He's not known as Barack O'Bomber for nothing. Even as the bellicose US president snagged the Nobel Peace Prize last week, American military forces under his command were pounding Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. More than a million civilians have died and millions more have been forced to flee because of these senseless wars. Yet O'Bomber seems determined to fight on.
Never mind that as Sun Media columnist Eric Margolis pointed out last week, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are based on lies. Saddam Hussein's non-existent "weapons of mass destruction" justified the illegal invasion of Iraq, while in Afghanistan, we're supposedly fighting terrorists to keep them from attacking us here. "Many North Americans still buy this lie because they believe the 9/11 attacks came directly from the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda and Taliban movements," Margolis writes. He argues, however, that the 9/11 attacks "were planned in Germany and Spain, and conducted mainly by US-based Saudis to punish America for supporting Israel."
Margolis notes that so far, the US has squandered $236 billion in Afghanistan while Canada has wasted $16 billion. Now, after eight years of carnage, the top US commander there warns that at least 40,000 more American troops will be needed to avoid defeat. To quote the old Pete Seeger tune, "When will they ever learn?" Or to quote Muriel Duckworth, "War is stupid."
Duckworth, who died in August, was formally inducted last week into the Order of Nova Scotia. That news reminded me of a similar quote from her friend and fellow Quaker, Ursula Franklin: "War does not work, not even for the warriors." Franklin points out that "violence begets more violence, war begets further wars, more enemies and more suffering." Both women called repeatedly for negotiations to resolve conflict---diplomacy instead of military force.
I know. Right-wing ideologues insist we just can't negotiate with the irrational, uncivilized evildoers who oppose enlightened, freedom-loving people like us. It's a good example of black-and-white thinking. The reality is that the world's richest and most powerful countries are using the pretext of the war on terrorism to pound the hell out of the poorest and most defenseless ones in the mad scramble for control of the world's resources.
As I worked on Ursula Franklin's Wikipedia entry last year, I learned the power of her argument that "peace is not the absence of war---peace is the absence of fear." Franklin points to what she calls the "threat system" which instills fear at all levels of society, not just fear of violence but of unemployment and poverty. Only social justice rooted in equality, she argues, can banish fear and bring peace.
Unfortunately, consumer-oriented societies like ours tend to promote acquisitiveness instead of equality. They rely on military force to impose their own global order and as they do, their economies become increasingly dependent on the production of sophisticated weapons systems. Franklin says that leads to a state of permanent war, either endlessly preparing for conflict or actively engaging in it. Implacable external enemies are needed to justify the trillions spent on weapons. No wonder the mainstream media is full of warnings these days from US and Canadian politicians that oil-rich Iran poses a dire nuclear threat. Iran's willingness to let international weapons inspectors into its nuclear facilities is reported as a clever ruse while the media play down the statement from the UN's chief weapons inspector that there's "no credible evidence" Iran is developing a nuclear bomb. Even US intelligence agencies have concluded the Iranians stopped nuclear weapons production in 2003. Yet the media and politicians continue to beat their war drums.
Given these pressures, O'Bomber may be tempted to launch an attack on Iran or acquiesce in an Israeli one. If he's wise, though, he'll steer clear of yet another stupid war while withdrawing US forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, he really would be worthy of Nobel's golden medal.