Taking responsibility for the violence

Marie Colvin

I have to admit that I was not paying much attention to the bombardment of the city of Homs, Syria—now in its 20th day—before the deaths of two Western journalists there this week.

That is completely typical of me as a Western observer sitting comfortably at my desk, far from the tumult and terror of war.

I sat complacently at my desk during the bombardments of Sarajevo in the 1990s, and Baghdad in 2003-4.  I was hardly aware of what was going on in Rwanda during the genocide there in 1994.  Glimmers of awareness come and go about the current violence in the Congo, or in Burma.

For the most part, I go about my business like any animal would, focusing on what’s in front of me.  As long as my belly is full and my personal security is not threatened, I can give a big yawn at the evening news, and go peacefully to sleep.

The attitude of the Western public—especially among Americans—rides the border between ignorance and indifference.  We’d rather not know—so we focus our attention elsewhere, on news that either appears to concern us more directly, or has a more soporific effect.

Oscars, anyone?

Death of Whitney Houston—OMG what a tragedy!

And let’s check in with the Republican horse race, shall we?  Will it be Santorum or Romney this week?  Ho-hum….

Sarajevo, 1994

Meanwhile, innocent civilians, many of them women, children and elders, are dying every day in Syria, just as they did in Sarajevo, Baghdad, Sudan, Libya…the list goes on and on.

This list concerns us Americans for one very good reason: our country is the biggest arms supplier in the world.

That means we enable all these bloody wars.  We build up dictators by selling them arms.  Then when they misbehave and start killing civilians, we wring our hands and act as if we had nothing to do with their rise to power, hence no responsibility for their misdeeds.

If Americans were serious about wanting a peaceful world, we would start by converting our weapons manufacturing plants to peaceful purposes.

Instead of machine guns, let’s make solar panels and sell them to world leaders.  Instead of tanks and jets, let’s export educational software and lightening-fast hardware.

Instead of sending military personnel to deal with civilians in other countries (as they did so ably this week, burning Korans in Afghanistan), let’s send teachers and doctors and enthusiastic, open-minded young people in every profession.

Americans need to understand that we bear a responsibility for the death of every child who dies as a result of a US-made weapon, no matter who wields it.

Giving up violence has to start with giving up the weapons that enable it.

Let’s dare to think outside the box, and put our hearts, minds and bodies in the service of peace.

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  1. “I have to admit that I was not paying much attention to the bombardment of the city of Homs, Syria—now in its 20th day—before the deaths of two Western journalists there this week.”

    The two western journalists were embedded with the FSA (Free Syrian Army), a militia, trained and equipped by Turkish, British, and French agents. The FSA consists of Salafis from Lebanon, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda from Iraq, and Libyan militias under Abdul Hakim Belhaj.

    The two journalists were in the command center of the FSA in the Baba Amr district of Homs, the center from which the FSA with the help of Turkish instructors directed the militia fighters depending on photos from US spy satellites and drones which were relayed to the center.
    The Syrian army had to destroy the center to root out the FSA, which has terrorized Homs now for half a year.

    One can argue of course, that the FSA liberated Homs, if one believes the Western media dream machine. But what about the 40 Turkish military instructors, now detained by Syria? What about the training of FSA fighters in Turkey and the command centers in the US Incirlik air base and Iskenderun Naval Base in Turkey? What about the 10,000 Libyan fighters, payed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are now training in Jordan?

    This is not a popular uprising, this is an invasion of Syria by foreign mercenaries.

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  February 24, 2012

      I’ve know you’ve analyzed this situation a lot on your blog, Mato, but I still don’t get it: why are “foreign mercenaries” invading Syria? In whose interest?

      • In the interest of the Western powers, Israel, Turkey, and the Gulf monarchies.

        From my blog: Why Syria needs to be destroyed:

        Israel has its sights set on both the Golan Heights and South Lebanon. Israel is pumping water from springs in the Golan Heights to the shrinking Sea of Galilee, depriving Syria of major water resources. Water from most springs exploited by Israel would naturally stream downhill to Syria.

        Water disputes triggered military confrontations between Syria and Israel in the past. In 1964, Syria diverted the Hasbani and Banyas rivers and Israel retaliated by launching airstrikes at Syrian constructions.

