Vested in War

by Maniza Naqvi Lifevest

Once again, as has always been the case come fall; September and October, all these past fifteen years and more, the so called leaders of the world have resolved to continue to bomb and bomb and bomb in order to save humanity. That's all they've got going for themselves, bombs. In the name of terrorism.

The Pentagon and its collaborators mainly in Hollywood, Media, Politics, Development and so forth, as the marketing agents for weapons manufacturers, have succeeded in only one project: the branding of a religion and therefore over 2 billion people, as being something else. Enemy combatants. In the name of vests. A vest trumps, drones, bombs, cruise missiles, uranium depleted ammunition, white phosphorus bombings. A vest.

This branding conversation, this fall too, remains and is in fact dialing up to maximize war profits and keep the world on the edge of suicide. As migrants fled war, and continued to don life vests and braved the seas between Turkey and Western Europe trying to wash up alive onto the shores of Greece to then walk further northward to refuge and away from war, and the latest pilgrims to become victims of the Saudis, died in their hundreds during the Hajj in Mecca, another set of migrants and pilgrims made their annual pilgrimage to the Mecca for diplomacy to the headquarters of the UN in New York to agree on one thing—more war, more bombings. The solutions, put forth, no matter what, revolve around religion and bombings. The Holy Roman Empire, it seems is on the rise, still glittering in the vestments of old.

A few weeks ago as summer waned, and another crisis dawned, the Pope like a new product launched in September, donned his vestments of holiness and as if like the don of all such dons presided over a multi-faith ceremony at the monument for the World Trade Center in New York and earlier in Washington DC spoke to the Americans by speaking to the Congress. But never once during his speeches directed to the Americans did he use the word war or say ‘Stop war now.' He spoke of peace, spoke of conflict, spoke of poverty, of excess of wealth, spoke of charity, spoke about the climate, but not once the word war. He never uttered the word war in the context of today's wars. Oh right, I stand corrected he mentioned the Great War as in World War in quoting a sentence by a previous Pope. That's it. And please keep in mind that those wars aren't referred to as the Great Conflict One and the Great Conflict Two. They are called wars. That means something. That means something terrible. Words matter. They mean things. The world's most weapon wealthy and weapon powerful and weapon producing nation is at War. It is not at a conflict. It is at War. Conflict suggests, that those involved may be involved in resolving conflict, conflicted—they could be peacemakers. They are not. They are warmongers, warriors and they are involved in making War. They are vested, financial, economically, industrially, psychologically, emotionally, politically, religiously in war. They are vested in war.

Is it so impractical, too unreasonable and idealistic to ask that the word War be used for War? More unreasonable than believing in God? More unreasonable than believing in the Pope's agency? Believing in God, we have no problem with—believing that he speaks for God—no problem—having him address a secular institution such as the Congress—–no problem—but expecting him to say: stop war—that's a problem? Stop war? For him to use the word ‘War'. Because you see there are declarations and resolutions to go to war. Not conflict. There are colleges for War. And there are weapons for war. These are not labeled as colleges, weapons and soldiers for conflict. To expect the Pope to say the word War and ask him to say Stop War might be like expecting the Pope and other religious headmen to accept women as equal to men. Absurd.

The New York Times carried a front page article on Sunday September 27, 2015 with an expose on ‘A world of smugglers, inner tubes and remote launch sites'. You would think that this was about the war industry and the sale of weapons. Or drugs. No, it is not. It is about the brisk sale of life vests at US$13 a piece and, the industry of trafficking and transporting refugees fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan from the shores of Turkey to Greece. (here) The New York Times and others like it have carried many an article these past fifteen years featuring suicide vests. It has carried countless articles justifying war and yes—making the case for weapons of mass destruction that never were (here). And it has gotten away with it as have all the warmongers. So of course it does not carry a headline or a front page article on the trillion dollar industry of weapons which has and continues to use the image of suicide belts—for the remote launch sites for drone attacks, private armies, carpet bombings and endless war and occupation.

In the name of suicide vests trillions of dollars' worth of a war industry. An image of a suicide vest is used over and over again to justify carpet bombings of villages and towns, drone attacks, the use of phosphorous and uranium laced ammunition, hundreds of thousands, over a million people killed in the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the growth of military bases, the rise of private military corporations, militaries stacked with volunteer soldiers going on their third, fourth and fifth rounds of tours, drone attacks, surveillance—occupation and invasion and walling in of whole peoples—–all in the name of one image—suicide vests.

Life vests—bought and used by desperate, hapless, helpless innocent people—a whole people who have been characterized for years and years by the war machinery as potential suicide bombers wearing suicide vests. And what is it that they do wear? What is it that they have been forced to wear? Life vests is what they put on to escape death and destruction of carpet bombings in their homelands—life vests to stay alive and afloat to take their chances, risk drowning to get away from the bombings and wars in their homelands to places that are safe—to the homelands of the war manufacturers and the sources of aerial bombings that won't stop. Aerial bombings—the manufacture of which remains unquestioned but the pilots of the planes who drop these bombs, and who are lionized by the New York Times with artful photographs. They are the real terrorists and murderers using sophisticated bullets and guns, those killers lionized by Hollywood. The Generals and the CIA and Pentagon and State Department officials who order the kills and who started this endless war, treated as heroes with their endless statements in newspapers and then honored later with professorships at leading Universities. The bombings that they have ordered all in the name of one image of endless destruction, the image of a suicide vest. All of these careers and fortunes are made –launched on this image of a suicide vest. Nary a story on that. No, instead it is the industry of life vests that makes headlines in the papers of the West. Not the industry of weapons—and killing machines that are causing genocide.

In a world on the edge of suicide of decreasing water, increasing drought, war, millions displaced, the powers that be still focus on lies to justify war. I watched on TV, in admiration, the theater, the spectacle, a production fit for a Broadway show in lower Manhattan, just off Broadway. The Pople holding court clad in vestments of power,—as all the world religions paid homage to him the presiding Pope sitting as if on a throne, himself with a murky history related to Operation Candor of US's dirty wars in South America. I watched this Pope and religion and Empire getting a makeover. This Pope, remade into charity and humanity itself, sitting on a throne at a temple on the ruins of the World Trade Center; that ground zero, in whose name a large swathe of the world has become a myriad of ground zeroes, with hundreds and thousands dead, all justified on the basis of an image of a suicide vest, an image that has made trillions of dollars for the war machine. And the chamber music that accompanied Pope Francis as he exited from this theater reminded me of an age passed—still present, renewed of Holy wars of a thousand years ago extended forward a thousand years.

And so the New York Times writes a front page article covering the industry of life vests for refugees,as though it were sordid, instead of focusing on the industry of war, just at the moment that a life vest is thrown once again to war and religion and the manufacturing of what is good and what is evil. And yes a lifeline thrown to fascism fifteen years ago by the branding of one religion to make the case for war—is now beginning to shape up as the monster that it is. The true Monster that it is. And the war crimes of bombing people continue because those who are bombed are after all enemy combatants. Everyone killed by the bombs manufactured by the weapons industry are enemy combatants, accepted and justified as such on the basis of vests, and vestments, while these vested interests keep the world on the edge of suicide.