Steady jobs--at war
by Htun Lin
When I turned 18, my father told me to go down to the
local post office to register for the draft. The Vietnam War was over, but draft
registration was still required. I was reluctant to sign up even though the
draft was no longer in effect, since I had read so much about the carnage of the
war. My father nevertheless finally convinced me I had to sign up, if I didn't
want to jeopardize my chance at financial aid for college.
I wonder how many people before me also thought they had
to join in order to have opportunities open to them. This, no doubt, was on the
mind of freed POW Jessica Lynch and so many other youth when they joined the
military. Her mother told the press how Jessica saw joining the military as a
ticket towards an education. She really wanted to become a teacher.
After her dramatic rescue from a hospital in Nasiriya,
Iraq, it looks like she'll finally have that chance. But more than 100 U.S.
soldiers who have died in Iraq will not have that chance. To date, we have no
tally of the Iraqi soldiers killed.
The late Felix Martin, Labor Editor of NEWS &
LETTERS and a veteran of two wars, wrote in “Capitalist Wars and Production”
(March 1991 N&L):"In this war in the Persian Gulf, the soldiers,
sailors and marines on both sides are victims of George Bush and Saddam Hussein.
They are the ones dying, and they are the ones who, if they live, will face the
point of production after the war.
“In Iraq it will mean the labor of rebuilding from the
terrible destruction that the bombs are raining down. Here in the U.S., the
soldiers will return to plant closings and unemployment as well as the assembly
EMPLOYMENT FOR WAR
A dozen years later, that part of the story is still the
same. Many joined the military as a job option because no other jobs were
available in a stagnant economy. The military is still seen as an opportunity of
last resort. But now their opportunity will be to become part of a permanent war
For many, military service won't be a temporary
commitment, but a permanent job. Bush is disrupting all the reservists'
commitments, and wreaking havoc on so many workers' lives. The trend is making
war production and war prosecution a more entrenched and prominent part of
Have we workers given in to this militarism as when the
locked-out dockworkers in Oakland made an exception and returned to work to load
military cargo under Bush's Taft-Hartley injunction? Part of the dockworkers'
struggle was over the increasing death rate from accidents caused by speed-up
Felix Martin further wrote in his 1991 column: "I
worked for many years as a blue collar worker at General Motors, and what goes
through my mind when I see and read about this war is the assembly line. It
seems like war and production are produced in the same way. There are officers
and/or foremen on one side, and in both places--the war zone and the factory--on
the other side are the workers, the 'grunts,' doing the suffering and
Today the modern war assembly line is woven together
even more by technology. As in many workplaces, technology now counts for
everything while humans are its servants. The U.S. effort in Iraq is above all
to project the overpowering might of U.S. technology. The steady war news has
been one big commercial for high-tech weapons manufacturers.
The dazzle of high-tech weaponry has overshadowed the
story of uncounted Iraqi dead, including many innocent civilians. It is that
same high-tech weaponry that's been the reason behind the high rate of British
and American soldiers killed by "friendly fire."
In the first Gulf War, the U.S. used Saddam as their
accomplice to slaughter those who rose up against his regime and try to kill the
very idea of self-liberation. Now the message to all, at home and abroad, is
that resistance is futile in the face of the U.S. war machine. The rulers want
all of us to get used to the idea of war as a permanent assembly line.
Yet it is living labor that ultimately rejects that
assembly line future. Stephen Funk, a marine from the San Francisco Bay Area,
applied for conscientious objector status when he realized that the recruitment
ads promising scholarship and adventure did not reflect the reality of turning
him into a killing machine. This is a reality many soldiers are finding out in
Iraq as they efficiently slaughter reluctant enemy soldiers and civilians alike,
with high-tech weaponry to which soldiers are mere appendages.
For those of us who do the actual fighting and producing
inside the belly of capitalism, war and production are the real axis of
evil--we’re the ones doing the killing, and the ones getting killed and maimed
by man-killer high-tech machines.
If we give in to this regime, we give up all our human intellectual capacities and endow them to machines, while degrading our own human potential to mere mechanical ones. As soon as we reject the domination of machines over living labor, we will have won a crucial battle against capital’s deadliest weapon of class destruction--capital itself.
Published by News and Letters Committees