By Ted Braun
There are several items in the news these days that are especially detrimental to human life and to the health of international relationships and global security.
The first is the horrific use of chemical weapons in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, Syria, on August 21. The sarin attack killed 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which the U.S. and 180 other countries signed, prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, or use of chemical weapons.
After President Obama announced that the U.S. should take action against Syria to punish it, 162 members of Congress sent him a letter urging him to consult and obtain authorization from Congress before ordering the use of military force in Syria. In response, Obama has called for Congress to debate the issue and then take a vote to authorize such a response. That there still is no clear picture on how such a response could be limited in size or duration is much to the benefit of the military contractors. A serious question about the propriety of making any kind of positive response at this point, however, can be raised: Who has given the U.S. a mandate to act as a global policeman? This is especially important since there is a new report out that Syrian rebels have now admitted that an accident occurred when they were transporting chemical weapons given them by the Saudis but without instruction for correct handling.
Our nation is still gun-shy from the authorization it gave President Bush to go to war against Iraq and Afghanistan—a decision based on what turned out to be lies concerning weapons of mass destruction. The proper venue for determining blame and punishment for the crime of 9/11 should have been the World Court, as it should be in this case once again.
There is a second program that has been detrimental to human life and the health of international relationships: the use of armed drones to kill individual enemies of our nation and to control the outer reaches of our empire. There are now over 10,000 weaponized drones in our arsenal. Since the first reported drone strike against al Qaida in Yemen in 2002, U.S. drone strikes have killed more than 3,000 people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. More than 1,000 of these have been civilians, including an estimated 200 children.
Many of these civilians have been killed in “double tap” strikes—family members, humanitarian rescuers, or bystanders who run up to help those injured and are killed in a second strike. The U.S. assumes that anyone who runs up immediately to a strike is also a militant.
The use of armed and surveillance drones, however, has resulted in permanent fear among those in the most vulnerable sector of society, deeply affecting the psychosocial well-being of children. Many boys and girls have stopped attending school because of their fear of drones, and whole communities are too afraid to send their children to school.
Catherine Woodiwiss of Sojourners magazine has written, “Drones accelerate our appetite for easy violence while anesthetizing our capacity for guilt. In many ways, Americans today wage war with no direct risk to our livelihood or those of our loved ones. When our weapons require no effort or loss on our part, the grave decision to enter combat—and the troubling consequences this wreaks on other families around the globe—are far easier swept out of mind. For ‘pilots,’ drones are violence disembodied, war pixilated. Conducting a strike from an office computer screen is not so different from launching an attack on a video screen. Yet what we conduct through a computer in the U.S. rips through the real flesh and real bone of our neighbors.”
In addition to this drone program, we have 865 military bases in more than forty countries overseas. The U.S. spends approximately $250 billion each year maintaining a global military presence to give us control or dominance over as many nations on the planet as possible. While this money is being spent overseas, we are trying to cope with budget deficits and the need for additional funds for health care, education, and a crumbling infrastructure back home.
What would make a more healthy lifestyle for our nation?
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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.