President Obama said that: “any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terrorism.”(5) Is that why the Obama administration “in effect counts all military age males killed in a strike zone as combatants”? (1)
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that, from 2004 to 2013, the total Predator Drone strikes performed by the United States in Pakistan were 371. The strikes that belonged to Obama and his administration were 314. Accordingly, this implies that under George Bush’s “war hungry” administration, a minimum of only 52 strikes were fired. In terms of Predator Drones, more blood is on the hands of the media’s “anti-war” president than on the hands of the “war-like” George Bush and his administration. It continues to report that the number of people injured by these strikes in Pakistan, which primarily belong to the administration of Barack Obama, are 1,465; number of civilians killed by these strikes, 884; children reported killed, 197. (1)
Going even further, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism gives these 197 children names, and ages. Thus, giving them identities, making them tangible entities; living, breathing human beings – children, no different from the English speaking ones here, no different from your own.
Some of the children and teenagers named were:
Noor Aziz, 8, Abdul Wasit, 17, Noor Syed, 8, Wajid Noor, 9, Syed Wali Shah, 7, Ayeesha, 3, Qari Alamzeb, 14, Shoaib, 8, Hayatullah KhaMohammad, 16, Tariq Aziz, 16, Sanaullah Jan, 17, Maezol Khan, 8, Nasir Khan, Naeem Khan, Naeemullah, Mohammad Tahir, 16, Azizul Wahab, 15, Fazal Wahab, 16, Ziauddin, 16, Mohammad Yunus, 16, Fazal Hakim, 19, Ilyas, 13, Sohail, 7, among many others. (18)
If, rather than being foreign, “Arab sounding” names, they were named Sarah, Tom, Bobby, Christian, Anna, or any other “western sounding” name, would a different reaction be elicited from you? These children are collateral damage because anti-Arab racism dehumanizes them, and their suffering. Furthermore, this kind of racism retards our ability to empathize with those the institutions we are subject to says are “less than human,” even and especially when they say this in the most indirect ways.
In Afghanistan, NATO air strikes on April 7th, 2013 left 11 children dead. Huffington Post writer Kim Gamel reports the following:
“A fierce battle between U.S.-backed Afghan forces and Taliban militants in a remote corner of eastern Afghanistan left nearly 20 people dead, including 11 Afghan children killed in an airstrike and an American civilian adviser, officials said Sunday.” (19)
In total, 3,461+ civilians have been killed by Drone Strikes in the Arab world (1).
Barack Obama’s administration has repeatedly tried to brush off the reality of drone strikes, saying that the primary aim is to “take out terrorists” and secure tensions in the middle-east with “the Taliban and Al-Qaeda” which pose little to no threat to the vast majority of Americans. But the illusion that they do persists.
In a February 2012 poll of 1,000 US adults, 83% of them (77% of them liberal Democrats) replied that they support the drone strikes (3).
Salon reports that Barack Obama’s administration has effectively lied about the victims of drone strikes:
Investigative reports and on-the-ground testimonies have made it public knowledge that far more people than al-Qaida leaders are killed by drone strikes. The U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) estimates that in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia over 1,000 civilians may have been killed by U.S. drone strikes. (4)
One must ask – what if the tables were turned? What if, instead of the United States having the blood of dozens of Arab children on its hands, it was the Taliban? What if the Taliban had the blood of American children on its hands? How then would the world react?
The reality, however, is to the contrary. The United States has the blood of dozens of Arab children on its hands. The populaces of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other Arab countries subject to the aggressive policies of the United States are frightened, and angry. Militant factions of these countries have already geared up for war.
Why does the United States fight its wars? Overwhelmingly, for profit, for natural resources, to appease its regional corporations.
Russ Baker, writer for whowhatwhy, has this to say concerning the reasoning of the United States in its war in Afghanistan:
“When the United States decided to invade Afghanistan to grab Osama bin Laden—and failed, but stayed on like an unwanted guest—could it have known that the Afghans were sitting on some of the world’s greatest reserves of mineral wealth?” (20)
I’d wager they did. Mr. Baker and his associate writers would agree:
“We’ve raised this topic before —where we noted the dubious 2010 claim, published by the New York Times, that “the vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was [recently] discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists.” Other evidence, and logic, point to the fact that everyone but the Western public knew for a long time, and before the 2001 invasion, that Afghanistan was a treasure trove.” (20)
In Baker’s essay, uncovered from the BBC, is an article published on May 13, 2002 that reports not only on the vast amount of natural resources encompassed within Afghanistan, but also discusses American-Afghan trade agreements on the countries oil. The BBC article in question reported the following:
“Mr Razim said US energy company Unocal was the “lead company” among those that would build the pipeline, which would bring 30bn cubic meters of Turkmen gas to market annually. Unocal – which led a consortium of companies from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Japan and South Korea – has maintained the project is both economically and technically feasible once Afghan stability was secured.“ (21)
Clearly, the reasoning for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was to secure the situation in the favor of American financial interests. Getting back to the article by Mr. Baker, just how much does Afghanistan have to offer to American corporations? Baker scoffs at a comment from Time magazine, which said the following:
“If there is a road to a happy ending in Afghanistan, much of the path may run underground: in the trillion-dollar reservoir of natural resources — oil, gold, iron ore, copper, lithium and other minerals — that has brought hopes of a more self-sufficient country, if only the wealth can be wrested from blood-soaked soil.” (20)
If anything, as he suggests, these trillion-dollar reservoirs of natural resources will be a road to chaos, war, and subservience to the financial interests of the United States, rather than a means of Afghanistan sustaining itself, or a means of maintaining peace regionally within the country — the opposite will be true if the current economic structures of the world persist.
