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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What Will You Do About America's Dirty Wars?

Last night, I had the good fortune of watching Jeremy Scahill's documentary, Dirty Wars with friends from the Global Justice Working Group of Occupy Wall Street. Some valid criticisms have been made about this film The main problem is that Jeremy became to much of a focus in the movie. But to be distracted with this detail is to miss a vital part of what it means to be an American today. For what this documentary does is to, beyond a shadow of a doubt, dispel the myth upon which the religion of patriotism is based. That myth describes the who we are as a people. 


Though we would prefer to think of ourselves as being different from our enemies in terms of protecting innocent life and abiding by the rule of law; the contents of this movie illustrates that we might have more in common with our barbarian terrorist enemies than we care to admit. This has to be said because of what we are allowing our President to do. He has been exercising the power to summarily designate people for the death penalty. And, because of us, he can do this without being held accountable for his action.

But not only this, our troops are also killing innocent civilians, including children and pregnant women, in the name of defending the Constitution and spreading democracy.  To prove this, Scahill investigates several targeted killings including an American night raid in an Afghanistan village. In the Afghan village incident, special operations troops surround a house in a night raid. When one of the villagers steps out to check the sounds the troops are making, the troops immediately fire on him. The man who committed the unpardonable sin of showing curiosity was the local police chief and had been trained by our own troops. Furthermore, as the people inside check on what is happening and try to help their friend, our troops fire on them and kill some including women.

The remorseful justification for these killings given by a military commander said that the special operations troops could have mistaken these people for terrorists because women have also been engaged in terrorism acts. Think about the message this gives to Afghanis. That because other fellow countrymen have been terrorists, you can receive their sentence and be shot first instead of being asked any questions at all. This reminds me of a conversation I had with an ardent Christian Zionist when I asked about Israel killing Palestinian women and children. She replied saying that since Palestinian women and children have participated in terrorist attacks, the killing of any Palestinian woman or child is justified because they are animals.

This is how you win hearts and minds? Or is this how you try to secure a fearful compliance and obedience in order to maintain an occupation? We need answers because the kind of attack which Scahill investigated has happened quite often.

Next, Scahill takes us to Yemen as American drones missiles are fired from the sky at those on the kill list. Obama's new powers allow him to use these drones to kill Americans but should the nationality of victims be of any concern. In a foreign land, Obama is allowed to kill people who have no provision to prove their innocence. And in the case of a teenage son of an American Imam who was already assassinated, this son was killed later on in a separate attack. Again, the President does not need to prove the guilt of those he targets to order these assassination. And this is the rule of law that separates Americans from the terrorists?

We finally go to Somalia where these targeted killings are being carried out by war lords whose loyalty, or is it services, have been purchased by our government. Here, there is nothing that can be added to what we have learned in the previous stories except that people whom we would regard as terrorists if they were not on our payroll are carrying out ruthless attacks. We should also note that this is not the first time when or the only place where America has employed the services of vicious war lords.

Yes, this documentary does spend a little more time than necessary on its maker. And its maker spends a little more time on the part of the military that is responsible for these killings, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) than what is needed. But what is all of that compared to what is being done under the waving of the American flag to innocent people around the world?

As with content of Edward Snowden's revelation that the Obama Administration had been collecting the phone records of those who  use Verizon. Such information demands action, a response, from us. That is, it demands that we say something to Obama showing that this cannot go on. And failure to do so is to become as guilty as he is and thus to merit the same judgment. That judgment will most probably be to live with the consequences of targeted killings and those consequences include America becoming another Russia. 

After seeing this movie, one has to wonder what will it take for Americans to interrupt their lives of comfort in order to demand what is right?

The theater schedule for Dirty Wars.

4 comments:

Tate said...

Great post.

Personally I've been quite disappointed that the American church has been either silent or supportive of the military-industrial complex. When I've asked, "Shouldn't Christians be anti-war?", I get answered with replies such as, "What about WWII?" or "Christians should stay out of politics." But the funny thing is, nobody will say the latter when talking about the rights of the unborn.

Does being pro-life imply being anti-war?

Curt Day said...

I don't know of anyone who is always against war so the question becomes what criteria should we use to distinguish between necessary wars and unjust wars.

Daniel Goldhagen (hope I remembered the name correctly) wrote a book, which I did not read, on genocide being worse that war. The title says it all. But another question becomes what were the alternatives? And, still another question asks did we contribute to the conditions that necessitates war.

According to one of the contributors to Howard Zinn's Voices Of A People's History Of The United States, we have been at war since after WWII. In our wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, we should note that the people we were at war with were once paid allies whose purpose was to cause problems for others. And added to the wars are those actions we practice that interfere with the sovereignty of other nations for economic reasons.

So where does Pro-life fit in here? I think pro-life is broader than just the abortion and war questions.

Tate said...

I would think pacifists would consider themselves always against war, but you are right in saying that, at least for those who believe in a right to self-defense, there is the question of when a war is necessary.

Pardon me for saying so, but I think "we" is a term too vague for this context. I won't claim any ownership over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor did I interfere with the sovereignty of anyone. I think it's important to not conflate "us" with the US nation-state.

Regarding the quality of being "pro-life," I was simply pointing out what I see as a contradiction among those who seem to be ardent defenders of the rights of the unborn and yet are supportive of military interventions that kill civilians.

Curt Day said...

Tate,
BTW, I fully agree with you regarding the contradiction between defending the rights of the unborn and being eager to support military interventions.

BTW, when I use the term "we," it is to refer to our country as a whole.