In its determination to become the superior military power, the U.S. is ignoring historical actions that many consider war crimes, writes Dr William Briggs.
*This article was highly commended in the IA Writing Competition Most Compelling Article category.
SEVENTY-EIGHT years ago, the United States chose to destroy the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was and remains unjustifiable and ought to be regarded as a war crime. The war was all but over. The targets were almost exclusively civilian.
The purpose of the atomic devastation was to signal to the world that a new order was being born. We now know that order as the international rules-based order. We know who sets the rules and what happens if those rules are not obeyed.
Since establishing its new order, the USA and its allies have made the world an intensely more dangerous place to live. War with China is openly discussed. Today, the doomsday clock has its hands set at just 90 seconds to midnight. Never, since the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists put the clock in place, has the world been so close to destruction.
The sword that hangs over us has a double-edged blade. We face both the threat of nuclear destruction and a devastating climate crisis. The two – war and climate – cannot be separated. War, be it conventional or nuclear, will only make the climate crisis immeasurably worse. We are facing an existential crisis on two fronts.
While the planet burns, governments talk about reducing emissions, but emissions from the military are simply not included in the figures. The U.S. military is the single biggest emitter in America. If the U.S. military was a separate country, then it would be among the worst polluters on the planet. The link between the death of the planet by climate change and by military adventures is clear for all to see. The fault lies with those who profit from war and climate destruction and those who allegedly govern us.
Governments of whatever shade have, generation after generation, driven us to war. Lives of soldiers and civilians have been sacrificed, infrastructure wantonly destroyed and vast sums of money that could solve all of humanity’s problems have been wasted. They have been getting away with murder for an awfully long time.
Millions have died in conflict since the end of the war and millions more have been displaced by wars and now by climate destruction.
Today, people ask if war with China is inevitable and whether such a war might involve nuclear weapons. In 2020, the International Committee of the Red Cross polled millennials across 16 countries. Eighty per cent saw a real possibility of a catastrophic war in their lifetime. Fifty-four per cent believe that it will be a nuclear war.
How can this be?
Wars can only be imagined, let alone fought, if they have a degree of “popular” support. Support gives legitimacy. Support is built using a propagandised media that acts in the service of the state that has determined that war is an acceptable option. The motivation for war is almost always economic. It can include a desire to maintain and to secure hegemony, to win political outcomes and to maintain power and prestige. For all these reasons, the U.S. has determined that China is the enemy.
Our leaders accept the U.S. argument without question. Critical thought is made more difficult when enormously influential groups like the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) come into play. ASPI receives about a third of its funding from the Government and the rest from the international arms industry. ASPI’s job is to advise the Government about military threats and miraculously, China is confirmed to be the enemy.
And yet China threatens no one. It has no history of expansionism or incursionary activity, effectively has no overseas bases, and its fleet and army are China-based. At the same time, we have the USA and its 800-plus bases, its ring of missiles off China’s shores and its history of blatant aggression, meddling in the affairs of states and regime change.
The road to war with China is not all that new. Since President Obama, there has been a push from the U.S. to “contain” China. This containment was designed to be both economic and military. For every action, however, there has been a reaction. Each push has been met with a reciprocal pushback and gives license for America and its allies to respond to an “assertive” China.
It is in this light that AUKUS assumes special importance. So, too, do declarations of missile production in Australia and a move to what is becoming a war economy. Few can now doubt that there is a push, a drive to war. War plans are openly discussed. It is all on show and the thinking of the Pentagon is there for all to see. U.S. generals make insane and obscene statements but are neither relieved of duty, much less locked away.
To illustrate this point, we have General Mike Minahan, head of the United States Air Force’s Air Mobility Command who recently sent a message to the world. It is blunt, threatening and sinister: ‘My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.’
The General sent his message as a memorandum to the leadership of the 110,000-strong USAF, with the unambiguous title, ‘February 2023 Orders in Preparation for — The Next Fight’.
The chief of the U.S. Marine Corps, Commandant David Berger, was in Australia a few months back. His take on things is that “we can’t slow down, we can’t back off, we can’t get comfortable with where we are”. The message is clear.
If there is a war against China, then it will be the U.S. who will start it. It will push until it gets what it wants. That wish is to hold back, contain or seriously weaken its designated rival and adversary by whatever means it feels appropriate. That includes the use of force. If it is war and it becomes a nuclear conflict, which it might well, then it will be the USA who will be the initiator. This is not being fanciful. China, just as the Soviet Union in the Cold War, has pledged a no-first-use doctrine. The USA refuses to do the same.
The USA and Australia as its right-hand man in the region has worked to make the idea of war a realistic option. The truth has been distorted in order to sell the idea that it is necessary to stop China. Stop it from doing what? No rational argument has yet been made that can convince any thinking person that China is a threat. The U.S. sees things differently.
For America, the threat is about either China as an economic power that will displace it, that China is a socialist threat, or that China is a powerful economy that is possibly moving towards establishing a socialist economy and social system. Any of these scenarios is enough to make the Americans reach for their guns.
What would the world look like if war comes and if it ends up as a nuclear conflict? This does not necessarily mean a repeat of the imagery of mushroom clouds and Hiroshima silhouettes, although that may well be the case. The war would more likely be fought with tactical and “low-yield” nuclear weapons. These are already being produced in industrial numbers and being fitted to U.S. ships and missiles, including Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Significantly, Australia has placed an order for 220 of these missiles. They will fit snugly on the AUKUS submarines and any other ordinance that our masters see fit and can be fitted with nuclear warheads at a moment’s notice.
Missile installations have been strengthened across the region. Nuclear capable missiles are within a few minutes flying time of major Chinese cities. Japan, South Korea, Guam, the Philippines, Australia and importantly Taiwan are all part of the encirclement. Then there is the permanent deployment of 60% of the total U.S. Navy and Air Force, in close proximity to China.
It’s an obvious point but China simply does not threaten mainland USA. New York or San Francisco are not in danger from imminent missile attacks from Chinese offshore bases and installations. Could there be a scenario that might see the U.S. use these missiles to destroy civilian targets in China? Ask the citizens of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
Dr William Briggs is a political economist. His special areas of interest lie in political theory and international political economy. He has been, variously, a teacher, journalist and political activist.
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