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December 1998, Volume 6 Nr. 4, Issue 64

War Machinery

While driving home from work the other day listening to Vermont Public Radio (VPR) I heard an opinion-editorial piece produced by Bill Seamans. Seamans goes on about the US military’s capabilities for fighting two disparate regional conflicts simultaneously - the present US military strategy.

The number of US military personnel today stands at 1.2-million uniformed men and women. Of those .4-million are stationed offshore. Holding back few punches, Seamans admits that the military is having difficulty meeting the desired recruitment quotas amongst the various branches of the armed forces.

Seamans further reports that the educational level of the troops is, well, to put it bluntly, too dumb to operate the sophisticated machinery and weaponry of modern warfare. Since our big-booms and bang-bang have gone high tech and our all-volunteer military has become less educated, there appears not to be enough cannon fodder with the necessary smarts to go around.

The military seems not to be alone. It appears that Silicon Valley too has a shortage of highly skilled workers. That shortage is presumably so acute that legislation is being introduced in the US Senate to help alleviate the problem.

Does the new Senate legislation send more bright but poor people to university on full or partial scholarship? Does it give the disadvantaged, hard-pressed and otherwise marginalized members of society a helping hand to achieve the economic wherewithal to further advance themselves? Certainly not.

Instead, the proposed legislation increases the quota on the H-1B US visa. This gem allows more foreign skilled workers into the United States to take jobs in areas where there reportedly exists a labor shortage.

We are being led to believe that there are not enough qualified workers in the US high technology industry. After all, if the military has dumbed down, surely so has the rest of society.

Isn’t it interesting that when one takes the time to research this issue one discovers that many skilled US programmers, computer specialists and other highly trained people simply cannot find jobs. What goes?

The answer is elementary if one considers how the greed market system operates. There is too much fine tuning of supply and demand in favor of those doing the fine tuning. A well educated US worker demands a premium on wages. Highly skilled workers get paid good bucks and benefits. Rather than having too few high skilled workers, there are high skilled domestic workers demanding good salaries. Time to do something about that. More fine tuning.

Disparity

Predatory Capitalism is in a dilemma. There is a large wage gap between the lowest paid unskilled and the highly trained laborer. If the profit seekers cannot increase profits through lowering wages and/or increasing efficiency (down sizing, etc.) then they find alternative methods. Because they have been unsuccessful in bringing low wages to the skilled worker, they instead bring the worker to low wages - that is they import them. While down sizing is achieved through job export, low wages is accomplished through worker import. Either way it works but, better results are achieved through tweaking the greed machine for doing both.

H-1B visa quotas are going up. The legislation raises the limit in 1998 from 65,000 to 95,000. It then reaches 115,000 in the year 2000 and stays there till 2002. So, what will the ever increasing pool of highly qualified US workers do when they are replaced by immigrants willing to work at a fraction of their salaries? Perhaps, they can fill the vacancies in the military that Bill Seamans talks about.

More

This issue is more than just about the disparity between high and low tech wage earners, nor is it about domestic versus immigrant workers. It is about a word that has not been uttered in decades and one which even the more secure politicians shun. Seamans doesn’t.

The flavor of Seamans’ commentary is along the lines that ground troops are always needed, especially after all the high tech goodies get their chance at being tested. The foot soldier always has a place to go and a job to do after the video arcade blow-them-up warfare ends. Military quotas unfulfilled? Too much high pay job demand? What’s the solution?

Wagging the Dog Again

Since I began writing this issue, President Bill Clinton’s impeachment vote is being delayed by yet another bombing of Iraq. The one day reprieve is a brief respite - nice going, Mr. President. It is however, another tragic day in the sad history of bully-diversionary diplomacy.

One report I heard on National Public Radio (NPR) was that this newest round of high technology toy deployment is the first time that the B-1 bomber is being placed into service. It must be difficult continuously trying to find real life (and death) situations in which the corporate boys can play with their new toys. Somehow, they manage making handsome profits by building, maintaining, testing, upgrading, fueling, stationing, and using them.

