Gonna lay down my sword and shield…if only that were true! I have been a peacenik since I was too young to know what that meant. I can remember covering my eyes during the newsreels at the Saturday matinees. When I grew up, I joined the thousands of peaceful demonstrators against the Vietnam War in the Bay Area and that other Washington. I felt that war was senseless, and no one really “won.” The losses on all sides were astronomical.
When I heard we were ending the war in Afghanistan, I was elated. Not so much later during the withdrawal; I guess we are more proficient at getting into war than getting out of war. My naivete became apparent when I read an article about drones: “War in Afghanistan isn’t Over—It’s Taking the Form of Illegal Drone Strikes” by Marjorie Cohn in Truthout 9/26/21. Cohn reports that US forces are on the ground fighting in at least 6 different countries: “Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Niger.” And she points out that Biden has promised “to mount over the horizon attacks in Afghanistan. ‘She mentions the “Drone Papers (which) disclosed that nearly 90% of those killed by drone strikes …Jan. 2012–Feb. 2013 were not the intended targets.” It is important to remember that the “UN Charter forbids the use of military force except in self-defense under Article 51. (The Drone Papers were leaked by Daniel Hale who is in prison for 45 months because he told the American public something they should not know.)
And then there’s the bases. I learned from David Vine’s Base Nation that we have over 800 bases (declared or undeclared) across the globe. They range from huge installations like Ramstein Air Base in Germany to small installations called “lily-pads” and then there are the “temporary” installations like Soto Cano in Honduras which has been staffed and operational since 1980. Anything in my life since 1980 is considered permanent.
We have 50 bases in Italy alone—that slender boot-shaped country that doesn’t seem to be threatening us or anyone else. Only Germany, Japan and South Korea have more bases than Italy. In addition to the expenses incurred (which Vine laboriously estimates to be in the trillions), other issues abound. Italy is a prime example; garbage has long been an issue in the south and one usually contracts with the Mafia, a group that does not follow any regulations in disposal of toxic materials. Another author who has written about this problem in her entertaining series about Inspector Brunetti is Donna Leon. She lives in Venice where her novels are set, but she does not allow her books to be published in Italy. Perhaps it is best not to annoy the Mafia.
And then there is the profitability of war. Your cell phone carrier is probably the beneficiary of Defense funds. I need to switch from the gospel song “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More” to something a little more recent: “When will they ever learn?” from Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” (Pete Seeger)