Tuesday, April 15, 2008

America's weapons

On Sunday evening I saw the film "Why we fight", a documentary about America's military-industrial complex.

I was sitting on a bed in resort hotel 25 miles to the west of Accra, with my friends Alan and Sally Lee. We were watching the film on a laptop, each person with his own set of headphones. This is how the family Lee watches movies when traveling, or at home and when they don't want the neighbors to hear the film's dialogue or soundtrack (apparently the neighbors can hear through the walls).

Anyway: pretty good film. Not at all Micheal Moore. A serious documentary, to be taken seriously.

It begins with an articulate and passionate speech by President Dwight Eisenhower: his farewell speech given in January 1961. In the speech he warns America about building up an industrial military complex, in which, for the first time in history, weapons will be produced just to have them, and not because of a specific war threat. He warns about the moral and spiritual implications of that for the country, as well as its impact on economics and peace issues. Great speech.

Well, as you can guess, America didn't listen, and the weapons industry has become big business. And the film asks the question what kind of influence these big businesses had on the decisions surrounding the Iraq war.

I could easily connect this film with what I had experienced that Sunday morning, in an international church in Accra. It was "International Sunday", in which the congregation was paying respect to all the countries represented in the church. At the beginning of the service (which lasted 3 hours, including a good sermon by a Nigerian), the representatives of each country paraded into the church, while a woman gave facts about the country.

When the American group paraded in (I didn't join them, as I was traveling on my Dutch passport), it seemed the clapping was a little less. And I felt shame when the lady read the list of primary exports of the United States, and weapons was prominent on the list. The only country to have that on the list.

This is really too bad. What can a simple citizen do about it?

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