US MYTHS JUSTIFYING WARS
Edward W. Wood, Jr., Worshipping the Myths of World War II
Paul Buchheit, ed., American Wars: Illusions & Realities.
David Swanson, War Is a Lie
Edward Wood, Jr., Worshipping the Myths of World War II: Reflections on America’s Dedication to War. Potomac, 2006.
A SOLDIER SPEAKS
AlterNet / By Sean Gonsalves
Unravelling Wartime Myths
Author Edward W. Wood Jr. gives a WWII veteran's take on the dangers of glorifying war.
August 20, 2007
Some readers just don't want to hear it from me -- writing about the myths of World War II.
Maybe they'll feel better if it's coming from Edward W. Wood Jr., a guy who was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star. A retired city planner and author of "Worshipping the Myths of World War II," Wood is quick to point out: "I was wounded in France, 60 miles east of Verdun ... after only a day and a half in combat. I'm no expert on long-term combat experience." But it's way more combat experience than any of the leading architects of the war in Iraq.
"I got hit in the head, the small of my back, and pelvis with shrapnel from artillery fire," he told me last week. "The wound shattered my life. In those days, you couldn't talk about the emotional impact."
He's 82 now and has spent a lifetime trying to understand war and its impact on those involved. "Worshipping the Myths of World War II" is a product of his very personal, honest and courageous exploration.
Sean Gonsalves: Some people consider talk about the myths of World War II disparaging to veterans. Why do some equate demythologizing with anti-Americanism?
Edward W. Wood Jr.: There's two kinds of soldiers: those who have been in combat and the guys who haven't. I think those two groups have vastly different attitudes about war. Another reason people react that way is because people in the United States have absolutely no idea what war entails. I think a lot of very good people believe that these myths really describe what war is. Therefore, to demythologize means, for them, putting down people who have been involved.
But I don't think we want to look at what our tax dollars are doing. We just don't want to look at the reality that's there. None of this is a disparagement to those who've really seen combat. I am really anti-war now and yet, in terms of my own personal life, I have no regrets about having been in World War II. I believe in nonviolence. But, I'm in favor of a draft because I think we all would think a lot more carefully about war.
Why do you think these myths are so persistent?
These myths are really rooted in our past and go beyond World War II -- going back to the King Phillips War. There were Manifest Destiny wars with Mexico, Phillipines and the rest. Teddy Roosevelt believed you weren't really a man unless you served in war. I don't think we really want to look at that and it's not taught very much in school. It's a very subtle message. I think that's why it persists. The myths exist because we don't look carefully at our history and because it gives people a great glow to wrap themselves in it. But I think it would be healthy to just be open about.
What criteria do you use to judge artistic interpretations of World War II?
There are essentially two really important criteria, I use:
1) Does the author or filmmaker say something about himself that he didn't want to tell the world? Does it really delve into what combat does in the deepest kind of way? Does it wrestle with the moral dilemma of killing -- seeing and watching people get killed -- and how is the act of killing treated?
2) Does it reflect the extraordinary complexity of human reaction to death? And modern war is not just about soldiers in combat but also the impact on civilians. If you don't have that part of the equation, you're missing at least 50 percent of the story.
How do you see these myths impacting the way people view the war in Iraq?
If you look at how we got into the Iraq war, you see the president and his administration using (World War II) as an example for Iraq; comparing Saddam to Hitler and comparing themselves to Churchill and Roosevelt. I don't think that's quite appropriate.
We appeal to the idea of the 'Good War' and a war against evil where the enemy is dehumanized into this monstrous evil ... But, actually, World War I and World War II were really one war. If you look at it that way, what happens in the 1930s was a function of the Versailles Treaty and the terrible reparations imposed on Germany ... So we built up a situation that was going to inevitably lead to another war.
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Paul Buchheit Editor. American Wars: Illusions and Realities ...19 Illusions/Myths
Book Review: American Wars: Illusions & Realities
By Rebeca Schiller
American Wars: Illusions & Realities. Edited by Paul Buchheit
Paperback: 192 pages Clarity Press, 2008.
In this slender, but thought-provoking book, Paul Buchheit, professor at Chicago Colleges, founder of
fightingpoverty.org and co-founder of Global Initiative Chicago, packs a wallop in presenting the glorified
illusions of war, juxtaposing them with the realities and horrors of military force and occupation.
Divided into six sections that each examine a highly regarded human value (Honor, Truthfulness, Self-
Awareness, Compassion, Altruism, Realism) every essay is presented with a specific and distorted illusion
– typically advocated by hawks in government and big business – followed by a statement reflecting the
true nature of war. Professor Buchheit and a distinguished group of writers, which include academic
scholars, veterans, and experienced researchers, and who have been in the forefront of the human rights and
peace movements, challenge the conventional rhetoric of warfare and our forced attempts to democratize
In the first essay, Buchheit introduces a brief, yet thorough, historical overview of American wars and the United States long history of occupying other people’s territories. The prevailing belief from proponents of military intervention, writes Buchheit, “[is] the spread of American morals and culture will eventually bring prosperous wealth to everyone.”
