Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Militarization of America

"...overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty."

--George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796 (H.T. timbermonkey)

Although for most of us, certainly those of us in the Baby Boom Generation, it seems that America has ALWAYS been a militarized society, this certainly is not the case.

Until after WWII, the US military was primarily a truly voluntary occupation. Except in times of war, the US military was a rather small organization, composed primarily of a core of trained officers and volunteers. Many, if not most of the volunteer troops, looked upon the military as an occupation of last resort. In the period following the Civil War, the majority of the troops in active use in the military were either African-American or former civilians who, much like U.S. Grant prior to the Civil War, had simply not been able to make a go of it in civilian life.

With the conversion of the "War Department" into the "Defense Department", via the instigation and self generation of the Cold War, our country and culture has become quite militarized. As opposed to the practice in wake of prior wars, at the cessation of WWII and the instigation of the Cold War, the military draft was not ended. The draft was only ended in the wake of the social and cultural upheavals occasioned by it during the Vietnam War, when it became amply obvious that the country simply would not sanction an ever more costly (in lives and treasure) undeclared war. As middle class exemptions were beginning to vaporize and the children of the great middle class were coming more and more into the line of fire, the draft was found not to be a workable idea.

During the period after the Civil War, being a soldier was NOT considered a particularly appealing occupation. In general, the run of the mill soldiery (the troops, not officers) were considered a ruffian rabble (with the exception of the Western settlers whose lives were often dependent on the U.S. Cavalry).

In the wake of the Cold War and McCarthy witch-hunts, American society has become ever more militarized. After the conclusion of the Vietnam War and as the military was transitioned over to an "all volunteer" army, with the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, the local police departments started to ramp up their degree of militarization. Within a relatively short period of time local police departments, with the monetary aid and encouragement of the "Justice Department", began to militarize themselves. Even small towns and rural sheriff's departments suddenly realized that they "needed" SWAT teams. In many jurisdictions, mostly under the cloak of the "War on Drugs", local police departments began to organize "strike forces" and liberally construe their "right" to confiscate money, jewelry and other possessions (even in cases where drugs were not present nor even indicated). Many a "drug raid" would fail to find drugs or even paraphernalia. But the officers would "confiscate" valuables as being the "product" of "drug money" even where the drugs could not be found. In short order simple possession of amounts of cash that the police found "disproportionate" would be seized as prima facie evidence of "drug activity". In other words, simply having more money than the police (regardless of the premise) thought appropriate, would be evidence in and of itself of some kind of wrong-doing!

Now, after our bout of virtually perpetual "humanitarian" interventions through out the world, even preceding the fall of the Soviet Union (Operation Just Cause - 1989) and following: Somalia, Operation Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Gulf War II, we have our politicians and corporate media in general loudly cheering "our boys" and proclaiming loudly and long the beneficence of any and all of their actions, no matter how contrary to actual American tradition they may be. Perhaps the most glaringly obvious example is that of our present involvement in the destruction and occupation of Iraq. Our occupying troops have been involved in every possible heinous act of war crimes and atrocities which, in a saner age, were tried as "war crimes" and their Nazi and Japanese perpetrators executed by the Allied Powers.

There is nothing wrong with supporting our troops, assuming that their mission is the defense of kith, kin and country. There is everything wrong with supporting our troops when that means supporting war crimes and atrocities. If we support them in these actions, how, exactly, do we differentiate ourselves from the populace of Nazi Germany whom we so severely condemned and decried after the crimes of the Nazi regime came to light?

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