War Pigs and Sword Swinging

 “Politicians hide themselves away

They only Started the war

Why should they go out to fight?

They leave that role to the poor?

– War Pigs, Black Sabbath

This Saturday evening I have taken a break from studying and decided to listen to music as loud as I can possibly stand.  The first song that I listened to was Black Sabbath’s War Pigs.  It is disturbing that these lyrics, more than 40 years old, are still applicable today.  Perhaps they are even more applicable today.  I am thinking about the U.S. and their renewed involvement in Iraq and Syria.  Admittedly I am not an expert on the U.S. Constitution, but I do know that it is a requirement that their legislative bodies are supposed to be debating matters of war.  This is a duty they have been neglecting of late, preferring to stick their heads in the sand.

This current crisis notwithstanding though, the U.S. war record is rather telling when it comes to war authorizations:

“Not enough money for

The Young, the old and the poor

But for war there is always more.”

– A Time To Love, Stevie Wonder

It always baffles me when I hear staggering figures about military spending in the U.S.  They have so much money that they can devote to military – much more than is really necessary, but can’t cut back on that amount by even a fraction and allocate that money to Education, or infrastructure, or something else.  It does make sense, if you agree with Bill Maher (which I do) and consider the military as a jobs program.

I once heard a story about someone who worked for a government agency here in Canada.  They were allowed a certain budget.  Part of that budget went to purchasing new computers at the start of the year.  At the end of the year they still had a sizeable amount of that budget available and therefore ordered brand new computers again.  They did not have anything else to spend that money on and didn’t want to have their budget cut so they needlessly spent the money, our taxpayer money.  Such an example can easily be applied to the U.S. military.  (Although admittedly I have heard that even the Pentagon has started saying they don’t need more money).  Taking money from social programs (education, environment, etc) to balloon an already inflated budget is ridiculous.  What’s more when this overfunding is coupled with an unmooring (as Rachel Maddow put it in her excellent book Drift) of the checks and balances on power spells trouble.

Even forgetting about the current international wars that the U.S. is involved in (and that more countries, including Canada, are joining in) the ridiculous U.S. expenditures on military are having their effects on civilian matters.  In recent years there has been increasing reporting on the militarization of civilian police forces (think of the police response after the Boston Marathon bombing, or the reaction to protests in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014).  If there was more reasonable budgets regarding military spending, perhaps the U.S. wouldn’t have so much excess equipment that they need to dispose of, and it wouldn’t be there for use against citizens.

One last quote:

“The Man Who Passes The Sentence should Swing The Sword.”

– A Song Of Ice and Fire, Book 1, George R.R. Martin

Would Joffrey have been so quick to call for Ned Stark’s head if he did not have an executioner to do the actual deed?  Likewise, would politicians be so quick to call for war or, as in this case, stick their heads in the sand and shirk their duty if they actually had some accountability for it?  Would they be so quick to call far war if it was them or their sons and daughters who had to fight, whose lives were potentially at stake?  Would they be so quick to bring a country to war if rations were put in place again (as they were during the second world war)?  Would it be easy to allow their troops to be deployed again and again into wars (especially those trumped up on false pretences a la Iraq war 2 over fictitious weapons of mass destruction) if a war actually impacted them in any way.  I say no.

Accountability has been slowly slipping away in all parts of society, but in none is this more keenly felt and important in those who we entrust (across all democracies, not just the U.S.) to make decisions of war and peace.