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On War: King, Twain, Paul, Engelhardt, Brussels, Ahmadinejad

RE-POST from October 2009, FDL:

“6 Powerful Arguments Against War from Martin Luther King, Mark Twain, Ron Paul, Tom Engelhardt, The Brussels Tribunal, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”
libbyliberal Saturday October 31, 2009 1:53 am

I have a sense of doom that our President will escalate the war in the Middle East. It won’t be as much as General MacChrystal is asking. This strategy goes along with Obama’s modus operandi of cautious and thoughtful faux-deliberating that ultimately aligns in substance if not degree with the corporate and military status quo. From the very beginning of his term, Obama has seemed lost to the matrix of this status quo, while periodically extending some eloquent and promising rhetoric of change.

As long as the mainstream media has no sense of urgency about ending the war, in fact, clearly promotes the attitude of the military and Beltway establishments, just as it has a corporatist-echoing diffidence for "robust" health care reform, Obama is horrifyingly comfortable taking his cues from it and staying the corporate course. The formidable power of the media (including a mighty dose of the Oprah factor) and the corporate elite behind it, brought him to the highest political office in the land. Yes, 80 million citizens responded to his media campaign and rallied for him with hearts filled with hope for humane reforms — an end to war, affordable and just health care, transparency, accountability, etc. But they … we … do not motivate him.

Next week there will air an HBO special on Obama’s election campaign, conveniently coinciding with the Afghanistan War decision deliberations. There will be much media hype around disclosures from this documentary, re-romanticizing Obama, the person. Or rather, the projected personality. The excitement and titillation will distract from the more substantial but less engaging, for many, issue of war. Personality will prevail over principle.

I am beginning to understand why Obama is a great admirer of Ronald Reagan. Reagan was able, as Obama is now, to use his charisma to reduce demands for accountability on policies. The ability to engender trust through celebrity. No wonder he puts such a high value on the media. It is his instrument. An enormous channel for his eloquence and that engaging smile. There is still such willful denial among many patiently waiting for the changes Obama has promised. Especially during this upcoming week, the media will reinforce the Obama brand. It will revitalize the afterglow of Obama’s dramatic election win. Sadly and conveniently the fate of the Afghanistan War will be eclipsed.

Norman Solomon chose a very chilling and cynical title for a piece in the Huffington Post about the administration’s current Afghanistan War deliberations: "When in Doubt, Keep Killing." He writes:

The "new course" will be a permutation of the present course.

While certainty is lacking, steely resolve is evident. An unspoken mantra remains in effect: When in doubt, keep killing. The knotty question is: Exactly who and how?

News accounts are filled with stories about options that mix "counterinsurgency" with "counterterrorism." The thicker the jargon in Washington, the louder the erudite tunes from the latest best and brightest — whistling past graveyards, to be filled by people far away.

Don Hazen reports that Jodie Evans, founder of CodePink, recently visited Afghanistan and described the humanitarian crisis there:

"The United States has spent a quarter of a trillion dollars in eight years of military action: what have we achieved? Most of the country is in worse condition, the bordering countries are less stable and death fills the air. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan is ranked 181 out of 182 countries for human development indices. Life expectancy has fallen to 43 years since the U.S. invasion. Forty percent of the population is unemployed, and 42 percent live on less than $1 a day."

And according to Marc W. Herold, "The U.S. war in Afghanistan is currently costing $ 5 billion a month, or $115,740 a minute!"

In the following six passages arguing against war (I am finally getting to), it is not the incredible financial cost of war that is addressed, but the compelling, to some, moral one.


1) MARTIN LUTHER KING (April 4, 1967)

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

2) MARK TWAIN, The War Prayer

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time.


"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.


What if tomorrow morning you woke up to headlines that yet another Chinese drone bombing on U.S. soil killed several dozen ranchers in a rural community while they were sleeping? That a drone aircraft had come across the Canadian border in the middle of the night and carried out the latest of many attacks? What if it was claimed that many of the victims harbored anti-Chinese sentiments, but most of the dead were innocent women and children? And what if the Chinese administration, in an effort to improve its public image in the U.S., had approved an aid package to send funds to help with American roads and schools and promote Chinese values here? Most Americans would not stand for it. Yet the above hypothetical events are similar to what our government is doing in Pakistan. Last week, Congress did approve an aid package for Pakistan for the stated purposes of improving our image and promoting democracy... What if this happened on U.S. soil? What if innocent Americans were being killed in repeated drone attacks carried out by some foreign force who was trying to fix our problems for us? Would sending money help their image?


