(And Republican Warmongers)
Many, many, years ago our founders warned us of the dangers of maintaining a “standing army” and how that would hinder our pursuit of Liberty.
“In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans, it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”
Madison pretty well described where we are today in a nutshell; we certainly have the “constant apprehension of war” promoted by the media and most government employees. To believe we do not have an overgrown Executive is to border on insanity for has the Congress not relinquished their power to declare war to the executive branch and most “conservatives” defend their right to do so much more than they defend their own rights. Madison warned a standing army and an overgrown executive are not “safe companions to Liberty.” Need I say more than the Patriot Act or The National Defense Authorization Act?
Are we not pelted daily with claims of foreign dangers by those same forces: government employees and the media, and have they not become the instruments of tyranny here at home? Republicans finally got an “in your face” dose of this in the 2016 election cycle.
What about the Roman maxim of exciting a war anytime there exists a threat of a revolution among the people? Would one be out of line to mention the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11? Did they both not excite war among the people and justify the existence of both a standing army and a more powerful executive branch?
Prior to WWII, America indeed did not have an organized armament industry as was stated by President Eisenhower in 1960. We also did not have the National Security Act and all of its attendant federal bureaucracies prior to 1947. In what could be considered President Eisenhower’s farewell address, he warned us of just such a combination of powers. He referred to them as the military/industrial complex. In all candor, he should have called them the military/industrial/banking complex.
“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.”
Unfortunately, another warning that has been ignored to the detriment of freedom and Liberty.
Were we warned even earlier than the warning from Eisenhower and after the warning from Madison? We certainly were. Writing in the early 20th Century, even before the winds of war in Europe that became WWI, a man by the name of Randolph Bourne admonished the people that war was indeed “The Health of the State.” What Bourne outlined so well was how the government (state) derives powers taken from the people and how government grows beyond its constitutional boundaries, with the people’s blessings, all the while little realizing they are endorsing their own slavery to the forces of government. Read for yourself if anything Bourne wrote has relevance in our world today, all these 99 years later?
“Government is obviously composed of common and unsanctified men, and is thus a legitimate object of criticism and even contempt. If your own party is in power, things may be assumed to be moving safely enough; but if the opposition is in, then clearly all safety and honor have fled the State… The republican State has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man’s emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men… With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world. The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle… The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part… The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government.”
Time and space prevent me from including more of Randolph Bourne’s brilliance, but readers may access the entirety of his work at their leisure.
Then, in 1935, a genuine military hero, a two-time recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, provided us with the wisdom of his 30 plus years of service in the United States Marine Corps. Major General Smedley Butler revealed that indeed not only was “war” the “health of the state” but it was also a “racket.” Butler told us,
“WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives… In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War[I]. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.
How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?… And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.
For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.
So, there we have it; from two former presidents; one a founder and the other a military leader of the free world. We also have the words of a philosopher and the words of a genuine, highly decorated war hero. But, we still continue on the path of destruction. We embrace American exceptionalism where we readily accept the insane belief that if another country does something it is wrong, but if our country does the exact same thing it is permissible and acceptable.
We have lost our collective minds, we embrace our government which tyrannizes other countries and ignore the fact we are victims of tyranny by that same government. We can’t understand why other countries fear the same government we fear here at home and wish to defend themselves from it.
to be continued…