Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August 29: a late night return....

Back from two days at the beach. Who else could have chosen to go to the beach on the old two days of this summer that have been cloudy, cold, and west?

I read The Moncton Times and Transcript for the days I was away. They were really models of nothingness. Much of the time, the paper doesn't lie. It just drools triviality. As long as people don't know what's happening, the Moncton times is doing its job.

There was another half-wit note on the hundred million dollar events centre. This one came in the form of an editorial on how badly we need an events centre (hockey rink) at a (borrowed) hundred million. And this is a paper that moans about the New Brunswick deficit. Yep. We borrow a hundred million (probably more) for a commercial facility which is the sort of thing private business is supposed to pay for. Meanwhile, everything we really need is underfunded.  This truly is a welfare province - for big business.

It's also disturbing to see people arguing over whether bus drivers are "worth" getting decent salaries. You know, in a civilization, we put price tags on clothes, furniture, paintings, books....But, in a civilization we don't put them on people.

We used to. There was a time in Canada and in the US when we put a price tag on Africans and native peoples. But that was money up front that went to somebody else who was white. Once that was paid, Africans and natives were paid nothing, simply given barely enough food and shelter to stay alive - though not for long. African slaves in Canada generally died before age 30, natives about age 20.

In the late nineteenth century, we put a very low price tag on Chinese to work on our railways. They were particularly useful for risky jobs like dynamiting because of their low worth.

But we've surely left the days of putting price tags on people behind us. Surely, if I am to judge by the numbers of religious pamphlets stuck in my mailbox, we now live in a society in which we think of what people need - not of what they are "worth".

However, if we are now civilized, we must still be pretty screwed up. I can't help notice we give billions to billionaires in the form of tax cuts, grants, special deals, and we (most of the western world) bail out banks that have gone broke as a result of irresponsible and probably criminal behaviour, then let the bank directors give each other multi-million dollar bonuses in recognition of their fine work. And it all comes out of our taxes.

We happily give away billions to corporations that rob us blind - then dump on bus drivers, and say they aren't "worth" any more than they're getting. Tell you what - there are damned few bus drivers who have taken as much money out of your pocket as the corporations that run this province. The only real difference is that the bus drivers give us something back in return for their pay.

And, since it's late and there's really is nothing in the TandT worth talking about, let's spend a short time in understanding why nations go to war. We need to know that to make any sense at all out of the news.

Once every year, we are reminded of those Canadians and Americans who served to defend our freedom. Perhaps so. I'm sure that was the reason for a great many. But that can be an awkward argument.

If Canada went to war in 1914 and 1939 to defend freedom, why did the US stay out until 1917 and 1941?
Are Americans less interested in freedom than Canadian are? Are Canadians braver?

Or let's look at it another way. The freedom of the US and Canada was never at stake in either war. Of all the places in this world to attack, North America is far the most difficult, indeed impossible target. The only people who have ever invaded North America are the Europeans - and they got away with it because of vastly superior technology and communications. And the native peoples were hopelessly divided, so they could be picked off one group at a time.

For well over two hundred years, the only invading forces in North America were American troops once invading Canada, and twice invading Mexico.. (The bombing of Pearl Harbour was not an invasion. It was a raid; and was never intended to be more than that.) North America is the most uninvadeable region in the whole world. Neither Japan nor Germany ever considered an invasion. It would have been hopeless. Our freedom was not at stake in 1914, 1917, 1939, 1941, or in any other war Canada  has fought since 1812.

So why did we go to war?

The first thing to understand is that WE never decided. The decisions for war have been made by those who dominate countries. In the case of Canada and the US, it means the major economic interests decided. They use newspapers and other means to convince us that we must go to war for various patriotic or noble reasons. But those people are the ones who decide - and they don't give much of a damn about freedom or mercy or international order or any of that stuff.

Understand that I think we had to go to war in World War Two. I don't question it. Nor do I question that a great many North Americans agreed that we were justified in doing so. But then you're left with two awkwardnesses to explain - 1914/17 and 1939/41.

