Creating Enemies Sells Weapons

Civilians are at risk in Raqqa from both air and ground attack. Library image: US Marines fire a Howitzer in northern Syria on March 24th 2017 in support of Coalition operations (Photo:, Via USMC/ Cpl. Zachery C. Laning
Civilians are at risk in Raqqa from both air and ground attack. Library image: US Marines fire a Howitzer in northern Syria on March 24th 2017 in support of Coalition operations (Photo:, Via USMC/ Cpl. Zachery C. Laning

   A June 27 Pew Research Center poll says world opinion of the United States has crashed since President Trump took office. Surveying people in 37 countries, 49% held a positive view of the United States, down from 65% at the end of 2016. Maybe we could cancel the fireworks this 4th of July considering the insensitive symbolism of vicariously enjoying war.    

   With our rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air daily smashing seven majority Muslim countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — negativity toward the United States is natural. US drone attacks originating in Nevada, 7,200 miles from Iraq, and jet fighter-bomber strikes launched from supercarriers in the Persian Gulf, are killing hundreds of frightened bystanders month after month. At least 25 civilians were killed in Mosul, Iraq on Sat., June 24 when US bombs destroyed four houses.

   Every child killed or maimed by US-made weapons inevitably creates enemies among survivors. President Obama (pronounced “Oh-Bomb-Ah”) made the point himself May 23, 2013 in a speech to National Defense University. He said drone attacks “raise profound questions: about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies…” And He said more generally that, “US military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies.”

   Whether bombing civilians merely “risks” creating enemies or can be positively guaranteed without exception always to do so, is a matter of opinion. But then one need only consider the globalized, mechanized, mass US military reaction to 9/11 — and the country’s demonization of whole groups and religions — to know that demands for revenge, retribution, and retaliation always follow the deaths of innocents. If your business is selling weapons, you could be smugly self-satisfied about every civilian wedding party, funeral procession, hospital, or Sunday market hit by our drones, gunships or F-18s. One StarTribune headline on April 2, 2017 directed attention away from these arms dealers. It read, “Civilian deaths a windfall for militants’ propaganda.” Never mind the windfall for war profiteers.

US offers $6,000 for each dead civilian

   In the world of weapons sales, nothing is better for business than TV footage of the anguished and grief-stricken after civilians are indiscriminately attacked by “foreigners.” In the various countries being bombed, we are those foreigners, the military occupiers, and the mass destroyers accused of cheapening human lives. This of course is untrue. After a US AC-130 gunship obliterated the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last October 3rd killing 42, the Pentagon offered $6,000 for each person killed, and $3,000 for each one injured.

   Now the shooters and munitions makers say our bombs are saving people by killing terrorists, and, being a world away from the torn limbs, the burning wounds, and the screaming parents, Americans want to believe it. The US dropped a total 26,171 bombs on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen during 2016, according to Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson writing in Foreign Policy. Each explosion is nearly guaranteed to produce enough newly minted terrorists calling for revenge against US “evil doers” to guarantee a steady requisitioning of more jets, carriers, bombs and missiles.

   Lockheed was paid $36.44 billion for weapons in 2015, and $47.2 billion for the same in 2016, according to the Stockholm Int’l Peace Research Institute’s February 2017 report. The SIPRI says that half of US weapons exports went to the Middle East. Last May’s $110 billion US sale to Saudi Arabia alone — $350 billion over 10 years — is bound to bring peace and stability to the region. Obama’s $112 billion in arms to the Saudis over his 8-year stint certainly did. The Kingdom’s July 4th fireworks in Yemen will cause “oooohs” and “ahhhs” of a different sort than our “virtual” display.

   Even with a stockpile of about 4,000 Tomahawk Cruise missiles, some in the military warn that the store could be run low due to the ongoing bombing of Syria, Iraq and the others. “We’re expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” USA Today quoted Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh as saying in December 2015. “Since then, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has asked Congress to include funding for 45,000 smart bombs in the [Pentagon’s] 2017 budget,” Public Radio International reported in April 2016.

   This business is why terrified villagers, refugees, and the internally displaced of seven different countries will go on cringing and crouching over their children as US drones and jets come howling overhead. And “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto — ‘In God is our trust’ — And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”