Tell Us Why We’re At War, Candidates

When I was a kid, successive presidents told us we had to fight in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, because if we didn’t fight them over there, we’d have to fight them on the beaches of California. We believed. It was a lie.

I was a teenager during the Cold War, several presidents told us we needed to create massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons, garrison the world, maybe invade Cuba, fight covert wars and use the CIA to overthrow democratically elected governments and replace them with dictators, or the Russians would destroy us. We believed. It was a lie.

When I was in college our president told us that we needed to fight in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua or the Sandinistas would come to the United States. He told us Managua was closer to Washington DC than LA was. He told us we needed to fight in Lebanon, Grenada and Libya to protect ourselves. We believed. It was a lie.

When I was a little older our president told us how evil Saddam Hussein was, how his soldiers bayoneted babies in Kuwait. He told us Saddam was a threat to America. He told us we needed to invade Panama to oust a dictator to protect America. We believed. It was a lie.

Another president told us we had to fight terrorists in Somalia, as well as bomb Iraq, to protect ourselves. We believed. It was a lie.

The one after him told us that because a bunch of Saudis from a group loosely tied to Afghanistan attacked us on 9/11, we needed to occupy that country and destroy the Taliban, who had not attacked us, for our own safety. The Taliban are still there 15 years later, and so is the American army. We believed. It was a lie.

After that the same President told us Saddam Hussein threatened every one of our children with weapons of mass destruction, that the smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud, that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda. We believed. It was a lie.

In 2011 the president and his secretary of state, now running for president herself, told us we needed regime change in Libya, to protect us from an evil dictator. We believed. It was a lie.

In August 2014 the same president told us we needed to intervene again in Iraq, on a humanitarian mission to save the Yazidis. No boots on the ground, a simple, limited act only the United States could conduct, and then we’d leave. We believed. It was a lie.

That same president later told us Americans will need to fight and die in Syria. He says this is necessary to protect us, because if we do not defeat Islamic State over there, they will come here, to what we now call without shame or irony The Homeland. We believe. We’ll let history roll around again to tell it is again a lie.

The two main candidates for president both tell us they will expand the war in Syria, maybe Libya. Too many of our fellow citizens still want to believe it is necessary to protect America more. They want to know it is not a lie.

So candidates, please explain why what you plan is different than everything listed above. Tell us why we should believe you – this time.

This article is a reimagining of a piece I wrote about a year ago, when the war in Syria was less so, and the U.S. has not re-entered the fight overtly in Libya. I’ll update it from time to time as new wars happen.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

9 thoughts on “Tell Us Why We’re At War, Candidates”

    1. There’s a sh*t-ton of other destroyed third world countries that could be added to that list. It would never end. Just read Killing Hope by William Blum. It’s easier to name the places we haven’t f**ked up.

  1. Quote: “This article is a reimagining of a piece I wrote about a year ago”

    Lol, I find myself remaking the same arguments also.

    Great piece. It’s a shame the US chose empire. What does one do when overwhelmingly powerful? A statesman would return power to the Roman Senate, so to speak.

    Y’all have a powerful truth that foreign conflicts are creating problems domestically and abroad. Our belligerence is what encourages Chinese empire, for example, in reaction to us. Were we instead to mind our own affairs, they wouldn’t have the drive to expand power.

    And likewise with Mid East conflicts, but the central truth is that if America minded its own business, returned to a commodity-backed currency, we would be immensely better off. We’re our own worst enemy.

    And the imperialists are perpetually “fighting them over there”, to prevent reform here.

  2. The author’s frustration is palpable.
    More could be done to illustrate to the average joe the connections between big business, big finance, the MIC, and State Dept.

  3. The Cold War is over. Ronald Reagan, the Cold War Democrats and the rest of us who were with them won. You and the moral equivalence side lost. Get over it.

    Stick with asking questions such as why we are spending billions of dollars to stop a bunch of camel jockeys.

    1. If we won the war, then why isn’t NATO dismantled? Why do we have foreign bases throughout the world?

      And it isn’t billions that are being wasted. Try trillions: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-audit-army-idUSKCN10U1IG

      And if you follow antiwar, you’ll know we were lied into the Iraq War, a war that didn’t serve our interests. This suggests the entire sum, however many trillions we’re up to, was wasted. Furthermore, as Pat Buchanan pointed out at the time, all we needed to do in Afghanistan was retaliate. Instead, we’ve spent a fortune in blood and treasure there. Likely all of it wasted.

      Libertarians have a term: Blowback. We risk angering foreigners with our meddling, especially these refugees we’re bringing in. This suggests we are made less safe by the warring. Furthermore of course instability is resulting in these countries.

      When the US went into Iraq, btw, conservative war critics warned that Iran would come to power in Shia dominated Iraq. Today that is happening, and those directing US foreign policy do not appear pleased by it.

      The conclusion I gather is that America is both the most powerful state the world has ever known and the most incompetent.

  4. The candidates don’t know why we are at war. They are just doing the bidding of the people running their campaigns.

  5. All they know they want is another war. They don’t have a reason yet, but they’ll come up with one.

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