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imperialism & war | social services

Vietnam & Iraq, guns and butter

A letter to the Eugene Register-Guard
Lyndon Johnson became one of the most hated presidents in American history when he poured troops into Vietnam, after promising, in the 1964 election, not to. The news media spoke of his "credibility gap," a polite way of saying that the man was a liar. The chant on the street was, "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"

Johnson thought that this rich country could afford, in the phrase of the times, "guns and butter." We could finance an expensive war and the social programs of Johnson's "war on poverty." The result of all that spending, according to Paul Johnson's history Modern Times, was to weaken the economy to the point where the "oil shocks" of the 1970s could push it over the edge into recession and "stagflation." Sound familiar?

I realize the majority of Americans don't care about an estimated one million Iraqis killed in the war we started. Nor do they care much about the almost 4,000 American dead or 30,000 wounded. They are, after all, a tiny percentage of our population, they are working-class kids for whom we have no other use, and most of us don't know them.

Perhaps the majority will care when they realize that the $12 billion per month we're paying for this war is dragging down our economy. When you lose your job it gets personal.


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