The March on Washington, January 27, 2007.
“Sometimes, to be silent is to lie.” –Miguel de Unamuno
The National Mall in Washington, D.C. was filled Jan. 27th with ordinary citizens, peace activists, Congresspeople, military personnel, labor leaders, children, actors, and actresses. The hundreds of thousands overflowed from the Mall and it seemed the unified voices for peace and nonviolence would permeate the surrounding edifices of governmental power. And yet I remembered how easily most members of Congress and citizens were duped into supporting military action against Iraq while attempts at nonviolent conflict resolution were still ongoing. I reflected on those factors that underlie our country’s addiction to war:
The military-industrial complex is still alive and well, demonstrating tremendous power in the halls of Congress. Yes, war is more profitable than peace for some—just ask Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater or George David, the CEO of United Technologies (Black Hawk helicopters), who was paid $88.3 million in 2004.
Excessive nationalism and our demand to power our Hummers and other conveniences often convince us that we have an innate right to all the world’s resources. Thus to many, invading countries such as Iraq in order to control their oil is justified, and their injured civilians are acceptable “collateral damage.”
Many Americans espouse a religious tradition which can condemns millions of people in the world to an eternity of suffering because they call their supreme being by a different name. Hence we refuse to negotiate with their “evil” governments, preferring bombs for the nonbelievers, and we tolerate torture. Americans barely noticed the Lancet report of the excess deaths of 650,000 Iraqis since March 2003.
The U.S. continues to allow state killing of humans through the death penalty. (Japan and S. Korea are the only other developed democracies permitting capital punishment.). This action reinforces the mindset that killing is an acceptable way of dealing with human problems.
American entertainment in which watching the death of numerous people (body count films) is considered enjoyable must reflect a distorted sense of pleasure and a lessened value of human life. Most popular video games provide a vicarious thrill of killing, and many portray war as sport. Under the influence of our culture, a 4 year old child tragically described to me a video game “head shot.”
Finally, the media is vitally important as our provider of reality beyond our immediate personal experience. But the corporate media is often owned by companies that profit from war, and usually functions as cheerleaders for those profiting from military conflict. Thus, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that shortly before the Iraq invasion less than 1% of “experts” appearing on major network news shows were antiwar activists. And once the war started, the media adopted the government propaganda in its language (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”) and used attractive video game-like graphics and rousing music to support military adventures. So “Shock and Awe” consisted of beautiful images of bombs lighting up the Baghdad night, rather than the image of an Iraqi parent holding the mutilated body of his child. War became entertainment.
Yet with all these influences opposing peace, as the massive march encircled the Congress we felt hopeful that the members inside would hear our voices and the voices of a majority of Americans and take decisive action to end the occupation of Iraq. And we were hopeful that Iraq would be the last Vietnam.
Written by Alan Northcutt. Edited and published by the Waco Tribune Herald, February 10, 2007.