A person (who is not an American, and who knows my positions on political matters) approached me in a cafeteria and asked, "Flip, why do Americans like war so much? Why do they like guns? Why do they spend so much on their military?"
Of course, I gave him the easy response: "Americans don't like war, its their government that does!"
Well, needless to say I played that response over and over in my head and grew increasingly unsatisfied with it. I even thought myself quite stupid for uttering it. It's not WRONG, of course, but it's very incomplete.
Everyone who pays attention knows that the American government--throughout history and continuing up to Clinton-- commits barbarous acts against people around the world. And, whenever they do so, they enlist the help of a highly compliant popular media to assist them in whipping up popular support. (Don't forget the image of German soldiers in WW I crucifying babies on churchhouse doors; don't forget Noriega and his pornographic magazines; don't forget--or were we supposed to?--the plight of the Kurds.)
What US presidents have done in the last 55 years constitute "war crimes" in any serious definition of the term. That is, applying the standards of Nuremberg, every American president since WW II would be hung as a war criminal for crimes against humanity. That's a proposition that anyone who has gone beyond a textbook version of American history would accept.
But envisioning Truman, Kennedy, Nixon and Clinton et al swinging from the gallows is just an experiment in thought. They'll never pay, and maybe they shouldn't. For those of us interested in social change, we must always remember that the president's role itself calls for keeping subordinate peoples in their proper place and assuring what the media call "favorable climate of investment." And of course, America does this by using not only their economic power, but, when the time calls for it, by bombs and military action as well. And, naturally, we use our proxy thugs; we support such murderous figures as Diem, Mobutu, Pinochet, Suharto, Savimbi, Marcos, Fujimori, Salinas, and scores of similar leaders.
It's important to note that crimes come so easily to U.S. leaders (and the a significant part of the American public) because America's propaganda machine nurtures the idea of American policies being a vehicles of higher morality and truth. And history shows that America's mainstream media agree that their country is above the law and will support and rationalize each and every venture.
Perhaps a brief discussion of America's history of slaughter and devastation is appropriate here. We dropped atom bombs in two Japanese cities, and, between 1947 and 1949, engineered an insurgency war in Greece which re-established the rule of fascists which had sided with the Nazis. In Korea we ( in the words of General Curtis LeMay) "burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea too." In Korea, we killed up to four million Koreans, and firmed up the power of murderous dictator Syngman Rhee.
Between 1964 and 1972, we dropped defoliants on South Vietnam and poisoned an area the size of Massachussetts. We killed 2 million Vietnamese. Space does not permit me to discuss what we did in Cambodia and Laos. (And please forgive me for skipping Nicaragua, Guatemala, East Timor, Rwanda and all the others!)
Jumping to the present, America killed between 100,000 and 200,000 Iraqis civilians in the Gulf War. UNICEF says that in every month of last year, between 4,000 and 5,000 Iraqi children.
The point of this post is to say that it is pointless to blame any one particular president, any one particular leader or corporation. I know the McSpotlight people realize this. The reason America spends so much on weapons is not because they need all that--they could accomplish these goals with much, much less in military hardware.
Many people agree with me that social spending makes more sense. I mean, if the government is going to throw away 200 billion dollars, why not spend it on schools? Why not hospitals, college education, research and development for alternative energy sources? Why, rationally speaking, the LAST place the money needs to go is to bombs and instruments of destruction.
What the "Food Not Bombs!" people, as well as the "You can't hug your child with nuclear arms!" bumper-sticker crowd are missing is the fact that social spending is inherently democratic. People KNOW if they need a hospital in their community and they KNOW what kind. People KNOW if they need a school. They KNOW that forty kids to a class is too many. People KNOW things about what their community should have.
But they don't know how to fly an F-1 or F-14 or F-16. Military spending is inherently undemocratic. It gives the bourgeoisie an excuse to rob the poor and pay the rich. That's why America spends so much money on its military.
Now, to answer the second question my non-American friend asked me in the cafeteria: Sure, American politicians love war. But I'll betcha there'd be less wars if the rest of the world would would be good little boys and girls, go along with the "free-market" and bow to our capitalist will. Golly, if people would only do that, we could finally have what John Lennon hoped for! That is, if only the other countries would quit fighting America's leadership, we could all give peace a chance.