Tag Archive: Afghanistan

Dear President Trump, Drone Attacks on Civilians Are Atrocities Too

Let me see if I understand things correctly:

American soldiers droppings bombs on civilian Syrian men, women, and children — not an atrocity.

American soldiers raining drone missiles down on the heads of civilian Syrian men, women, and children — not an atrocity.

American soldiers shooting with bullets civilian Syrian men, women, and children — not an atrocity.

American allies bombing and shooting civilian Syrian men, women, and children — not an atrocity.

Leveling Syrian cities and villages with American bombs and missiles — not an atrocity.

Turning Syrian children into orphans — not an atrocity.

Two decades of maiming and killing tens of thousands of Syrian, Afghani, and Iraqi civilians — not an atrocity.

All the murderous violence perpetrated in the name of the war on terror and fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here has been deemed business as usual — regrettable collateral damage.

Americans are expected to believe that some sort of imaginary red line has been crossed with the alleged gassing of Syrian men, women, and children. What makes these dead more dead than previous deaths? What are we to make of President Trumps faux-moral outrage — as if the man has a moral compass to begin with? How is the President’s saber-rattling anything more than an attempt to distract from the Mueller investigation? What’s the one thing that brings Americans together? War. Not the endless war currently fought in the Middle East. No, what President Trump, Republicans, and some Democrats want is a good, old-fashioned, tit-for-tat, bombs-bursting-in-air war. What better way to say to the world that Trump didn’t collude with Russia to pervert justice and steal an election than to get into a shooting match with the Soviets? What better way to direct our attention away from trillion-dollar annual deficits — thanks to Republican tax cuts — than to give the military-industrial complex billions in new revenues; money that will be spent waging war against Communism and Islam? War is good for the American economy, and it sure as hell is good for the souls of people who think that the United States has been given a divine mission by the Christian God. What’s more thrilling than blood offerings to the God of war?

I wonder, where will God and Republicans be when notifications are made to families about the deaths of their loved ones? Where will God and the ruling class be when a regional war spins out of control and paves the way for an apocalyptic military confrontation between the United States and Russia or the United States and China, or even the United States and Iran or the United States and North Korea? Why not pick two and take them on? We whipped Germany and Japan, right?  Surely, we are more than ready and able to use our military might to assert our will across the globe, thinks Donald Trump. Why have soldiers and weapons of mass destruction if you aren’t going to use them? (Trump asked this very question about nuclear weapons.) Now that President Trump has rid his cabinet of people who could temper his murderous ambition, who will stand in his way as he embroils the world in war?  Who’s going to keep the toddler-in-chief from pushing the shiny big red button on his desk; not the one meant for ordering take-out from McDonald’s; the other red button, the one that unleashes the book of Revelation on planet Earth?

The warmongers — who never met a war they didn’t like — and the rich — who never met a war they couldn’t turn into profit — are now running the show. American soldiers are little more than tools used to advance a nationalistic, theocratic, hyper-capitalistic agenda. Men and women who deeply love their country will die, and to what end? Exactly what change will come from American blood being spilt on Middle Eastern sand? Pray tell, what will be gained by killing more Syrian civilians? What will be gained by dragging the world into a homicidal armed conflict? Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing.

There’s never been a time in history where war brought peace. Only peace begets peace, and until the United States understands this, countless civilians will continue to die. President Trump and Congress have the power to put an end to war. Every past president and congress had the same power. War will end the moment we lay down our weapons and choose a peaceful path. As long as American policy is enforced by violence and death, we can expect never-ending war and conflict. A bleak prospect indeed, but we must not avert our eyes from the reality unfolding before us.

Notes

trump tweets on syria

trump tweets on syria 2

This is about humanity, we’re talking about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen. We’ll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today. We cannot allow atrocities like that. If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out. You don’t see things like that, as bad as the news is around that world, you just don’t see those images. (Donald Trump, April 9, 2018)

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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An Open Letter to Donald Trump: End the War in Afghanistan

end war in afghanistan

From World Beyond War and Action Network

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is well into its 16th year. In 2014 President Obama declared it over, but it will remain a political, financial, security, legal, and moral problem unless you actually end it.

The U.S. military now has approximately 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan , plus 6,000 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors (of whom about 8,000 are from the United States). That’s 41,000 people engaged in a foreign occupation of a country 15 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government.