What to a million dead Iraqis, including five hundred thousand children as a result of U.S. sanctions, is your Fourth of July? It is “rejoice that is empty and heartless.”
What to the tortured and raped prisoners of Abu Ghraib, or Guantanamo, is your Fourth of July? It is “mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”
What to Palestinian families living under Israeli state terror, to Palestinian hunger strikers, is your Fourth of July? It is “cries of liberty and justice, hollow mockery.”
Reflecting upon the legitimacy of the United States in the Arab world, little Shakira comes to mind. Only one years old, she was severely mutilated by predator drones in Pakistan’s swat valley, left to die in a trash can (16). What to Shakira is your Fourth of July? It is “unholy license, swelling vanity.”
No matter how these facts are interpreted, one thing is clear, and cannot be debated: the militaristic policies of the United States have stained us with the blood of children.
Fireworks and Carpet Bombings
From the onset of 1945, the United States has invaded over fifty foreign countries. (22) In the process, it has displaced and destroyed the lives of whole millions of people in the dependent and underdeveloped parts of the world.
From the Korean war (1950-1953) that killed an estimated 2.5 million Korean civilians (23), to the Vietnam War (1963-1975) that killed an estimated 3.4 million civilians (24), to the U.S. bombing of Laos and Cambodia (1969-1975) that killed an estimated upwards of 150,000 civilians (25), to the U.S. backed Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1973-1990) that killed an estimated 3,197 civilians and tortured an estimated 29,000 (26), to the U.S. backed massacre of communists in Indonesia under the Suharto regime (1965-1966) that killed an estimated one million civilians (27), to the Iraq war (2003-present) that killed an estimated 654,965 civilians (28), to the Afghanistan war (2001-present) that has killed an estimated 30,000 civilians (29).
In modern history, the interests of corporations have been decisive in the policies of aggressive warmongering countries and the wars they have waged. The hegemonic policies of these countries have been wholly influenced by national corporations and their vested interest in profit, in territorial hegemony, in natural resources.
Adam Tooze says in his book Wages of Destruction:
“.. Too often the preoccupation of Hitler and his followers with problems of Lebensraum, food and agriculture is seen as prima facie evidence of their atavism and backwardness. This could not be more wrong. The search for greater territory and natural resources was not the outlandish obsession of racist ideologues…” (30)
Adam Tooze also goes deeper in regards to the discussion of natural resources. Germany was almost entirely dependent upon one particular natural resource: oil, an attribute held in common with the west. He notes that Reichswerke Hermann Goering, a German corporation, had become the largest industrial conglomerate in the world. He mentions that Germany, “with both limited territory as well as limited natural resources,” during the Nazi period, sought to seize many of the territories of Eastern Europe and Northern Africa, particularly for the seizure of untapped resource reserves.
When Germany conquered the Soviet caucasus, it was importing Russian oil at the rate of at least one million tons per annum. (30)
Exxon Mobil, the 2nd largest corporation in the United States, is seizing more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day by mid-2013 in the war torn, occupied Iraqi Qurnan oilfields. (31)
In the year of 2003, the United States conducted an invasion and consequent occupation of Iraq, in which there were an estimated 654,965 direct civilian casualties. That means that there were regularly 15,594 Iraqi deaths per month, over the course of 42 months. (6)
The invasion and occupation of Iraq has been, in effect, devastating on the countries infrastructure, and is massively unpopular among the Iraqi population. According to a poll taken by the British Ministry of Defense, more than 82% of Iraqis, “Strongly oppose the presence of United States and Coalition troops,” Iraqis who believe the invasion has increased security in the country is less than 1%, and Iraqis who have no faith or hope in the invading forces is more than 72%. (32)
The sanctions, and the war that the United States has waged against Iraq, and against the people of Iraq, has been disastrous to the extent that it could be viewed as an act of genocide. 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 Iraqi civilians died of malnutrition or inadequate health care as a result of sanctions. Truly, in the words of former UN official Dennis Halliday, “an act of systematic genocide.” (15)
Take Fallujah, where it has become reportedly common for:
“..newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, babies being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye — really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects.” (12)
This is a result of the chemical weaponry being used on heavily populated Iraqi cities and towns, places where whole families live. The article continued:
“Between October 1994 and October 1995, the number of birth defects per 1,000 live births in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital was 1.37. In 2003, the number of birth defects in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital was 23 per 1,000 livebirths. Within less than a decade, the occurrence of congenital birth defects increased by an astonishing 17-fold in the same hospital.” (12)
Depleted Uranium – that is patriotism. Acting upon one’s judgement to do what is right – to face the consequences alone, at personal cost – like Bradley Manning? That is treachery. Thus is the murderous logic of American militarism.
