Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Resist the Rush to War

Ah, don't you feel it in the air? Americans of all political stripes coming together, the blues and the reds, Democrats and Republicans, liberal-oriented MSNBC and conservative cheerleader FOX News, all singing in the same chorus, calling for military action against the Sunni Islamic political-military movement ISIS (or ISIL or "the Islamic State" as it is various known) that has risen up out of the civil war in Syria to become a military menace to Iraq as well. Such unity of mind, heart and purpose! There is no patriotism like military patriotism, and in fact some would say there is no other kind! How wonderful! Yes, the reaction to ISIS's awful killing of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, by beheading has brought the country together like nothing since 9/11! And since we have been down this road before with our actions after 9/11, which led us to invade Afghanistan, then Iraq, and then to engage in drone warfare in Pakistan, Yemen and more recently Somalia as well, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the disruption of life for millions more, including what must be post-traumatic stress disorder on an absolutely epidemic scale--unless you think that PTSD is only a problem when it affects American soldiers and not the people that our soldiers move and fight among--we can certainly rest easy and be fully happy and confident that our military actions will not only give us the gut satisfaction of violent revenge against persons or groups that killed Americans, but also provide many benefits to the people of the Middle East, ensuring that they will be forever in our debt and eager to cooperate with the American government and provide us all with peace, security and prosperity forever! Hip-hip-hooray! Whoo-whoo! YES-S-S!!! Uncork the champagne! Strike up the band! America is ready for WAR, baby, and it's all good!! Freedom and democracy all the way! Let's go kill Muslims! Let's show 'em what Western civilization is all about! Let's bomb 'em back into the stone age, like we did in Vietnam, Hiroshima and Nagasaki! Anybody got some Napalm that we can strap on the drones? Oh yeah, baby, can you say, "Middle Eastern BBQ?" Isn't that FUN? Can we watch it on ESPN? Is it a video game yet?

Hold on... hold on. Let's think this over a little bit. Yes, the killing of the two journalists is a horrible thing, its horror amplified and extenuated by the online streaming of video recordings of the beheadings, but this is only one small piece of the many awful things that have been happening in the Middle East ever since.... when? Well, the starting date of armed violence in the Middle East is certainly a debatable matter, but we undoubtedly gave violent chaos a major boost when we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, as these actions overthrew governments, destabilized the existing order in the region, disadvantaged particular groups in Iraq and other nations, setting them up for persecution, resentment, and a burning desire to exact revenge and retribution against their perceived oppressors, including the USA, and opened the door for all kinds of militant and extremist groups to rise up and seek to plant their bloody flags wherever they could find a space for them. This is VERY important to remember because one would hope that whatever action is taken by our government and military in relation to ISIS, it should not be a course of action that will simply further inflame the angry passions and traumatized psyches of the Middle East and create more support for violent and extreme Islamist movements in the future.

Yet I fear this is exactly what is going to happen, because our leaders seem to have learned nothing--NOTHING!--from our recent disastrous interventions. They are ready to rush in again, drop tons of bombs on large numbers of peoples, causing massive death, destruction and suffering, with not a care in the world that this will simply set the stage for a new set of militants to arise and seek revenge and retribution.

Remember: the first American invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War of 1990-91, and the attendant stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia, the Holy Land of Islam, became the rallying cry of the original Al-Qaeda. The second American invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the formation of "Al Qaeda in Iraq," formed of former members of the Iraqi army and Ba'ath political party, two institutions that were disbanded and criminalized under the American occupation and the subsequent American-backed Iraqi governments, as well as disgruntled Sunni Muslims who foresaw the threat of a pro-Shi'ite, anti-Sunni government taking control. Their fears of Shi'ite suppression of the Sunni minority in Iraq proved prophetic, as this is exactly what transpired under the government of the American-backed Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. He is a Shi'ite politician who used the levers of government to disadvantage and persecute Sunnis and to convert the government and military into mechanisms for Shi'ite domination of Iraqi society. This helped lead to the rapid success of ISIS in Iraq, as ISIS is a Sunni-oriented political and military movement, which many Iraqi Sunnis are willing to support as the ONLY powerful force, however barbaric and vicious, able to protect Sunnis against Shi'ite domination. Prominent among the Iraqi Sunnis joining or supporting ISIS are many former members of the Ba'ath party and the old Iraqi military.

