Activist Brian Bogart asked himself: "Our top industry has been the manufacture and sale of weapons-and we're a peace-loving nation?" Inspired by this paradox, Bogart created Strike for Peace...described on its website as an attempt "to highlight for everyone's sake the dominant role of the military industry in America's economy. We stand for a future of shared resources instead of a future of resource wars. The weapons we help the Pentagon develop in our schools will be used in such wars unless we step away from the microscope to see the macro view and change America's priority from war-industry profit to the Founding vision of prosperity for all."
"The action I'm taking is not about political parties," Brian declares. "It's about deadly priorities that have been ruining this country for 55 years and causing a world of suffering, even here at home, and even to our soldiers abroad."
I interviewed Brian Bogart via e-mail:
Mickey Z: What was the spark for "Strike for Peace"?
Brian Bogart: I took seriously what I was taught about the founding vision: that America is a peace loving nation run by servants who operate by the consent of the governed (the people), and that American citizens have a duty to monitor their governing body very closely. We are often told we have a government of by and for the people, and the Declaration of Independence states more than once that the people have a duty to alter or abolish any government that threatens their future security. All of this means we are supposed to be responsible, to participate; not just by voting, but by knowing exactly what's really going on in government every minute of every day.
MZ: In other words, take control? In America?
BB: Obviously, Americans have lost control of America, or possibly never really had control. Most people are too overwhelmed to even talk about the mess we have today in Washington DC. But, in my career, and then in my first three years of independent research as University of Oregon's only graduate student in Peace Studies, I learned something we don't learn enough of in schools: that the American people were ripped off in 1950, that without the knowledge and consent of the American people, the office of President Harry Truman -- a Democrat -- decided to adopt a weapons-for-profit-based economy and launch the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
MZ: What's been the fallout of the rip-off you describe?
BB: Since 1950, our nation has been dependent on conflict -- and the world has suffered more than 200 wars. Our factories that made trains and buses and other necessities for public use were converted for military purposes, and that technology was shipped overseas-so today we import these things and do not have the ability to produce them. Since 1950, our top industry has been the manufacture and sale of weapons-and we're a peace loving nation? Our economic aid packages to developing countries are filled with weapons, and any loans we provide come with terms that allow us to control and perpetuate their internal strife.
MZ: In other words, the U.S. taxpayer is funding war and knows very little about it.
BB: I slowly saw this in my career when I was making parts for televisions in Silicon Valley, when suddenly our companies were saturated with weapons contracts coming from the Pentagon. I saw so much of our hard-earned taxes being spent on weapons that benefited only top executives. Even more wasteful contracts were justified as necessary for the Cold War. For example, I saw trillions of taxpayer dollars going to waste on President Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense system, which was never deployed. Servants in power today say "Star Wars" was necessary to frighten the Soviet Union into spending all of its wealth on weapons. "Star Wars" was, therefore, never intended to be deployed. But if we won the Cold War, why are we today wasting even more of the people's money making even deadlier weapons? And doesn't spending our wealth on weapons take us down the same path as the Soviet Union? The answer is our leaders are addicted to profit, and serve a war-for-profit machine adopted in 1950.
MZ: This machine requires an enemy.
BB: When we won the Cold War, our leaders were faced with a loss-of-profit crisis called "peace." So, the Pentagon outsourced its weapons projects and supply requirements to our companies and schools. The Army used to make its own tuna sandwiches, but today Bumble Bee has a lucrative Pentagon contract, and therefore a stake in conflict and a good reason not to speak out against war. The Navy used to make its own soup, but today Campbell's has a Pentagon contract, and therefore a stake in conflict and a good reason not to speak out against war. The Base Realignment and Closure hearings were not only designed to deploy our forces and bases around the world -- and that's made very clear in the Pentagon's National Defense Strategy -- but the sentiments stirred up among workers here who want to keep their jobs create that many more reasons for Americans not to speak out against war. Today more than 300,000 companies have Pentagon contracts. Some 400 colleges develop combat programs on campus to make up for the diversion of state funds to the so-called "war on terror."
MZ: Why do you think there isn't more outrage over this system of corporate welfare?
BB: Americans are not learning these basic facts about their country, but they are being hired and trained as cogs in our war machine, paid to be silent workers and accomplices, paid to participate in the industry of war while being influenced to ignore the violence and wastefulness of war. Nearly all of our problems, nearly all threats to the future, bleed from this wound in American history, and only an outcry of popular demand can change it. Dissent is the highest form of patriotism, so it is right that we stop to learn what's really happening, and it is right that we stand up and speak out. But we must do it together or our servants will continue to steal everything we have, including our lives.
MZ: Assuming more Americans became aware, what do you see as a way to channel this awareness?
BB: History's greatest lesson tells us to take the profit out of war, and until we do that, we will increasingly suffer from the misdirection of our advancing technology. Both major parties have sustained the war industry for 55 years; both are rife with corruption. Changing administrations or ending the war in Iraq without changing our national priority will neither alter our course nor banish perpetual conflict. I realized this after the third year of my graduate program, and decided to spend my final year striking for peace, camped across from the administration building at University of Oregon to -- with the assistance of other caring students -- bring attention to the root cause of the world's (and America's) problems. The purpose of the Camp U.S. Strike for Peace Campaign is to unite people against this priority of weapons profit over human prosperity, because it is killing any chance of success for equal rights, a clean environment, fair elections, a balanced media, a just world, and a peaceful and meaningful future. Filling the world with weapons is not reasonable and will never deliver security and prosperity for all. We must take the profit out of war or war will take the life out of us.
MZ: How's it going so far?
BB: In just three weeks, we have succeeded in prompting our faculty senate to address the issue of Pentagon-funded research (we have nineteen future -- combat related projects underway at UO, ten more than last year). We have also been invited by members of Parliament as delegates to the December 2005 International Peace Conference in London, so we at strikeforpeace.org are seeking funding assistance.
MZ: What can readers do to learn more and/or get involved?
BB: Go to www.StrikeForPeace.org and then contact us.
Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at: www.mickeyz.net.
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