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The Arsenal of Democracy, and Its Many Days of Infamy

by Abby Zimet

On the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the usual narrative is celebrated: A sneak attack prompted the noble entry of a reluctant America into World War Two. But there's another compelling, likely more historically accurate counter-narrative: The attack also ushered in a bloody  age of empire based on the determination that "the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory"; a permanent, profit-driven, over-reaching military-industrial complex created in its name that each year spends $1.3 trillion, or over half our taxes, on preparing for war; and the questionable notion of military expansionism in the name of "defense."

"It is an axiom that nations do not arm for war but for a war." - journalist George Seldes, 1934.

 

Same theme, small scale: Verbatim, a Letter to the Editor from a Canadian veteran of World War II on the subject of "a regular guy doing his duty."

Box 53
Landmark, MB
R0A 0X0
Nov. 28, 2012
Ph. # 204-355-4003
 
Letters Editor
 
Dear Editor,
 
A former soldier read, and liked, a poem for peace that I’d sent to a veterans’ organization working hard for peace. He phoned me and with time we became good friends. He’d often invite me and my wife to come visit him and he liked nothing better than if he could tell us about events of the war he’d been in. At Christmas he and I went to a veterans’ hospital here in Manitoba to visit and hand out Christmas goodies.
 
I know that war, no matter how adventurous and how right it may seem to one side or the other, or to both, is horrible, brutish and fiendish.
 
One day I told my soldier friend, “Joe (not his real name), you didn’t have to join the military.”
 
He said, “I had to.”
 
I said, “No, you didn’t have to. You could have taken prison or even death.”
 
Then he said, “The honour.”
 
I knew very well what he meant. His country was at war and as soon as he joined up he was a regular guy doing his duty. His parents, church, friends, young ladies, children, and all looked up to him and admired him. Besides, young men fear being called cowards more than they fear the enemy and especially so when they’re still far from the front with all of its agony, gore, and death. So, even though, as he told me, he had always been against the war, off to war he went. He was one of the fortunate ones; he survived.
 
By the way, my friend, “Joe,” had fought in Hitler’s army, the Wehrmacht.
 
“Joe” was a regular guy; he fully thought he was just doing his duty; our boys were regular guys too.
 
Regular guys (at least mostly) were killing regular guys. The "cream of the crop," on both sides, very often suffered horribly or died, and far too soon (like at Dieppe 70 years ago). Surely disagreements between and among nations can be settled more humanely. Let's hope in the future they will be. The quotes, below, may be of help:
 
"There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword." General Grant
(All wars could cease if the above quote, alone, was listened to. As Winston Churchill put it, "To jaw, jaw, is better than to war, war.)

 Yours sincerely,  
 
Stan Penner
 

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