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A "Peace Existence" for Whom?

Hiding America’s Surging Militarism Behind Children

by Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS

Matthew’s gospel records that when his disciples asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?," Jesus put a child in their midst and said, "Whoever becomes humble like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (18:1-4) When America was attacked on 9/11, President Bush said the United States is "the greatest nation on the face of the earth." (The New York Times, Sept. 17, 2002), and then put a child in our midst to justify a needless pre-emptive war against sanctions-weakened, defenseless Iraq: "We owe it to our children, we owe it to our grandchildren to make sure that the dictator of Iraq never threatens our country, or our children, or our children’s children with the world’s worst weapons." (The Boston Globe, Sept 24, 2002)

What we owe our children and grandchildren is to stop the spreading, now surging, malady of militarism with which the Bush administration has infected America and the world. Whereas Jesus affirmed the natural innocence of children, President Bush uses their innocence to justify waging a criminal war against the people of Iraq and their children and grandchildren. Bush’s continuing, seemingly sociopathic, exploitation of family, democratic and religious values, to mask and justify war and domination, needs to be seen for what it is and ended now by Congress. Only then will our children and grandchildren avoid the legacy of hatred of America and constant fear and threat of violence, being created for them by the Bush administration’s warped "good versus evil" worldview and unending militaristic war of terrorism. The so-called "war on terrorism" is a terrible hoax perpetrated on Americans by the Bush administration, using the horrific attack of 9/11 to instill manipulative fear, cloak military aggression and domination that serve corporate interests, and maintain Republican political power.

President Bush continually drafts our children and grandchildren to serve militaristic policies that threaten, not protect, their future. He exploits our children’s innocence to justify his latest "surge" of sending 21,000 more American troops to Iraq: "But victory in Iraq . . . a democratic Iraq . . . will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren." He even drafted countless other children in his new escalation of militaristic violence: "From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories, millions of ordinary people are sick of the violence, and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children. And," he said, "they are looking at Iraq. They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists-or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?" ("Transcript of President Bush’s address to the nation last night" as recorded by The New York Times, Jan. 11, 2002)

President Bush’s repeated cloaking of his administration’s militarism in the innocence of children is seen in his recent year-end news conference: "This war on terrorism is the calling of a new generation. Success," he continued, "is essential to securing a future for peace for our children and grandchildren. And," he added, "securing this peaceful future is going to require a sustained commitment from the American people and our military." ("Press Conference by the President," Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, Dec. 20, 2006)

Here again, President Bush even recruited the children of the Middle East in his war of terrorism. "The one thing we cannot do," he said, "is to give up on the hundreds of millions of ordinary moms and dads across the Middle East who want the hope and opportunity for their children that the terrorists and extremists seek to deny them. And that’s a peaceful existence." (Ibid)

"A peaceful existence?" It is not believed to be about "success" in Iraq being "essential to securing a future for peace for our children and grandchildren"-and for the children of "the ordinary moms and dads across the Middle East." It is about President Bush’s overriding need for "victory" in Iraq to hide his administration’s war crimes and thus secure his future-from the gallows of public opinion, the judgment of impeachment, or the docket, in absentia, of the US-opposed International Criminal Court charged with war crimes. It is not just about protecting his "ego" but about protecting his own future "peaceful existence." He desperately needs a "surge" of American troops in Iraq to stave off the reality of truth and justice that the future holds for him-and for certain other members of his militaristic administration.

"A peaceful existence?" "For our children and grandchildren?" For "the ordinary moms and dads across the Middle East . . . ?" Using the innocence of children to justify crimes against humanity. A preemptive, criminal war based on a lie: ". . . the dictator of Iraq threaten[ing] our children [and] children’s children with the world’s worst weapons."

The ensuing deaths of some 655,000 "ordinary moms and dads" and their children across Iraq. ("Study Claims Iraq’s ‘Excess’ Death Toll Has Reached 655,000," by David Brown, The Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2006) "Operation Iraqi Freedom’s" destruction of Iraq’s life-sustaining infrastructure, and the continuing failure of Bush administration-favored war-profiteering corporations, like Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton, to reconstruct what America’s militarism devastated. Horribly violent sectarian civil war, set in motion by the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, making the country less stable and safe than under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein.

"A peaceful existence?" The reality includes the flight rather than "freedom" of millions of "ordinary" "moms and dads" in Iraq and their children. Last October a report by The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was quoted as stating that "out of the population of 26 million, 1.6 million Iraqis have fled the country and a further 1.5 million are displaced within Iraq." ("The Exodus: 1.6m Iraqis have fled their country since the war," by Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 23 Oct. 2006)

"A peaceful existence? For whom? Over 3,000 children and grandchildren of American "ordinary moms and dads" dead, and tens of thousands more physically and emotionally maimed-and these totals will "surge" if Congress does not stop the insanity of this militarizer-in chief. The criminal investment of our country’s human and material resources in killing and occupying and dominating instead of in creating and sustaining and renewing life here and abroad.