So, you can trace a long line of disaster here, with each successive US intervention simply leading to greater division, suffering, embitterment, and radicalization, empowering increasingly vicious and desperate groups whose agendas are rooted in resentment and anger over the effects of past US interventions and policies. By opposing Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait with military forces whose presence greatly agitated Arab Muslims, we helped to create Al-Qaeda. By invading Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and to dispense with the imaginary threat of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, we created an actual Al-Qaeda in Iraq. By supporting Al-Maliki and enabling him to form a Shi'ite-oriented government that persecuted Sunnis, we have helped to create a group even more brutal than Al Qaeda, namely ISIS (or ISIL, or the Islamic State or whatever name it comes to be known by). So if we now pursue a policy of bombing the hell out of Iraq to dispense with the unproven threat of ISIS attacking America a la 9/11, we will create... who knows what new Frankenstein monster. We really could bring down a new 9/11 by doing everything we can to agitate angry Islamists against us. If we feel free to kill them at will, why in the world would they not want to return the favor?

And Obama seems determined to undertake this foolish and ill-considered action. He doesn't want to send American soldiers in to fight on the ground, but he is all too happy--in my view, much, much TOO happy--to rain down death from above via drones and missiles. He has become the "Drone King," the leader who relishes killing and conquering distant enemies by using high-tech weapons that slaughter from the sky.

Sadly, I think Obama knows better. I think he is intelligent and well-informed enough to know that this kind of push-button slaughter will serve no real purpose beyond giving him a temporary uptick in the polls, where he has been lagging bit lately, poor baby. Americans love military attack, and any President who makes a dramatic speech about sending our "brave men and women" to do battle against Evil Others is guaranteed a brief boost in popularity. So all Americans, let's go to war! Let's make Obama feel better! Let the death of two journalists, who went to Iraq of their own free will, knowing full well the dangers, be our justification for mass slaughter! Let's spend billions of dollars on military futility! Sadly, very sadly, this seems to be the only course of action that our Washington politicians can agree upon. Why use our resources and abilities to help rebuild a crumbling America when you can enjoy bombing another country into an even greater state of devastation? I can only shake my head and fight back tears knowing that this will only lead to worse things, both in the Middle East, and possibly here as well. If we embark on a campaign of mass murder half way around the world, against a movement that has NOT attacked the United States, don't be surprised if attacking the United States now becomes a top priority and a major recruiting tool for ISIS.

Finally, let me say that I do believe action needs to be taken to stabilize the Middle East, but I think it is not up to us to do this. Obama's strategy does indeed acknowledge this, as he calls on other countries such as Saudi Arabia to take action to clean up the mess in their back yard. However, our "minimal" involvement via air strikes and drone missions will still cause massive death and suffering and expose us to future blowback. Not worth it! Let those who live in the region deal with what is, after all, THEIR region... not ours. And, THE single most fundamental factor is the Sunni-Shi'ite division in Islam, something far, far beyond our competence to adjudicate or resolve!

As a Pagan who wants to see more focus on the sacredness of the earth and nature, I furthermore regret that this kind of military madness will once again distract us from the greatest threat that we face, which is not instability in the Middle East that occasionally causes the deaths of American journalists, but the continual degradation of our natural environment, which threatens to poison and damage us all and even end the conditions for life on earth as we have known it. Where is the battle cry to save the earth?

Enjoy your war games, O Drone King, and all you pious worshippers of the American War God...history will judge you harshly, and so will the earth.

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