        Syria is one of the few remaining supporters of Palestinian resistance.

        Turkey also needs water and is already blocking the course of the Euphrates with dam projects, depriving Syrian agriculture. Syria saw an ally over this cause in the PKK (the Kurdish independence movement), as the Kurds were grieved that the South Anatolia water project was drowning Kurdish villages and orchards. Open tolerance of PKK camps in Syria particularly enraged the Turks who want to weaken and neutralize Syria to root out PKK refuges in Syria.

        The Gulf monarchies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuweit, Oman want to destroy the last remaining bastion of the Ba’ath Party and its socialist ideology once and for all. The Ba’ath Party has branches in many Arab countries though it only held power in Iraq and Syria. Without an actual involvement in the politics of a country the Ba’ath ideology would be far less appealing to Arab populations.

        Syria is Iran’s main ally and signed a defense agreement with Iran in 2006. Syria also still uses Russian weapons and doesn’t buy US equipment. A war in Syria would mean large profits for the MIC — alone this prospect is enough motivation to start another war!

        My four blog posts about Syria and the included links provide lot of background information. I cannot guarantee the truth of this information, and I wrote again and again, that any information must be viewed with caution. There is deception and misinformation going on on all sides, but the Western media machine has discredited itself so profoundly in the past, that only the most dedicated followers of mainstream media and only the die-hart true believers of the purity and benevolence of Western politics will fall for the hype of a “humanitarian intervention”.

        And only the die-hart true believers of the purity and benevolence of Western politics will believe that such a “humanitarian intervention” would then be motivated by nothing else than the noble aim of preventing a bloodthirsty regime butchering the helpless population!

        Who can seriously believe, that US policy makers care about a few thousand Syrians, when they buoyantly invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, causing the death of at least 200,000 Afghans and Iraqis? When they killed 40,000 Libyans in a bombing campaign?

        I could fill another 20 comments with explanations but I invite you to read my blogposts and the linked materials. I will gladly answer any questions and enter any discussions emanating from there.

      • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

         /  February 24, 2012

        Thank you, this helps enormously! I am especially interested in the water issue–this will be a growing source of conflict in dryer regions in the coming years, and we can see it already starting. And of course, selling arms to a new Syrian regime…of course….

  2. “This list concerns us Americans for one very good reason: our country is the biggest arms supplier in the world.”

    The USA is the biggest producer of weapons because that is the area where companies couldn’t outsource production for obvious strategic reasons. The US economy is a war economy. The USA has the biggest military budget (720 billion US$, 120 billion for weapons) and is the biggest exporter of weapons (32 billion US$ in 2010, expected 46 billion in 2011). Saudi Arabia just purchased 13 billion US$ worth of weapons; the UAE spent 11 billion US$. A record deal of 60 billion US$ with Saudi Arabia is already signed.

    On September 1, the International Association of Machinists and the Aerospace Industries Association sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to preserve the aerospace and weapons industry and its high-skilled workforce. The aerospace and weapons industry directly employs 844,000 Americans, located in every state — and supports more than two million jobs in related fields.

    More than 240,000 are working in weapons manufacturing, all together some three million Americans live from arms production, counting family members and associated businesses. The US industry may not be competitive in other areas and corporations have outsourced most manufacturing to China, but US weapons are still top quality and outsourcing is not allowed.

    The US Department of Defense provides 3.2 million jobs and is the worlds biggest employer, bigger than Walmart (2.1 m) and McDonald’s (1.7 m). An estimated 6 million Americans get their paycheck by courtesy of Pentagon spending. In 2010, the Pentagon employed 250,335 mercenaries, 52,421 were US citizens. 112,092 (16,081 US citizens) worked in Afghanistan, 95,461 (24,719 US citizens) in Iraq, 42,782 (12,621 US citizens) in other countries.

    The US Department of Veterans Affairs employs 300,000.

    The military budget and weapons manufacturing are the cornerstone of the US economy and every attempt to trim military spending will fail because the US economy would break down without arms production and warfare and enter a deep depression compared to which the Great Depression of the 30s would look like the golden ages.

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  February 24, 2012

      Thanks for adding all this hard data, which I did not have time to search out last night (had to run to a gig my sons were playing–it went well!). I would appreciate knowing some of the sources of this info, for future reference–


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