1. It’s not a rescue mission. The U.S. personnel could be evacuated without the 500-pound bombs. The persecuted minorities could be supplied, moved, or their enemy dissuaded, or all three, without the 500-pound bombs or the hundreds of “advisors” (trained and armed to kill, and never instructed in how to give advice — Have you ever tried taking urgent advice from 430 people?). The boy who cried rescue mission should not be allowed to get away with it after the documented deception in Libya where a fictional threat to civilians was used to launch an all-out aggressive attack that has left that nation in ruins. Not to mention the false claims about Syrian chemical weapons and the false claim that missiles were the only option left for Syria — the latter claims being exposed when the former weren’t believed, the missiles didn’t launch, and less violent but perfectly obvious alternative courses of action were recognized. If the U.S. government were driven by a desire to rescue the innocent, why would it be arming Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain? The U.S. government destroyed the nation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011, with results including the near elimination of various minority groups. If preventing genocide were a dominant U.S. interest, it could have halted its participation in and aggravation of that war at any time, a war in which 97% of the dead were on one side, just as in Gaza this month — the distinction between war and genocide being one of perspective, not proportions. Or, of course, the U.S. could have left well alone. Ever since President Carter declared that the U.S. would kill for Iraqi oil, each of his successors has believed that course of action justified, and each has made matters significantly worse.
2. It’s going to make things worse, again. This bombing will aggravate the Sunni-Shia divide, increase support for ISIS, and create a lasting legacy of hostility and violence. President Obama says there is no military solution, only reconciliation. But bombs don’t reconcile. They harden hearts and breed murderers. Numerous top U.S. officials admit that much of what the U.S. military does generates more enemies than it kills. When you continue down a path that is counterproductive on its own terms, the honesty of those terms has to be doubted. If this war is not for peace, is it perhaps — like every other war we’ve seen the U.S. wage in the area — for resources, profits, domination, and sadism? The leader of ISIS learned his hatred in a U.S. prison in Iraq. U.S. media report that fact as if it is just part of the standard portrait of a new Enemy #1, but the irony is not mere coincidence. Violence is created. It doesn’t arise out of irrational and inscrutable foreignness. It is planted by those great gardeners in the sky: planes, drones, and helicopters. A bombing campaign justified as protecting people actually endangers them, and those around them, and many others, including those of us living in the imperial Homeland.
3. Bombs kill. Big bombs kill a lot of people. Massive bombing campaigns slaughter huge numbers of people, including those fighting in the hell the U.S. helped to create, and including those not fighting — men, women, children, grandparents, infants. Defenders of the bombing know this, but ignore it, and make no effort to calculate whether more people are supposedly being saved than are being killed. This indifference exposes the humanitarian pretensions of the operation. If some humans are of no value to you, humanitarianism is not what’s driving your decisions. The U.S. war on Iraq ’03-’11 killed a half million to a million-and-a-half Iraqis and 4,000 Americans. A war that puts fewer Americans on the ground and uses more planes and drones is thought of as involving less death only if our concern is narrowly limited to U.S. deaths. From the vantage point of the ground, an air war is the deadliest form of war there is.
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4. There are other options. The choice between bombing and doing nothing is as false now as it was in September. If you can drop food on some people, why can’t you drop food on everyone? It would cost a tiny fraction of dropping bombs on them. It would confuse the hell out of them, too — like Robin Williams’ version of God high on pot and inventing the platypus. Of course, I now sound crazy because I’m talking about people who’ve been demonized (and personified in a killer straight out of a U.S. prison). It’s not as if these are human beings with whom you can lament the death of Robin Williams. They’re not like you and me. Etc. Yadda. Yadda. But in fact ISIS fighters were sharing their appreciation of Williams on Twitter on Tuesday. The United States could talk about other matters with ISIS as well, including a ceasefire, including a unilateral commitment to cease arming the Iraqi government even while trying to organize its ouster, including an offer to provide real humanitarian aid with no nasty strings attached, but with encouragement of civil liberties and democratic decision making. It’s amazing how long minority ethnic groups in Iraq survived and thrived prior to the U.S. bringing democracy, and prior to the U.S. existing. The U.S. could do some good but must first do no harm.
5. There are now enough weapons already there to practically justify one of Colin Powell’s slides retroactively. The U.S. accounts for 79% of foreign weapons transfers to Western Asia (the Middle East). The war on Libya had identical U.S. weapons on both sides. ISIS almost certainly has weapons supplied by the U.S. in Syria, and certainly has weapons taken from Iraq. So, what is the U.S. doing? It’s rushing more weapons to Iraq as fast as possible. Americans like to think of the Middle East as backward and violent, but the tools of the violence trade are manufactured in the United States. Yes, the United States does still manufacture something, it’s just not something that serves any useful purpose or about which most of us can manage to feel very proud. Weapons making also wastes money rather than creating it, because unaccountable profits are the single biggest product manufactured.
6. This is going to cost a fortune. Bombing Iraq is depicted as a measure of great restraint and forbearance. Meanwhile building schools and hospitals and green energy infrastructure in Iraq would be viewed as madness if anyone dared propose it. But the latter would cost a lot less money — a consideration that is usually a top priority in U.S. politics whenever killing large numbers of people is not involved. The world spend $2 trillion and the U.S. $1 trillion (half the total) on war and war preparations every year. Three percent of U.S. military spending could end starvation on earth. The wonders that could be done with a fraction of military money are almost unimaginable and include actual defense against the actual danger of climate change.
7. Bombs are environmental disasters. If someone photographs a big oil fire, some will give a thought to the environmental damage. But a bombing campaign is, rather than an environmental accident, an intentional environmental catastrophe. The poisoned ground and water, and the disease epidemics, will reach the United States primarily through moral regret, depression, and suicide.
8. There go our civil liberties. Discussions of torture, imprisonment, assassination, surveillance, and denial of fair trials are severely damaged by wartime postures. After all, war is for “freedom,” and who wouldn’t be willing to surrender all of their freedoms for that?
9. War is illegal. It doesn’t matter if the illegitimate government that you’re trying to dump invited you to bomb its country. How can anyone take that seriously, while the U.S. installed that government and has armed it for years, as it has attacked its people? War is illegal under the Kellogg Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter, and pretending otherwise endangers the world. Domestically, under U.S. law, the president cannot launch a war. While the Senate has been silent, the U.S. House voted two weeks ago to ban any new presidential war on Iraq. Offering Congress a slap in the face, Obama waited for it to go on break, and then attacked Iraq.