It amazes me still. Bring up the subject of Afghanistan or Gulf War II and you get a plethora of people who still seem to believe these wars are being waged for good reason. There are always many allusions to, ‘the good being done there,’ that, ‘it’s a just war.’ Such arguments often dance back and forth between both Iraq and Afghanistan — even referencing Hitler and the Nazi’s for the ultimate guilt trip. All in all, these people, whoever they are, seem to advocate the continuation of these wars simply because they believe them ‘just’. It’s annoying and leaves little room for belief that Obama is going to change anything when people still believe that killing innocents is okay — oh and that America is winning in Iraq. It is time for another quick recap of recent history, just to straighten things out.
It matters not how many times you bring these people back to the fundamental issue that BushII, who is thankfully on the way out, during the renowned September 11 attacks continued reading to that class of children instead of going to work (not that I’m so naive to believe that he contributes anything of any value to society, anyway). Instead, Bush and his NeoCon buddies got together soon after the dust had cleared and decided they needed revenge for an attack on “the world’s only super and a defender of what is good, righteous and holy in the world,” which, while an understandable sentiment was carried out with all the finesse of a suicide bomber. So they, together with the solidarity of other governments around the world, boarded their tanks, loaded their rifles and invaded Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, a group who were not responsible for the attacks on the twin towers. Oh, and the one’s ordering an attack stayed home.
Their battle plan? Hire local warlords and offer rewards for Taliban fighters and so and so forth. How’d this result? The warlords ‘captured’ people who had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, claimed that they were terrorists, received their rewards and sent them off into the outsourced American prison system that included such features as torture, humiliation and probably other nasties we’re not aware of. And Osama (the real guy they were after) escaped through the mountains.
Meanwhile, during the ‘reconstruction’ period and what seemed like a ‘victory’ in Afghanistan, Bush got together again and for some reason still under debate, decided to fire a few shells off at Daddy’s old enemy, Saddam and start Gulf War II (and ironically complete the plot for Team America). So the key to the propaganda machine was turned to the ‘overdrive’ position and lies started streaming hot off the presses; Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, was going to use them, was harbouring terrorists, had links to Osama Bin Laden and once touched little Bobby in a bad place. In traditional NeoCon fashion, BushII declared he’d, “go it alone,” and so began the Shock and Awe campaign, that indiscriminately targeted civilians, was designed to inspire fear in the population and conformed nicely to the definition of the word, “terrorism.” Thing is, irony is lost on these government types. After a few days, and many reports from embedded reporters suffering Stockholm Syndrome and accompanied by graphics and background music, the war was over and won. The reconstruction could begin and we could all go back to praising the Neo-Conservative geniuses behind the military action. A little later we found out that Saddam had no nukes, no intention of getting nukes, he did not like Osama, did not officially sanction terrorist training camps and was hiding in a hole. Also, all that talk about using WMD’s if the Americans invaded? It was a bluff not to dissimilar in motivation from the lie that Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction. But a wrench was thrown into the NeoCon war machine when it turned out the natives didn’t like the idea that there were a few thousand Americans vacationing in their country armed to the teeth with machine guns, helicopter attack ships and bombs. This in turn racked up a body count of both civilian and military deaths many times higher than those lost on September 11th. Whoops!
Anyway, the powers that be decided that it would be better to, like they did in WWI, send more meat into the grinder and the ‘surge’ was born. The mainstream media heralded the surge as a triumph and Petreus a hero but neglected to mention that people were still dying. So attention was turned back to Afghanistan where the Taliban was making a come back. Then somewhere along the line a provocation that would have seen Iran at war with the US was dodged and a third war as narrowly averted… by the actions of the Iranians. A little chuffed at being thwarted the US instead decided to take a swaray into Pakistan, their ally, where it discussed the possibility of finally having some fun and being able to drop some bombs on that elusive third country — because the Iranians didn’t want to play ball. In true form, the US did it. So more people died and BushII, I assume guilt free, sat down to an expensive dinner somewhere.
Somehow all that is meant to be ‘just’.
Now that we have the history out of the way, let us tackle the main defence of these wars.
“It’s a humanitarian war. A just war.”
This is the typical argument closely followed by phrases such as, ‘support the troops’ and, ‘you don’t see what good we are doing over there, just the bad because the media hates bush’ and always provided in defence of the Iraq war. Though it is absurd; what kind of humanitarian war is it where you go into ‘liberate’ a population and follow up by killing 90,000 of the people you are trying to save?
So much for liberation.
Then, what makes a ‘just war’ so just? Is it for a noble cause, like removing a dictator? Indeed it might very well be. Dictators aren’t very friendly people at the best of times and god forbid you oppose them. But to invade a country for the sole purpose of removing a dictator, a tyrant, who was actually behaving himself at the time (no nukes, nasty chemicals, invasions or genocides) to bring democracy to a people who didn’t care too much either, is supposed to be just? I could certainly understand that it could conceivably be just if Saddam had gone back to killing the Kurdish again, but he hadn’t and America turned a blind eye when the Iraqi’s did rise up to throw off Saddam, only to be abandoned at the point where they actually needed help. A generation later, America later returned to the region under the leadership of BushII and occupied the country and although the Kurd’s were still angry (and rightly so) most Iraqi’s no longer wanted American help. They didn’t care about ‘democracy’ and, at least there was no sectarian violence under Saddam. So where is the just cause in all this? There had been no recent genocide, no bombs or nukes, no invasion, no wars or no outright request from the Iraqi people for ‘libertarian.’ Not that I’m defending Saddam, he was a tyrant and deserved to die — but under the initiative of the people he oppressed and not the will of a imperialistic, foreign nation who fancied itself as the world’s police.
