Climate Corner: United States military bears responsibility for global woes

Dec 25, 2021

Aaron Dunbar

“Make no mistake: no military on the face of the earth works harder to avoid civilian casualties than the U.S. military.”

These were the words of Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby after a U.S. drone strike killed Zemari Ahmadi, age 43; his children Zamir (age 20), Faisal (age 16), and Farzad (age 10); his relative Ahmad Naser (age 30); three of his nephews, Benjamin (age 6), Arwin (age 7), and Hayat (age 2); and two girls, Somaya (age 3) and Malika (age 3.)

A family of civilians, and U.S. allies at that, mistaken for Islamic State operatives and murdered by our government for the unforgivable crime of loading bottles of water into their Toyota Corolla, and looking a little bit too much like terrorists hauling bombs from a height of thousands of feet in the air.

Ramin Yousafi, a relative of those murdered, reported that “They are so burned out we cannot identify their bodies, their faces.”

U.S. Central Command went on to lie about “successfully hitting” their target and that it had “no indication” of civilian casualties, and would likely have maintained this line had it not been for in-depth reporting from the New York Times and the Washington Post, providing evidence to the contrary.

The Pentagon, in what was surely an impartial investigation of their own mass slaughter of children, later reported that “no violation of law, including the Law of War,” had taken place.

The only inference one can possibly make from this conclusion, that no one at all is to be held accountable for the horrific aerial murder of ten civilians and seven children, is that the war machine is functioning exactly as it should be.

These frequent incidents of mass civilian casualties are not a bug, but a feature.

Just days ago, the New York Times reported that a top-secret U.S. military unit known as “Talon Anvil” repeatedly and knowingly ignored safeguards by striking human population centers in Syria, killing farmers in their fields, children playing in the streets, and civilians attempting to take refuge from the fighting. The unit’s horrific actions were reported to superiors up the chain of command, but were routinely ignored.

Astonishingly, military officials have explicitly said that they refuse to do body counts of civilians killed by our armed forces. Indeed, our government seems far more interested in punishing those who expose the slaughter of innocents than reprimanding those war criminals actually responsible for the carnage.

Air Force veteran Daniel Hale, who leaked classified documents revealing a list of civilian casualties that would constitute multiple war crimes if proven, is currently languishing in a federal prison for revealing the truth. The CIA, meanwhile, actively plotted to assassinate journalist Julian Assange under the Trump administration, for his role in exposing war crimes in Iraq.

In 2022, the United States will spend $768.2 billion on its so-called national defense, more than the next eleven countries combined. With this grotesque sum of money we fund a globe-spanning death squad responsible for the indiscriminate destruction of human life, which answers neither to the taxpayers who fund it, nor seemingly to any actual governing body whatsoever.

It is absolutely infuriating to watch as our planet falls apart due to runaway anthropogenic climate change, and incorrigible corporate hacks like Joe Manchin weep crocodile tears about how we’re spending entirely too much money on trying to keep the human race from extinction. Meanwhile, he and every other politician in the country, save the most outspoken “radical” leftists and the occasional stopped-clock libertarian, are more than happy to continue writing out blank checks to the Pentagon to engage in endless, mindless bloodshed around the world, carrying out their profitable forever wars with absolutely no one holding them accountable for their actions.

Not only does our out-of-control military rob the nation of crucial resources that are desperately needed to combat the climate crisis, but their actions themselves contribute horrendously to global heating.

The Pentagon is among the largest polluters in history, with its emissions surpassing as many as 140 entire countries. If our military were its own nation, it would be the 47th largest emitter in the world based solely on its fuel usage. Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was confronted with these facts by a climate change activist at COP26, over her support for increasing the U.S. military budget.

“National security advisors all tell us that the climate crisis is a national security matter,” Pelosi replied, going on to mention the threat of “migration,” with the implication that our military will be essential in abusing the climate refugees we’re directly responsible for displacing.

The logic on display here is mind-boggling, and tracks perfectly with America’s long, bloody tradition of forever wars. Essentially, the Pentagon pursues its “interests” around the globe and destabilizes region after region, creating a multitude of threats in its wake and then justifying its continued, bloated existence by claiming that it’s necessary in order to combat the very threats it helped to manifest. The playbook here is perfectly identical with regard to climate change, justifying runaway military spending to combat climate threats, even as our military’s actions directly produce those threats by playing an outsized role in the heating of our planet.

It’s been a common refrain among climate change activists that we need a “World War II-sized public response” to adequately counteract the climate crisis.

In today’s dollars, the United States spent about $4.1 trillion in the Second World War. Assuming my back-of-the-envelope math is correct, this means that in the past six years alone, we’ve spent about as much money on our military as we did during all of World War II. The amount being proposed for climate spending in President Biden’s Build Back Better program (which is already laughably small and woefully inadequate) is hardly even a fraction of what we waste on our military over the same period of time, yet lawmakers across the political spectrum treat it like some exorbitant pork spending that will lead us to financial ruin.

We simply cannot go on like this any longer.

In the lasting words of President Eisenhower, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Our bloodthirsty addiction to war cannot be sustained any longer. If Americans want any kind of decent future for their children on this planet, then they must make a crucial decision in 2022 and the years to come: their war machine, or the world.


Aaron Dunbar is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.