Why is it that while President Clinton gets taken to task for indecently touching Monica Lewinsky somewhere, the hypocritical makers of the cops-of-the-world foreign policy get away with the obscenity of bombing a suffering people who already have enough to contend with?.

While America obsesses and overdoses on sex and more sex, people die. Why are so few asking how the 8-year old sanctions against Iraq have killed more than a million? Why is the US citizenry so unaware that there are more people living on planet Earth who are under US sanctions than those that are not? Does America know that 5,000 - 8,000 Iraqi children die each month from malnutrition and lack of food and medicines each and every month? Most of these children are under the age of 5. Does America care?

I believe Americans would care if they knew more. Such is not, however, in the interest of the horizontally integrated mega-corporations whose goal for the news is only for its entertainment and the entertainment of consumers.

The D-Word

You don’t need a well educated foot soldier to do the dirty work. On the contrary, what is required is a well-disciplined fighting machine that does as s/he is told not as s/he thinks. Thinking less is a requirement for gunghoness. And, most of us are easily persuaded to be gungho about the latest "enemy" since through the media we are told what to think and encouraged not to think much.

NPR’s Seamans’ piece further suggests that simultaneously fighting a war against Iraq and North Korea is a distinct possibility. He then goes on to use the "D word", that so far unutterable sound alluded to in the previous section. Seamans admits that the military and the politicos are reticent to use the word in public though, according to him, they are discussing it. And just what is the "D word"? It’s the draft!

Seamans’ talks about the reasons why a "just" draft is necessary. He ponders over the mechanisms necessary to assure that the poor, uneducated and underprivileged young people do not disproportionately bear the burden of military service. He wants "fair" conscription.

Unlike during the Vietnam war, Seamans’ surmises that people privileged enough to have access to the resources, money or connections to escape the draft, would not be able to get away with it this time. Presumably the next great patriotic endeavor to protect the world’s remaining superpower interests from the dark forces opposed to the globalization of everything will equally distribute the casualties.

Seamans neglects to mention that the poor, minorities, downtrodden and oppressed of the world have always done the bidding of the rich and powerful. They have always paid the bigger price. That is why they are poor, downtrodden and oppressed in the first place. Being a minority only makes it that much easier to be taken advantage of. To suggest that conscripted soldiers in the next debacle will be drafted from the ever increasingly rich and powerful in equal proportion to the powerless is naive no matter what laws are put in place to the contrary.

What’s worse is that conscription always has been and always will be a consequence of modern humanity’s inability to resolve conflict non-violently. The United States’ failure, as the world’s only superpower, to go beyond solving disputes through other than destructive means is quickly becoming its identifying ideology. Peaceful means are used only when that tactic is in its best interest. It is similar with supporting dictators. When the dictator acts in accordance with US wishes he is left alone. He may even be installed or aided (as in the case of Pinochet overthrowing Allende in Chile). When the dictator does not do our bidding or changes his mind, then he is a tyrant which must be removed. Who put Saddam Hussein in power in the first place? Then there is Manuel Noriega, Mbutu, Batista, Pinochet, and the list goes on.

Cheap Labor

Soldiers are admittedly an inexpensive labor force. A military enlisted man today with a family will often qualify for food stamps. It certainly is advantageous for the rich to conscript the poor. And, it is much cheaper than buying cruise missiles. Dropping one these missiles costs in the neighborhood of $400,000. No food stamps nor Green Stamps required to procure these marvels of high technology sophistication. Unlike our schools the Pentagon does not need to hold a bake sale to pay for its supplies.

In the December bombing of Iraq, which has in some world quarters been dubbed "Monica Fox" instead of the Pentagon-preferred "Desert Fox", four-hundred cruise missiles were let loose - paid for by the Pentagon’s petty cash, i.e. tax dollars. For what purpose? What has it achieved?

