Who makes the decision to take us to war?
Why do our leaders decide on military options over nonviolent solutions?
Who benefits from these decisions?
At the end of the last century, neocon thinkers envisioned a New American Century where "American leadership is good both for America and for the world; and that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle". These thinkers greatly influenced high-level officials in George W. Bush's administration, including Vice President Cheny and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, in its development of military and foreign policies, including the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. One CIA agent stated that "In the White House, they weren't thinking of 9/11 as an attack, but as a gift!"
Veterans For Peace members include those who have fought in these and other wars and the families of these troops. We have returned to question the true reasons why such wars are fought, and the impact of these wars on the people of the countries attacked, on the soldiers who fight such wars and their families, and on the American people.
How do our families deal with loved ones killed in a foreign war?
How does a father deal with the loss of a daughter killed in the cross-fire of war?
"Collateral damage" involves real human beings. Every war veteran has stories about the suffering of those who have no ideological investment in the rhetoric of war. Many carry vivid pictures in their minds of dead and maimed women and children who have been caught in the terror of military actions. Families and communities have been destroyed in every dimension of their lives, both physically and mentally, by the loss of loved ones, homes, and the means to support themselves in life.
Millions of innocent people have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Millions more have been displaced from their productive daily lives to refugee camps, no means of subsistence, hunger and disease. Women and children in particular have been victims of war. Contrary to Western myths, women have traditionally had a valued role as mothers and in family economic production. But when the men are killed their families are left unprotected, and rape and trafficking young girls by rival war lords have been all to common. What are the options for a widow with children when she is forced from her home and life unravels?
When men are killed, women and children are left to the violence of war on their own.
One consequence of invading a foreign country and conducting a war there is that it directly contradicts the current lie of the threat of "terror". Almost every soldier of the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars can tell of incidents where our military actions have created new terrorists and insurgents, both within and outside these countries. We are also creating ill will against America around the world.
As we have seen in many of our novels, movies, and television shows,
how would Americans react to foreign forces invading our country,
killing our family and neighbors, destroying our communities?
Do we know what we are doing to the people of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan? Those who promote war, whether politicians or the people of their societies who support military actions, are responsible for the deaths of millions of humans and for the terror and scars of millions of more survivors. Is this the kind of people we Americans want to be?
How do our soldiers feel about innocent children killed in the crossfire?
What do soldiers who have been there say about war?
We often hear "war is hell"... but why? Yes, there is the threat of death to our soldiers and their comrades, and the physical mental stress of long periods in tense situations. But as many war veterans can relate, the story is much deeper than that. The horror of war for many veterans is learning the worst we can be as human beings.
Why do war veterans not talk about their experiences? Why do they carry vivid pictures in their minds of the innocent dead and maimed, of destroyed families and communities? In addition to serious disabilities, why do they suffer high rates of lifelong problems like PTSD and depression, suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence, and homelessness?
How does war bring out in a soldier a cruel joke with Iraqi boys holding his sign
"Lcpl B--- killed my Dad and then he knocked up my sister"?
To many veterans, the deeper meaning of war is that we are capable of being the worst that human beings can be. In war, we dehumanize others... how else can we kill them, as we are trained to do? In conflicts of insurgency, where the "enemy" is not obvious, everyone becomes a "gook", "raghead", and other nonhuman creatures not worthy of consideration... or even life. There is a strong tendency to take out inner conflicts and frustrations on these creatures, so incidents by U.S troops like My Lai, Abu Ghraib, and Zangabad are far more common than the American public is aware.
Most war veterans know of many cases
where unarmed civilians have been terrorized and killed.
So soldiers in war do not come back home the same father, brother, son, mother, sister, daughter, high school friend, neighbor. They often have to live with the inner knowledge of what they are capable of being the worst a human being can be, which is in sharp contrast with the good person they were raised to be. This is an almost intolerable burden, and most people cannot face this... so they bury it. But the internal conflict is still there, and has many impacts in their lives like anger and disrupted social relationships. Veterans make up twice the homeless as the general population, and are five times as likely to commit suicide as a "civilian". Families and friends of war veterans often see these effects, but usually do not understand why.
How does what we do in war influence how we function
as family and community members when we come back?
Many war veterans are opposed to continued wars, and the costs of war on our troops potentially touches most American families. So why do we ask our soldiers to pay this cost for unfounded reasons? Apart from the debate of whether any war is justified, it is hard to see any American war in recent history being worth this price, particularly those initiated by politicians without the constitutional responsibility of a declaration of war by Congress.
When we talk about the costs of war, we usually think in terms of economics, another issue that touches almost all Americans.
Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, the economic costs of war has been placed on ordinary Americans. Our tax burdens have proportionately increased, as the very rich have been excused from paying their fair share of the financial costs of war. At the same time, billions of dollars have been wasted or unaccounted for in war profiteering and cost overruns by private contractors with little oversight or accountability.
How has military spending affected the American economic crisis and our national debt?
America spends 5.8 times more on our military than China,
10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran.
America accounts for almost half of the military spending in the world! We spend more on our military than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined.
America devotes almost one-fifth of its federal resources on military spending,
including close to 60% of discretionary spending.
Many people ask how this money could be used to strengthen the well-being of our society. For example, every $1 billion of military spending supports war related 8,500 jobs. The same amount can be used to replace sales taxes and create 10,800 jobs, invest in health care and create 12,900 jobs, devote to education and create 17,700 jobs, or allocate to mass transit, and create 19,800 jobs. Where are our priorities as a society? (Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Standards, U.S. Census Bureau.)
The war economy has enriched executives and benefitted the rich investors
of corporations like Halliburton and General Electric with billions in no-bid contracts,
while ordinary Americans have lost jobs and homes.
We can understand people defending their homeland from foreign invaders, but the American wars in our lifetime have involved us being the invaders. Why do politicians feel so justified in causing so much suffering on all sides?
Who do you think benefits from these wars?
In looking at America's wars, particularly in the Middle East, we veterans ask what kind of people do we Americans want to be? Will we continue as an example of a society devoted to the well-being of our own people and other human beings around the world? Or will we continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction by trying to impose our will on others for the benefit of a few?
Why are we as veterans and military families committed to peace?
The use of military force is a matter of political policy. For those who believe in Peace and want us to live up to our American ideals of Freedom and Democracy, take five minutes to make a difference for a more peaceful and just America:
Tell them you are a veteran or friend of a veteran, a constituent, and someone who votes, and ask them:
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