For the nuts and bolts of a military society, Buchheit breaks it all down to dollars and cents. No matter what we’re told, the US is in fact a military-oriented society that spends obscene amounts of money building its stockpiles of weapons and staffing its bases across the globe. The US is “responsible for almost half of the world’s total military expenditures, which surpassed $1.1 trillion in 2005.” And while we allocate a lot of money to the defense budget, we also profit from war. Buchheit cites a study by Executive Excess 2006, “34 publicly traded US defense contractors and found that average annual CEO pay doubled from $3.6 million to $7.2 million since the War on Terror started.” Stock prices for these companies increased 50 percent between 2000 and 2005.
In spite of his informative overview of war and the US’s role, Buchheit concludes his essay weakly and
abruptly by questioning how we can achieve peace and democracy in world threatened by terrorism. He
turns to foreign policy experts who agree that our priority in the war of terrorism should be on the reduction
of oil dependency – a pat and easy answer to a complex question.
In the “Self Awareness” or “We Understand How War Affects Us” section, the most hard-hitting essay in the collection is the one that deals with the economic impact of war on the general public. The illusion that war boosts the American economy is based on how World War II jumpstarted it as jobs in industry were created, propelling the US out the Great Depression. Dr. Jesu Estrada, professor of English at Chicago City College and editorial board member of Tribuno del Pueblo, a bilingual anti-poverty newspaper based in Chicago, exposes that myth and writes that wars benefit the rich (as noted in the Buchheit’s opening essay)
yet American standards of living decline with the poor paying the brunt for the expenditures with cuts in
social services, specifically in Medicare and Medicaid.
Does the military take good care of its soldiers? Tod Ensin, a veteran’s rights lawyer and the Director of
Citizen Soldier, a non-profit GI and veteran’s rights advocacy group, tackles the question of veteran
healthcare and argues that with the money spent on veteran affairs, the VA takes more than a year just to
process a simple and routine disability claim. In addition, with the increase of returning veterans with
extensive and expensive medical needs, especially those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who
need prolonged treatment, the VA has made medical access more difficult. Combat veterans are given
healthcare for only two years, beginning from their discharge, whereas non-service connected veterans with
income above poverty level can no longer be enrolled. The harsh reality is that returning soldiers with
physical and mental health issues are largely ignored.
Other essays included in the collection examine the US-Israeli alliance, the impact of war on the
environment, mainstream media, the myth of balanced reporting within the mass media and the question of
patriotism is addressed in a poignant essay by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, each of these articles
provide readers with insights from individuals who have studied these issues and have been in the
frontlines of activism.
American Wars: Illusions and Realities is an important book for readers of all ages who take an interest and
an active role in current affairs and peace studies. In the final essay and the book’s conclusion, Buchheit
neatly ends with, “Opinions derived from any one source may be inaccurate, biased, or simply wrong.
Americans need to research, the issues, to seek multiple sources, if there’s any question about the
information available to them. That can be hard work. But it will teach us a lot about America’s role in the
world, and about the values that are important to us.”
See fightingpoverty.org here.
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4. Challenging US War Myths - Peace and Conflict Monitor
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DAVID SWANSON, WAR IS A LIE, Self-published, 2010.
"David Swanson's War Is A Lie (Charlottesville, VA, 2010) may be the most comprehensive antiwar statement available in the English language. ...
War Is A Lie
By dswanson - Posted on 31 October 2010
Some fans of "War Is A Lie" have created a youth study group and are sharing what they're doing on FaceBook.
You can help supply peace groups and elected officials with copies of this book here.
Please post this image:
Book Tour Dates Here
WAR IS A LIE is a thorough refutation of every major argument used to justify wars, drawing on evidence from numerous past wars, with a focus on those wars that have been most widely defended as just and good. This is a handbook of sorts, a manual to be used in debunking future lies before future wars have a chance to begin.
"David Swanson’s War Is A Lie (Charlottesville, VA, 2010) may be the most comprehensive antiwar statement available in the English language." — Kevin Young, ZNet
“David Swanson despises war and lying, and unmasks them both with rare intelligence. I learn something new on every page.” — Jeff Cohen, founder of FAIR and author of Cable News Confidential.
