“Wilfred decided to walk back to the perimeter. He walked down a hill on the dusty road past bunkers and tents and gazed at a similar sight across the little valley in front of him. Then his eye picked out an irregularity—a spot of dark green a few streets back from the main road. Out of curiosity he watched it grow as he came closer. When he neared the bottom of the hill it disappeared behind bunkers and tents. He jogged to the left, drawn down a side street toward the mystery. Then he passed a big tent, and the mass of dark green leaped out and slapped his face. Fifty feet away stood stacks of plastic body bags, two deep, ten high, and twenty or thirty long, each stuffed with the refuse of battle and neatly tagged for shipment.”
Fifty-eight thousand Americans were killed in Vietnam, plus between eight hundred thousand and one point one million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. About forty-five thousand U.S. soldiers died in Korea, plus about forty-five hundred in Iraq and twenty-two hundred in Afghanistan. A hundred and sixteen thousand U.S. soldiers were killed in WWI and four hundred thousand in WWII. In our worst war, the Civil War, nearly three quarters of a million American soldiers died. These figures do not include all those soldiers and civilians who have been maimed by war, physically or mentally.
On this Veterans Day 2014, we should take a moment to remember these veterans, and the millions of innocents killed in our wars. We should watch their ghosts passing from the earth, and see the families and friends at their funerals, and weeping at their grave sites.
On this Veteran’s Day, I want to ask, “Why do we have Endless War?”
What are the Reasons, the Sacrifices we make, and the Consequences?
It’s interesting to note that China has not had a war in sixty years, since Korea, and India hasn’t had one in forty years, since its war with Pakistan. That war lasted thirteen days. These countries have been plowing their hard-earned money back into factories, buildings, research, education, and services for their people.
In contrast, the United States has been at war almost continuously since WWII: first it was Korea, thenVietnam-the Dominican Republic-Grenada-Panama-the Gulf War-Bosnia-Kosovo-Afghanistan-Iraq-Libya-and now ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
President Obama has ended two wars. He has also tried to develop new relations with the Muslim nations. On that he has not been successful, probably because of our support of Israel, our opposition to Iran, and our support of dictatorships in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab nations.
Some say we are the world’s policeman. We have bases in twenty-nine countries around the world, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia in the Far East; ten countries in the Middle East; Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and the United Kingdom in Europe, and, of course, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Supposedly, all these are needed to keep the peace and guarantee free movement of goods. Some say this is all part of our empire, which we maintain in order to ensure we can obtain raw materials for our manufacturing and to keep trade flowing for our corporations.
But there’s more to it than that. In his farewell address on January 17, 1961, President Eisenhower said, “In the Councils of Government, 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 . . .”
The military requires huge amounts of munitions, vehicles, and other supplies. To pay for it, our tax money goes into the hands of corporations. This is a major engine for war.
- The cost of the Vietnam War was almost a trillion dollars in current currency, and the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars exceeded a trillion dollars, excluding the costs of veteran benefits
- This year, fifty-five percent of the discretionary federal budget will go to the military, while three percent is going to transportation, five percent to health, three percent to science, and six percent to education. Last year, we spent $600 billion dollars on the military compared with $122 billion for China, $68 billion for Russia, and $36 billion for India.
- All of this money goes for munitions, planes, tanks, ships, oil, military pensions, and expenses for military bases—the military-industrial complex.
- Manufacturers of the military supplies and armaments are intentionally distributed across the country, so that congressmen everywhere have to support the budget to save jobs in their districts. That’s why it’s so hard to cut the military budget.
Politicians work with the military industrial complex to promote wars. President Johnson sent a hundred eighty thousand troops into Vietnam in response to a torpedo attack by North Vietnam against two of our destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf in which the torpedoes missed. President Bush made a preemptive attack on Iraq to save us from weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist.
Now, U.S. Congressmen are calling for our country to send in more boys to be killed on the ground in Syria and Iraq, claiming that ISIS is a threat to our country. That, of course, will mean we will have to spend more money on armaments, further enriching our corporations and stockholders.
One consequence is the plethora of hideous video games in which our children kill, kill, kill, and movies in which killing aliens and other enemies is glorified. This is how we train our children for war.
On this Veterans Day 2014, I hope that we can continue to lobby our government to keep our young men out of another war. And to transfer more of our tax money from our military budget into areas where it is really needed.