By David Swanson
Remarks at Peace Center, Los Angeles, January 18, 2020
Like perhaps most people who visit Los Angeles, I consider it my duty to offer a brilliant new idea for a film script. My idea is in the genre of science-fiction mafia, a genre that I think has not been sufficiently exploited. In this film, the protagonist wakes up to the fact that without knowing it, he has somehow joined the mafia. I expect people to be able to relate to the story because I believe that this entire country either has become aware or needs to become aware that it has joined the mafia.
How do major U.S. newspapers and television news programs refer to the murder of an Iranian general? Never with the word murder. Often with words like “deal with” or “take out.” Trump had to deal with him. You could read an article like that, about a guy who is famous for hiring someone to put his name on a book called The Art of the Deal, and imagine that Trump had made a bargain with Suleimani, rather than blew him up along with whoever was nearby.
There have been societies studied by anthropologists that were literally incapable of understanding, much less committing, murder. But you’d only have to be incapable of understanding mafia talk to be bewildered by a U.S. newspaper. I want to live in a society where “took him out” indicates that you went with a friend to a restaurant and had a nice meal. But first, we’re going to have to create a society in which a murder is referred to as murder. Assassination comes close, but it’s beginning to be treated as potentially acceptable, whereas murder still means unacceptable.
So-called progressive Senator Chris Murphy, who days earlier had mocked Trump for being weak and not making enough people in the Middle East “fear us,” listened to a secret White House explanation of why the Trump Family (I use family in the mafia sense) had taken out Suleimani. Murphy denounced the explanation as utter nonsense, but labeled the murder “a strike of choice.” Remember when Trump said he could get away with a murder on Fifth Avenue? Maybe he could, but if you — one of you here tonight — killed someone on Santa Monica Boulevard, you couldn’t tell the police, “Well, yes, officer, I shot that man, but it was just a strike of choice, and I never apologize for my strikes of choice, because that would make me look weak, and now would you mind helping me wave my personal flag?” Nor, of course, could you crib from Obama and say “Let me be clear, officer, the guy is dead now, and it’s our job to look forward not backward.” Nor could you pull a George W. Bush and announce that your victim was an imminent threat or could potentially have become an imminent threat (given enough time and U.S. weapons) or that he had himself shot somebody else last week, or that you had a dream in which he was planning to attack four U.S. embassies with a ray from a death star. I mean, you could say such things, but you’d be locked up for saying them.
Now, the fact that people in the U.S. all talk a little bit like the mafia doesn’t make them the mafia, any more than their borrowing phrases from Star Wars for their various pretentious Rebellions or their new branches of the U.S. military makes them handsome space warriors who can breathe without oxygen, travel faster than light, and survive technology far worse than nuclear weapons with a culture far more primitive than ISIS and magical powers that seem to turn on and off on the basis of orchestral music that permeates all space-time from an unknown source.
The question is why does the United States talk like the mafia? Well, why would a mafioso avoid using the word “murder” and employ various euphemisms and code words instead? Perhaps in order to deceive himself but certainly in order to avoid incriminating himself if he’s overheard. If cops weren’t potentially listening, then “I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse” might have been more simply if less dramatically stated as “I threatened to kill him.”
Why would a U.S. journalist talk about Trump “dealing with” Suleimani? The journalist isn’t guilty of murder. He or she can simply say that Trump murdered Suleimani. Yes, but he or she, or his or her editors, or their owners have identified with the U.S. Family (I use family in the mafia sense). And the cops aren’t listening, but we are. We, the people. We are the cops in this analogy. If we read in our newspapers that the 45th U.S. president in a row has committed murder, eventually we might start to question that. If instead we hear that Trump has taken out a scary threat through a strike (any kind of a strike, there’s nothing much wrong with a strike, after all), well, then we can move on to the sports game or the summer weather in winter that we revel in like insects enjoying a rain puddle on a freeway just before rush hour.
We’re all in the mafia, because we’re all engaged in murder and all trying to hide the fact from all of us. Even opponents of a war on Iran or of any of the current wars tend to avoid ever mentioning the principal thing wars do. We’re eager to tell each other that such a war would cost money or hurt what are called “our troops” or change Iran in exactly the opposite way purportedly intended or even risk nuclear apocalypse or otherwise damage the natural environment, or shift money to the wealthy, strip away liberties, brutalize society, etc., but never that it would kill, injure, traumatize, and render homeless huge numbers of human beings — albeit non-U.S. human beings. That’s what a war is. The other things are the side-effects. They should all be listed on the bottle and read before opening, but they’re not what war is. What war is must never be mentioned, or understood.
