September 23, 2014 at 1:01 pm EDT | by Richard J. Rosendall
Scaring up another war
war, gay news, Washington Blade

How often do we have to respond to distant problems by charging in and making things worse before we bloody well stop doing it?

In 2000, after a deranged man shot several people in a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., some suggested that everyone would have been safer had they all been carrying firearms. Jonathan Rauch made the case six months before the Roanoke incident in his article “Pink Pistols” in Salon. Similar suggestions have been made after mass shootings in movie theaters and elementary schools. As I write this, the D.C. Council is about to pass a concealed carry bill in response to court rulings against the District’s gun control law.

The fact that America leads the developed world in guns and gun-related deaths doesn’t faze gun advocates. Like tax cuts, guns are considered a cure-all. Unfortunately, the same appears true of munitions in American foreign policy.

The speed with which we are being goaded into war is not a sign of strength. It is easy to mock Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his overcompensating sidekick Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for their endless saber rattling, or Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) for his claim that ISIS members are sneaking across the Mexican border to cut our throats. But already our fears have been successfully exploited to justify yet another Mideast war effort.

Americans are much likelier to die from something we do to ourselves, whether with guns or alcohol or texting while driving. You would be well advised to worry less about whether ISIS will make it to Baghdad and more about whether you’ll make it over the crumbling bridge you take to work. McCain says that we need to fight the terrorists over there so we won’t have to fight them here. The last time he said that, we launched a war in Iraq that destabilized the region. Yet here he comes again to quell terrorist fires with hoses of gasoline. And once again we spend money we say we don’t have to save other people’s houses while neglecting our own.

I seldom agree with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), but he was right last week: “Before we arm the so-called moderate Muslims of Syria, remember what I said a year ago: ‘The irony you will not be able to overcome is that these arms will someday be used against America.'” It is small comfort that the Northern Storm Brigade, with which McCain met in May 2013, is now opposed to ISIS.

How often do we have to respond to distant problems by charging in and making things worse before we bloody well stop doing it? However bad the situation, any action we take should at least have a reasonable shot at improving things. At this point, the only thing we have improved by our ruinous investment of blood and treasure in the Levant is the profits of Halliburton and other defense contractors.

Aside from idly wondering why Dick Cheney and other torture-loving war criminals are not in prison, we would do well to tend our own garden by facing the threat posed by America’s own religious fanatics. They may not cut off heads or fly planes into office towers, but the misogynistic and homophobic policies they seek to impose on their fellow citizens bear more than a passing resemblance to those of the foreign extremists we fight. The main difference is that diversity here has taken firmer hold, notwithstanding the fact that American policing, both foreign and domestic, disproportionately targets people of color.

A better use of our military resources is the humanitarian mission announced by President Obama on Sept. 16, in which American forces will set up field hospitals and train local health workers in West Africa to help the fight against Ebola.

Three years ago on Sept. 20, the military gay ban officially ended. I remember the great satisfaction of World War II combat veteran Frank Kameny, who had devoted much of his life to helping reach that moment. He died three weeks later. It does no dishonor to him or other LGBT service members (and we’re still working on the T) to insist that deadly force, whether at home or abroad, should be used as a last resort and not by habit.

 Copyright © 2014 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. Reach him at [email protected].

  • These two war crazy war thirst warmongers are dangerous old madmen. They're certainly NO experts on the military or foreign affairs.

  • Do we really care what McCain says, he’s just a bitter frustrated sore loser. That can not accept the fact that the American people soundly reject him with his out of touch war hungry views. He’s now so bitter and hateful that he’s no longer mentally competent to hold office

  • Obama’s really struggling to face down the warmongers, isn’t he?

  • This is merely sarcasm and common name-calling masquerading as political thought.
    I think Rick and some other folks just can’t admit the fact that President Obama enjoys the quite rational, overwhelming support of Americans for an air campaign against the un-Islamic terrorists and common thugs and cutthroats dubbing themselves an “Islamic State.” Our president also enjoys great support among America’s allies and their peeps.