During each of the past 15 years, our government in Washington has informed us that success was imminent. During each of the past 15 years, Afghanistan has continued its descent into poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and instability. The withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops would send a signal to the world, and to the people of Afghanistan, that the time has come to try a different approach, something other than more troops and weaponry.

The ambassador from the U.S.-brokered and funded Afghan Unity government has reportedly told you that maintaining U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is “as urgent as it was on Sept. 11, 2001.” There’s no reason to believe he won’t tell you that for the next four years, even though John Kerry tells us “Afghanistan now has a well-trained armed force …meeting the challenge posed by the Taliban and other terrorists groups.” But involvement need not take its current form.

The United States is spending $4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment, much of which could be provided by U.S. businesses. Thus far, the United States has spent an outrageous $783 billion with virtually nothing to show for it except the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers , and the death, injury and displacement of millions of Afghans. The Afghanistan War has been and will continue to be, as long as it lasts, a steady source of scandalous stories of fraud and waste. Even as an investment in the U.S. economy this war has been a bust.

But the war has had a substantial impact on our security: it has endangered us. Before Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a car in Times Square, he had tried to join the war against the United States in Afghanistan. In numerous other incidents, terrorists targeting the United States have stated their motives as including revenge for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, along with other U.S. wars in the region. There is no reason to imagine this will change.

In addition, Afghanistan is the one nation where the United States is engaged in major warfare with a country that is a member of the International Criminal Court. That body has now announced that it is investigating possible prosecutions for U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Over the past 15 years, we have been treated to an almost routine repetition of scandals: hunting children from helicopters, blowing up hospitals with drones, urinating on corpses — all fueling anti-U.S. propaganda, all brutalizing and shaming the United States.

Ordering young American men and women into a kill-or-die mission that was accomplished 15 years ago is a lot to ask. Expecting them to believe in that mission is too much. That fact may help explain this one: the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is suicide. The second highest killer of American military is green on blue, or the Afghan youth who the U.S. is training are turning their weapons on their trainers! You yourself recognized this, saying: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”

The withdrawal of U.S. troops would also be good for the Afghan people, as the presence of foreign soldiers has been an obstacle to peace talks. The Afghans themselves have to determine their future, and will only be able to do so once there is an end to foreign intervention.

We urge you to turn the page on this catastrophic military intervention. Bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan. Cease U.S. airstrikes and instead, for a fraction of the cost, help the Afghans with food, shelter, and agricultural equipment.

If you are so inclined, please add your name to the open letter here.

Friday Night Racing Under the Threat of Nuclear Annihilation

hiroshima 1945

Last Friday —  on a day when Christian minds were focused on the death of Jesus —  my thoughts were turned towards spending time with my family, watching cars drive around a quarter-mile dirt track at speeds nearing one hundred miles per hour.

It was opening night at Limaland Motorsports Park. Featuring three classes of cars — 360 sprints, modified, and street stocks – Limaland is owned and operated by the University of Northwest Ohio — a private university known for its motor sports training program. Limaland is a well-run facility, with modern spectator stands, clean restrooms, and concessions that are both tasty and affordable.

As is our custom, we stopped at Kewpee Hamburgers on Allentown Road for dinner. Kewpee is throwback to the days before McDonald’s took over America. Featuring square hamburgers, chocolate malts, French fries, and soft drinks at affordable prices, Kewpee, on this Friday night, had lines out both doors, and the drive-thru was backed up on to the road. Such lines at many fast food restaurants would have meant long wait times, but the Kewpee staff, dressed in white clothing from head to toe, made quick work of the backup and we received our food in quickly.

Polly, my wife, was off work — a paid holiday in honor of an executed criminal — so she, along with Bethany, three of my sons, one son’s girlfriend,  four grandchildren, and my best friend David Echler, gathered at Kewpee before heading to the race track. The inside seating was packed, so we decide to sit at the outdoor seating towards the back of the restaurant property.

It was a beautiful night for racing. The sun was shining through the clouds, and the temperature at race time was in the seventies. We sat where we usually sit, part way up the stands, halfway between the fourth corner and the flag stand. There is always a risk of being pelted with dirt clods thrown off sprint car tires powering off turn four, but this is where Gerencsers sit, dirt clods be damned. Sure enough, several of us were hit with hurtling clods of dirt. No one, fortunately, was hurt.

The track was too wet for a 7:30 PM start time. It took track maintenance personnel twenty or so minutes to get the race surface ready for racing. Finally, the announcer said, Iet’s go racing!  Before the first race (Modified Dash for Cash, four cars race five laps, $100 to the winner), everyone was asked to stand for the invocation and the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Men were asked to removed their hats. As is my custom, I refused to remove my hat as the announcer read a lame prayer to a mythical deity. After the prayer, I removed my hat, placed it over my heart, as I stood for the playing of America’s national anthem. I noticed my oldest son did the same.

The first race of the year is filled with promise for race teams. With newly painted cars and new or freshened motors, this will be the year, race teams tell themselves. Sadly, for many teams, their hopes and dreams quickly went up in smoke due to motor or other equipment troubles, and more than a few drivers found themselves needing the services of tow trucks to remove their broken speed machines from the track. This is racing.

As I sat there with my family enjoying the night’s events, my eyes noticed the sun setting in the west. Another day, I said to myself. I wonder if today will be the last day of life for me and those I love. Going to the race was supposed to take my mind off the cares of this world, but try as I might, I can’t help but think of the war of words going on between the two child rulers, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Trading threats of mutual nuclear destruction, these men, by the time the racing program concluded, could have set in motion the end of the world. Stupid little boys, unzipping their pants to prove who has the bigger dick. Once red buttons are pushed, dick size won’t matter. We will all be dead, victims of American hubris and arrogance and North Korean insanity.

I looked at Polly, my best friend, my sons, one son’s girlfriend, and four of my grandchildren . . . will this be the last time I will ever see them? Am I being too cynical? Am I worrying when there is no reason to do so? Should I just kick back and enjoy life? You know, don’t worry, be happy. Doing so is probably the best course of action. What can I do about what is going on in Washington? I am a powerless member of the Proletariat. Politicians promise the world to gain my vote, and once elected, these whores for corporate America forget their promises, choosing instead to enacts laws that benefit the Inner Party (see Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell). Every two, four, and six years new promises are made, and working class Americans such as myself dutifully return to the polls and vote for the “lesser of two evils.” We vote because people supposedly smarter than we tell us, EVERY VOTE matters, but deep down we doubt whether this is true.

The 2016 Presidential election was, in some ways, the Proletariat rising up in a great swell of ignorance to elect a man who promised to be different from the oligarchy that rules America. Donald Trump, now the forty-fifth president of the United States, has quickly cast aside his promises to working class Americans, choosing instead to fill his cabinet and federal jobs with family, friends, and shills for Wall Street. Political war is looming, and it remains to been seen if President Trump will avoid impeachment before being voted out of office in 2020. Not that this will matter if war-mongering Evangelicals and hawks get their way.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with numerous congressional Republicans and a few congressional Democrats, see violence as the answer for everything that hampers our pursuit of the mythical (and harmful) American Dream. Wrongly thinking that the American military cannot be defeated — forgetting the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, and our multiple wars in the Middle East — these bloody-handed politicians ignore the poor, collapsing infrastructures, declining wages, and out-of-control health care costs, all so they can spend over a trillion dollars for defense and national security — more than China, Russia, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany combined. Thirty-four percent of all military spending worldwide is attributed to the United States.  Yet, according to President Trump and his minions, the military needs MORE money so it can rebuild itself after eight years of decimation under President Barack Obama. Trump has asked Congress to increase military spending by almost $60 billion, while at the same time drastically reducing funding for vital social programs, along with crippling the EPA, Department of Energy, and Department of Education — to name just a few.

Several weeks ago, President Trump released his proposed federal budget. For those of us who value social progress — along with clean air, water, and environmental protection — the budget released by President Trump and his sycophants is no less than a declaration of war on the working class and poor. Even worse, the Ayn Rand/Paul Ryan/Koch Brothers/Tea Party wing of the Republican Party doesn’t think the President made enough cuts. By tanking President Trump’s destruction of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), these white-sheet Libertarians let it be known that they will not rest until their corporate masters have absolute control and working Americans are reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet — means of production meant to enrich their overlords.

Try as I might to just enjoy the race, I can’t. As an atheist and a humanist, I know that this life is the only one I have, and that once I am dead I will never see my loved ones again. I deeply love my family and friends, and I want them to have a happy and prosperous future. I want my grandchildren to have their own children without fear of being obliterated by violence, war, or terrorist attacks. I want them to have good jobs, nice homes, and all the trappings of the American way of life. I want them to be socially and environmentally conscious, believing that the whole world is their brother. Most of all, I want them to remember their father and grandfather as a man who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on the important issues of the day.

