When is the next war?
Even though today marks 10 years since the United States invaded Iraq, the American military machine moves only forward, ever forward, which means the question of our next war is not a matter of if, but when.
When will our government wage its next war?
Because it's coming. Unless we the people are able to transform ourselves into a citizenry that thinks critically and realizes that patriotism often means resistance, sooner or later, one way or another, we will be at war again.
Why? Because our government chooses to spend more money on its military than every other nation on earth. Combined.
"Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year" writes Jill Lepore with the New Yorker. "More, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis."
This therefore guarantees perpetual warfare, as no nation -- no budget anywhere -- will ignore its largest investment.
Ten years ago, the United States invaded Iraq greased on a plate of deception, lies and propaganda swallowed whole by the American public.
Weapons of mass destruction.
Yellow cake uranium.
Al-Qaida and Iraq and the Axis of Evil.
Torture as legal and ethical.
We ate it whole, and it has cost us: $2 trillion in war costs, according to a Brown University report.
Veterans, shattered, and committing suicide at an estimated rate of 22 per day.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent and dead Iraqi civilians.
"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators," then-Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC in 2003.
We've morally bankrupted ourselves, and inflicted amounts of violence so exquisitely large that only heaven itself can comprehend it.
One day, sooner or later, it will unfold again. Because that's what we do in America: We wage war.
War on drugs. Poverty. Crime. Immigration. We suffer from what writer Arundhati Roy calls "psychopathic violence."
"There is a connection," she told Democracy Now! on Monday, "between all these wars and people being thrown out of their homes in this country."
In both, we invest in things that damage instead of things that give life.
War is a distortion of truth, preceded by a distortion of language. Humans created in the image of God become "collateral damage."
"I don't do body counts," then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told CBS News in 2002.
How will we be judged for such recklessness?
In the hot days that followed Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush went to Congress and asked for a blank check: the ability to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against any and all groups associated with the Twin Towers attack.
The resolution passed 98-0 in the Senate, and 420-1 in the House of Representatives.
Only one person voted against it.
Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California.
"I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States," she said in her House floor speech.
For her lone vote, Lee received so many death threats that she needed 24-hour-a-day Capitol Police security.
Simply because she dissented. Under such mob-think conditions, war-making becomes easy.
Today, we ought to apologize to the world for such a criminal war. We ought to repent, pledging to invest $2 trillion in programs that provide clean drinking water to the billions without it and end the preventable deaths of the roughly 20,000 global children who die each day -- the daily equivalent of 1,000 Sandy Hook massacres -- from things like malaria, malnutrition, bad water.
Or maybe invest it in all the things we need here, at home.
Of course, that won't happen.
But our next war will.
David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...