BY VERN TURNER
We, as a fractured and divided nation in 1860, fought a most un-civil Civil War. The cost to the nation as a whole included about 700,000 direct deaths, unknown quantities of indirect deaths and probably about times those numbers in maimed and crippled people.
The issue over why so much blood was let and bodies ruined was an abstraction known as States’ Rights that morphed into yet another abstraction, the economics of slavery as a labor force. The only groups of Americans who benefitted from this horror show were the northern businessmen who built the weapons, sewed the uniforms and made the boots for the Union Army and Navy. Everyone else was taxed half to death to pay for this war, ruined outright [Southern plantations] and suffered grievous family disruption some of which have yet to heal.
From this war came the “second gear” of the industrial revolution where more goods were produced with cheap, available labor in America after the war and markets for the surplus had to be created so the growth of profits for stockholders and owners could continue and increase. This “expansion” created an imperialism that “opened” the Orient to our goods, but along the way way-stations for servicing trans-oceanic shipping were necessarily secured from the island peoples.
The salient event from this expansion was the Spanish-American War whereby the U.S. obtained possession and control of Guam, the Philippines and several other island “nations.” Once again a war was necessary for economic expansion and the lust for profits.
Nobody can really explain how World War I started except to note that a deranged Serb assassinated an Austro-Hungarian duke in Sarajevo, thus triggering the “honoring” of a chain of mutual defense pacts between most of the nations of Europe including Tsarist Russia.
From 1914-17 Europe was convulsed by a meat-grinder type war where millions died from stalemate war-making. The machine gun [an American invention] and heavy artillery were mass-produced by all industrial countries involved in the war to combat the military tactics used in the previous century. The ensuing years of trench warfare did little except to reduce the European population of young males by millions.
The American industrialists saw that their European markets were being destroyed by the war and finally goaded President Wilson to engage. The sinking of the Lusitania was just one of the motives to send American troops to war.
Our involvement was brief, bloody and was the tipping force for the chief “allies” of France and England to defeat the Germans and their allies. Meanwhile, the Russians experienced their communist revolution and dropped out of the war to rebuild their new country.
The Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, is often referred to as the document that started World War II. Germany’s industrial strength was greatly diminished, they were saddled with impossible reparations to the “victors” and their military was all but outlawed. These restrictions with no nation building factors created the social and governmental vacuum that a creature named Adolf Hitler was only too happy to fill.
Meanwhile, the United States businesses did splendidly while replenishing its allies with goods and services on credit since their cash and treasure were exhausted from the war also.
The American economic juggernaut created a stock buying craze in America to supply the cash that Europe couldn’t even if it meant that banks would loan “on margin” to would-be stockholders. This unregulated greed led directly to the Great Depression once all those notes came due and there was nothing to support the stock market. The Depression traveled across the Atlantic to Europe which only exacerbated the situation in Germany.
The coincidence of Hitler’s power grab in 1932-33 with the depths of the Depression should have been predictable. He restored pride in the Germanic peoples of Europe and proceeded to ignore the hated Versailles Treaty while rebuilding Germany’s military might “on margin” there. That’s what dictators do. The European chapter of World War II is, therefore, different than the Pacific theater.
U.S. industry, starved for cash, sold scrap metal and oil to Japan in the 1920s and ‘30s. Japan used these resources to build their own military instruments with which they bullied China and invaded Manchuria for coal and iron ore for their growing war machine and growing cities.
We also sold Japan machined parts for aircraft, ships and automobiles in order to put our people to work and raise cash for the growing military-industrial complex. Britain had already sold Japan modern warships and the plans to build more of them … including aircraft carriers.
President Franklin Roosevelt felt that Japan’s invasion and militarization of Manchuria and northern China was wrong and illegal. His decisions created sanctions on the goods and raw materials we sent them, thus creating a real bind for Japan’s ambitions to grow its own brand of imperialism and markets for their goods and services.
