Thursday, March 05, 2015

Can we handle the truth about our violent country?

As Americans, we love to characterize ourselves as a peace-loving nation that only commits acts of violence in self-defense or to aid our allies. Like so many of our bedtime stories about our country, it is a myth that sounds great in a political stump speech but isn’t borne out by the facts. Here are a few of those nasty, inconvenient facts:

We are a country born of violent revolution, and America has been at war 222 years out of 239 years since 1776.

The 2013 Global Peace Index by Vision of Humanity ranks the United States 100 out of 162 countries, behind countries like Sierra Leone, Mongolia, Brazil, Morocco, and Nicaragua. The organization defines peace as: "Harmony achieved by the absence of war, conflict or violence or fear of the aforementioned."

When the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor in 1898, this was the last push needed to force America into a war with Spain. The explosion and loss of life was blamed on Spanish forces, even though it was actually the result of a smoldering coal bunker fire that melted through a bulkhead into an ammunition locker.

A plan to attack American cities to justify war with Cuba was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962. Rejected by President Kennedy, Operation Northwoods remained classified for 35 years.

In 1964, President Johnson used the Gulf of Tonkin incident, where it was claimed a U.S. ship was attacked by North Vietnam, to greatly escalate our military presence in South Vietnam. Later declassified documents revealed there was no attack on the ship by the North Vietnamese.

America invaded Iraq in 2003 based on claims that the country presided over by Saddam Hussien had concealed weapons of mass destruction, an active nuclear weapons program and was a supporter of al Qaeda, none of which proved to be true.

The A.C. Nielsen Company estimates that the average child will see 8,000 murders on television by the time he or she completes elementary school, and a given child will view over 200,000 acts of violence by the age of 18.

America has a homicide rate of 4.7 murders per 100,000 people, which is one of the highest of all developed countries.

The United States is by far the world's biggest arms exporter.

The U.S. has recently supplied firearms, armored vehicles, and items from a category that includes chemical and riot control agents like tear gas to nations with records of suppressing democratic dissent such as Algeria, Egypt, and Peru.

In 2013, the United States sent Israel at least $196 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters, a category that includes F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, both of which Israel is currently using to attack Gazan homes, offices and farmland. Total military aid sent by the U.S. to Israel stands at $3 billion annually.

America has secretly supported brutal dictatorships around the globe since the end of World War II, from Chili’s Augusto Pinochet to Libya’s Gaddafi to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah.

Since the War on Terror began, 41 men have been targeted for drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. These strikes caused 1,147 deaths, and some of the targets are still believed to be alive. The Council on Foreign Relations estimates that drones have killed 3,674 people outside of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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