Unclaimed Remains

Veterans For Peace and nine allied peace groups held an anti war rally at the Lincoln Memorial, along with other observances in Washington, DC last week as Memorial Day was observed in the US, thousands of men, women and children were killed, injured and made homeless by American bombs overseas and US defense corporation profits exceeded the marks set in previous years. Nothing new, go back 150 or 200 years and the same things would have been written.

I have things I do want to share, but I want to provide Sarah Mess’ poetry by itself here. Sarah is a veteran of Somalia and her poem, Vietnam on My Mind, is staggering.

Breaking this Cycle of Imperial Violence

I was grateful for the opportunity to author a guest post over at the Strategies and Tactics for the Anti-War Blog at the Veterans Reparations Project. The Veterans Reparations Project is a joint project between Veterans For Peace and the Islah Reparations Project and is something very meaningful to me, something with which I hope to become more and more involved. Please visit the Veterans Reparations Project’s webpage to see how you can be involved and how you can help with the grassroots reparations process.

Breaking this Cycle of Imperial Violence:

I’m in my local Starbucks—yeah I know corporate evils and all that, but at 5pm on a Sunday in Wake Forest, NC you take what you can get, and I can walk here. So you take all the good you can get with the bad. Here in Wake Forest we’re not far from Ft. Bragg, home to the US Army’s paratroopers and special operations forces. Thousands of them have been ordered to deploy to Kuwait, where they will be sent into Iraq and Syria to make their own contributions to a decades long folly that has brought death, mental and physical mutilation, and societal destruction to the peoples of Iraq and Syria, profits to American defense corporations, corporate board memberships and university professorships to retired generals, and thousands upon thousands of new recruits to foreign terrorist groups; if there is something else these wars have brought, please leave a reply below, because I certainly can’t think of anything.

There is a large, neon green sign, hand written, like you would see announcing the homecoming dance in the high school hallway or your neighbor’s kid’s lemonade stand on your intersection’s stop sign: “Our Troops Are Deploying, Help Us Thank Them With Coffee.”  A large cardboard box is about a 1/3 of the way full of bags of coffee and boxes of k-cups, hopefully no decaf for those young paratroopers.

I’m not lying to you when I tell you I’m wearing a t-shirt with a Howard Zinn quote on it that reads “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people” as I stand next to that box of coffee bound for the Persian Gulf. I linger for a bit hoping that maybe someone will read the shirt and the sign, that maybe something will register, someone will say something to me, something to medicate me, numb me, tell me that this cycle isn’t starting all over again for several thousand young men and women, barely more than an hour’s drive from me, about to travel halfway around the world to do irreparable harm to people they’ve never met and irredeemable harm to their own souls, hearts, and minds.

I’ve been involved in this war effort since before it even had a name, taking part in training exercises with Indonesian, Malaysian, Philippine, and Thai counterparts that actively engaged in fighting Muslim insurgents in their own countries prior to 9/11. Whether as a willing participant of the wars or as a vocal war opponent, as an occupier or now as someone who hopes to do more to support those who are occupied, I’ve seen very little explained as to how to right the wrongs done in war and even less done to repair, to rebuild, to resuscitate, or to resurrect. Surely, I have never walked into anyplace in America since we began killing more than 1 million people overseas in response to the attacks of 9/11 and seen a box asking for coffee for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen.

Now, of course, reparations may be the proverbial bridge too far at this point, as all the nations for which we have transgressed against are still receiving the blows of our aggressions, and those of others, from both internal and foreign belligerents and villains. However, I do recognize that waiting for our government to act in the future to administer some form of restorative justice to the people of the Greater Middle East may be as great a sin as the original acts of violence themselves, because we know that our government, the United States, will never do such a thing, and if our government ever does act the list for such reparations will be a long and worthy one.

So, I am extremely grateful for what the the Veterans Reparations Project is doing. Through grassroots reparations projects we can make a difference, we can begin to help rebuild and repair, and we can begin to fix some of what we destroyed.

