Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

The culture of war nation

As the history of its foreign policy and recent events in the country have shown, the US remains addicted to violence and war, writes Charles Mercieca

Al-Ahram Weekly

Over the past few decades, the United States has emerged to become the most violent nation in the civilised world. This did not happen overnight. In fact, we can trace this nation’s source of violence to the draft of its constitution, which has now emerged to become the nation’s dangerous enemy. Although the US constitution was written in good faith, a couple of centuries later a small segment of it has become malignant and it needs now to be removed.

We know that when one develops a cancer, such a malady becomes a threat to one’s life and needs to be taken away. The more we delay removing it, the more it may spread beyond hope before we know it. The malignant tumour in the US constitution is found in the phrase “the right to bear arms.” The founders of the US constitution decided to insert such a phrase because of their times, when there were no airplanes, no trains, no buses, no radar, no telephones, and no facilities for communication.

Confronted by such facts, the founders saw it as wise to insert that everyone in the nation has a right to bear arms and that such a right cannot be infringed. Once the people left their towns, these arms would be the only source of their defence and safety. Yet, over the past 300 years, circumstances have changed. Today, the US has many airports, plenty of trains and buses, in addition to telephones, mobiles and radar that control every inch of the entire nation.

This means that the constitutional phrase referring to the right of everyone to bear arms everywhere is no longer applicable. Instead of abrogating this malignant phrase or replacing the word “right” by the word “privilege,” some leading sources in the US continue to fight for such a “right.”

As a result, there are millions of guns and military equipment in the hands of tens of thousands in the US who have often used such weapons to kill many people from every walk of life and profession, including little children, as we saw in December 2012 in Newton, Connecticut. There, we witnessed six teachers being killed along with 20 children ages six and seven in just one morning. Such episodes in the United States take place periodically. Ironically, some US states even allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus on a daily basis.

In order to understand the tremendous opposition the US faces from a number of sources when it comes to updating the constitution to make it more relevant and safe, we have to comprehend other sources as well. As a capitalist nation, the philosophy of the US is based on making money without limit from any source possible. The manufacture and sales of guns and other weapons has emerged into a lucrative business. This has meant the development of a mafia-type society that would justify anything if it generates money.

The US National Rifle Association (NRA) has quite a few million members, all of them owning guns and other types of weapons. This organisation makes tens of millions of dollars yearly and uses most of this money to finance those running for political offices and who promote the right to bear arms. Each time there are massacres by private individuals in the US, the gun-makers and dealers, instead of proposing strict gun-control laws, advocate that every single American should be equipped with guns for self-defence.

All that you need in the US to purchase and own guns along with all kinds of weapons is money. Some time ago, a few teenagers in California were asked whether it was difficult for them to purchase guns. The answer was quick: we do not need any permission or licence to get all the guns we want, they said. We only need to have money since we can purchase guns like pieces of candy. Since everyone in the US can carry legally concealed weapons, when it comes to the safeguarding of the American people both the military and the police force are rendered helpless.

We may here understand why during the 1980s Pope John Paul II said in Mexico that world peace would come, but only after two of the greatest evils of the 20th century were gone. He stated that these two great evils were communism and capitalism, because both advanced through the exploitation of people. Shortly afterwards, communism collapsed and the world took a sigh of relief. Then capitalism moved forwards to dominate the world through the exploitation of people and human resources.

Following the massacre of six teachers and 20 children in Newton, US President Barack Obama vowed to do his utmost to have the US government ban assault weapons. This is expected to take place in the early part of 2013, but the president is experiencing opposition from a number of senators and congressmen to prevent such a ban becoming law. Although a ban would be a step in the right direction, the safety of all Americans would also require some kind of control over the excessive manufacture and sales of guns.

We may now begin to realise how the US is built on the culture of war whose real goal is to generate money. The more violence is created within the US and around the world, the more the capitalists in the nation, through the weapons industry and the military industrial complex, become capable of generating money. Scholastic philosophers, headed by St Thomas Aquinas, once told us that nemo dat quod not habet, or no one can give something that he does not have. As a rule, we give others only what we have. All of this explains why the United States seems to have made it a point to try to equip as many nations as possible with all kinds of weapons.

This is not motivated by genuine concern for such nations’ safeguarding and security. It is instigated by the opportunity to bring as many countries as possible under control through the creation of fear and the consequent need for what is termed as “self-defence”. This is verified by the fact that the US today has military bases in more than 146 nations.