"A peaceful existence?" That is not the reality of the "ordinary moms and dads across the Middle East" and their children, who are oppressed by US-supported Arab tyrannies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Libya and Morocco and the Gulf States. ("Six Questions for Michael Scheuer On National Security," by Ken Silverstein, Harper’s Magazine, Aug. 23, 2006) Nor is "a peaceful existence" the reality of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, living under the US-enabled apartheid-like rule of Israel. And a similar reality of oppression is endured by the people of US-supported, authoritarian-ruled Pakistan.

In the face of these brutal realities, our country is led by a president evidently blinded by the arrogance of power in continuing to insist, "And I want the enemy to understand that . . . they can’t run us out of the Middle East." ("Press Conference by the President," Dec. 20, 2006) It is the "ordinary moms and dads across the Middle East" who want to "run us out of the Middle East." Bush’s arrogance is also seen in his call for a "surge," which will involve US forces "continu[ing] to pursue Al Qaeda and foreign fighters [italics added]." ("Transcript of President Bush’s address," The New York Times, Jan. 11, 2007) The only real "foreign fighters" in Iraq are Americans and their coalition partners.

"Foreign fighters?" A poll conducted by the University of Maryland last October was reported as indicating that "78 percent of Iraqis said the US military is ‘provoking more conflict than it is preventing,’" that "71 percent, including 74 percent of Shiites and 91 percent of Sunnis, want US soldiers out within a year or less," and that "61 percent of Iraqis favor attacks on American troops." ("Time to Leave," Editorial, The Nation, Dec. 18, 2006) "Merciless and violent . . . terrorists and extremists," as President constantly tries to have us Americans believe? Or "ordinary moms and dads" across Iraq, whose love of their children and their country leads them to resist a "merciless and violent" "shock and awe" invasion and occupation of their homeland, paraded as the "advance of liberty?"

President Bush accuses neighboring Iran and Syria of aiding and abetting the "terrorist and insurgents" in Iraq, and threatens to "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." ("Transcript of President Bush’s address," The New York Times, Jan. 11, 2007) His desperate need to "succeed," to secure his own future "peaceful existence," could lead him to divert public attention from his war crimes against Iraq by provoking a much larger war against Iran and Syria-ostensibly to also "help bring a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren."

Our country is suffering from the militarism of a president in deep denial: "Our goal remains a free and democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, and is an ally in this war on terrorism." ("Press Conference by the President," Dec. 20, 2006) A president whose compulsion to "succeed" in Iraq, and thus hide and justify his war crimes, is seen in his saying the obvious: "I believe that we’re going to win. . . . If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t have sent our troops there. That’s what you’ve got to know. We’re going to succeed." (Ibid)

President Bush wants everyone to also know, "Most people have asked me to do one thing, and that is to make sure that their child didn’t die in vain. And I agree with that; that their sacrifice has been worth it." (Ibid) Tragically, Bush justifies the death of one "child" by the death of another, in his apparently obsessive pursuit of "victory" to secure "a peaceful existence" for his own future. Here is believed to be a deeper motivation for the President’s present "surge" of American troops in Iraq.

Millions of children and grandchildren in America and the Middle East are being left behind to struggle and die, by an administration that hides behind their innocence to serve the imperialistic interests of corporate America. Tragically, much of our country’s human and material resources are being sacrificed to illegally seize and control the oil and lands of other countries’ children and grandchildren.

Think what our human and material national wealth could do if invested in all our children and grandchildren. A truly adequate minimum wage, for example, would help to guarantee that no American child would be left behind-as would other such present-protecting and future-preparing social programs. "Ordinary moms and dads" across America know that a full stomach feeds a hungry mind. And a hungry mind is far more likely to search for truth and justice and thus help to guarantee a full stomach and life for all children. For a full stomach also nourishes a caring heart.

President Bush ended his call for a "surge" in US troops for Iraq by saying, "We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty will guide us through these trying times." ("Transcript of President Bush’s address," The New York Times, Jan. 11, 2007) It is not about "the Author of Liberty guid[ing] us," but about the authorizing of a "surge" of death cloaked in the divine.

President Bush would poison America with a chronic malady of militarism. He ended his State of the Union Address with, "The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others." He then proposed "to establish a special [bipartisan] advisory council on the war on terror . . . [to] show our enemies abroad that we’re united in the goal of victory." (Tape of Address, Jan. 23, 2007) The "victory" Bush and Vice President Cheney and their neo-conservative collaborators so desperately pursue to cover up their war crimes.

It is time for Congress to stop funding and end the malady of militarism with which the Bush administration is corrupting our country. It is time to become humble like a child-for the sake of children and grandchildren everywhere.

Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain, and a diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at william.alberts@bmc.org.