Dirty Wars & Independence Day

Having just seen the documentary Dirty Wars at the Main Theatre in Royal Oak, I’m feeling even less inclined than usual to do much flag waving as America’s big July Fourth celebration approaches.

From the time we are kids, we’re told that the United States is a “peace loving” nation that goes to war only when forced to.  Many people continue to cling to that propaganda, despite all the blood-soaked evidence to the contrary.

There is a scene from Dirty Wars, which follows the trail of investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, where a U.S.-backed Somali warlord is being interviewed. Here’s his take on America The Peaceful:

"America knows war. They are war masters. They know better than me. So when they're funding a war, they know how to fund it." Then he adds, admiringly, “They are teachers. Great teachers.”

The underlying theme of Dirty Wars  (based on Scahill’s book of the same name) is that, in our ever-expanding war on terrorism, the inevitable consequence is that we are only creating more terrorists. (To watch an interview with Scahill, author of the groundbreaking book Blackwater, click here.) http://www.democracynow.org/special/jeremy_scahill_and_dirty_wars_on

Be it drone strikes, cruise missiles or elite special forces units that operate as international hit squads, the inevitable result of these covert operations is that innocent men, women and children are being killed, and then their deaths effectively covered up by the U.S. military and a largely lapdog media. But the families of those innocents, and the communities they lived in, are left only with rage at the injustice.

It is a war without end, fueled by relentless propaganda and willful ignorance. Watching Dirty Wars, it’s hard not to conclude that we are the Evil Empire, operating in violation of international law, raining down death on the unsuspecting and the innocent, otherwise known as the “collateral damage” that’s piling up in the quest to protect ourselves from those President George Bush described as “evildoers.”

As a sort of counter-measure to all the patriotic hype that is inherent in our July Fourth celebrations, check out a 2006 essay penned by the late, historian Howard Zinn, a World War II vet who wrote the unparalleled People’s History of the United States.

Here’s a sample:

“Should Americans welcome the expansion of the nation's power, with the anger this has generated among so many people in the world? Should we welcome the huge growth of the military budget at the expense of health, education, the needs of children, one fifth of whom grow up in poverty? Instead of being feared for our military prowess, we should want to be respected for our dedication to human rights. I suggest that a patriotic American who cares for her or his country might act on behalf of a different vision. Should we not begin to redefine patriotism? We need to expand it beyond that narrow nationalism that has caused so much death and suffering. If national boundaries should not be obstacles to trade — some call it globalization — should they also not be obstacles to compassion and generosity? Should we not begin to consider all children, everywhere, as our own? In that case, war, which in our time is always an assault on children, would be unacceptable as a solution to the problems of the world. Human ingenuity would have to search for other ways.”

So, instead of standing up and cheering on Independence Day, consider Zinn's advice on how to mark  the holiday:

"On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

"Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?"

— Curt Guyette


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