Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why We Fight

The other day I was in the video store and I came across a title that blork had recommended. Why We Fight is a documentary about the creation and propogation of the military-industrial complex, the American war machine.

I have to say it was a hard movie to watch. Why? I'm an American and the movie furthered my feeling that capitalism will and is destroying the country. It is happening too often that citizens are looking out for financial gain over social and moral values. And this applies to so many aspects, not just the military. One point was made that the machine of unilateral war by the US is nothing new. And that the removal of a few select people will not change something that has become so ingrained over the past half century. I find that thought disturbing since many of have been thinking the national outlook would change after the next presidential election. I love my country, but I worry it will go the route of the Romans.

I enjoy learning what is given by this and other works like (Fahrenheit 911, Fast Food Nation, Bowling for Columbine, or Supersize Me.) But it is disheartening to see people bypass concern for their fellow citizens to make a buck. And yes, I realize that no one piece of information should be trusted to be unbiased. But something says to me that much of what was said and suggested holds truth. I only hope that this tend toward materialistic concerns can be reversed.

11 comments:

Mrne said...

Do you think that a Military-Industrial Complex is an American only thing? How many other nations are in the armament business and making nice profits on guns, bomb components, submarines, and etc.?
America is hardly unique.

America, is more likely to collapse under the weight of its liberal, democratic, anti-war values, than from the military-industrial complex. I am concerned that America/Americans lack the resolve (and the balls) to defend western civilization, and this not the military industrial complex WILL be our downfall.

Just my 2¢. Your mileage may vary.

Rachel said...

Defend "western civilization"? What does that even mean? America collapsing under democratic, liberal, anti-war values? So America is better off without democracy, equal opportunities and peace? What next - a call for a reduction of the chocolate ration and let's support our troops in Oceania? (ugh)

Frank said...

mrne: I'm a little surprised that that is your stance because if I remember correctly you used to have a bumper sticker that read "It will be a great day when schools will get the necessary funding and the military needs to hold a bake sale."

While I feel a minimal military is a necessary evil for a country this size, I feel it is only needed to protect the country or to aiding to correct serious injustices. A military for unilateral war and financial gain needs to stop. Military action is quickly becoming a vicious circle where each action is creating other "enemies".

Mrne said...

1. Did have such a bumper sticker. My motivation for the bumper sticker was based on support for government funding to parochial schools, not as an anti-military bashing.

2. My views shifted considerably on a number of issues Post 9/11. I take militant Islamists at their word. I think they are frank about their intentions and I believe them to be completely earnest in their proclaimations about destroying Western culture and civilization. I believe that Americans (and others) are foolish in ignoring them. We were attacked on 9/11. England was attacked. Spain was attacked. And arguably, France was attacked--I read many articles in which the leaders of the unhappy rioters stated they are not seeking assimulation, they revile Western culture.

I think Americans are far more naive than miitaristic.

Americans need to read more and think more.


3. Would like a response to the America is not unique in having a profitable arms industry. Even such places as Finland and Scandinavia have all their fingers in the American defense budget pie contracts.

4. Rachel, I said nothing about not liking peace or chocolate or democracy. I like all those things. I like peace very much. My youngest son is soldier on active duty in a very hot spot, militarily speaking. He came home for a short leave in July. As I hugged him good-bye, I cried deeply, as I wondered to myself if this is the last time I will hold my son, see my son, speak with him. Yes, Rachel, I prefer peace. I felt like a complete wimp with tears streaming down my face. I do not want my son to die or be injured, but he believes in what he is doing, and we his family share that belief. I hope it never comes to this, but if he were to be killed in the conflict, at least it could be said that he gave his life fully for something he believed in passionately. Let me emphasize we hope it never comes to that.

Mrne said...

P.S. I meant Finland and Sweden, went I wrote "Finland and Scandinavia." Sorry.

Rachel said...

I agree, 'Americans' do need to read more and think more. Your notions of peace are contradictory, pure doublethink (see - Orwell).

You seem to believe that Frank was drawing some simplistic line between the US military-industrial complex and profiteering. But, you're missing the point if you think other countries having a stake in the "defense budget pie" somehow makes the US military-industrial complex non-unique.

The US military-industrial complex is unique in that it exists, not to generate profit but solely to manifest American policy, which in turn generates profit and power. And it's American policy (only made possible by the MIC) that is currently 'unique'. No other country in the world at this moment is attempting to seat itself as *the* single and only superpower in a single superpower world, not even the Islamists you so hate/fear and certainly not Findland and Sweden.

American foreign policy today is an echo of that which existed in the days of the United Fruit Company (the early days of the MIC). This, despite the many decades that have passed and the fact that the US has been governed by seemingly different political parties. That, in and of itself is also unique (in other democratic countries different political choices usually lead to different policy).