Once again, an economic war evolved into a shooting war with the subsequent attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
The British had already been engaged in another European war since Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 – another co-defense pact honored by the British.
Funny thing about pacts … People keep ignoring them and starting wars anyway. Germany even ignored its own pact with the Soviet Union and invaded that nation in 1940 to expand its own resource pool for business, industry and food supply.
This complex, sophisticated war involving millions of humans is what tribal humans had done for millennia, but writ much larger. It seems we haven’t evolved all that much after all.
Since the end of World War II, the United States has conjured up all sorts of reasons to go to more wars, large and small.
Korea was the result of our growing fear of communism – which is, of course, a fear of no capitalism and no profit. Forgive my cynicism, but the dictator thing associated with communism is a different vector of social change and again reverts to the primitive instincts of alpha males in a tribal setting, economic systems be damned.
Sen. Joe McCarthy fanned those fears of communism to the point of absurdity; thank goodness for Edward R. Murrow calling him out. We still harbored those McCarthy era [what an unfortunate title] fears when Ho Chi Minh decided that he and his people wanted to be free from French colonialism. He, like Fidel Castro, made overtures to the United States for help in establishing independence from colonialists or governments that we favored. Both subsequently turned to the Soviet Union and/or China for help instead and therefore assumed communism as their idea of governance.
This played right into the hands of the military-industrial complex that exploited the fear of the American people through their surrogates in government.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, denounced the military-industrial complex as a threat to liberty in our nation if they were allowed to influence and make U.S. foreign policy. We now know how well that warning was heeded.
Vietnam, Granada, Panama, Lebanon, Iraq I and II, Serbia and Afghanistan represent a string of continuous wars of varying sizes and lengths – including the longest in our history – that illustrates how thoroughly Ike’s warnings were ignored.
It begs the question: What good is wisdom if it is ignored by the greedy and the morally bankrupt?
Our policy of continuous war is now part of our national policy. Republicans still lead the charge of bombing as foreign policy.
Well, consider who makes the bombs and the bombers and you’ll know who is getting paid to sell their products to the American taxpayer.
Consider what has happened to our economy over the last 20 years. We have sent most commercial jobs to China, India, Africa and Europe to lower labor costs and increase profits. Our drug companies gouge the American taxpayer to the tune of hundreds of percents of markup on essential, repetitive drugs. The only things we build in country these days are cars, trucks, airplanes and war-making devices. We produce carbon-based energy while the rest of the world moves toward alternatives. We grow food, but it is turned into non-nutritive junk sold to overweight children watching cartoons.
Our war/defense/security budget is over $1 trillion per year. We spend more on these things than the next richest 25 nations combined! Our taxpayers must be stupid, lazy or in favor of this economic model.
Otherwise, rational, aware humans would see the endgame of it. It’s a loser. It is the model for collapsing empires throughout history.
When Rome couldn’t afford to pay its army because it was so huge, the army dissipated and allowed the “empire” to fall to lesser hands. The Dark Ages resulted from this socio-economic model.
The Romans saw it coming, but did nothing about it. Are we going to recapitulate Rome’s stupidity?
In 1971 Lewis Powell called to arms corporate/banking America to take over the government for the purpose of forming an oligarchy. Secret memos from bank executives have shown that that is indeed their intent, and since they are allowed to contribute unlimited amount of money to politicians’ campaigns, their goals are now within reach.
What will be the response of the people to this takeover by the few? More war? Allowing more mindless profit for the few while the vast majority suffers in mediocrity, or worse … ?
Until our citizens wake up to the fact that their votes are more essential than any military hardware, we will continue the plunge toward oblivion. We will be Rome 2.0 instead of America 3.0.
Only 48% of our registered voters will vote in November. Those who don’t vote will say they are “turned off” by the political environment. Well, that’s the plan of corporate/banking America: destroy the people’s freedoms, hopes and dreams by convincing them their votes don’t count, so that more money can be taken from them as profits.
Revolutions are supposed to start this way. Our next one is quite overdue.
What will be the trigger?
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.