node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.
I guess I should add my own story - when I was in high school, this army recruiter gave a talk to our class. What follows is a paraphrase of his speech:

"How many of you support the war in Iraq?"

no one raises hand

"What about Hitler? Saddam Hussein is doing the same things Hitler did to his own people. So If you oppose the war in Iraq, you support Hitler!"

None of us quite had the nerve to speak up about it, but if you listened closely, you could hear the sound of a thousand little bullshit detectors going off.
It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.
There is something deeply offensive about old men starting wars that young men must fight.
Tagswar
On the third day I was there, this guy who had picked me up in the Jeep, a corporal who I was ultimately going to replace, he and I were in the battalion intelligence section, we were sent down to the tractor park, the amphibious tractor park to meet a bunch of detainees. It was our responsibility to take care prisoners, and detainees were a classification of civilians, they were not combatants; they could be detained for questioning, which is why they were called detainees.

And Jimmy and I went down to the tractor park and two tractors came in, they had a whole bunch of Vietnamese up on top high flat-topped vehicles about eight or nine feet tall, and as the tractors wheeled into the park the Marines up on top immediately began hurling these people off, and they were bound hand and foot, so they had no way of breaking their falls, and they were old men, women, children, no young men, and I couldn't believe these guys were treating these people this way, and I turned to Jimmy and said, I grabbed him by the arm and said "What are those guys doing? We're supposed to be helping these people." And Jimmy turned to me and he looked at my hands on his arm, I sort of took them off, and he said "Ehrhart, you better keep the mouth shut until you know what's going on around here." I think it was at that point that I realized things were not quite what I was expecting.

It went downhill from there, and again I can't even begin to explain in the space of time that you have all the things that went into it, but I began to understand, it became obvious that the enemy was the very people in these villages around us, and we were in a very heavily populated area at that time, they were the enemy, or at least the enemy was out there somewhere and we couldn't tell one from another. And day after day our patrols went out and we ran into snipers and mines and snipers and mines and snipers and mines. I saw four armed soldiers the first eight months I was in Vietnam, and yet our battalion during that same period of time sustained 75 mining and sniping incidents per month, over half of them resuling in casualties. This is for a unit of about a thousand men. But there was no one to fight back at, and you begin to think, these people are the enemy, they're all the enemy. And then you go through villages and, you know, you get sniped at and so you call an airstrike in on the village and the whole village goes up, or you go through a place and you search it, and you burn houses and blow them up. The common perception, the notion I had when I was in high school was it was the Vietcong terrorized the Vietnamese population, forced them to fight against the Americans on pain of death. What I began to understand in Vietnam was that they didn't need to do things like that, all the had to do was let a Marine patrol go through a village and whatever was left of that village, they had all the recruits that they needed. I began to understand why the Vietnamese didn't greet me with open arms, why they in fact hated me, but of course that didn't change the fact that my friends were getting killed and injured every day and the only place that you could focus your own anger and fear was on those civilians who were there, and so it was this self-perpetuating mechanism: the longer that we stayed in Vietnam the more Vietcong there were, because we created them, we produced them.

None of that distilled itself into the clear kind of expression that I'm presenting now. What I began to understand within days and which became patently clear within months was that what was going on here was not what I had been told, what was going on here was nuts, and I wanted to get out. I knew if I was still alive on March the 5th 1968 they'd stick me on an airplane in Danang we used to call it the freedom bird and I could fly away and forget the whole thing. Turned out not to be quite so easy to forget it, but that was the notion, and certainly my last eight to nine months I ceased to think, I quite literally ceased to think about why I was there, or what I was doing. The sole purpose for my being in Vietnam at that point was to stay alive until I could get out.

And the reason for that is, you know, the kinds of questions that began to present themselves were just.. the questions themselves were ugly and I didn't want to know the answers. It's like banging on a door, you knock on a door, and the door opens slightly and behind that door it's dark and there's loud noises coming like there's wild animals in there or something. And you peer into the darknees and you can't see what's there but you can all this ugly stuff.. do you want to step into that room? No way, you just sorta back out quietly, pull the door shut behind you, and walk away from it. And that's what was going on, those questions, the questions themselves were too ugly to even ask, let alone try to deal with the answers.
No individual gets up and says, I'm going to take this because I want it. He'd say, I'm going to take it because it really belongs to me and it would be better for everyone if I had it. It's true of children fighting over toys. And it's true of governments going to war. Nobody is ever involved in an aggressive war; it's always a defensive war - on both sides.
The USA has a huge military budget because:
[1] it values its freedom and independence
[2] it values its allies and trade routes
[3] it costs the USA a lot more to get any measure of military might since it does not have a conscripted military and its materiel is not made by government suppliers.

