Upcoming Events | What People are Saying | Voice of the People Networks and Directory | Archives | Blog | Join | Contact Us
November 13, 2007
The age of nations has passed. It remains for us now, if we do not wish to perish, to set aside the ancient prejudices and build the earth. Teilhard de Chardin
It has been less than a decade since all the hopes and dreams that were demonstrated around the world on the first day of the new millennium have virtually evaporated due to continuing violence, war, and misguided priorities. One problem for the lack of progress is that wishing and hoping for a better and safer world is not the answer. It is only by working with a total commitment to overcome the obstacles that impede progress, and, at the same time, have a vision and realistic program that a better and safer world can be achieved, as it must if our civilization is to survive and progress.
A good starting point is to recall the stern and unequivocal warnings made to the American people (and relevant to the world community) by two presidents that have been basically ignored with potentially grave consequences.
The first these warnings came from President
Dwight Eisenhower in his Farewell Address to the American People
on January 17, 1961:
In the succeeding years this complex has extended its influence far beyond what President Eisenhower could envision. The U.S. fiscal 2006 military budget was an astounding $419 billion, and this does not include billions of dollars appropriated for nuclear weapons contained in the Department of Energy (DOE) budget, as it is every year, or funding for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now compare this astronomical spending on the military to what other major countries are spending. The following figures are compiled for 2006 (or 2005 for some countries) by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI):
U.S.: $419 billion
The United States accounts for nearly 50 percent of total world military expenditures and it is scheduled to increase over the coming years. The Center for Arms Control in Washington D.C. reports the Bush administration request on military spending for fiscal year 2008 is $481.4 billion, and, again, this does not include the cost of nuclear weapons or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Office of Management and Budget estimates total Pentagon spending, not including nuclear weapons or combat operations, for the period of fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2012 will exceed $2.3 trillion. These figures should help everyone understand that there is simply no business like war business as the permanent war economy has become a central pillar of the U.S. economy. While the U.S. now imports an enormous amount of goods, this nation continues to be the leading exporter of weapons around the world.
The cost and profit from manufacturing
weapons is huge as the following examples reveal:
The Trident submarine is the biggest killing machine ever built. This submarine carries twenty-four ballistic missiles, each missile capable of carrying eight nuclear warheads, each warhead over five times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. One Trident submarine has the destructive power of over one thousand Hiroshima bombs and can strike 192 separate targets. There are eighteen Trident submarines.
THE WAR BUSINESS
Lockheed-Martin is the worlds largest weapons company so it is not surprising that all Trident missiles are built by Lockheed-Martin as part of its vast array of military products, including jet fighters. The New York Times reports that Lockheed-Martin had sales totaling $32 billion in 2003. The company is located in cities throughout the U.S., and has business locations in nations around the world.
The Pentagon's Top 10 Prime Contact award
winners for 2006:
The Vietnam War cost the United States over $600 billion. At least three million people were killed, including 58,000 young American servicemen. The war ended the same way it could have had the U.S. accepted elections back in 1954 and averted over ten years of extreme violence and human suffering. Now, with the new budget request by President Bush, the cost of the war in Iraq will exceed $600 billion. This is another war created by deception and run with extreme incompetence that has turned Iraq from a difficult situation, but were the majority of people led reasonably normal lives, into an utter nightmare. Contrary to all the false statements about the justification for the war, it is actually about three letters: OIL. If there were no large reserves of oil in Iraq there would be no U.S. soldiers in Iraq today. The entity that gains most from the war is the war business by profiting from the sale of weapons.
Theres just no business like the war business and it is ruining our society and much of the world community by stealing from those in need and exhausting our intellectual and financial resources
Every gun that is made, every warship
launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a
theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold
and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money
alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of
its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way
of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening
war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Today at least 27,000 nuclear weapons are
stockpiled worldwide, enough to vanquish civilization several
times over. The U.S. and Russia possess over 90 percent of these
weapons, including several thousand strategic nuclear warheads
that are continuous a hair-trigger alert, ready for a launch
in a few minutes notice. A report by the Rand Corporation declared
these weapons could destroy both countries in an hour. Such a
doomsday scenario could result from an accidental missile launch,
an early warning system error, or miscalculation. There have
been many close calls to a nuclear war starting by accident over
the years; therefore, to retain thousands of nuclear warheads
on a hair-trigger alert, only minutes from launch, is criminal,
if not utter madness.
