I like to point out that it is easy for war mongers to be war mongers as long as other people are doing the sacrificing. At least people arguing for peace aren't expecting other people to suffer if they get their way." -- John Page, Gulf War Veteran
WICHITA, Kan. - One of the earliest accounts of an anti-war demonstration is found in Aristophanes' Lysistrata. Written in 411 BC, the play is a humorous look at the quest of one woman, Lysistrata, to end the Peloponnesian War. The protest is two-pronged. What most people remember of the play is that Lysistrata rallies the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers until they end the war. More crucial to the success of the protest is that the old women of Athens take over the Acropolis, the site where the state treasury is stored. This of course means the military will be unable to fund the war they're fighting.
The Peloponnesian War lasted from 431 BC to 404 BC, a long war by anyone's standards. The word "Lysistrata" means "Army-disbander" in Attic Greek and, while the women's war protest was only a fiction, the play gives voice to resistance to never-ending war. More importantly, it shows the inseparable relationship of economics to war. Wealth from tribute and land holdings, as well as access to the sea and to silver mines kept hostilities alive for almost thirty years between Athens and Sparta.
Between then and now, nothing much has changed. Those who work for peace once again see themselves out on the front lines doing everything they can to raise awareness and to pressure politicians to see the folly of our current state of never-ending war. In fact, given the cost, both in human life and in money, of the two wars America is now involved in, folly has become disaster.
Having protested against the Vietnam War as a young woman, I naively believed that politicians would learn from that experience that we would never again enter into an unnecessary, unwinnable war. What I didn't count on is the profit to be made in war. It's not just the profit that accrues to weapons makers; it is also the profit that now can be racked up by civilian businesses such as Blackwater, Halliburton, and the other for-profit international corporations that are hired by the government to serve functions that once were under the authority of the military. Because these groups are run by civilians, no one has any jurisdiction over them and they face absolutely no accountability for the money they make or their actions in the field of battle.
Many analysts believe that the Iraq War was started as a way to commandeer the oil supply there. Despite the Bush administration's insistence that Iraq had a connection with al Qaida and responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, there is no evidence that either of these claims are true.
When Bush sent the military in Afghanistan it was for the express purpose of capturing Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for 9/11. Instead of focusing on capturing bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan grew to involve all of Afghan territory and society. In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, western nations have a financial stake in the Trans-Afghanistan (TAP) pipeline that will carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea across Afghanistan to India and Pakistan. The Afghanistan government will receive eight percent of the profits from the pipeline. Much of the profits will go to the U. S. oil company Unocal.
Wichita, Kansas, a city located in the middle of the U.S., has been historically tied to military economics, kept afloat for years by McConnell Air Force Base. Also Boeing, and other companies heavily involved in military manufacturing for the economic base for the city. Wichita is similar to many other areas of the country, areas that would feel the pinch if Secretary of Defense Robert Gates follows through with his plan to cut the military budget. Protests are already starting among members of Congress who don't want to lose military spending in their districts.
Arthur Miller's play, All My Sons, written in 1946, is a modern-day equivalent to the Greek drama, in this case a tragedy, about the effects and after-effects of war on families. In this case, the family is headed by a father, Joe, who manufactures airplane parts, and who cuts corners so that the parts are faulty. These faulty parts imperil the lives of pilots fighting the war. Joe ends up in jail once his fraud is exposed, but in the meantime he loses his son, an Air Force pilot who crashes his plane after he hears about his father's perfidy.
How do the war profiteers cover their tracks? Attacks on U. S. Naval destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin were manufactured to move Congress to rubber stamp Lyndon Johnson's military action in Vietnam. Secretary Colin Powell used computer-generated images that he claimed were mobile labs used in the manufacture of biological weapons in his testimony at the United Nations. His goal was to get UN approval of the invasion of Iraq.
These images proved to be fakes, but it was too late by then. NATO troops were already deeply involved in the destruction of Iraq as they waged their unnecessary war there.
In the case of Afghanistan, of course, the pursuit of Osama bin Laden was enough of an excuse to send NATO forces into that beleaguered country. No military has ever been able to win a war in Afghanistan. At this point, even though the Obama administration sends out upbeat reports to the contrary, America's allies are pulling their military personnel as fast as they can and it seems America's forces will soon follow suit, after the additional marines are sent in to solidify our "victory." Rest assured, the citizenry will be told that we "won" and members of our military will still hold the fort there to assure that the peace holds.
Little reported on at this point is the American military presence in Central and South American countries. Officially, we aren't fighting wars in those countries, but Americans are there as advisers. It's anyone's guess when these conflicts will become the lead stories on the TV news. Given Americans' short attention span, however, the news will have only a hum-hum effect before news anchors move on to the latest celebrity scandal.
The military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us against is nothing new. It has likely been a major driving force for war for centuries. Take the profit out of war and what is left? Nothing but patriotism, nationalism, and the bravery of the youth who go off to foreign lands to fight to protect those profits under the guise of protecting our freedoms.
I ponder how those of us who want to end wars should best go about it. In the past, people have suggested that those who start the wars, generally those in positions of power, and those who profit from the wars should be the people to fight it. Once those people have to leave their cushy offices and their nice cars and their well-cared for families and their nice homes to go to a desolate country far from home, weighted down by weapons, Kevlar vests, and uniforms, they may have second thoughts about whether the profits they make are worth the cost.