It has become commonplace for Congress to ignore the public’s yearnings for peace and to support the Pentagon’s now habitual wars of aggression. Last November’s anti-war vote illustrates this disconnect between public opinion and public policy. War-weary Americans went to the polls believing they were voting for peace but President Obama has instead merely shifted the focus of military action from Iraq to Afghanistan while planning to maintain a major garrison of 50,000 troops in Iraq, hardly a “withdrawal.”
U.S. taxpayers—who already pay more for wars than the rest of the world combined—are not blood-thirsty. They didn’t want any war against Iraq to begin with and have long preferred diplomacy to conflict. In January, 2003, a CBS News/New York Times poll found 63% of Americans wanted President Bush to find a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis compared with just 31% who wanted to intervene militarily.
This great cry for peace, not war, arose despite a shower of lies from the White House that Saddam Hussein threatened America with WMD. As for Afghanistan, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll last February, showed 5l% of respondents opposed to the war in Afghanistan, compared to 47% in favor. Yet, President Obama is plunging ahead against the majority and mindless of the cost to a tottering domestic economy starved for good jobs, good housing, good education, good medical care, and good credit.
Contrast President Obama’s attitude with President Franklin Roosevelt’s careful reading of public opinion in the Thirties that caused him to go slow even in aiding countries threatened by Hitler. FDR never did help the embattled Loyalist government in Madrid fight the insurgent generals led by Franco and their Nazi allies. And he moved slowly coming to Britain’s aid before providing “lend lease” to London. FDR consistently acted in concert with public opinion, reading the lips of an “isolationist” public that did not want to get embroiled in a second European war in 20 years.
The actions of Presidents Bush and Obama that run contrary to public opinion are not unique to America. This disconnect between public and presidential desire recalls the opposition of what likely was a majority of the German people to Hitler in 1939, people who feared to stand up to Hitler and were led to their doom by their Nazi leaders. A joke Germans told at the time asked: “Hitler, Goebbels, and Goering were in a plane that crashed and they were all killed. Who was saved?” The answer: “Germany.”
Back in 1938, ordinary Germans feared Hitler’s aggressiveness would lead to war. Commentator William Shirer, who covered Germany for CBS, wrote in his “Berlin Diary” on Sept. 27, 1938, that when a motorized column paraded through the streets after a Hitler speech, Berliners didn’t bother to watch but crowded into the subways to go home. They “refused to look on” and “the handful that did at the curb (stood) in utter silence unable to find a word of cheer for the flower of youth going off to the glorious war.”
Hitler, Shirer recalled, stood on his balcony “and there weren’t two hundred people in the street or in the great square of the Wilhelmsplatz. Hitler looked grim, then angry, and soon went inside, leaving his troops to parade by unreviewed.” Two hundred onlookers in a city of five million souls! Shirer said what he saw rekindled his faith in the German public because “They are dead set against war.” They were right to be, of course. By the time the war was over, Germany lost 5.5 million men and 1.5 million civilians.
The Pentagon recognizes Americans today do not want war, and has devised ways to circumvent the anti-war movement. There are no conscriptions as during Viet Nam. Today’s oil wars are being fought partly by contractors to hold down official military casualties. The Pentagon is also buying good will by farming out billions in biological warfare research to colleges and universities.
The challenge to Americans today is as formidable as that faced by the German people of 1939. We have a moral obligation to stop the Warfare State.
The robot planes now swooping down on Afghanistan and Pakistan are but crude harbingers of future Pentagon technology that will employ weapons of increasing sophistication directed by remote operators seated at surveillance systems like video gamesters. These operators may employ a variety of ever more lethal and incapacitating weapons—ranging from guided missiles to tungsten poles hurled down from space platforms at supersonic speeds to destroy victims. Moreover, the Pentagon is pouring over a trillion dollars into new research to refine its sophisticated killing systems. And what may be used on foreigners, may also be used on Americans.
Thus it has come to pass that the nation that gave the world such brilliant inventions as the electric light, airplane, phonograph, telegraph, movies, automobile assembly line, and telephone(all developed at private expense) now sags under the weight of a government war machine that pays fine scientific minds to work at the Devil’s Bench. In his famous address of June 18, 1940, Winston Churchill denouncing Hitler spoke words that sadly apply to America’s Pentagon today: “But if we fail, then the whole world…will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister…by the lights of a perverted science.”
If the American people do not stop the Pentagon war machine, like the German public before them under Hitler, they will bear a heavy responsibility for the ensuing calamities caused by their inaction.
Sherwood Ross is a veteran reporter and public relations consultant. He formerly worked for the City News Bureau of Chicago, the Chicago Daily News, and as a columnist for wire [email protected]