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Issue #1661      October 22, 2014

Culture & Life

Resurgence of the military industrial complex

In the 1960s, with the glaring injustice and horror of the Vietnam War raging on their TV screens and claiming thousands of young Americans’ lives, many people around the world became aware of the influence of the military-industrial complex on all aspects of modern life under capitalism. They spoke out against it and actively campaigned to curtail its influence. But how could its influence be reined in when military budgets continued to grow at almost exponential rates?

Excuses for increasing military spending and militarism itself were easily found. The Cold War was replaced by the War on Drugs which was replaced by the War on Terror. All were equally bogus, excuses for encouraging fear and paranoia and for justifying massive arms budgets and imperialist military adventures all around the world.

Wars are an expression of class conflict, waged either directly or indirectly by the capitalist ruling class to increase its wealth or power – or both. Peace activists who view war as purely a moral issue and ignore the question of who gains from it financially cannot hope to understand why wars not only persist but have become so prevalent.

Irish peace activist Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. But she is baffled by the wars that continue to plague us today. In an article entitled The Disturbing Expansion of the Military-Industrial Complex written for IPS America earlier this year, she asked “How can we explain that in the 2lst century we are still training millions of men and women in our armed forces and sending them to war?”

Because, Mairead, war is big business and big business needs war to protect and expand its profits and to suppress those people who oppose its greed.

She points out with admirable common sense that “a civilian-based non-military diplomatic-political policy has more chance of succeeding in solving a violent conflict.” Which would be a telling point if capitalism were at all interested in solving violent conflicts. But it’s not. In fact, it is much more interested in creating violent conflicts. They are literally good for business. That is why, as she says, “every day through our television and local culture, we are subjected to the glorification of militarism and bombarded with war propaganda by governments telling us we need nuclear weapons, arms manufacturers, and war to kill the killers who might kill us.”

But it’s not just killing. As Mairead Maguire also notes, “there is the cost to the environment and the cost to human potential as our scientists waste their lives planning and researching even more horrific weapons which increasingly, in modern war, kill more civilians than combatants.” This latter is not accidental. It is no unfortunate by-product of “modern war”, it is modern war.

The world-wide opposition to using (or even threatening to use) nuclear weapons has forced imperialism to find ways to increase the destructiveness of conventional weapons, to the delight of the military industrial complex, which is called upon to produce ever more sophisticated weapons and delivery systems. Today, imperialism can reduce a country to rubble using conventional weapons alone and not leave it a radio-active wasteland. A wasteland, yes, but not radioactive.

Look at Iraq, where in Ms Maguire’s words, “the United States and the United Kingdom committed genocide against the Iraqi people when, between 1990 and 2012, they killed 3.3 million people – including 750,000 children – through sanctions and wars.” [“Shock and Awe” indeed.] Look at Libya, where the aftermath of NATO’s invasion has been not only the murder of its leader Muammar Gaddafi and the destruction of its economy but continuing civil war between rival military strong men for control of its oil.”

People in many countries, as Ms Maguire points out, “live their lives struggling with the roots of violence, some of which are poverty, war, militarism, occupation, racism and fascism. They have seen that they release uncontrollable forces of tribalism and nationalism. These are dangerous and murderous forms of identity which we need to transcend.

“To do this, we need to acknowledge that our common humanity and human dignity are more important than our different traditions; to recognise that our lives and the lives of others are sacred and we can solve our problems without killing each other; to accept and celebrate diversity and otherness; to work to heal the ‘old’ divisions and misunderstandings; to give and accept forgiveness, and to choose listening, dialogue and diplomacy; to disarm and demilitarise as the pathway to peace.”

However, the heads of the armament corporations, the heads of all the sections of the military-industrial-complex, in fact, who are making obscene profits from the euphemistically-named “defence industries”, are unlikely to willingly agree to “disarm and demilitarise” any more than they are likely to want to enter on to a “pathway to peace”. No, they will have to be made to go there.

Mairead Maguire is to some extent aware of this. She writes: “The whole of civilisation is now facing a challenge with the growth of what President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) warned the US people against – the military/industrial complex – saying that it would destroy US democracy.

“We know now that a small group made up of the military/industrial/media/corporate/academic elite, whose agenda is profit, arms, war and valuable resources, now holds power worldwide and has a stronghold on elected governments. We see this in the gun and Israeli lobbies, among others, which wield great power over US politics.

“We have witnessed this in ongoing wars, invasions, occupations and proxy wars, all allegedly in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention and democracy’. However, in reality, they are causing great suffering, especially to the poor, through their policies of arms, war, domination and control of other countries and their resources.

“Unmaking this agenda of war and demanding the implementation of justice, human rights and international law is the work of the peace movement.” And that means actively campaigning against Australia’s involvement in imperialism‘s military adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

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