I knew war was terribly wrong when I saw pictures of children like myself desperately attempting to flee the flames of bombed German cities in newspapers and on the newsreels during World War II. As an eight year old, I identified with the children of war-torn Europe and worried and wondered why they were being killed when everyone on the home front was waving flags and hyping the wonderful war effort against the evil axis powers. I was sure that Hitler and the Nazis were evil but I wondered what the dying children had to do with it. Now, as a sixty-five year old who looks into the beautiful eyes of my toddling granddaughters and reads and sees accounts of children their age being killed in Afghanistan, the West Bank and Iraq, by weapons I pay for with my tax dollars, I am absolutely certain that war itself is human-kind’s ultimate evil.
I am a financial accomplice in the deaths of Afghan children considered “collateral damage” by U.S. bombing, in lethal attacks by U.S.-armed Israeli forces on Palestinian babies in refugee camps, and in killing thousands of Iraqi children with cancer caused by depleted uranium bombs dropped during the Persian Gulf War. Do the citizen-taxpayers of the United States understand their complicity and responsibility for the deaths of innocent children as they wave their flags in the war against “evil”?
Anthropologists who look for common threads among the historical cultures of the world agree that the greatest taboo in all human cultures is killing another human being. All cultures agree that murder is wrong but in the collective passion of paranoiac patriotism, the mass murder of war and mortal combat is an honored tradition. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 gave militarists an exceptional opportunity to rally frightened Americans into a flag-waving frenzy to fight a global war against terrorism and evil everywhere. The romanticization and glorification of war by a violence-peddling media and entertainment industry, corporate war profiteers and their political pawns has numbed and dumbed down our humanity to the level of an us-against-them, kill-or-be-killed madness.
Violence sells. It makes money and draws viewers and readers to war and adventure movies and television shows, murder mysteries, video games, and to the front pages and the continuous television news. Violence is a formidable force in America. With increasingly fat profits and political pork abounding in the defense industry, it becomes un-American to oppose a war against those ubiquitous evil-doing terrorists around the world whether or not they had anything to do with the September 11 attack. If you do not join our cheerleader-in-chief, George W. Bush, in supporting a global war-without-end, you just may not be a good American. The world’s sole super power is viewed by many as the role model for mindless, endless, retaliatory killing and the spiraling cycle of violence throughout the world.
Our European allies have criticized our spending great amounts on military might and actions while investing little in economic aid for poor nations that might alleviate the causes of the hatred behind the September 11 attacks. European leaders are also skeptical of our go-it-alone threats against Iraq and the other “axis-of-evil” countries and our leave-it-alone policy toward the ever-escalating violence and killing in the Middle East. The depth of resentment toward the United States in 9 Islamic countries was revealed in a Gallup poll in which only 11% of the people liked President Bush and 58% disliked him, and only 9% thought the U.S. action in Afghanistan is morally justifiable and 77% thought it was not.
The most frightening aspect of the global scene these days is the out-of-control surge in the savagery of war and violence. Colombia has been declared as part of the war on terrorism even though no one there was connected with the 9/11 attack on America and the escalating violence has now taken the life of a Colombian Senator who ventured into rebel territory to seek the release of another Senator who had been kid-napped. The war against drugs in Colombia has also become a war against leftist guerrillas with oil pipelines at stake and an increasingly independent and <U.S.-wary> regime of Hugo Chavez in neighboring oil-rich Venezuela to be reckoned with.
With the Bush administration unwilling to take the necessary initiatives for peace that only the U. S. can make, the tit-for-tat, retaliatory killing of innocent people is spinning out-of-control in the incendiary Middle East. As more men, women, and children and the unborn are killed each day, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, “The president continues to think that it’s very hard to have peace negotiated in an atmosphere of daily killings and violence.”
In the Gujarat state of western India, at least 544 people have died due to Hindu-Muslim mob violence after 58 Hindus were immolated on a train last week. Gujarat borders on southeastern Pakistan. Tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan were already at a fever pitch and the Hindu-Muslim conflict has always been at the core of the hostility. Nine percent of Pakistan’s people have a favorable opinion of the U. S. and only four percent think our military action against Afghanistan is justified according to the Gallup poll. The western neighbor of our “ally” Pakistan is Afghanistan where our high-tech, American dream victory of low-or-no U.S. casualties could be turning into the same sort of grinding guerilla nightmare that drove out the Russians twenty years ago.
On the deadliest day yet for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with at least eight killed and over forty wounded , U.S. commanding General Tommy Franks made a Freudian slip as he offered prayers for the families of those killed “in our ongoing operations in Vietnam.” The Afghani fighters have a long tradition of being dangerous, deadly and resilient foes. The Soviets were able to take over the cities of Afghanistan very easily with the help of some internal friends but were chopped up by guerilla tactics of Afghani fighters who ambushed them from the crevices and caves in the mountains. As the killing news kilters out-of-control how many innocent people will die before we realize that war is wrong?.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, South Carolina. http://www.turnipseed.net