Posted by CODEPINK Staff
In President Obama’s much-praised, criticized and analyzed speech in Cairo, he condescended at one point to lecture the Palestinians on their use of violence, contrasting it with the nonviolent strategy and tactics of African-American for their civil rights:
“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.”
In this overly simplistic “lesson from history”, Obama failed to mention the many Palestinian individuals and organizations who have consistently resisted Israeli occupation through nonviolent means, and the role of African-Americans as Union soldiers in the U.S. Civil War and the fiery militancy of Malcolm “By Any Means Necesssary” X and the Black Panthers during the civil rights struggle.
But let’s take Obama’s assertions at face value: “that violence is a dead end.” We see this demonstrated literally, in the dead bodies of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, and others killed by US bombs, missiles, landmines, bullets and all the other infernal weapons of war, as well as the dead bodies of Americans killed by the resistance to US occupation. We also understand it as a “dead end” in the sense of achieving any of the purported goals of the “War on Terror”, now rebranded to the more neutral-sounding “Overseas Contingency Operations.”
Nearly a decade’s worth of horrific violence -- including war crimes such as bombing of civilian infrastructure, torture of prisoners, and the use of radioactive munitions (the so-called “Depleted” Uranium weapons) -- have yielded neither the capture of Osama Bin Laden, the defeat of Al-Qaeda (how will we ever know it’s really defeated?), the end of the Taliban, the cessation of terrorist attacks on civilian populations by non-state actors, the end of attacks on American soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, nor a more peaceful world in general.
Whether the goal is pragmatic -- a more compliant set of governments in West and Central Asia -- or idealistic, the U.S. cannot get there from here. “Here” being the state of permanent, partially privatized state of war that costs US taxpayers billions of dollars (and American lives) every week, while racheting up the national debt. “Here” being also the lavish funding of our allies in the region, including billions every year to the world’s 23rd richest, and nuclear-armed, country (Israel) and a shaky, corrupt and also nuclear-armed regime in Pakistan.
If “violence is a dead end,” why did the Obama administration submit yet another war funding supplemental to Congress, after Obama promised to cease this Bush-era practice and include war funding in the regular appropriations bills? If “violence is a dead end,” why did the House of Representatives just vote for HR 2346, which appropriates $106 billion just through September, mostly for the two official wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and the unofficial “conflict” in Pakistan? Why will the Senate vote for its own version, S. 1054, next week?
“Violence is a dead end”: why do corporations get enormous, cost-plus contracts to keep that violence going? One example is Pratap Chatterjee’s investigation, “The Military's Expanding Waistline: What Will Obama Do With KBR?”
“Violence is a dead end”: since drone and other air attacks against Afghanistan and Pakistan have been publicly recognized as contributing to an increase in support for the Taliban, why does the Air Force receive billions for purchase and maintenance of aircraft, such as $2.17 billion in unrequested funds for C-17s, $504 million (also unrequested) for just seven other airplanes, and $49 million for three Blackhawk helicopters?
“Violence is a dead end”: why then was General Stanley McChrystal, who as top commander to the Joint Special Operations Command coordinated air strikes and raids that killed Afghan civilians, advocated illegal torture of prisoners, and supported a cover-up on the “friendly fire” death of Pat Tillman, appointed and confirmed as the supreme commander of international (US and NATO) forces in Afghanistan? “And this man — McChrystal — represents a culture. The gunfighter culture of Special Operations,” says antiwar veteran, former Special Ops sergeant Stan Goff here.
These rhetorical questions beg the larger question: when is “violence” not violence? When it is in the service of the immense military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned the American public against, conveniently enough at the end of his own very successful career based on state violence. Then “violence is a dead end” means only that another, weaker entity’s violence is an unacceptable evil that must be suppressed. The violence of the United States government through its vastly expensive, expeditionary military is “defense,” is jobs, is patriotism, is “supporting our troops,” is “a new strategy.”
Meanwhile, the corpses – of Afghans at a wedding party; of Iraqis at checkpoints; of Pakistanis under the drones; of young Americans who kill themselves when they return home, unable to bear their own suffering or to get help from a country that supposedly “supports” them – continue to go into the ground. Meanwhile, the dollars continue to leave our home communities to go to the bank accounts of war profiteers. Meanwhile, the dead ends continue to multiply, and as Don Henley of the Eagles sings in his bleak ballad, “It’s a long road out of Eden.”