May 8, 2011
Sunday night when I learned of the death of Osama Bin Laden I did not feel elated, I did not hop on the #1 subway and head to ground zero, nor did I celebrate in the streets, drink champagne or chant USA, USA, USA! Honestly, I wish he’d been brought in alive and put on trial like we did at Nuremberg. I’d like to hear what he had to say and expose him for who and what he was. I prefer justice to murder or assassination. So instead of reveling in his demise I took a moment to reflect on what this has cost our country and our souls.
Since the “war on terror” began besides the trillions of dollars we have spent we have lost over 7,000 of our men and women in uniform. Thousands more have been horribly wounded, suffering lost limbs, brain damage and PTSD. Their recovery will cost our country and their families billions. Not to mention the horrific emotional and physical toll this will take on them.
Don’t get me wrong, 9/11 was a horrific event. I watched with my own eyes as the second tower collapsed. The Pentagon had already been hit. And I thought this is either WWIII or the end of the world and as I walked home across the 59th Street Bridge I could see the smoke from the towers and smell the burning flesh and steel and souls and I said to myself, “If my father were alive he’d kick your ass!”
Growing up in the military I saw first hand the effect war has on families. My father was a Col. in the United States Army and fought in WWII in Patton’s third Army, he also fought in Korea and was in military intelligence, Saigon. I know the effect war has on not only the soldier who serves but also the family members who are left behind to fend for themselves.
When my father went to Vietnam I was 18, a freshman in college and my mother was left to take care of 4 children. Unable to cope she began drinking heavily, had a nervous breakdown, burned her hands up making beef fondue and was hospitalized with third degree burns for six weeks. My father came home from Vietnam a changed man. He was a powder keg waiting to explode. I now realize he was suffering from PTSD but in the military you’re not allowed to admit war has affected you and if you do you are ostracized or discharged in disgrace so better man up and pretend all is well. War is insanity. War destroys families. Vietnam destroyed my family.
Having grown up as an Army brat I am amazed at how caviler most Americans are about war. Every day the U.S. murders innocent women, children and men and labels them “collateral damage.” Estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan range in the hundreds of thousands.
We Americans need to reflect on these wars and what they have wrought. We have violated international law, committed torture, suspended habeas corpus, and not held our leaders accountable. We have freely given up our rights with the passage of the Patriot Act. We allow wiretapping of our citizens, we are x-rayed or patted down in airports, our backpacks and bags are subject to search in the New York City subways as the disembodied voice of Big Brother booms over the loud speaker, “If you see something, say something.” If bin Laden’s goal was to curtail our freedoms and bankrupt our country then he has succeeded.
Our president and the majority of our congressmen and women have never served in the military and neither have any members of their families. This is why it’s so easy for them to glorify and start wars–so easy for them to send other people’s children into harms way. They too are cavalier about this. I know those who glorify war have never had any experience with it.
Military violence is not the answer. Violence begets more violence. If we continue on this trajectory (every action creates a reaction of equal or greater force) then we are destined to destroy ourselves and our planet. Peace is the only answer. Diplomacy is the answer. Police work, Special Forces is the answer. It was the Navy Seals, the most specialized force in our military that brought down Osama bin Laden not bombs.
The term “war on terror” is an oxymoron. Terrorism is a tactic not a country and it has spread out across the globe. Drone strikes will not stop terrorism and with every bomb we drop and every civilian we murder we create more terrorists. The best use of our time and resources is police work combined with Special Forces units like the highly trained and effective Navy Seals.
“War is a Racket” by Major Gen. Smedley Butler who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice wrote, “it (war) is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.” This is certainly the case here. This war has been privatized and huge corporations have taken over jobs our military use to do. Halliburton, KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root nicknamed Kill-Bag-Replace people) due to their irresponsible criminal behavior, Bowing, Lockheed Martin, Blackwater now renamed Xe due to its criminal activities and misdeeds, Parsons, Dyn Corp, Transatlantic Traders, Titan and CACI in charge of Abu Ghraib interrogations and disgracing our country.
This unbridled corruption must stop. There has been no accountability of these corporate predators for any of their wrongdoings from instituting torture, to supplying moldy tents, contaminated water, charging $99 a bag to do laundry, ordering the wrong equipment, disposing of it in huge burn pits, then recharging the government, a truck that cost taxpayers $80,000-$1000,000 is destroyed because they didn’t have a spare tire to fit it and our government allows this blatant abuse and corruption to continue unchecked.
It is greed on steroids pure and simple. Unbridled greed and these corporations with huge ties to the government are stealing our taxpayer dollars and do not care one iota about our country. They are not patriots. They are war profiteers who spend fortunes on lobbyists and campaign contributions in order to bill the Pentagon billions and even though the Pentagon knows it’s graft they pay it anyway. Angry yet?
Our government learned many lessons from Vietnam. They learned not to institute a draft because this causes student unrest and protesting. That’s why we have an all-volunteer army and special contractors such as Blackwater (Xe) supplying hired guns who are not accountable to the military for their actions. During Vietnam the war was broadcast in our living rooms every night. Violent images were shown on the news along with the daily tally of the wounded and dead. This is why our media is censored. We are not allowed to see the disturbing images of our solders coming home in coffins covered with the American Flag and why there is little or no mention of the war in the news or in our media. Out of sight. Out of mind.
Mr. President it is time to show some real courage and leadership. It is time to bring our men and women home form these endless, illegal wars. It is time to stand up to the corporate elites who rake in billions, stand up to the power of the military industrial complex and instead stand with American citizens. This is your moment. Will you seize it or go down in disgrace like Lyndon Johnson who refused to get out of Vietnam even when he knew he should. The choice is yours.
All empires eventually turn on themselves and collapse. Are we so numbed out as a nation so dead inside we no longer care about what is right and just but continue to bow down to the corporate puppet masters who thrive, promote and profit from these illegal and unjust wars? When will the killing end?
The killing will end when Americans stand up and say, “Enough! Not on my watch.”
If you’d like more information on war profiteering please check out Brave New Films documentary “Iraq for Sale,” available on iraqforsale.org and on Netflix.
Image by: Tracy Knauss
Jill Dalton is a writer/performer who has appeared in film and television as well as performing her solo plays in New York and around the country. Her blogs have also been published on: Dandelion Salad, RSN, Alternet & Progressive Activists Voice.