Last week, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar mentioned that she suffered PTSD as a result of being traumatized by war as a child. Of course, the vast majority of those killed, injured, traumatized, or given PTSD, by war are civilians, and disproportionately they are children and the elderly, and overwhelmingly they are on one side when a rich nation attacks a poor one. But these basic facts have been so diligently hidden, that people screamed out in outrage, that only U.S. troops were permitted the status of having PTSD.
Now, I doubt you could find a single such troop who thought of it as a status or wouldn’t gladly give it up. And I think many suffer simultaneously from brain and other injuries, as well as moral injury, compounding the PTSD in particular ways. But the moral injury is because they know what they’ve done, because they’ve stopped (sometimes very abruptly stopped) imagining that war has no victims. Imagine the absurdity of telling Congresswoman Omar that the people bombed and occupied and forced to flee and mourn and go hungry and face disease epidemics don’t suffer, that someone sitting in a trailer in Nevada pushing buttons can be traumatized (as indeed they can) while someone living beneath the constant buzzing of a deadly drone that can end life at any instant cannot be traumatized. After all, such a person is foreign and has dark skin and ought to be used to toughing it out, right? Americans aren’t used to such affairs and need to be given a little more consideration, don’t they?
Now, sometimes it’s admitted that an assassination is a killing, and sometimes that it’s an act of war, and sometimes that some particular actions within a war can be illegal, but virtually never that an assassination is illegal or that war is itself illegal or that assassination is murder or that war is a collection of murders. When Trump threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites as revenge for the 1979 hostage taking, he was doing an awful thing in many ways. He was threatening wonderful beauty and history, he was (in the imagery of The Godfather) using revenge as a justification for slaughtering a prize horse and sticking its bloody head in somebody’s bed, he was perpetuating widespread misunderstanding of what happened in 1979, he was provoking anger and retaliation. But the outcry in the U.S. media was “war crime!”
It’s worth noting that we don’t have rape crimes. If Harvey Weinstein both rapes you and makes you read really bad dialog, we aren’t supposed to declare the latter to be a “rape crime” and ignore the rape itself. We don’t have armed robbery crimes, where if you rob a store and knock over a shelf, you’re legally guilty of knocking over the shelf as an armed robbery crime, with the robbery itself being acceptable. We don’t have animal cruelty crimes where if you torture a dog and make too much noise doing it, the latter is an animal cruelty crime while the animal cruelty itself is just a strategic household security imperative. It’s not that I don’t want people outraged about threats to cultural sites. It’s just that I want them outraged as well by threats to human lives, and I want it admitted that war is itself a crime, that it is banned under the UN Charter with narrow exceptions that are never met and under the Kellogg Briand Pact with no exceptions.
Both war and murder are crimes. It is a crime under Iraqi law to murder someone in Iraq, just as under U.S. law to murder someone here. It is a crime under international law to commit war in Iraq just as it would be in the United States. War is murder by military. Murder is war without military. The legal and moral distinction between murder and war is not and should not be what people suppose. And the distinction should not be a question of who the victims are. Remember last week, when Trump had murdered people in Iraq, and Iran had threatened to retaliate, and Trump had already threatened to re-retaliate if Iran retaliated, and even after Iran had launched missiles, the big question in the United States was what should be done if any “Americans” were to die from Iranian actions. That was the overwhelming concern. If mere Iraqis were to die, there seemed to virtually no concern that World War III would be required. (We saw the same phenomenon during Obama’s drone murder spree. U.S. victims generated the majority of the disturbingly tiny amount of opposition in the corporate media.)
