Memorial Day has come and gone, but the effects of war linger on. Here are a couple of articles worth reading that provide a different perspective on war than the ones you may have heard at the official ceremonies yesterday. I encourage you to read them because Memorial Day and all of the days that follow are not just about honoring those who died, but a time to pause and reflect on the nature of war itself.
The American grenade that nearly killed 10-year-old Shah Mohammed landed on an unmarked firing range in a scrubby desert, in the shadow of the largest U.S. military base in the country.
Like hundreds of other U.S. explosives fired here, it was supposed to detonate on impact. Like hundreds of others, it didn’t.
It remained unexploded until Mohammed stumbled upon the ordnance while looking for scrap metal this month. He had nearly gathered enough shrapnel and bullet shells to trade for an ice cream cone. Then the 40mm grenade tore through the boy’s 87-pound body, breaking through bone and tendon and nerve.
By the way, if you read some of the comments that follow this story, you’ll see that it’s really the kid’s fault (or his parents’ fault), not ours. Could our military be to blame for something horrific like this? No way! It’s the stupid kid’s fault, presumably for wanting an ice cream cone in the first place.
Or perhaps just more propaganda from the liberal media, newspapers like the Washington Post (which, curiously enough for being part of the liberal media, has never met a war it didn’t want to endorse or prolong). So, yes, you should read the comments as much as the story because they tell you a lot about some of your fellow citizens.
But yeah, sure, why not believe one of those explanations. It makes everything easy for those without hearts or consciences. Unfortunately for those folks, it isn’t just negligence that kills. Bombs dropped by American and NATO aircraft kill as well. That requires an entirely different rationalization.
A suspected NATO airstrike killed eight civilians — including six children — in eastern Afghanistan, a provincial spokesman said. The airstrike took place Saturday night in Paktia province, said Rohullah Samoon, spokesman for the governor of Paktia. He said an entire family was killed in the strike.
There are two things I find interesting about this incident. The first is that it has gotten very little play in the United States. I suppose it’s not the kind of feel good story the media want to publish on Memorial Day weekend. On the other hand, it’s probably a lot more relevant to Memorial Day than most of the junk they do publish.
The second thing I find fascinating about this is how it demonstrates so clearly the way in which the U.S. military and NATO routinely handle stories involving civilian casualties; and that’s something you should know more about, a lot more. Just like that picture above, neither the United States nor NATO want you to know the truth so they do their very best to prevent you from ever learning it.
When the initial reports of these killings first surfaced, NATO denied the whole thing.
The U.S.-led coalition on Sunday disputed reports that eight civilians, including children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan. Afghan officials said an airstrike Saturday night killed eight members of a family, but a senior NATO official said that so far, there is no evidence of any civilian casualties. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.
The initial denial that anything terrible has happened has become standard operating procedure for NATO and the U.S. military. Note also how the NATO spokesman only speaks anonymously so that nothing can be traced back to him.
But since people are actually dead from the bombs that were dropped, the denials soon give way to new statements from those responsible for the killings. In this second version of events, NATO and the U.S. military are taking the reports seriously and conducting an investigation to determine the facts.
We are taking any claim about civilian casualty very seriously, and we are looking at finding out information about what really happened last night.
We acknowledge that coalition forces were conducting an operation in Paktia province against a large number of insurgents last night.
This from Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a NATO spokesman, who also reiterates that a probe is underway to determine the facts. A fourth iteration appears in the Los Angeles Times. Here coalition forces were no longer just conducting an operation. They were under attack and call for air support.
A NATO spokesman said the incident appeared to be precipitated by an insurgent attack on Western troops in Paktia province. Coalition troops returned fire and called for air support.
“We’re actively gathering information to assess what did occur,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a coalition spokesman.
We could drag this out indefinitely and that is precisely what NATO and the U.S. military would like, of course, because they know that the news marches on and American media quickly lose interest in just about anything they cover. In sum, new stories emerge and old stories die.
At the end of the day, NATO and the U.S. military count on the fact that no one back home really gives a damn if they killed a family of eight in Afghanistan. The only children whose deaths count are those Syrian children being slaughtered by a regime we do not approve of.
So how does this story end you may ask? Suffice it to say that next will come the excuses along with a grudging admission that something did happen; something tragic, of course, and only because NATO or U.S. military forces were dealing with all those nasty insurgents who kill far more innocent civilians than we do.
Eventually someone will be paid for the loss they suffered. Not the six children and two adults who are dead. They won’t be paid. I mean, they don’t really have any need for our money after all, do they?
But someone will be found to accept American blood money and then our conscience will rest easy until the next incident happens. And be assured, there will be a next incident and a next and a next and a next until we finally pull out after squandering hundreds of billions of dollars and ten of thousands of lives and declare victory and congratulate ourselves on saving the people of still another unfortunate country from something or other.
Some will even argue that America has learned its lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan. Look at this version of the above story and be sure to listen to the Rachel Maddow video. Rachel assures us that nation building as a rationale for U.S. military intervention abroad is dead. But we’ve heard that before, haven’t we? We heard it after a U.S. Black Hawk went down in Somalia, for example, and Americans were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.
So it would seem a bit of skepticism is in order about claims of nation building being dead as a rationale for U.S. military involvement abroad. But it is true that even a growing number of those who have served in the U.S. military are no longer convinced that America’s wars are worth fighting.
One of the most vivid and replayed images of protesters at the NATO summit last weekend in Chicago was a group of some 40 vets lined up to toss their war medals over the chain link fence to protest what former naval officer Leah Bolger calls “the illegal wars of both NATO and America.”
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 33 percent of post-9/11 veterans say that neither the war in Iraq nor in Afghanistan “were worth the cost,” and this among a highly motivated cohort who chose to serve.
These vets understand what America’s wars are all about. They’re not about weapons of mass destruction or promoting freedom, democracy and human rights or fighting terrorism or all of the other nonsense the sheeple are fed. What they’re primarily about is a military-industrial complex that can only be sustained by war and cowardly politicians in search of campaign contributions and the projection of U.S. power.
Unlike Rachel, I’m not ready to proclaim victory. America has indulged itself with a succession of absurd wars over the last fifty years. And I rather doubt things will change until the American people start punishing politicians for their support of war.
For make no mistake about it, America’s politicians are fundamentally champions of war and of the military-industrial complex that profits from war. Republicans? Democrats? On issues of war and peace, that hardly matters anymore, to be honest. They’re all on the take. They’re all responsible.
But so too are the vast majority of Americans who sit on their asses and do nothing at all to change what keeps happening over and over again.