Over the past couple of weeks there have been rallies across the nation about the war in Afghanistan. In some instances, people rallied in support of the troops and against the mission that has been forced upon them. In other instances, people rallied in support of the troops and in favour of the mission.
It always amazes me when people claim to be supporting the troops yet at the same time support sending them off to be killed. I guess that it goes to show that serious thinking is not a trait shared by a significant portion of the population.
At one of the anti-war protests in Vancouver a snide comment was made by someone that the protesters could enjoy the right to protest because of the sacrifices that warriors had made to give them that right – a common put down that has been used for as long as I can remember to diminish those who oppose needless wars. Of course, for the most part such a comment is no more than propaganda and pure BS in the context in which it is being made.
There have been very few wars in our history in which victory has expanded our rights or protected our liberties. World War II and the wars repelling American invasions may be the exceptions. Rights and liberties are the fruits of revolutions and class warfare, of struggles for justice and equality.
Most wars, aside from repelling invaders, are struggles for land and resources and political control. Politics itself, of course, is little more than a struggle over how to divide the wealth in society.
In most cases those who go to war believing that they are doing it for their country or their freedoms are deluded believers in a fantasy spread by the ruling classes to disguise the true nature of what they are about.
The truth about war is that it is a business, a centre of profit for the suppliers of war materials and for those who reap the benefits of resources acquired or controlled, the political clout to force other societies to do one’s will, and the political benefits at home of a population manipulated by patriotic fervour that will put aside common sense and tolerate a suppression of their liberties and squandering of public resources under the guise of “supporting the troops.”
One of the U.S. Marine Corps’ most highly decorated officers, Major General Smedley Butler, wrote in 1935: “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.”
And in his 1961 farewell address as President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower warned “… we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.
The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Both Butler and Eisenhower were high ranking professional soldiers who had not only seen war, but had knowledge of what was behind the scenes and how it worked. They certainly have more credibility then the current crop of world leaders – many of whom have never heard a shot fired in anger or seen up close the broken and mutilated bodies of war’s victims – and the warnings that they gave us are just as valid today as they were when first given.
Those people foolishly demonstrating in support of the war today ought to reflect on the vision of Butler and of Eisenhower. They would be well advised to consider that a large number of senior military officers in the U.S. opposed the war in Iraq and that in Canada Lt. General Jeffrey, former Chief of Defence Staff, advised against the Afghanistan mission, and Major General Ross, director-general of international security policy, resigned over it.
As a result of the decision by Canada’s government to choose the defence industry and the Americans over its soldiers and the national welfare, we not only have troops dying needlessly in Afghanistan, we have a military so desperate for more bodies that it is looking at longer periods of deployment, lowering recruiting standards, and considering raiding the Navy and non-combat sections of the Forces for more fodder for the war zone. This is not something that anyone should be supporting.
It is the time of year that we remember all of those who have been sacrificed in the wars of the nation, regardless of the truth of the war, and honour them as heroes. Many were heroes, those who sacrificed themselves for their comrades, and who endured things that no person should ever have to endure.
But more than heroes they were and are victims, and most of all that is what we should never forget.
Jerry West is the editor of The Record, an independent, progressive newspaper published every other Wednesday in Gold River, British Columbia. His columns regularly appear in rabble.ca.