What is not all right is finding out that our wars are one-sided slaughters of helpless families, and that over a million Iraqis lie dead in a devastated society where the first question any mother asks in areas poisoned by our weapons is "Is it normal?"
Veterans For Peace put out a statement last week in response to a United Nations communication to the U.S. government expressing concerns about our country's treatment of children in war. Included were concerns about the recruitment of children into the U.S. military, the U.S. killing of children in Afghanistan, the U.S. detention and torture of children labeled "combatants," and the provision of weapons by the United States to other nations employing child soldiers. I suspect it is the senseless killing of children abroad that will ultimately sway the most minds, but recruitment -- or at least the cost of it -- if an issue that is gaining traction.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota has won bipartisan support and passed through the Armed Services Committee a measure blocking the military from spending $80 million on sponsoring NASCAR drivers. We have a campaign at RootsAction.org to keep that measure in the bill. The U.S. Army says a third of its recruits come from motorsports sponsorships. Recruitment stations at racetracks help. But how does the Army measure the impact on our culture of sponsoring race cars? Dale Earnhardt, Jr., whom the National Guard has paid $136 million over the past five years to put a National Guard sticker on his race car and wear the logo on his uniform, predictably opposes cutting the funding, as do the biggest recipients of weapons money in Congress, none of whom have agreed to plaster their bodies with the logos of their sponsors. Military race cars have been featured in music videos, movies, and the shelves of toy stores. How can something so pervasive be measured? Well, we do know this: the total cost of advertising and recruitment per recruit is so much that we could have taken that money and simply given that young person and a bunch of his friends jobs doing something productive.
Those of us over on the left tend to think of cuts as bad and spending as good. For libertarians, cuts are good and spending is bad. This conveniently erases from the discussion the question of WHAT cuts and WHICH spending. We need to stop shouting "Jobs Not Cuts" and start shouting "Jobs Not Wars." The U.S. military is so well funded, that it could be cut by half, remain far and away the best funded military in the world, and fund with those cuts every program any progressive group has ever dared to dream of for clean energy, education, housing, etc., and quite a few programs nobody has yet dared to dream. Or we on the left could make a deal with libertarians: we work together. We cut a half trillion out of the Pentagon -- and I mean each year, not "over 10 years" as they like to say -- and we put a quarter trillion into tax cuts and a quarter trillion into useful spending.
A massive urgent program, or what people unthinkingly like to call "a war," is needed right now to prevent catastrophic climate change. Another is needed to rid the world of nuclear weapons and power. Another is needed to pull government out of the hands of plutocracy. And these aren't movements aimed at making life a little bit better. Jeremy Brecher wrote recently of the need for a human preservation movement. This is what we need, a survival movement, part of which will be the full abolition of war.
The Occupy movement is a good start at bringing important issues together. But of course we need to carry with us into the occupy movement the distinctly minority understanding that war can and must be completely eliminated. We can learn from the Outlawry movement. It was moral, educational, non-electoral, and long-term with no expectation of succeeding even in a generation, and no trigger to collapse into despair if it didn't.
We need to recognize that war is not in our genes. It's a relatively new creation, sporadically present and absent in various societies, avoided when we choose and not otherwise. It's not created by mystical forces of history or population or resource shortages or testosterone. It's created by a culture's tolerance for it, or tolerance for an unrepresentative government that engages in it. That's our situation. War is a creation of the 1 percent that recruits members of the 99 percent to support it, as well as to do the dirty parts. War and the weapons barons and the oil oligarchs and the Wall Street banksters and the corporate media and the big business lobbies and the crowd of court jesters and sycophants in Washington who claim to be our government: they look more powerful than they are. They're afraid of their own shadows. Six years ago they were secretly telling each other to end the wars before we gained more strength. Instead we switched parties and went home, while they breathed a sigh of relief. Yet, now, again they are scared of everything we do. They're spying on every word, comprehending little. What they understand is resistance. Frank Kellogg never understood the Outlawry of War, but he didn't have to. He just had to do what the people demanded. There are more of us in any small town than there are of them in the whole country. We need to realize our strength.
"And these words shall then become," wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley,
"Like Oppression's thundered doom
"Ringing through each heart and brain,
"Heard again - again - again -
"Rise like Lions after slumber
"In unvanquishable number -
"Shake your chains to earth like dew
"Which in sleep had fallen on you -
"Ye are many - they are few."