by Michael True
01 January 2011
US Army Soldiers
gather around a fire to stay warm
during an operation in
Helmand province, Afghanistan in February of 2010.
(Photo: The U.S. Army /
"The same war continues," Denise
Levertov wrote in her poem, "Life at War."
Her lament is even more appropriate for 2011
than it was when she wrote the poem forty-five years ago.
Columnists and academics, including international relations professor
Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, are finally acknowledging facts
familiar to anyone "awake" regarding failed US policies, wasted lives and
wasted resources during this period.
Willfully ignoring such facts, as Bacevich
"is to become complicit in the destruction
of what most Americans profess to hold dear."
At the beginning of the new year, consequences
of "life at war" stare us in the face:
the victimization of military and
civilian populations and a huge national debt, including an annual military
budget that is larger than all military budgets in the world combined and
includes $5 billion that remains unaccounted for in Iraq, as well as aid to
Pakistan that has wound up in the hands of the Taliban.
These truths haunt any citizen who has lost loved ones in prolonged wars in
Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan since 1950, or in disastrous
interventions in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile, Granada, Panama,
Honduras, and so on.
Any responsible citizen acknowledges this painful history in the hope of
redirecting US foreign policy in the future.
The purpose of reclaiming it is
not to open old wounds, but to encourage legislative and direct action
committed to peacemaking. It is a call to critique the policies and
competence of the Pentagon,
the CIA, and the national security apparatus
responsible for these disasters.
Ironically, the deficit-reduction commission appointed by President
intimates that social security, rather than a trillion-dollar war on Iraq
and uncapped military spending in Afghanistan, is to blame for the deficit.
And Congress has succeeded in extending Bush's tax cuts for the super-rich,
which will increase the deficit.
Once the envy of the world community, the US now lags behind many nations in
education and health care while it squanders its huge resources on military
misadventures - including both overt and covert intervention - with some
1,000 military bases around the world.
Americans who voted for President Obama are justifiably disappointed that he
has continued the worst practices of the Bush administration, particularly
in foreign policy. In domestic policy, Obama's administration can point to
some achievements, particularly in education and health care.
Tea Party advocates rightfully call attention to a faltering economy but
offer no functional alternatives to present policy.
Meanwhile, naysaying Republicans and cautious
Democrats, as well as an irresponsible Supreme Court, enable rich
corporations to dominate political debate. The Pentagon, including General
Petraeus, lobbied for and initiated increased military action in
more serious casualties among US and its European
allies, not to mention embarrassment and confusion in efforts to end that
Is it any wonder that many people remain hopeless amid predictions that the
country's 9.7 percent unemployment rate will continue through the new year?
So what must be done to alter this discouraging scenario and help the US
regain the confidence of its own people and the world community?
Cut the US military budget in half for
Increase taxes on the filthy rich, the
percent of the population that owns at least 23 percent of America's
Rebuild roads, bridges and other
infrastructure that remains in a state of disrepair.
Encourage policies that put people to
work addressing the dangers of global warming.
Strengthen our education system at every
level, providing skills for meaningful work for all citizens.
Some people may regard these remedies as
utopian, though the consequences are, in essence, practical and essential.
Although many Americans continue to enjoy the benefit from this wealthy and
beautiful country, the potentialities of democratic governance remain
unfulfilled for many others.
In her poem, Levertov wrote that,
"we have breathed the grits of war in, all
our lives. Our lungs are pocked with it," she continues, "the mucous
membrane of our dreams/coated with it, the imagination/filmed over with
the gray filth of it."
For decades, Americans have convinced ourselves
- or have been convinced - that more or less continual war is the essential
task of the US, and that that enterprise is justified by our knowing what is
best for the world community.
During the 1940s, we built military weapons to
defeat Germany and Japan; now, we initiate wars in order to experiment with,
and provide profit from, more sophisticated military weapons.
When will the American public, victimized by a war economy, come to the
conclusion that a permanent war policy benefits only arms manufacturers,
Pentagon contractors and their Congressional allies? Nor does it lessen our
fear, increase our security or promote peace among nations.
There has to be a better way.
My hope is that some of the remedies provided
here offer a way out - and hope for a happier 2011.