weapons of War
Culture and Militarism: American Style
While post-war Japan and Germany invested in peacetime education, infrastructure, capital and manpower, the United States “committed to the military establishment and especially to the developing of increasingly exotic weaponry. By some estimates as much as a third of all American engineering and scientific talent was so employed through the 1980s.”
John Kenneth Galbraith
The Looking Glass of WarWar mirrors the culture of a country. U.S. militarism – from its training, tactics, and logistics to its reasons for going to war and its weapons of war -- is distinctly shaped by core elements of American identity. These determining cultural forces are, according to military technology analyst Victor Davis Hanson: manifest destiny; frontier mentality; rugged individualism and what he calls a “muscular independence”; unfettered market capitalism; the ideal of meritocracy (no matter what one’s class, one can rise to the top in US military); and a fascination with machines, modernity, and mobility. All converge to generate bigger, better and more destructive war technology. He adds that the integration of military into society is smoothed through the GI bill for housing and education and the Second Amendment right to bear arms. (1)
Given these cultural values, what is the future of American warfare? According to Hanson, two models of war will predominate. Small-scale rapid and nimble war will involve killing from a distance with drones or unmanned aerial vehicles and, likely, robots on the battlefield (permitting war anywhere on the globe without U.S. fatalities). For larger conflicts, the footprint of U.S. military power is strategically positioned on every continent and on all the seas. More than seven hundred overseas bases with about ½ million soldiers, civilian contractors and families in 130 countries are listed by the Department of Defense in its 2003 “Base Structure Report.” Others estimate the number of overseas bases to be more like 1000. (2)
The proposed U.S. 2009 DOD defense budget lines up pretty symmetrically with this military outlook for the 21st century: Military “muscular independence” for big wars and military mobility and remote battlefield technology for small wars. In a nutshell, the two models of future wars meet the American cultural preference for war: kill from a distance, kill swiftly with overkill, kill others but spare American lives, kill alone whenever possible because coalitions are messy.
Weapons: Our Biggest Export?The Weapons of War Section focuses largely on weapons of industrial countries, which are dominated by U.S. military capacity. These weapons are increasingly sold, however, to developing countries, to undemocratic regimes and to countries in conflict. U.S. weapons sales abroad have soared since 2000, with arms sales to more than 100 countries many of which flagrantly abuse the human rights of their citizens. Two-thirds of the world’s conflicts and wars involve weapons supplied by the United States. “Weapons could be the single biggest [U.S.] export item over the next ten years,” according to an arms industry consultant. (See: Weapons: Our #1 Export? )
Democrats and Republicans alike have justified and supported the export policy on weapons, cloaking it in language of regional stability, building capacity of partner countries for conflict resolution, defeating terrorism, promoting democracy and human rights, and keeping a strong domestic manufacturing base in weapons even for weapons the U.S. military does not use.
Pentagon Bulk-UpThe expansion in the weapons industry parallels the massive bulk up in the Pentagon over the past 8 years, as starkly delineated by Frida Berrigan, senior program associate at The New American Foundation’s Arm and Security Initiative. The Pentagon’s core budget is about equal to the rest of the world’s military budget. Discretionary U.S. military spending exceeds spending for education, environment, housing, justice, transportation, job training and agriculture, energy and economic development. The Pentagon has 30 times the funding of the State Department for non-military foreign aid and operations, relegating diplomacy to a second tier status abroad. Since 9/11 the Pentagon dominates intelligence gathering and operations, resulting in an insular, military-minded analysis and policy. The Pentagon has a mega-military footprint on every region of the world, spreading into disaster management and humanitarian aid while displacing civilian, NGO and local state agencies. The U.S. military is now training their counterparts in 47 African countries, Africa being the last continent to be neo-colonized with a U.S. military command center. There are no limits to its manifest destiny, with the weaponization of space as the final physical frontier. Berrigan shrewdly notes that of all the federal agencies, only the Pentagon develops blueprints and “visions” for decades to come, a presumption of power and “colonization of the imagination” unseen elsewhere in government. With the metastasis in mission, money, and footprint, the U.S. military has “escaped the checks and balances of the nation.” (See: Entrenched, Embedded, and Here to Stay )
110 million landmines planted in times of conflict remain in place, like a secret terrorism, in 67 mainly poor countries. The landmine has been called the poor man’s bomb. So also are the machete, pistol, AK-47, knife, and small explosive devices the weapons of poor men. We have only to think of Rwanda, *Sudan, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to realize that weapons of any scale and complexity can result in genocide, crimes against humanity, the radical breakdown of society, and violation of international law on war. In the Rwandan conflict 10,000 people were killed per day for months – with machete and rifle -- constituting the swiftest rate of genocidal slaughter in modern history.
The sadistic sexual torture of women and girls in these conflicts and the theft of children for use in combat are unparalleled in recent warfare. War -- from nuclear, to fire and explosive bombing, to hand weapons, to military rape – may vary in scale; but all forms of war – rich man’s and poor man’s alike -- are unequivocal acts of man’s inhumanity to men, women and children victims.
*The BBC published drawings of children caught in the conflict in Darfur. The drawings were collected by a human rights group, Waging Peace, and are being used as evidence in the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity committed in civil conflict in Darfur.
In pictures: Child drawings of Darfur
This sketch by Abdul Maggit depicts a typical scene of destruction.
Waging Peace collected the drawings from refugees in Chad.
Abduljabbar's picture shows someone being thrown into a fire
and a soldier who appears to be cutting off a man’s head.
This picture by Mohamat shows another village attack.
Next to each civilian who has been shot is the word "Morts",
which means dead people in French.
See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/7923247.stm for more drawings.
Resources for Education and Action
Painting by Vu Giang Huong http://www.ffrd.org/agentorange.htm
As long as Agent Orange is not addressed, along with the reparations
During the 10 years (1961-1971)
of aerial chemical warfare in
Depleted uranium (DU) is the radioactive and chemically toxic waste product of the uranium enrichment process in both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons production. DU has about 60% of the radioactivity of natural uranium. DU is used by the U.S. and other militaries in both defensive armor and armor piercing ammunition that is known as DU penetrators. These weapons have a solid rod of DU that increases their ability to penetrate heavily armored vehicles because DU sharpens upon impact and self-ignites.
In September and October 2001, anthrax in letters which were sent through the U.S. postal service killed five people. This was the first and, to date, only deadly bioattack in the United States . (The other documented deliberate use of a pathogen involved the contamination of food with the pathogen salmonella, which sickened 177 people in 1987.) The source of the anthrax letters is widely suspected to be U.S. Army biodefense scientist, Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide as he was being pursued by FBI.
It’s commonly claimed by war planners that they use bombs solely for strategic purposes: to destroy the enemy’s military capacity for war with as little “collateral damage” as possible; to strike terror into enemy citizens and crush their morale; to lose as few combatants as possible and sustain support at home for war; and to win swift victory. For this last purpose, bombing has been defended as an agent of peace.
The use and consequences of bombing in war reveal a different reality, a reality which challenges the lingering humanitarian and moral justifications for war.