Columnist: War, which is never inevitable, is a lie
May 12, 2016
"Power tends to confuse itself with virtue, and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations … to remake them, that is, in its own shining image." — former U.S. Sen. William Fulbright
I just finished "War is a Lie" by peace activist David Swanson, and it really fired up my Quaker pacifist beliefs. I defy you to read his book and not conclude that the next time war is proposed, we better look for alternatives.
Particularly foolish, of course, is the idea of a "war on terror." Terrorism is both an idea and a method. It is a way that the powerless can combat the powerful. And as long as the powerful throw their weight around, the powerless are likely to resort to terrorism.
Of course we cannot bomb either an idea or a method. And the more we try to bomb the people we think are terrorists, the more we kill innocent civilians, not to mention destroying their homes. It was reliably reported, for example, that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed 29 suspected terrorists and 1,150 civilians. No really reliable figures are reported for other countries, but it is well known that many, many more innocents were killed than terrorists.
Now we cannot be surprised that the friends and relatives of these murdered civilians, who were trying to mind their own business, take up arms as terrorists in revenge. This is a fool's game.
But so are conventional wars seen to be fool's games when examined closely. Even World War II, which everyone brings up to prove not all wars are avoidable, was far from inevitable. Hitler's rise to power had two main causes.
The first was the sheer folly of the British and French after WW I in demanding steeper reparations payments than Germany could ever pay, thus occasioning the hyperinflation and collapse of the German economy. The second was the paralysis of the German Weimar Republic because of the hard split between the right and left. The right feared the left so much that rather than negotiate with them, it invited Hitler to share power. Hitler needed only that foot in the door to take over.
Then, because he wanted to enter the war, Roosevelt deliberately provoked Japan into attacking us. And we cannot get all righteous about the Jews. We refused to take those trying to leave before the war as we were begged to do.
Swanson points out that with "wars or warlike actions, the U.S. has overthrown governments in Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Phillipines, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq … the Congo (1960), Ecuador (1961 and '63), Brazil (1961 and '64), the Dominican Republic (1961 and '63), Greece (1965 and '67), Bolivia (1964 and '71), El Salvador (1961), Indonesia (1965). Ghana (1966) and of course Haiti (1991 and 2004)."
We did not fight against evil; mostly we fought because of what we perceived to be our economic interests. "We've replaced democracy with dictatorship, dictatorship with chaos, and local rule with U. S. domination and occupation… In most cases, including Iran and Iraq, U. S. invasion and U.S.-backed coups have led to severe repression, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, corruption and prolonged setbacks for the democratic aspirations of ordinary people."
And in most, if not all, cases our government lied to us about the reason or necessity for the war or in the case of the covert actions, denied its responsibility. So war is a lie because it is never really inevitable, never ends evil and actually only leads to more wars.
If we don't figure out how to get on a more intelligent path, if we don't stop throwing our power around and bullying other countries, the military/industrial complex will not only bankrupt us, it will play a dominant role in making the planet uninhabitable.
The U.S. military is the "world's worst polluter, belching, dumping and spilling more pesticides, defoliants, solvents, petroleum, lead, mercury and depleted uranium than the five biggest American chemical companies combined." And for this the U.S. taxpayer gives the military more than half of our federal government's discretionary spending.
And here I have to end with the fact that Hillary Clinton is a very hawkish lover of our military power and of our excessive interventionism.
That's another reason I'm for Bernie Sanders, who has said he is not a fan of regime change, especially in the absence of any certainty as to what would replace that regime.
Mary Boland is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother and a longtime resident of Carbondale. Her column appears on the second Thursday of each month.