The US government spinmeisters speak of Iraq’s increasing stockpiles of threatening weapons of mass destruction. They speak of threats posed to Iraq’s neighbors. Yet, the US is the largest arms merchant in the world producing more weaponry than all the other countries of the world combined? The US soldier is more likely to be killed by a weapon or armament made in the USA than one made from any other country. How can we as a nation use the rational that we are protecting the world from producers of weapons of mass destruction when we manufacture and possess most of them and consistently show that we are willing and able to use them?

The soldier is cheap labor - the cruise missile is an expensive toy. Usage of the latter brings joy to the shareholders in and profiteers of corporations doing business with military. There is much wealth gained through the deployment of war armament, its usage and replacement. By contrast, the death of a soldier is of insignificant monetary consequence. S/he is easily and cheaply replaced, a minimal investment. We even call these people singular human "assets", government investments or more familiarly GIs.

The military industrial complex (which general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against) makes huge sums of money through the deployment of weapons of mass destruction and the supporting hardware and infrastructure while saving money through the deployment of the soldier. Having policies supporting both is good for business.

Here it Comes

Critics of president Clinton suggest that he will do anything to save his presidency. Since the majority of Americans support just about any military action being indoctrinated that to criticize or protest is unpatriotic, few oppose the December impeachment eve bombing of Iraq. The president knows this and thus made the decision to do the dirty deed in another maneuver to maximize prospects for his political survival. And, his polls ratings did shoot up!

Consider however, that Clinton did not consult with the House of Representatives, obtained no approval for military action and was in defiance of International law as well as taking action contrary to the charter of the United Nations. As a result, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, and Washington have had a falling out. Column Lynch, writing as a Boston Globe Correspondent describes their relationship as having "...degenerated to the worst state ever." Annan is a peaceful man choosing conflict resolution over violence. Perhaps, it is Annan’s diplomatic over confrontational ideology that has strained relations with a superpower all too eager to pursue the latter. Annan is also a fair man. Few in the world dispute that. Perhaps, this is why he has responded to Washington’s most recent hypocrisy so strongly.

Lynch reports in mid-December that Annan responded to US pressures to make the UN more efficient by saying, "I think we have had enough. It is one thing to encourage efficiency, it is quite another to be subjected to a starvation diet." The push for more UN efficiency comes from a nation who has amassed a 1-billion dollar non-payment of its dues and then uses UN resolutions as a pretext for its military actions. The Iraq military action, it must be stressed, is opposed by three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: France, Russia and China, non exactly a consensus.

Kofi Annan became UN secretary of state through US intervention and backing. Washington’s turn against him is another example of its attempts at installing its will and then turning away when that will is challenged, often with unpleasant consequences.

So, it is time. It is the New Year and here it comes. Another attempt to save the presidency. On January 2, 1999, The New York Times reported that the first real increase in the Pentagon budget in over a decade was being requested by Bill Clinton. The president will be seeking a $100,000,000,000 (that’s one-hundred-billion-dollars) increase over the next six years. That does not include the $4,000,000,000 to come during fiscal year 2000. Welcome to the 21st century.

Much Better Way

When we put together the dual-battlefield war strategy, talk about the draft, proclivity toward resolving issues of dispute through unilateral military action, acting contrary to UN and majority world opinion, a dramatic increase in proposed military spending with a Capitalist global economy in turmoil we arrive at not too pleasant a conclusion. War is profitable and good for the economy. Global predatory Capitalism has much to gain from going to war and using its war machinery. There is an alternative.

For seventy-five years groups such as the War Resisters League (WRL) have been striving to prevent war through changing the conditions that lead to war. WRL is a worldwide organization of individuals who espouse the philosophy of A.J. Muste who said, "There is no way to peace - peace is the way."