Nothing we do will absolve us of what we have done in these wars, I am clear on that; the spot is on and always will be on our hands, to use one of my favorite allusions from high school English class. So be it and so it goes. However, we don’t have to go along with the killing any longer and we don’t have to go along with sitting idly by either and not helping to rebuild and repair. We can and we must do what we can to help those who we hurt. I do not believe we have any other choice.

Was the Afghan War Worth It?

And a quick interview I did with Chinese TV from last March where I briefly discuss how a military first US foreign policy has led to war, chaos and terrorism throughout the Muslim world.

Updated with transcript from RT:

As long as the Afghan government aligns itself with the US, which is keeping troops, planes, special operations and drones to bomb targets in Afghanistan or Pakistan, there will be no peace, says former US Marine Matthew Hoh.

RT: Peace talks between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives have ended with both sides agreeing to meet again after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. After more than a decade of war the Afghan government and the Taliban are finally talking. Was it worth the thousands of lives lost, both military and civilian?

Matthew Hoh: No, it wasn’t and I think the proper way to look at the Afghan War, as you look at all wars or all conflicts, is not in an isolated vacuum or is because of one solitary event, in this case the last fourteen years of the war in Afghanistan as being caused by the Al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11. However, it should be viewed as this is a war that has been going on continuously since the 1970s.

Continue reading

I Stand With Charlie Hebdo, But I Also Stand With The Victims Of Our Bombs

From yesterday’s Huffington Post:

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Two young boys, whose names I do not know, killed by American bombs in Harem, Syria, in November, 2014. It is rare to see such images in American media.

The killings at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris are abhorrent. But let us not forget the daily abhorrence of our wars in the Muslim World, wars that have seen over a million Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Syrians and Yemenis killed and millions more wounded and maimed physically and psychologically, while millions of men, women and children endure another cold winter, homeless and hungry.

So as we question and fume, shocked and aggrieved at the hateful killing of journalists and satirists, police officers and a janitor, we should not be so insensible as to not acknowledge the horrid cost we have exacted on the populations of the Greater Middle East in pursuit of democracy, freedom and liberty; campaigns undertaken in the name of our values that are executed in the very manner as those murderers in Paris on Wednesday proselytized and witnessed their faith as Muslims.

We must recognize the extremists and war-mongerers in our societies, who like the members of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, want war and require war to justify their own cosmic, religious and Manichean world views, or profit from the bounty of being an empire that has over 700 military bases around the world and sells nearly three-quarters of the world’s arms.

For to believe that the attack in Paris was a tragedy singularly about a cartoon or as an event solely to be defined as an assault on freedom of expression, is to be daft and incongruent with the history and reality of American and Western policy in the Middle East. For decades, American and Western policy, through action and subsequent backlash, has provided the world and, most sordidly, Muslims with such Frankensteins as the Saudi Royal Family, the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and, now, the Islamic State. What played out and ended with the sickening execution of a wounded policeman on a Paris sidewalk is a direct outgrowth of American and Western policies to try and manipulate sects, tribes, ethnicities and religions in the Middle East to preserve or remove regimes in an absurd and defiled real life version of the board game Risk. It is a game that makes sense to very few outside of Washington, DC and London, but serves to validate and enrich a $1 trillion dollar a year US national security and intelligence industry, while making composite and real the propaganda and recruitment fantasies of al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other extremist groups that are parasites of war.

So I stand with Charlie, but I also stand with all those millions of voiceless victims of our wars and our policies in the Middle East. To do other, to condemn the killings of innocents in our lands, without offering the same condemnation of our government’s killings in their lands, is not just a cruel blindness to the human suffering inflicted by our own machines of war and their munitions; but it is unwise, because what we saw this week in Paris is just one other moment in the ever-continuing, never-ending cycle of violence between the Western and Muslim worlds.

