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Our 'Long War' Is Not a 'Good War'

Tom Turnipseed

Tom Hayden visited Columbia, South Carolina last weekend, speaking at a University of South Carolina symposium on 1960s and 1970s student activism, attending a baseball game with the University's President Harris Pastides and holding a discussion with us at the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Columbia on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hayden is now 70 years old but appears younger and more vigorous than most folks his age. In his interesting life he has been a California State Senator, Assemblyman, university professor, community organizer, and a crusader for environmental and animal rights.

Initially, his fame was acquired as one of the Chicago Eight (later known as the Chicago Seven) who were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot after a violent clash with National Guard troops brought in by Mayor Richard Daley to restore order outside the Democratic National Convention in the volatile year of 1968. The Chicago Eight were leading a protest against the continuation and escalation of the Vietnam War. Among the others charged were Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. In 1971, Hayden married Jane Fonda and they had a son, Troy Garrity, who also became a film star. Hayden and Fonda divorced in1990.

At the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Columbia Hayden said the "cold war" against communism has been replaced with a fifty year "long war" against terrorism in Pentagon parlance. Hayden contends that the "long war" is carrying out the strategy of al-Qaida because they want to over-extend the US military and exhaust the US economy. He said that peace activists should partner with organizations and groups of people who are suffering the most from budget cuts and explain to them what the wars are costing them. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost US taxpayers 1.075 trillion dollars. Hayden accused Republicans of spending money on wars we cannot win and Democrats of going along out of fear of being labeled soft on terror in the "long war", which is reminiscent of a similar fear of being called soft on communism in the "cold war". Hayden said peace activists should contact South Carolina's Democratic Congressmen, Jim Clyburn, the House Democratic Whip, and John Spratt, Chair of the House Budget Committee, and ask them to hold hearings on the "long war", because such hearings would bring out what the wars will actually cost US taxpayers.

In a discussion that followed I wondered whether either Clyburn or Spratt would seriously challenge spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because military spending is sacrosanct in South Carolina. We probably have more military bases per capita than any other state.

The defense/weapons industry is also very strong in South Carolina and all over the country with companies strategically located in as many states and congressional districts as possible. Having lived in four Southern states in my 73 years, I've heard it said many times during a recession that we need a "good war" to get the economy going again. Laid-off folks can get a job in the defense industry or join the military.

Weapons makers and corporations exploiting the resources of conquered nations like the oil companies do in the continuing "long war" in the Middle East also are making out like the corporate bandits they really are. Such war profiteers and the banksters who finance it all appreciate a "good war".

The more the U.S. empire grows its global military might, the more money the suppliers of weapons/killing tools make as they sell them to both the U.S. government and governments threatened by the United States in the "long war". In the Middle East, the United States sells weapons to both sides in the even longer war pitting Israel against the Arabs.

Some folks in South Carolina love a "good war". In comments on-line following the article in the State newspaper in Columbia about Tom Hayden's visit one writer said, "This is unbelievable! Pastides (University of South Carolina's President) must have lost his mind!... this moron, who with Hanoi Jane was one of the ridiculous pro commie radicals of the 60's, allowed to promulgate their ridiculous moronic blather on students at USC! The board of trustees need to fire him immediately!"

Such comments are all too common in South Carolina where the "long war" is a "good war" and Tom Hayden and Hanoi Jane are commie radicals. How can any war with the killing of soldiers and innocent civilians and destruction of other living things be a "good war"?

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Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina,

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