I have no idea if my words make a difference. There are days when I wonder if our world is engaged in a struggle that will ultimately lead to our extermination and I might as well turn on the TV, grab a bag of chocolates and a bottle of wine, and spend my nights mindlessly watching M*A*S*H reruns. It would be easy for me to think that the Borg of Star Trek fame have taken our world captive —  You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

The sun finally set and my mind returned to the race track. The heat and feature races were exciting, well worth the $12 price of admission. After pulling into our driveway, I told my friend David, heywe will have to do this again. He replied, sounds good. And then, as he walked away, I said, that is if Donald Trump doesn’t get us nuked.

War and Peace: Think of the Children

drones kill children

Americans love to think of themselves as morally virtuous, a people who are, at heart, decent and kind. Yet our history paints a vastly different picture, one of a violent people prone to bloodshed, often at the slightest provocation.

Our forefathers, not long after they landed on America’s shores, turned to violence to rid the land of natives who stood in the way of “progress.” For the two next centuries, American soldiers systematically hunted those we call Indians, indiscriminately killing men, women, and children. Our political leaders rightly point out the genocidal horrors in other places, all the while ignoring our own dark, shameful history.

Today, the United States government dropped the mother of all bombs on Afghanistan, hoping to destroy ISIS tunnels. Steps were taken to limit “collateral damage,” we are told. I wish government spin doctors would be honest. Saying “collateral damage” hides the truth of American military actions. “Collateral damage” really means women, children, and aged men. What’s the limit when it comes to dead children? How many dead children does it take before the American government changes their death and hell from the skies bombardments?

We Americans are insulated from the cost of war because we fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here. American children and their mothers don’t have to worry about lethal drone strikes, missiles, bombs, or machine gun fire, but children and their parents in places such as Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, and the West Bank spend their days worrying about being marked for destruction. While American children gleefully play in their yards, children in the Middle East carefully watch the skies, worried that a nameless drone pilot in America has decided that it is their day to die.

In June, I turn sixty years old. The United States has been at war my entire life. My grandparents and parents lived through the World Wars and the Korean Conflict. Millions of civilian men, women, and children were slaughtered by America’s military machine. From the firebombing of Dresden to dropping incendiary and atomic bombs on Japan, the United States showed it was willing to kill anyone anywhere to achieve its political and economic objective.

Vietnam was my generation’s war. Upwards of two million people died in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as the United States unleashed its mighty arsenal of killing machines on peasants and soldiers alike. And who can forget — we dare not — America’s use of napalm on the Vietnamese people. Scores of children were roasted alive and those who survived were left wishing they hadn’t.

Since Vietnam, the United States government has embroiled itself in numerous military conflicts, including ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and many points in between. And now President My-Dick-is-Bigger-Than-Your-Dick is threatening increased military action in Syria, along with armed conflict against North Korea.

The media would have Americans believe that President Trump popped a boner and sent sixty Tomahawk missiles screaming towards a Syrian air base because he saw the picture of a Syrian father holding two dead babies who were supposedly killed in a Syrian President Assad-approved gas attack — a claim for which the Trump administration has provided zero evidence.

Does anyone seriously think that Donald Trump or any of the sycophants supporting him give a rat’s ass about the smallest of “collateral damage” — children?  Of course not. The U.S. military sees civilian deaths, including children as a necessary cost of war. I wonder if these hawks would deem the cost too high if it was their children and grandchildren who were being killed. As long as the children being killed are brown or black, and live in a far away land, their deaths are considered necessary sacrifices for the spread of capitalistic democracy.

Flag-waving, war mongering patriots want blood, any blood, as long as it isn’t American. These God-loving killers lament the death of brown and black skinned children, and perhaps even shed a tear, but when American exceptionalism and national pride is at stake, what’s the murdering of a few Middle-Eastern children, right?  What makes matters worse is that justification for the mayhem unleashed from the skies on unsuspecting civilians is found in the pages of the Christian Bible. America, according to Evangelicals, is a chosen people, a city set on hill, a people with a manifest destiny given to us by God. God is on America’s side because American Christians say he is. Proof for these calls for bloodshed can found in the Bible. Look at how violent, maniacal, and genocidal the Christian God was, as any honest reading of the Old Testament will reveal.

