Saturday, January 6, 2007

Merchants of Death

The blaming of armaments manufacturers for wars was once much more popular than it seems to be today, and so we may need to be reminded that not only anarchists but also politicians in Washington were once outspoken in the opinion that the “merchants of death” did more than supply the weapons that made wars possible. They actually played a major role in creating wars. Taking that as true, we can surmise that the merchants of death have been very busy – and successful – in recent years.

“The so-called ‘Senate Munitions Committee’ came into being [in 1934] because of widespread reports that manufacturers of armaments had unduly influenced the American decision to enter the war in 1917. These weapons’ suppliers had reaped enormous profits at the cost of more than 53,000 American battle deaths. As local conflicts reignited in Europe through the early 1930s, suggesting the possibility of a second world war, concern spread that these “merchants of death” would again drag the United States into a struggle that was none of its business. The time had come for a full congressional inquiry.

“To lead the seven-member special committee, the Senate’s Democratic majority chose a Republican—42-year-old North Dakota Senator Gerald P. Nye. Typical of western agrarian progressives, Nye energetically opposed U.S. involvement in foreign wars. He promised, ‘when the Senate investigation is over, we shall see that war and preparation for war is not a matter of national honor and national defense, but a matter of profit for the few.’”

(I will soon follow up with a discussion of Senator Nye and the way in which his investigation was sabotaged by those who wanted a new war.)

From President Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, 1957:

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

My purpose in this post is simply to remind us of a viewpoint that I rarely see expressed. In VIEW FROM THE MOON I often write about the causes of wars, and the “merchants of death” viewpoint helps complete the picture.

I just remembered something amusing. When I was a child of seven I asked my playmates, “How do wars start?”, and I concluded that wars must start when two people got into a fight and then their friends joined in the fighting, and more and more people joined in until there were two big, growing crowds fighting against one another and a full fledged war was soon underway. Would that it were so simple.

1 comment:

Nabila Harb said...

Exposing the 'merchants of death' in the U.S. is a vital point to make politically and one that needs to be driven home where ordinary citizens are concerned. Beneath all the 'patriotic' hysteria that promotes banners, ribbons and bumper stickers to 'Support Our Troops' because they are the sons and daughters of ordinary people is the stark reality of the economic greed and power of the huge U.S. armaments industry. It is this industry that grows fat from the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. It is this same industry that proclaims the Zionist entity and its economic agents as 'partner' in its zeal to create bigger and better ambassadors of death to enforce its policies throughout the world. American sons and daughters are not fighting for 'freedom' or 'democracy'. They are fighting for a higher profit margin and more contracts for the munitions industry and its partners in the great capitalist enterprise. Until the American public realises the truth and actively rejects its role as cannon fodder in this criminal enterprise, it will continue to serve as an unwitting accomplice to some of the greatest war criminals of our time.