Let's look at 1914. A high proportion of Canadians in 1914, especially in Ontario and the West, were British-born. That, combined with a general population still closely tied to the UK meant popular support. But there was an even more compelling case for a large corporation like the CPR. Its investment came largely from Britain. Its market depended heavily on Britain and the British Empire. A victory for Germany would have been a disaster for most large, Canadian corporations. So we went to war in 1914. The situation of the US was quite different.

There was no close connection to Britain. American corporations suddenly had huge markets on both sides of the war. Even better, as the UK had to find money to fight such an expensive war, it was forced to sell off enormous investments in such things as US railways at bargain prices. War made Britain poor. But it made the US rich. And there were even better possibilities.

If Britain lost, then the greatest empire in history would be up for grabs. And the French Empire in Africa and Asia. And the wealth of the Belgian Congo. Germany, Turkey and Austria would get some, of course. But only the US had the potential to reach out for the greater part of it.

I'm not sure what changed the mind of President Wilson. It certainly wasn't any enthusiasm for freedom because neither he nor his successors made any attempt to spread  freedom anywhere. It  has been said, and may have been at least partly true, that the debt of Britain and France to the US  had become so great that a German victory would have been a disaster for Wall St.
In any case, there is no evidence at all to support the notion that the US went to war to defend freedom in 1917.

In 1939, Canadian enthusiasm for war was not so great after the terrible losses of World War One. The Mackenzie-King government held the nation together with the quiet but obvious hint it would avoid casualties. That's why the Canadian army was, for the most part, held in Britain, and not committed to the European front when it went over.

Canada agreed to commit troops on only two occasions before the invasion of Italy. In both cases, it was because Mackenzie-King believed these were two situations in which Canada could appear to be taking action - but without incurring great casualties. The situations were Hong Kong and Dieppe.

Whatever Roosevelt may have thought, he had to bear in mind that some very financially powerful Americans (like Henry Ford) were highly sympathetic to Hitler and Mussolini. Joe Kennedy, ex-bootlegger, father to a future US president, and US ambassdor to Britain, used his insider position to make his second fortune out stocks in both Britain and Germany.  As well, and as in WW1, American business (Esso springs to mind) was dazzled at the opportunity to sell to both sides in a great war. Roosevelt also had to consider that a defeat for Britain would, as in World War One, put the British and French Empires up for grabs - with the US in position to grab most of them.

In fact, after the US entered the war, it made attempts to get control of both of those empires. As Japanese armies retreated from French Indo-China (Vietnam), it ordered the Free French fleet not to attempt to re-enter the country. Roosevelt intended that French Indo-China would come under American control.

The Free French defied him, and sent in a destroyer. The French had given notice they were going in. The American response was to bomb the French destroyer in Hanoi Harbour.

Eventually, the French would return; but would face resistance from the Vietnamese people. This is what led to the American takeover of the Vietnam war as Kennedy now sought the goal that Roosevelt had wanted.

Similarly, the British were ordered not to liberate Hong Kong. That treasure-house was to go to the American puppet, Chiang kai-shek. But the British fleet in the Pacific was a far more substantial one than that the Free French; so the British did retake Hong Kong.  This time, there was no response.

Signficantly, the US entered World War Two not because of Germany or Britain. It was because of Japan. American corporations had long wanted control of as much of Asia as they could get. (Especially of China). The Japanese advances threatened to cut them out.

Japan knew the US would try to stop it. That's why it bombed Pearl Harbour - not to invade the US, but to cripple the American fleet before the US could attack Japan. The US, of course, declared war on Japan but, significantly, it did not declare war on Germany or Italy. It was Germany that declared war on the US - almost a month AFTER Pearl Harbour.

In the course of some five centuries, Europe invaded most of the world - the Americas, India, China, Africa - almost all of those invasions dictated not by a desire to spread civilization or prosperity or encourage cricket. They were dictated by the desire of business leaders to make money.

Don't waste time on any politician (or journalist) who tells you a war is being fought to spread freedom or to end suffering. Don't buy the stories we are bombing people to help them. Don't even believe them when they say it's out of loyalty to our country. It almost never is. If you want to know why a war is happening - look for the dollar signs. Then the news will make sense.

And so to bed. And tomorrow morning, back to The Moncton Times and Transcript.

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