But when Trump murdered Suleimani, the major concern among Democrats in Washington seemed to be that he hadn’t done it in the way Obama might have. Obama would have properly notified a handful of Congress members. Obama would have refrained from tweeting about it. Obama would have expressed grave regret and cited the moral quandaries of Christian saints rather than Fox News hacks. Obama would have provided his victim with a proper Muslim sea burial. But the Obama era, through his actions, and activists’ inactions, and the corruption of the media and Congress, and other factors, gave us this era we are in. Murder was normalized. Progressive law professors testified to Congress that drone murders were horrible indefensible murders unless they were part of a war, in which case they were totally fine. Now they’ve become so totally fine that we are told that the murder of Suleimani is only a problem if it starts a new war. If it is just a murder, then it is just the family business. Murder Inc.
Only, part of the family has been feeling disrespected. Congress members want to have some say about wars, at least sometimes, with some wars, when the president belongs to the other party. The most common claim about the legality of war in the U.S. media is that it is illegal unless authorized by Congress. But, in fact, Congress doesn’t have the legal power to authorize rape or robbery or dog torture, and war is as illegal as those other things. If Congress will use its power to prevent or end a war, I’m 100% in favor. But the notion that Congress can use its power to make a war legal is a dangerous one.
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia has long tried to give presidents more war powers while claiming to do the opposite. And even his claims have nonsensically normalized war. On my youtube you can watch me questioning him at an event at which he faulted Trump for sending missiles into Syria without asking Congress. Could Congress possibly have legalized the crime of sending missiles into Syria, I asked him. He admitted it could not, but returned immediately to the same nonsense. This month, however, he actually introduced a resolution — how ever weakly worded — to force a vote to end war on Iran — a vote that succeeded in the House before being taken in the Senate.
A big focus of the efforts to erase the illegality of recent wars and murders is the notion of “imminent threat.” As with many war lies, there is an answer to the question of whether Suleimani was an imminent threat, but it is the wrong question. There were no weapons in Iraq in 2003, but the question of whether there were had nothing to do with the morality or legality of attacking Iraq — except in the sense that the disaster would have been even worse had Iraq actually had those weapons. Suleimani was apparently on a peace mission when he was murdered, but the question of what he was up to has nothing to do with the morality or legality of killing him. If he had been indicted for a crime, he could have been arrested and prosecuted. If he was planning more attacks on ISIS, the United States could have stopped taking that personally. If he was planning attacks on U.S. troops, any number of diplomatic steps, including removing those troops from illegal and catastrophic endless occupations, were possible. But a preemptive strike, also known as an aggressive strike, is a crime made to look heroic in movies yet still criminal and insane in real life.
In the mafia, there’s never any discussion of the financial cost of taking care of somebody. On the contrary, taking care of him is necessary for the family’s interests — or for making sure people “fear us,” as Senator Murphy wants. If I were to go on CNN and propose educational or green energy or healthcare or housing programs, what’s the first question I would be asked?
And if I were instead to propose sending more troops to Iraq, would I ever in a million years be asked that question?
War either costs nothing, or we shout about how much it costs by naming some fraction of military spending, as if the rest of military spending is for something other than war.
I think this is as good a moment as any to tell you my budget idea.
An important job of any U.S. president is to propose an annual budget to Congress. Shouldn’t it be a basic job of every presidential candidate to propose one to the public? Isn’t a budget a critical moral and political document outlining what chunk of our public treasury should go to education or environmental protection or war?
The basic outline of such a budget could consist of a list or a pie chart communicating — in dollar amounts and/or percentages — how much government spending ought to go where. It’s shocking to me that presidential candidates do not produce these.
As far as I have been able to determine, though it’s so absurd as to seem improbable, no non-incumbent candidate for U.S. president has ever produced even the roughest outline of a proposed budget, and no debate moderator or major media outlet has ever publicly asked for one.
There are candidates right now who propose major changes to education, healthcare, environmental, and military spending. The numbers, however, remain vague and disconnected. How much, or what percentage, do they want to spend where?
Some candidates might like to produce a revenue or taxation plan as well. “Where will you raise money?” is as important a question as “Where will you spend money?” But “Where will you spend money?” seems like a basic question that any candidate should be asked.
The U.S. Treasury distinguishes three types of U.S. government spending. The largest is mandatory spending. This is made up largely of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but also Veterans’ care and other items. The smallest of the three types is interest on debt. In between is the category called discretionary spending. This is the spending that the Congress decides how to spend each year.
What every presidential candidate ought to produce, at a minimum, is a basic outline of a federal discretionary budget. This would serve as a preview of what each candidate would ask the Congress for as president. If candidates feel they need to produce larger budgets outlining changes to mandatory spending as well, so much the better.
