by Johnny Barber Common Dreams September 11, 2012
“We are at War. Somebody is Going to Pay.” —George W. Bush, Sept 11th, 2001.
Eleven years later, we are still at war. Bullets, mortars and drones are still extracting payment. Thousands, tens of thousands, millions have paid in full. Children and even those yet to be born will continue to pay for decades to come. On a single day in Iraq last week there were 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilians and wounding another 235. On September 9th, reports indicate 88 people were killed and another 270 injured in 30 attacks all across the country
The city of Fallujah remains under siege. Not from U.S. troops, but from a deluge of birth defects that have plagued families since the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus by U.S. forces in 2004. No government studies have provided a direct link to the use of these weapons because no government studies have been undertaken, and none are contemplated. Dr. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, told Al Jazeera, "We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine.” The photographs are available online if you can bear to look at what we have wrought.
Our soldiers, some physically damaged by IED’s, some mentally destroyed by PTSD, will pay for these wars for the rest of their days. Drug and alcohol abuse is out of control. Suicide among the troops is an epidemic. 2,916 Americans were lost in the towers on that fateful day, many, many more have perished in the intervening years.
Today, we will be asked to honor the men and woman of our armed forces, but what does honoring the veterans entail? In its most recent report, The Veterans Administration estimates about 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Mental illness plagues 45% of homeless vets and 70% suffer from some kind of substance abuse. So how do you honor our veterans? Are “Support Our Troops” ribbons still in vogue? How does our government honor our veterans other than use them as political pawns in stump speeches and cannon fodder for their wars?
84,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan. While the occupation is rarely mentioned in the U.S. mainstream media, that doesn’t mean the killing has stopped. On average, one U.S. soldier dies everyday. Not an enormous sum, unless it is your mother, father, son or daughter. Afghan loses are not reported. They have loved ones who grieve as well.
On the streets of Kabul it is not unusual to see burka clad women clutching starving children begging for spare change. Poverty and hunger is even worse in Kandahar and Helmand, areas that have seen some of the most intense fighting of the war. In southern Afghanistan, 29.5% of the children are suffering from severe malnutrition. Yet, officially, there is no famine in Afghanistan and hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid has flowed into the country.
Since America’s intervention in Afghanistan, the heroin trade has exploded, doubling opium production. Afghanistan is now the source of 90% of the world’s heroin. This dovetail’s nicely with America’s “War on Drugs.” The growth in the heroin trade coupled with the despair of daily living has contributed to an eruption of drug addiction. Addicts can be found huddled under bridges throughout Kabul. As these men succumb to addiction, their families are left to fend for themselves. Heroin floods the streets of Europe and Russia. Who in the Afghan government benefits?
In 2011 overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market. Russia was second, with $4.8 billion in deals. Over half of the sales, or $33.4 billion, consisted of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. These sales included F-15 fighter jets, dozens of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, as well as an array of bombs and delivery systems, as well as accessories such as night-vision goggles and radar warning systems. These sales offset the flow of US dollars to pay for Saudi oil, and this explains why there is no outrage directed toward the Saudi regime.
In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President, Obama said, "Our destinies are bound together. A freedom which only asks what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity, is unworthy of our founding ideals." In closing, he said, "We travel together. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up.” Why is it our Presidents fail to include those they bomb in their lofty sentiments? The simple truth is our destinies are bound together with those who lie beyond the borders of our country as well.Johnny Barber is currently in Afghanistan as a member of a delegation from Voices for Creative Non-Violence. He has traveled to Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Gaza to bear witness and document the suffering of people who are affected by war. His work can be viewed at: www.oneBrightpearl-jb.blogspot.com and www.oneBrightpearl.com
[Extracts from a long article] http://www.commondreams.org/author/johnny-barber