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In the Shadow of the Bomb: Growing Up in the War Machine

mucus64 | 11.01.2003 12:52

This must be the article of the year for me. It is worth reading and passing on to others. Written by a man who grew up as a US military child.

In the Shadow of the Bomb: Growing Up in the War Machine

You raised that same hand
Which made the genocide.
Are you blind to the blood
Of the holocaust
That circulates through your hand!

Yoko Hamada - Outcry from the Inferno

Having been born in a military hospital in the United States, my childhood is one of intimate relationship with the weaponry of war. My earliest memories are filled with large ships, submarines, jets and missiles. My identity is integrally tied to tools of annihilation, and my destiny is inseparable from their use.

The men who launch the bombs, who order the killing, who design the destruction, are not twisted demons, but friendly family. Those who feel the wrath of the military cannot see the intimate affection and concern that causes their murder. This is the enduring irony of warfare: for an empire to maintain its security, others must suffer and die. For all of the goodness and lofty ideals an empire professes, those beyond its borders must endure the opposite end of the sword.

Throughout my life I have been awestruck and horrified at the unspeakable immensity of the U.S. military machine. As a small boy, of course every machine seems immense and powerful, but how many Americans have walked around an aircraft carrier, lined with jet fighters? Stood next to a Trident submarine, filled with the most deadly weapons ever devised? How many of people who vote for, and pay for these weapons systems know the overwhelming and colossal forces they are unleashing on the world? Sadly, I must
report, very few..

As a child, I moved around the "Pacific Theater of Operations," from military base to military base, and everywhere I went I explored the nooks and crannies behind the machinery. These bases, and the weapons they harbor, are in constant flux, a never-ending deployment of policing and preparation. People have been given impressive titles and badges, and intimidating uniforms, and they have no choice but to keep busy arming themselves against an enemy.

Think about it for a minute: every hour of every day, at thousands of bases across the globe, in tens of thousands of aircraft, ships and submarines, a civilization of warfare is moving, burning fuel, drinking
coffee, polishing weapons, aiming themselves toward domination. It literally boggles the mind to calculate the amount of human resources that are being expended on this Orwellian enterprise, and the environmental and social consequences are beyond calculation.

While attending grade-school in Japan, at the height of the Vietnam War, I was confronted with the ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This nefarious event haunts the American culture, as surely as slavery and the JFK assassination. As a child, I could see the wickedness of empire and its effects on the psychology of a nation, both the perpetrator and abused. The deep trauma due to lack of admission and apology is like a cancer eating at the heart of our culture.

A useful tool for those who find themselves so intimately involved with the machinery of war is to step back in history. Leap back a century or a millennium, and then analyze the activity around you. What would the Greek philosophers have to say, or the "Founding Fathers" of the United States? This is also a very effective tool for generating meaningful dialogue, and editorials such as this one. In the eyes of humankind, what constitutes a "Crime Against Humanity?"

It is obvious that every military empire, from the Romans to the Nazis, did not believe their actions to be criminal, but deeply patriotic. They justified the slaughter and repression of their chosen "enemies" with their own cultural biases, and often ideals of beauty and truth. Is America any different? Where is our "liberty and justice for all," in the poverty-stricken outlands, the bomb-riddled landscapes, the victims of land-mines, the mourning villages?

It is time to put the proper labels on U.S. military activity, in the grand perspective of history. Hiroshima was a holocaust. The deployment of weapons of annihilation is genocide. There is nothing noble about incinerating people wholesale, and history will judge us just as harshly as we do the Nazis. We are evolving as a society toward telling the truth, no matter how brutally difficult it may be. Privilege can only insulate us from consequences for a limited time, and this is the lesson history provides.

My mind was deeply troubled as a child, trying to resolve such moral issues with what I witnessed around me. As the night exploded with warplanes taking off to deliver bombs to the jungles of Vietnam, I lay awake wondering how sane people could justify such slaughter, when it was obvious even to a child's mind that it was the rich and powerful imposing their will upon the underdeveloped and vulnerable.

As an American, I had the advantage of seeing the shadows of the "National Security" state in my travels to Thailand and the Philippines, where curfews were imposed under strict military regimes and the people kept under control for the benefit of industrial expansion and American hegemony. Even at that early age I could see that this police state culture would eventually have to be imposed on the United States, regardless of our privilege and luxury.

Needless to say, I had a very cynical worldview as a child, and I believe this attitude has slowly spread across the American landscape, with the growing influence of the military establishment and its demands on the lives of ordinary Americans. It is becoming obvious to the millions that this scheme of arming the world with intensely lethal weaponry is a scandal for which there is no precedent, and it is endangering all of us.