WARNING NUMBER TWO
The second warning from a U.S. president
that has also been virtually ignored is from President Kennedy
in a 1963 address to the American People on the Nuclear Test
President Kennedys warning has come to pass with at least eight nations now possessing nuclear weapons and the United Nations reporting that over 30 countries have the ability to produce them. It doesnt require brilliance to understand that unless there is dramatic change in the current trend of political events, it is only a matter of time until a nuclear weapon is used in some regional conflict that could rapidly spiral out of control to a nuclear war that would decimate civilization.
After such a long journey for civilization that extends back for millenniums we have come to the critical fork in the road, and the path we choose will determine if there is a future for the great human drama or if this is the last act, at least for civilization. As the great playwright Anton Chekov wrote, if there is a gun on the wall in the first act of a play, it will be fired in the third act. We are in the third act of the nuclear era and the gun on the wall comprises the 27,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled, including 12,000 that are ready for delivery.
Clearly, a new call to political action is imperative to push the fools and their folly that never learn from history to the sidelines before they invoke a global tragedy. High on the list of priorities is election campaign reform to end the political corruption through huge donations the weapons industry and other corporation contribute to political candidates and then expect, and usually receive, favorable voting in congress. Consider this shocking statement by Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) that fundraising for all senators: distracts us from the peoples business It corrupts and degrades the entire political process Fundraisers used to be arranged so they didnt conflict with the Senate schedule; nowadays, the Senate schedule is regularly shifted to accommodate fundraisers.
Like most of corporate America the weapons industry employs hundreds of lobbyists whose job is to convince our elected officials to authorize and fund new weapons and increased military spending. The consequence is the astronomical military budget by the U.S. every year. Under these conditions a continuous armament buildup is assured, for as long as billions of dollars are allocated every year to develop new weapons, the scientists and engineers employed by the armament industry will produce the weapons, even the most complex, including weapons for space, as long as they are provided enough money and time.
THE WAR BUSINESS IN ORBIT
The next frontier for the war business
is space with the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Space Command,
General Joseph Ashy, concisely stating its overall purpose:
Today, scientists and engineers in the
weapons industry are working with Pentagon contracts to develop
space-based weapons scheduled for deployment 10 and more years
from now. The Rand think tank reports weapons under development
include space-based lasers, microwave guns, particle beam weapons,
and kinetic-energy weapons.
There are many difficult issues confronting humanity today, including very serious environmental problems. The good news, at least with the issue of global warming, is that vast numbers of people, and most governments, now accept and understand this crisis with many implementing programs to alleviate it. The response by young and old to the problem with climate change is impressive and encouraging.
It is in the area of militarization and weapons that apathy and seemingly indifference is prevalent and dangerous. People must accept our top priority is to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. We can never make real progress and hope for a better future unless humanity is liberated from this terrorism, for a nuclear war would erase the past, destroy the present, and ruin the future.
The existence of nuclear weapons presents a clear and present danger to life on Earth. Nuclear arms cannot bolster the security of any nation because they represent a threat to the security of the human race. These incredibly destructive weapons are an affront to our common humanity, and the tens of billions of dollars that are dedicated to their development and maintenance should be used instead to alleviate human need and suffering. Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Laureate
The second priority is the elimination
of the war system itself with all of its political, economic,
and cultural manifestations. Even without nuclear weapons, civilization
cannot really progress, or perhaps even endure the destruction
and atrocity of modern warfare. At the beginning of the 20th
century about 90 percent of casualties were military and 10 percent
civilian. By the end of the century, and in todays world,
these figures are reversed.
The only realistic and workable alternative to continuing war and an eventual global catastrophe is to create conditions in which disputes between nations and peoples, and dealing with terrorists and the causes of terrorism, are settled through the framework of enforceable world law. This is the same principle of law through which we settle disputes within our communities and nations, and now it must be extended to the global level. The day must come when people accept international disputes are settled through enforceable world law the same as they accept disputes within their countries are settled through enforceable law by state and federal courts. There is no alternative to end the cycle of war and organized violence. The United Nations, with its universal membership, which is one of the great accomplishments in history, is the obvious institution through which international law must be implemented and global governance achieved.
This consists of a transformation of the UN to a limited global government that is not intrusive in national affairs, but is provided with the authority by the Member States to enforce settlement through legal decisions of international disputes. Prior efforts to convince people on the need for a limited world government have failed because no significant social/political advance is possible unless the time and conditions are right. Now, in this first decade of the new millennium, with the dangerous proliferation of nations possessing nuclear weapons, and with serious environmental problems extending across all national borders, the time and the conditions are right and necessary to move forward to global governance.