'America' to this day invents wars to fight, manufactures its enemies and feeds a steady diet of disinformation and doublethink notions to its citizens, all to warrant its expansion. And oddly enough, it does it against the will and interests of its own people. Personally, I don't beleive that anyone's son truly wants to die so that wealthy men who do not respect the value of his life can become slightly more powerful than they were the day before he died.

Mrne said...

Dear Rachel,

As I stated in my original message: Your mileage may vary.

Because I believe in freedom of speech, I respect your right to express your views however divergent they are from mine.

You seem to read into my comments things that I have not said or implied. Mlle. you presume too much. I think clarifying questions would be a better route to understanding and dialogue than assuming my meaning.

1. My son is not serving the whims "of wealthy men who do not respect the value of his life can become slightly more powerful than they were the day before he died." He is not an American solider.


2. The MIC is not uniquely American. All parties who seek profit in the manufacturing of weapons and all that implies, are partners in a Military Industrial Complex. In some (if not many) cases nations are partners in more than one MIC, i.e. their own and the American MIC. It is fairly said, that there exists a web of MICs, a kind of international MIC co-op.

3. America is at present, the sole super-power, and that leaves America the obvious target for blame. America is also obligated by many parts of the world to take the lead, to intervene, to be the super-cop. The world rather demands that America be simultaneously the whipping boy for the world's problems and the benevolent generous daddy. To reduce American involvement in the world to greed and power hunger-- is overly simplistic. I think that many Western nations have a policy of convenience viz.a.viz America. They are happy for America to foot the bill financially, morally, and politically for all the world's woes. And those nations, also seem very happy to bash America when that is convinient.

4. I said that I take MILITANT Islam seriously. I take their leaders seriously. You are free not to. I think though, and please correct me if I am wrong, that a burka would crimp your style. Militant Islam, according to its spokeMEN, IS espousing that they are destined to become the sole power in the world, further they are taking steps to realize their "manifest destiny." Don't take my word for it, take theirs.

5. Do you think that America is actually democratic? One might think that American policy hasn't changed, because the political parties are just puppets of the evil MIC. Could that be an indication that America is just another oligarchy? Do you have other explanations?

6. How are my notions of peace "doublethink"? I ask because, I don't recall delineating my personal notions of peace. Again, I think this is the result of too much assumption on your part.

7. I disagree with the notion that America invents wars to fight. Again, I believe your conclusions are over-simplistic, and perhaps a tad naive however sincerely felt.


I appreciate the passion with which you've expressed your views.

Anonymous said...

Point of order, Mr. Speaker...

mrne, you haven't backed up your claim that "America is more likely to collapse under the weight of its liberal, democratic, anti-war values, than from the military-industrial complex." Care to elaborate?

Moderately serious research can turn up at least a dozen examples that indicate that in fact things are going in the opposite direction - people vote for "conservatives" on social issues (like parochial schools, etc.) who then turn around and loot local, state and national economies for their cronies' benefits...(which reminds me, if you work three part time jobs at McDonalds, Wal-Mart and Home Depot you probably don't have benefits.)

and to be fair this happens regardless of the party in power - Clinton did sign some shameful bills into law - but this time around, as a supermajority, they're being particularly shameless about it, beating questioners about the head with the patriotism issue if you dare raise a peep about the invoices, the legality or the morality of it.

And paying for all this requires cuts. Lots of cuts. So many cuts that it renders the social fabric in tatters - in some cases providing negative economic benefits to the people who voted for those candidates. (For more details on that, may I refer you to the Nike documentary 'The Big One' and Thomas Frank's "What's The Matter With Kansas?")

Also, you're tossing the words "liberal" and "democratic" around as if they were pejoratives, instead of merely descriptives.

If it wasn't for small-l liberal thinking - i.e. the Enlightenment - the American Revolution wouldn't have happened. Or the French, for that matter. There wouldn't be the Bill of Rights and later, the UN Declaration of Human Rights. So how is that a bad thing? Do we want to go back to 1600s ideas of serfdom and religious persecution?

If not a small-l liberal, small-d democratic society that fights only as a last resort, then what? An illiberal, oligarchical empire that wages wars of conquest and lies to us about the reasons why?

Or do we all still cling to that ridiculous dream of the Lone Frontiersman who Goes it Alone against -- what? Crabgrass? his job at the regional sales offices of Dunder Mifflin? and thus we Tough Types don't need Government (and by extension, the rest of society?) Well, the Unabomber thought so too...

