Curing The Pro-War Pandemic

by Philip Greenspan

May 12, 2003


Just the thought of war and its horrendous consequences is enough to make an intelligent individual sick. It has existed since pre-historic times and no known, unknown, or imagined sickness -- and I repeat, without doubt, most assuredly, posilutely, absatively, none, no how, no way, none, none, none -- is worse than the malady of war!

To cure this horrible disease copious applications of superabundant numbers of anti-war activists should be frequently applied to the affected areas, more profusely from time to time in those locations from which the disease emanates!

What follows is a short analysis of the cure and its recent uses in the U.S.

People the world over are against war. Who is anxious to kill or be killed or to see massive destruction take place? Only a few misanthropes who profit from war can actually condone it. It is they with their devious tactics that are able to lead the masses like the Pied Piper of Hamelin into hell. Accordingly, as momentum for war increases an anti-war opposition appears and grows.

When the U.S. at the close of the nineteenth century started imperial adventures off its shores Mark Twain vigorously opposed the Philippine campaign and was a leader with such other luminaries as Andrew Carnegie, John Dewey, E.B. DuBois, and Samuel Gompers in creating the Anti-War League. Although members were disparaged, abused and labeled as disloyal traitors and the demise of the League was proclaimed numerous times it survived for many years, well after the termination of the Philippine hostilities.

During World War I the British employed the best public relations propaganda of the day to get America into the war and offset strong anti-war sentiment. J. P. Morgan and the munitions makers aided their efforts. Woodrow Wilson, knowing how strongly the public opposed entry into the war, campaigned for his second term in 1916 with the slogan 'He kept us out of war' (see "Propaganda: Then and Now"). Only a few months after re-election he convinced Congress to declare war. To suppress the anti-war movement onerous sedition laws were passed. The esteemed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the decision (1) upholding the act that silenced popular outspoken opponents by sentencing them to prison.

World leaders knew how to reverse their citizens' abhorrence of war. Herman Goering, a profiteering Nazi general ranking right behind Hitler, who certainly knew the tricks of the trade, was alleged to have stated at Nuremberg on April 18, 1946:

"Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war: neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship . . . voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

When Franklin Roosevelt was running for his unprecedented third term World War II had already started. Germany had defeated a highly regarded French army in a relatively short time and Britain stood alone against the seemingly unbeatable German military forces. A Gallup poll indicated that 89 percent of the public opposed US participation in the fight. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which was instigated by the surreptitious actions of FDR, the public immediately backed the fight against the hated enemies. Korea, a United Nations police action, was not a declared war of Congress and commenced before an anti-war group could emerge. But by the next national election anti-war passions impelled Eisenhower to adopt as his strongest campaign promise an ending to the war.

Vietnam was another instance where there was no Congressional declaration of war. A gradual buildup developed based on the premise that a limited number of American military advisors would assist the South Vietnamese. But the stakes continued to grow and as they did, from a few draft card burning students, the numbers of anti-war protesters continued to grow as well, until their presence halted and reversed the course of that war.

The experience of what was labeled the 'Vietnam Syndrome' caused subsequent administrations to be very cautious with their military adventures. Quick engagements against puny opposition was preferred to create a fait accompli -- Panama, Grenada, bombings of Libya, Afghanistan, and Sudan were examples.

Much as the Reagan administration would have liked to take on Nicaragua it feared the repercussions from opponents. Therefore it organized and clandestinely supported its surrogate army, the Contras, that besmirched the administration when the 'Iran-Contra' illegalities were uncovered. But even before disclosure many groups opposed the hard line foreign policies of the government.

By suckering Saddam Hussein into an ill advised conquest of Kuwait a pretext for the Gulf War was secured. With UN approval, sufficient payoffs for allies, and a campaign of deception -- incubator babies and Iraqi troops on the border of Saudi Arabia -- a quick war, that could have been forestalled by a negotiated settlement, stymied an anti-war development. The twelve years of sanctions that were imposed on the country, however, aroused torrents of objections to that US-instigated policy.

Just as the attack on Pearl Harbor minimized anti-war sentiment for FDR, the 9/11 terrorist operation so elevated Bush's fast sinking approval rating that a coronation by the media ensued.

UN approval, supposed support of allies, a tenuous link to the 9/11 abomination and quick movement into Afghanistan precluded opposition from developing.

Those Afghan advantages not only vanished but negatives emerged with Gulf War II.

Allies were in extremely short supply despite generous quid pro quo offers, the UN and Iraq did not follow the script that the hawks had imagined, and sizable opposition arose throughout the world and at home.

The media has been gloating that even without a UN O.K., by starting the war the anti-war movement's strength dropped to 30 percent. While that number represents a loss it indicates that Bush's support, much of it thin, was only boosted to no more than 70 percent. It should have jumped to a higher level. The media may gloat but the movement is alive, well, formidable and ready to expand again.

The revolutionary war, which was a civil war as well, had only 40 (yes, only 40) percent opposing the king, 20 percent supporting the monarch, with the rest taking no side.

The media cannot suppress the wartime horrors indefinitely. As more horrors surface anti-war feelings will grow. The recent Mother's Day holiday refreshed my memory of some poignant lyrics of a popular 1915 song. 'I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier' (2) expresses the abhorrence of war of most of people. ". . . "I didn't raise my boy . . . to shoot some other mother's darling boy. . . . There'd be no war today if mother's all would say 'I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier'."

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References and Resources

1.  Schenck v US (249 US 47)  (back)

2.  Words, Alfred Bryan; Music, Al Piantadosi (1915)

Verse 1:
Ten million soldiers to the war have gone,
Who may never return again.
Ten million mother's hearts must break
For the ones who died in vain.
Head bowed down in sorrow
In her lonely years,
I heard a mother murmur thro' her tears:
"I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,
I brought him up to be my pride and joy,
Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,
To shoot some other mother's darling boy?"
Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,
It's time to lay the sword and gun away,
There'd be no war today,
If mother's all would say,
"I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier."
Verse 2:
What victory can cheer a mother's heart,
When she looks at her blighted home?
What victory can bring her back
All she cared to call her own.
Let each mother answer
In the years to be,
Remember that my boy belongs to me!
CHORUS: (repeat)  (back)

Main Media & Propaganda on Swans

Iraq on Swans

The 1991 Gulf War Rationale - A Swans Dossier

Propaganda: Then and Now - Gilles d'Aymery (Nov. 2001)


Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).

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Published May 12, 2003
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