The High Cost of War

By Joseph Mulkerin

461,000 civilians were killed in the Iraq war and that’s not even counting those who have died as an indirect result of the conflict since the “official” end of U.S. military operations.  Add to that 28,000 Afghanis in a war which will seemingly never end. In addition, four million were internally displaced from both countries. Hundreds more have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The endless and perpetually amorphous “war on terror” has now gone on so long that an entire generation has grown up never knowing a time when our nation was at peace. As American citizens, nay, as decent human beings we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge these cold brutal facts

What has this war gotten us? In addition to the millions of corpses, an entire region has been destabilized, ISIS has risen to power and we have a new heroin epidemic. All for the price tag of 1.7 trillion dollars. Just remember that the next time anybody asks you how you propose to pay for free college and universal health care. What’s really tragic is that if the candidates in this general election are any indication, this war shows no sign of weakening. Unless Bernie Sanders manages to pull off a miraculous upset, or Hillary Clinton is indicted and forced out of the race, we will be reduced to a choice between two candidates who would make anyone desirous of a more peaceful world shiver. Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness is well-documented - her much vaunted Iraq War vote, her call for an increase in sanctions against Iran, her warm relationship with Henry Kissinger and her typically bellicose speech to AIPAC this past March - all speak volumes as to what her foreign policy would be like as president. Meanwhile Donald Trump’s foreign policy is as sociopathic as one would expect from the orange-faced fascist. From advocating the resumption of waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse,” to calling for reprisal killings against the family members of terrorists, the presumptive GOP nominee has repeatedly made clear that he has absolutely no qualms about committing war crimes. He also claimed recently with zero evidence that the Egypt Air crash was the result of terrorism. That kind of knee-jerk impulsivity in foreign policy decision-making as president could be deadly.

This bleak choice virtually guarantees that war will continue beyond 2016. The longer this conflict endures and the more civilians are killed, the more it benefits groups like ISIS, who are bequeathed fresh propaganda victories. The more terrorist attacks that ISIS launches, the more that hatred against Muslims increases and the likelihood that xenophobic demagogues like Donald Trump in both the U.S. and Europe will benefit. Thus endless war only benefits the forces of reaction. The sad thing is that Obama triumphed over Hillary in 2008 largely because of her Iraq War vote which she would not even apologize for until 2014. Over the course of his presidency, however, he has repeatedly delayed withdrawal to the point that the U.S. will now maintain a permanent troop presence beyond 2017. This is despite Vice-President Biden’s insistence in his 2012 debate that we would be “totally out” by 2014. He has also launched 370 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, vastly expanding the program begun under Bush. According to studies, the vast majority of victims have been civilians. Although the level of support among liberals has decreased somewhat from a high of 77% in February, 2012, to just 52% in May, 2015, a majority still approve of the program. Some have vocally defended it in terms which one would expect to hear from Donald Trump.  As revolting as Trump’s support for torture is the sad fact is that Obama himself gave tacit approval to the program. In 2008, Obama campaigned on a promise to “immediately review” all evidence of criminality in the torture program. In April, 2009, however, Attorney General Eric Holder declared that CIA officials would be shielded from immunity while simultaneously releasing a series of memos which detailed brutal and gruesome torture techniques. If some of the officials who perpetuated these heinous acts had simply been brought up on trial and made an example of we could have set a precedent against future wrongdoing. Instead Obama affirmed a much more grim precedent, one set with Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, which effectively implies that elected officials have carte blanche privilege to break the law. Thus Trump is now able to openly advocate a return to the same barbaric tactics for which the U.S. tried Japanese officers after World War II. 

It is imperative for those of us on the left to make opposition to war a priority. We must make the point that it is immoral and damaging to our own security to wantonly murder civilians in the drone program at a ratio of fifty to one. All this does is create potential recruits for ISIS from people who might not necessarily even agree with their ideology, but just want to avenge the death of loved ones. Already in 2010 Faisal Shahzad, the thwarted Times Square bomber, explicitly stated at his arraignment that opposition to the drone war was one of his motivations. Farea Al-Muslimi is a Yemeni activist who studied in the U.S. and returned to his home village of Wessab where he shared “the friendships and experiences that I described to the Villagers which helped them to understand the America that I know and that I love.” Unfortunately Wessab was struck by a drone which killed 4 victims on April 17, 2013. In congressional testimony he gave a week after the drone attack, Al-Muslimi described the harrowing effect it had on the village’s residents. “What violent extremists previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab.”

Opposition to war can be tied to other domestic issues as well. If we actually implemented Bernie Sanders’s tuition-free college plan fewer incentives would exist for young men and women to join the military for GI benefits. Above all, a concerted grassroots effort has to be made to bring this endless war into the public consciousness. Recently legislation introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-California) to repeal the AUMF was rejected. We should call upon her to reintroduce this legislation and call upon our representatives to vote in favor of it. We should also pressure them to reject the routine defense appropriations bills which fund the military, and engage in direct action against military contractors. A concerted grassroots effort to break the bipartisan consensus in favor of endless war is absolutely vital to ensuring the success of every other movement we care about and arguably to the future of humanity as well.

Joseph Mulkerin is a  DSA member, a freelance journalist and musician. Although he has resided in numerous locales he likes to think of his main home base as Brooklyn.


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Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 77 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link:

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

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July 06, 2017
· 22 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz,
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt,, 608-355-6568.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

July 09, 2017
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You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

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July 11, 2017
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Feminist Working Group

July 12, 2017

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Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
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Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.