The Wall, The Endless War, and the Troops Who Pay

An image grab taken from a video obtained by AFPTV on January 16, 2019, shows U.S. armoured vehicles at the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. (Photo: Getty)

by Gerry Condon, from Common Dreams, January 18

Note: While all eyes are focused on the dastardly ‘wall’ Trump wants to build along the Mexican border and the weaponized (by both parties) government shutdown, the voices of military veterans trapped in futile foreign interventions are ignored and their needs left unmet like those of hundreds of thousands of working class government employees.

The suicide bombing in Manbij, Syria which killed up to twenty people, including two U.S. soldiers, a State Department employee, and a defense contractor, adds to the tragic toll of the war in Syria, said to be in the hundreds of thousands. ISIS has taken credit for the Manbij bombing, but they have provided no proof.

Some peace activists are expressing suspicion about the timing of the bombing in northern Syria, which came just as U.S. foreign policy hawks, including the entire mainstream media, are pushing back against Trump’s promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The pro-intervention crowd is saying, “See, we told you that ISIS was not defeated – we need to stay in Syria until they are.”

The calls to keep U.S. troops in Syria defy logic, however. It is precisely U.S. intervention that has caused widespread terrorism in Syria. Since at least 2012, the U.S. has been arming and training so-called “rebels,” many of whom were defeated by al-Qaeda and ISIS, or joined them, bringing their U.S.-supplied weapons. The U.S. military has confronted ISIS forces selectively, viewing them as sometimes convenient allies in their “regime change” war.

U.S. Military Intervention Is the Cause of Terrorism

The presence of U.S. troops in Syria, as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere, provides motivation for terrorist attacks. U.S. troops are now sitting ducks in a sea of terrorism of the U.S.’s own making. Withdrawing the troops from Syria is the way to reduce terrorism and bring an end to the war. The U.S. has no legal right to be in Syria in the first place.

Along with the people of the countries that the U.S. has invaded and occupied, it is our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in the U.S. military who are paying the price for illegal and ill-advised wars of conquest. Their long suffering working class families are paying a huge prices as well. Every additional deployment brings with it increased risks of loss of life and limb, and the likelihood of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Traumatic Brain Injury (from exposure to explosions).

Many veterans can also attest to the profound Moral Injury that occurs when they realize they participated in killing other human beings for no good reason, in fact for lies. This is why we have 22 active duty GI’s and veterans killing themselves every single day! This cannot be allowed to continue. We must demand that all the troops be brought home now, and given the care they so badly need.

Changing the Subject

But who even remembers that Trump said he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria? Now the eyes and ears of the American people are focused on the government shutdown that Trump has contrived. The national media networks gave Trump primetime TV coverage to repeat his litany of lies about immigrants and about the border. He said that migrants and asylum seekers are actually criminals. He blamed them for the flood of opiates into the U.S. These are vicious lies which are easily disproven. The Drug Enforcement Administration says that most of the drugs coming into the U.S. from Mexico are transported in vehicles through legal check points. Statistics show that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than people who were born in the U.S.

Veterans Affected by Trump’s Shutdown

About 800,000 federal workers are going without pay, and thousands of them are veterans. According to the Office of Personnel Management, about 155,000 veterans work at agencies affected by the shutdown. Of those, nearly 50,000 are disabled veterans. And 40,000 members of the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense, are being forced to work without pay. One Coastie wife has started a GoFundMe appeal to that her husband and thousands of others can pay their bills.

So while U.S. troops and their families endure multiple deployments, veterans suffering from the trauma of previous wars are stressed out by missing paychecks, and active duty Coast Guard carry out dangerous missions without pay. And hundreds of U.S. military veterans who have been inhumanely deported are unable to rejoin their families in the United States. Neither Trump nor the rest of the Establishment appear to give a damn about the men and women whom they praise so effusively when drumming up support for their endless wars.

Gerry Condon is a longtime U.S. antiwar activist and writer who works closely with active duty GI’s and military veterans.  Condon is a Vietnam era veteran and war resister who spent six years in Sweden and Canada after refusing orders to go to Vietnam.   He is the current President of Veterans for Peace.

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