As our nation debates the merits of President Trump’s call for withdrawing US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, absent from the debate is the more pernicious aspect of US military involvement overseas: its air wars. Trump’s announcement and General Mattis’ resignation should unleash a national discussion about US involvement in overseas conflicts, but no evaluation can be meaningful without a clear understanding of the violence that US air wars have unleashed on the rest of the world for the past 17 years.
By our calculations, in this “war on terror,” the US and its allies have dropped a staggering 291,880 bombs and missiles on other countries — and that is just a minimum number of confirmed strikes.
As we contemplate that overwhelming number, let’s keep in mind that these strikes represent lives snuffed out, people maimed for life, families torn apart, homes and infrastructure demolished, taxpayer money squandered and resentment that only engenders more violence.
After the horrific crimes of September 11, 2001, Congress was quick to pass a sweeping Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). While three presidents have claimed that the 2001 AUMF legally justifies these endless wars as a response to the crimes of 9/11, no serious reading of the Authorization could interpret it that way. What it actually says is:
“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
As former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz told NPR a week after 9/11, “It is never a legitimate response to punish people…