Where The Peace Movement Went
Eight ways the MIC wins support for endless wars
When the US occupied Vietnam in the 60s, a huge antiwar movement developed and helped bring an end to that horrible war. Demonstrations in Washington drew hundreds of thousands of protestors, and millions more supported them around the country.
After losing in Vietnam, the US had to limit its war making for a few decades. Our rulers termed public reluctance to fight wars where they might lose American lives “Vietnam syndrome,” a disease, not a rational human instinct.
With decades of propaganda, the US military/industrial/media complex managed to overcome Vietnam Syndrome and resume invasions, bombings, government overthrows and proxy wars. Now, they have brought us face-to-face with the prospect of world-ending nuclear wars with both Russia and China. And Americans seem to be going along with them. Why? Where is the antiwar movement now?
There are at least eight reasons why no movement like the one against the Vietnam war has emerged.
1. They got rid of the draft. Americans are no longer forced to fight and die in America’s wars. Young men coming home in body bags energized a lot of people to fight against the wars. Replacing the draft with an all-volunteer army made it seem like military service was a choice, although it is really a poverty draft.
Now, even the poverty draft isn’t drawing enough people, so the MIC has moved mostly to proxy wars and bombing wars, where very few Americans die. So, it’s easy for Americans to ignore those distant wars.
2. No war taxes — Used to be countries had to pay for their wars with taxes, exciting opposition, which is why most empires in history stopped expanding or collapsed. The US doesn’t bother paying for their wars; they just print money to cover them. Not having to pay war taxes has dampened opposition to endless war.
3. War industry employs millions — American people benefit economically from US wars, working for arms industries in every state. Even if one is not actually building bombs, one’s job might depend on servicing the companies who do. Too many people feel they have a share in the Empire. They’re certainly not going to demonstrate against their own jobs.
4. Protests no longer work. During the Vietnam war, large protests were a new thing and got lots of media attention, building the peace movement. Our corporate media learned from this and no longer publicize protest activity. Politicians stopped paying attention.
When a million people marched against the 2003 Iraq invasion before it even started, President George W. Bush didn’t clamp down or arrest anyone. He just said, ‘They’re entitled to their opinion, but I’m the president and I’m going to do what I think is right.” Over years of not getting a response to protests, people stopped coming to them. We need new tactics.
5. Endless war propaganda has many believing in the necessity of war before they even go to elementary school. No one is allowed to express antiwar thoughts; they just don’t appear on any corporate media. Children grow up reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag and watching the military being portrayed heroically at sporting events and in popular entertainment.
The US military and media carefully control what people learn about the wars. Reporters in Vietnam traveled freely and reported true horror stories. Now, reporters are “embedded” with US troops and get only their commanders’ view.
6. Keeping people terrorized -We get endless horror stories about the latest evil doer we need to fear: Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, Milosevic, terrorists, Taliban, now Putin and China’s leaders. How do those people threaten us? Aren’t they oceans away? But we are told they do, and we have justified anxieties about living in this failed state, anxieties which are directed into fear of external threats.
7. American exceptionalism — As blogger Corinne Nita wrote, “Americans perceive US foreign policy as a necessary evil because we believe our nation is moral.” We might bomb a hospital or a country’s water supply, or starve children with sanctions, but we’re doing it to fight evil. Or else we made a mistake, but we’re never the bad guys.
This belief is called American exceptionalism, defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as ‘the belief that the United States is distinctive, more virtuous, or exemplary compared to other nations.’ In this belief system, slavery wasn’t that bad; the genocide of the Native Americans wasn’t that bad; millions of people in prison, constant mass shootings and homelessness aren’t that bad. If we’re in a war, it must be the other side’s fault. So, organizing for peace is taking the side of evil.
8. Division -- People in America are divided by skin color, ethnicity, gender and a dozen other ways. Every group has their own issues to fight and their own ideology. Government and corporate media work 24/7 to keep us divided.
Politics of division are clearly at work as the peace movement tries to restart. In January, a coalition of libertarian and peace groups called Rage Against the War Machine scheduled a demonstration in Washington DC against the wars the US sponsors. A large group of antiwar Leftists condemned the protest for including speakers they considered problematic. They not only didn’t attend; they prevented other Leftist antiwar voices from speaking, and held a webinar against war at the same time as the Rage rally.
A month later, the Leftists held their own demonstrations. The two together would have been a lot more impressive, but the rulers succeeded in dividing them.
Overcoming one of these obstacles would be a huge challenge. Overcoming all eight seems daunting in the extreme. What can motivate people to oppose their own Empire, when all day they hear propaganda endorsing American wars? It’s easier to relax and ignore the wars. I don’t blame people for this, but it needs to change somehow.
A lot would have to change. We would need an economy not dependent on war. What we absolutely need is a strategy of stronger action that cannot be ignored in the way demonstrations are routinely ignored. I don’t know what that would be, but I sense it would have to feature massive labor strikes.
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