Monday was Memorial May, and if you turned on the television, or looked in the newspaper, it was impossible not to hear some politician or media figure talk about it. They pretend to pay tribute to the lives lost in war, supposedly in defense of this country. But really their words just serve to glorify war and prepare us to accept the next invasion, occupation, or military intervention.
The reality of war is nothing but horror and loss. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the lives of over a million Iraqi people, mostly civilians including children. The wars have left these two countries devestated with people lacking adequate food, water, sanitation, electricity and safety.
The U.S. soldiers who have fought these wars have returned with horrible wounds. Many have lost limbs or suffer permanent disability. There are 2.4 million soldiers and other military personnel who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of these, 6,656 have been killed, while 50,000 soldiers have suffered major injuries including amputation. U.S. military hospitals are averageing nearly 20 amputations per month. Nearly 250,000 soldiers have also experienced some sort of traumatic brain injury.
The psychological wounds soldiers bring home from war can be more damaging than the physical ones. Today more of these soldiers lose their lives to sucide than to dying in combat. There are nearly 18 suicide atttempts in the U.S. military every day.
U.S. troops bring the violence of war home with them as well. How could anyone commit atrocities overseas, then leave the violence behind? Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, domestic violence among army families has doubled. Sexual violence including rape has increased by 90 percent. Today there is nearly one violent sexual assault committed by a soldier every hour.
And what is the cost in resources? Today while public services from health care to public education are being rapidly dismantled, and while politicians urge us to give up so-called entitlements, the military budget has risen to nearly one trillion dollars per year.
Today the majority of troops have been withdrawn from direct combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the U.S. military continues a reign of terror using drone-strikes and targeted assassinations. Whole communities are terrorized by the threat of a U.S. military drone, piloted from the other side of the world, launching a missile strike. U.S. officials have claimed that these strikes carefully target “enemy combatants” and present a minimal risk for civilians. This is a lie. U.S. drone strikes have killed 884 people including 197 children in the last year. Were all of these people terrorists? Were nearly 200 children a threat to the U.S.? No, these strikes are designed to terrorize and dominate the people of Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, and anywhere else the U.S. government wishes to dominate.
This violence is not an accident. It is not done to help, or defend people, or for any of the other excuses which the politicians make. This violence is the normal functioning of a system of imperial domination which ensures that the corporations and the wealthy elite maintain their profits. The U.S. government maintains 900 military bases in 150 countries around the world. This war machine is designed to dominate the world, and the price has been milllions of deaths in hundreds of countries.
It is not only the U.S. government which carries out this bloody struggle to dominate the world. In the Republic of Congo today, a decades long civil war has cost the lives of over five million people. Brutalized children are forced to be soldiers and women are subjected to rape as a weapon of war. And what is behind this? French, Belgian, British, and U.S. corporations funding the armed gangs in order to control Congo’s mineral resources.
While the politicians shed their fake tears for the people they have sent to fight in their wars, we should remember the real cause of this violence – their system. For ordinary people war is violence, horror, and waste. We are the ones who fight their wars. And we are the ones who suffer the consequences. This system of exploitation and imperialism is not worth one more life or one more penny from us.