I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but I’m really sick of killing innocent people.
No, I’m not a serial killer. At least, not in the normal sense of that term.
But we, collectively, here in the U.S. are all, in a way, serial killers — because our tax dollars pay for the mass murder of innocent people around the world. Most of the people are brown, which may have something to do with why it seems that so many people don’t know much about this.
Tax day has just passed, I paid my taxes, and my heart was heavy with the realization that — yet again — my money sent to Uncle Sam would be used to kill innocent people in many countries around the world.
A 2018 report from the Costs of War project found that at least 244,000 civilians around the world have been killed directly in U.S. post-9/11 military operations. And that number rises into the millions when we consider indirect deaths from disease, displacement and loss of infrastructure. Yes, millions.
All paid for by you and me — costing about $6 trillion (yes, with a “t”), and counting, since 9/11. We are fueling a hyper-militaristic empire like the world has never seen. And U.S. media barely talk about it.
I’m really, really sick of it. And I’m starting to realize that longstanding accusations of Western state terrorism hold a lot of water. We are now responsible for millions of innocent deaths over the last few decades. This is far far more than any deaths attributable to Islamic terrorists or other nations in that time period.
If all lives are equally valuable, how can any reasonable and compassionate American taxpayer not feel equally heart heavy about our annual tax payments to kill innocents around the world?
I was in the U.S. Army for four years from 1990 to 1994. No, I didn’t kill anyone. Not directly. I served during the first Gulf War but didn’t actually see combat. I was instead assigned to guard a U.S. military hospital in Nuremberg, Germany, for the entire short duration of that war.
When I left the Army I fairly quickly finished my bachelor’s degree and then went to law school. In my last year, I took a course taught by Prof. Khalid El Fadl at UCLA School of Law called Terrorism and the Law. Noam Chomsky was one of the authors we were assigned to read. I don’t recall the specific reading in that class but it made an impression.
The beginning of my law career coincides almost exactly with the momentous events of 9/11. I was in a hotel in Santa Barbara interviewing for my first law firm job on that day. I woke up, turned on the TV and saw a clip, that looked very realistic, of planes crashing into the World Trade Center. I pretty quickly realized this was in fact real and that the world had changed.
The innocents killed by those Saudi terrorists on that day were then used by U.S. leaders, from that day up until the present moment, to justify a massive increase in the aggressiveness of U.S. military and covert actions around the world, all in the name of stopping another 9/11.
After 9/11 I began reading widely in foreign policy. And I began to see how powerful the U.S. had become and how freely we used our military around the world to advance and consolidate our power.
But here’s the rub: we’ve long since passed the point of abuse of that power. The 2,996 innocents killed by terrorists in 9/11 is now outweighed literally 100s to one — or more — by the innocents that we, yes you and I, have killed with our tax dollars since 9/11.
It’s time to stop. I’m really tired of killing innocent people.
Over the years I’ve thought long and hard about my duty as an informed and compassionate person to do something about the ongoing global catastrophe that the U.S. military, CIA and other branches of our massive government have wreaked on the world. What can I do? What can we do?
Up until now, I’ve written about these issues in various columns over the years, and I’ve voted for candidates who I believed would make a difference. Obama was certainly better than Bush on these issues, but he still expanded the illegal drone killing program that kills large numbers of civilians around the world, along with at least some actual terrorists. But the end result of the drone programs is very likely creation of far more enemies/terrorists because of our often indiscriminate bombing of various populations around the world.
President Trump has continued to expand and loosen oversight over these illegal drone programs — illegal because no nation has the right to strike inside the territory of another nation without an invitation. His March 2019 executive order eliminated Obama’s requirement that the CIA release an annual report on drone strikes around the world outside of declared conflict zones. Now we’ll have no public information on these CIA programs at all.
What would you do if a foreign power was bombing your village, your family’s wedding, your family’s funeral? These kinds of events have happened numerous times over the years since 9/11. The civilian death toll has mounted, and mounted, and mounted.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that every president since Jimmy Carter, and arguably even him, has pursued an unabashedly militaristic foreign policy. The general view in Washington and among many voters seems to be that a president isn’t a real man — or some such macho silliness — unless he uses the military to cow the world or at least some parts of it into submission.
So what do we, as informed and compassionate people, do about our ongoing killing of large numbers of innocent people?
Recently I’ve looked into tax resistance as a means of making a difference. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, I don’t see any legal means for tax resistance as a political statement about how our tax dollars are spent. Our system doesn’t allow individuals to choose how their tax dollars are allocated.
It seems that the sad truth is that the price of living in the U.S. today is to be a direct conspirator and funder of the killing of large numbers of innocent people around the world. To be an American taxpayer now means that we have to take part in the killing of innocents.
How can this be? How can we be here now in the 21st Century and forced to face such facts about ourselves?
With Trump, Netanyahu and their people now agitating for war against Iran this message is more timely than ever. Let’s get smart before we enter into another massive mistake like the war in Iraq. But this time on an even larger scale.
It’s time for a revolution in how we conduct our foreign policy.