The Death of the Dinosaur, the Saber Tooth Tiger, and Militarism
Japan defeated in World War II? Ask one of the world's major economic powers.
Were the Mexicans defeated in the war with the United States in 1846? Look at
the very areas of their so-called defeat. The very region "conquered"
by the United States will soon have a Latino majority. The history of militarism
is a history of apparent victories, of Pyrrhic victories. Did the Conquistadores
conquer Latin America or were they simply absorbed into it? Indigenous people
were devastated but they are now resurrected and remain as environmental
messengers to a dangerously "developed" world.
getting into absolutes we wish to say that most of the world's wars were
unnecessary and counterproductive. The goals of the strong against the weak have
rarely been achieved. The defense of the weak (David vs Goliath) against the
strong has a rationale of legitimacy. Let's look at some examples. The Cold War
began at Hiroshima and was confirmed at Nagasaki. The two atomic bombs were
meant to announce a new world order. They were a message to the Soviet Union
that the United States would have international military hegemony.
Soviet Union was in ashes after World War II but it took up the challenge from
its former ally. Every child in the USSR knew, "The United States uses
atomic bombs against civilians". The Soviet Union began a frenetic effort
to imitate the bomb used against the Japanese. The USSR never led in the arms
race. But it successfully bankrupted itself mimicking the runaway military
spending of the United States.
scholars speak of value free social science. If there are no values, what could
be a more perfect investment than the arms business? It appears to be heaven
sent! The source of capital is a bottomless pit of gold: the treasury of the
United States. Created from the tax money of the hard working people of the
United States, this source is limitless and is counted in billion dollar
increments. What are the characteristics of this military industrial system?
First and foremost is greed. Militarism is collective theft. Its only
"ethic" is that might makes right.
The manipulation of fear. The enemy is coming and it is going to destroy us. But
give us your money and we will protect you. If there were no Soviet Union after
World War II, military industrialists would have had to create one. Foreign
competition with our economic system was viewed as a threat to the people of the
United States. "National interests" became a slogan to define
Instant obsolescence. Whatever weapon now operational must have immediate
improvement. It can have a higher kill ratio. It can be faster, fly higher,
carry more bombs.
Patriotism. We are programmed to accept and even to love war. Years of prayerful
recitation of The Pledge of Allegiance and a romanticized study of
"history" prepare the way for the arrival of military recruiters on
our high school campuses. High unemployment makes the "poverty draft"
a certainty. (Centuries ago this kind of patriotism was identified as, "the
last refuge of scoundrels".
The military budget becomes a sacred cow. An uncritical posture is taken by
legislators as half of the national budget is designated for military purposes.
Certainly there must be no cheap competitive bidding on military contracts. Such
patriotic service will be done by the best and the brightest. Actually bids are
determined by political power. Former generals serve as lobbyists to speak as
"experts" for the benefit of corporations. Campaign coffers of
cooperative candidates are filled by corporate Political Action Committees
The search for enemies. As the Defense Department became the largest
entrepreneur in the United States, the CIA was avidly seeking new enemies. And
there they were: Korea, Indochina, Dominican Republic, Chile, Grenada,
Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Iraq I and Iraq II, and Serbia to
mention a few. Most of these conflicts were linked to that "evil
empire", the Soviet Union, under the doctrine of anti-communism. But the
doctrine of anti-communism was never a doctrine of democracy and the United
States supported dictator after dictator in the name of this vapid ideology. The
world's dictators flooded to the United States to ask for financial and military
aid to stop communism when they should have been trying to stop hunger.
the greatest crisis for U.S. corporate, military, prison, police and gun
government actually did come from the Soviet Union. Rather than a first strike
nuclear war which we were prepared to conduct, it came in the form of Mikhail
Gorbachev. He realized there would never be any winners in the Cold War and he
took the initiative to end it. The CIA was unknowledgeable and unprepared for
a tragedy for the arms business! Gone were the endless preparations for nuclear
war. The financial heaven they had discovered in the arms business was so great
that they began to believe in the inevitablity of nuclear war. They did not
negotiate. They did not speak values. But they did have values. Making money was
the most important thing in the world. And nothing made money like arms. In the
spirit of Dr. Strangelove they were prepared to go to hell and to bring everyone
else with them rather than to lose their "principles".
over four decades our country used nuclear weapons in the same way a gunman robs
a bank, brandishing the weapon, demanding the money and thankfully not killing
the teller. This nuclear threat mentality took the place of diplomacy. Cold
warriors were prepared to eliminate hundreds of millions of non-combatants in a
nuclear holocaust. Possible massacre of entire uninvolved nations was seen as
simply "collateral damage". Historians will surely identify this
conduct as a form of homicidal mania.
understand all of this we must look to the military socialization of the world's
people. "Fight like a man"...a formula designed by kings to create
armies out of peasants. "Do what you are told"...whether it be the
monastic vow of obedience or the military, "mine is not to reason why, mine
is but to do or die!" there is little difference.
is no better example of the religiosity of militarism than the Christian
Gregory VII viewed his calling to be the unity of Christendom under the papacy.
