I watched a documentary today called Dirty Wars. It is the story of a journalist, Jeremy Scahill, a war reporter whose credentials include coverage of the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and a host of other countries engulfed in US wars. He has been to the battlefield, talked to survivors and perpetrators alike, and has seen firsthand the horrors of war. I would continue with his resume but suffice it to say that this guy is no novice.
This particular story centers around a trip that Mr. Scahill took to Afghanistan. He goes to one of the areas that is normally left untouched by mainstream journalism due to its volatility. In the film he marks that the road to get there is designated black, that's NATO-speak for "you don't go there." He braves the dangers because he wants to investigate a couple of Afghan civilian deaths.
I will leave the full account of his journey to the film, but basically what he discovers is that a family was having a gathering with eating and dancing before US soldiers showed up and started firing on their house. They kill two men and two pregnant women. One of the men killed was an Afghan police commander who had been trained in several US run programs. Was he considered an enemy combatant? What about the pregnant women? The official story released by the Pentagon initially said that these deaths were perpetuated by Afghans themselves as "honor killings." However, eyewitness accounts by family members and photo/video evidence prove otherwise. They were killed by bearded Americans. There was clearly a cover up. The questions Mr. Scahill left with was who and why?
Through a series of investigations his attention is drawn to a military unit that is solely under the direct supervision of the White House called JSOC. JSOC is a joint agency that is responsible for caring out special operations. What is uncovered throughout Mr. Scahill's investigation is that JSOC's operations a) do not have to be in a designated warzone (as demonstrated by another situation covered in the film of a cruise missile being fired on civilians in Yemen) and b) are not under NATO command (even the CIA and local US occupied bases claim to have no knowledge of their soldiers' movements). There are many exhibits in the film that are much more convincing of these points than I can or should offer here, but presently I just want to paint some broad strokes of just how secretive and unaccountable these units are in order to illustrate their clandestine yet ubiquitous nature. Civilians are being killed in non-warzones in secret by American forces (even American citizens without due process in the case of Anwar Al-Awlaki) yet the US government will not even acknowledge that they are happening.
My purpose here is not to go too far in detail about the specifics of each case. I simply wish to point out to you, the American citizen, what is being done in your name behind closed doors with your tax dollars with no accountability in order to ask you a question-- do you care?
I am not a scholar of international diplomacy or war. I am not a soldier. I am not a politician. I am simply a tax paying citizen who cares what his country does abroad. I am also a human being who cares about the lives of innocent people. I also live under the presupposition- though I am not so inclined to really believe it these days- that we live in a democracy and I therefore have the right of a voice and the responsibility of action.
There was a time when the general feeling (and law for that matter) was that the President needed Congress' approval in order to go to war. It is my deduction that if the President needed the authority of Congress then it implicitly needed the approval of the people who politicians are supposed to represent. Since W Bush that mandate has been circumvented at best and blatantly ignored at worst. No longer do Presidents seek the approval of Congress or the people to go to war. Now Commanders-in-chief have kill lists that are subject to no one except their own conscience, which I think we can safely say are beholden more to the corporate interest than to the blind hand of justice these days.
My question is how long do we let these politicians run amuck drunk on power like this? Not only is the US defense budget more than the next 26 largest other countries in the world combined (all allies) while domestic spending is cut more and more year by year (food stamps just took an $8.7B cut), but wars are not even being fought in the traditional ways that precipitate the need for such a budget. The targeted killings that are being done on the battlefield of planet Earth are carried out (again without transparency or accountability) by a small group of special forces (JSOC, CIA, etc.). We don't go to war with countries anymore. We go to war with ideologies which can and will spring up anywhere, especially when the seeds of dissent are watered with the blood of martyrs. These small elite agencies are carrying out a world war under everyone's noses under the veil of darkness from the shadows and we are paying for it.
Correct me if I am wrong but in a democracy if we pay taxes then it is my understanding that we get a voice in where that money is spent. Did you ever give your consent for your hard earned money to be used for sniper rifles, apache helicopters, night vision goggles, and the salaries of mercenaries and generals? Did you ever give your consent that billions and trillions of dollars worth of war machines be shipped overseas to kill children at weddings? Did you ever say it was ok to send a drone to fire missiles into fields of unidentified civilians? If your answer is "no" then I would ask you why is continues? Do you approve of such things being done in your name? Do you want to pay for those guns and missiles? Then I would urge you and myself to action.
Maybe I am naive. Maybe things can't change. Maybe the government really is bought off by the corporate interest and my voice is muffled to silence under the mountain of money my concerns are buried under. Maybe the US military will continue taking a majority of our money to kill innocent people and perpetuate a never-ending cycle of bloodshed that not only kills but creates terrorists in the process. Maybe we are doomed to be spied on even in our own homes. Maybe it is possible that your or my name could be put on a kill list on the President's desk. Or maybe we could do something about it.
Maybe we could call our representatives and demand that they address the blatant abuses of the US military in foreign lands. Maybe we go to Washington D.C. and occupy the offices of those who purport to represent us while being beholden to the corporate interest. Maybe we stage rallies at national monuments to let our fellow citizens know what their government is doing in their name. Maybe we shut down traffic with our limp bodies to give a depiction of the dead lying in fields in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Palestine.
I don't know the answer. I am just a man. But I also know that I am sick and tired of being complicit in the murder of hundreds and thousands of innocent people under the guise of a war that will never end and only profit the war machine. I am tired of this being done with my money; I am tired of this being done in my name.
This post is only about war. I have not even touched upon the domestic issues and systematic oppression that plague hundreds of millions of citizens here are home. It becomes clearer and clearer to me every day that this government and their corporate puppet masters have gone too far. It is definitely time to fight back. The only question I have is-- do we care?