President Trump is the one candidate for president in 2020 who has produced a budget proposal (one for each year he’s been in office). As analyzed by the National Priorities Project, Trump’s latest budget proposal devoted 57% of discretionary spending to militarism (wars and war preparations). This is despite the fact that this analysis treated Homeland Security, Energy (the Energy Department is largely nuclear weapons), and Veterans Affairs each as separate categories not included under the category of militarism.
The U.S. public, in polling over the years, has tended to have no idea what the budget looks like, and — once informed — to favor a very different budget from the actual one at the time. I’m curious what each person campaigning for the presidency wants the federal budget to look like. Will they put their money (well, our money) where their mouths are? They say they care about many good things, but will they show us how much they care about each of them?
I strongly suspect that most people would recognize the significant differences, and have strong opinions about them, if we were shown a basic pie-chart of spending priorities from each candidate.
When I say that the United States is the mafia, I don’t mean that we are all the same, or that nobody is doing good. But I do mean the society as a whole, not just the government, and certainly not some shadowy room where eight guys with cigars decide everything. Our problems would be a lot easier and a lot harder in various ways if the world worked like that. The reality is very different. We have a pseudo-representative oligarchy with various power centers and ideologies rolling recklessly toward the cliff of World War III, with certain parties licking their lips for dollars or blood, and others coming to grips with the possibility that they’ve gone too far.
Many of us have a fondness for whistleblowers. Even beyond our respect for people who were always right, we like the stories of people who were wrong and then saw the light and then took a courageous risk to expose wrongdoing. But how do you blow a whistle on a whole society? Whom do you expose it to? You have to expose it to itself. You have to intervene as a member of society to correct society while society tries to remain anonymous like an alcoholic, avoiding publicity about what it has done.
At World BEYOND War we’re working on cultural changes, as well as structural changes like divestment from weapons, and closure of bases. These factors all interlock. If people were ashamed to profit from weapons it would be easier to divest from them. If there were less profit in weapons, it would be easier to make people ashamed of them.
Last Spring, some of us asked the City of Charlottesville, Virginia, where I live, to divest from weapons and fossil fuels, and they did so. And one place we took the idea next was Arlington, Virginia. I spoke with one of the County Board members there. And he told me without the slightest hint of embarrassment that it would be hard for Arlington to divest from weapons because, first, Boeing had paid for a nice park, and, second, because of the National Cemetery full of war dead in Arlington.
Think about that second one. It’s always been important in starting wars to get Americans killed so that more can be killed in some sort of sick honor of the earlier ones killed. But here is advocacy for getting more people killed (of course some 95% of them are likely to be non-Americans) — killed in unspecified future wars in honor of the dead from all past wars.
Now, perhaps the idea is this. If we outgrow the barbarism of war, if we cease producing rows of corpses, then we will be putting on airs and suggesting some sort of superiority to the people already rotting away in row after row of war graves. I think this confuses individuals with society. A society can improve (or worsen, for that matter) without its constituent individuals changing their attitudes toward the dead. Our society claims to be superior to slavery but puts slave-owners all over its money and monuments.
Yeah, somebody shouts out, but slavery is gone because of war. You can’t hate slavery if you don’t love war. No? Watch me. I can do it even while disliking the lousy education that denies people the knowledge that most of the world ended slavery without wars. But what you think of the U.S. Civil War need not determine what you think of an individual person who was caught up in it. And what you think of the Civil War shouldn’t alter the fact that nobody proposing any major legal changes, such as the creation of a Green New Deal, is proposing that first we find some fields, slaughter millions of young people, and then pass legislation to create a Green New Deal. We are in a society that is superior to that, whether we like it or not.
Many people, however, are still far too ready to support wars on distant foreigners — and to support the weapons industry that supports the wars because of their belief that foreigners often need some killing to straighten them out. One way to increase opposition to the weapons industry that we don’t take advantage of is to make people aware that it’s a global monster with no flag or fight song, that U.S. weapons stocks rise on the threat of U.S. wars but not merely because the U.S. government will use their weapons. Most wars have U.S. weapons on both sides.
