by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - January 15, 2007) Over three hundred antiwar protests took place in the U.S. on New Year's Day, the day after 3,000 GIs had been killed in Iraq. Spread out on two blocks of Main Street in Nyack, NY, on that chilly and drizzly evening were approximately seventy-five individuals, ranging in age from the teens to the nineties. My wife, Fran, and I were within that group who displayed a banner and posters to bring the troops home. Most of the passing motorists and pedestrians were supportive, honking their horns, waving, making "V"s with their fingers, nodding or giving us a bright friendly smile.
I'm sure that those who attended have varied opinions as to what effect these demonstrations will have. Most, I assume, feel it's an additional prod to the newly elected Congress to pressure the Bush administration to "cut and run." Our elected officials unfortunately do not represent the will of the people whose votes put them in office but the elite establishment that has effectively bought them. The most powerful of that elite group is the notorious military-industrial complex (MIC) -- Eisenhower who warned against the MIC in his farewell address wanted to realistically call it the industrial-military-congressional complex but ended with the shorter term to soft-peddle the legislature. The war may go badly for the U.S. but the industrial segment of the MIC does very well indeed. According to a recent New York Times article (1) Pentagon spending has reached record levels, as have their contractors' profits, resulting in a rosy bullish party for the group.
Evidence of the industry's good fortune is reflected in the stocks of major contractors over the last year. At the end of 2005, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the largest contractor, was trading around $62 a share. Now Lockheed is around $92 a share. Over the last year, Boeing, which holds the No. 2 position, saw its shares rise from about $66 a share to around almost $89 a share. Meanwhile, Raytheon stock has risen from around $39 a share to more than $53 a share in the last year and General Dynamics has gone from the high $50s a share to almost $74 a share over the same period.
It will take substantially more activists, constantly pestering their representatives in government before they overcome the power and influence of the Merchants of Death who foresee an even rosier year in 2007. As the Times article states:
Next year's Pentagon budget is expected to exceed $560 billion, including spending for Iraq. And, sometime this spring, President Bush has indicated he will seek an additional $100 billion in supplemental spending in 2007 for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The government will continue and even expand the war. With each ensuing and expanding protest, however, the antiwar culture that has permeated the country will intensify. Don't you think that the poor kids on the front lines are aware of and are affected by that cultural change? During the Vietnam War the GIs swayed by antiwar activities back home engaged in mutinies unprecedented in the history of the country. Mutinies so humiliating they have been covered up by the government and the major media because they effectively forced the renitent US to throw in the sponge. An article in the Armed Forces Journal of June 7, 1971 (2) describing those mutinies points out that:
It is a truism that national armies closely reflect societies from which they have been raised. It would be strange indeed if the Armed Forces did not today mirror the agonizing divisions and social traumas of American society, and of course they do. . . Historical precedents do exist for some of the services' problems, such as desertion, mutiny, unpopularity, seditious attacks, and racial troubles. Others, such as drugs, pose difficulties that are wholly NEW. Nowhere, however, in the history of the Armed Forces have comparable past troubles presented themselves in such general magnitude, acuteness, or concentrated focus as today.
The same conditions do not now exist as they did then. There is no conscription. Drugs are not the problem that they were then. But antiwar protests do exist and like that earlier period are growing and will persist. Evidence of problems is apparent and has worried the top brass for some time. Representative John Murtha, a retired Marine officer, in close contact with the military leaders, back in November 2005, was relaying their apprehensions as reported by Alexander Cockburn (3):
The immense significance of Rep John Murtha's November 17 speech calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq is that it signals mutiny in the US senior officer corps, seeing the institution they lead as "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth," to use the biting words of their spokesman, John Murtha, as he reiterated on December [sic] his denunciation of Bush's destruction of the Army. . . Listen once more to what the generals want the country to know: "The future of our military is at risk. Our military and our families are stretched thin. Many say the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on a third deployment. Recruitment is down even as the military has lowered its standards. They expect to take 20 percent category 4, which is the lowest category, which they said they'd never take. They have been forced to do that to try to meet a reduced quota...
Additional symptoms of dissentions within the ranks keep emerging. A petition will be presented shortly to Congress from almost 1,000 active duty troops urging "the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq." (4) According to a 2006 Military Times poll (5):
Only 35 percent of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved. . . . In 2004, when his popularity peaked, 63 percent of the military approved of Bush's handling of the war
Politicians' actions are often quite different from their rhetoric. To get elected they make promises that they have no intention of fulfilling. To win election to the presidency in 1968 Nixon assured the public that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. During the entire four years of his first term he not only continued the war but spread it into Cambodia and Laos. A similar scenario may unfold for the Iraq War. The antiwar message of the recent election will be ignored and the war will expand. But the GIs, the lowly grunts who do the fighting and dying, and carry out the mistaken administration policies, may foil Bush's plans. They have become more and more frustrated living in the hell of a war zone without a reasonable end to the horror in sight. How much longer can they and will they endure that hell? Is it not likely that they may call it quits and cause the military to cease being an effective fighting force? Antiwar activities back home will prepare them psychologically to take that step. The larger, the more persistent, and the more frequent those activities are, the sooner it will happen!
1. "Heady Days for Makers of Weapons," by Leslie Wayne, The New York Times, December 26, 2006. (back)
2. "The Collapse of the Armed Forces" by Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., Armed Forces Journal, 7 June 1971; http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/Vietnam/heinl.pdf (back)
3. "The Revolt of the Generals" by Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch, December 3/4, 2005; http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn12032005.html (back)
4. "About Face" by Marc Cooper, The Nation, January 8, 2007. (back)
5. "Poll: More troops unhappy with Bush's course in Iraq," By Robert Hodierne; AirForceTimes.com, December 29, 2006; http://www.airforcetimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-2449372.php (back)
We are asking for your help. If you consider our work valuable, please send us a financial contribution. Thank you. Remember, we are making this work available to you free of charge and advertising.