Military-Industrial Complex Conduct Invites Nonviolent Direct Action

By Sherwood Ross 

Why is there no non-violent outcry against America’s military-industrial complex? (MIC) A Congress that is complicit in its wars, surely will not reign it in.

While the MIC contractors during the U.S. invasions of the Middle East and Africa have reaped billions in profit, the fact is probably a majority of Americans are war-weary and want out of President Obama’s ongoing foreign entanglements, replete with drone warfare and other crimes against humanity.

Yet their elected representatives in Congress continue voting $700 billion annual  budgets to wage wars and to create hideous new weapons of mass destruction ranging from more lethal (if that is possible) atomic bombs to germ warfare, both illegal by treaty. This is being done while the nation slides into decay.

Americans have been gulled into believing that the 2,000 military bases they operate around the world are “defensive,” and can prevent a terrorist attack — the folly of which was proved on 9/11. In fact, they are springboards for military control in every part of the globe. The Pentagon, says The Washington Post, also has a Special Operations Command that operates in at least 65 nations that is largely unknown to Americans.

Take Lessons from Sixties Civil Rights and War Resistance Movements

During the civil rights movement of the Sixties, marches, boycotts and other forms of protest were frequent. The public could see, and grasp, the evils of segregation and poverty that were crippling the nation. They could also see how non-violent protest  brought about change for the better.

That movement is largely gone. Yet, if resurrected to bolster anti-war sentiment might it not prove a powerful tool? Those who honor the spirit of Rev. Martin Luther King, a man who opposed vociferously the Vietnam war, would do well to consider this approach.

As Gandhi wrote in his book, “Nonviolent Resistance” (Dover) or Satyagraha, “is a force which, if it became universal, would revolutionize social ideals and do away with despotisms and the ever-growing militarism under which the nations of the West are groaning and are being almost crushed to death, and which fairly promises to overwhelm even the nations of the East.

Civil Disobedience, Gandhi writes, “is civil breach of unmoral statutory enactments,” and the term was “coined by (Henry David) Thoreau to signify his own resistance to the laws of a slave State.”

One of the tactics Gandhi advocates, and which could be easily duplicated in America, for example, is the general strike, a tool familiar to the American labor movement. This could be used to close down companies that churn out the illegal and criminal instruments of aggressive war, such as radioactive shells, poison gas, and nuclear bombs. Isn’t this also a course of action that could also inspire considerable church support?

The MIC Companies and Their Profits

The 10 leading MIC companies in order of size, according to a March 10, 2013, report in USA Today, are (1) Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, Md; (2) Boeing, of Chicago; (3) Northrop Grumman, of Falls Church, Va.;  (4) General Dynamics, also of Falls Church, Va.;  (5) Ratheon, of Waltham, Mass.; (6) L-3, of New York City; (7) United Technologies, of Hartford, Conn.; (8) SAIC, of McLean, Va., (9) Oshkosh, of Oshkosh, Wi.; and (10) Computer Sciences Corp., also of Falls Church, Va.

And just what, exactly, do the MIC employees in those lovely suburbs around Washington think they are making — Fourth of July firecrackers? Are they unaware that people all over the globe, from Gaza to Colombia, are being blasted to pieces by their handiwork?

“The business of war is profitable,” USA Today reported. “In 2011, the 100 largest contractors sold $410 billion in arms and military services. Just 10 of those companies sold over $208 billion. Based on a list of the top 100 arms-producing and military services companies in 2011 compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The newspaper goes on to say, “These companies have benefited tremendously from the growth in military spending in the U.S., which by far has the largest military budget in the world. In 2000, the U.S. defense budget was approximately $312 billion. By 2011, the figure had grown to $712 billion. Arm sales grew alongside general defense spending growth. SIPRI noted that between 2002 and 2011, arms sales among the top 100 companies grew by 51%.”

(Why? For example, the U.S. Navy is approximately as large as the combined navies of the next dozen countries!)

Gandhi once testified, “I would certainly make Government impossible if I found it had taken leave of its senses,” and, “A lunatic cannot be kept in a position from which he can do harm to his neighbors,” a designation to which President Obama comes closer as he daily wages more wars and calls for funds to modernize nuclear bombs instead of scrapping them as President Reagan attempted to do.

The Power of Civil Resistance

Where is the countervailing force to the MIC and its gross, multi-billion dollar budgets? It does not appear to exist and must come from mass movements of the people, lest they be destroyed by their own indifference. As Gandhi wrote, “I wish I could persuade everybody that civil disobedience is the inherent right of the citizen.”

International law authority Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, Champaign, noted, “The terrible irony of today’s situation is that over six decades ago at Nuremberg the U.S. government participated in the prosecution, punishment and execution of Nazi government officials for committing some of the same types of heinous international crimes that the members of the Bush and Obama  administrations  have inflicted  upon people all over the world.”

“As a consequence,” Boyle continues, “American citizens possess the basic right under international law and United States domestic law, including the U.S. Constitution, to engage in acts of civil resistance designed to prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by the United States government officials in their conduct of foreign affairs policies and military operations purported to relate to defense and counter-terrorism.”

Boyle’s conclusion is that, “Today’s civil resisters are the sheriffs!  The U.S. government officials are the outlaws! Civil resistance is the way to go!”Φ

(Professor Francis A. Boyle, is the author of Defending Civil Resistance under International Law (Transnational Publishers Inc.) Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based public relations consultant who was active in the civil rights movement in the Sixties. Reach him at

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