Take the massacre in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. Strikes from a 30mm cannon were fired at a group of civilians, among which there were children. Twelve of the people killed were civilians, two children were wounded. (9) The soldiers firing the weapon at the group of innocents have dehumanized any Iraqi they lay eyes on, to the point that they may disregard the killing of children merely as “collateral damage.” As though they are playing a video-game, they beg for a chance to shoot, they praise one another’s aim, when it is precise, and show no empathy, nor mercy, for the people they are attacking. (10)
As Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, said concerning the massacre:
“And you can see that they also deliberately target Saaed, a wounded man there on the ground, despite their earlier belief that they didn’t have the rules of engagement — that the rules of engagement did not permit them to kill Saeed when he was wounded. When he is rescued, suddenly that belief changed. You can see in this particular image he is lying on the ground and the people in the van have been separated, but they still deliberately target him. This is why we called it Collateral Murder. In the first example maybe it’s collateral exaggeration or incompetence when they strafe the initial gathering, this is recklessness bordering on murder, but you couldn’t say for sure that was murder. But this particular event — this is clearly murder.” (11)
Take another example not unlike the war in Iraq: the Vietnam war.
To put things into perspective, let’s look at the bombings of Vietnam during the war. The US flew 1,899,688 sorties and dropped 6,727,084 tons of bombs on Indo-China, comparable perhaps with that of the 2,700,000 tons of bombs dropped on Nazi Germany during the Second World War. (33)
Between 1961 and 1971, U.S. forces sprayed more than 111,000 tons of toxic chemicals on highly populated areas of Indo-China (34). Roughly 65 toxic chemicals were used, including those that are already prohibited to be used as military poisons by international conventions and laws of various nations such as dioxin, hexachlorobenzene, chlordane, dieldrin, 2,45T, and DDT (34).
Agent orange was sprayed from 45-68 million liters, roughly 59,000 tons (34).
The International Conference of Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin Hanoi, 28-29 Mar.2006 continued to report that:
“In this war, the U.S unquestionably intended to attack civilians. It used 4.7 million liters for destroying 33.339 hectares of crops and directly spraying on 3.138 hamlets/villages while overwhelmingly effecting 20.585 ones . To poison civilians and destroy crops of population became one characteristic of this chemical warfare conducted by the U.S in Vietnam (during the First World War, there were 1.3 million victims of chemical poisoning..” (34)
Why did the United States get involved in Vietnam in the first place? Contrary to claims of “response” to “communist aggression,” the United States itself admitted its reasoning in the war: a State Department adviser said the following:
“We have only partially exploited South-East Asia’s resources. Nevertheless, South-East Asia supplied 90% of the world’s crude rubber, 60% of its tin and 80% of its copra and coconut oil. It has sizeable quantities of sugar, tea, coffee, tobacco, sisal, fruits, spices, natural resins and gums, petroleum, iron ore and bauxite.” (35)
A year previous, February 1950, the New York Times stated:
“Indo-China is a prize worth a large gamble. In the north are exportable tin, tungsten, manganese, coal, lumber and rice, rubber, tea, pepper, and hides. Even before World War II, Indo-China yielded dividends estimated at $300 million a year.” (35)
Similarly, and more recently, George W. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, drew a “line in the sand” to let it be known to Iraq, which invaded Kuwait in 1990, that it would take measures, in the words of editor Rebecca Nelson, to “.. protect U.S. oil supplies in the country, the president mobilized U.S. forces…” (13) The logic of capitalism in decay is the securing of spheres of influence and the resources they contain by any means necessary, even if it means complete disregard for the lives of millions in the developing world.
Many of us already know the Democratic Party to be nothing more than a corporatist organization (the Democratic National Convention, for example, relied on at least $5 million dollars worth of corporate “donations,” (7) or rather, investments) one having a vested interest, a stake, in securing the needs of the state. It may be that it exists to give the illusion of social-change without inflicting any substantial alterations to the system – the same system that brought Vietnam and Indo-China to the brink of destruction for the benefit of corporate monopolies; the same system that has so recently done the same to Iraq, to Afghanistan, perhaps eventually to the people of Iran.
I implore the reader to gather from the facts and observations they have seen laid out here this: Vietnam was not Nixon, Korea was not Truman — Vietnam was Imperialism, Korea was Imperialism.
(11) Al Jazeera English (2010-04-19). “Collateral Murder?”
(13) The Handy History Answer Book, Rebecca Nelson, p. 138
(26) A Green Light for The Junta? New York Times. 28 October 1977