    Ergo, we crazy, blood-thirsty, baby-killing warmongers supporting this allied effort — must be too stupid and too frightened to stop Obama’s warmongering ways, huh? It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to use ad hominem name-calling to dismiss a position with which one strongly disagrees. For instance…
    What these KNEE-JERK PACIFISTS often don’t get is what most Americans have understood for going on two and a half centuries now. Sometimes, just sometimes … swift, lethal retribution and war IS the answer for free peoples and free civilizations.

  • Brians Ions, let’s see. I called Lindsey Graham John McCain’s overcompensating sidekick, and I called Dick Cheney (and his collaborators whom I did not list) a torture-loving war criminal. Was I wrong? Was I also wrong to say that our last war in Iraq destabilized the region? Was I wrong to note the neglect of our crumbling domestic infrastructure while we spend more resources in the Mideast? Can Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran not be expected to defend themselves? Considering the amount you criticize our local police, I would think you might be more duly critical of America’s international policing. The evidence of recent years is that our efforts in that region have made things worse.

  • “Considering the amount you criticize our local police, I would think you might be more duly critical of America’s international policing.” –Rick
    No. You’re mistaken on a number of counts, Rick. First, you are confusing unrelated issues. I don’t generally criticize our MPD police rank and file, per se. But I very much criticize our biased, dishonest and secretive MPD management. There’s a big difference, I trust you understand.
    Still local MPD policing has little or no relevance to the projection of the instruments of American power (political, diplomatic, economic and military) internationally, to our allies, adversaries and all sovereign states in between.
    You have made a excellent case for poor national security “strategery” by the George W. band of imbeciles in Iraq, and to some extent in Afghanistan.
    But you’ve made no case at all for the U.S. and its allies in the Obama era to ignore ruthless terrorists seeking to take over the instruments of one or more existing states’ powers (e.g., Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Gulf States, etc)– so as to more easily and persistently wage war, w/ 9/11 style attacks, on our nation’s innocent non-combatants and those of our allies.
    Just what don’t you get about the first function of any national government — protecting the lives and safety of its own citizens?

  • Brian, if you would chill a moment and reread my piece, you would see that in my final paragraph, in the context of a tribute to my late colleague Frank Kameny and other LGBT service members, I acknowledged the need for military force. And if you reread my third paragraph, you would see that I am concerned about the speed of the present escalation. Also, I mentioned a few countries in the region, some of which America has helped arm. For countries in the region to step up in their own defense is less of a provocation. And as I said, we have other threats to deal with. My note of skepticism does not betoken a lack of concern; it is the stampede and the tone of panic that bother me. As I also noted, America’s recent efforts in the region, and their outcome, should at least inspire caution. I do think this president has shown more caution than his predecessor.

  • For countries in the region to step up in their own defense is less of a provocation. – Rick
    Holy cow, Rick! You’re afraid that any U.S. involvement to degrade and destroy Da’esh/ISIL is going to be too much of a ‘provocation’???
    ‘Provocation’ to whom exactly? Da’esh/ISIL? Well, yeah!
    What more can such animals do to their opponents? Stone their beheaded bodies?
    You do understand that we’re at war already? And we have been for 13 years. It’s fairly low intensity as more traditional (20th century, e.g.) wars go. But we may be at it for another 87 years for all we know.
    Do you seriously think any civilized country can reliably “make nice” with that kind of bloody barbarism? If so, you’re more out of touch on this subject than I thought you were.
    Look, no one is “goading” us into anything, Rick. The president has had no problem getting 50 countries (and growing) in just a week to join us to meet this threat. That is stunning speed in the world of diplomacy ad statecraft. It ought give you pause for reconsideration of your position.
    You mistake the president’s policy reversal and well-considered urgency for “panic.” There is no panic, Rick. But Da’esh/ISIL advances in Syria and Iraq have created new facts on the ground which require urgent actions to defeat.
    Turkey has had to close their border and turn water cannon on Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives from Da’esh/ISIL’s terror. Turkey is a NATO ally of ours. Again, what don’t you understand about the implications of that, Rick? Or how about Da’esh/ISIL grabbing chunks of southern Syria and/or Jordan right up to Israel’s border?
    What? Do you now advocate that the U.S. renounce its treaty obligations with its allies?
    Moreover, Da’esh/ISIL has essentially become the new ‘adventerous’ al-Qaeda among some of the world’s wayward youth. So that presents something of a new urgent fact on the ground as well. At some rational level, we know Da’esh/ISIL is just group of brutal thug terrorists. They only seem like invincible warriors because they rely on sheer blood and terror to control occupied populations and intimidate civilized army units.
    That’s also their weakness, however. As such, Da’esh/ISIL doesn’t enjoy much popular support. Indeed, ‘Da’esh’ is the more insulting term that their Mideast neighbors derisively call them. We should, too.
    History has shown repeatedly that when confronted with with barbaric tactics in battle or warfare by a pseudo-religious, xenophobic enemy, said enemy will only surrender when killed in numbers large enough to utterly break the will of the survivors to resist.
    United States air power has unique capabilities to accomplish that lethal mission quickly –without needing much ground support. So we ought to continue a robust air campaign — both in supporting of our allies in the region and for the homeland security of Americans, as well.

