After George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, an estimated 26 million people marched in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM). Perhaps a thousand marched in Ashland in the largest single action locally, a marvelous and spirited protest. Those involved in BLM marches stood with Blacks — a long overdue movement to remind us of the horrific legacy of white supremacy and violence.
Since then, however, there have been no large protests against U.S. wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of Blacks and other people of color in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. National antiwar protests have disappeared since 2001, except for the massive February 2003 marches against the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq, an illegal and unconstitutional war built on a mountain of lies — supported by Democrats and Republicans.
The Brown University Cost of Wars Project estimates that the endless wars in these countries have killed nearly 900,000 people (almost all of color), and some 59 million have been displaced. The overall cost to U.S. taxpayers, based on military budgets from 2001-2021, is $25.8 trillion dollars. My community's share in Oregon is about $17.4 billion dollars (including Ashland, OR $1.6 billion) — more than enough to rebuild our community after the devastating Almeda Fire, provide housing for the homeless, jobs for all, and aid to our struggling healthcare workers and system.
There’s been no official U.S. or corporate media interest in an accounting of the number of Muslim people of color who have been killed, maimed, rendered homeless, and driven into poverty and despair. Historian Walter L. Hixon (“The Myth of American Diplomacy”) writes that “U.S. foreign policy is a lethal, pathological force ….” Our government, corporate media, and educational system have kept us ignorant of this history. We must learn it and confront it if we hope to create a safe and humane world. Tragically, however, most Americans have never taken that first step and most have supported the slaughter by their silence.
In his April 1967 historic “Beyond Vietnam” oration, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that “the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world ….” He was attacked by the political, corporate media, and civil rights establishments. The Washington Post claimed that some of his assertions were “sheer inventions of unsupported fantasy.” A Harris poll taken a month later revealed that 73 percent of Americans opposed his antiwar position, including 50 percent of African Americans.
What King stated then, however, remains true today: the U.S. remains the greatest purveyor of violence, the most highly militarized society on earth. War is its basic instrument of rule, as it maintains 750 foreign military bases and Special Operation forces in 150 countries.
Ending violence against Blacks and people of color within and outside the nation begins with rejecting the lies and myths about racism, and the core beliefs of American Exceptionalism: that [white] Americans are “the peculiar chosen people — the Israel of our time….” (narrator in Herman Melville’s “White Jacket”); “the only idealistic nation in the world” (Woodrow Wilson); that “leadership … was thrust upon the American people by divine providence” (George Kennan); “If we have to use force, it is because we are America” (Madeleine Albright); [we are] “the one indispensable nation” (Hillary Clinton)—and “the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known [in] promoting the ultimate good … that emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint” — the “last, best hope of earth” (Barack Obama).
Vietnam veteran and historian Andrew Bacevich calls these myths “The Indispensable Nation Syndrome” (INS), a disorder that, unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, cannot be cured by any vaccine. The disorder’s essential nature was bluntly stated years ago by Michael Ledeen, former high-ranking National Security State official: “Every 10 years or so the U.S. needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”
It is more than time we confront our bloody history and terminate the violence and brutality this country has committed against Blacks and other people of color — at home and abroad.