The Man Way: The stupidity of fighting terrorism with more terrorism

July 6, 2016

I don’t know who first said, “War is terrorism with a bigger budget,” but it seems profound these days. Smart bombs away! Boys love war. They’ll lead wars against poverty, against crime and drugs.  And don’t forget the war against terrorism. All of which have been miserable failures. And yet boys think more war is the answer.


When I was a boy, I loved war too. I played with G.I. Joe and my plastic machine gun. I did school reports on Sherman tanks and studied the dogfights of World War 1 pilots. I watched John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima and The Green Berets. Like John, we boys played Vietnam War in the Georgia woods, only this time we won. I wondered what war I would fight in when I grew up. I imagined I’d be an Air Force pilot, safe above the clouds as I dropped bombs on the faceless enemy below. When I was 16, Ronald Reagan was elected on the promise of more and better wars and my testosterone pumped. Iran, Afghanistan, maybe even Mother Russia herself. But suddenly the 4 O’clock movie started to look like a reality and I began to have second thoughts about the thrill of war.

Then I grew up. In college I read Gandhi and Martin Luther King and The Gospel According to Matthew. And my love of war began to fade.  I met some of those soldiers I had romanticized and the dream of war became a nightmare. Over the years all the warriors I’ve met have told me tales of dead friends, sleepless nights, long waits at the VA, and 4th of July fireworks triggering PTSD. I haven’t met John Wayne once, just men and women who need support in managing the effects of politicians playing soldier.


So you will excuse me if Mr. Trump’s talk of “bombing the shit out of ISIS” just makes me want to puke. We’ve dropped countless bombs on the middle east and people are still being killed by terrorists in cafés and nightclubs. The war in Afghanistan is in its fifteenth year and the place doesn’t look that much different than when we showed up in 2001.  And today we learn that 8400 US troops will remain in Afghanistan in the war without end. (But war profiteers have made billions of dollars so don’t expect it to end any decade soon.) George W. Bush’s (and Tony Blair’s) idiotic invasion of Iraq that opened the door for ISIS and Obama’s “clean” drone strikes in the region have only made us less safe while funneling trillions of dollars out of the American economy. Do you think those dudes sing along when they hear Mavin Gaye ask “What’s going’ on?” Maybe they just giggle at the “War is not the answer” part.


The Obama administration released a report last week about civilians killed in drone attacks in Africa, Yemen, and Pakistan. They believe that between 2372 and 2581 “enemy combatants” were killed between 2009 and 2015. We trust that these “enemy combatants” were sociopathic terrorists who want to blow up shopping malls in Kansas and not kids who were forced into someone else’s jihad. For the same period, the administration estimates that between 64 and 116 non-bad guys (men, women, children, doctors, aid workers, etc.) were accidentally killed by our drones. Investigative journalists think that count may be ten times higher. And this does not include civilian deaths from the drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria that are a daily terror. By the way, the going price for a remote controlled MQ-9 Reaper drone is $12, 548,710.60. (The 60 cents is for the pine scent.) And we wonder why we can’t “afford” free college or health care.

I think if I was a young man in Yemen and one of those 116 “non-enemy combatants” killed was my child, I might be a little angry. In fact, when I found out my child was killed by some American sitting in an air-conditioned office in Colorado, manning a flying robot bomb with a joystick, I’d want revenge. I’m like that. I’d find Al-Qaeda or ISIS, or whoever was screaming the loudest in my village and ask what I could do to strike back against these terrorists. Strap a bomb to my chest and walk into a crowded European airport? No problem. And I get to see my child again. I want them to hurt the way I’ve been hurt. It’s the cycle of pain that war perpetuates and we are all guilty.


It’s easy to talk about how Presidents Bush and Obama and Prime Minister Blair (and Secretary Clinton) have blood on their hands, but there’s plenty of blame to go around as we fan the flames of war in somebody else’s backyard. We don’t want to be accused of not “supporting the troops” as a another generation of young warriors gets sent into the meat grinder only to become the next generation of old vets standing on an offramp asking for spare change.  They’re keeping us free, right? Why should we stop that?

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So that brings us to Mr. Trump. After the mass shooting in Orlando, Trump renewed his calls for an all-out ban on Muslims entering the U.S.. Omar Mateen, the shooter, was born in Queens, New York, just like Trump, so I’m not sure what his ban would have accomplished. He repeatedly tells his crowd that his strategy will be to “bomb the hell out of them” and his sub-moronic loyalists scream in approval. The problem is the recent attackers in Turkey and Bangladesh (and Orlando and San Bernardino) did not come from the battlefields of Syria. Like Mateen, they were most likely radicalized online. So I guess Trump’s plan is to bomb the hell out of every Muslim with a laptop or a smartphone. Gee, I wonder what the unintended consequences of that type of genocidal violence might me.

Do you think President Trump might end up creating more terrorists than he kills? You could make the case that lesson should have been learned by Bush, Blair and Obama. Oh, never mind. His fans love war. Trump is John Wayne! More bombs! That’s the answer! Today, a sister of one of the British soldiers killed in Iraq called Blair, “the world’s worst terrorist.” Tony has some competition for that honor. (4,486 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq.) Maybe President Trump can win that title. Winning!


Of course, Trump wants to make this about Islam and not the conditions that push young men into war. (Our war on their terrorism or their war on our terrorism.) The attacks this week in Saudi Arabia should prove that ISIS is not a real Islamic organization any more than the KKK is a real Christian organization. What could be more anti-Muslim than blowing up Muslims in Medina on Ramadan? (Wait, is ISIS a Trump front?)

Scholars have described the bulk of the rank and file members of these jihadi groups as being either illiterate or barely literate. They’re not reading the Koran; somebody is telling them what it says. Sort of like that backwoods Pentecostal preacher telling some hill person that dancing with a poison snake will make Jesus happy (and killing gay people is God’s will). You don’t stop their anger at the world with more bombs.


“So what are we supposed to do, Professor Blazak?” Here’s the part you don’t want to hear. Terrorism is a complex issue, with a lot of moving parts (including a military part). But in an election year,  Americans want simple, bite-size solutions. Most could care less about the difference between Sunni and Shia followers of Islam. Just bomb the hell out of all of them. Am I right? Maybe not. Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the face by the Taliban, famously said, “With guns you can kill terrorists. With education you can kill terrorism.” But what does that kid know? And old guy in rural Georgia knows that our bombs can beat their bombs. “More war! (As long as I don’t have to go,)” he bleats.

Look, can we have a moment of national honesty? We’ve finally admitted that the War on Drugs was a horrible waste of lives and tax dollars. Republicans and Democrats actually have some agreement on this. Can we just admit the war on terrorism is sucking the soul of America dry and making the world less safe with every “smart” bomb we drop. Are we ready for a permanent state of world war or are we intelligent enough to imagine a more effective strategy? Just maybe war is the problem, not the solution. The answer is probably not going to come from a boy (or a girl who acts like a boy). I might listen to Malala. Just sayin’. War is over, if you want it.


Children of the Earth, take this day.

December 10, 2014 The news can really depress the shit out of you (unless, by “news,” you mean Entertainment Tonight). But there are headlines that soften the global horrors. Reading this morning that Malala and Kailash Satyarthi have been given the Nobel Peace Prize gave me a moment of hope. So that’s where I’m going to live today.

The world is an especially cruel place for children. War, hunger, sex trafficking of minors, child soldiers, infant refugees, the list will shatter your soul. According to UNICEF, 2014 has been one of the worst years on record for children. The images coming out of Syria and Palestine are just a slice of the horror. “Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds,” said Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF. “They have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves.”

Unicef Calls 2014 One of Worst Years for Children

Andrea and I finished watching Long Way Down last night (me for the second time). We love Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s motorcycle rides around the world. We are road trip junkies ourselves (and I have a completely understandable man-crush on Ewan. I just think we should be friends.). There’s a part when they are in Kenya and visit a school that was attacked by guerrilla fighters in 2005. The older children escaped into the bush, but 22 small children who had no idea the evil of man were slaughtered. It was almost unwatchable. McGregor and Boorman serve as ambassadors for UNICEF, so there is value in telling these stories. It’s just a crushing reminder that from Rawanda to Sandy Hook innocent children are randomly used as targets for somebody else’s sociopathy.

These images are so much more meaningful now that I have a child. How can any parent view scenes of children starving and not be moved to action? I was at the Live Aid concert in London in 1985 and it was really great show, feed the world, blah, blah, blah. Bring out Bowie! It was really about a 4 month out girl, just like mine, dying in her mother’s arms. How do we let this happen over and over again?

I think about how my safe my daughter is in comparison to many of her peers. She has food and stable home. She will have access to clean water and an education. There are no bombs coming her way. She will still have to deal the the ugliness of patriarchy. Portland is one of the busiest hubs of sex trafficking in America. But she’ll have choices that girls in India and Thailand won’t. I want her to know about those girls and that their struggle should also be hers.


Malala Yousafzai is a true hero. I’m going to put a picture of her in Cozy’s room today. For simply trying to get an education in Pakistan, she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban (You want a gang of sexist douchebags, the Taliban are King Bros). Now she is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In accepting the award today, she said, “It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.”

Kalish Satyarthi is no slouch either. His work on child labor around the world led to the creation of a labor standard known as Convention 182. It doesn’t end child labor (Wal-Mart would go out of business), but it does help to discourage some of the most abusive practices in the global market. And it should be pointed out child labor typically means girl labor that comes with a wide range of concurrent abuses of females.

So maybe today people will see this story and spend a little more time on it than the “Royals” in New York or Mark Wahlberg’s crusade to clear his own name. Maybe they will think about the children around the world and how it connects to their own parenthood. I don’t know. I just want to have a day to imagine the tide turning.