BY MADELYN HOFFMAN
Many of you are likely familiar with the movie “Ground Hog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Bill Murray is forced to relive the same day over and over until he “gets it right.”
The United States today is trapped in a real life “Ground Hog Day.” The stakes are far higher here because this one involves millions of lives and trillions of dollars.
Worse than that, it seems, when confronted with the same choices, the United States doesn’t seem to know any other response besides increased military intervention. Even worse, the country doesn’t seem bothered by the emerging and worsening chaos left in its wake.
To those making the decisions, the chaos might even be welcomed or intended. When the goal is to redraw the political map of the Middle East to free up a valuable resource called oil, chaos is a necessary first step.
This current crisis is the latest in a series dating back to the Gulf War of 1991, when the United States first invaded Iraq.
New Jersey Peace Action opposed that invasion, as did many in the U.S. Congress. But after much arm-twisting, that all changed. The final votes were 52-47 in the U.S. Senate and 250-183 in the U.S. House of Representatives, the closest margins by the U.S. Congress for authorizing force since the War of 1812.
The quick war was followed by eight years of U.N.-imposed sanctions against Iraq, supported primarily by our country and Great Britain.
From 1991 to the start of Gulf War II on March 19, 2003, Iraq went from one of the most financially stable countries in the Middle East to an economy in shambles. Perhaps one million lives were lost, including those of between 250,000 million and 500,000 children.
The second Gulf War began with “shock and awe,” shortly after Saddam Hussein announced his intention to sell the oil of his country in euros, not dollars.
Nearly 50 percent of Americans polled prior to the invasion opposed it. Millions of people around the world, including many in NJPA, took to the streets on Feb. 15, 2003, to show their outrage at a proposed attack of a sovereign country in violation of international law. But the United States proceeded, using the pretext that since Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, they might someday use against us; a so-called “pre-emptive strike” was needed. Not surprisingly to some, no weapons were found.
Eight years of Gulf War II resulted in 4,500 U.S. combat deaths, hundreds of thousands of soldiers with injuries and post-traumatic stress, millions of Iraqi deaths, millions of Iraqi refugees and more than $1 trillion drained from the U.S. Treasury. When combat forces were finally withdrawn in 2011, as per the Status of Forces Agreement, this wasn’t a moment too soon for an American public grown tired of the human and economic toll of war.
Now in 2014, we hear some of the same people proposing the same choices to deal with groups in Iraq like al-Qaeda and ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). These groups weren’t present before Gulf War II. Recent U.S. military intervention in Libya and U.S. arms support for groups involved in Syria’s civil war have added to the mess.
While the names and positions of these groups are often unclear, it is clear that the United States is simultaneously in different countries, supporting and fighting against the same political entity.
NJPA opposes U.S. involvement in a new war in Iraq. Recent polls show a majority of the population agree.
According to NBC’s Richard Engel, there are 300 military advisers and 700 additional U.S. troops now in Iraq. Twelve fighter jets, eight Apache helicopters and large numbers of Hellfire Missiles were rushed to the Iraqi government, and armed drones saturate the air over Iraq.
Now is the time for our country to look at the chaos unfolding in the Middle East and find a different way to proceed. Military intervention has not improved life in the Middle East, and more military intervention today will make things worse, both overseas and at home.
Tens of millions of people in this country still can’t find decent jobs, unemployment compensation has been ended for the long-term jobless, and food stamp funding was recently cut by $8.6 billion.
The United States needs to adopt a “foreign policy for all,” acknowledging the needs of all people in the region and allowing the different political forces to work out their differences through negotiations and diplomacy, not war.
Montclair recognized the need to change our nation’s priorities when its council passed a “Move the Money” resolution last December – requesting that Congress move at least 25 percent of the military budget into programs that address community needs.
Let’s all join this call for the U.S. government to (finally) “get it right.”
The writer is executive director of New Jersey Peace Action, based in Bloomfield.
via Bloomfield opinion: ‘Get it right’ | NorthJersey.com.