What would you do if you knew that a large contingent of well-armed gang members were planning to assault Los Angeles, inflicting massive death and mayhem on innocent civilians? Furthermore, what if those gang members could be linked to you through financial support you had given to their paymasters?
Sounds preposterous? Only consider that there are gang members, called Special Forces, trained by the Pentagon, paid for by US citizens and sent into battle by an imperial president and Washington policymakers, who are now planning to attack Kandahar, the second largest city in Afghanistan. Some of those Special Forces may have been part of the February 2010 night raid that murdered two pregnant women and one young girl and then tried to cover up their crime. Perhaps, those pilots preparing to bomb Kandahar may be the same ones who carried out earlier and repeated attacks on wedding parties throughout Afghanistan, resulting in the death of hundreds of civilian celebrants.
Maybe those horrific deaths, not captured on video and underreported in the American corporate media, seem too remote and abstract. On the other hand, now that millions of US citizens have seen the actual footage, thanks to WikiLeaks, of the July 12, 2007, Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 12 civilians, including two employees of Reuters news agency, how will the outrage be mobilized? Beyond the calls for an independent investigation of this incident, what will be our individual and collective response?
Will the citizens of St. Louis march en masse on Boeing Defense, Space and Security where the Apache helicopter is produced? Will a Catholic bishop from St. Louis take a lesson from Bishop Matthiesen of Amarillo, Texas, and threaten excommunication to Boeing workers, as did Matthiesen in the early 1980s to those who worked in a nearby nuclear bomb facility. Will Boeing workers demand an end to war production and conversion to green sustainable products?
Will the corporate executives of Alliant Techsystems in Minneapolis stop manufacturing the M230 30 millimeter chain gun that spewed its projectiles into that crowd of unarmed men from the Apache helicopter that sweltering July day in 2007? Certainly, the previous owners of Alliant, Honeywell, faced constant and militant demonstrations at their corporate offices during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a consequence of their manufacturing of the anti-personnel fragmentation bombs used by the Pentagon in its indiscriminate strikes throughout Southeast Asia.
Corporate executives, church leaders, line workers and tax-paying citizens are all part of the complicit chain that drives the imperial war machine. Maybe there are true believers among them who are blinded by self-interest and false patriotism. However, among the skeptics and opponents there seems to be a kind of psychic numbing, a disconnectedness that afflicts the capacity to take action. Ironically, the very people who assume that their connections in the virtual world translate automatically into real political opposition may be fooling themselves about their efficacy as anti-war opponents.
Let’s face it: we are all now part of a militarized matrix. Desensitized by aggressive and racist video games, and facing a precarious future, young men and women join the military in the belief that their service will be rewarded, only to be confronted with what social psychologist Tracy Xavier Karner calls a “militarization of feeling.” Acting out of that feeling and with a hair-trigger mentality, many of these soldiers can rationalize killing even women and children. Although a few refuse to be instruments of imperial murder and others return to civilian life ready to denounce what they were forced to do, too many become victims themselves, either physically or psychologically.
Meanwhile, US citizens are bombarded with both heavy-handed and subtle messages that reinforce the false belief these soldiers are “our” troops and not the imperial instruments designed by the Pentagon. Whether at sporting events or ads in movie theaters and on television, the solemn link between the military and the citizenry is hammered home. Perhaps, one reason that the Pentagon tries to do everything in its power to deny and then suppress pictures and stories, like those exposed on WikiLeaks, is because they make that link more tenuous.
On the other hand, as long as the citizenry does nothing to translate its outrage into real-world action, the daily outrages perpetrated in our name in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other sites of US military intervention will continue. As April 15 approaches, we should all remember that almost half of our federal tax dollars for discretionary funding goes to military-related expenditures. With Congress soon to vote on a supplemental bill for 33 billion dollars more for the war in Afghanistan, we must mount an organized campaign at every level to raise the political cost to prosecute the war. We must find a way to act both individually and collectively to stop being complicit agents of imperial crimes.
Francis Shor is the author of “Dying Empire: U.S. Imperialism and Global Resistance.” Excerpts can be found on the web site www.dyingempire.org.