WRL operates in the violence rejecting tradition of Mohandas Gandhi, Thoreau, Tolstoy, King, Demming, etc. WRL members affirm "that war is a crime against humanity. We therefore are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive for the removal of all causes of war."

JeanneE and I met 18 years ago at the founding organizational meeting of the Monmouth County War Resisters league in Fair Haven, NJ Perhaps, it is time to become much more involved with WRL and its activities again. In these times when violence seems to have been accepted by the mass culture as the solution to conflict it might be wise to reread WRL philosophy and politics. Consider the statement,

"The pacifist does not deny conflict exists, but we believe nonviolence achieves social change with the least injustice and suffering because we focus on the evil of institutions rather than seeing individuals as evil."

Making the claim that Saddam Hussein is the worst thing since Hitler (as was done in the US) does little to resolve conflict peacefully. Neither does seeing the US as the world’s great Satan.

In response to a respected teaching colleague who offered to bomb Saddam if she could, I offer the following WRL statement condemning the recent violent bilateral actions of the United States and the United Kingdom. My wish for the coming new year is that everyone read and study the statement and then reach inside and acknowledge that violence is not necessary?

Finally, we might consider what actions we might take in our lives that might help to eliminate the causes of injustice, violence and war

War Resisters
League
Condemns Bombing

December 17, 1998

Contact: Chris Ney or Ruth Benn (212) 228-0458

The War Resisters League joins many countries and organizations in condemning the U.S. and British bombing strikes against Iraq. These attacks are in defiance of international law and usurp potential United Nations efforts to resolve the conflict with Iraq without further resort to violence.

Iraqi civilians will be the primary victims of the bombs, despite assertions from U.S. military sources and the Clinton Administration that the targets are Iraqi military sites or Saddam Hussein's palaces. These assertions remind us once again of the statement by Aeschylus: "In war, truth is the first casualty." U.S. propaganda depicting Hussein as the enemy of the American people has flooded the media for months, but the American people have seen very little of the effects of the 1991 Gulf War and eight years of sanctions on the Iraqi people - effects that include a death toll of more than 1 million Iraqi civilians. As we engage in the many activities of this holiday season that involve children and songs and cards proclaiming "peace on earth," let us keep in our minds the daily death toll in Iraq that is paid for by U.S. tax dollars.

President Clinton claims that Iraq will be a threat to its neighbors so long as Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. We agree. We believe that any country with weapons of mass destruction is a threat to world security. The way to peace in the Middle East and around the world does not begin with weapons, but with disarmament. The War Resisters League calls for:

  • An immediate end to U.S. military threats and attacks against Iraq.
  • Withdraw U.S. forces and end U. S. arms sales in the region and around the world; in addition we call for a worldwide embargo of arms sales to the entire Middle East region.
  • Work in partnership with the international community for negotiated settlements and regional disarmament.
  • End the sanctions against Iraq that have killed more than 1 million people, including 700,000 children.

Contact our office (212-228-0450) for information about actions in your community. War Resisters League is working in coalition with many groups including Peace Action, Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Friends Service Committee, Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and Friends Committee on National Legislation for a National Day of Mourning, the first called for Saturday, December 19, 1998.

  • Call the White House comment line, (202) 456-1111.
  • Call your Senator or Congress person. Demand that the administration seek a diplomatic solution to this crisis.
  • Send material aid to Iraq. The embargo prevents basic humanitarian supplies, including medicines, from reaching the Iraqi people. Voices in the Wilderness coordinates shipment of supplies; call them at (773) 784-8065.
  • Leaflet and vigil anywhere people are gathered. Join with others groups in your community to call for an end to the use of military force in Iraq.
  • Stay informed. The Non-Violence sit on the web has an Iraq crisis page. Check it out at http://www.nonviolence.org/iraq.
  • Half of your tax dollars pay for current and past wars, not including money for military action in Iraq. Refuse to pay all or part of your income taxes in protest. Contact WRL for more information.
  • Join WRL in the struggle for a just and peaceful world.

1998 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

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