President Barack Obama signed a slew of bills into law during the lame-duck session of Congress and was dubbed the "Comeback Kid" amid a flurry of fawning press reports. In the hail of this surprise bipartisanship, though, the one issue over which Democrats and Republicans always agree, war, was completely ignored. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in U.S. history, and 2010 has seen the highest number of U.S. and NATO soldiers killed.
White poppies. Sometimes something rings a little bell amid the gloom, like a bird singing after a catastrophe, or a light in a raging storm. It's a symbol of peace, first introduced in Britain by the Co-operative Women's Guild in 1936. The notion that hope for peace might live, however, is apparently so outlandish that the symbol is little known and only makes rare appearances, as it did in P.E.I. this Remembrance Day, and always seems to upset someone.
Just days away from crucial midterm elections, WikiLeaks, the whistle-blower website, unveiled the largest classified military leak in history. Almost 400,000 secret Pentagon documents relating to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq were made available online. The documents, in excruciating detail, portray the daily torrent of violence, murder, rape and torture to which Iraqis have been subjected since George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished." The WikiLeaks release, dubbed "The Iraq War Logs," has been topping the headlines in Europe. But in the U.S., it barely warranted a mention on the agenda-setting Sunday talk shows.
John le Carré, the former British spy turned spy novelist, has some grave words for Tony Blair. More than seven years after the invasion of Iraq, the former British prime minister, now out of office and touring the world pushing his political memoir, is encountering serious protests at his book signings.
"I can't understand that Blair has an afterlife at all. It seems to me that any politician who takes his country to war under false pretenses has committed the ultimate sin," he told me when I sat down with le Carré recently in London. "We've caused irreparable damage in the Middle East. I think we shall pay for it for a long time."
The ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States should serve as a moment to reflect on tolerance. It should be a day of peace. Yet the rising anti-Muslim fervour here, together with the continuing U.S. military occupation of Iraq and the escalating war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan), all fuel the belief that the U.S. really is at war with Islam.
September 11, 2001, united the world against terrorism. Everyone, it seemed, was with the United States, standing in solidarity with the victims, with the families who lost loved ones. The day will be remembered for generations to come, for the notorious act of coordinated mass murder. But that was not the first Sept. 11 to be associated with terror:
In 2003, the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq on false pretenses and left the country in ruins almost a decade later, creating the conditions for ISIL’s ascension in the region.
Now the U.S. is spearheading a campaign to return to Iraq and enter Syria to fight off ISIL. Canada has heeded its neighbour’s call for support and is already on the ground “helping” with the mission. Canadian reinforcement for U.S. imperial endevours around the world is standard procedure, but Canada has its very own imperial strategy as well. A new foreign policy stance has led to interventions in Afghanistan, Haiti, Libya, and Mali, among other places.
There were 8,920,000 military veterans in the United States as of last June, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sometime last Sunday or Monday, hours before Veterans Day began, that number dropped by one, when Tomas Young died at home in Seattle, with his wife by his side. He was one of many soldiers who were sent to Iraq and were grievously injured there.
The public may know more about Tomas Young than about most veterans, thanks to the remarkable documentary Body of War, directed and produced by legendary talk-show host Phil Donahue and filmmaker Ellen Spiro. His journey, his struggle and now his death follow an arc along the tragic U.S. wars and occupations in this post-9/11 world.