America has moved from an idealistic, colonial movement to an oppressive empire of corporations, sweeping up the rest of the world in our smoggy wake. There is no corner of the globe that is untouched by the industrial "growth" economy of the United States and the corporations which operate from our land. Increasingly, America has become the safe harbor for elitist organizations, organized criminals, and global monopolists. Our influence would leave the Roman emperors awestruck and envious.

Yet while we allow these elitist groups to dominate and use our government and economy as a sword and shield, we maintain an illusion that we are acting for the benefit of all humanity, defending freedom and democracy, and generally are wonderful. This illusion is in the process of being shattered, but at great cost. Our sanity, our children's safety, and the world's health are now threatened by the denial of the consequences of our privilege, and the military force it requires.

"We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected
the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants
and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know
about peace, more about killing than we know about

-- General Omar Bradley

At the fall of Saigon, and the evacuation of American forces from Vietnam, I was living on a Navy base in Guam, directly across the street from what became the largest "quarantine camp" America has ever built, a euphemism for concentration camp. At its height of operation, it held over 100,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees. Because my father was a friend of the base commander, and I was a 1st Class Boy Scout, I was allowed the privilege of working as a relief worker inside the camp, the only American
child given that clearance.

I saw the direct consequences of a corrupted foreign policy on the lives of many thousands, faces pressed against the barbed wire, possessions and country lost, crowded into sweltering tents, at the mercy of the American military. How many countless millions have endured a similar fate since then, from Guatemala to Angola, from Afghanistan to Indonesia? Are Americans aware that this is the cost of their having so much wealth and excess? That a few strategists with a global agenda have charged them for the cost of brutalizing entire cultures?

Like the genocide of the Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, the effects of the American war machine are an unspoken, "necessary evil" which the average American refuses to discuss. Sadly, most are oblivious to the fundamental issues of empire and its consequences, and rely entirely on the mass media for their information. A recent survey by the National Geographic channel showed that a majority of Americans have no idea where America fits in the world, how many of us there are, who our "enemies" are. We are slouching toward oblivion with the barest clue that we have unleashed doom upon the rest of the world.

It is time to expand the definitions, to tell the truth, to expose the symptoms, to call annihilation murder, nuclear weapons holocaust. What our country is doing in Afghanistan and Iraq is nothing short of
extermination. It is no longer a mechanism of "warfare" that America is deploying, but calculated and precise extermination. Our media have been bought by the same monopolists and corporations who make the weapons, and so we are conditioned toward the glory of what our military is doing. Yet we are insulated from the details, the human effects. We do not see the burned bodies, the shattered landscape, the pits filled with victims. We have no list of names of those our weapons have killed this week, which would quickly grow into the thousands.

One technology that puts U.S. policy and the state of humanity into a historical perspective from which we MUST take action is atomic weaponry. From the unleashing of horror at Hiroshima to our current stockpile, the very concept of using radiation weapons is cause for questioning sanity. All rational and educated humans who have addressed this unthinkable danger have concluded that it is an evil idea, with no possibly positive outcome. It is the ultimate terrorism, if we are to truly address a threat of "terror," as our politicians are trumpeting.

How can Americans justify the use of nuclear weapons in the face of overwhelming global disgust? How can we arm Israel with bombs and then allow our leaders to stir up strife all around them? Will we be able to pull back from the brink of nuclear holocaust before the entire surface of our planet is adversely, and irrevocably, impacted? After all, when we address the threat of nuclear weapons, we are no longer simply speaking from one culture or one nation, we are speaking for all of humankind, and the rest of the
species on Earth as well.

The challenge of global warfare, in other words, has now transcended all precedents, all boundaries previously held by humans as self-evident. We Americans are forcing the world into a toxic and terrorized corner, so why do we act surprised when some groups begin to fight back? It has been obvious for a generation that the repercussions of CIA covert operations were turning back against our country. Yet, instead of addressing this danger and correcting it, we have allowed our government to be even
further dominated by these secretive and elitist warmongers, with the son of Bush, CIA headquarters bearing his name, occupying the White House.

Rather than pulling back from the brink of nuclear war, we are allowing a small and extremist group of people, for the benefit of a very few and very wealthy, to drive us further toward the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons. In fact, the current U.S. administration has talked openly about pre-emptive first-strike use of weapons of mass destruction, all the while decrying the dangers of their use by developing nations. Are these politicians now elevated to the status of gods, where they can decide the
correct application of mass murder?

