of these wars is that the damage to the soldiers and their loved ones is profound, while the impact on the rest of us is minimal. And the military is deliberately hiding the carnage from us to keep from losing public support.
It is shameful, dishonorable and simply wrong to destroy the lives of our young people and then sweep them under the rug. We’re sending our solders on an imperialist fool’s mission into hell, turning them into murderers and war criminals, and then dumping them on the street.
It’s time to face the fact that we’re not winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis and Afghans, but we can’t lay all the blame on the soldiers. Those who made the misguided and inept decisions that sent them there are also to blame.
The politicians, the military and the media tell us how we’re doing the right thing and we’re winning. That’s nothing more than self-serving propaganda.
There is no victory in Iraq or Afghanistan. All we have done is spill the blood of more than a million civilians and brought shame and disgrace to the United States. The atrocities of these wars have stained us and will curse our children and grandchildren.
We have killed nearly 5000 American solders and wounded tens of thousands more. And these are not quickly healed wounds. They include post-traumatic stress disorders, massive head injuries and severed limbs. We have destroyed families with repeated deployments.
In the process, we have squandered hundreds of billions of dollars that could have helped the country through this recession. We could have rebuilt crumbling bridges and highways, rejuvenated our failing schools and sent millions of young Americans to college.
But we didn’t. Instead, we burned through all that money and all those human lives to act out the imperialist fantasies of a small group of political fanatics and greedy mercenaries. And every American who doesn’t now stand up to a government run amok shares the blame.
As long as we continue to let this happen, the blood of these soldiers and civilians is on our hands too. As long as we continue to rationalize this war and these deaths, a little piece of us dies too. As long as we close our eyes to the immorality of this war, we extend it.
We can no longer lay the blame on soldiers, generals and politicians. We're now accomplices in their crimes.
It's time for you and I to stop this war.
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