It will be just as easy for nations
to get along in a republic of the world as it is for you to get
along in the republic of the United States. [If] Kansas and Colorado
have a quarrel over the water in the Arkansas River they don't
call out the national guard in each state and go to war over
it. They bring suit in the Supreme Court of the United States
and abide by the decision. There isn't a reason in the world
why we can't do that internationally.
There is an increasing awareness of
the need for some form of global government.
The international community should support
a system of laws to regularize international relations and maintain
the peace in the same manner that law governs national order.
A world government with powers adequate
to guarantee security is not a remote ideal for the distant future.
It is an urgent necessity if our civilization is to survive.
A major obstacle in the United States is that the vast majority of Americans have an appalling lack of knowledge about the United Nations and its accomplishments. The June 2007 issue of Parade Magazine, which is an insert in the Sunday edition of newspapers around the country, carried a front page article questioning whether the United Nations still matters. This issue provided a poll for people to respond to this question. After receiving the response from 25,000 people, 71% said the UN did not matter, and only 20% cast their vote in favor of the UN.
Its common in the United States for people and the media to consistently condemn the UN for actions it takes as if the UN were a separate organization divorced from national governments. This is not the case. The UN is composed of national governments and they make the decisions for the UN to carry out. When people are displeased with UN voting, they should vent their anger at the governments that cast the vote and not the staff of the UN.
The United Nations has produced international law that greatly benefits humanity every day. UN agencies such as UNICEF conduct programs that save the lives of millions of children every year. UNESCO provides training for teachers and builds schools, protects our human heritage, and conducts important scientific conferences. There are over 30 of these UN agencies that perform a vital role every day for the world community. And dont forget the UN Peacekeeping forces that have maintained peace in many regions for decades that otherwise would have erupted into war.
One thing is clear: The United Nations has a vital role to perform in the crucial years ahead. It is the only international institution that, with full support, can realistically be reformed and structured with sufficient authority and power to create the global governance that is imperative for the very survival of civilization. But to succeed the UN needs to be more representative such as providing non-government organizations (NGOs) with a larger role in political activities and support. One idea is a Peoples Parliament composed of NGOs consulting with and supporting the General Assembly as several former high ranking UN officials have suggested.
RECLAIMING DEMOCRACY -- MOVING FORWARD
July 4 is the annual celebration of one of historys great documents, the Declaration of Independence that was adopted in 1776. This Declaration has been an inspiration not only for this nation, but also for governments and people around the world. Today, however, at home there is serious erosion of the Declarations basic principles that must be corrected, and this could be a long struggle. It begins with the arduous task of regaining our democracy from the emerging plutocracy that rules our country today through a massive concentration of national wealth in the hands of a small minority. In 2004 the congressional budget office reported the income gap in the United States was the worst since just before the Great Depression. The top one percent of households has nearly 40 percent of the wealth. The top five percent have over 50 percent of the total wealth, and the top 20 percent have over 80 percent of the wealth.
Its shocking to learn that the United States has the widest discrepancy between rich and poor among Western industrialized countries. This dramatic change is a betrayal of the American democracy that much of the world used to admire and envy. It is an even greater betrayal to the American workers who fought, and sometimes died, so that their children and grandchildren could have a better life.
Its also evident that democracy cannot function when the media, which should operate for the benefit of the people, is owned and run by a handful of corporations. This guarantees the suppression of ideas, cleverly accomplished by the corporate-run media simply ignoring people with progressive ideas, keeping them off the airwaves, and thus restricting their exposure to the public.
CORPORATE GLOBALIZATION - WHEN CORPORATIONS RULE
Globalization should mean movement toward a global community. The problem is that the corporate world has co-opted this term and uses it as a means to serve the multi-nationals and political/economic policies that make the rich even richer. Corporate globalization is unjust, undemocratic, self-destructive, and an environmental nightmare due to its dependency on mass consumption and waste.
While corporate globalization rules the
world, hunger and poverty remain extreme. The statistics collected
by the United Nations are truly staggering:
The 1998 Human Development Report revealed that just over 200 billionaires had a combined wealth equal to the annual incomes of just under half the global population (2.7 billion). The report found that the combined wealth of the worlds three richest people was greater than the total income of the poorest forty-eight nations. Other UN figures show that only 20 percent of the worlds people have over 80 percent of the wealth and consume over 85 percent of the worlds resources. This inequality is a disgrace to our civilization, and it is the source of ongoing violence and war.
