Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Nov. 3, 4 or 5, 2016
It’s hardly a “gift,” but as the campaign ends between belligerent Donald Trump and bellicose Hillary Clinton, one realizes the U.S. government also has given the planet years of war.
Trump muses about using nuclear weapons, Clinton threatens Russia, and each tries to outdo the other on how tough they’d be against ISIS. But neither suggests cutting waste at the Pentagon, much less prioritizing peace over perpetual war.
On Nov. 9, Americans will need to continue to work on issues – college costs and debt, immigration reform, climate change, health care – and Capitol Hill progressives such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are sure to stir the grassroots. But war must be addressed.
“The question of war was the weakest point in Sanders’ politics and the most ominous one in Clinton’s,” says Ethan Young of Left Labor Project. “Tensions with Russia are already rising. We’ve seen the like before – with Vietnam, Central America, Iran, Iraq and so on. The rhetoric and rationales change, but the toboggan ride to Hell is always the same. Clinton is already moving policy to the Right. It will be harder to get broad unity for peace, but we have to figure it out and do it.”
Most people prefer peace to war, which is why one of the most effective peace anthems in the last half-century was “War,” Edwin Starr’s Grammy-nominated 1970 hit also recorded by the Temptations, Bruce Springsteen and others. It struck a chord with a public increasingly disenchanted with the Vietnam War.
Now, amid the seemingly endless armed conflicts across the globe in which the United States is involved, another pop-culture creation is making a mark: the amazing 74-page comic book “Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism.” Written and illustrated by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Joel Andreas, it documents history in a comprehensive and accessible way that other titles haven’t (like Chris Hedges’ “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”).
Well-sourced, Andreas’ book features surprising moments, such as U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Smedley Butler, who in his 1935 memoir, ‘”War Is A Racket,” wrote, “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”
Elsewhere, Andreas uses a 2014 open letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from Iraq War vet Tomas Young as he was dying. Young wrote, “You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. You sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage
“We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned,” Young added. “I hope that before your time on Earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness
It’s not just Republicans. Bill Clinton’s terrible Kosovo adventure and Barack Obama’s ruthless drone wars are remembered here, too. Structured in seven chapters – “Manifest Destiny,” “The Cold War,” “The New World Order,” “The War on Terrorism,” “The War Profiteers,” “Resisting Militarism” and “Do Something About It!” – the compelling updated 2015 version of the graphic novel has been praised by veterans, scholars and activists.
“ ‘Addicted to War’ is a rare gift to the American people,” said Father Roy Bourgeois. “It should be read by every person who cares about the human condition.”
As one campaign ends next week, another begins. As a renowned historian, the late Howard Zinn, remarked in 2008, “Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes – the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth. But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.”
As the song goes, “War, huh. Good God, y'all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”