By Dan Kenney
Now as we begin the ninth year of war in Afghanistan, U.S. spending on the war has reached $1 billion per week. Each day brings more news of innocent citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan being ravaged and displaced by the actions of our government. Millions are still refugees inside Iraq and outside of the war-torn country.
Many polls show that the majority of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan. The majority of Americans want all the troops to come home. The majority of Americans want the war spending to stop and for more money to be used for humanitarian relief and rebuilding in Iraq and Afghanistan; and also back here in the U.S. Yet, there is strong talk of sending 21,000 more troops instead. It is becoming obvious to more and more Americans daily that we have a government that has grown too accustomed to war. We can no longer accept that this is the way it has to be.
We have seen in just the past two weeks unarmed American citizens by the thousands pepper sprayed, battered with batons, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested, for speaking up to power on the streets of Pittsburgh [Sept. 2009 G-20 Summit]. Once again, when citizens have turned out in mass to raise their voices, they have met with hundreds of militarized police in riot shields carrying weapons of crowd control. We have seen this same type of military response to unarmed citizens during both major party conventions in the summer of 2008. We have grown accustomed to seeing citizens face to face with police officers who look more like soldiers than civil servants. Lawful assembly of its citizens has become a danger to our government. Yet little is made of it, and life goes on, as if we have accepted that is just the way it is in America now.
During these past days, we have also seen how quickly a government can stop the funding of a nonprofit organization that had members who acted like criminals. However, in the next breath, another branch of the same government extended a Blackwater contract, even though this private mercenary company has contractors under indictment for murdering 17 innocent unarmed Iraqi civilians. Blackwater, now known as Xe, is also under investigation for smuggling illegal weapons into Iraq. The AFT is investigating Blackwater possession of illegal weapons on their property in North Carolina. The IRS also has them under investigation for tax evasion. Another example is Halliburton. A company that has been caught overcharging and defrauding the American taxpayer of millions of dollars with their many no-bid contracts. A company that is under investigation for its shoddy electrical work that has shocked or electrocuted our American soldiers still receives in one day the same amount of money that ACORN has received from the American government in its entire existence. There is little doubt where the priorities of our government are centered.
War has become a part of the very fabric of our existence to such an extent that we don’t think twice about robotic soldiers like transformers being free with a kid’s meal at Burger King. Nor do we question all of the millions spent on movies that perpetuate the myth of war being the way it is in the world. We are capable of accepting numbers as $4 billion per week (which is what we are currently spending on the two combined wars) as natural.
War is a racket, and it always has been.
That’s just the way it is. We have grown accustomed to soldiers’ deaths being reported one, two, or five at a time and go on about our days as if our country really isn’t at war. We seldom hear discussions about sacrifices we should be making on the home front to aid America’s war efforts. We are seldom told of the millions of refugees that are struggling to survive in another part of the world because of our government’s actions.
Now, we even drop bombs on a family’s home in Afghanistan or Pakistan with unmanned drones that are operated by soldiers in a mobile trailer on an Air Force base in Nevada. Bombs that were placed on the drone by a Blackwater contractor making more in one month than our infantry soldiers make in one year.
I can be dropping bombs in Afghanistan and then an hour later attending my son’s Little League game,
one of the Air Force drone operators reported.
Our government may say we are for peace, yet we lead the world in the production of weapons, nuclear arms and wars. Our legislative leaders may say we support the spread of democracy; however, we confront with militarized police our own citizens who exercise their democratic freedom to assemble peacefully. Our President may say that he is committed to peace; however, he has increased the number of soldiers in harm’s way, and he has overseen the increase of private military contractors to a point at which we now have more private contractors than U.S. soldiers in both Afghanistan and in Iraq.
I keep asking where the outrage is. We need to ask ourselves where our limits are. How much of our democracy are we willing to give up? How much longer will we accept lies as truth? How much longer will we put up with the lack of regard for what the people want? When will we stand up to war profiteers and demand the money be used for all of the humanitarian needs around the world and in our own communities? How many Americans could be provided health care with $4 billion per week? What is happening in our name is not taking place in some hidden location; these decisions are being made right in front of us.
We need to beware of what we are willing to grow accustomed to. When a country becomes too accustomed to war and all that goes with it; when we become comfortable with the despair and horror of war, then we are sealing our fate as a nation. For no nation that has become accustomed to war or puts military spending above the well being of its citizens can survive.
Dan Kenney is co-coordinator of noprivatearmies.org and Clearwater to Stop Blackwater.
From the November 4-10, 2009 issue