The Consequences of Endless War

by Joan Cavanagh, New Haven Sunday Vigil for Peace and Justice

On August 29, 10 members of the Ahmadi family, seven of them children, were killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan. One branch of the Pentagon investigated another and essentially decided that the mistake was an unfortunate by-product of a usual days’ work that did not go quite as planned.

This strike gives us a small window into the methods and consequences of the war that the U.S. government is waging daily and the sense of normalcy with which its architects regard it. So does the air-strike on Baghuz, Syria in 2019, which killed an estimated 60 civilians and whose previously successful cover-up was revealed by the New York Times on November 13 of last year.

These “incidents” are the tip of the iceberg. In 20 years, U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan have caused thousands of deaths among non-combatants, the full extent of which remains unknown despite valiant attempts by watchdog groups, whistleblowers, and non-governmental organizations to document them. Many have gone unreported or underreported. The whistleblowers have been sentenced to prison.

This is the 21st-century face of endless war: anonymous killing by remote control, off the radar of most of us, although it is being done by our own government. The consequences for the immediate victims are obvious. Survivors face less visible but deeply scarring outcomes.

The role of these virtual warriors is unprecedented. Studies of post-traumatic stress disorder among them are necessarily in their infancy but an estimated 4% are already suffering from PTSD. Surely the cumulative psychological toll of witnessing the devastating results of their work will have a long-term impact that we cannot predict.

Historically, U.S. citizens, who have learned the truth of wars being fought, and war crimes committed in our names, have struggled to end them. We cannot possibly achieve a decent society while our nation is inflicting this kind of damage on the rest of the world. Please, learn as much as possible about these wars that the policymakers would prefer you didn’t concern yourself with, and act to help stop them.

Joan Cavanagh is part of the New Haven Sunday Vigil to “Resist this Endless War.” This is an edited version of a longer Forum piece in the New Haven Register on November 28, 2021, https://www.nhregister.com/opinion/article/Opinion-The-consequences-of-endless-war-16653302.php.

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