Thursday, February 21, 2008
That wall looGeorge Orwell's essay "Reflections on Gandhi", opens with the words "Saints should always be judged guilty until proved innocent..." Thinking about the US military and its willing role in quelling lawful dissent, I felt that Orwell's statement, with a few word changes, would apply to military "heroes". This feeling became a certainty after reading about the "Bonus March" in Professor Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States". Zinn described the fate of American First World War veterans, who "out of work and with hungry families" joined (in 1932) thousands of comrades suffering similar deprivation at the hands of rampant capitalism, and converged on Washington. These men (some accompanied by wives and children) became known as the "Bonus Army". It took its name from the requests of "holders of government bonus bonds that the money be paid out now, when it was desperately needed, and not on the due date in the future". Their plight was pitiful as, hungry and exhausted, they camped in flimsy make-shift shelters, waiting for a sympathetic response. "The bill to pay off the bonus passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. "Some veterans left in disgust." Most stayed with the faint hope that some relief would be offered. What they met instead was the threat of "four troops of cavalry, four companies of infantry, a machine gun squadron, and six tanks. "Machine guns! Tanks! The troops used tear gas against their hapless quarry, and set fire to the shelters (in which were stored whatever goods the veterans had). "In the face of military violence, the people turned to flee, but, nonetheless, two were shot to death, and thousands were injured by gas". As an example of the despicable assaults by the American military in their support of the oligarchy against the weak, the poor, and the down-trodden, this incident was not an isolated happening. And brutal as it was, many other cases were far worse! But it stands out because of the leaders, whose names later became synonymous with "heroism"; as though anything could expunge their previous foul conduct. General Douglas MacArthur was in command, and his aide was Major Dwight Eisenhower. George Patton was also involved.
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