“Justice has been done,” said President Obama.
“Justice has been done.”
“Justice has been done.”
Justice has been done!? Justice!? Justice?? For the last ten years, we’ve been engaged in an exercise of justice? That’s what you call what we’ve been doing?
Are we supposed to take out a large magnifying glass and a delicate pair of tweezers and from within a bottomless pool of blood, gore, death, suffering, and devastated economies, isolate one raid that killed Osama bin Laden . . . and then celebrate that “justice has been done?”
Real justice and a real call for celebration would have been to treat the attacks of September 11, 2001 for what they were, a massive, international criminal act and then set about dealing with it as we would any massive international crime — using international police forces to identify suspects, apprehend them, charge them, try them, and punish the guilty. And we could have secured more than justice.
On September 12, 2001, a grieving world stood in full sympathy alongside the U.S., ready to assist. America, looked up to by so many, could have led the world into a new day where nations work together to prove once and for all that war is not the answer. Justice and so much more were within our reach.
Ah, but our government leaders weren’t interested in justice. They were interested in taking advantage of a rare “opportunity” to forcibly expand the Empire into a strategic corner of the world, no matter the cost in blood or treasure. That’s what we’ve been doing for a decade after Osama bin Laden became infamous. Of the millions of tragedies we could count in this past decade we can now add one more: May 2, 2011 will be remembered as an historical footnote for the day bin Laden, his wife, and a handful of aides were killed. The much larger story will be that millions of innocent people were killed, wounded, orphaned, and displaced; ethnic and religious hatreds were fanned into wildfires; cities and towns from Maine to California grieved the death or the disfigured crippling of a loved one; our entire economy was thrown into chaos — because we spent over a trillion dollars not pursuing justice, but empire.
Collateral damage? That foul term, come to popularity in these wars, includes every extended family of a war casualty, every city and state struggling to forestall bankruptcy and still provide fire protection, police, schools, medical services, libraries. . .
In fact, it is impossible to understand the cost of a decade of Empire’s wars in the aggregate. It is simply beyond human comprehension, and for good reason — it would send us into shock if we were to grasp it. The only way we can get a taste of it is to stop for a moment and feel a mother’s pain as she’s handed a folded flag at graveside; visit, ghost-like, a mud-brick home in the middle of the night in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan and sit quietly with sobbing parents trying to make sense of why their youngest child was just incinerated by a drone strike and their oldest poisoned by the only water there was to drink; listen to the 50-year-old father from Ohio cry because he has just been thrown out of work and his family is soon to be thrown out of their home.
If every American tried this exercise in the quiet of every night for only two weeks, a tsunami of grief and righteous anger would spring from every town, overcoming every political institution in its path until our country was finally set on a direction to where the needs of common people matter more than the dreams of war profiteers or craven politicians doing the bidding of Empire.
Then we could truly say that justice was being done.
Mike Ferner is a writer from Ohio and former President of Veterans for Peace. He may be contacted at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.