A message repeatedly making the rounds on the Internet shows a picture of an American airman, John Gebhardt, holding an injured Iraqi child on his lap and the accompanying text explains his sympathetic provision of comfort to her and others. In addition, the reason that it is all the rage, especially amongst neoconservatives, is that the senders can, in their minds, use the depiction to "prove" that U.S. military personnel undeniably have magnanimous intentions. Subsequently, the message indirectly substantiates their position that U.S. armed forces are overseas fighting wars solely to improve the lives of foreigners and protect American freedoms at home.
Yes, it is touching to see a kindly man reassure a youngster, but the scene and its description in no way verifies anything altruistic about American motives in the Middle East. Indeed, both could serve to remind us that the wounded child would not have been hurt had U.S. warmongers not chosen Iraq as a site for a comprehensive invasion, one that should never have been initiated in the first place. They, also, stand in stark contrast to other renditions of U.S. troop actions, which run the gamut from selflessly heroic to atrociously horrific.
For example, one graphic and disturbing image sums up the violence that is always at the heart of war. Titled "American Soldier showing a severed Iraqi arm hung in a mosque to terrorize the Iraqi resistance," it portrays a gloating American youth in fatigues flaunting his prize. The spoils of the hunt, his gruesome human arm, was hung against the wall of a house of worship like a rancid slab of meat.
In response to seeing the shot, I could not resist imagining an invading force coming to the U.S.A. to topple our government and gain control of our oil reserves. As such, I pictured that same mangled limb as the remains of an American resistance fighter, one's neighbor perhaps, strung up at the doorway of a town's church or synagogue.
Concurrently, I could conjure up the way that Americans would regard the foreign attackers were they forced to prostitute their children to mercenaries, ones like the Blackwater's warriors paid by the invading forces' government, in order to provide food for their families. Similarly, I could imagine the way that U.S. citizens would think about citizens of the invading country, so 'cozy' in their own lives, while their own homes, jobs sites, electricity plants, water supplies, schools, hospitals, transportation routes and other critical parts of their lives were blown up and contaminated with toxins, such as depleted uranium delivered from assorted types of projectiles.
Of course, government leaders can convincingly state anything that they want as justification for offensive raids into foreign lands. They can mention the need to destroy weapons of mass destruction (that will never be found) through the use of one's own weapons of mass destruction, the desire to bring democracy to backwards peoples, the obligation to protect far-away populations from dangerous terrorists, the Orwellian wish to bring peace through war or any number of other outlandish excuses.
Simultaneously, they can give glorious pro-war speeches filled with half truths like Barack Obama's address at West Point aimed at gaining support for war expansion. (In connection, it is useful to remember Adolf Hitler once stating: "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.")
Yet propagandistic talks, regardless of whether they are sincerely stated or even believed, can never undercut the facts as spelled out by Admiral Gene LaRocque: "I hate it when they say, 'He gave his life for his country.' Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them. They don't die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them." Yes, we kill them in the bid to gain geopolitical control of energy stores and pipeline corridors that deliver the supplies, and we slaughter again and again ever more innocent civilians in the process.
In times to come, finite resources, such as uranium and fossil fuels, will be increasingly used up. Countries that either harbor the remaining supplies or that are en route for their delivery will be posed as hostile and dangerous to Western interests if they do not cave in to Western demands. Accordingly, various bogus reasons will again be fabricated as justifications for invading them and the affiliated costs will again be subsumed by the invading countries' citizens despite the result as is spelled out by Abraham Flexner: "Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both."
No, indeed, we can't have both. We simply cannot afford the social, environmental and financial price tag. At the same time, we cannot afford the lost funding for essential programs like universal health-care provision and infrastructure repairs at home. Similarly, we cannot bear the added costs to rebuild whole nations after devastating their landscapes. After war expenditures, there's just not enough money to spare for much else.
Moreover, we cannot accept the untimely deaths in the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands. They weigh too heavily on the national conscience -- that is if one can even exist after so much unbridled wanton carnage.
At the same time, we cannot cope with the nearly permanent poison spreading across the Earth and its waterways from depleted uranium-tipped weapons. Likewise, we cannot contend with the poisoning of more and more minds of warfare victims who turn into dedicated terrorists as payback.
Besides, why should we be forced to support greedy war profiteers such as are found at Halliburton KBR, Xe, Exxon Mobil and drug cartels, who get kickbacks to leave our troops alone? Why should we be expected to subsume the overall high outlay, such as the recent U.S. $636 billion military spending bill demands, on top of crippling deficits, such as the U.S. public debt that is quickly soaring towards $13 trillion?
Frankly, we can't afford to destroy region after region while terrorizing their civilians in a bid to put puppet governments in place whose despots will sell off their land's resources to the highest bidders. Certainly, we cannot, with any scruples involved, use these destroyed places' petroleum products to fuel further armed invasions in a bid to secure further resources for western corporate, rather than Russian and Chinese, interests.
In short, we absolutely cannot expend lavish amounts on wars -- period. We cannot for the sake of the people harmed and killed, we cannot for the sake of the environment, and we cannot when Americans are starving and jobless on homeland soil.
Clearly, employment opportunities could be generated by shifting war funds into creation of work supporting provision of alternative energy as a substitute for fossil fuels. Wouldn't that be far better than the current expansion of wars in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and other strategic locations? Isn't it a constructive alternative to building huge bases in countries that abut oil-rich Iran and Venezuela?
As long as the response to such questions is always "no", we can expect ever larger and more greatly drawn out wars. We can anticipate that fossil fuels used in such fights will disappear more rapidly than otherwise would occur. Eventually, we can, also, be assured that the ongoing reckless military rampage will lead to a third world war if Russian or Chinese leaders, finally, reach a limit to the threats that can be endured from western imperial hubris.
In fact, how can anyone anywhere embrace an increasingly extensive war trajectory? If the answer to such an enquiry seems ambiguous at best, it, without a doubt, will become patently clear quite soon enough.
Emily Spence is an author living in Massachusetts. She has spent many years involved in human rights, environmental and social services efforts.