This is the horrifying reality every thoughtful person must confront when addressing the American war machine, that our culture has endowed itself with such importance as to be equal to God. Our government, "one nation under God," claims the right to decide the fate of all the rest of the nations and cultures of the world. Our economy demands the sacrifice of the environment, the resources, and the well being of all of the creatures of the world. Our culture is based on the exploitation and stereotyping of the
entire world, for our entertainment. We have become an empire of excess and ignorance, obsessed with dieting while expending our credit to the limit.

As H.G. Wells said a century ago, "Human civilization becomes increasingly a race between education and catastrophe." We must expose the U.S. military machine to the world, and be honest in its portrayal. And this exposure begins with self-disclosure.

Since the American identity is so intimately woven with militarism, it is imperative that disarmament must begin within our self. Each of us can find the way that these weapons have lodged themselves into our minds, our values, and our projections. By exposing our own prejudices and privileges to the world, we begin a process of cultural healing, and trust which can transcend borders and battle lines. This also presents a challenge to the elite agenda, since any American exposing the corruption of our system is
another hole in the "Emperor's clothes."

When confronted with the issue of patriotism, we can reference the ideals of the original founders of our country, who would be horrified by the current thrust toward fascism in America. What is true patriotism, we can ask, if one is willing to give in to brutal dictatorship and criminal schemes for global domination? Is that what America was founded upon? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, justice, these are the values of the true patriot. Most veterans can attest that the American war machine has very
little to do with these human values.

Disarming the world necessarily must begin with the United States, since our country currently spends more on weapons than all the other nations of the world combined. We are the threat that most of the rest of the world must address as their greatest challenge, in weaponry, in resources, and in culture. We export so much violent influence we can no longer keep track of where it begins or ends. From video games to weaponry our culture exploits and corrupts nearly every other culture in the world today.

"You are mortal men. You are capable of error. You have
no right to hold in your hands-there is no one wise enough
and strong enough to hold in his hands-destructive powers
sufficient to put an end to civilized life on a great
portion of our planet. No one should wish to hold such powers.
Thrust them from you. The risks you might thereby assume are not
greater-could not be greater-than those you are incurring for us all."

-- George F. Kennan

With a new perspective of hope and health, we can find the inspiration to speak out and confront the corrupting influences within our own culture, and demand that our politicians do the same. We can create dialogues and challenge our neighbors to reconsider their values, and write editorials to call for a greater vision of our future. We will be able to talk honestly with our children, and offer diplomacy to the damaged. All of these actions begin with honesty, and authenticity.

To cure a cancerous tumor, you can try drenching it with poison, which will surely destroy much of the healthy tissue as well. To recover your immune system in the process, however, you must get at the root cause of the cancer. By changing the fundamentals of behavior and nourishment, attitude and values, the entire person can be transformed, and the immunity strengthened. Healing medicine can be found to restore the person to balance.

So too we can address militarism in America and our world by finding the root causes, and changing the society. We have allowed a few rogue groups of people to steer our entire world toward a terrible fate from which we may not recover, for no rational reason other than their rapid rise to power. Like cancer, we can boost the immunity of our culture with the truth, and education. We can find the healing balm of dialogue and diplomacy, trust and dignity, to cure the illness. By addressing militarism as a disease, a
realistic diagnosis can be made.

This is the approach toward many maladies in our society, which had previously been thought incurable, like alcoholism, domestic abuse, and drug addiction. One can argue that militarism is both a form of domestic abuse and an addiction. In the case of America, it is also the most profitable scandal in the history of empire. Arming the world for fast profit is leading to the breakdown of the social fabric. The human family is suffering from this disease, which is malignant and contagious.

As the child grows out of obsessions with power and control, he adopts coping strategies, or solutions. My coping mechanism has been sarcasm and humor, and my greatest challenge is the deep cynicism, which seems to overshadow our entire culture. If not addressed, this cynicism can lead rapidly toward self-destructive ideas and behaviors.

Open a window of adventure on the world, and the child will follow. I look at the challenge of our corrupted and brutalized world as the greatest adventure ever offered to humankind. We live in a time of heroes, a future which is calling for the best in us to rise, a world of revelation such as the human species has yet to imagine.

"War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace."

-- Thomas Mann

Bryan Craeg Evans

From Metamagic World News Service



Display the following 2 comments

  1. excellent — concernedz kid
  2. The Root Cause Of This Evil — Kristina Webb
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