The U.S. government not only markets and approves the foreign sales of U.S.-made weapons, but it also gives other governments billions of dollars every year on condition that they use this money to purchase U.S.-made weapons. If you unquestioningly support U.S. militarism, then you support whatever Egypt, Israel, and numerous other nations do with their free weaponry. I suspect that few taxpayers in the United States knew they were giving weapons money to Ukraine until the topic came up during the impeachment of Donald Trump, just as few even in Congress seemed to know that the United States had troops fighting in Niger until a scandal developed around what Trump said to the widow of a soldier killed there. Perhaps it is the case not only that wars are how the U.S. public learns geography, but also that weird scandals are how the U.S. public learns about U.S. wars.
The U.S. government also provides military training to other governments’ militaries around the world. Sometimes this serves to support an existing government, such as the brutal dictatorship of Bahrain, and sometimes to overthrow it, such as with Bolivia, but always to militarize it. The U.S. government also maintains military bases in numerous other countries, bases that sometimes serve to help prop up unpopular governments, such as Afghanistan, or assist them in their foreign wars, such as Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen.
So, even U.S. government militarism is not limited to the wars of the United States.
Not only does U.S. militarism extend well beyond the patria, but it extends into places that call into question one of the most common justifications for militarism. We’re often told that wars and war preparations are aimed at protecting the world and human rights from dictatorships and oppressive governments. The wars are for freedom! Yet, U.S. weapons companies (with U.S. government approval and assistance) and the U.S. military are, in a variety of ways, supporting most of the worst governments and dictators on earth, and have been doing so for many years.
President Donald Trump has expressed an embarrassing fondness for various authoritarian leaders, but supporting authoritarian leaders has always been part of U.S. governmental policy, regardless of political party. In fact, while Trump has been criticized severely for talking with the leader of North Korea, the standard U.S. approach to the most dictatorial leaders on earth is to arm and train them. This fact makes the outrage over merely talking with someone seem so out of place that one has to assume the U.S. public is generally ignorant of the basic facts.
In 2017, Rich Whitney wrote an article for Truthout.org called “U.S. Provides Military Assistance to 73 Percent of World’s Dictatorships.”
Whitney was using the word “dictatorships” as a rough approximation of “oppressive governments.” His source for a list of the oppressive governments of the world was Freedom House. He intentionally chose this U.S.-based and U.S.-government-funded organization despite the clear U.S.-government bias in some of its decisions. A list from Freedom House is as nearly as possible the U.S. government’s own view of other countries.
Out of some 200 countries on earth, Freedom House deems 50 countries to be “not free.” Of these 50 oppressive governments, the U.S. government allows, arranges for, or in some cases even provides the funding for U.S. weapons sales to 41 of them. That’s 82 percent. To produce this figure, I have looked at U.S. weapons sales between 2010 and 2019 as documented by either the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Arms Trade Database, or by the U.S. military.
Remember, this is a list of nations that an organization funded by the U.S. government designates “not free” but to which the United States is shipping deadly weapons. And this is 82% of the “not free” nations, which hardly looks like a case of a few exceptions or “bad apples.”
Beyond selling and giving weapons to oppressive governments, the U.S. government also shares with them advanced weapons technology. This includes such extreme examples as the CIA giving nuclear bomb plans to Iran, the Trump Administration seeking to share nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. military basing nuclear weapons in Turkey even as Turkey fights against U.S.-backed fighters in Syria and threatens to close NATO bases.
Now, let’s take the list of 50 oppressive governments and check which ones the United States government provides military training to. There are varying levels of such support, ranging from teaching a single course for four students to providing numerous courses for thousands of trainees. The United States provides military training of one sort or another to 44 out of 50, or 88 percent. I base this on finding such trainings listed in either 2017 or 2018 by the State Department and/or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Once again, this list does not seem like a few statistical oddities, but more like an established policy.
I suspect that many in the United States did not know that in 2019, these many years after September 11, 2001, the U.S. military was training Saudi fighters to fly airplanes in Florida until one of them made the news by shooting up a classroom.
In addition, the history of U.S.-provided military training to foreign soldiers, through facilities like the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) provides an established pattern of not just supporting oppressive governments, but helping to bring them into being through coups.
