OPINION: The military-industrial complex is alive and well

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

1200px-US_10th_Mountain_Division_soldiers_in_Afghanistan

US soldiers march toward a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on on Sept. 4, 2003. Photo credit: Photo Courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Davis

As U.S.-funded military operations in the Middle East escalate to unprecedented levels and the military-industrial complex continues to thrive, seemingly no one notices as the perpetual occupation recedes into the background of the new norm.

Fifty-eight years ago, on Jan 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower first warned the nation about what he described as a threat to the democratic government, the military-industrial complex, and it seems almost no warning has rung truer since.

In discussing American military activity, it is important to note that according to the White House’s latest war report, the U.S. is currently militarily involved, or has unclassified operations, in the seven countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Niger.

The U.S.’s military involvement with Afghanistan recently entered its 18th year, the longest war in U.S. history, with U.S. commanders saying there’s no end date in sight. To put this into perspective, those born after the war began can now enlist in it.

Despite some wanting to minimize current U.S. military involvement, U.S.-funded military activity in the seven countries listed is actually increasing rather than decreasing.

According to Business Insider, the U.S. is on pace to bomb Afghanistan more than ever this year. “The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May this year is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015,” the article said.

Last year President Donald Trump said that the U.S. would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban, and according to the BBC, “the Taliban control more territory than at any point since the removal of their regime 17 years ago.” This recent report by the BBC also showed that civilian casualties are at an unprecedented level, with more than 10,000 civilians killed or injured in 2017.

While the New York Times recently stated that due to this high death toll, the Afghan and American governments decided to keep battlefield death tolls for Afghan security forces secret. This secrecy of activity has extended to strikes in Yemen as well, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Despite all of this, at a time when the U.S. is more militarily involved in the Middle East than ever before, it seems as though almost no one is talking about it, or as if most people have simply forgotten that we are even at war.

The most chilling example of this is a tweet by a Reuters foreign policy correspondent showing exactly four journalists in a sea of empty chairs at a recent Pentagon briefing on Afghanistan.

Perhaps it is time that we reconsider the direction, and general philosophy of war, in which we have trudged down for the last two decades. Perhaps the current strategy of escalation and the justification for perpetual occupation in the name of an un-winnable “war on terror” is not the right one. Perhaps it is time we end the military-industrial complex that has ravaged the Middle East.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

OPINION: Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest is patriotic

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

Colin_Kaepernick_-_San_Francisco_vs_Green_Bay_2012

There is nothing more American than protesting for what’s right and to take a stand against injustice. Photo credit: Photo Courtesy Mike Morbeck

Though protest may not always be favored, there is nothing more American, or patriotic, than exposing yourself to the risks that come with fighting for your rights.

With Nike’s recent ad featuring the controversial NFL football player, Colin Kaepernick, the issue of his kneeling in protest during the national anthem has been propelled into the spotlight once again.

Challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Beto O’Rourke recently exposed this perspective in a viral video posted on Twitter by NowThis News.

O’Rourke iterates that not only were the freedoms we enjoy as Americans purchased by those in uniform, but also by those who knowingly risked life and limb in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Those who died were beaten within an inch of their lives, punched and spat upon for the crime of trying to be a man or woman in this country and fought to secure better rights for fellow Americans.

Today, these players peacefully and nonviolently take a knee at football games to point out that black men, black teenagers and black children are being killed at an alarming level, often by members of law enforcement without accountability or justice.

“Non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke said. “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere or any place.”

Protest by its own nature is meant to be controversial and force as many people as possible to consider an issue that they otherwise would have ignored. Considering the massive national attention and controversy surrounding the protests, I would say the protests have been largely successful in their purpose.

It is also worth noting that while Kaepernick originally sat during the anthem, a compromise was made after speaking to a veteran and asserting his desire for change and an unwillingness to stand for the flag of a country that oppressed black people and people of color. According to NPR, U.S. Army special forces veteran Nate Boyer advised Kaepernick to instead take a knee during the anthem as a sign of respect.

Kaepernick has also received support from numerous military veterans in his protest, and several even published an open letter of support in Medium.

“Far from disrespecting our troops, there is no finer form of appreciation for our sacrifice than for Americans to enthusiastically exercise their freedom of speech,” the letter states.

The letter also references an analysis by the Washington Post, that found that black people in America are two and a half times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans. According to The Undefeated, U.S. Army veteran Richard Allen Smith, who was a signer to the letter, said politicians and corporations often use the military and its servicemen and women as a prop to cloak themselves in credibility.

We must transform the attitude surrounding those who peacefully fight to better the nation. Those who do, do so out of a deep patriotic devotion to the nation and its peoples, and an understanding of its great potential — not out of a disrespect for it.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel