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A New Declaration of Independence

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The US has entered the Orwellian Era of permanent war—until we decide that it’s over.

Why, after nearly 15 years, do we still have 10,000 American troops fighting, killing, and dying in Afghanistan?

Why, after more than 13 years, have we nearly exited and then escalated back into Iraq with 3,500 US troops fighting, killing, and dying?

We are gaining absolutely nothing from this armed occupation of two countries for so long—instead we are losing lives, spending $billions, and creating endless ill will amongst yet another generation in the Middle East and Central Asia. Even the Military Times notes that US troops are “deeply unpopular” in Iraq. It has been a complete waste since the US invaded in March 2003 based on Bush regime lies about WMD and false claims of alliance between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

US combat mortalities since 2001: Afghanistan, 1,742; Iraq, 3,527.

Civilian mortalities in Afghanistan since US invasion: more than 25,000.

Civilian mortalities in Iraq since the US 2003 invasion: more than 160,000.

The dollar costs of war since 2001: nearly $1.7 trillion.

We can argue into the night about fault but can we turn toward solutions even more strenuously? US citizens could help convince our government, our officials, and our candidates to begin advocating for these steps that will de-escalate the conflicts and work toward sustainable peace:

* Stop all arms transfers—both military aid and sales—to the region. That is only pouring gasoline on the flames, demonstrably, repeatedly, with those arms perpetually falling into the wrong hands. The “loss” in revenue to arms manufacturers would be more than covered by the next step.

* Withdraw the US military from the region. All we do there is provoke more hatred. Our violent responses and presence have caused a worsening of terrorism steadily to the point we now see a caliphate, unthinkable until recent years. US taxpayers would either get tax relief or see domestic infrastructural or services improved significantly.

* Declare a hands-off policy on military intervention in the region and get used to the people of the region redrawing their own borders and having the forms of governance they decide to have.

* Increase nonviolent measures of influence, from humanitarian aid to financial sanctions. Withdraw all support for human rights violators in the region, friend or foe.

* Support the nonviolent supranational and US-based organizations that can help enhance the well being of the people of the region.

These measures and more could transform so much—and the US would benefit greatly from taking these steps unilaterally. Time for a Declaration of Independence from foreign military disasters.

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Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

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