The recent terror attacks in New York and Washington, DC were barbaric. My
heart goes out to all the victims, their families and friends. At the same
time, I fear that the military response of the U.S. government will fan the
flames of barbarism.
History shows that wars bring not peace but more wars. The past, as William
Faulkner said, is never past.
The American colonies, which successfully revolted against the British
Empire, cut their teeth waging wars of extermination against the First
Americans. They lost their land and lives at the hands of the colonists.
These former Europeans dehumanized native peoples as savages who deserved
such barbaric treatment.
Later, the U.S. government facilitated more barbarism against the First
Americans. Case in point is the Gold Rush. It spelled disaster for the
Northern Sierra Miwok when European-Americans rushed in searching for gold.
Also treated as sub-human in the U.S were the enslaved Africans. Their
stolen labor and lives were central to the national and global economy. The
institution of American slavery was barbarism.
Chattel slavery officially ended with the Civil War, yet the U.S.
government’s promise of “forty acres and a mule” for freed slaves never
materialized. Those not racially profiled into prison labor became
America’s lowest-paid hourly workers. Such super-exploitation continues
In the 20th century, the past pattern of population eradication and
extermination within the U.S. borders expanded. Modern barbarism took the
form of World War I, “the war to end all wars.” Instead, this carnage paved
the way for fascism and World War II.
World War II brought new techniques of war. Civilians were slaughtered in
death camps and by atomic bombs. Millions of people in the Soviet Union
lost their lives saving the world from fascism. Significantly, death and
destruction during World War II did not happen in the U.S.
What emerged from humanity’s most destructive war ever was a new global
order. The U.S. replaced Britain as the leading power. Uncle Sam now ruled
the roost. Yet what followed was not peace but more wars, hot and cold,
throughout the Third World.
The U.S. government ended dozens of national liberation movements through
violence. Such independence movements were misrepresented to the American
public as examples of Chinese and Soviet communist influence.
One example of many U.S. military interventions was the CIA-led removal of
Patrice Lumumba from his political leadership in Congo/Zaire. His call for
independent development was a threat to corporate America and its need for
cadmium, copper, diamonds, gold, hydroelectric power and uranium at
Around the same time, a confrontation between the governments of America and
the former Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis nearly caused a
nuclear exchange. Life on Earth hung in the balance. Luckily, cooler heads
With the fall of the former Soviet Union, humanity supposedly entered a new
era of peace and prosperity. The Evil Empire was no more, and the triumph
of capitalism over communism was final. All good things were now possible
for the greatest good.
Ominously, however, the permanent wartime economy of the U.S. remained.
Militarism enforces capitalism. The people of the Third World don’t
willingly submit to theft and murder by the rich and powerful.
After World War II, America’s dependence on oil rose. Oil is the mother’s
milk of world capitalism, now accounting for about 95 percent of the energy
used in the global economy. The U.S., with nearly 300 million people,
consumes about 25 percent of the world's oil, located mainly in the Middle
Today as the global economic slowdown spreads, conflicts within and among
nations, decided through the market, are growing. These conflicts—sometimes
expressed religiously—flow generally from strife over resources and trade.
This, in turn, increases militarism, racism and sexism. The politically
powerless—from Serbia to Sing Sing, Cambodia to Compton—suffer accordingly.
Strikingly, the vast majority of people need new institutions based on
cooperation instead of competition. Current institutions create a few
winners and many losers. Competition breeds desperation. Desperate people
By contrast, cooperation is the natural condition of human beings, I
believe. Civilization would have ended a long time ago if people hadn’t
been able to cooperate with one another in ways big and small. The removal
of this thought from the public mind in the U.S. is stunning.
As I write these words, I mourn for those whose lives ended in Tuesday's
barbaric attacks in the U.S. They deserved to live. Yet so did Iraqis
dying under the U.S.-led U.N. economic sanctions and Colombians perishing
from the U.S.-directed war of drug eradication.
Given last Tuesday’s carnage in New York and Washington, DC, the Bush
administration’s call for war is predictable. But it must be rejected by
those with a different view of patriotism. U.S. patriots can wage peace.
Security ends where violence begins in America and worldwide. Indeed,
that’s a lesson humanity and its institutions must heed sooner than later if
there is to be a future worth living.
Seth Sandronsky is an editor with Because People
Matter, Sacramento's progressive newspaper.