Marin Voice: Despite proclamations, U.S. warfare continues quietly around the world
HomeHome > News > Marin Voice: Despite proclamations, U.S. warfare continues quietly around the world

Marin Voice: Despite proclamations, U.S. warfare continues quietly around the world

Aug 06, 2023

What do we know about the people being killed in our names with our tax dollars?

Close to nothing.

And those in charge of ongoing U.S. warfare are eager to keep it that way.

“The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing,” philosopher Aldous Huxley observed. “Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.”

The silence about truth has been deafening — and deadly — for many years, while U.S. warfare transitioned from boots on the ground to what President Joe Biden has fondly referred to as “over the horizon” air power.

Increasing reliance on high-tech weaponry, with military attacks mainly implemented from high in the air, has commonly left Americans with the impression that we’re above it all.

Yet, contrary to what we might assume, the U.S. “war on terror” has continued, out of sight and out of mind here at home.

That’s why I titled my new book, “War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine.” The consequences of the virtual invisibility of our country’s perpetual warfare are morally corrosive. They undermine democracy in the process.

The informed consent of the governed is essential if the United States is going to have democracy in reality as well as in rhetoric. But what we have now is the uninformed, passive consent of the governed, in terms of U.S. military actions. We’re largely kept in the dark.

Assessing the toll of the “war on terror” — counting only the people “killed directly” in the violence of U.S. wars — researchers with the Costs of War project at Brown University have estimated those deaths to be between 906,000 and 937,000.

The study found that at least 364,000 of those people were civilians “killed directly in the violence of the U.S. post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.” Meanwhile, “several times as many more have been killed as a reverberating effect of the wars.”

But the U.S. government is not oriented toward counting such numbers. Civilian anonymity cuts against accountability.

It can be comforting to believe that such massive killing, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, is all in the past. But that’s far from true.

While Biden proclaimed at the United Nations in a September 2021 speech that he stood there, “for the first time in 20 years, with the United States not at war,” the claim was false. In fact, the co-director of the Brown University project, professor Catherine Lutz, pointed out that “the war continues in over 80 countries.” And actually, “counterterrorism operations have become more widespread in recent years.”

Those operations, heavily reliant on air strikes, routinely kill far more civilians than anyone else, as official U.S. documents show. They were published by The Intercept in a journalistic series called “The Drone Papers.”

Public discourse virtually ignores such human realities. As I wrote in the book, “The nation’s faraway warfare draws strength from a diffuse siege on the home front — via media, politics, culture and social institutions — more like water on a stone or fumes in the air than any sudden assault.

“Living with adherence to don’t-go-there zones, we’ve become accustomed to not hearing or seeing what’s scarcely said or shown in public. We’ve grown acclimated to the implicit assumptions wrapped in daily news, punditry and pronouncements from government officials. What happens at the other end of American weaponry has remained almost entirely a mystery, with only occasional brief glimpses before the curtain falls back into its usual place.”

The consequences of the current warfare state also include vast domestic suffering. Federal, state and local programs for health care, education, housing, elder care, environmental protection and a wide range of other needs go begging for woefully insufficient dollars while the Pentagon budget continues to go through the roof. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, such spending priorities function as a “demonic suction tube.”

And so, the invisibility of America’s ongoing warfare cloaks the awful results.

West Marin resident Norman Solomon is national director of RootsAction and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Sign up for email newsletters

Follow Us