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On Remorselessness

Iraqis who fled from violence in Iraq ended up at the Nawrouz refugee camp in Syria in 2014. (Photo: UNICEF)

​It was recently reported that 459 Iraqi and Syrian civilians, including a hundred children, have been killed in air strikes targeting ISIS. As a parent, this news hit me hard. I try to imagine my 12-year son being blown apart by a bomb dropped from the sky. No, that’s not quite true, I don’t try to picture the gruesome murder scene, but I imagine how it might feel to have my heart broken in this way. 

So here’s my truth or dare challenge for President Obama and anyone hoping to take his place: Does the horrific body count ever give you pause?  Do you ever think about the million Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis (most of them civilians) already killed in the War on Terror and wonder if, just maybe, we should stop bombing them? 

And so long as I’m posing uncomfortable questions, here’s another: Why hasn’t the United States apologized for killing all these innocent people? Why are we remorseless? (Bonus question for the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Why have we never apologized to Japan for obliterating two cities and killing a quarter million of its citizens)?

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We don’t dare apologize or rethink the War on Terror, because there’s too much money being made to end it.  No matter how many innocents are blown up, no matter how many grieving parents we see beating their chests and wailing on the evening news, we will not stop bombing the Middle East so long as war profiteers continue calling the shots.


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Arms manufacturers make a killing on the $128 million a year they invest in lobbying Congress for the development of lethal new weapons systems. The top three US defense contractors alone raked in $8.5 billion in profits in 2012. For all the talk of Pentagon budget cuts, we still spend more than $61 million every hour of every dayon the military. 

George Orwell said: “War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.” True to Orwell, a Bank of America analyst commented in Fortune magazine that all of the regional conflicts around the world spelled good news for defense industry investors.

I’d expect as much from investors, but shame on the politicians who pander to them. If there’s a hell, then surely a special place is reserved for politicians who allow foreign policy to be corrupted by merchants of death.

The 459 dead Iraqis and Syrians are the predicable result of an obscene level of military spending. It’s a simple equation: invest in weapons and reap death. Pundits and politicians pretend it’s more complicated but tell that to the parents of the dead children.

I mean it: Get on a plane and go visit a grieving parent or a war orphan. Tell them to their face what purpose their sacrifice served and apologize for killing their loved ones. Then come back and enjoy a 5-star dinner with a defense lobbyist. I dare you.

Erica Etelson

Erica Etelson

Erica Etelson is a writer and journalist, community activist, and member of Indivisible East Bay.​

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