The intended destruction — or genocide — of Iraq as a state and nation has been ongoing for 19 years, combining the imposition of the most draconian sanctions regime ever designed and that led to 1.5 million Iraqi deaths, including 500,000 children, with a war of aggression that led to the violent deaths of over one million more.

Destroying Iraq included the purposeful targeting of its water and sanitation system, attacking the health of the civilian population. Since 1990, thousands of tons of depleted uranium have been dropped on Iraq, leading in some places to a 600 per cent rise in cancer and leukaemia cases, especially among children. In both the first Gulf War and “Shock and Awe” in 2003, an air campaign that openly threatened “total destruction”, waves of disproportionate bombing made no distinction between military and civilian targets, with schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, shelters, residential areas, and historical sites all destroyed.

Destroying Iraq included promoting, funding and organizing sectarian and ethnic groups bent on dividing Iraq into three or more sectarian or ethnic entities, backed by armed militias that would terrorize the Iraqi people. Since 2003, some 4.7 million Iraqis — one fifth of the population — have been forcibly displaced. Under occupation, kidnappings, killings, extortion and mutilation became endemic, targeting men, women and even children and the elderly.

Destroying Iraq included purposefully dismantling the state by refusing to stop or stem or by instigating mass looting, and by engaging in ideological persecution, entailing “manhunting”, extrajudicial assassinations, mass imprisonment and torture, of Baathists, the entire educated class of the state apparatus, religious and linguistic minorities and Arab Sunnis, resulting in the total collapse of all public services and other economic functions and promoting civil strife and systematic corruption.

In parallel, Iraq’s rich heritage and unique cultural and archaeological patrimony has been wantonly destroyed.

In order to render Iraq dependent on US and UK strategic designs, successive US and UK governments have attempted to partition Iraq and to establish by military force a pro-occupation Iraqi government and political system. They have promoted and engaged in the massive plunder of Iraqi natural resources, attempting to privatize this property and wealth of the Iraqi nation.


This is but the barest summary of the horrors Iraq has endured, based on lies that nobody but cowed governments and complicit media believed. In 2003, millions worldwide were mobilized in opposition to US/UK plans. In going ahead, the US and UK launched an illegal war of aggression. Accountability has not been established.


In other words, 30 years after we launched our jihad against the Soviets by arming the Afghans, we are now fighting almost all the people we once armed [Taliban] and arming a whole new crew. All sides in the debate in Washington find this perfectly sensible.

Then, of course, no one should forget al-Qaeda itself, which emerged from the same anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan in the late 1980s — Osama bin Laden first arrived there to fight and fund in 1982 — part of the nexus of Islamist forces on which the U.S. bet at the time.

Above all, let’s not forget Iraq. Indeed — not that anyone mentions it these days — back in the early 1980s, the Reagan administration threw its support behind the Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein against the hated Iranian Shiite regime of Ayatollah Khomeini …:


In a region where the law of unintended consequences seems to go into overdrive, you choose and arm your allies at your peril. In the past, whatever the U.S. did had an uncanny propensity for blowing back in our direction — something the Israelis also experienced when, in the 1980s, they chose to support an embryonic fundamentalist Islamist organization we now know as Hamas as a way of containing their then dreaded enemy Fatah. …


We now tend to think of blowback as something in our past, something that ended with the attacks of 9/11. But in the Greater Middle East, one lesson seems clear enough: for 30 years we’ve been deeply involved in creating, financing, and sometimes arming a blowback world.


Someone should take it into account before we plunge in and arm our future enemies one more time.

6) MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (related by Paul Craig Roberts)

Why, Ahmadinejad asked the UN General Assembly, do the countries of the world sit there while Israel murders and dispossesses the Palestinian people?

Why, asked Ahmadinejad, do the countries of the world sit there while the US, from thousands of miles away, sends troops to the Middle East, “spreading war, bloodshed, aggression, terror and intimidation in the whole region,” while blaming the countries that are suffering the West’s naked aggression?

Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly what most of the UN representatives already know, that “selfishness and insatiable greed have taken the place of such humanitarian concepts as love, sacrifice, dignity, and justice. . . . Lies have taken the place of honesty; hypocrisy has replaced integrity, and selfishness has taken the place of sacrifice. Deception in foreign affairs is called foresight and statesmanship, looting the wealth of other nations is called development efforts; occupation is said to be a gift that promotes freedom and democracy; and defenseless nations are subjected to repression in the name of defending human rights.”

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