The USA has a huge military budget because:

[1] it has whipped it's population, and that of a significant portion of the worlds population, into a frenzy of fear and paranoia, by maintaining a permanent war status since the end of WWII. Whether hot or cold, the USA has waged war against non-enemies, aggressively supporting brutal dictatorships around, killing millions in defence of "freedom and democracy" around the world. The USA as "protector" of the "free world" has been holding the human species hostage to the possibility of imminent extinction via nuclear weapons for nearly 70 years now. This in the name of valuing its freedom and independence.

[2] it has decided that the best social control mechanism for social pacification is to provide the lowest possible cost for goods and promoted consumerism as ersatz status symbols for a largely disenfranchised permanent underclass. In order to secure such cheap access to goods, the USA must dominate all world trade and be able to dictate prices for resources, resource extraction, production and distribution. This in the name of valuing its allies and trade routes.

[3] it spends a lot less money for the size of our military than any other country would for a similarly sized and scaled military because 18 year-old's with no prospects always form a cheap labor pool( "sold" as in soldier, comes from Roman Latin, daily wage-worker), particularly if one can convince them that they are serving their country men in the name of noble goals and values like "freedom and democracy". And because military production in the USA has always been "dual-purpose", a civilian feel-good, while producing weapons of mass destruction.

The USA has co-opted a tremendously large section of it's so-called private market for dual-purpose: production of disposable goods, while supplying the worlds largest military with an endless production line of "goods", of which no good can ever come. Most major manufacturing firms in the USA would not be economically viable if it were not for this arrangement. Boeing could never make it solely producing commercial air-liners, the market for such is not large enough, but if the Pentagon needs x number of fighter jets, missiles and rockets every year, which must be constantly restocked, due to usage in wars or due to degradation from not ever being used, they can show a profit for their civilian production lines. The same is, and has always been, true for GM, Ford, GE, etc.

The USA has not, historically, HAD a "health service" because we traditionally left health to the people themselves, the private sectore, and communities and states (The US Constitution says nothing about healthcare, and it explicitly says that anything it does not assign to the federal government belongs to the people and to the states)

The USA has not, historically, HAD a health service, because immiseration is a constitutive part of maintaining an exploitable permanent underclass. During the first 250 years of American history, surplus value, ie. profit, was made primarily by either a) stealing the indigenous peoples lands or b) exploiting "free labor", ie. slavery. Following the civil war profit has largely been made by exploiting those born into inter-generational poverty, both here and around the world. The majority of Europeans who immigrated to the USA during the first 150 years of colonization were debt-prisoners, ie. the then european permanent underclass. The USA has proudly cultivated cultural identities for the permanent underclass, going back almost 350 years, nowadays we call them "rednecks", the "n-word", and "mehicans".

The constitution, written for the most part by by the 18th century 1%, actually went to lengths to prevent the existence of a standing army. The USA has been violating it's own constitution every day for nearly 70 years now by maintaining the largest scale military ever seen in world history in direct opposition to our founders intents. With a media hell-bent on scaring the bejesus out of everyone 24/7, covert intelligence services, dedicated primarily to propagating domestic propaganda(be scared, be very scared), and brutal police forces, who routinely terrorize, denigrate and humiliate our permanent underclass, we have held our population in line through domestic terror, knee-jerk reactionary patriotism, dog-whistle ethnic discrimination, and cultural envy as a function of permanently denying the permanent underclass of the USA access to the "freedoms" and "democracy", which supposedly are those things that make America all so great.
Historically, the most terrible things - war, genocide, and slavery - have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.
A good way of finding out who won a war, who lost a war, and what the war was about, is to ask who's cheering and who's depressed after it's over - this can give you interesting answers.

So, for example, if you ask that question about the Second World War, you find out that the winners were the Nazis, the German industrialists who had supported Hitler, the Italian Fascists and the war criminals that were sent off to South America - they were all cheering at the end of the war. The losers of the war were the anti-fascist resistance, who were crushed all over the world. Either they were massacred like in Greece or South Korea, or just crushed like in Italy and France. That's the winners and losers. That tells you partly what the war was about.

Now let's take the Cold War: Who's cheering and who's depressed? Let's take the East first. The people who are cheering are the former Communist Party bureaucracy who are now the capitalist entrepreneurs, rich beyond their wildest dreams, linked to Western capital, as in the traditional Third World model, and the new Mafia. They won the Cold War. The people of East Europe obviously lost the Cold War; they did succeed in overthrowing Soviet tyranny, which is a gain, but beyond that they've lost - they're in miserable shape and declining further. If you move to the West, who won and who lost? Well, the investors in General Motors certainly won. They now have this new Third World open again to exploitation - and they can use it against their own working classes. On the other hand, the workers in General Motors certainly didn't win, they lost. They lost the Cold War, because now there's another way to exploit them and oppress them and they're suffering from it.
Forum with John Pilger and Harold Pinter in Islington, London, May 1994
Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.
Journalists should ask a specific question: since these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source? Then ask how many individual communications were ingested to acheive that, and ask yourself if it was worth it. Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.

