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"A Country at War"
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The mainstream media reporter quoted the Republican spokesperson, without any corrective comment, "We are a nation at war." But this is not wartime. I remember wartime. I was a civilian, too young to be in the armed forces, a Boy Scout, in fact, but old enough to know what was going on. I remember it very well. One could say it poisoned childhood and adolescence.

My cousins in Scotland were being bombed, and we were not allowed to be unaware of that. Here it was an all-out effort on "the home front," as it was called. Everyone was involved. We were all at war. We knew who the enemy was - Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo - the Krauts, the Dagos and the Japs. There was very little opposition or protest, except from groups who for conscientious reasons opposed war itself. The vast majority thought the war was unavoidable, necessary and worthwhile. Congress had declared war, as per the Constitution. [Congress has not done so since.] The aim of the "war effort," as it was called, was "unconditional surrender."

Let me list several notable aspects of the war effort.
[1] Young boys, and not-so-young men, were all touched by the draft. Most young men went; many enlisted before the draft got to them. The physically unfit, classified 4-F, carried considerable stigma. Persons who qualified physically, but did not go, went into some war-related industry at some indispensable task, or were labeled "draft-dodgers" and were despised. I recall how yellow paint was splashed all over the neighbor's front stoop, on that account.

[2] Businesses retooled. In our town, the factory that made venetian blinds quit doing that and converted to making huge rolls of camouflage. The silk mill made parachutes exclusively. Sylvania made radio tubes for military communication. The war took precedence over every other consideration, including profit.

[3] There was a 100% excess profits tax - "No one is going to get rich off of our boys' dying," the president said, and that president was not a congenital liar. I suspect there was some cheating, but the intent was clear. No profiteering. Our overall aim was to win the war.

[4] There was government interference in every aspect of business. The O.P.A. fixed prices - "Office of Price Administration." What can we do about the price of gasoline? It was not a problem, during wartime. The prices of all items were fixed by the O.P.A.

[5] Key items were rationed. Coffee, sugar, tires, gasoline, meat, clothing, shoes - we were all in this together, and we all shared the inconvenience. I had saved my money from working on the truck farm, and went downtown to buy a new bicycle. The attendant laughed. "Don't you know there's a war on, Kid?" I did know, but it hadn't become my war, quite, yet.

Contrast all that with the "war on terror." Who is the enemy? A tactic cannot be the enemy. Aerial strikes from hundreds of miles away, or from 30,000 feet in the air is terror, as much as suicide explosives under one's coat. Who is the enemy? Who is supposed to surrender unconditionally? This current "wartime president" is using the phrase "war on terror" to bamboozle people, including Congress, into allowing him powers not in the constitution. This so-called war is his excuse for major abuses of power -- torture, spying and lying, for starters.

When asked what we civilians should do to help the "war effort," we were told to go shopping. What a contrast, between this and real war! When it really was a war it entailed rationing, excess profits tax, do without and sacrifice. This "war" is an excuse for theft and sadism and gross falsehood.

Congress needs to declare that we are NOT at war, and then enhance our participation in international policing, to find international criminals, like Osama bin Laden. And as policy, we need to quit bombing and door-breaking and indiscriminate shooting of people. The "war on terror" has been a deception from the beginning.

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Copyright © 2008 Harry Willson

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