By David Swanson, War is a Crime
Happy Human Rights Day, and what ever happened to the right to life?
We need to stop imagining that when wars come home to the land of their creators that the suffering created is something separate from war. And we need to stop imagining that racist cruelty at home doesn’t fuel the distant wars.
Imagine a country in which people condemn gun violence and police violence while actively pushing for a new cold war with Russia or urging the bombing of Syria or cheering a string of drone murders and tolerating the expansion of the U.S. military presence to darn near the whole globe. Or a peace movement that condemns foreign drone murders while failing to focus on the higher number of murders creating by U.S. police officers.
Weapons dealing is an integrated global enterprise that feeds on racist, bigoted, violent, and macho ideologies wherever it can find them. Trying to defeat it with separate anti-gun and anti-war movements not united in their work won’t succeed. Most of the guns are sold abroad, many of them deployed against U.S. fighters in the wars. Many gun owners’ fantasies are closely related to war.
When local police are given weapons by the U.S. military and training by the militaries of the United States and other nations, and when they employ veterans of the military, which employs veterans of the police and prison industries in turn, demanding that the warlike behavior that results on our streets and in our homes be restricted to foreign wars will not work, not practically and not morally. It makes as much sense as a protester asking that an oil pipeline be rerouted somewhere else. The damage to the earth will still be done, no matter the route. Donald Trump says he’ll have less war but more military spending. That’s like having more ice cream to lose weight.
When Dr. King said the bombs in Vietnam explode at home he was right in several different ways. The Black Lives Matter Platform asks for reparations at home but also to nations bombed abroad, as well as a 50% cut to U.S. military spending. This is because warlike policing and global-policeman warring are symptoms of the same disease. Military spending strips wealth from people at home and destroys the wealth of those it bombs and shoots at. Military spending eliminates, rather than producing, jobs. And it thrives on the same racist and violent thinking that sells guns and creates police violence. The National Rifle Association made a video with Charlie Daniels urging war on Iran, in order to sell guns to people who want nothing to do with participating in that war.
Millions of Americans for whom Charlie Daniels is not a smart marketing scheme are subjected to the Pentagon’s $600,000,000 annual advertising. Some of the regions and neighborhoods most impacted by domestic violence are also those hardest hit by military recruiting. This helps build the sort of thinking that says no to weapons on local streets but yes to the militarism that puts them there. Colin Kaepernick’s admirable protest of racist violence is damaged by his assurance that he supports militarism.
It is during periods of heavy warmaking that U.S. entertainment fills up with dramas justifying the murder of dark-skinned people or zombies or wizards, subhuman creatures, or bugsplat in the slang of the drone murderers. When it is acceptable for a liberal African-American Nobel Peace laureate to bomb 8 largely dark-skinned and Muslim nations, it is inevitable that some observers begin to question whether there is anything wrong with their own dark-skinned or Muslim neighbors. To challenge racism we have to be willing to challenge the idea that it’s acceptable to bomb some types of people.
I don’t recommend burning flags. I recommend refusing to worship them, refusing to compel children to robotically recite pledges of flag worship, and waiving global flags instead.
As long as we have wars and police, we should separate them, but the stronger each is the more they will merge. Border policing is on the metaphorical border between policing and war. War training for police blurs the distinction. The President’s pretenses that drone murders are a sort of law enforcement blurs the line. The anti-Russia committee created by the new so-called Intelligence Authorization Act is both policing and war — and propaganda for both.
We should deny war weaponry to police. We’ve made some small gains on that through President Obama. Congressman Hank Johnson’s bill would go further. We should ban exploding robots like that used by police to kill a man in Dallas, Texas. We should ban weaponized drones. We should ban military training for police. These are projects we can take on at the national, local, college campus, or global level. At RootsAction.org we have related petitions.
Wars come home and travel abroad through the erosion of rights. The powers to spy on and kidnap and imprison and torture and murder distant foreigners quickly become the powers to do those things to anyone back home. The power to torture prisoners in the United States quickly becomes the power to torture prisoners (and kidnap victims) of war.
Parts of “at home” have more in common with parts of “abroad” than with other parts of “at home.” Guns and other weapons are dealt by the weapons dealers to poor regions of the United States as to poor nations of the world. The wealthy handful of big warmaking nations make almost all the weapons and then push them on the world’s poor like alcohol or smallpox in the original “Indian Country,” or like opium in China. Since 2001 the sale of “small arms” has tripled. Unsurprisingly, deaths from small arms have approximately tripled as well. Arming terrorist groups against each other has proven as counter-productive yet profitable as permitting guns in churches, guns in bars, guns in classrooms, guns in shopping malls.
Teachers in some U.S. cities and states may try to teach against violence, but their public pension plans are heavily invested in weapons dealers. Their retirement is tied up with the promotion of war and violence. This we can end through campaigns to compel divestment — campaigns that also serve an educational and political purpose.
In the United States, approximately 1 of 40 adults is in prison, jail, parole, or probation (along with 1 of every 1,200 children being locked up). And 1 out of every 102 adults is in the military — not counting private mercenaries, contractors, subcontractors, etc. Of course virtually all U.S. children are exposed to the promotion of militarism. This normalization of violence makes opposition to violence of all sorts more difficult.
I’m convinced that primarily what is new about racist police violence is the videotaping, not the violence. But secondarily we are seeing organized and armed and equipped police violence that newly treats its own actions like war and speaks about what it is doing as war.
Someone told me this year that I should support a certain political candidate because she was not an overt racist. I have yet to see a major movement in the United States against the expansion of Africom — of U.S. bases and weapons and proxy armies across Africa. Without minimizing the horror of overt racism, should covert racism be good enough? Can we move forward at all while accepting it? And isn’t it possible that a silver lining in the dropping of the pretense of humanitarian war, in the blurting out of “steal their oil” and “kill their families” and other assorted snippets of honesty, could be an increased resistance to state violence at home and abroad?
I think the model of presidential drone murders, of a “law enforcement” officer going through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays and picking whom to have bumped off, has been disastrous for policing. But the big question now is whether, having accepted or avoided knowing about that for years, will people go on accepting it while it bears a more odious face, or will the new face allow people to get belatedly outraged?
I think we need to do more thinking locally and acting globally, which is what we try to do at World Beyond War.
I think we need to point out to people that the most powerful tools contain no bullets, that an armed resistance at Standing Rock would have long since failed.
And I think we need to inform people that for the price of some relatively small cuts in military spending we could demilitarize the police, fund schools, houses, clean energy, and healthcare at home and abroad, end hunger on earth, end the lack of clean drinking water on earth, and make the United States government loved rather than resented around the world and around the United States.