by Ed Nizalowski
“We are creating enemies faster than we can kill them.” I’m not sure when I first heard that phrase. It seems to me that it goes back to the Vietnam War. With the propping up of a corrupt government (one that was installed through an American sponsored coup), indiscriminate carpet bombing and warfare that killed up to two million civilians, thousands of acres of jungle rendered lifeless after being drenched with napalm and agent orange and then leading to birth defects which plague Vietnam to this day and the horrific terror and trauma stemming from places like My Lai (which was more or less the massacre that got the most attention), it is no wonder that this phrase will come to mind when assessing the character and conduct of the war. As a historical side note, this is what ensued when the US decided to colonize the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. In tactics similar to what would be done sixty years later in Vietnam would result in an official count of civilian deaths of 200,000 although the actual number may be closer to 1,000,000. “What we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history”.
After the attacks of 9/11 on the World Trade Towers, the military-industrial complex and their allies in Congress practically had a blank check when it came to launching the “War on Terror”. After paying off Afghan warlords to the tune of $3 million on September 19, 2001, (1)George Bush would proudly proclaim the next day that this war would “not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” In the ensuing 20+ years of this campaign, $6 trillion has been spent, 900,000 have been killed (350,00 of which were civilians) and foreign terrorist groups have gone from 32 to 69. What a resounding success.
In coming up with illustrations of craziness, absurdity and total lack of reason, the war launched against Iraq has some special categories. Bush’s desire to remove Saddam Hussein was already public knowledge before 9/11. In spite of flawed intelligence for Hussein having WMD’s and no definitive link between him and Al-Qaeda, Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 20, 2003. Fantasies of an early victory would metastacize into a war that would last until December 2011,bringing with it 100,000 civilian deaths. Escalation of sectarian insurgency in 2013 would result in the return of US forces until 2017 and would result in another 155,000 civilian deaths. Cameos in this debacle go to Blackwater security firm atrocities, Iraq prison scandals, use of white phosphorus (which is banned by international legislation), a variety of human rights abuses by both American and British soldiers, the long term damage from depleted uranium shells and wedding party massacres via drone warfare.
To me, however, the “star” of the show is the amount of money earmarked for “Iraqi Development”, the way in which the funds were delivered, how the funds were “used” and consequences for those responsible. “A CNN report noted that the United States–led interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority lasting until 2004 in Iraq had lost $8.8 billion in the Development Fund for Iraq. In June 2011, it was reported by CBS News that $6 billion in neatly packaged blocks of $100 bills was air-lifted into Iraq by the George W. Bush administration, which flew it into Baghdad aboard C 130 military cargo planes. In total, the Times says $12 billion in cash was flown into Iraq in 21 separate flights by May 2004, all of which has disappeared.” According to Stuart Bowen, Jr., Director of the Office of the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the missing money may represent “the largest theft of funds in national history.” (2) Where is the outrage?! Where is the accountability?!
Actually the largest “theft of funds” prize should go to the Pentagon’s enormous, over-inflated and completely unaccountable operating budget of $770 bn for fiscal year 2022, $25 bn more than Biden had requested. In spite of having trillions of dollars in assets, the DoD does not know where all of its buildings are located in the US, does not know how many contractors and subcontractors it employs and does not have a paper trail for $800 million in construction projects. (3) Although the cost of the F-35 fighter jet has ballooned to $1.7 tn and this is the case with numerous weapons contracts, efforts to audit the program have met with failure. Is it any wonder that the DoD ends up paying $640 for a toilet seat, $37 for a single screw and has lost track of 39 black hawk helicopters. (4) And if a conflict with Russia or China ever did loom on the horizon, could the DoD mount an adequate counterweight to such a formidable adversary? According to a recent congressional study, we would be the underdog. Where is the outrage?! Where is the media?!
