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Why Is America In So Many Wars?
Sunday, 07 February 2010 15:55
by Sherwood Ross

America is “a nation that seeks war” and if it doesn’t change it could end up destroying itself, a law school dean warns.

Given all the wars the United States has waged, “It is preposterous but true that we do not see ourselves as a nation that seeks war,” writes Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. “We see ourselves as a peace loving nation” and that message is constantly drummed into the public by government and media.

Since World War Two, an indisputably necessary conflict, Velvel points out the U.S. has fought the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, secret wars in Laos and Cambodia, the First Gulf War, Afghanistan, and the Second Gulf War in Iraq. It has also invaded, bombed or “quarantined” Panama, Grenada, Cuba, Haiti, Somalia, the Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia and Libya, and has “declared” a global war on terrorists.

“If the United States were a man instead of a country, we would say he must be schizophrenic, or at minimum deeply mentally disturbed, to believe he is peace loving in the face of a record like this,” Velvel writes in “The Long Term View,” a journal of informed opinion published by his law school.

Velvel further notes the U.S. today spends more on military than perhaps all the rest of the world put together and definitely more than the next 21 highest-spending nations combined, including China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Israel.

Not only do Americans always appear to be at war but they believe they fight only in good causes, he writes. “We believe we at all times fight only to do God’s work, and that we therefore have to fight or democracy, freedom, and economic affluence will be lost,” Velvel writes. He says truth cannot be permitted to intrude “because it would destroy our self image.”

“Certainly much of the rest of the world---probably most of the rest of the world---does not see us as peaceloving.” Gulf War II, Velvel notes, is having the opposite impact on public opinion the U.S. intended. “It has caused Muslims---the Arab ‘street,’ in particular---to hate our guts even more than they already did.”

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Among the reasons USA fights so often, Velvel writes, are economic imperialism, a desire to remain preeminent, the glorification of war by the media, hubris, the stupidity of the nation’s leaders and the failure to prosecute them for their war crimes, and the inability to learn from past errors.

Writing of economic imperialism, Velvel reminds that in 1898 Americans realized the nation’s capacity to produce had outrun the domestic market’s capacity to consume and that a vibrant economy required overseas markets and coaling stations for the Navy warships that would protect overseas trade. “Nothing has really changed, except that today we call it globalization and defend it as bringing wealth to all when in fact it has worsened the dire poverty of many.”

Gulf War I, he writes, “was fought for oil, not to stop tyranny despite President Bush 1’s lying efforts to portray it as a fight for freedom in Kuwait---which is at best an autocracy.”

Velvel judges that many, if not most, Americans “are loathe to admit that we are an imperialist power, but it inarguably has been true since 1898. (Year of the Spanish-American War.)”

He goes on to warn that, “It is only we, not any enemy, who are going to end up crippling our own country through constant warfare if we do not get off the warmongering kick we have been on for at least 100 years.” Velvel quotes President Lincoln’s words on the subject that, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Author Velvel says the idea that the U.S. favors war too much and engages in military action too much does not mean that he is a pacifist. “It (this article) is based not on a view that we must never kill anyone, but rather on the view that we too often choose to kill people---far too many people---and that we do so for insufficient reasons, with far too few good results and, too often, very bad results.”

The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a non-profit law school purposefully dedicated to the education of students from minority, immigrant, and low-income households who would otherwise not have the opportunity to obtain a legal education.

Not Holding Leaders Responsible For Crimes Only Breeds More War

One reason the U.S. is continuously at war is that its leaders “are never held to any criminal responsibility for their actions,” a law school dean writes.

The U.S. hanged World War II German and Japanese war criminals “but no American leaders are held to criminal responsibility by America, no matter how dastardly their conduct,” writes Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.

“And we of course will not let any other country or body hold them to criminal responsibility for horrendous conduct,” writes Velvel, in his school’s “Long Term View” magazine. Indeed, he noted the President George W. Bush “with unaccustomed foresight refused to let America support and ‘participate’ in the International Criminal Court lest Americans be triable for their actions.”

“Why shouldn’t warmongering leaders enter wars for any reason that suits them, however fallacious or despicable, if they know they can retroactively justify the war if any arguable basis later turns up…and they also know that they face no possibility of criminal responsibility regardless of how terrible their conduct?” Velvel asks.

In Viet Nam, for example, U.S. leaders caused the deaths of thousands of their own men and several million Vietnamese after they already knew they had made probably the worst mistake in American history. Velvel writes, “Our top military men create(d) free fire zones where civilians are killed on sight, and bomb and defoliate to the nth degree.” In Iraq, our leaders unleashed “a horrendous reign of terror from the skies, create a thus far thoroughly destabilized post-war society, and then, when all their other myths have shown to be myths, retroactively justify the war by saying that we got rid of an admittedly horrible dictator, his equally horrible sons, and his entirely horrible government.”