In addition to selling (or giving) oppressive governments weapons and training them, the U.S. government also provides funding directly to foreign militaries. Of the 50 oppressive governments, as listed by Freedom House, 32 receive so-called “foreign military financing” or other funding for military activities from the U.S. government, with — it’s extremely safe to say — less outrage in the U.S. media or from U.S. tax payers than we hear over providing food to people in the United States who are hungry.
Of the 50 oppressive governments, the United States militarily supports, in at least one of the three ways discussed above, 48 of them or 96 percent, all but the tiny designated enemies of Cuba and North Korea. With some of them, the U.S. military also bases a significant number of its own troops (meaning over 100): Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates. Technically Cuba is in this list, but it is a very different case from all the others. The United States keeps troops in Cuba but in defiance of Cuban opposition and decidedly not in support of the Cuban government. Of course, the Iraqi government has now told U.S. troops to get out.
In some cases, the military engagement goes further. The U.S. military is fighting a war in partnership with Saudi Arabia against the people of Yemen, and fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of oppressive governments (by the U.S. government’s own definition) that were created by U.S.-led wars.
Another source for a list of dictatorships is the CIA-funded Political Instability Task Force. As of 2018, this group identified 21 nations as autocracies.
Taking dictatorships as a subcategory of horribly oppressive governments, and consulting various sources, I come up with the following list of dictatorships supported by the U.S. military: Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Gabon, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan. These are places whose leaders would have war propagandists drooling in excitement if the United States were to target them. These leaders make Noriega, Gadaffi, Hussein, Assad, and others the United States has supported and then turned against look good. We could add Yemen which the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have spent years destroying to restore a dictator.
Take just the first one alphabetically, Bahrain, and Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. This guy has been the King of Bahrain since 2002, when he made himself King, prior to which he was called Emir. He had become Emir in 1999 due to his accomplishments in, first, existing, and second, his father dying. The King has four wives, only one of whom is his cousin.
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has dealt with nonviolent protesters by shooting, kidnapping, torturing, and imprisoning them. He has punished people for speaking up for human rights, and even for “insulting” the king or his flag — offenses that carry a sentence of 7 years in prison and a hefty fine. I’m sparing you pages on how awful this guy is.
Bahrain is only one of many. On Thursday, the New York Times published a 9,000-word love letter to the royal dictator of the United Arab Emirates, claiming that such anti-Islamist dictators must be supported — which is somewhat reminiscent of all the justifications for supporting anti-Communist Islamists.
When the U.S. government wants a war, it will point to human rights abuses (which it may or may not have helped facilitate) as reasons for the war. They are no such thing. Wars are horrible for human rights, and the U.S. government is not in the business of spreading human rights. Where wars begin in the world does not correlate with higher levels of human rights abuses. Wars are not started to rid the world of human rights abuses. Wars do just the opposite of that. They are also the opposite of spreaders of democracy and could not be launched by a functioning democracy.
Since the United States overthrew democracy in Iran in 1953 and empowered the Shah until 1979, the Shah’s son has been spending time in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, reportedly on the CIA pay roll, awaiting his turn. I think the relative lack of bloodthirsty support in the United States for a war on Iran right now is in part people having learned from the past, and in part the failed propaganda of building up former Iranian President Ahmadinejad as an Evil Dictator and then him getting voted out (an odd thing to happen to a dictator). Dictators and royal heirs are not particularly popular, which may also explain why we’ve never heard very much about the Shah’s son.
How did we get to where we are on U.S.-Iranian relations? Through decades of warmongering and lying, and through Congress refusing to prevent war or to impeach for war or even to stop increasing the world’s largest military budget every year.
What we need to do now is to act both short- and long-term. We need to prevent a new war, and end the existing ones. We also need to move in the direction of de-militarization more generally. We can’t put this whole country into a witness protection program if it turns against its mafia ways. But we can act as if we don’t want to be recognized as what the U.S. government used to be.
One place to start is by demanding that U.S. troops finally get out of Iraq. Whether we pretend they’re there to spread democracy among the people who have demanded they leave, or whether we admit they’re there to steal oil, the occupation is a criminal and counterproductive enterprise. Getting U.S. troops out of Iraq would be an enormous boost to movements to get U.S. troops out of dozens of other nations they have no business being in. If the U.S. and Iraqi publics were to both loudly demand the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq and succeed, that lesson might do more for the cause of democracy on earth than 10 million targeted strategic murders.