Roses Dressed in Black

On September 19, 2001, eight days after 9/11, as the leaders of both parties were already pounding a frenzied drumbeat of war, a diverse group of concerned Americans released a warning about the long-term consequences of a military response. Among them were veteran civil rights activists, faith leaders, and public intellectuals, including Rosa Parks, Harry Belafonte, and Palestinian-American Edward Said. Rare public opponents of the drive to war at the time, they wrote with level-headed clarity:

“We foresee that a military response would not end the terror. Rather, it would spark a cycle of escalating violence, the loss of innocent lives, and new acts of terrorism… Our best chance for preventing such devastating acts of terror is to act decisively and cooperatively as part of a community of nations within the framework of international law… and work for justice at home and abroad.”

Twenty-three years and more than two wars later, this statement reads as a tragic footnote to America’s Global War on Terror that left an entire region of the planet immiserated. It contributed to the direct and indirect deaths of close to 4.5 million people, while costing Americans almost $9 trillion and counting.

The situation is certainly different today. Still, over the last few weeks, those prophetic words, now 22 years old, have been haunting me, as the U.S. war machine kicks into ever higher gear following the horrific Hamas massacre of Israeli civilians and the brutal intensification of the decades-long Israeli siege of civilians in Gaza. Sadly, the words and actions of our nation’s leaders have revealed a staggering, even willful, historical amnesia about the disastrous repercussions of America’s twenty-first-century war-mongering.

Read the full piece in TomDispatch.