Further, it's important to bear in mind I'm being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.
What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road? The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated. The worst is atomic war. The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, 
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone. 
July 1918
Most wars in the 20th century have started as a result of lies. Amplified and spread by the mainstream press. And you go, well that is a horrible circumstance, that is terrible that all these wars start with lies. And I say no, this is a tremendous opportunity, because it means that populations basically don't like wars and they have to be lied into it.
In September [2002] the government announced the national security strategy. That is not completely without precedent, but it is quite new as a formulation of state policy. What is stated is that we are tearing the entire system of the international law to shreds, the end of UN charter, and that we are going to carry out an aggressive war - which we will call "preventive" - and at any time we choose, and that we will rule the world by force. In addition, we will assure that there is never any challenge to our domination because we are so overwhelmingly powerful in military force that we will simply crush any potential challenge. That caused shudders around the world, including the foreign policy elite at home which was appalled by this. It is not that things like that haven't been heard in the past. Of course they had, but it had never been formulated as an official national policy. I suspect you will have to go back to Hitler to find an analogy to that.

Now, when you propose new norms in the international behavior and new policies you have to illustrate it, you have to get people to understand that you mean it. Also you have to have what a Harvard historian called an "exemplary war", a war of example, which shows that we really mean what we say. And we have to choose the right target. The target has to have several properties. First it has to be completely defenseless. No one would attack anybody who might be able to defend themselves, that would be not prudent. Iraq meets that perfectly... And secondly, it has to be important. So there will be no point invading Burundi, for example. It has to be a country worthwhile controlling, owning, and Iraq has that property too.
Our swollen budgets constantly have been misrepresented to the public. Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor — with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.
Address to the Annual Stockholders Sperry Rand Corporation (30 July 1957)
Strikingly, no concern was voiced over the glaringly obvious fact that no official reason was ever offered for going to war -- no reason, that is, that could not be instantly refuted by a literate teenager.
As inspection of its domestic programs makes clear, the Administration has no intention of addressing such problems; rightly, from its point of view. Any serious measures would infringe upon the prerogatives of its constituency. For the executives of a transnational corporation or other privileged sectors, it is important for the world to be properly disciplined, for advanced industry to be subsidized, and for the wealthy to be guaranteed security. It does not matter much if public education and health deteriorate, the useless population rots in urban concentrations or prisons, and the basis for a livable society collapses for the public at large.

For such reasons, it is important to distract the domestic population. They must join their betters in admiring "the stark and vivid definition of principle...baked into [George Bush] during his years at Andover and Yale, that honor and duty compels you to punch the bully in the face" -- the words of the awe-struck reporter who released the Policy Review explaining how to deal with "much weaker enemies."

The principle that you punch the bully in the face - when you are sure that he is securely bound and beaten to a pulp - is a natural one for advocates of the rule of force. It teaches the right lessons to the world. And at home, cheap victories deflect the attention of a frightened population from domestic disasters while the state pursues its tasks as global enforcer, serving the interests of the wealthy. Meanwhile, the country continues its march towards a two-tiered society with striking Third World features.

The same Times reporter goes on to quote the gallant champion himself: "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all." The second national newspaper joined in, applauding the "spiritual and intellectual" triumph in the Gulf: "Martial values that had fallen into disrepute were revitalized," and "Presidential authority, under assault since Vietnam, was strengthened." With barely a gesture towards the dangers of overexuberance, the ultraliberal Boston Globe hailed the "victory for the psyche" and the new "sense of nationhood and projected power" under the leadership of a man who is "one tough son of a bitch," a man with "the guts to risk all for a cause" and a "burning sense of duty," who showed "the depth and steely core of his convictions" and his faith that "we are a select people, with a righteous mission in this earth," the latest in a line of "noble-minded missionaries" going back to his hero Teddy Roosevelt -- who was going to "show those Dagos that they will have to behave decently" and to teach proper lessons to the "wild and ignorant people" standing in the way of "the dominant world races." Liberal columnists praised "the magnitude of Bush's triumph" over a much weaker enemy, dismissing the "uninformed garbage" of those who carp in dark corners (Thomas Oliphant). The open admiration for fascist values is a matter of some interest.

[..]

On British television, anti-Saddam Arab intellectuals in London, including the prominent Kuwaiti opposition leader Dr. Ahmed al-Khatib, were unanimous in calling for a cease-fire and for serious consideration of Saddam's February 15 peace offer. In October 1990, Dr. al-Khatib had stated that Kuwaitis "do not want a military solution" with its enormous costs for Kuwait, and strenuously opposed any military action.