Velvel says the leaders rarely have little or any battlefield experience that might curb their hawkish outlook. “This is an era…where American wars are pretty much fought only by the poor and the lower middle class, while Presidents who deliberately evaded combat blithely send them off to die and never send their own children or their colleagues’ children off to die.”

Examples of hawkish presidents and their high aides who never saw combat abound, Velvel says. These include President Lyndon Johnson, his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, President Richard Nixon, his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as Bush Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz. (Note: As a congressman, Johnson flew as an observer on at least one WWII combat mission.)

Hubris, writes Velvel, is another reason America is usually at war. Defined as “excessive pride or self confidence,” the common belief is: “We are America. We can do anything. We have never lost a war---a statement that could be made before Viet Nam.”

War hawkishness combined with hubris, arrogance, carelessness, and stupidity in a leader often result in disastrous decisions. “It was hubris that caused people to think that today’s Muslims, especially Arabs, can’t fight when we twice made plans to fight Iraq,” Velvel writes. It is hubris for a president to say, as George W. Bush did, “Bring it on” when he personally evaded combat during Viet Nam.

Yet another reason for war, Velvel writes, is because the American public is lied to by its leaders. Velvel cites the Gulf of Tonkin debacle when Vietnamese torpedo boats were alleged to have attacked U.S. destroyers and the latter Bush Administration’s claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Both claims later proved to be unfounded. The reason such outlandish claims are pressed is that the U.S. seeks to maintain its preeminent power and influence, Velvel writes.

The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a non-profit law school purposefully dedicated to the education of students from minority, immigrant, and low-income households who would otherwise not have the opportunity to obtain a legal education.

Cowardly Congress Thinks Backing White House Plays It Safe

America frequently makes wars because a cowardly Congress allows the White House to itself make the decision for war, a law school dean says.

“Congressmen and Congresswomen are almost always political cowards, and they care only about staying in office indefinitely if not forever,” writes Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. “They do not wish to cast a decision-making vote on war lest their individual decisions---whichever way they may come down---will cost them the next election.”

“They are far happier…to let the President make the decision and take the responsibility, while they only Monday morning quarterback in order to carp and complain after the fact if and when things do not go well,” Velvel writes.

While the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, invests Congress with the power “to declare War,” the law school dean points out this has been largely ignored since President Harry Truman in 1950 “de facto changed the Constitution so that not the Congress, but the President, and he alone, makes the decision on war.”

“From Korea, to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, to the 2002 Congressional Resolution which said to (President) Bush II that he alone should decide whether and whom to fight, the decision on war has been the President’s in fact,” Velvel writes.

He points out, however, “the framers deliberately intended it to be for Congress because they felt, as has now come true, that the Executive is too prone to get into wars. The shifting of the power to decide on war has been a de facto Constitutional revolution.”

Velvel writes that decent human beings could think it immoral to put one’s own election to office ahead of the potential deaths of hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands or even millions of people of some other nationality.

“But who said our congresspeople (or presidents) are moral human beings?” Velvel asks. “Would moral human beings spin, lie, and deceive to be elected to office or to persuade people to adopt this or that policy? Yet this…is the way people get into and stay in office in this country.” Velvel adds that elected representatives hold their office through “raising unbelievable sums of money by a process that the Supreme Court turned into legalized (if deeply immoral) bribery.”

One possible solution, Velvel writes in his law school magazine “The Long Term View,” would be to adopt a form of proportional representation(PR) in elections to Congress and in the Electoral College where votes for president are cast. “This would enable decent people to form a political party with practical hopes of success and consequent ability to affect policy, specifically including any policy of constantly fighting wars.”

When PR is mentioned, however, politicians chorus it will destabilize the country and cite Italy and Israel as examples of nations that have PR whose governments as a result are unstable. “So we seem doomed to continue with a system in which decent people will find it very hard to form a successful new party---like the Republican party in 1854---and in which we are stuck with Presidents who make the decision and often favor war…” Velvel writes.

Another reason the U.S. frequently is at war is “to change the nature of the societies we are invading,” Velvel writes, as “by changing the nature of the government of Iraq, we will cause a change in the nature of the governments of Iran, Syria, and other Muslim countries.” This warmed-over “domino” theory of causation is often as wrong as the notion that if South Viet Nam fell to the Communists, the Philippines or Japan would follow, he said.

Velvel adds, of course, that quite often the peoples we claim we seek to help “do not want us to be in or to take over their countries to impose our version of democracy and wealth.”

The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a non-profit law school purposefully dedicated to the education of students from minority, immigrant, and low-income households who would otherwise not have the opportunity to obtain a legal education.

(Sherwood Ross, formerly reporter and columnist for major dailies, is a media consultant to Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Sherwoodross10@gmail.com)

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Comments (1)add comment

Ricardo said:

I agree with every word. Americans have a completely false picture of themselves, but the rest of the world sees them for what they are. However I also blame the leaders of other countries such as here in Europe who go along with it against the wish of the majority of their citizens. The unconditional support of Israel in it's horrific treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza is another example of a hypocritical country.
February 22, 2010
Votes: +2

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