Those in the West who proclaim the defense of democracy, freedom and liberty as justification for our bombings in the Middle East are of the same ilk, cloth and substance as those whose corrupted interpretations of Islam leads to slaughter on Western streets and genocide in Muslim lands. Stand with Charlie Hebdo, stand with our Muslim brothers, sisters and their children, and stand against the purveyors of hate and war in all societies.

Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars: Giving Voice to the Voiceless

Jeremy Scahill’s politically important and emotionally exhausting film, Dirty Wars, is now available on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon and through a whole bunch of other video services that I have no idea how to access: Google, XBox, Playstation, Sundance…..

A few years ago, Jeremy interviewed me and a little bit of that interview made it into the film. We spoke for a couple of hours at a bar and Jeremy bought me a few beers. I had forgotten about the film until last spring when Jeremy contacted me about helping with the film’s roll out and having me speak at screenings.

I attended the film’s premiere in May in Washington, DC. Many of my friends attended, thankfully. As Dirty Wars deepened and darkened my mind with remembrances, my friends, almost all of them not veterans, were a buoy to me. It was a stunning and nauseating ninety minutes. I had to leave the theater at one point.

If you are surviving PTSD, depression and suicidality you do a good job staying away from triggers, trying not to let thoughts metastasize and take over your life; allowing the memories to remain just memories, not haunting or demanding action, but just present in your life, a part of your life, but not your life. But then you sit in a dark theater and you watch, listen and feel a story told so compassionately and so beautifully by a man who knows this story, which is also your story, so well. He lives it too. His film, his testament, makes you remember your obligations.

More than your story or Jeremy’s story, Dirty Wars is the story of thousands of nameless and voiceless men, women and children. Children of God, brothers and sisters in humanity, those who our wars are supposed to bring freedom and liberty to, unlucky bastards, whatever you want to call them, the truth is these people are suffering under an American political narrative of good vs evil and a policy of perpetual war that benefits a one trillion dollar a year national security Leviathan and those who enjoy and profit from the romance of war and the fear of terrorism.

Thank you Jeremy for witnessing and giving voice to those nameless and voiceless thousands, those mortal souls and their corporeal families destroyed by war, unknown to our society and ignored by our media.

Please watch Dirty Wars and please ask your friends to watch too. Give voice to the voiceless.

 

12th Anniversary of Afghan War

I provided these comments to the Institute for Public Accuracy today on the 12th Anniversary of the US War in Afghanistan:

It is fitting that as we pass the 12-year mark of the U.S. and Western invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. government is shut down, our economy, education system and infrastructure continues their persistent degradation, and the American people, for the first time ever, now believe their children will not be better off than they. The failure of the United States’ war in Afghanistan, a failure that has been obvious for quite some time, like our own domestic failings, is a testament to a broken American political order and a $1 trillion a year national security Leviathan. Of course, the Afghan people are no closer to becoming a country at peace than at any time since the 1970s and the United States must and should understand its responsibility and culpability in their continuing lives of death, loss and chaos.

Similarly, in Libya and Somalia, again violence and military force is proving not to be a solution to terrorism. We have to understand the root causes. And many times these root causes are local and regional issues we have a poor grasp of — and sometimes those root causes are grievances against U.S. policies. In Somalia, we keep losing sight of the fact that al-Shabab has not conducted operations anywhere that was not related to occupation of Somalia, this is true for their operations in Uganda and their recent attack in Kenya. So much of this is tied to the U.S. sponsored Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. In Libya, our support in the overthrow of Gaddafi’s government, to include the killing of the man that the U.S. State Department had defined as a reliable ally in the war on terror, has led to continued chaos and a vacuum in government. Two years later we find ourselves having to kidnap a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. How can we say our operations in Libya to have been successful or a model for future operations as is so often described by administration officials or pundits?

Peace. Cut through all the Lies and there it is, right in front of you.

It should be solemnly noted, again, that for the US it is the 12th anniversary of the US troop presence in Afghanistan, but for Afghans war has been unending since the 1970s. Peace to those generations of Afghans who have known nothing but war.