  • Brian, I am happy to engage in spirited argument. However, I see no point in further discussion with someone who appears determined to caricature what I wrote.

  • Sure, Rick. Some can easily spoon it out, but often can’t abide the taste of their own medicine. Let’s agree to disagree, while noting President Obama’s most recent words on the subject…

    As an international community, we must meet this challenge with a focus on four areas. First, the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed.
    This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.
    No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.
    In this effort, we do not act alone. Nor do we intend to send U.S. troops to occupy foreign lands. Instead, we will support Iraqis and Syrians fighting to reclaim their communities. We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back ISIL. We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground. We will work to cut off their financing, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region. Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort. Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can…
    Barack Obama
    Excerpt from United Nations Speech
    September 24, 2014

  • “Nor do we intend to send U.S. troops to occupy foreign lands.” In other words, Obama has more restraint, and is more cautious, than McCain et al. Thank goodness.

  • Sure, Rick. Few take McCain and Graham very seriously, I think. Most Americans understand that Mideast warfare and our alliances are far more nuanced.
    And I fully agree that the U.S. should not recommit to a land war to hold ground with U.S. boots in the shifting sands of that volatile region. America’s overall goal has to be CONTAINMENT of old, new and future al Quada-like groups and/or countries/ governments who support or protect them get a foothold and growing stronger.
    Given the instability of governments in countries where warring Islamic factions — or many falsely claiming their cause(s) as such — well it’s just pure gambling to bet on which faction will come out on top in each country over say, even a ten-year period. Plus we have to remain reasonably true to espousing values of liberty and human rights for all peoples in the region.
    Still, our U.S. national security interest, and that of our allies demand we stop ISIL’s advances and its ability to threaten allied governments there plus the free flow of energy to our allies throughout the world. In addition we have to make sure ISIL cannot recruit and equip western nationals with the free mobility their passports provide to go back home and wage ISIL-style terror on allied homelands’ innocents.
    For all we know, radical Islamic-influenced groups may be engaged in a very long-term, historic war of terror, against modernity, western NGOs, western religions, their human rights values, as well as our own and our allies’ essential economic interests.
    Such a low intensity war/ conflict throughout the region could last, with several hot-war/ cold-war periods for several decades. It is utter folly to think that we and our allies can suppress and/or conquer that kind of generational, youth-driven rage with American ‘boots on the ground.’
    Unlike the Israelis and our allied, predominantly Islamic nations , American aren’t accustomed to taking a longer, “containment’ view of ones’ enemies, which the Mideast’s unique attributes really requires.
    With 20/20 hindsight, it is clear now we should have kept Saddam’s Iraq and his power to threaten his neighbors *contained* with our overwhelming air power and tech advantages.
    It’s always been a modern era myth that one American generation should fight and die in major land conflicts so as to prevent their next generations’ children to have to sacrifice again for the same map ‘bits’.
    BTW, you and I are somewhat indicative of the fact that polls show Democrats are deeply split down the middle regarding more military engagement in the Mideast. It’s an issue that divides Dems, while it appears to be strongly uniting GOPs. So that’s a cautionary by-product for the prospect of LGBT causes and other progressives’ issues.

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