I just finished reading a long article about Prime Minister Abe of Japan, who is seeking to overturn Japan’s policy of nonviolence foisted upon it as a result of the settlement at the end of World War II. Why, why, I thought, would he want to do this? There are several answers. One important one is that the manufacturing industry of Japan would like to begin probably the most productive of all manufacturing—the making of arms.
I have no idea how this attempt is going to be resolved, but my instincts tell me that Abe will win and Japan will be given authority to make arms and sell some and, most important of all, will buy arms from U.S. arms manufacturers.
Now, arms require people to use them. So governments have to recruit soldiers and sailors and those soldiers and sailors have to be trained to kill people and those people are always called “the enemy.” Who are these citizens who support these governments and produce the sons and daughters who will “honor and obey and kill the enemy? What kind of education did they get? You have to be educated to hate. Mostly the sons and daughters come from middle-class and lower-middle-class families. They didn’t go to Harvard or Vassar—probably didn’t even go to college. Their education never taught them that the military policies of the United States need to be questioned. They’re not faced with very good job opportunities and never gave much thought as to why we have to have wars. So what do they do? With the promise of a cash annuity they join the military and learn how to kill.
The weapons furnished these citizen-soldiers are produced by corporations whose chief concern is to make money. The middle and lower middle-class young people are trained to use them and, at the same time, to recognize that an enemy is to be confronted and killed—not convinced by some do-gooder to love their neighbor.
Now, getting back to Prime Minister Abe, who’s probably a good guy who loves his kids but like too many Americans loves his money dearly—I don’t think we can hold him responsible for any ensuing military conflict, so who can we hold responsible? The President? Congress? College teachers? Church leaders?
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Back on Sept. 30, 1991, an article appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about 10,000 mothers who had marched through the streets of Osijek, Yugoslavia, to surround a federal army barracks protesting the conscription of their sons into the military. “They sang patriotic songs, applauded their own courage and chided the soldiers with signs such as ‘Generals, give us back our kids’ and ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves.’ They were motivated by fear that their sons would be drawn into the civil war pitting Croats against Serbs.”
I was reminded of this event by a recent article which appeared in the Guardian Weekly of Dec. 5, 2017, about 14 Argentine mothers who on April 10, 1977, began a weekly vigil in memory of the thousands of their sons and daughters who had been “disappeared” by the Argentine military. The Mothers split into two factions and a sister group. The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo was set up to track down the children of women who were abducted by the dictatorship while pregnant. The women were murdered after giving birth and their babies handed over to military couples to raise as their own. One of the mothers, Taty Almeida, explained: “We know that because of our age we will probably not live to see every single culprit condemned. Though we may need wheelchairs and walking canes today, for the time being the Mad Mothers are still around.”
I do believe that there are today thousands upon thousands of “mad mothers,” like myself, who don’t want their sons and daughters to be drawn into wars, wars not fought over principles but wars benefiting the coffers of the corporations manufacturing arms.