A US air force helicopter during the Vietnam War, 1970 (Public domain)
IS humankind addicted to war? Can we ever live without conflict?
I started to ponder these questions while perusing the latest on the Israeli assault on Gaza, which started on 27 Dec 2008. The bombings and air raids have so far claimed the lives of 500 Palestinians, mostly civilians.
No doubt another couple of hundred will die before the UN Security Council finally decides it is necessary to pass a resolution calling for an end to the blood-letting.
This conflict, which has been going on for more than 60 years now, looks set to continue indefinitely. Israel, bolstered by unstinting support from the US and Britain, has far superior armaments and military muscle. The Palestinians have a couple of rocket launchers, a seemingly unending supply of would-be martyrs, and moral superiority on their side.
A world at war
But that’s not the only ongoing conflict that is taking place. According to statistics compiled by Infoplease, as of October 2008, there were 18 significant ongoing armed conflicts around the world, and countless more minor ones. The History Guy also carries a detailed list of warmongering around the world.
What is interesting is the number of conflicts that the US has a hand in, directly or indirectly. When they are not defending their interests in person, the US, more than any other nation, is responsible for arming or funding conflicts around the world.
Curious to learn more, I checked out Addicted to War, published by A K Press, which details the history of US foreign wars in comic book format. It is an eye-opening outline of US military policy, and a damning indictment of the aggression and greed that has shaped the world as we know it.
The author, Joel Andreas, is a political activist who has written two other illustrated exposés: The Incredible Rocky, about the Rockefeller family; and Made with Pure Rocky Mountain Scab Labor, to support a strike by Coors brewery workers.
Uncle Sam wants you!
Addicted to War is simply written, and all the more powerful for it. Using historical information, quotes from leaders in government, corporations and the armed forces, as well as charts and photographs, it paints a chilling portrait of US military adventurism. Check out this four-minute video on Addicted to War:
This propensity to make war began very early in American history. The Manifest Destiny — the belief that Americans had a providential mission to extend both their territory and their democratic processes westwards across the continent — was a policy leaders of the fledgling nation sincerely believed in. It resulted in the genocidal war against the Native Americans, who had their lands confiscated and their peoples herded into increasingly smaller reservations. It also resulted in the US seizing half of Mexico’s territories.
But US expansion did not stop there. The need to find new markets for ever increasing home production, and newer sources of raw material led the US to Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam, followed by a number of South American nations. Military intervention in these countries was inevitably followed by big business, which forced the local leaders to agree to patently unfair trade deals. And if the natives dared to rebel, they were quickly and ruthlessly put down by American marines and the navy.
This gunboat diplomacy ensured that US industries had a ready supply of raw materials and markets, and allowed the country to become a global force. The world wars that broke out in the 20th century only ended up securing the US’s preeminent status as a world superpower.
From Addicted To War (© Joel Andreas)
Deal or no deal?
For an insider’s look at how US corporations have continued to force one-sided deals on weaker nations, check out Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins (RM45.50, paperback). Perkins was an economic planner with a US international consulting firm and worked on projects in several Third World nations.
When I first read it in 2006, I was shocked by Perkins’ description of the callous manner in which some US corporations manipulated foreign policy and cheated other countries out of billions of dollars. Perkins details how these companies cooked up faulty economic projections to coerce foreign nations to accept multi-billion dollar loans from the World Bank. They did this despite knowing that these countries could not pay back the loans. When the countries defaulted, increasingly stringent conditions were imposed, all in favour of US contractors and institutions.
Leaders of countries who refused to buckle down and accept the loans, defying US interests, were deposed by US-funded rebels. And in some cases, such as the Dominican Republic and Grenada, the American government launched an outright invasion, ostensibly because they “posed a threat to the US”.
Of course, Confessions cannot be accepted as an absolute truth; Perkins is less than forthcoming about some details, and the book falls into the realm of the sensational at times. Some critics, especially in the US, charge that the book is the result of the overexcited imagination of a conspiracy theorist, and is merely fantasy. Yet, many parts of the book ring true, at least for me.
Decide for yourself by reading the book, which spent an astounding 70 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Also, check out Perkins’ website and watch this two-part video interview with the author here.
I’m sure there are some good reasons for a country to go to war. But greed should never be one of them.
N Shashi Kala hopes for world peace, but expects war to go on.