Humanism versus the Militarization of America

By Dority, Barbara; Edwords, Fred | The Humanist, July-August 2004 | Go to article overview

Humanism versus the Militarization of America


Dority, Barbara, Edwords, Fred, The Humanist


If you engage in travel overseas you should know that, since March 2003, airlines in Europe have been sharing your passenger data with federal authorities in the United States under an interim agreement that was finalized on May 28, 2004. The U.S. government plans to link this to your threat level: whatever terrorist danger you are believed to pose. In a few months this will apply to all U.S. domestic air travelers when airlines are issued a federal security directive to comply with the new Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (called CAPPS II).

Other data on you may be included among the four billion records in the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange ("Matrix" for short), a database that combines personal information gathered from a variety of sources. However, according to the Associated Press, shortly after September 11, 2001, a test of this database gave law enforcement authorities "the names of 120,000 people who showed a statistical likelihood of being terrorists, resulting in some investigations and arrests." The high "terrorism quotient" of these people was determined through factors such as age, credit history, ethnicity, driver's and pilot's licenses, "investigational data" and "connections to 'dirty' addresses known to have been used by other suspects" Because the records include data on innocent people, however, civil liberties groups have objected and at least nine states have pulled out of the program.

If you are a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 and under 34 years of age, whether a woman or a man, this could be the year you become eligible for the military draft. Not only would you need to register with the Selective Service, as men age 18 to 25 already do, but you would have to keep the government apprised of your training and capabilities in such areas as health care, languages, computer technology, engineering, and other specialties needed by the armed services. Bills to reinstate conscription are already in committee in the House and Senate. (See the sidebar by John Swomley beginning on page 14.)

The above are just three examples of how an armed-camp mentality can oppress a nation's civilian population when a "wartime president" militarizes the country. But the rest of the world is affected as well. In today's information age, data collection is easily internationalized as large police and intelligence forces cooperate across borders. As for the draft, the Anti-Conscription Manifesto of 1926--signed by Annie Besant, Albert Einstein, Mohandas Gandhi, Bertrand Russell, Rabindranath Tagore, and H.G. Wells, among others--makes the point that

   conscript armies, with their large corps of professional
   officers, are a grave menace to peace. Conscription
   involves the degradation of human
   personality and the destruction of liberty. Barracks
   life, military drill, blind obedience to commands,
   however unjust and foolish they may be, and deliberate
   training for slaughter undermine respect for
   the individual, for democracy, and for human life.
   ... Moreover, by conscription the militarist spirit
   of aggressiveness is implanted in the whole male
   population at the most impressionable age. By
   training for war men come to consider war as
   unavoidable and even desirable.

A Statement Against Conscription and the Military Training of Youth--issued in 1930 and signed by Jane Addams, Albert Einstein, John Dewey, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Mann, Bertrand Russell, Upton Sinclair, Rabindranath Tagore, H.G. Wells, and others adds:

   Conscription subjects individual personalities to
   militarism. It is a form of servitude. That nations
   routinely tolerate it, is just one more proof of its
   debilitating influence.

   Military training is schooling of body and spirit in
   the art of killing. Military training is education for
   war. It is the perpetuation of the war spirit. It hinders
   the development of the desire for peace. … 

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