The silence here was deafening, and most instructive. Unlike Bush and his associates, the peace movement and Iraqi democratic opposition had always opposed Saddam Hussein. But they also opposed the quick resort to violence to undercut a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Such an outcome would have avoided the slaughter of tens of thousands of people, the destruction of two countries, harsh reprisals, an environmental catastrophe, further slaughter by the Iraqi government and the likely emergence of another murderous US-backed tyranny there. But it would not have taught the crucial lessons, already reviewed. With the mission accomplished, the disdain for Iraqi democrats continues unchanged. A European diplomat observes that "The Americans would prefer to have another Assad, or better yet, another Mubarak in Baghdad," referring to their "military-backed regimes" (dictatorships, that of Assad being particularly odious). "This may account for the fact that thus far, the administration has refused to meet with Iraqi opposition leaders in exile," Jane Friedman reports in the Christian Science Monitor. A diplomat from the US-run coalition says that "we will accept Saddam in Baghdad in order to have Iraq as one state," which might be interpreted as meaning: to prevent Iraqi democracy.
War is a massacre between people not knowing each other in behoof of people knowing, but not massacring each other.
Tagswar
War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.
Arms are instruments of ill omen. When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without relish. There is no glory in victory, and to glorify it despite this is to exult in the killing of men. When great numbers of people are killed, one should weep over them with sorrow. When victorious in war, one should observe mourning rites.
Here's how I feel about gays in the military: Anyone... dumb enough... to want to be in the military... should be allowed in. End of fucking story. That should be the only requirement. I don't care how many push-ups you can do – put on a helmet, go wait in that fox hole. We'll tell you when we need you to kill somebody. I've been watching all these Congressional hearings and all these military guys and all the pundits going, "The esprit de corps will be affected, and we are such a moral..." Excuse me, but aren't you all a bunch of fucking hired killers? Shut up! You are thugs, and when we need you to go blow the fuck out of a nation of little brown people, we'll let you know.
This drug thing, this ain't police work. I mean, I can send any fool with a badge and a gun to a corner to jack a crew and grab vials. But policing? I mean you call something a war, and pretty soon everyone is going to be running around acting like warriors. They gonna be running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, racking up body counts. And when you at war, you need a fucking enemy. And pretty soon, damn near everybody on every corner is your fucking enemy. And soon, the neighborhood you're supposed to be policing, that's just occupied territory. You follow this? [..] Okay The point I'm making is this: Soldiering and policing, they ain't the same thing. And before we went and took the wrong turn and start up with these war games, the cop walked a beat, and he learned that post. And if there were things that happened on that post, where there be a rape, a robbery, or a shooting, he had people out there helping him, feeding him information. But every time I came to you, my DEU sergeant, for information, to find out what's going on out on them streets... all that came back was some bullshit. You had your stats, your arrests, your seizures, but don't none of that amount to shit when it comes to protecting the neighborhood, now do it?
"The Wire"
Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.
War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world.

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
I used to call myself a war photographer. Now I consider myself as an antiwar photographer.
[..] the arms trade isn’t really about directly protecting national security. The arms trade is about the transfer of arms from the US, Europe, and Russia to the developing world in exchange for cash, in a process that can empower dictators, fuel wars, and facilitate human rights abuses.

Guns kill people. So too do tanks and bombs.
The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.

Home

by Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
Friends are predetermined; friendship takes place between men and women who possess an intellectual and emotional affinity for each other. But comradeship — that ecstatic bliss that comes with belonging to the crowd in wartime — is within our reach. We can all have comrades. The danger of the external threat that comes when we have an enemy does not create friendship; it creates comradeship. And those in wartime are deceived about what they are undergoing. And this is why once the threat is over, once war ends, comrades again become strangers to us. This is why after war we fall into despair.

In friendship there is a deepening of our sense of self. We become, through the friend, more aware of who we are and what we are about; we find ourselves in the eyes of the friend. Friends probe and question and challenge each other to make each of us more complete; with comradeship, the kind that comes to us in patriotic fervor, there is a suppression of self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-possession. Comrades lose their identities in wartime for the collective rush of a common cause — a common purpose.

In comradeship there are no demands on the self. This is part of its appeal and one of the reasons we miss it and seek to recreate it. Comradeship allows us to escape the demands on the self that is part of friendship. In wartime when we feel threatened, we no longer face death alone but as a group, and this makes death easier to bear. We ennoble self-sacrifice for the other, for the comrade; in short we begin to worship death. And this is what the god of war demands of us.

Think finally of what it means to die for a friend. It is deliberate and painful; there is no ecstasy. For friends, dying is hard and bitter. The dialogue they have and cherish will perhaps never be recreated. Friends do not, the way comrades do, love death and sacrifice. To friends, the prospect of death is frightening. And this is why friendship or, let me say love, is the most potent enemy of war.