As for Afghanistan, those people had been liberated from the Taliban only to be replaced with the other guys, who don’t respect human rights or recognise the rights of women. I repeat: whoops!
“Support the troops.”
To some extent you need to have compassion for many of these soldiers. They are told, “Be a soldier! See the world! Meet new people….” but the, “…and shoot them,” is left out. It is impossible for these young men to see the world of warfare as one of smashed corpses, blood and gore. Their closest approximation is to a world of video games. Couple this with the specific targeting of those of lower means, and promises of a better life, guaranteed job, repayment of debts and so on, and a career in the military sounds awfully attractive. It leads one to wonder whether there might be respawn points in RL? Recruiters are quite happy to play on the naivete of these young men, but really these same people are merely just another number. A piece of meat. Then there’s no connection that the dehumanised enemy they’ll be shooting at in battle is very different from the digital collection of pixels on their screens. Though I do not blame video games for this; I’d even argue that war has its place only in video games so that we may live out such fantasy’s without actually killing anyone. Further still the judgement of these young men has been warped from birth as they have been taught that soldiers are to be respected — more so than doctors, labourers, scientists and factory workers or anyone else that actually contributes productively to society — and once a soldier, they look down on civilians as if they were of a different caste. A soldier who is paid by other people’s money to be trained to murder systematically, or assist in the killing, is not somehow honourable, just as the mafia soldier is not noble for organising a hit. It is under these false pretenses that many people enlist and to these people I lend my support, for if they discover how incredibly wrong they are, they’ll need all the help they can get. It is the others, the ones who understand that they will be asked to kill and revel in that idea whom I refuse to support. These really are no different from the gangs on the street, with the exception of the expensive rifle they carry.
“You don’t see what good we are doing over there, just the bad because the media hates bush.”
This one is the best. Not only has the media consistently helped lie for Bush but they routinely take up the Neo-Conservative pro-war ideology right on queue. They may happily air anti-bush messages, but they never question their government. In fact Bill O’Reilly and others like him seem to happily defend Bush and have no problems yelling, screaming and accusing any opposition of being a liar or a terrorist sympathiser.
Following this, all the ‘good’ being performed in Iraq and Afghanistan (which is driving the US deeper and deeper into debt and that can only end badly for the US and eventually everyone else) is for nought when it is being built or performed on the graves of dead innocents. You cannot sacrifice an innocent life and still claim a war is just: for you have just killed the very person you are trying to protect.
“They are over there for you. They are dying for you.”
And this is the most aggravating. To anyone that would dare put this comment to me in defence of the war, I would point out to them that I have not, ever, met every single troop serving in Iraq of Afghanistan and I have never, given my permission for each to die for me. Nor will I. In fact, if my opinion were ever worth so much as to be asked by the entirety of the military serving in hostile overseas operations, I’d ask them, explicitly, to cease and desist. I will never ask anyone to die for me and anyone who would have these young man die for them should get off their ass and do their own fighting — then see how glorious war is. For it is always these sadists who like the idea that poorer, young men are going out to die to for them (usually to protect their particular, wealthy and prosperous way of life) and are the first to declare that, “war is glorious!”
“What about Hitler? What about genocide?”
What about Hitler? Every conversation regarding these wars always, invariably, leads to some comparison to Hitler and the Jews. It’s intended to be a guilt trip remark defending their nature as ‘just wars’ or the ‘humanitarianism’ of invading Iraq and Afghanistan; though I was totally unaware that those two respective countries had a large, active, Nazi party responsible for conducting purges against Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, the disabled, communists and anyone else they thought were ‘impure.’
But in all seriousness, these examples don’t do much to support the argument. World government’s have never been serious about invading people who are victims of genocide, as in the cases of Rwanda, Sudan, Turkey and so on, though even this qualifier would still not make the war right. Even WWII was fought against Hitler not for humanitarian reasons, but political. These just happened to be complimented by the fact that Hitler & Co. killed 6 million people — which didn’t stop America or other countries employing former, high-ranking, Nazi’s post-WWII. The ‘humanitarian’ or ‘just’ labels are always attributed to a conflict after it has begun for the purposes of propaganda. The initial decision to go to war is made by a government on the basis of some form of profit. Unless a conflict is being conducted from a position of defence or rebellion against some particular authority (which means that its fighters see themselves as resisting a oppressive force and means their fight is a lot closer to a position that could be deemed ‘just’, depending on their conduct and how their ideas are recieved around the world), it is a war for profit and can never be ‘just’. No government will happily go to war to stop a genocide; they simply do not care enough.
WWII wasn’t a war waged for ‘just’ purposes but for imperialism, control and the chance to play out old rivalries.
And so I would like to conclude today’s lesson by reiterating; war can never be just or humane. People die, on all sides. It is not noble or virtuous or honourable. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are of no difference. They started off unjust and are wars of revenge, at the very best. They are not some humanitarian mission of charity. Murder, unless in direct self defence, can never be justified because it has been rubber stamped and sealed by some bureaucrat to make it ‘legal’.