By Charles Sullivan
09/18/06 “Information Clearing House”
“What if they gave a war and no one came?” was a popular slogan during the Viet Nam war. It remains a timeless and powerful motto, and is as relevant as ever. It is still a mantra that evokes thought provoking responses and suggests some intriguing possibilities.
What if those who serve in the military were fully aware of what their government requires them to do? What if they understood the underlying purpose of war and refused to participate? What if military recruiters were unable to feed the war machine with our sons and daughters; our uncles and nephews, and our nieces? How could it continue?
It is no coincidence that those who make war never fight in them. It is the corporations that lobby for war because there are profits to be made; and profits to be kept. The politicians, of course, are owned by the corporations and do their biding.
American citizens have never been involved in making decisions about going to war. Whether or not to wage war is one of the most momentous decisions a people could make; and they have no voice in the process. Half a million people can demonstrate in the streets but the war machine keeps turning. Does this meet a thinking person’s criteria for Democracy?
The people who fight them do not want war. Why would they? They have nothing to gain and everything to lose. War is the province of wealth and Plutocracy, not of the working people. It is not for us to ask why. It is for us to fight and to die. But what if we refuse?
Let us be clear about some things pertaining to war: Those who send our children into battle do not care about them. It is politically expedient for them to pretend to care; but they do not. Soldiers are culled from the working class. They are disproportionately poor-many of them people of color. In America, poor people are disposable; the rich are indispensable. Money and social status matters, but they should not.
Witness how the government abandons its soldiers and their families when they come home in flag-draped coffins or over-sized cardboard boxes; when they return with missing limbs and with psychological scars so deep it would require lifetimes to heal them. See how it denies the effects of Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome; and depleted uranium munitions. See how it cuts veterans benefits. It does not care.
The corporate media is an extension of the military industrial complex-a wing of the Pentagon and the corporate board room. It is a vital organ in a vast propaganda apparatus that is used to program the public mind; to deceive and to control the people-to ruthlessly exploit them for the Plutocracy. The war machine could not function without it.
The people who send others to war are cowards and pathological liars. It does not require courage or moral authority to send other people to fight and to die.
War is always about procuring wealth for those in power. It has nothing to do with noble causes. War is about two things: insensate greed and private ownership; and to a lesser degree-conquest.
Our political leaders have no moral integrity. They are beholden to corporate entities, and they are enemies of the people.
War is intimately related to class struggles. Labor history is a chronicle of this violent class conflict that is predatory in nature, with the rich preying upon the poor. When the government sends our soldiers to war it is a continuation of that struggle.
We do not live in a Democracy. If we did the people would have a voice in matters as momentous as war. We must learn to recognize the difference between Democracy and Plutocracy. If we lived in a Democracy our votes would matter; there would be choices other than the evil of two lessers, and the will of the people would prevail.
There is no aspect of corrupt government that is legitimate; no part that warrants our respect-none that deserves our cooperation. Let us see it for what it is-for what it has always been, and act accordingly.
It is said that government exists to serve the people. But in America it is now the other way round.
The people struggling under the oppressive weight of a corrupt and immoral government do not owe that government their allegiance. Indeed, they must not cooperate with it in any way. They must oppose it with all their will and conscience, and do everything in their power to undermine it. They must expose it for the fraud it is and hold it accountable to the people. Sucking the life blood out of the working people is not public service-it is parasitism!
Neither should the people pledge allegiance to the flag. Let them pledge their allegiance to truth and to one another in the great class struggle that has always characterized our nation. Without our cooperation there can be no war, no Plutocracy, and no empire. We must do away with the classes and recognize all people as equals. The wealth of our nation must be distributed equitably, rather than divided almost exclusively among the elite.
No person of conscience should take up arms against his/her working brethren in other nations or at home. Those who choose to serve in the military should do so as non-violent conscientious objectors. They must refuse to be the instruments of corporate Plutocracy by serving humanity rather than empire. Soldiers must not allow their government to make them complicit in war crimes that they will carry with them the rest of their lives. No thinking person in any capacity should ever blindly carry out orders without consulting their conscience and weighing the evidence. Otherwise they are mere automatons and not sentient beings at all.
The people must educate themselves in order to counter the powerful conscience altering propaganda that pervades our culture and shapes public opinion. They must learn history and empower themselves. Then it will be possible to connect the dots and see things as they really are with historical perspective.
We must think beyond geopolitical borders, beyond political parties; past the familiar labels of liberal and conservative. Working class conservatives and working class liberals alike are exploited by those in power. We must set aside the petty differences that keep us apart and seek common ground to defeat our common enemy-corporate Plutocracy.
Finally, we must organize as a class across national borders and forge global solidarity with working class people everywhere. Perhaps, then, the next time they give a war no one will come.
Charles Sullivan is a photographer and free lance writer residing in West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Great and important post.
In the end, it comes down to the individual who agrees to be deployed, and to ultimately pulling the trigger.
Even if people have some innate fascination with violence, guns, killing, etc (as is clear from the immense market share of violent video-games, and spectator sports, and violent films, etc), and even if the record has shown that the overwhelming majority of US military interventions of the past 60 years were hardly a matter of ‘defense’, and even if we were warned, and know full well about the dangers of the ‘military industrial complex’; we cannot deny the rule of law.
Laws are enacted to control just those irrational impulses which may have some base in aberrant ‘natural’ impulses which may in certain individuals be acted upon, but which are dangerous to the community as a whole: Theft, Rape, Assault, etc.
Nuremburg established without obscurity that it is illegal to carry out the orders that so many soldiers allow themselves to execute. In terms of the individual soldier’s responsibilities under the rule of law, the language is clear:
SOLDIERS’ RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
The Nuremberg Principles, established at the Nazi trials after World War II, declare that it is the right and responsibility of individual soldiers to refuse to follow illegal orders or to participate in war crimes.
The Geneva Conventions of War define a legal war as one that is undertaken as a last resort in the legitimate self-defense of a nation, and has the support of the international community of nations. It also defines what kind of weapons may be legitimately employed in war, and how civilian populations and captured soldiers should be treated during wartime.
The U.N. Handbook on Refugees calls on countries to provide refuge to soldiers “who refuse to participate in wars widely condemned by the international community as contrary to accepted standards of human behavior.”
Thanks, Natureboy for your comment and the important links.
This article is just as relevant today as when Sullivan wrote it a few years ago.
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