The Liberal Western Civilization is Doomed angle is just so much hooey - that whole line of reasoning has come from people - like Falwell right after 9/11, or DInesh D'Souza today - who are using the crime of 9/11 as an excuse to root out all that they dislike in 'librul' society around them. Which, perversely, is just what the terrorists want! I'm going to refer you to this wonderful little essay which says things much better than I ever could. And this cartoon...

Mrne said...

"Hooey," is a compelling argument?

Opinions vary. You're entitled to disparage opinions you don't agree with. I don't agree with what you said either. There's a saying: To those who believe no explanation is necessary, to those who don't believe no explanation is possible. I think both sides are simply entrenched in their preferred views and no one is being convinced either way.

I never used democratic or liberal as perjoratives. Do you view conservatives unfavorably.

I work at a non-profit agency that serves people near, at, and below the poverty level. Our agency is directly effected by cuts in the government budget. From where I stand (on the front line) it does not appear that the American social fabric is more or less in tatters than it was 20 years ago.

Rachel said...

'Mrne', do you really think your son isn't fighting for American interests. Who's simplistic and naive now?

Anonymous said...

mrne, forgive me if i went a bit overboard rhetorically. I don't view conservatives per se with disdain, there's room enough on the political spectrum for all but the most extreme views.

I only ask that arguments be based in fact, and that we hold arguers to the same standards (not double standards) - far too many people seem willing to give "their side" a pass, or too willingly spread "noise" that distracts from the real issues.

The article I pointed to makes this abundantly clear. If we make arguments like "everyone else is doing it, so why can't we?" or make specious claims that "western civilization is at risk", we are victims of "weapons of mass distraction."

And in fact people of both political persuasions are all too ready to make the terrorists' argument for them, that we are a wicked society that needs to be spanked. Fact is: a massive crime occured, their reasons for doing it don't really matter in the long run, but why are we actually dragging our feet on capturing and punishing the perpetrators, and in making real investments in domestic security (ports, anyone? anyone? Bueller?)

We - and the media - then conveniently ignore real facts like the size and reach of the US military, the enormous budget they have, which translates into de facto subsidies for defense contractors. Peace is bad for business.

And yes, this means less money for first responders, social services, welfare, medicare, medicaid, and schools. We have allowed ideological issues to trump the basic bread-and-butter issues which affect the poor, the working poor, and the shrinking middle class.

I'm glad to hear that you work at a job "on the front lines" as it were. Maybe in your corner of the world it hasn't gotten worse compared to twenty years ago, but remember that the early 80s we were in the middle of a global recession....it certainly has gotten worse since, oh, 1996.

FactCheck.org, an arm of the Annenberg Foundation, attempted to debunk Senator Kerry's claims about "a shrinking middle class" and actually found that they were true. As of 2002, US Census figures put the US prison population at over 2 million - overwhelmingly African-American for some reason. Fully 25% of American children under 6 live in poverty, and 33% of adults are functionally or seriously illiterate!

It certainly seems to me that the system has been rigged against those at the bottom; it's designed to create a permanent underclass of cheap part-time labourers or cannon fodder.

And yes, I hate to say it, but unless your son is serving in Afghanistan and looking for Bin Laden, he's serving in a war of choice intended to, depending on which argument you find more compelling, establish a police station in the Middle East; serve as "flypaper" to attract terrorists from neighbouring countries (lovely), or to establish Western hegemony over the 2nd-largest oil deposits in the world.

When you say "likely to collapse under liberal, democratic, anti-war values," you offer no arguments, no facts to back this up, but we're meant to rely on clichés of hand-wringing, namby-pamby, "latte-sipping, birkenstock-wearing hippy-yuppies" or some such nonsense.

And in the context of this statement those adjectives are pejoratives, because you imply by your choice of words that an America under "conservative, republican, pro-war" (surely not conservative, anti-democratic, pro-war"-?) would indeed have 'the balls' to defend western civilization. Is that what you're saying? Because if so, the Bush administration is doing a "heckuva job, Brownie."

If they'd managed to smoke Bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of the Afghan hills in the same amount of relative time it took to find old doddery Saddam, I'd believe that they were serious, but instead, we are faced with naked power grabs in riders attached to omnibus bills, the erasing of individual civil rights, the entrenchment of government/corporate rights - life outstrips satire so often it's hard to wake up and not think you're in the movie Robocop or Starship Troopers...(ps, those are satires about corporate fascism).

And yeah, liberals are more than willing to defend western civilization. It's what we're *doing* by trying to preserve a tolerant, kind, thoughtful, helpful, generous, intelligent society where debate and protest is welcomed, not stage-managed out of camera range. And by supporting the *right* wars, not the wrong ones.

Finally, I invite you to look at mediamatters.org and tell me if you think the media are really "liberal." Or indeed, if we're getting all the facts...

peace!