The American government doesn’t care one whit about children in far-away lands. The darker their skin the less politicians care. While American leaders might shed an opportunistic tear, their goal is the advancement of America’s domination of the world, and if that means killing children, so be it.

Think of the children, the pictures tell us, but don’t think too hard about who it is that is killing children and why they are doing so. Hurry, new photos to view. Dammit, can’t we stop just for a moment and think about the lunacy of war; that war always ends up killing children and innocent civilians; that no war has ever brought peace.

Let that last line sink in — no war has EVER brought peace.

Cessation of hostilities, yes, but never peace.

Americans need to ask themselves: what has all this violence, bloodshed, and massive expenditures gotten us? Until we are willing to honestly account for the true costs of war, we will continue to think that killing children and innocent civilians is just the cost of doing business. For Assad, or whomever gassed Syrian children, the death of innocents was a necessary evil, and the same is said for the hundreds of civilian deaths caused in recent weeks by the best means of killing that American taxpayer money can buy.

We say it is about the children, but it’s not.

Let’s quit kidding ourselves.

If it really is about the children, be they Syrian, Pakistani, or American, we would stop with the violence and bloodshed and find a way to world peace. As long as the United States has sufficient weapons to kill everyone on the face of the earth and make it uninhabitable for thousands of years, no one will take seriously our calls for peace and disarmament. We are a people who say to the world do as I say, not as I do.  Surely I am not alone in thinking it hypocritical that the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons (on primarily civilian targets) is demanding other nation states get rid of the nuclear weapons while America hangs on to theirs.

Perhaps someday it will be about the children, but for now they are just props in deadly games being played by power-hungry men who are desperately determined to show the world who has the biggest cock. And once we find out, it will be too late – our world will cease to exist. The means of war which powerful men have at their disposal are such that, unless demands for disarmament and peace are heard and obeyed, we run the risk of not having to worry about global warming because we all will be dead from radiation and economic collapse.

Cynical?

Dystopian?

Perhaps, but what other conclusion can we come to as we watch the United States and North Korea and the United States and Russia play dangerous games of chicken that could result in the destruction of every living thing on Earth.

Time to End the Wars in the Middle East

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News, published December 10, 2009.

Dear Editor:

President Obama announced his wrongheaded, certain-to-be-disastrous, plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. For those of us who grew up during the Vietnam War, it is hard for us not to have visions of Lyndon Johnson, troop level escalations and increasing numbers of American casualties. Obama is foolishly committing the same mistakes that Johnson committed 45 years ago.

The war being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq is unwinnable. Only by pulling some form of George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” can President Obama ever hope to claim victory in the Middle East.

Thirty years ago the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. At one point, the Soviets had 300,000 troops on the ground, yet they failed in conquering Afghanistan and ultimately withdrew in defeat. The Soviet’s war in Afghanistan is often referred to as their “Vietnam.”

Adding 30,000 troops to those already in Afghanistan will raise troops levels to around 140,000 troops. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 private contractors operating in Afghanistan, bringing the force total to 240,000 people.

According to a recent McClatchy News report, the recently revised Army counterinsurgency manual states that mounting a successful counterinsurgency effort, in a country with the population and land mass of Afghanistan, would require 600,000 troops!

It seems very clear to me that President Obama is making a grievous and politically fatal error in embracing and expanding the war that former President George Bush left him. As a committed liberal and pacifist, I believed the anti-war, bring-the-troops-home message that candidate Obama preached during the presidential campaign. While I allowed for the reality that Washington is a place of compromise and campaign promises left unfulfilled, I expected Barack Obama to make a good faith effort to end the bloodshed in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, President Obama has embraced the insane notion that by waging war a nation can end war. There has never been a war ended by war. Hostilities may cease but war has no power to end war. Only peace brings an end to war. Foolish are the people who think that killing people will bring an end to killing people.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus did not say blessed are those who think peace is a good idea. He said blessed are those who make peace, who actively work for peace. Yet, here we are, a nation of millions of supposed Christ followers, and we continue to wage war with no end in sight.

I am 52 years old, and the United States has been actively involved in an offensive war somewhere in the world for almost half my life. It is hard not to conclude that we are a warring people who are willing to shed the blood of others to gain our objectives.

I renew my call to President Obama to end the war in the Middle East. I urge him to bring the troops home.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney