As mentioned in my essay On Violence I and before turning to contemporary events, this essay will highlight the long-term efficacy of policy makers' use of massive violence in two of the most violent events of the 20th century World Wars I and II. But since, by a wide margin, the world's people certainly Americans are likely to regard the violence perpetrated in World War II as much more unavoidable, wholly justified, and absolutely necessary than the violence perpetrated in World War I, I will focus on challenging the necessity and long-term efficacy of the use of violence in World War II. Besides, the violence perpetrated in World War II has greatly contributed to the shaping of events, institutions, and public attitudes that have helped to perpetuate violence to the present day. In fact, throughout the world, contemporary policy makers are still resorting to violence and, thereby, breeding more violence in response. So, now, as a U.S. war against Iraq seems to loom ahead, we are again at that juncture in history where the voices for non-violence and fundamental policy changes must speak out. After all, if enough people can be made to realize the simple truth that war entails "a premeditated decision in cold blood to kill an indefinite number of [totally innocent] civilians" including thousands of children then, perhaps, we can start curbing the insanity perpetuated by war-promoting policy makers.
At any rate, at the end of most wars, elite policy makers are divided into those on the winning side and those on the losing side. But it is not uncommon for the policy makers on either of the once contending sides to survive the war (or wars) that they themselves have orchestrated. Such is generally not the case for many of those on either side who have occupied the lower social strata of their respective societies. Indeed, as several of the bloodiest wars of the 20th century demonstrate, it also is not uncommon for the "victorious" policy makers on one side to have cost more of their own compatriots' lives in "winning" than their defeated counterparts have cost their compatriots in "losing." In other words, our evaluation of "victory," like that of war, imperialism, foreign aid, politics, economics, culture, and history itself must often be undertaken by using "class as the crucial unit of analysis."
Given this understanding of the class dimension of policy making and the variegated outcome of war, any "victory" that is brought about through massive violence must be measured against both the goals that the respective policy makers sought to achieve in the war and the numbers of those who died on both sides. According to this analysis of war and victory, there appears to be little for the vast majority of most people on either side of a modern war that justifies the organized violence of war. We might see that more clearly if we were to view the wars that elite policy makers concoct and conduct by standards that are somewhat similar to the perspective offered by the Roman Catholic Church's criteria of proportionality in so-called "just wars." On the basis of that set of criteria, the human and social cost of prosecuting a "just war" must be proportional to and not excessive to the cost of the evils which provoked the war in the first place. Accordingly, it may be argued that neither of the two most violent and costly wars in human history the First and Second World Wars were justified. Indeed, in regard to modern war, it has been contended that there is no such thing as a "just war."
Historian and World War II U.S. combat ( B-17 bombardier) veteran Howard Zinn argued precisely that point when he explained why he had written that "'there is no such thing as a just war.'" In his words, "I came to that conclusion as a result of my experience in World War II . . . [A war in] theory, [at least, that was] the closest you could come to a just war. . . . I came to the conclusion that we had reached a point in human history when there probably was no longer a possibility of waging a just war, because the overwhelming technology of modern warfare inevitably involves the killing of large numbers of people. [Thus] the means overwhelmed any end you could come up with . . ." Continuing with this theme, Zinn accurately argues, "In war, the evil of the means is certain and the achievement of the end, however important, is always uncertain. . . . For instance, in World War II, you could not be certain that . . . you would be doing away with all the elements of fascism, with militarism, racism, imperialism, and violence. In fact, after 50 million deaths [most estimates run 50-65 millions killed], that did not happen. . . . I decided that whatever problems we faced . . . we had to come up with a solution other than the mass killing of human beings." In short, Zinn concludes, "The term 'just war' contains an internal contradiction. War is inherently unjust, and the great challenge of our time is how to deal with evil, tyranny, and oppression without killing huge numbers of people."
Indeed, in the case of the largely imperialist struggle known as the First World War, there are very few who would argue that the "victors" much less the "losers" had much to cheer about once they compared their "winnings" to the carnage that they had inflicted and suffered. In fact, the violence of World War I produced little more than the deaths of 30 million people (10 million soldiers and 20 million civilians) and conditions leading to World War II twenty-one years later. After all, in the First World War, all the great imperialist powers of Hohenzollern Germany, Hapsburg Austria-Hungary, Romanov Russia, and Ottoman-Turkey went to war to protect and extend their domains but, instead, collapsed in utter ruin. Imperialist England sought to limit and destroy the competition of Imperial Germany and, instead, got a powerful competitor in the form of a stronger U.S., and its policy makers' incipient free market global designs. France went to war for what it could gain from Germany and in revenge for its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and, instead, was bled to the point of such a physical and social demoralization that it succumbed to both external and internal fascism in the 1940s. The U.S., meanwhile, went to war, as President Woodrow Wilson famously declared, "to make the world safe for democracy" and, instead, got a world filled with traditional imperialism, the rise of a communist dictatorship in Russia and fascist dictatorships in Germany, Italy, and Spain. Then, World War II came.
At a loss of around 60 million killed (24 million soldiers and 36 million civilians), World War II is frequently described as the "good war." And it is widely assumed that the violence that was unleashed in it by the victors at least was necessary, unavoidable, and largely positive because the allied victory in that war is said to have ended the fascist tyrannies and barbarism of Germany, Italy, and Japan. World War II, therefore, unlike World War I, is often presented as a "just war" in which violence and violence alone was the only option available to the Allied side. Thus, as Zinn states, "The question always comes up about World War II: 'What would you have done [to stop fascist aggression and domestic barbarism if the strategy entailing the use of massive violence had not been chosen]?'" To this question, Zinn replies, "The answer is not an easy one, but . . . 'I would not accept a solution that involves mass killing. I would try to find some other way.' The other way . . . is resistance without war. The other way is underground movements, strikes, general strikes, noncompliance. Even Hitler, in World War II, was at times successfully resisted in Denmark, in Norway, in Germany itself, by wives protesting the deportation of their Jewish husbands."
Zinn, of course, is not alone in his view because numerous historians, such as Christopher Simpson, Charles Higham, Thomas McCormick, and Eric Hobsbawn, among others, have rightly questioned whether the tremendous destruction wrought in that war was necessary, or was directed at ending the wanton slaughter of innocent peoples, or was successful in ending fascism. Interpreting the causes and objectives of the war from a more or less class perspective, these historians have avoided the sentimentalized view that the policy makers of the leading countries in the so-called "Grand Alliance" against fascism (i.e., England, the U.S., and the Soviet Union) went to war to destroy fascist tyrannies or to end the murderous holocaust that was befalling millions of Jews, gypsies, "inferior peoples," and anti-fascists. Instead, these historians reveal that important wealthy and elite personages and policy makers in England, France and the U.S. not only accommodated German and Italian fascism but even embraced those fascist regimes as rather lucrative partners.
Christopher Simpson, for instance, noted that "U.S. investment in Germany accelerated rapidly after Hitler came to power." According to the U.S. Commerce Department records that he cited, U.S. investments in Germany "increased some 48.5 percent between 1929 and 1940." Likewise, Charles Higham noted that U.S. investments in Nazi Germany "at the time of Pearl Harbor" amounted to an "estimated total of $475 million" from, among others, such U.S. firms as Standard Oil of New Jersey ($120 million) General Motors ($35 million), ITT ($30 million), and Ford ($17.5 million). Even more revealing are Higham's findings that, in 1942, the "Standard Oil of New Jersey managers shipped the enemy's fuel through neutral Switzerland," that "the [U.S.] Chase Bank in Nazi-occupied Paris after Pearl Harbor was doing millions of dollars' worth of business with the enemy," that "Ford trucks were being built for the German occupation troops in France with authorization [from Ford's headquarters in] Dearborn, Michigan," that "ITT built the Focke-Wulfs that dropped bombs on British and American troops," that, according to Newsweek, "recently declassified [U.S.] documents show that at least 300 U.S. companies continued doing business in Germany during the war," and that future U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, law partner in one of the most prestigious of U.S. law firms at the time Sullivan & Cromwell oversaw the 1940 legal work that insured that the "Nazi engine-parts producer, Bosch," would "retain control" of its U.S.-based arm during the war by "creating a Swedish dummy owner" to protect the assets of its U.S. firm. More shocking than these findings is the fact that, after the war, the U.S. government actually paid General Motors $33 million as compensation for the "'troubles and destruction occasioned to its airplane and motorized vehicle factories [that produced Nazi tanks and equipment] in Germany and Austria in World War II.'" Likewise the head of ITT, Sosthenes Behn, received "millions of dollars [$27 million, according to author Michael Parenti] in compensation for war damage to his German plants in 1944." In short, according to these sources, there appears to have been a very cozy symbiotic relationship of non-fascist and fascist elites before, during, and after World War II. Such a relationship apparently dictated that virtually no tough, non-violent measures would be undertaken by the non-fascist elites to curb the virulent excesses of the fascist regimes as they emerged and grew in the 1920s and 1930s.
With an awareness of such facts as these, it is fairly clear that U.S. policy makers no more went into World War II to destroy fascist tyranny and death camps than U.S. policy makers went into the Civil War to destroy slavery. And that conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the U.S., British, and French leaders refused to send any aid to the democratically elected government of the Spanish Republic at the time when it was so desperately fighting the combined fascist forces of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and General Francisco Franco's fascist Flange in 1936-1939. Likewise, even after the policy makers of England and the U.S. had incontrovertible evidence of the existence and operations of Nazi death camps as early as 1943, they still ignored the pleas of Jewish leaders and refused to undertake any military actions to destroy either those concentration camps or the railroads leading to them. Then, too, after World War II, U.S., British, and French policy makers not only supported in various ways economically, politically, and militarily General Franco's fascist dictatorship in Spain, but they also tolerated or propped up similar military and rightwing dictatorships all over the globe. While Britain and France tried to retain control over their rebellious colonial domains, U.S. policy makers supported such murderous tyrannies as those of General Stroessner in Paraguay, General Geisel in Brazil, General Somoza in Nicaragua, General Pinochet in Chile, General Suharto in Indonesia, and so on.
All that helps to explain the basic underpinnings of why, apart from merely seeking revenge for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. policy makers went into World War II. In the very large, that reason has been explained by historian Thomas J. McCormick when he wrote that U.S. policy makers of the 1940s had the catastrophe of the Great Depression very much in mind as they witnessed huge chunks of Europe and Asia fall into the aggressive German and Japanese spheres of control. And those conquests with more on the horizon threaten to exclude or truncate British and American trade, investment, and raw material access in such fundamental ways that "'the nightmare of a closed world'" appeared to be at hand. U.S. policy makers, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, knew that, if England and the U.S. were excluded from European and Asian markets, it would not only cripple much of their profit making potential, but it might even threaten their respective nation's future economic and socio-political stability. Quite simply, the health of those capitalist systems, which the policy makers of England and the U.S. were charged with maintaining, required an open door world for trade, investment, extraction of raw materials, and markets. As Roosevelt succinctly put it, "'Freedom to trade is essential to our economic life.'"
And given that necessity, U.S. leaders "fought the war," writes McCormick, "not simply to vanquish their enemies, but to . . . insure that the periphery in the Pacific rim, the Mediterranean basin, and Latin America would be integrated, under American aegis, into a global market economy, its resources equally open to all core powers." In other words, the 1940s and 1950s architects of U.S. global dominance such men as Roosevelt, Dean Acheson, George F. Kennan, Averell W. Harriman, James V. Forrestal, Robert Murphy, Paul H. Nitze, and Harry Truman aimed at constructing a U.S.-led free market world based on economic internationalism and maintained by a U.S.-led collective security apparatus. After all, these policy makers had a clear mission to perform. It, as professor Harvey Goldberg once lectured, was the conquest of foreign markets for the most powerful U.S. economic interests and that meant either putting or maintaining a group of acceptable political rulers over the people in those targeted areas. Of course, those political rulers were the ones who, it was expected, could maintain socio-political control over their populations and, so, serve the more powerful U.S. economic interests as clients. Of course, the world order that post World War II U.S. policy makers undertook to built was meant to eschew the older traditional forms of colonialism, autarchy, and economic nationalism. Instead, those U.S. policy makers advocated an "open door" world in which the economic principles of free trade and productionism would reign supreme. As these policy makers saw it, if all societies operated according to the economic dictates of comparative advantage and economies of scale, everyone would be a winner. Of course, some those with advanced industrial economies and sophisticated, high profit producing technologies like the U.S. would be the bigger winners. So, this set-up favored the core industrial powers, especially the U.S.
Known, now, by some historians as America's "hegemonic project," this "project" makes the whole Cold War a mere "subplot" of "a larger story." And it means, as McCormick noted, that U.S. policy makers had to "manage" virtually the whole world Russia (previously the Soviet Union), England, German, Japan, the Third World, and the American citizenry if the "project" were to be successful. Of course, before it became as fashionable as it is today and as far back as 1959, the great American historian William Appleman Williams described what those U.S. policy makers had created in words that characterized a U.S., informal, open door empire. Now, such a free market empire still requires supportive policy makers who, today, may use a perpetual war against terrorism to insure necessary global markets. Of course, some interpret this "war" as an effort to impose a much needed pax-Americana on the world while others condemn it as the pretext for a dangerous expansionism that is fraught with frightening intended and unintended consequences.
Certainly, given the current hawkish policy makers in Washington, it is crucial to point out that there are better options than war for solving current problems. And, by looking back at the half decade before World War II, we can see that other options than war existed even then. Indeed, if that bloody event in human history can be shown to have been avoidable, what grounds are there for undertaking any war that has less compelling reasons for being fought than World War II? The point is that if a reasonable case can be made that violence was not even necessary in the case of World War II, perhaps more people will question the idea that militarism and its violent practitioners need be a necessary part of humanity's future.
Consider, then, whether any or all of the following steps could have been undertaken by the1920s and 1930s U.S. and/or Western policy makers to have badly crippled fascism. And, consider if such steps might not have avoided the larger violence of World War II. First, instead of many people and institutions in the U.S., British, and French business and political elites supporting or ignoring the fascists of Germany and Italy with their policies on trade and investments, they could have withheld their trade and investments to weaken those regimes. Second, during the 1930s, instead of ignoring and rebuffing the Soviet offers of a rapprochement or some type of accord with one or several of the Western powers against the Nazis, the political leaders of England, France, and the U.S. could have struck some sort of agreement with the Soviets that would have signaled Adolph Hitler that he had better be careful because politics can make some mighty strange bedfellows. Third, instead of allowing Hitler to tear up the Versailles Peace Treaty and march into the demilitarized Rhineland with impunity, the Western powers could have acted jointly to have pressured him with their opposition in a united front. Fourth, instead of letting the anti-fascist forces of the democratically elected Spanish Republic fight the Hitler/Mussolini backed fascist forces of Franco alone and outgunned from 1936-1939, the Western democracies could have joined with the Soviet Union and economically impoverished Mexico in providing vital financial assistance and military equipment to the beleaguered Republican forces. This possibly would have turned the tide against fascism in Spain and throughout Europe. Fifth, instead of selling out the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia at the 1938 Munich conference with Hitler, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, and the French Prime Minister, Edouard Daladier, could have ended years of appeasing the Italian and German fascists with a diplomatic, economic, and propaganda counterattack on Hitler's and Mussolini's domestic and international policies. Sixth, instead of ignoring and/or assenting in the step-by-gruesome-step persecution and victimization of German Jews from 1933 to 1939 (all leading to eventual genocide), the policy makers of France, England, the U.S., and other countries could have vigorously challenged the racist, anti-Semitic policies in Nazi Germany. And, finally, in addition to these might-have-been actions by non-fascist states and powerful institutions, what if, before the war, the mass consumers in non-fascist societies had been encouraged by their respective media and businessmen to conduct successful large-scale boycotts of the products and services coming from fascist countries? And what if, in every non-fascist society, there had been generated a concerted, non-communist, anti-fascist propaganda campaign directed at every racist, anti-democratic, and offensive action that the fascist regimes undertook? And what if "smart sanctions" had been applied to inhibit the fascist regimes from getting crucial fuels, military technologies, and strategic materials? And what if the businessmen in fascist societies faced frozen assets and increasing international restrictions on their foreign financial activities? Similarly, comparable actions against the Japanese fascists and militarists could easily have been mounted. Beyond that, such actions as economically assisting the Chinese communists who were actually fighting the Japanese invaders rather than the nationalist Chinese who were only pretending to fight them would have warned the Japanese militarists that there were some very real pitfalls ahead of them. Unfortunately, these largely non-violent responses to fascist policies and practices were not undertaken. Indeed, almost exactly the opposite occurred.
Taken together, it is reasonably likely that all these anti-fascist actions in Europe and Asia would have given every potential fascist aggressor some very serious reasons to pause and rethink their policies/actions. Of course, given the nature of fascism and militarism, there may still have been a need to use some violence against one or more fascist regimes. Yet, nothing of that sort needed to have been as inevitable as it is now often pictured to be. There were other options, and, if taken, they may well have severely crippled, constrained, or eliminated the most virulent of fascist actions and avoided the enormous carnage of World War II. Ironically, many of today's Bush II Administration war hawks inadvertently acknowledge as much when they promote the view that World War II was only made possible because timid Western leaders did not listen to Winston Churchill's warnings. Instead, those weak leaders declare the current Churchill-wanna-bes chose to appease Hitler at the Munich conference. Of course, this claim by some in the Bush II Administration is not used by those neoconservative ideologues and their associates to assert that World War II could have been peacefully avoided. On the contrary, those policy makers and their associated political pundits argue that the "lesson of Munich" means that World War II not only should have started about a year earlier than it did, but that, analogously, they should launch a preemptive war against people in Iraqi.
In fact, in contrast to their view, the Munich agreement was not the appeasement turning point leading to World War II that they portray it to be. It was simply another reflection of the long-standing acquiescence and connivance in pro-fascist policies by important British, French, and U.S. elite interests. And, plausibly, it was that tradition of elite-driven policies favorable to the fascist regimes on nearly every significant matter that made the violence of World War II inevitable after 1937. But had that deplorable history been the opposite one of the sort that I have outlined, it is far from certain that the tremendous violence and bloodshed of World War II would have become necessary.
Today, some of those eager for war are again at the helm of power, and they impatiently assert that the best defense is a good offense. But such people frequently suffer from a shortsighted or blind hubris that tends to backfire. Already, the recent international polls are showing that the mighty reservoir of global sympathy and good will for Americans that was in evidence in the immediate wake of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 is starting to evaporate. The polling data from various research firms show that, as of September 2002, the Latin Americans who supported the U.S. military attack on Afghanistan ranged from a 2% low in Mexico to a 16% high in Panama. Meanwhile, "69% of [Canadians polled] said that the U.S. shares some of the responsibility for the attacks" of 9/11, and "15 percent said [that] all of the responsibility sits on American shoulders." Similarly, 60% of South Koreans polled "'don't like' America" partly due to U.S. "bombing of civilians in Afghanistan," and an earlier April 2002 poll found that "85 percent of Germans, 80 percent of the French, 73 percent of Britons, and 63 percent of Italians felt that Washington was acting mainly on its own interest in the 'war on terror.'" Among the British, pollsters found, "nearly 80 percent" of Britons "were still opposed to a U.S.-British attack on Iraq that lacked an explicit endorsement from the United Nations" even after Prime Minister Tony Blair's September 2002 speech presenting "evidence" on Saddam Hussein's "threat." More importantly, among Muslims around the world, dominant U.S. policy makers are apparently creating an ever bigger tidal wave of resentment that will likely harm our general security. After all, the people in those communities are the ones who can provide vital information that may erode the threat of non-state terrorism if they are not further alienated by unwise U.S. Middle East policies and war making. But, many Muslims are already registering their disaffection. Just glance at the October 2002 Pakistani elections in which the anti-President Pervez Musharraf/U.S. Islamic fundamentalists (i.e., United Action Council or MMA in its Urdu-language initials) got nearly 25% of the national vote and increased their seats in parliament from only 2 in 1997, to 51 at present. Indeed, the disaffection with pro-U.S. and Musharraf policies gave the fundamentalist mullahs "a clear majority in the North-West Frontier province's legislature . . . and [they] may control Baluchistan's legislature as well." This means that the pro-Taliban politicians and other fundamentalist sympathizers are positioned to exercise increased authority in precisely the geographical regions along the border with Afghanistan where U.S. soldiers and intelligence agents are hoping to detect and intercept their elusive foes. Indeed, "the MMA is determined to send [the U.S. and pro-U.S.Pakistani forces] home." In short, all these poll and election findings buttress the earlier July 30, 2002 U.S. Council on Foreign Relations report that stated "'Around the world, from western Europe to the far east, many see the United States as arrogant, hypocritical, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and contemptuous of others.'" And that probably means less sympathizers, less intelligence information, and less cooperation for the U.S. "war on terrorism" that neoconservative U.S. policy makers are presently conducting.
Apparently unwilling to change its basic militaristic and Middle East policies, the Bush II Administration has responded to this deepening and world-wide disaffection with U.S. policies in a shallow fashion. They have set up a special public information/propaganda office Global Communications Office under Charlotte Beers. She and her public relations team will join a host of other publicists and act as those whom the social theoretician Antonio Gramsci long ago described as the "traditional" or orthodox intellectuals who do the propaganda and put the gloss on the ruling elite's ideas, policies, and actions. In fact, they will have to "spin" faster than an atomic electron to cover up the fact that U.S. policy makers are displaying unilateralist disdain for a "descent respect to the opinion of mankind." That disdain itself is evidenced by "undermin[ing] the new International Criminal Court [with demands for special exemption for U.S. government personnel]," by "reject[ing] an international treaty limiting biological weapons," by "refus[ing] to strengthen a convention against torture," by bullying the U.N. to approve the resolutions and actions that U.S. policy makers want on Iraq, by ignoring Israel's violations or refusals to acknowledge U.N. resolutions and screaming foul over Iraq's violations or refusals to acknowledge U.N. resolutions, by dumping the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, by first promising to sign and, then, refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol on the global environment, by contravening free trade agreements with massive subsidies to U.S. steel and agribusinesses, by declaring the right to make preemptive war, and by operating on a widely perceived double standard regarding conventions on prisoners of war. With such actions, U.S. policy makers are dangerously "alienating the very friends and allies [that they most need for the] fight in the war on terror."
Yet, there is another path, for as President George W. Bush's Middle East envoy and former Marine General Anthony Zinni put it, "'We need to quit making enemies that we don't need to make enemies out of.'" And this can be done if the Bush II Administration were to heed the advice of one of its sharpest critics, Noam Chomsky. Noting that much could be gained toward eradicating terror if U.S. policy makers were not so bent on "providing recruits for terrorist actions" through their military policies. Chomsky cites, as a model for reducing terrorism, the sensible view of the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshaphat Harkabi. He quotes Harkabi as stating: "'To offer an honourable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of terrorism. When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes.'" Continuing to comment, Chomsky writes, "with modern technology, the rich and powerful will lose their near monopoly of the means of violence and can expect to suffer atrocities on home soil. If we insist on creating more swamps, there will be more mosquitoes, with awesome capacity for destruction. [But] if we devote our resources to draining the swamp, addressing the roots of the 'campaigns of hatred,' we can not only reduce the threats we face but also live up to ideals that we profess."
So, what has the great victory in the "good war" brought us? We now have a U.S.-led world order that is filled with over 35,000 nuclear weapons and no meaningful efforts on the part of the superpowers current policy makers either to put those weapons under international control or to reduce and eliminate them. Likewise, apart from the highly problematic model of neo-liberal capitalism, there is no concerted effort to address the conditions of vast political and economic inequalities that might lead to the use of either nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). And it is a world order that is likely to perpetuate the proliferation of those nuclear, chemical and biological WMDs until they may fall into the hands of religious lunatics or clandestine non-state groups who might have little or no qualms against using them on either their "enemies" or themselves. It is a world order that, as of 1999, had such glaring and growing disparities between the rich and the poor that a mere 475 people on earth had more wealth and income than all of the combined incomes of half of humanity, or three billion people. It is a world order in which, according to UN figures, 700 million people (almost 1/6 of humanity) suffer from famine and two billion more are malnourished while 14.6 million children die from malnutrition related causes each year. It is a world order in which the superpowers dominant policy makers are annually spending 36% of the world's entire military spending, and, by 2007, they will be spending almost $500 billion per year ($469.6 bn). It is a world order in which those self-same policy makers are planning to spend $42 billion, by 2008, on a U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system when they have yet to explain to us, as a study by the highly respected Center for Defense Information points out, "'why an opponent would chose the expensive, technically difficult, and suicidal method of delivering a weapon of mass destruction via missile rather than via truck, boat, or plane.'" And, just to put all these figures in an appropriate context, I should note that, even at the level of a projected pre-9/11 annual defense expenditure of $396 billion (FY 2003), the U.S. typically spends between 66% and 70% more than the combined military spending of Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Moreover, when the pre-9/11, fiscal year 2002 projected defense spending of $328.7 billion is added together with the percent of increase (57.86%) that occurs when all the other military-related expenditures in other budget lines are also calculated, the real annual defense cost of almost $519 billion ($518.9bn) is obtained. That figure creates an annual U.S. military spending rate of over $16,400 a second. Putting a better perspective on the enormous socio-economic waste which this represents, a nominee for the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Helen Caldicott states: "If you [were to] spend $1,000 a minute since Jesus was born, you would have just got to a trillion dollars [by 2002]." In brief, she says that every single year the U.S. spends "half-a-trillion dollars on death when America is one of the only countries in the West that has no free [i.e., universal, single-payer, publicly funded] medical care system."
Thus, while it is problematic that the violence that brought about the victory of some powers in World War II may have brought most people in the world some betterment of their conditions of life, that betterment is certainly not universally distributed. And that violence itself must be measured not only against the loss of the 60 millions lives which that war took, but against, perhaps, another 5-6 million who have been killed in the subsequent process of decolonization, Cold War-related conflicts, and associated upheavals in the years since World War II. Beyond that, if we slip back into the pre-1939 chaos of might-makes-right as the sole basis of international law, we face a likely future of more mass bloodshed. But be assured that the policy makers on opposing sides will hunker down in their bunkers and probably survive the ensuing carnage while thousands of innocent people are choked, incinerated, and blown to pieces.
And, so, in many ways, we live with the legacy of World War II looming large in policy makers' minds. In many respects, World War II's violence of "total war" may well have set the stage for the more horrendous violence that could come in the 21st century. After all, only two and a half generations after the end of that massive World War II bloodletting, many people have been persuaded to think that mass violence is not only a necessary tool of politics but a glorious and useful tool. Thus, contemporary "Churchillian" leaders can be found referring to their adversaries as "Hitler," or "Stalin," or an "axis of evil." It is as if they are involved in some sort of anachronistic board game of international politics and war about which they have little human sensitivity but, nevertheless, love to play and to glorify. Hitting the nail squarely on the head, Dr. Caldicott issued this dire warning and placed the blame for potential future catastrophes where much of it belongs on U.S. policy makers' mistaken moral vision. She declared, "We have never seen a country so militarily armed. . . . And now that the Cold War is over, America should be rising to its full moral and spiritual height, and abolishing nuclear weapons with a friendly Russia. And encouraging everyone else to do the same. Instead, these people in this Bush administration, they're building up a huge nuclear arsenal and saying with impunity, 'We'll use nuclear weapons on anyone.' . . . I have to tell you . . . that I predict if things go unimpeded as things are going now, that there will be a nuclear war within the next 10 or 20 years . . ."
With such a potential future, we need to realize that, if U.S. foreign policy today were to be fundamentally demilitarized and the "war on terror" boosted by an immediate recognition that a just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be made, then much of the threat to the world's people would likely be greatly reduced or even virtually eliminated. More importantly, the focus on hunting down actual and potential non-state terrorists would be given a tremendous impetus forward because a fair settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, would certainly diminish the number of aggrieved people and their sympathizers who might otherwise give clandestine terrorists protection and assistance. By creating more friends rather than more enemies through fundamental policy changes, we are likely to increase the numbers of potential informants and, thereby, greatly inhance the detection capabilities of the various intelligence gathering agencies.
After all, if, as our authority figures never tire of telling us, there are suicidal fanatics who are relatively certain to use WMDs against people in an indiscriminant fashion, then, while our leaders may be protected by bunkers, inoculations, security forces, and state-of-the-art medical science, our loved ones, including our children, remain at risk. Recall, as well, that the U.S. Defense Department's own 1997 study has declared that "Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States." Thus, as the Director of the conservative Cato Institute's Defense Policy Studies wisely concluded: "There is a way to significantly reduce the chances of an attack on the American home land by terrorists using weapons of mass terror . . . [The U.S. must cease] provocative overseas interventions . . . [and] should adopt a policy of military restraint. That policy entails intervening only as a last resort."
Yet, although sensible and just policy changes, including a switch from "provocative overseas interventions," would likely do more to "provide for the common defense [and] promote the general Welfare" than an outrageously costly NMD Maginot Line in the sky, such policy changes are unlikely to occur. Other interests, just as before World War I and World War II, dictate other policy maker choices. Using this class based perspective, political scientist Michael Parenti cites the marvelous verses of the playwright Berthold Brecht to make the inherent inequities of power and profit in class divided societies beautifully clear: "'There were conquerors and conquered./ Among the conquered the common people starve./ Among the conquerors the common people starve too.'" So, as some U.S. policy makers push the U.S. people toward another war, Parenti and Brecht remind us that the cost of following those leaders will not be equally shared.
But, even if the elite interests and policy makers everywhere on earth are motivated by a quest for territory, mineral resources, markets, and self-aggrandizement, the rest of us must realize to the very depth of our souls that war entails "a premeditated decision in cold blood to kill an indefinite number of [totally innocent] civilians." And we should press upon our leaders the need to act according to democratic principles of fairness and equality as well as according to the same moral dictates by which we would hope that others would be guided. As stated by the great intellectual Edward Said, "We should expect no less of ourselves than we should of others." If we can do that, we stand a much better chance of avoiding the worst that may lie ahead. (E)
Notes to On Violence II
Abd-al-Wahhab Badrakhan, "Unconvincing," Al-Hayat,
26 September 2002, 9, supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, forwarded email
28 September 2002.
Michael Parenti, "The Cost of Empire at Home and Abroad," Lecture on Audio Tape, Peoples Audio and Video, Palo Alto, California, November 1994.
In a somewhat paraphrased form, the Roman Catholic Church defines a "just war" as one which meets these six criteria: 1) It is waged by legitimate authority. 2) It is waged in a just cause, and the evils produced by the war must be proportionate to the evils which provoked it. 3) It is undertaken with the intention of achieving a just and lasting peace. 4) It is undertaken only as a last resort. 5) It should be waged only if there is a reasonable expectation of success. 6) It should be fought with morally legitimate methods and there should be no indiscriminate killing of non-combatants.
In severely criticizing this Roman Catholic Church justification for so-called "just war," Archbishop Robert M. Bowman of the United Catholic Church (an outgrowth of the Old Catholic Church in Utrecht, Netherlands) writes that Jesus Christ not only taught the early Christians to lead lives dedicated to absolute non-violence ("'love your enemies'" and "'do good to those who persecute you'") but He practiced a life of absolute non-violence "all the way to the cross." As Bowman explains, once the early Christians embraced the Roman Emperor Constantine, "they gave up their nonviolence, their independence, and . . . instead of following Jesus, they began following Caesar. . . ."
"They invented," he continues, "the ["rationalization" of] the 'Just War Theory' to justify taking up the sword for the emperor. And for the last 1600 years or so, most Christian churches and their hierarchies have advised young Christians to go to war for whatever is the latest adventure of Caesar, whether he is called Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, Bill Clinton, or George Bush (with whatever middle initials)." But, writes Bowman, "What [is] just war? No such thing exists." Quoting the late Catholic Bishop John L. McKenzie, Bowman concludes with this scathing indictment of the compromise/corruption created when most Christian churches adjusted their teachings to embrace state power: "'The statement of the renunciation of violence [by Jesus] is clear enough. Christians have never questioned either that Jesus said it or that it admits no qualification. Christians have simply decided they cannot live according to these sayings of Jesus.'" See Robert M. Bowman, "Return to the Catacombs: Reintroducing the Nonviolent Jesus to Christianity and Restoring Pre-Constantinian Catholicism," no date, 1, 2, HYPERLINK http://www.rmbowman.com/catholic/catacombs.htm www.rmbowman.com/catholic/catacombs.htm .
Currently launching blistering attacks on the Bush II Administration's war hawk policies, Bowman writes about his past as a combat pilot: "As a confused but obedient Roman Catholic, I flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam. Knowing what I know now, I would not do it again." See Ibid. And to the August 17, 2002, Veterans for Peace National Conference, Bowman minced no words when he addressed his remarks directly to President Bush and stated: "We have troops stationed in 150 countries around the world, and not one of them has anything to do with protecting America or Americans. . . . [T]heir job . . . in Saudi Arabia [is] to keep the Saudi people from toppling our puppet regime which protects the interests of our oil companies. . . . In Kosovo and Bosnia and Afghanistan . . . [t]heir job is to secure oil pipelines from the Caspian to the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans. . . . So the DoD [i.e., Department of Defense] and CIA exist to install and protect foreign dictators from THEIR people, and the Dept of Homeland Security is to protect YOU [i.e., Bush] from US! . . . You have spent billions to bail out the top executives and stockholders of airlines that have gone bankrupt anyway. You have given hundreds of billions in tax breaks to your wealthy friends and to the multinational corporations. You have inflated a defense budget which was already obscene. . . . You have isolated us from the rest of the world by undermining one treaty after another. You have inflamed the Muslim world against us . . . You have killed more innocent civilians in Afghanistan than the hijackers killed in the World Trade Center. You have staged a coup in Venezuela for the oil companies, and are getting us into war in Columbia. You have supported genocide against the Palestinian people. You have continued the cruel embargo against Cuba and the tragic sanctions against Iraq. You have blood on your hands. . . ." But, Bowman concludes, "We are the people. This is OUR country. We fought for it. Our friends died for it. And it is OURS. We are sovereign. We are not going to let you and your co-conspirators turn us into whores for the multinational corporations. We are not going to let you endanger our fellow citizens by making them the target of terrorists. . . . And we are not going to let our beloved country continue to be the #1 rogue nation in the world. . . . You're not getting my sons and grandsons [for the military since] the best thing our government can do for its combat veterans is to quit making more of them." See Robert M. Bowman, "Conversation Between a Veteran and George W. Bush," August 17, 2002, Duluth, Minnesota, 1-2, HYPERLINK http://www.rmbowman.com/ssn/veterans4.htm www.rmbowman.com/ssn/veterans4.htm .
Robert M. Bowman is a retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel who flew 101 combat missions in the Vietnam war. He has a Ph.D in Aeronautics and Nuclear Engineering from Cal Tech. He served as Director, Advanced Space Programs Development for the U.S. Department of Defense in Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter Administrations. He described his job in that capacity as directing the programs and developing the systems for "Star Wars" type spy satellites. He is a stanch critic, as he says, of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush II "suicidal" "Star Wars" programs. He is a former Vice President of Space Communications Company and Manager, Advanced Space Programs for General Dynamics. Currently, he is President of the non-profit Institute for Space and Security Studies (ISSS) and a presiding Archbishop in the United Catholic Church. See HYPERLINK http://www.rmbowman.com www.rmbowman.com .
Howard Zinn, Terrorism and War, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002, 22. Zinn points out that he has never used the "word 'pacifist' to describe [himself] . . . because it suggests something absolute, and I am suspicious of absolutes." Thus, in his view, "I think that there might be situations when a small, focused act of violence against a monstrous evil would be justified." See Ibid., 25.
In reflecting on his personal history as a patriotic young bombardier flying bombing missions in Europe during World War II, Zinn recounted one of the turning point experiences that started him thinking about the morality of mass violence. The incident occurred near the end of the war and after allied armies had already overrun France. Still, Zinn's plane was ordered to participate in a 1,200 B-17 raid on a small French town called Royan where there was supposed to be a few thousand German soldiers "holed up." Although the war was nearly over and the raid seemed a bit unusual considering the numbers of planes and the isolation of the German troops, neither Zinn nor any other flyer questioned the reason for the raid. And the bombers, Zinn discovered, were not carrying their usual load of twelve five-hundred-pound demolition bombs but, instead, were carrying "something new." They were carrying thirty one-hundred-pound canisters of "'jellied gasoline.'" It was an "early use of napalm." After the war, Zinn happened to read a "dispatch of a New York Times correspondent in the area" of Royan who wrote that "'About 350 civilians, dazed or bruised . . . crawled from the ruins and said the air attacks had been 'such hell as we never believed possible.'" So, from "twenty-five or thirty thousand feet," Zinn writes, "we saw no people, heard no screams, saw no blood, no torn limbs, [no dead]. . . . The war," he adds, "was over in three weeks," and Zinn "heard no one question . . . why [the raid on Royan] . . . was necessary." He remorsefully admits that he certainly "didn't." Years later, Zinn concluded, "The more I thought about World War II, the more I became convinced that the atmosphere of war brutalizes everyone involved, begets a fanaticism in which the original moral factor . . . is buried at the bottom of a heap of atrocities committed by all sides."
An epilogue: Upon a request from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in January 1968, Zinn and Father Daniel Berrigan were selected by some leaders of the U.S. peace movement to traveled to war torn North Vietnam to escort home three newly freed American prisoners of war (Major Norris Overly, Captain John Black, Lieutenant Junior Grade David Methany). While there, Zinn experienced four to six daily bombing raids by U.S. B-52s, only, on those occasions, he was in the bomb sights of other bombardiers. "I thought," he said, "I guess I deserve this." See Howard Zinn, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times, Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, 93-94, 98, 126, 131-132.
Zinn, Terrorism, 23.
Ibid. 23. I chose not to argue my case for non-violence with the example of the U.S.-Vietnam War because many people (especially Americans) would probably agree that all the violence employed in that war was futile simply because the U.S. did not "win" it. But what about the efficacy of violence for the side that did "win" it? Well, once again, what exactly was won or lost by the "winners" needs to be explored. Briefly covering these matters, my argument against the efficacy of all the tremendous violence expended in Vietnam (three times more bomb tonnage was dropped in Vietnam a country about the size of the state of New Mexico as in the whole of World War II) runs as follows: In the case of that U.S.-Vietnam war (1965-1975) the stated objective of U.S. policy makers was to preserve a non-communist South Vietnam at the lowest possible cost and risk. And based on those objectives which remained essentially constant throughout the ten year struggle the U.S. policy makers failed. On the other hand, the policy makers of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (i.e., Vietcong) achieved their basic wartime objective, i.e., the independence and reunification of their country.
But when victory and defeat are considered from the standpoint of the non-policy makers on both sides especially those who were killed or permanently maimed neither victory nor defeat is likely to be relevant. After all, millions of those people paid the "ultimate price" because of the decisions made by those policy makers who started and conducted that war. And while, in the case of the Americans, the ultimate price for defeat was paid for by the lives of around 60,000 people, the ultimate price for a Vietnamese victory was paid for by the lives of about 3.4 million people. Given that horrendous loss of life, it is difficult to imagine that, according to the principle of "proportionality," either victory or defeat would be joyously celebrated by the ones who died or even by many of their loved ones who survived.
Meanwhile, most of the policy makers on both sides certainly on the U.S. side undoubtedly survived. And their survival, while something noteworthy, is hardly a gratifying compensation for the loss of the millions who were killed. The only compensation that can even come close to equalizing the proportionality of loss to gain must be found in the before and after war conditions that the Vietnamese people experience. In other word, for the "victorious" Vietnamese, the losses of lives and limbs must be measured against not only what would have been lost without the war but, also, in the amount and type of freedom that is accorded to the survivors and their progeny, the degree of prosperity and security that each now enjoys, and the longer, better life that they and their children may have. Unless their independence and freedom from colonial domination bring about a liberation of the human flesh and spirit that otherwise would not have prevailed and unless there are lasting material gains of the sort already mentioned, the Vietnamese's "victory" is profoundly hollow. In that circumstance, it would be difficult to contend that the violence of war brought a victory that adequately compensated for the millions who died.
