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Kabir Helminski Headshot

Conscience and Endless War

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As the debate on government spending continues, our military expenditures are a cancer that eats away at our society, economically and morally. Where are the voices of faith who question the militarization of our society and the state of endless war we now take for granted? Why are so many religious leaders more preoccupied with the morality of procreation than the morality of war?

For most Americans war happens at a comfortable distance, relatively sanitized by a self-censoring media. And we accept, somehow, the rationales behind preemptive attacks, ruthless occupations, illegal assassinations and flying-killer-robots as somehow necessary or, at least, inevitable. Someone intelligent and sane must be in charge. Someone must know what they're doing. Right?

But what if no one really is in charge and all this just happens as a result of our ignorance, greed and heedlessness? Worse yet, what if much of this is planned by hidden powers that really do not have our best interests in mind? Whichever it is, the absurdity and madness of it must not be accepted as behavior befitting the human race.

Conventional opinion may be the ruin of our souls. If our framework is a religious one, humanity's mindless worship of false gods, especially those that sanction our sins, has been the main subject of "prophetic" voices. If your framework is a more secular, literary one, it has been the function of artists, poets, real thinkers to critique the hypocrisies of the establishment, the world of false values.

The defining event of our age was Sept. 11, 2001. Whatever happened that day, it resulted in two major wars of untold economic and human cost, the erosion of our constitutional rights, a state of permanent war and the debasement of our moral stature in the world.

Of these two wars, the logic behind one (Iraq) was to eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Our government lied to us. Many of us were not taken in. Hundreds of millions of people around the world demonstrated their skepticism and opposition, though our media never allowed opposition voices to be heard.

The rationale for the invasion of Afghanistan is that 9/11 was planned by Osama in his cave, communicating with his international network from there. Although the Taliban government of Afghanistan offered to turn over bin Laden if we could supply some evidence that he was responsible for 9/11, we refused their offer and started bombing the country instead. According to a vote on answers.com the following is the most widely believed reason for the attack on Afghanistan:

"Bush needed an excuse to explain away his failure to protect the US on his watch and America needed somebody to punch out badly. Despite repeated denials from Osama bin Laden that he had anything to do with 9/11, and no credible evidence to support the proposition that he did, the US went after Afghanistan which is where Osama bin Laden was based."

Nevertheless, if our government's conspiracy theory were correct, Osama and his team would have executed one of history's greatest strategic military accomplishments, and now the stage was set for the world's greatest military power to invade a country whose GNP was half that of the state of Vermont, to remain there for the longest war of our history, fighting illiterate insurgents clothed in blankets whose main weapons were hand-me-down rifles and "improvised explosive devices." Considering what this war has cost, we could have saved some money by putting every citizen of Afghanistan on salary, but, of course, that sounds insane.

Let's imagine for a moment a screenplay along the lines of "Wag the Dog": Sometime in the future, California, Texas and Vermont have seceded. A meltdown at a nuclear power plant in China is blamed on a group of environmental terrorists from Burlington, Vt. China invades Northern Vermont and begins a protracted war against the insurgent "Green Mountain Boys." A decade later the occupation of Vermont has cost China trillions of dollars, bringing it to the point of virtual bankruptcy, before it finally withdraws and leaves the Vermonters to their primitive ways.

But the horror and grief of the Afghan War is not a joke.

Let's use our reason. Why have we spent 11 years trying to "occupy Afghanistan"? To stop all future 9/11s from happening? To get all 100 al Qaeda fighters out of the Hindu Kush? To prevent Afghanistan from becoming "a safe haven" for terrorists? To move some military capital and test our new weapons systems? To stabilize Afghanistan for an American-sponsored pipeline to carry the estimated $4 trillion in Caspian Sea-Central Asian oil? Perhaps we should ask: From whose pockets to whose pockets does the cash flow?

We must face the absurdity of our militarism. In order to confront the so-called "asymmetric" threat of "terrorism" we support a war machine equal to the total military assets of the rest of the world. Who then is the enemy? Is it not the whole world? And can we ever protect ourselves in all the ways we are vulnerable? Can we protect every bus, train, plane, theater, mall, stadium, reservoir or nuclear power plant, or secure ourselves from every biological, radiological or cyber threat, while we rain terror from the skies in so many corners of the world? Why do we spend trillions of dollars to drive Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis and Pakistanis into the arms of al Qaeda?

Or could we imagine a foreign policy based on real American values? Is it time to cut loose the military albatross and re-purpose our military resources toward benefiting humanity? Couldn't the Marines restore our waterways, and the Air Force restore our atmosphere, and the Navy restore and protect our oceans, and the Army Corps of Engineers rebuild our infrastructure and secure pure water resources for the planet? The economic benefit of constructive activity far outweighs the economic benefit of destructive power, except for the war profiteers.

We are living in an armed mad-house, which we insanely justify in the name of our "security." Meanwhile at least 20 percent of our returning warriors are numbed, shell-shocked, traumatized and suicidal as a result of fighting these wars. Our sense of the world is shaped by a media-conglomerate-reality where the most important questions are never raised, much less debated. Shame on you CNN, Fox and the rest. Shame on every one of you "believers" who believes God wants violence.

"The Object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

Anyone who believes in a God or in the long-term ascendancy of Justice, must surely know that the cries of the innocent will eventually reach the high throne of Truth. Where within American society are the prophetic voices, whether religious or political, who will call out this insanity? "If the salt shall lose its savor, with what shall you salt?" Will we, like almost every empire before us, continue on a trajectory of decadence and debt while we cling to our bloated military to justify our self-respect? Both history and the laws of existence warn us that this can only end in utter humiliation.

Now, he's hell-bent for destruction, he's afraid and confused
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
All he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies.
But there's a woman on my block
Sitting there in a cold chill
She say who's gonna take away his license to kill?
-- Bob Dylan, "License to Kill"