Who Is Better Off for All America’s Wars?

Children-at-WarFrom every appearance, President Obama intends to step up the war in Afghanistan. Even though the American people voted for peace last November and would prefer to devote themselves to the ways of peace – working a full-time job if they can find one, educating their children, providing essential services in their communities, and so forth, Obama plans to remain in Afghanistan, squandering billions more on a war that the latest poll shows 57% of the American people oppose. Obama also has given no signal that he will withdraw the remaining U.S. troops from Iraq and is providing the Pakistanis with the money, means, and encouragement to expand President Bush’s criminal wars into yet a third nation.

We need to ask ourselves: who is better off for all these wars? Are Americans better off today than nine years ago? What of our 30,000 wounded? What of our 5,000 dead? (Contractors are human beings, too, so I count them.) What of the 1 million slaughtered Iraqis? What of the millions of Iraqi civilians wounded and/or driven from their homes? What of the ruined Iraq infrastructure and economy? What of millions of motorists and homeowners world-wide who have seen oil prices escalate? What of the homeless and malnourished Iraqi children? The only ones who appear to be better off from the Bush-Obama wars are the arms manufacturers and various public officials vegetating on the government payrolls in Washington. From steel mills to banks and from airlines to automobiles, the rest of American industry is suffering.

Long ago, Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910), the author of War and Peace, wrote these harsh words about Russia: “The truth is that the state is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens.” It takes little imagination to divine what the good Count would have said about America today and its serial wars of aggression centered upon the Middle East oil fields and the proposed pipeline access routes to and from them. Face it: USA today is corrupting its people, turning its children into killers, and sending them out to fight and die in wrong wars half way around the world.

“Only one thing remains,” Count Tolstoy wrote: “to fight the government with weapons of thought, word and way of life, not making any concessions to it, not joining its ranks, not increasing its powers oneself. That’s the one thing needful and it will probably be successful. And this is what God wants and this is what Christ taught.”

What was true of Russia under the tsars — of a state that corrupted its children — unfortunately happens to be true of America in 2009. America’s No. 1 cash crop today is armaments and our military-industrial complex is making big bucks peddling 68% of total arms sold! Fifty-two cents out of every tax dollar is being chewed up by the Pentagon, busy night and day turning out ever more horrific killing machines to destroy people. The Pentagon has covered the globe with 1,000 military bases for “defense” and is busy devising ingenious ways to attack the earth from space, develop germ warfare and threaten and control any and every other country with its 11 mobile nuclear navies.

To fight its wars, the Pentagon is recruiting from the poorest of the poor, targeting low-income neighborhoods, enrolling those with few or no other economic opportunities. Its huge public relations machine is advertising on television, in movie theaters, and at places where children congregate. It gives the impression that wearing a uniform is glamorous. It does not show photographs of its slain soldiers lying dead in the mud. And in the current recession, the Pentagon is meeting its targets, enlisting more than 25,000 recruits a year.

It’s time to encourage our own youth not to enlist while the U.S. continues to make its needless wars of aggression. Opposition to injustice, after all, is a venerable American tradition, dating back to George Washington and Sam Adams. We can encourage our youth not to become cannon fodder by buying paid advertisements on youth-serving radio stations and in newspapers; by giving anti-war broadcast interviews; by distributing handbills in downtown retail and shopping areas, by going door-to-door and talking candidly with parents, and by pushing the message of non-violence into every corner of society. If anything, children could be encouraged to join the Peace Corps. Anti-enlistment handbills might be made even more effective by reproducing photographs on them of Rev. Martin Luther King, who vehemently opposed the war in Viet Nam and surely, at least based on my conversations with him, would oppose the U.S. aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

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Distributing handbills is not expensive and it does not require an organization, although it’s a good idea to have a backup attorney on call! In passing out handbills, please consider not challenging military recruiters in front of their offices. They’re going to succeed somewhat whether we like it or not. You don’t need the confrontation. Instead, do your own positive work in troubled neighborhoods that need your guidance. As the poet Carl Sandburg once said, “Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.” You can help bring those words to life. Save our children from the scourge of war!

Sherwood Ross

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