Zinn, Terrorism, 23.
Christopher Simpson, The Splendid Blond Beast, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage press, 1995, 64.
Charles Higham, Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot, 1933-1949, New York: Dell, 1983, 14.
Ibid., 13; see also the later confirmation of Michael Hirsh, "The Hunt Hits Home: Did U.S. companies cozy up to the Nazis? "Newsweek, 14 December 1998, 48.
Hirsh, "The Hunt," 48.
Higham, 113, 135; also see Michael Parenti, Democracy For the Few, New York: St Martin's press, 1995, 78.
For a recent example, see historian Michael Beschloss's Newsweek excerpt from his book, The Conquerors (2002), in which he states that former Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy recently implicated President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the decision not to bomb either Auschwitz or the railroads leading to that huge death camp. See Michael Beschloss, "FDR's Auschwitz Secret," Newsweek, 14 October 2002, 37-39. To his credit, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill apparently wanted the British and American Air Forces to do something to damage concentration camp operations but nothing was done. See Ibid., 38.
Thomas J. McCormick, America's Half-Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War and After, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U.P., 1995, 32.
A September 2002 Gallup poll cited in Noam Chomsky, "Drain the swamp and there will be no more mosquitoes," The Guardian, 9 September 2002, 1, HYPERLINK http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4497046,00.html www.guardian.co. uk/Print/0,3858,4497046,00.html .
A September 2002 Ipsos-Reid poll cited in Shawn McCarthy, "Most think U.S. partly to blame for Sept. 11," Globe and Mail, 7 September 2002, 2, forwarded email 7 September 2002.
A September 2002 South Korean poll and an April 2002 Pew Research Center poll of Europeans cited in Peter Ford, "Is America the 'good guy?' Many now say. 'No,'" Christian Science Monitor, csmonitor.com, 11 Sept 2002, 2, 9, HYPERLINK http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0911/p02s03wogi.html www.csmonitor.com/2002/0911/p02s03wogi.html .
A September 2002 NOP Research Group poll cited in John Nichole, "Blair's British Problem" in "The Online Beat," The Nation, 30 September 2002, 1, HYPERLINK http://www.thenation.com/thebeat/index.mhtml?bid=1&pid=110 www.thenation.com/thebeat/index.mhtml?bid=1&pid=110 .
Fareed Zakaria, "Don't Feed the Fundamentalists," Newsweek, 28 October 2002, 37.
Ron Moreau and Zahid Hussain, "A Big Vote for Jihad," Newsweek, 21 October 2002, 39.
Peter Ford, "Is America," 3; also Julian Borger, "White House acts to shed arrogant image," The Guardian, 1, 31 July 2002, forwarded email 31 July 2002.
Peter Ford, "Is America," 5.
Mike Salinero, "Gen. Zinni says War with Iraq is Unwise," Tampa Tribune, tampatrib.com, 24 August 2002, 1, HYPERLINK http://tampatrib.com/News/MGA65V9295D.html http://tampatrib.com/News/MGA65V9295D.html .
Noam Chomsky, "Drain the swamp," 2.
Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh with Thea Lee, Field Guide to the Global Economy, New York: The New press, 2000, 53.
Douglas Dowd, Capitalism and It's Economics: A Critical History, London: Pluto Press, 2002, 216. Dowd notes that the figures on the children's deaths are taken from a 1986 UNICEF report and the figures on malnutrition and famine are taken from a 1993 UNICEF report.
Center for Defense Information (CDI), "Fiscal Year 2003 Pentagon Budget Request, Budget Authority," February 4, 2002, 1, HYPERLINK http://www.cdi.org/ www.cdi.org/ issues/budget/ FY03topline-pr.cfm. This U.S. budget figure does not include all the related annual military expenditures that are located (shrewdly) in other areas of the discretionary budget. Those annual expenditures create a percent of increase of over 57%. They, for example, boosted the pre-9/11, FY 2002, annual defense proposed outlays from $328.7 billion to $518.9 billion. See CDI, 2001-2002 Military Almanac, Washington, D.C., CDI, 2001, 34.
CDI, "Issue Brief: Reshaping the Military for Asymmetric Warfare," 5 October 2001, 10 HYPERLINK http://www.cdi.org/press/ www.cdi.org/ press/ press-releases/2001/terrorism100501-pr.cfm.
CDI, "Issue Brief: Reshaping the Military for Asymmetric Warfare," 5 October 2001, 10 HYPERLINK http://www.cdi.org/press/ www.cdi.org/ press/ press-releases/2001/terrorism100501-pr.cfm. CDI, 2001-2002 Military Almanac, Washington D.C., CDI, 2001, 34.
Helen Caldicott, "America's Weapons of Mass Destruction," TomPaine.commonsense, 16 September 2002, 2, HYPERLINK http://www.tompaine.com/ www.tompaine.com/ feature.cfm/ID/ 6379/view/print.
Department of Defense, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Technology, "The Defense Science Board 1997 Summer Study Task force on DoD Responses to Transnational Threats, Vol. I, Final Report, Washington, D.C., October 1997, 15.
Ivan Eland, "Tilting at Windmills: Post-Cold War Military Threats to U.S. Security," Policy Analysis, No. 332, February 8, 1999, 34, HYPERLINK http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-332es.html) www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-332es.html .
Michael Parenti, Against Empire, San Francisco, City Light Books, 1995, 65.
Edward Said, "Backlash and backtrack," Al-Ahram, 27 September-30 October, 2001, 3, HYPERLINK http://web1.ahram.org.eg/weekly/2001/553/op2.htm http://web1.ahram.org.eg/weekly/2001/553/op2.htm .