In an introduction to a new post on the TomDispatch site, commenter Nick Turse evokes Lady MacBeth as he laments the indelible blood on his hands as a result of the U.S.’ War on Terror. The preface connects to an article by Kelly Denton-Borhaug entitled, “A Parable of (All-American) Violence – Accountability and the War of Terror.” Ms. Denton-Borhaug describes the overall American indifference to violence and the obliviousness to the death and destruction committed by the U.S. military.
Normally, I’m in sympathy with Mr. Turse’s writings; they’re clear, courageous, and incisive. In this case, however, I refuse to wallow with him in his mea culpas. If he wants to consider himself complicit in the bloodshed wreaked by the country’s MIC, that’s his affair, but I take vehement issue with being lumped in with the people Ms. Denton-Borhaug talks about.
I see such generalizations constantly; they’re almost universal. And to me, they’re universally offensive. I realize that, for the sake of argument and the economy of words, qualifiers are often omitted when speaking of “Americans,” but in a matter as serious as the placing of blame for Afghan deaths from Hellfire missiles, for instance, there should be a distinction made between the institution responsible and….everyone else.
It’s demonstrably true that there is a segment of the population that supports the transparent, “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” excuse for the War on Terror. That sentiment ran rampant in the days following 9/11 and the later lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. But not all U.S. citizens supported such a rationale. In fact, tens of thousands protested it. I was one of those marching in the streets to call attention to the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld obsession with re-making the Middle East, under no provocation. From day one, any thinking person knew that there were no WMDs threatening this country. Unfortunately, the above cabal staked their gambit on the fact that the appeal to a fear mindset would totally obscure and outweigh critical thought. In short order, they were successful — lord, were they successful! Twenty years later, they are still succeeding: the war profiteers continue to rake in billions, with an ever-larger Pentagon budget approved year after year.
Except….I don’t approve those budgets. I’ve called out my state’s senators and my district’s representative over and over on MIC expenditures. In almost every Presidential election, I’ve voted for a third-party candidate, one who wants peace to prevail. I’ve canvassed for such candidates on all levels, donated money, displayed yard signs. I’ve signed hundreds of petitions and letters to elected officials, made phone calls to local and national offices, written the White House on numerous occasions. I’ve walked the talk and put my money where my mouth is.
Ditto for violence in general. I’ve been signing gun control petitions for probably 35 years, and have been making my opinions known to those in power accordingly. I have no love of carnage in the streets, I’m not inured to it, and I think it’s inexcusable, no matter who perpetrates it. I think the fact that we have myriad armed militias throughout the country is a disgrace. I’m not oblivious; I inform myself about current events at all levels.
The problem behind perpetual war and violence is lack of political will. My state’s Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, who I respect and support on most issues, disappointed me years ago when I wrote him about military spending authorizations. His contention was that, unless funding were to be allocated, we couldn’t afford to bring home U.S. troops in Iraq and keep them safe in the process. A seemingly logical answer, but in actuality, disingenuous at best. There were sufficient hundreds of billions of dollars signed over to the Pentagon to bring home the troops, put them up in hotel penthouses, feed them porterhouses and vintage wine, and send them first-class to Vegas with pockets full of money to gamble. And then some. So even most of the few “good” politicians will bow to pressure and vote to shovel more money to the “defense” effort. The thoroughly corrupt politicians will line up to do so.
If we take a step back and look at the people who are put into office, it quickly becomes apparent that voters never get the opportunity to elect representatives who won’t knuckle under to the MIC or the gun lobby, or both. Peacenik candidates don’t have a chance. I’ve spoken before about Dennis Kucinich, who for decades has advocated a Department of Peace at the national level. In his recent Cleveland mayoral campaign, he pledged to create such an entity at the municipal level. The results were that he was first gerrymandered out of Congress by his own party, and then this month, was knocked out of the city’s primary by two candidates with vastly larger campaign coffers. Surveys show that the majority of respondents don’t want endless war, don’t want mass shootings, and would rather redistribute funding for the war machine and police militarization to infrastructure and other causes that would actually help people. But the major political parties won’t nominate candidates who will work to pare down Pentagon spending and institute true community policing. Meaning that we the people very seldom get to vote for representatives who align with our values.
I am a U.S. citizen by an accident of birth; had my mother not been given up for adoption at age 7 by Canadian parents who’d fallen on hard times and couldn’t feed their family, I could easily have been born in Toronto. I doubt I would have emigrated. But I was born in this country, so in the broadest terms, I’m part of the collective population. I live in the U.S. because I don’t have the means to leave. Federal laws apply to me (even if they don’t apply in practice to others, such as the 1%). As a responsible adult, however, I’ve done everything in my legal power to prevent and then stop the imperialistic actions of the U.S. government; I’ve fought the authoritarian, oligarchical powers-that-be since I was 16. Short of taking extreme, illegal action, I’ve tapped out my resources. Therefore, I resent being tarred with the same brush as those who espouse and propagate war and violence. I resent the imposition of guilt on behalf of the many thousands of other citizens who’ve likewise done all they can to oppose the MIC and its minions, along with the gun lobby and all the other entities that thrive on destruction abroad and theft from the 90% at home. My credo is a slogan popular during the Bush II tenure: “Not in my name.”
Note: the original version of this post listed Tom Engelhardt as the author of the introduction to Ms. Denton-Borhaug’s article. Thanks to WJ Astore for pointing out the error.