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June 8th, 2009
Freethought San Marcos: Changing the mindset that took us to war

Freethought San Marcos: A column

When my wife and I joined Military Families Speak Out in 2002, our purpose was to do whatever we could to prevent a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Our son-in-law at that time was deployed with his Special Forces unit to Iraq to participate in the invasion.

No service men or women enlisted so that they could be sent to fight an illegal war or a senseless occupation. Many have concluded that they are in harm’s way not to protect our freedoms, but to be used to further the interests of our leaders in controlling the world’s economy, the natural resources, and the cheap labor on which most American-based corporations depend.

Last November, our country elected a President who promised to end the Iraq war and bring our troops home. But President Obama is not only continuing the war, he is sending even more of our troops to take part in a disastrous military occupation in Afghanistan, and he has increased the use of mercenaries in both countries by 23% in the second quarter of 2009. We are paying as many contractors to implement our policies as we are service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those of us in Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) want our troops home now. MFSO issued a statement recently on the Middle East wars:

“Our loved ones took an oath to defend our country and our Constitution. Instead, they have been sent and re-sent to wars of occupation. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are denying the Iraq and Afghan people the ability to determine their own future. The best way for Congress and the President to uphold our country’s values and honor our troops’ commitment and sacrifice is to bring the troops home now and let the Iraqi and the Afghan people decide their own course.”

“There is no right way to fight a wrong war. Our troops are fighting in wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan where the lines between combatants and civilians are often dangerously blurred and threats can come suddenly and from any direction. They are witnessing and doing things no human being should ever have to experience. Some are on their third, fourth, fifth, and sixth deployments. It should come as no surprise that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is reaching epidemic proportions among veterans and active duty troops. We need to bring all our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan before more damage is done, and provide them with the care they need and deserve!”

“There is no military solution to the social, political, and economic crises in Iraq and Afghanistan. Continuing the occupations is only creating more resentment, more suffering, and more death. …Continuing to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan is stretching our military past the breaking point. In addition to the toll that this is taking on our troops and their families, stretching our military so thin diminishes the country’s ability to defend ourselves.”

Five thousand American military personnel have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Warren Henthorn of Choctaw, Oklahoma, the father of Army Spc. Jeffrey Henthorn, who died in Iraq on Feb. 8, 2005, said: “Way too many have died on all sides of these wars. If I remember correctly, President Obama won the Democratic nomination based on the promise to end the war in Iraq. But, between Iraq and Afghanistan, at the end of this year we will actually have more troops in harm’s way then we did at the height of the ‘surge.’ That’s just as bad as we had it under President Bush. These wars now belong to President Obama. The blood is on his hands.”

President Obama did not start these wars, but it is now his duty to end them. He promised to end the War in Iraq. He foolishly believes that there is a military solution to the War in Afghanistan, so he is in the process of increasing our troops there and escalating the conflict as it bleeds over into Pakistan. If the generals are unable to learn from history, I had hoped that a President Obama would take with him to the White House the knowledge that every empire that has tried to conquer Afghanistan in modern history has failed.

For at least the past 600 years, Afghanistan–the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia–has been a focal point of turmoil, fighting, and death. There is no reason to believe that today’s advanced technology–armed drones operated robotically from Nevada–will fare any better than did the British or the Russians during the last century in controlling the indigenous population of Afghanistan.

As many others have pointed out recently, our actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan are creating more enemies for the United States. Every drone bombing that kills civilians creates more heartbreak, more anger, more commitment to avenge the deaths by killing Americans. Those in the greatest danger of becoming victims of that revenge are our soldiers and marines on the ground.

Both of these wars have the look and feel of endless conflict. It is long past time to bring our service men and women home, rebuild this nation’s security, concentrate on rehabilitating those who were injured in body and mind in these conflicts (nearly a million veterans are awaiting decisions on their applications for VA services), and rebuild America’s devastated economy. President Obama was elected to bring about change on many fronts, not the least of which concerns our two wars in the Middle East. If he fails to end these wars soon, nothing else he does may matter.

During the campaign, candidate Obama said, “It’s not just that we have to get out of Iraq; we have to get out of the mindset that led us into Iraq.” President Obama seems to have forgotten this bit of wisdom he uttered during the presidential campaign.

As historian Howard Zinn recently pointed out, the mindset candidate Obama was talking about “says force will do the trick… (v)iolence, war, bombers—that they will bring democracy and liberty to the people. … It’s the mindset that says America has some God-given right to invade other countries for their own benefit. We will bring civilization to the Mexicans in 1846. We will bring freedom to the Cubans in 1898. We will bring democracy to the Filipinos in 1900. You know how successful we’ve been at bringing democracy all over the world.”

Zinn’s solution to help President Obama remember his campaign wisdom is to speak our minds to our elected officials in such powerful ways that we can’t be ignored. This is the lesson of history as Zinn understands it:

“Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.”

© Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. Hankins

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One thought on “Freethought San Marcos: Changing the mindset that took us to war

  1. Lamar:
    I was wondering when someone was actually going to start mentioning that he has brought everyone home yet. None of this has made any sense, we have our own wars going on right here that we should be trying to deal with…
    Just thought I’d let you know that I read your article and agree…

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