Are Americans gods with the moral authority to determine who will live and who will die?
We will never know the artists, poets, and peacemakers who have never lived because their parents were killed in senseless wars.
Imagine walking or driving through Kansas City, Kansas, or Syracuse, N.Y., or Rockford, Illinois, and knowing that every single man, woman, and child living in one of those cities represents a person who is now dead as a result of the recently “ended” U.S. war in Iraq. Now consider that this number (150,726 human beings) is the lowest credible estimate of war-related deaths. Imagine at the high end of the statistical spectrum, that the city of San Jose, Calif. (the 10th largest city in America, were filled with nothing but corpses; this begins to approach the 1,033,000 people who may have died unnecessarily in America’s war on Iraq.
Alternatively, if numbers alone are too abstract, consider the “litany of horrors” described by Kelley Vlahos in a piece on the birth defects among the children of Fallujah: “babies born with two heads, one eye in the middle of the face, missing limbs, too many limbs, brain damage, cardiac defects, abnormally large heads, eyeless, missing genitalia, riddled with tumors.” Reportedly, in 2010, congenital malformations were observed in 15% of all births in Fallujah. (Vlahos describes some of the possible causes of these horrors, including the American military’s use of depleted-uranium-tipped weapons and toxic plumes from burning waste on U.S. bases.) The war will never end for the people of that destroyed and contaminated city of 326,471 people.
Commenting on the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said, “As difficult as [the Iraq war] was … I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.”
Setting aside the sheer arrogance and insensitivity of this statement, it is worth asking if we are even capable of determining what price is worth hundreds of thousands of human lives (in Iraq) or the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians (in Libya)?
Are we gods with the moral authority to determine who will live and who will die? If not, then what business do we have proclaiming what is “worth” the deaths of people halfway around the world? More importantly, what business do we have killing (or causing the deaths of) those people in the first place?
New Year’s is a traditionally a time for reflection; I hope that each of us will consider these questions and ask ourselves what kind of people we want to be.
[Excerpt of article by Nicholas Kramer, former investigator for an oversight & investigations committee in the United States Senate.]