A number of people have risked their careers and ended up ostracized, exiled or imprisoned for publicizing such egregious misuse of our funds, our military and our moral capital. These are people who had direct access to the information and felt the need clear their conscience and do the “right thing” or who could hack into databases and various government files. The best known from the Vietnam War era was Daniel Ellsberg. More recent risk takers include Edwin Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Reality Winner and Daniel Hale.
A New York Times investigation relating to drone warfare released December 18, 2021, reported the hype was that this “extraordinary technology would allow the military to kill the right people while taking the greatest possible care not to harm the wrong ones.” (5) However, this effort to reduce the number of troops on the ground and thus reduce US casualties, has been plagued by “deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and imprecise targeting and the death of thousands of civilians many of them children.” One of the most widely publicized case came in September 2021 when a strike on a vehicle reported to be laden with bombs killed 10 members of the Ahmadi family including seven children. The driver of the car, Zemari Ahmadi, was a long time worker for a U.S. aid group. According to a New York Times report from September 10, 2021, “the evidence suggests that his travels that day actually involved transporting colleagues to and from work. And an analysis of video feeds showed that what the military may have seen was Mr. Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water into his trunk to bring home to his family.” (6)
On December 28, 2021, a nation-wide effort by a variety of peace and justice groups hoped to raise public awareness of this tragedy in the hopes that governmental and military policy would subsequently change. December 28 was chosen because this is a feast day in Catholic Church in which it pays homage to the infants age two and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem who were ordered to be killed by King Herod. The Catholic Church considers these to be the first Christian martyrs although most Herod biographers and most Biblical scholars dispute that such an event ever took place.
A local effort took place in front of the Federal Building on Henry Street in Binghamton, which also has an office for US Senator Chuck Schumer. It was sponsored by NY Veterans for Peace (Chapter 90), Peace Action of Broome, Upstate Drone Action, Upstate NY Pax Christi and Ithaca Catholic Workers. The demonstration called on the public to contact our US Senators to do the following: 1) Hold a Congressional investigation into the civilian killings 2) Free Daniel Hale 3) Reparations for Ahmadi family and all families of innocents killed and 4) End the sanctions on Afghanistan – unfreeze money needed to prevent starvation. TV coverage was done by both WICZ Channel 40 and WVIT Channel 34 to help publicize this issue so much neglected by the main-stream media. Photos can be viewed by going to the Facebook page for Veterans for Peace Chapter 90.
Another demonstration took place on February 14, 2022, on Valentine’s Day to publicize the effort of a variety of peace and justice groups to free all the funds ($9.4 bn not just $3.5 bn) to relieve the suffering of the Afghani population. Of this amount, $7 bn is held in US banks and the remainder in other foreign banks. Calls and emails need to go to the White House. Simply google the phone and email addresses.
1. Turse, Nick. “What if the US hadn’t gone to war after 9/11?” The Intercept. Accessed via Reader Supported News. www.rsn.org
2. Wikipedia. Iraq War – Financial Cost. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War#Criticism_and_cost
3. Editorial Board. “The Pentagon Doesn’t Know Where Its Money Goes”. New York Times. December 1, 2018. Accessed via https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/01/opinion/sunday/pentagon-spending-audit-failed.html
4. Chappell, Bill. [Politics] “The Pentagon Has Never Passed an Audit. Some Senators Want to Change That”. NPR. May 19, 2021. Accessed via https://www.npr.org/2021/05/19/997961646/the-pentagon-has-never-passed-an-audit-some-senators-want-to-change-that
5. Khan, Azmat. “Hidden Pentagon Records Reveal Patterns of Failure in Deadly Air Strikes.” [The Civilian Casualty Files]. New York Times. December 18, 2021. Accessed viahttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/12/18/us/airstrikes-pentagon-records-civilian-deaths.html
6. Aikins, Matthieu and Najim Rahim. “Afghan Family Says Errant Missile Killed 10, Including 7 Children.” New York Times. August 30, 2021 [updated September21, 2021. Accessed viahttps://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/30/world/asia/afghanistan-drone-attack-ISIS.html