You Can Get It If You Really Want

by Peter Bergel

Two days ago, The PeaceWorker published an explanation by Rep Peter DeFazio of his recent votes on funding the war in Afghanistan. This article was encouraging in that it expressed the misgivings many of us have about the war and those prosecuting it. It also explained in a cogent way what the “best thinking” in liberal Congressional circles is these days concerning how to extricate ourselves from the Vietnam-like mess which the Afghanistan situation has become. At the same time, the article revealed why the peace “movement” needs so desperately to rethink its overall strategy.

What “Mission?”

DeFazio said, “Even before General McChrystal was fired, he admitted that the mission in Afghanistan was going to take much longer and be much harder than originally thought.” That the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is still being referred to as a “mission,” is where the problem starts.

It is not a “mission” in any reasonable sense of the word. It is not an attempt to accomplish a clearly defined goal. It is naked aggression in service of economic greed and political power politics. As long as the American people and their government continue to refer to misadventures like Afghanistan as “missions,” the fiction will endure that we are there trying to complete a task. This is not so. We are there so that our dominant industry – manufacturing armaments – will have a market for its wares, and so that our oil and automotive industries can control the supply of petroleum. As a whole, we are sufficiently addicted to weapons, oil and automobiles that we are willing to accept the “mission” story, even if we claim not to support it.

DeFazio’s pessimistic analysis of the “mission” reinforces the fiction even as it criticizes it. Talk of the stability of the Karzai government and bringing “about a much better result in Afghanistan” continue to imply that we have a legitimate purpose in Afghanistan, even though it is going badly.  The problem we need to focus on is the use of war to force another country to do the will of our government and our business interests. The individual details of this instance of such behavior should not be allowed to eclipse this fundamental question.

Ask for What We Really Need

The time has come for the public begin asking for what we really need. We don’t need a little less war and a little less waste on the military. We need no war. We need a military that is used only for defense if our nation is directly attacked. “Force projection” is not in the interests of the people of our country, nor those of other countries. Why did our “mightiest in the world” military and our “best in the world” intelligence services allow 9-11 to happen on our soil and then take us into pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan using 9-11 as an excuse? Is it possible that these wars had nothing to do with 9-11? Is there really any doubt of that any more?

We need to focus our country’s attention on the real threats we face: global warming, economic collapse, acidification of the oceans, loss of human and political rights, unsustainable energy sources, risk of nuclear annihilation, to name a few.

If we do not address the real threats and the real issues, the details of our machinations in Afghanistan will make no difference because most of ours species will not survive. It’s time we brought our best energies and our best strategic thinking to these issues. As Bob Marley told us, “You can get it if you really want.”  Φ

Peter Bergel is Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks and founding editor of The PeaceWorker.

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