What you need to know about ending endless wars

January 17, 2020

End endless wars. It's a phrase we're hearing come up more and more in media, from community leaders to talking heads to presidential candidates— and it's a stance we fully embrace in its truest sense.

Which is why we're alarmed to hear "end endless wars" regularly framed in exclusive terms as withdrawal of groundtroops from the Middle East region. The truth is, that's too narrow a scope and obscures the reality of what makes the current state of war endless and ever-expanding, both for the region and elsewhere: airwars.

When you hear "We need to end endless wars" you need to say "I agree. How are you going to end airwars?"

Almost no one is using the term "airwars" to push back against endless war— so what are airwars? And why do we need to talk about them specifically? 

Airwars are a style of warfare focused the use of the sky to direct state violence, either via direct airstrikes or relaying targeting data to ground based forces. This warfare is typically either inadequately covered or under-reported in Western media, and heavily dependent on the military’s version of events for press coverage and civilian casualty counts. Often, airwars are lauded for a “light footprint” because no Western ground troops are involved and the supposed “precision” of technical edges like “smart bombs.” Airwars are the inheritor of a longer legacy of a colonial military strategy called aerial policing— we need to name and oppose airwars precisely because they're under-reported and seen as a “safer,” more “sustainable” means of waging war.

Earlier this month we saw how airwars are used to both continue and escalate wars when the United States used a targeted drone strike to kill General Qassem Soleimani and nine others in Baghdad— and the following week, the US killed 60 civilians in Afghanistan using a targeted drone strike. This week, Russia and the Assad regime conducted air raids over Idlib, killing at least 21 civilians. 

The list doesn’t end there: multiple imperial actors use airwars, most often in conjunction with War on Terror framing, to justify bombing civilians, quelling revolutionary uprisings, and military operations in general. Syria itself can be understood as an international convergence of states each fighting their own War on Terror, bringing to head multiple imperial and authoritarian actors causing waves of humanitarian and political crises. Airwars, though not the only mode of warfare used in Syria, have been a key means of expanding and extending war. And that a common refrain that Syria is too complicated to understand or extend solidarity to is an indication of a crises within the US-based antiwar movement in opposing multiple imperialisms.

The ubiquitousness of airwars and the multiple state actors who use them are a main reason why War Resisters League created the Resisting Airwars program, with the vision to uplift the voices and leadership of people from diasporas of war and conflict from within the United States.

We chose to do this strategically to subvert the dynamics of White Supremacy and US exceptionalism that too often get in the way of doing powerful antiwar work from the United States, usually leaving us removed from crucial antiwar conversations happening around the world and reinforcing racism and Islamophobia at home. 

In keeping our commitment to promote to promote the leadership of people directly impacted by war and militarism, last weekend WRL convened a network gathering of SWANA* diaspora leaders and practitioners from across the US and Canada in Atlanta, Georgia to continue strategizing means to resist and ultimately end airwars. These are community leaders with the vision to navigate the dynamics of militarism at home and abroad, organizers who work in and out of the antiwar space, and people who are actively building the kind of mainstream antiwar movement we desperately need.

Resistance to airwars is not new— people on the frontlines of airwars have been resisting for decades, heroically and at great cost. It's our responsibility as people based in the United States to join our international comrades in a shared vision of liberation and center those most directly impacted by war, accurately reflect the reality of warfare today, and make gains to dismantle the war machine. If anything would feel "new" in this work it's that we are choosing to uplift those who can dismantle White Supremacy inherent within the US antiwar movement and dare to mainstream a truly radical culture of internationalism.

Help us spread the word about our Resisting Airwars program on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, and forward this email to someone who knows there is much work to be done to promote internationalism and combat endless wars from the United States.

We've included some resources below, but there is so much more to know and say about airwars. Tell us what's important to know and read - join our conversation online using #ResistingAirwars.


In solidarity,

Shiyam and the WRL team


*SWANA = Southwest Asia North Africa

Resisting Airwars Resources

Where have airwars happened? Where are airwars happening (not a comprehensive list)

Yemen / Syria / Gaza / Pakistan / Somalia / Afghanistan / Libya / Philippines / Chad / Mali  Niger /  Nigeria /  Sinai

Airwars Monitoring Resources + Reports

Syrian Network for Human Rights
Violations Documentations Center - Syria
Live UA Map
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism Drone Project
Forensic Architecture
Empire.Is - Interactive Map of US Bases
Mwatana - Yemen
Al Mezan - Gaza

First Person Narratives

For Sama - Full Movie
Wounds of Waziristan - Short Film
Let Us Return: The Story of the Chagos Islanders - Short Film
Let the Fire Burn - Full Movie