We cannot have a world where corporations rule. Corporations cannot provide what government supplies to society: education, security, law, environmental and other regulations, democratic safeguards, and the like. Corporations exist solely for profit and acquisition. Moreover, corporations are totalitarian to the extreme and the CEOs of major corporations have been in the forefront of the new value system in this country, which is Greed. Business Week reports the average salary for the CEOs was 42 times the average worker's salary in 1980. By 1990 it increased to 85 times, and by 2000 it reached over 500 times the average worker's salary. Next in line are the ludicrous salaries and compensation paid to entertainers and athletes that makes a mockery of our social values and the worth of work.
The mantra of those who are benefiting from corporate rule is "the market rules." The market, however, has no conscience, no responsibility, no anything. It is a giant gambling casino for the rich while the rest of us are hostage to the whims or greed of investors. Our national culture has become "marketing," with the goal to make the entire country, and the world if possible, into a giant shopping mall where the only thing that counts, including our culture, is what sells. Even people are told they must "sell themselves" to get ahead, a phrase formerly confined to prostitutes.
Sallusts description of Rome in
80 B.C.--a government controlled by wealth, a ruling-class numb
to the repetitions of political scandal, a public diverted by
chariot races and gladiatorial shows--stands as a fair summary
of some of our own circumstances
The decline of American culture is astonishing on one hand, but on the other it was inevitable when corporate America managed to gain the power to set the standard, which, for the highest profit, is to the lowest common nominator. Corporate greed seems to have no bounds as demonstrated in the obnoxious increase of commercials in television programs and sporting events. This is possible because our Congress has abrogated its responsibility to set reasonable regulations to protect the public from the outrageous commercialization of our society. A high culture does exist, but in relatively small enclaves. Few citizens in our society, for example, could name a great classical composer or symphonic conductor, the stars of todays opera or ballet, great writers, Nobel Laureates with their great accomplishments, etc. The majority, however, can quickly name the celebrity seekers that corporate America cultivates and promotes because it sells. If people are fed garbage as culture long enough they come to believe it is art.
ENDING THE DECLINE
The U.S. has sadly declined from the noble
democratic ideals so eloquently expressed by President Roosevelt
on the role of government:
We need to return to this concept of government, and, in this first and second decade of this new millennium, develop new economic models that are not based on arcane and failed dogmas or those that rape the environment for profit or guarantee a deep division between rich and poor. And the only globalization we must accept is democratic globalization that is designed for all people and where it would be unthinkable for a few hundred billionaires to possess as much wealth as over two billion poor people.
NEW POLITICAL LEADERSHIP
To move ahead requires better political
leadership across the world community and this clearly includes
the United States. The irony is that we have an abundance of
highly intelligent and capable people. The problem is convincing
them to run for political office. But this problem must be overcome
if we are to place individuals of wisdom in positions of power
and influence. It is the only way to end the folly that is driving
our nation backwards at an astonishing rate. The kind of leadership
we need was eloquently described by Senator William Fulbright
in his book The Price of Power:
Individuals of this quality running for political office would draw legions of people, particularly the young, to work for their election with great hope and enthusiasm. This must take high priority, for a major component of the equation to build a better society and safer and better world is electing this quality of leadership to office.
THE ROAD AHEAD
At this decisive moment in history, with the danger posed by a rapid proliferation of countries with nuclear weapons, we must act together to move the fools, the dictators, the dreamers of empire, the militarists, the arms merchants and their architects of destruction to the sideline of history. We can no long afford their destructive folly. Our unyielding task is to build a world community with law and justice, the sharing of resources, and the creation of a new civilization based on respect for life, respect for the environment, and respect for each other.
TIME TO BEGIN
To achieve the change and the goals may appear revolutionary; however, it is not violent revolution, but evolution to be fought and achieved with ideas and vision.
An invasion of armies can be resisted,
but not an idea whose time has come.
The idea whose time has come is rapid change to create a safer and better world for the 21st century. Education is the key component to convince people to think and to act as responsible Citizens of the World in all of their endeavors. This is not a replacement for national and regional citizenship duties, but rather a new individual responsibility to work together across all barriers to achieve our common fate. Revolutions may come and go, whether just or unjust, but they are not part of the Next Great Evolution that must remain non-violent, but strong and unyielding. While eliminating nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction must be achieved rapidly, it may take decades to finally free humanity from the scourge of war and organized violence, achieve full social and economic justice, and construct global governance where lasting peace can prevail. Only then will the goal of the Next Great Evolution be achieved, and, as the visionary Arthur C. Clarke would contend,
THE LONG CHILDHOOD OF OUR SPECIES WILL FINALLY END
Douglas Mattern is President of the Association of World Citizens and author of LOOKING FOR SQUARE TWO - To a Better and Safer World, Published by Jones Harvest