Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Today is the LAST DAY of this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

TODAY is the last day to meet our goal -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year.

How many innocent people have been killed and wounded by the United States in its wars? How many wars of aggression has the U.S. launched? How many war crimes have been committed? (Photo: AFSOC)

'Foreign Victims of America’s Wars' Day

Jeff Bachman

 by The Hill

As Billy finds in Slaughterhouse V, the destruction caused by war cannot be rewound; it cannot be undone. Those who were killed stay dead. Children who lost parents stay orphans. And parents who lost children continue to mourn.

War by its very nature removes the autonomy of some as decided by others. As has been witnessed in every single war ever fought throughout human history, people die. Further, the destructive nature of war is not and cannot be isolated to those we refer to as “combatants.”

Every year, we celebrate the service and mourn the loss of members of the U.S. military. Meanwhile, the foreign victims of our wars go unnamed and unacknowledged. Such callous disregard for the lives of others simply cannot be justified when one considers the unequivocal fact that the United States is by far the most militarily active nation in the world.

In a recent article, David Vines, Associate Professor of Anthropology at American University, notes that the United States “has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens.”

It is almost comical—perhaps it would be if it weren’t so serious—when U.S. officials self-righteously tout the United States’ moral superiority. For example, Mary McLeod, the acting legal adviser to the State Department, recently told a UN panel, “The United States is proud of its record as a leader in respecting, promoting and defending human rights and the rule of law, both at home and around the world.”

Where do such delusions come from? How many innocent people have been killed and wounded by the United States in its wars? How many wars of aggression has the U.S. launched? How many war crimes have been committed? War, something in which the U.S. is seemingly perpetually engaged, inevitably results in the widespread and arbitrary deprivation of life—the most egregious of human rights violations and a violation of the human right from which all other human rights grow. As horrific as the consequences of war are on members of the U.S. military and their families, we have a moral obligation to recognize the disastrous consequences of our wars on the families and communities of those who suffer them.

In her book, In a Different Voice, feminist ethicist Carol Gilligan described a web of relationships. She wrote of how damage to one or more strands of this web creates greater stress on other parts of the web, as well as the web as a whole. When considering how war arbitrarily deprives individuals of their lives within the context of the web of relationships, we can more fully understand the consequences of war. For every person whose life has been arbitrarily taken, the impact reaches everyone else connected to that person’s web. It affects that person’s family and it affects the varied communities to which the person belonged.

I tell my students, many of whom aspire to jobs or careers in government, in slightly different terms than this, that I have no interest in ever working for an institution that operates as if it were a puppeteer. No one should have the power to decide whose lives are expendable. No one should get to decide that some people’s lives, theirs included of course, are of more value than the lives of others. Not a single person should be arbitrarily taken from their families and their communities. It is time we recognize those who have been killed by our wars. Perhaps if we thought about who these people are, who they left behind, and what they meant to their communities, we would demand an end to our perpetual wars. Happy Foreign Victims of America’s Wars Day.


© 2021 The Hill

Jeff Bachman

Jeff Bachman is a professor of human rights and co-director of Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs at American University’s School of International Service.

TODAY is the last day of our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'What's There to Even Discuss?' Omar Says Free, Universal School Meals Should Be Permanent

"We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things. And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it."

Jake Johnson ·


'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·


As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·


Assange Makes Final Appeal Against US Extradition

"If Julian Assange is not free, neither are we," said a protester at a Friday demonstration against the WikiLeaks founder's impending transfer. "None of us is free."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo