This Tuesday, a horrifying but unsurprising announcement came from Yemen. Once again, a Saudi drone strike missed its target, this time blowing up part of a hospital. The blast killed seven people, of whom four were children. Among the dead are a health worker and the worker’s two kids.
In related news, the United States continued to help the Saudis with air force training. We’re supplying them with arms, training, and in some cases, ground troops that fought on the side of Al Qaeda. With the terrorist group’s own fighters joining a Saudi coalition and fighting alongside the United States, it’s clear that we are indeed on the same side as the terrorists in this particular battle. Moreover, an ever-increasing amount of information is proving that we fund the Saudis militarily and sell them weapons, but they don’t always actually pay us what they owe, leaving burdens on Americans. Moreover, the Department of Defense has failed to collect payments for plane fuel, placing even more wartime expenses on taxpayers. They continue to strike targets that we advise against, but we continue to aid and train them. In fact, I pay them personally.
Every time I pay a federal tax, I supply Saudi Arabia with a little bit of cash. And with some of that cash, they build drones that will kill soldiers and civilians alike. The bombs hit children on a bus to summer camp, hospitals, weddings, and mosques, and that’s something that I have to live with for the rest of my life. At least I still have one; it’s a lot more than far too many in Yemen and across the globe can say, thanks to the destructive actions of the United States military.
Is There a Way Out?
In such a dark reality, is escape possible? I touched upon this subject in a previous work, concluding that it was not, but I now believe I was wrong.
The most obvious way to absolve personal moral blame, or so it seems, is to stop paying taxes. Thoreau was a strong proponent of this idea, going to jail for his own antiwar beliefs. But while he sat in his cell, the war raged on. Mexicans and Americans alike fell victim to the bullet and not a thing he did stopped it. Sure, Thoreau may have left jail with a clean conscience, but what did it matter? I highly doubt that the men dying really cared whether a Massachusetts transcendentalist recluse opposed the cause.
Interestingly, Thoreau actually holds these positions quite closely in regards to voting. Famously, he asserts in Civil Disobedience that voting for the right thing and hoping it wins is a passive form of protest that accomplishes nothing. I would take it a step further, saying that it is morally wrong to support another person’s quest for power over others. But regardless, Thoreau’s message about voting also applies to tax evasion. The United States will probably send someone after you to lock you in a cage and still get funding. Through you or through the money press, the war will receive its funding, you’ll be in a cage contributing nothing, and people will keep dying.
Though the climate today is vastly different than Thoreau’s, I see no reason why these same principles cannot apply. Neither voting nor tax evasion provides valuable change; the latter at least gives a clean conscience, but I’m sure the war victims don’t really care whether you or your neighbor bought the artillery that killed them.
The Best Solution
So, neither support nor opposition really appears to save lives. What, then, is the most preferable way of action? It pains me horribly that the answer to this is, in most cases, to continue paying for the bombs. I extend my deepest and most sincere apology and condolences to everyone who my money has wronged, from the seven in that hospital to the 50 on a school bus our bombs hit last year to the 1,000 Americans that police kill every year to the 500,000 wartime deaths in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq in the 21st Century, half of whom were civilians, to the friends and families of those in each of these tragedies. I expect neither recognition nor acceptance of my statement, for it does nothing to bring these people back. But I hope that my actions and voice may lead to the prevention of many more senseless deaths.
Refusal to pay taxes is an honorable move, but not one that usually leads anywhere. If one can coordinate it so that he or she is nearly undetectable, so be it, but in the ever-expanding surveillance state, this is quite difficult. And even then, you clean your own conscience without making a difference in someone else’s life. If my going to jail for a little while would prevent some of these mass deaths, it would be no choice at all; starving the state of its resources would be an obvious solution. But as that is not the case, something is missing: taking real action.
How to Make a Difference
Turning the United States into a land that does not slaughter children really should be the baseline. Unfortunately, that doesn’t reflect reality. The fact that this is where we are today speaks multitudes about the priorities of those in power; nonetheless, it’s the way things are. No normative statements of “this shouldn’t be” or “this is wrong” alone will change reality, so here I am.
The first step in making a tangible difference is to bring awareness to the situation. Simply put, someone cannot (or is extremely unlikely to) take action against something they either don’t know exists or don’t think is a problem. When these stories of heartbreak and wrongdoing surface, spread them like wildfire because you can’t guarantee that anyone else will.
Even in Tuesday’s hospital bombing, the mainstream media largely ignored it. The only major national outlet to put out a story was the Washington Post, and there was no mention that American funds ultimately went towards the attack. It wasn’t the focus of the article, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it clearly shows the need to spread awareness anytime the truth surfaces.
The Chain of Killing: A Weak Link?
Once more people know the scope of wrongdoing, then they may take action against it. In order for the bombs to go through and reach their target, a number of things must occur.
- The state must collect tax revenue (or print or otherwise obtain funds) for the bombs.
- They must have a contract to purchase the bombs that a weapons company such as Lockheed Martin (which most Senators have taken money from) makes.
- Rulers must instruct the military to act accordingly. In this case, they train Saudi Arabia and supply them more money and arms.
- The military must follow these orders.
Unfortunately, none of these chains is particularly easy to attack, but some have more room for progress than others. The first is nearly impossible, as I’ve already stated.
The second is unlikely, considering they donated to campaigns that would will 85% of the seats of Congress in 2018 alone. But standing against those who work for Lockheed Martin and other military industrial complex corporations would certainly be a way forward. Pledging yourself not to work there and getting others to do the same guarantees that you will not be part of the problem, and may be part of the solution. If the company can’t make the bombs, the military doesn’t get them. Inform those you care about of the evils and that “doing your job” does not excuse creating weapons of war for an empire. Unlike tax evasion, you can leave this position without any risk of imprisonment, and thankfully, jobs are plentiful right now.
I have little faith that rulers will stop aggressing against other nations, making the third nearly impossible as well. The United States has intervened militarily in every habitable continent, most of them many times.
Starving the Military
The last link is quite similar to the second in nature and difficulty to weaken. It requires the military to be staffed and have people willing to follow orders. So, my directive is as follows: do not join the military, and if you do, do not follow orders that will lead to civilian deaths. Encourage others to do the same, and recognize that doing a job is no excuse for killing or training others to kill.
Once again, it’s highly improbable that this will have a large-scale effect. But even one person may make the difference between another civilian spared. With Green Berets currently fighting with Al Qaeda against the Houthis in Yemen, it’s certainly a real issue.
If the corps itself was smaller, there’s a chance that there would be fewer deployments in situations politicians don’t think the draft is necessary. And if a person back home refused to kill innocents, well, there may have been a few more of them. Don’t do their dirty work for them.
Fewer Participants, Fewer Burdens
Not a single course of action is easy, but it doesn’t mean there’s no way out. The path to peace starts with the individual, and I firmly believe that even a small difference is better than no difference at all. Our fallen brothers and sisters of the Middle East and our homeland alike deserve at least this. Refusal to cooperate in the entire chain may not break it alone, but activism and awareness will encourage more people to do so. With enough resistance, every chain will eventually falter.
This is how I can live with the knowledge that I funded many of those deaths. Though it may forever weigh my conscience, this is an irremovable burden. But the fewer people participate in the chain, the fewer burdens will exist in the future, truly making a difference to whom it matters most: those in line to be the next victims. By taking action and refusing to cooperate, our apologies may finally mean something.
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