What are we fighting for?

I recently watched a documentary about the Civil War.  In discussing the events leading up to the war, the narrator stated, “For the Confederacy, it was dependent upon wealthy plantation owners convincing the poor to fight for them.” 

I could scarcely believe the openness and honesty of that statement! 

But isn’t that almost always the case?  True, many Union soldiers volunteered to join the battle as a fight against slavery.  And, in WWII, most U.S. soldiers joined the battle as retaliation for Pearl Harbor and to stop world domination by the Axis powers.  But most wars wouldn’t have happened if the rich hadn’t been able to manipulate the poor into fighting for them.

Many years ago, I found myself sitting next to the CBS bureau chief for Central and South America.  I told him I was confused about the situation in Nicaragua and El Salvador.  “Who are the good guys?” I asked.  He turned to me and laughed.  “There are no good guys.  Like most Americans, you’re under the false impression that U.S. foreign policy is about right and wrong.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The U.S. simply supports whoever is friendliest to our corporations,” he said. 

Since that conversation, I’ve examined conflicts with his words in mind.  Almost always, I’ve realized that our soldiers are ordered to fight to preserve corporate interests.  For example, the Afghan War was not only the result of the Taliban providing sanctuary for Al Qaeda.  Bush, Cheney and their oil buddies had long wanted to build a pipeline across that country.  The Iraq War was sold as a pre-emptive strike against Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.  But it was likely more about the oil reserves Saddam controlled.  And, according to a professor at Northern Arizona University who studies the origins and results of conflicts, our war in Bosnia was more about demonstrating the continued need for NATO following the fall of the Soviet Union than it was about the so-called genocide. 

Indeed, if the U.S. entered wars only to protect our homeland or American citizens, we likely wouldn’t have participated in the Opium War with China, the Spanish-American War, WWI, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bosnia and Iraq.  Moreover, we wouldn’t need to have our military stationed around the world in Germany, Japan, Okinawa, Bosnia, Turkey, Kuwait, Iraq, etc.

And if we entered wars solely for human rights abuses and the prevention of genocide, we likely would have sent troops to Tibet, Cambodia, Chile, East Timor, Sudan and dozens of other nations. 

So the next time you hear a politician start talking about the need to send our military halfway around the globe to protect “American interests,” ask yourself.  What interests does he or she really want to protect?  Those of our large, greedy corporations?  Or those of our citizenry?