The Christian Knights would attack the infidels (Moslems) who occupied the Holy
Land. Emperor Michael VII of Constantinople had asked the Roman Pontiff for help
and protection from the Turks and the Moslems. Here was a chance to: bring back
the schismatic Eastern Church to Rome; turn the Christian Kings and Princes into
Papal servants and repossess the Holy Land.
was the second successor of Gregory VII, however, Pope Urban II, who actually
sounded the alarm and called all Christian Knights to attack the infidel and
reconquer the Holy Land.
beginning of the twelfth century the Crusaders reached Jerusalem. Their
of our knights, Letold, clambered up the wall (of Jerusalem). As soon as he was
there, the defenders fled along the walls and down into the city, and we
followed them, slaying them and cutting them down as far as the Temple of
Solomon, where there was such slaughter that our men waded in blood up to their
ankles...The Crusaders ran about the city, seizing gold, silver, horses mules,
and pillaging the houses filled with riches. Then happy and weeping with joy,
our men went to adore at the sepulcher of Our Lord, and rendering up the
offering they owed. The following morning we climbed to the roof of the Temple
and fell upon the Saracens who were there, men and women, beheading them with
in the first Crusade we see something akin to the 1992 massacre of Bosnia.
Almost a millenium later, Orthodox (Serb) and Roman (Croatian) Christians walked
ankle deep in the blood of their Moslem enemies in the name of ethnic cleansing.
Eugenius III and King Louis VII of France asked St. Bernard of Clairvaux to
foster a Second Crusade 1147-1149 to stop the great Muslim growth which was
alleged to be swallowing up both Roman and Greek Orthodox Christianity. By
hindsight we can see the fallacy of his vision. St. Bernard was instrumental in
founding the order of Templars which he described in 1125:
are not lacking in proper bearing at home or in the field, and obedience is not
lacking in esteem. They go and come according to the order of the Master; they
put on the clothes he gives to them and demand from no one else either clothing
or food. They avoid opulence in both; only essentials are cared for. They live
with one another happily and with modesty without wenches or children in order
that they do not lack evangelical perfection, without property in one house, of
one spirit, endeavoring to maintain the bond of peace and tranquility so that in
all of them one heart and one soul appears to live. At no time are they idle or
wander about with curiosity. When they rest from their struggles against the
infidels, in order not to eat their bread for nothing, they improve and mend
their clothes and arms. Chess and board-games they despise, they do not cherish
the chase nor the bird-hunt. They hate the vagabonds, the minstrels, all
excessive singing and acting as vanity and stupidity of the world.
do not go into battle stormily and without thought, but with due consideration
and caution, peaceful like true children of Israel. But once the battle has
begun they press into the enemy without fear, considering the enemy mere sheep.
And if there are only a few of them they trust in the help of Jehovah. Therefore
one of them has managed to drive a thousand before him, and two ten thousand.
Also in a curious combination they are gentler than lambs and more ferocious
than lions so that one has doubts whether to call them monks or knights. Yet
they deserve both names, because they partake in the gentleness of monks and the
bravery of knights.”
Bernard has thus given us a perfect romantic fantasy of militarism. Indeed. God
is on our side! Recruiters for military service continue in the spirit of St.
was sixteen years of age at the time of St. Bernard. As a devout Moslem he was
determined to expel the Crusaders from Palestine. God was on his side as well
and he defeated the Second Crusade on July 4, 1187. (Both Saddam Hussein and
George Bush insisted that God was on their side during the U.S. bombing of Iraq
on January 13, 1991).
Third Crusade was marked by opportunism of the Crusaders and was also a failure
greed motive became ever more clear in the Fourth Crusade which became a battle
of Christian vs Christian as Roman Catholics attacked the schismatics of
Constantinople where there were far more riches to be sacked than in the Holy
Land. It went on for two centuries. Long before the conquistadores from Spain
and Portugal or the Puritans from Europe the essential religiosity of warfare
had been firmly established. The "humanitarian bombing" conducted by
the United States in Serbia is part of the same drill. The bonding of the
"crusaders" is essential, whether they be the LAPD or the Marine
Corps. After months of training and suffering together, if one of their own is
killed or wounded, they only fight more viciously against the "enemy".
could have killed every Somali I saw", said an African American Marine
after his buddy was shot by a sniper in Somalia (1993).
militarism be cured? Of course, but the antidote demands a consciousness of our
social and political programming.
dinosaur of militarism must become extinct. This will happen when we acknowledge
militarism as the most vile form of slavery. Yes, friends, we are called to
abolish the war system.