Table of Contents
1. Wars Are Not Fought Against Evil 15
2. Wars Are Not Launched in Defense 47
3. Wars Are Not Waged Out of Generosity 86
4. Wars Are Not Unavoidable 106
5. Warriors Are Not Heroes 131
6. War Makers Do Not Have Noble Motives 168
7. Wars Are Not Prolonged for the Good of Soldiers 196
8. Wars Are Not Fought on Battlefields 212
9. Wars Are Not Won, and Are Not Ended By Enlarging Them 235
10. War News Does Not Come From Disinterested Observers 250
11. War Does Not Bring Security and Is Not Sustainable 267
12. Wars Are Not Legal 291
13. Wars Cannot Be Both Planned and Avoided 312
14. War Is Over If You Want It 323
About the Author 371
"If decisions to go to war were really made on the basis of reason and facts, rather than greed and power, David Swanson's brilliant new book would put a stop to them. Those of us who know David understand that he writes quickly and eloquently, speaks honestly and powerfully, and follows a logical point all the way to its conclusion. He has a philosopher's mind with a computer's precision. And he always maintains a justifiable moral outrage at the lies of the war criminals -- calling out their crimes, detailing their carnage, poking holes in their excuses. Reading 'War Is a Lie' is like reading Mark Twain's 'War Prayer,' only in book form." — Steve Cobble, IPS Associate Fellow, PDA co-founder, AfterDowningStreet.org co-founder, Jackson & Kucinich campaign advisor.
“While Americans elect leaders whom they trust are honest, truthful and really care about the kids they send to kill for our country, War Is A Lie reveals decade after decade the sordid side of our history — that our elected officials lie us into war with stunning and embarrassing regularity and are little concerned about the harm to innocent civilians, much less to members of our own military.” — Colonel (retired) Ann Wright, author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.
“This book is every American’s best defense against the greatest danger we face as human beings: the threat of war. Swanson reveals how American leaders (from both major political parties) have confused the public to create the illusion of consent for endless destruction and slaughter. Behind the fear-mongering, flag-waving and lies of George W. Bush and the blandishments of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama lies the ugly reality that our leaders have been seduced by political ambition, delusions of military superiority, and the promise of secrecy and impunity to commit otherwise unthinkable crimes.” — Nicolas J. S. Davies, Author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.
“David Swanson is an antidote to the toxins of complacency and evasion. He insists on rousing the sleepwalkers, confronting the deadly prevaricators and shining a bright light on possibilities for a truly better world.” — Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.
"This book is revolutionary, and certainly truth-telling in a remarkable and brave way. The writing is so clear and easy-to-read, too. A pleasure to read, except that the content is so devastating, because it all means that not only are we utterly deceived but our entire reality is based on that deception. Swanson has gotten to the core of something. The only thing is I'm not sure he realizes how hopeless it is to expect a change -- and yet that is part of the appeal of his writing: his hopefulness in the face of lies and repression and denial." — Jennifer Van Bergen, author of The Twilight of Democracy: The Bush Plan for America.
“War Is A Lie is an important and compelling book that arrives at a time when America is engaged in its longest running war to date. Swanson offers an incisive examination of the rationalizations, justifications, and outright lies that have led the United States, and other nations, into battle. And he shows the personal cost to the current generation of combatants returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” — Cynthia Wachtell, author of War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature 1861-1914.
“David Swanson has taken the mantle of AJ Muste, who had the guts and the audacity to declare World War II to have been unnecessary and wrong. Swanson takes Muste’s argument further to make the audacious claim that all wars are not just unnecessary, but a crime. He is correct, of course. Just as no good outcome (whether the ouster of a tyrant or the freeing of captive nations) can compensate for the death of millions of innocents, which of course is the argument made in defense of calling World War II a ‘good’ war, no good (whether the ousting of a tyrant or the claimed improvement in the rights of oppressed women) can compensate for the death of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq or of tens of thousands of innocents in Afghanistan. This is a book that every American should read, especially those who think the United States is the good guy.” — Dave Lindorff , journalist, author of The Case for Impeachment, and founder of the online newspaper ThisCantBeHappening!
About the Publication and Sale:
I'm making the book available at little more than cost (including shipping cost), so that peace and justice groups can buy it in bulk and sell it for their own profit or distribute it at events or outside recruiting stations. If you buy 10 or more through this website, the price is only $10 each (which covers shipping too), half the list price.
You can also keep one and give nine great holiday gifts to friends and elected representatives.
I've turned down three major publishers who wanted to publish this book in 2011 or 2012 in order to publish it myself in 2010. Self-publishing avoids huge delays and allows more of the profit to go to the author. Purchasing this book supports my work, not a corporation.
I discuss the new book in this radio interview with Coy Barefoot: Listen here.
And this additional one with Coy Barefoot: Listen here.
Also this one with Bob Connors and Don Thompson: Listen here.
Another from OpEdNews: Listen here.
Here's one from Antiwar.com: Listen here.
And the FireDogLake Book Salon is archived here.
Here's audio from KPFK's World Focus: Listen here.
Here's an interview on KOPN: Listen here.
Here's a lengthy interview on Radio Active Lunch: Listen here.
Here's an hour with Christianne Brown: Listen here.
Deanna Spingola was an informed host with good calls from listeners. This audio is choppy for first 30 seconds or so, just speed past that: mp3.
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Nov 24, 2010 ... Podcast: David has written an extraordinary book, destined to become a classic. We talked about it and more. My notes are below.
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