Ironically, while such countries as China and Japan offer other nations assistance in the areas of medicine and education, the United States offers these same nations assistance in the provision of weapons and military equipment, along with the building and training of national military units. Yet, a quick glance at the recorded history of civilisation over the past 6,000 years shows us that violence breeds violence and more violence breeds more violence.

Some of the leading and most influential individuals that have had great impacts in history have tried to provide solutions to crucial problems through peaceful dialogue.

They were all adamant in their condemnation of violence of any kind, for they were fully convinced that violence makes everyone a loser and no one a winner. Mahatma Gandhi, for example, advocated that we can overcome all kinds of problems through peaceful means, as he demonstrated in his opposition to the British in his nation of India.

We should always keep in mind the admonition that Jesus of Nazareth gave to his disciple Peter when he took out his sword to defend his teacher. Jesus warned Peter by saying, “put the sword away, for he who kills by the sword will die by the sword.”

If Jesus were to address the United States at this stage of history, we should not be surprised if he stated loud and clear: put your guns away, for those who kill by guns will die by guns. The fact that in the US people can buy guns like pieces of candy with no required licence is rendering gun-ownership highly abusive and dangerous.

Where does the US put its priorities when it comes to national expenditure? If actions speak louder than words, it has regularly put the bulk of its money not on the healthcare, education and housing facilities of its people, but on the manufacture and sales of weapons and the systematic promotion of wars.

The US has some 900 foreign military bases that consume billions of dollars monthly. This is wasted money that is being taken from the vital needs of the American people to their own detriment. The numerous military bases that the US has in countries across every continent demonstrate its thirst for the creation of upheavals and conflicts.

The presence of the military has never served to provide food for the hungry, to furnish housing facilities for the homeless, to give medical assistance to the sick, or to help schools with needed educational equipment. The military by its very nature exists to promote violence, which is supported by the US government regardless of the consequences. The US has emerged to become the only nation in history that has developed the habit of using its military around the entire world to control as many nations as possible in all conceivable aspects.

The US has put itself above the law. While it does what it likes and no one is expected to stop it, it continues to dictate to other nations what they should and should not do. For example, it is considered acceptable for the US to have thousands of nuclear weapons and, potentially, to use them as it pleases without warning.

At the same time, while it allows countries like Israel to have nuclear weapons, the US prohibits a number of nations, including Iran, from having even a single nuclear weapon. It needs to keep in mind that if one nation claims the right to have nuclear weapons, every other nation on earth has the same right. If the US was not so deeply entrenched in the culture of war, it would have taken steps long ago to develop an international programme for disarmament and arms control.

Theoretically, the US could still devise ways of taking such steps. But in practice things are different. As stated earlier, the US is a capitalist nation that puts the top priority on making money. To this end, every step taken in the opposite direction is seen as justifiable, even if it involves the destruction of the infrastructure of cities and the massacre of innocent people. When the US was asked about the number of civilians that were killed in Iraq, the answer was simple: we do not keep count of such an item since we view it as collateral damage.

Yet, if 50 per cent of the US military budget were to be cut, the US would still remain militarily the most powerful nation on earth, as was pointed out by former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. It could then use this wasted military money to eliminate plenty of suffering and misery. However, when violence becomes the standard policy of a nation, especially in its foreign affairs, it is difficult for the world at large to develop trust and confidence in it.

In his farewell address to the US congress, former president Dwight Eisenhower said “remember that all people of all nations want peace, only their governments want war.” Unfortunately, this well-inspired US president has not been taken seriously. Still, we may continue to move forward with determination until we set up solid ground for the creation of genuine and lasting world-wide peace. Unless the United States makes peace rather than war its top priority, it may soon cease to be a world power before we even know it.

Needless to say, there are many sources that continue to encourage the American addiction to violence and war. All those individuals and organisations that remain silent when confronted with US foreign policies share in the guilt of those that promote violence and war. Clergymen need to advocate the sacrosanct moral obligation to promote love and peace instead of hatred and war. Lawyers ought to demonstrate that the promotion of violence and war constitutes a violation of human rights.

Teachers at all levels of education should make it clear that all human beings, regardless of where they come from, are morally obligated to promote policies of harmony and peace. And all law-abiding citizens should communicate periodically with their government officials to remind them that they expect to see from them policies that will lead to the solution of the problems we face through healthy dialogue and not through wars.

This would enable the US to become the most peaceful nation on earth.

The writer is president of the International Association of Educators for World Peace.

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