By Matthew Hoh, Council Board Member
Congress of War
It is very bewildering, albeit horrifyingly fascinating, to watch American politicians jockey and posture for war with Iran. With the announcement last week that years of negotiations have yielded a framework agreement that will arrest any Iranian nuclear weapons program, not that one actually exists, while starting the much needed process of bringing Iran back into the world community, many members of Congress seem not just reluctant, but hostile, to the prospects of averting a war with Iran.
From John McCain to the freshman senator from Arkansas, the Senate, which was once regarded as the greatest deliberative body amongst men and women, is a constant source, from the Right and the Left, of fist pounding threats to bomb and kill Iranians and sabotage peace. The House is no better, with scores of Democrats and Republicans, a veto proof majority actually, echoing the same threats to undo diplomacy and ensure war.* Now, that an agreement has been reached, will our Congress actually live up to their threats? Based on the modern history of Americans at war overseas, you would expect not, that members of Congress, as rational and thoughtful individuals, would be wise and attuned enough to reality to recognize war as a fool’s path. However, the behavior of our Congress, and their near continuous endorsement of U.S. military intervention, means there may be dangerous action behind their rhetoric.
We are still sending thousands of young men every year to the war in Afghanistan, along with tens of billions of our dollars annually, on top of the near trillion dollars we have already spent on that thirteen-year-long war. Thousands of U.S. troops are back in Iraq, the same Iraq U.S. presidents have been attacking for 24 years, while American war planes and unmanned drones have bombed, and continue to bomb, various American enemies,mostly killing civilians though, in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. With the exception of Pakistan, whose political stability is continuously fragile, all six other nations that have received American military attacks, invasion and occupation over the last decade and one half, are in horrid civil wars, with death tolls throughout these nations numbering in the millions. The only organisms that have seemingly prospered and flourished, besides defense companies, have been terrorist groups, like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Since President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the Persian Gulf a vital area of strategic interest for the United States, we have spent almost $10 trillion dollars policing the Middle East. Now, back then, when the pain and angst caused by the Arab Oil boycott of 1973 was still fresh in Americans’ minds, such a strategy may have made sense from a realist perspective (disregarding, of course, a moral or historical perspective that would have foretold, based upon morality and history, two absolutes that are missing in Washington, DC, that foreign occupation and meddling in local politics is destined to fail in the Middle East), but, now, with the US achieving more and more energy security and relying much less on oil imports, any realist, which is how most advocates for war in Washington, DC describe themselves, has to admit such a cost is profligate. Particularly when, for such an expense, we have purchased a Middle East that has steadily burned in war, and where, in those few nations not at war, such as steadfast American allies Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the people live under despotic military and religious regimes: Bahrain is the home to American naval headquarters, Egypt is once again the recipient of mass amounts of U.S. military aid, and Saudi Arabia, the largest supporter of terrorism, has never seen arms sales, and the accompanying obsequious political support, abate.
The cost of our war policies in the Middle East in order to secure chaos or repression goes well beyond the financial costs. Amongst the millions of dead from our wars in the Greater Middle East are over 7,000 Americans. The physically wounded, men and women missing parts of their bodies, living in constant pain or walking around with metal fragments embedded in their flesh, are over 50,000. Hundreds of thousands of veterans live in permanent misery from the effects of Gulf War Illness, while hundreds of thousands more veterans, and their families, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, moral injury, traumatic brain injuries, depression and substance abuse. Those all cumulate to deliver over twenty-two veteran suicides a day. How our distinguished elected officials can, with quite certainty, insist that such sacrifices have been well offered to provide us with the Middle East, as it now exists, I cannot explain.
Those who are brought forth to testify against the wisdom of diplomacy and a deal with Iran are those very same men and women, including Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who sold us on the unfounded dangers of Saddam Hussein and guaranteed the American invasion of Iraq would remake the Middle East. Of course, the Iraq war did change the Middle East, but, because war is a breeding ground of unintended consequences, such a change resulted in a Middle East nearly completely torn by war, where millions suffer daily; an al-Qaeda larger than anything Osama bin Laden could ever have dreamed of; and a new entity, who we are told is worse than al-Qaeda, the Islamic State. A war with Iran would start with a bedazzling display of American and Israeli advanced weaponry, but within a very short time, such a war would become like all others, an uncontrollable force that does nothing but deliver suffering and engender further hatred, and once started cannot finish until all are exhausted and too many are dead. Such a scenario has constantly played out in our modern American wars and there is no reason or evidence to believe a war with Iran would be any different.
There are many comparisons of American politicians to psychopaths. Such an understanding of Congress, as removed from the reality and the suffering of others, is the only way I can comprehend the notion that going to war with Iran, to remove a nuclear weapon threat that does not exist, is somehow seen as a wise and prudent course. If you are tired of wars of waste that only deliver greater insecurity, please tell your members of Congress to support President Obama’s deal with Iran.
*The House, not seemingly satisfied with all our current wars and the possibility of an Iranian war, seems eager for war with Russia too. A recent vote from an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans urges the sale of American weapons to the Ukrainian government, a move that would serve as an accelerant to that war. Providing more weapons to enlarge a current war, while proclaiming a desire for peace is always a mad lie, but, in the case of Ukraine, the severity of the madness is further aggravated by the current ceasefire in Ukraine, a ceasefire that proves to be holding, to the chagrin of many in Washington, DC.
Click here to read this article on the Huffington Post blog.