by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
The recent U.S. drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s grand military strategist in the Middle East, made me search my archives for an old column. In 2017 I wrote a piece called, “Moral Outrage, Moral Opposition, and When Trump Contemplates War.” I claimed the moral outrage expressed by anti-war protesters in the United States was never moral opposition to war itself.
During the LBJ/Nixon/Vietnam years the anti-war protesters lived during the time of the military draft. The protesters didn’t feel morally obligated to participate in a civil war in another country. Their moral outrage was against the draft, which is not the same thing as moral opposition to U.S. military intervention. So, to prevent future unrest (especially incidents like Kent State) the U.S. government ended the draft and created an all-volunteer army.
At the turn of the century, the Bush/Cheney administration invaded Afghanistan before they invaded Iraq. The Afghan invasion was based on the “Bush doctrine,” an unprecedented doctrine that sanctioned the invasion of sovereign states for harboring terrorists. At the time no serious opposition to the invasion formed because Americans were still morally outraged over 9/11. Plus, the ruling Afghan government wasn’t recognized by the majority of the world’s nations. So, the unprecedented language of the “Bush doctrine” was overlooked because of the insignificance of its target.
I stated that was the time for a serious moral opposition to war but it never materialized.
Success in Afghanistan and the lack of serious opposition to the invasion encouraged the Bush/Cheney administration to invade Iraq, a separate issue, but the Bush/Cheney administration figured if they connected Iraq to 9/11 and Afghanistan, America’s moral outrage would continue in their favor, but that didn’t work. So, the anti-war protesters during the Bush/Cheney/Iraq years were morally outraged at the falsehoods that led to the invasion of Iraq, which is not a moral opposition to war itself.
Then in 2008 the Obama/Biden ticket won the presidency after successfully campaigning to end Bush’s war in Iraq. President Obama kept his promise and withdrew the troops from Iraq, but ISIS emerged, there were still troops in Afghanistan, and a Syrian civil war ensued. The situation got confusing. In 2013 the American Spectator wanted to know who America was at war with. The Spectator wrote, “If you ask President Obama who the U.S. is at war with, he will usually say ‘Al Qaeda,’ the Taliban, and their associated forces. The Spectator asked: “Who are their associated forces?” Then stated the United States was in a cold war with Iran.
At the end of Obama’s presidency, a White House correspondent for The New York Times stated that President Obama has an unexpected legacy of two full terms at war. He wrote: “Obama, the anti-war candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than FDR, LBJ, and Nixon.”
And definitely no moral opposition.
There was another unexpected legacy of the Obama/Biden administration; drone warfare. In 2017, Foreign Affairs Magazine stated, Trump inherited a targeted killing program that was the cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy for the past eight years. (Obama inherited it from his predecessor, also.) Three days into Obama’s presidency, President Obama authorized his first military action: two drone strikes that killed as many as 20 civilians. Two terms and 540 drone attacks later (3,797 killed, 324 civilians), Obama left office after expanding and normalizing the use of armed drones for counterterrorism and close air support situations in non-battlefield settings. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote with concern, “I think this is an issue we—both as a profession of journalist and the public—have accepted without sufficient debate. There is something about assassinations from ten thousand feet that is more acceptable than it would be from one foot, by the bayonet.”
I concluded that column stating, Trump inherited these conflicts (plus the normalization of drone warfare) and when Trump escalates the conflicts all the moral outrage against war will be ignored or dismissed as partisan because serious opposition to war itself failed to develop when it was needed.
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)