Speech by Ashley H
Given at the Mobilize Against Militarism rally on 9/11/2021
I’m not going to talk about where I was or what I was doing on this day, 20 years ago, because, frankly, it’s irrelevant. Today I’m going to talk about some of the costs of U.S. imperialism, how U.S. imperialism and endless war are maintained, and what, if anything, we can do to fight back.
However, if we want to point fingers about terrorism, then we need not look further than our own back yards. Noam Chomsky correctly states that indeed, it is us — our gov’t — that are the terrorists. Chomsky also once suggested that every President since WWII could be tried for war crimes under the Nuremberg laws. This comment was pre-Obama, Trump and Biden — but none of them are exceptions to this rule.
The U.S. is involved in a number of proxy wars, as well. This is yet another list that is far too long to get through, but to name a couple:
- The U.S. directly supports Saudi Arabia in the war on Yemen, where the current humanitarian crisis that we caused is now so dire that a child in Yemen under the age of five dies every ten minutes from malnutrition. It has been estimated that at least 18 million in Yemen will die of starvation.
- In Palestine, illegally occupied by our closest ally, Israel, we directly fund an incremental genocide of the Palestinians. I could talk about Palestine, alone, for hours, to be honest.
Some estimates suggest that there are around 800 known U.S. military bases in more than 70 countries around the world. U.S. imperialism, militarism, and the MIC is a cancer on our lives and to this entire planet, affecting every aspect of our society, including our personal lives, in ways that aren’t even immediately apparent. There’s not a chance I’ll have the time to discuss this fact in the detail that it deserves, but I’ll do my best to hit the highlights.
Costs of War & Maintaining the MIC
The costs of U.S. imperialism and militarism cannot be overstated. However, like most other points in this speech, I’ll barely scratch the surface of the far-reaching costs, so I’ll hit some of the highlights:
- The U.S., which spends more than one TRILLION dollars annually, spends more on the military than the next 11 countries combined. — and the budgets, which increase every year, are supported by both Democrats and Republicans.
- The U.S. has killed at least 20 million people since WWII — and these are likely conservative estimates.
- We’re constantly creating refugees and rarely and very conditionally accept them inside our borders. Our wars displace millions and of course we should absolutely accept and support the refugees that WE created — but this often tends to be the sole focus of the modern left when it comes to addressing U.S. imperialism, when we need to be doing whatever it takes to avoid creating refugees in the first place by standing firmly against U.S. militarism in all forms!
- We discard our veterans like we discard our trash, to say nothing of the physical and mental health consequences for those directly and even indirectly affected by U.S. imperialism.
- Rarely if ever do we talk about the fact that the MIC alone is the single greatest contributor to the seemingly inevitable climate apocalypse and that in order for the planet, current and future generations to stand any chance, THE MIC MUST BE DISMANTLED — NOT IN 5 YEARS, NOT IN 1 YEAR, RIGHT NOW!
But how is it that this system of endless death and destruction is maintained? Why are we not in the streets every goddamned day demanding an end to the most powerful, genocidal machine in the world?
How U.S. Imperialism and Endless War is Maintained
The war machine indoctrinates us from an early age — permeating all aspects of our lives — Active efforts of the U.S. war machine, which has its claws deeply embedded in our local, state, and federal elections and the two-party system, in the mainstream and even some indie media, in entertainment (tv shows, movies, etc), in social media, in our public school system…as with most things in this speech, I could go on. And here’s the thing — no one is immune. Collectively, we simply have not yet managed to outsmart those who manage to hold and keep power, generation after generation. If you think the powers that be haven’t figured out a way to sell imperialism to Gen Z & millennials then you really don’t understand the U.S. empire and the insatiable lust for money, power, and control by those who have the greatest ability to wield it. And this lust for money, power, and control is not a thing of the past. Sadly, it never really goes out of style, as these are innately human desires.
As I mentioned, our entire political system is crawling with the influence of MIC. And frankly, this may be an unpopular opinion, but continuing to support the sham that is the two-party system and those who uphold it directly empowers the war profiteers.
Most if not all U.S. Presidents are guilty of war crimes (side note — I refuse to give Biden credit for supposedly ending a war [and murdering a family of 10 in the process] which he literally voted for when he was a Senator) — but it isn’t just about Presidents, who are merely puppets of the war profiteers holding the real power.
Many of us are guilty of the soft bigotry of accepting far less than what is required for basic human rights (of which the list is very long) for the most vulnerable here in America and in the countries we continue to ravage. This looks like turning the other cheek if a well-liked politician does something objectively terrible, or rationalizing it away because other well-liked politicians did the very same thing or for other technocratic reasons. This soft bigotry looks like continuing to support those who refuse to do what is necessary to ensure the most vulnerable here and abroad are treated with dignity and afforded basic human rights.
