Cook: Once again, never again

Cook: Once again, never again

September 8th, 2013 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.

According to historian William Blum, the U.S. government has bombed or aided in bombing the following nations since 1945:

Korea and China in the 1950s. Guatemala in 1954. Indonesia four years later.

Cuba. Guatemala again in 1960.

Congo. Laos. Then Vietnam, and 12 years of bombing.

Cambodia. Guatemala again. Grenada.

Lebanon. Libya. El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s. Iran and Panama.

Iraq and the First Gulf War.

Kuwait, then Somalia, Bosnia and Sudan.

Afghanhistan in 1998. Yugoslavia in 1999. Yemen in 2002.

Then, the War on Terror: Iraq and the Second Gulf War, Afghanistan, and then Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen and Libya in 2011.

And Syria, it seems, will be next.

"It's the camel's nose," my friend said.

The old fable tells of a desert camel nudging his nose under the tent door. At first, it's just the nose. Then, a bit more nose, then the head, neck and soon ...

"The whole camel is inside the tent," my friend finished.

The U.S. government will not bomb Syria simply out of its stated concern for Syrians (were that the case, we would have first intervened in a dozen other humanitarian crises); we will bomb to get a nose-hold into that region, using this bombing as a pretext for war against Iran. Syria is the smokescreen, the Trojan horse, the first sniff inside the tent.

"This has Tonkin Gulf written all over it," Pat Buchanan said on "The McLaughlin Group" this summer.

After a decade of war, and the growing understanding that the billions spent on war-making overseas could have been spent in nation-building here, it seems more and more Americans are opposed to any and all action in Syria.

"My phone calls, emails, and faxes are running 96 percent no," Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, told The Huffington Post and other reporters last week. "I've never even encountered an issue where you had 96 percent agreement."

How does a grass-roots, liberal, community organizer-turned-senator become a president who is willing to sidestep Congress to conduct a bombing campaign like this? Five years ago, no one would have predicted Obama to behave like this. It's as if a metamorphosis occurs in the White House: In Kafka's world, men were turned into cockroaches; in the Oval Office, the presidents become war-makers.

(See above list.)

It's easy to see why. When our leaders choose to spend more on its military than any nation on earth ($718 billion in 2011, according to the Washington Post), then at some point, that government will use those weapons. They weren't bought to sit idle and rust.

Thankfully, this is only part of the story.

"No nation has so vast a literature on nonviolence as America," wrote former Washington Post columnist and peace educator Colman McCarthy.

Next to our ledger of bombings is a ledger of peace-making; America has influenced the world in nonviolent thought and action perhaps more than any other country. Our history, a nonviolent one as well.

"The United States has more often been teacher than student in the history of the nonviolent idea," wrote Staughton and Alice Lynd in their excellent "Nonviolence in America."

Here then is a second timeline, the exact opposite of the one that began this column.

William Penn and his 17th century colonial peace-making. John Woolman. The Sons of Liberty.

The abolitionists: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, the Grimke sisters, Adin Ballou, Thoreau.

The 20th century revolution of Emma Goldman. William James and his moral equivalent of war. The suffragists and their hunger strikes. Jane Addams. Those who resisted World War I.

The wisdom of A.J. Muste. The immeasurable legacy of the civil rights movement. The Berrigan brothers and anti-Vietnam protests. The witness of Dorothy Day, Helen Prejean, Thomas Merton.

Cesar Chavez and Dave Dellinger. Cornel West and Howard Zinn. Tim DeChristopher, Butterfly Hill, Colin Beavan.

And the thousands upon thousands of people alongside them.

Does this alternative timeline surprise you? That alongside the bombs, we have given the world an immeasurable contribution of peace-making?

It's true.

And it causes me to make this prediction: The day will come when Americans will lead the global effort in the abolition of warfare. The end of war, birthed by the people of the United States.

Were our nation not so colossal and monumental, then this prediction would not come true. But with such size -- we're like a giant on a tightrope, swaying to one side or the other -- comes the possibility of enormous transformation. Our weakness becomes our strength.

The more we bomb, the more potential to see the opposite of bombing.

What part of America will the next 50 years of the timeline reflect?

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.