This may be hard to hear, but wars persist because we allow them to. Kids go hungry because we allow them to. We don’t have healthcare or tuition-free college or student debt cancellation or housing for all or any end in sight on the road to climate apocalypse because we have allowed these things. The ONLY way to put an end to all of this is to do absolutely EVERYTHING in our power to hold the decision-makers accountable for their decisions (or lack-thereof). I refuse to vote for ANYONE, on either team, who continues to uphold these policies of death, through action or inaction — whether said support is wrapped in a pretty progressive bow or overt, shameless power-grabbing bigotry. We should NOT be afraid of our gov’t and our leaders — THEY should be afraid of US! And until they are, we will continue to suffer and inflict mass suffering on the countries our gov’t decides to target.
Mark Pocan, for instance, recently voted to send over 3 billion to Israel, which commits war crimes daily against the Palestinians whose land they illegally occupy. Of course he wasn’t the only so-called progressive to do so — so I guess that makes it okay, right?
U.S. imperialism is also maintained through our media
Every time the U.S. wants to invade, occupy, or sanction a country, the media, doing the bidding of gov’t leaders, is fully complicit in what Noam Chomsky has referred to as the “manufacturing of consent” for war — I would even go so far as to refer to the media as the mouthpiece of the U.S. military industrial complex.
One of the biggest and most well-known media lies was the declaration and subsequent propaganda campaign that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction — the entire purported basis for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The media also tells us things like “we need to protect our allies” or that we need to “protect the women and children” — except here’s the thing — we have never once gone to war for “humanitarian” reasons. What makes anyone think that we’re going to do a goddamned thing out of the goodness of our hearts for those overseas when the U.S. is content to let its OWN PEOPLE go hungry, to deny us lifesaving medical treatment, to let us go unhoused, to drown us in student loan debt, to suffer the current and future consequences of climate change, to die at the hands of those sworn to protect us?! To say nothing of the genocides we’ve actively supported and continue to support around the world. I could sit here and list all the times that the media has lied to us — but even if I focused solely on the lies which led to or propped up the war machine, we’d be here literally all day.
Of course Hollywood is also complicit. Many of our favorite shows and movies have both subtle and not-so-subtle references to American Exceptionalism and imperialism, and “low or high key” (as the kids say) demonization of countries and the people who make up the countries which the U.S. has targeted for sanctions or physical war — this is no short list.
Many of us are kept struggling, barely making ends meet, so that we have neither the time nor the energy to truly understand the horrors we inflict upon other countries and as such, we have neither the time nor the energy to hold the perpetrators accountable. How can we expect (especially) poor and working class Americans to care about horrors abroad when we’ve been living our own nightmares, every day, in the richest country in the world, when roughly 70,000 of us die preventable deaths, every single year (BEFORE the pandemic), because we don’t have a healthcare system which treats us as human beings but instead as dollar signs, profiting off our sickness? When at least half a million of us are chronically unhoused — a number which is likely to sharply increase since our electeds have allowed the eviction moratorium to expire. When at least 13 million kids in America go hungry every night. When we are collectively nearing 2 TRILLION in debt from student loans. When the families of those murdered by police never see justice?!
We live in a world where the working class and poor sign up to do the bidding of the ruling class, enlisting in the military more than anyone else because many of us feel like we have no other choice and no other options. This is just one of the many reasons why we’re not provided with the basic human right of healthcare in the U.S. and also why college will never be free (unless we really fight back). What incentives does a group with continuously growing consciousness about the U.S. war machine have to sign up and risk our lives if we’re actually able to see the doctor when we need to…and get a college education regardless of income? Of course there are other reasons (all of which serve the ruling class) for why we can’t have basic human rights and why education is made so inaccessible — but the Military Industrial Complex is a more than a trillion-dollar a year industry — one that cannot function without a desperate populace willing to risk their lives in order to have the basic rights that most other industrialized countries have.
I’m probably over time so I’ll wrap up by reiterating that it is absolutely up to us to do absolutely whatever is necessary in standing against our own murderous regime — our electeds are the only ones who can make the critical decisions, and we have to do whatever it takes to force them to make the right ones. We’re not supposed to fear them — they’re supposed to fear us! It is not hyperbole to say that our lives and the lives of the most vulnerable are literally at stake. But also, if we want to be taken seriously, we have to fight just as hard if not harder for basic human rights here at home — the powers that be know that they’ve got us if they recognize that we’re willing to accept inhumane treatment for ourselves — they know there’s no way we’ll ever seriously fight for strangers for a seemingly intangible, abstract problem if our own needs aren’t even met. I know you’re tired. I know you’re depressed. But if we go back to sleep, like unfortunately I think many of us have, then we are tacitly supporting brutal U.S. militarism, both domestic and foreign.
One more thing. If you live in Dane County, there is a resolution for Palestine to be voted on next month, and we absolutely will need the support of the public to see it through. I have a QR code you can scan to sign a petition demanding action and to stay in the loop about actions surrounding the resolution. If you’d like to show your support for Palestine, I have bumper stickers you can purchase for whatever you are able to donate.
Let’s stand together to end the damn wars!! Thank you.