When National Guardsmen shot four students at Kent State last spring, the nation was shocked. As anti war activists were quick to point out, when one looks at the total killed in Viet Nam, the death of a few students seems insignificant, and the national concern for their killing hypocritical.
But, in fact, as this month's feature article will begin to make clear, if mass murder can ever be considered insignificant, it is the Viet Nam war that is trivial. The real war, the one with the greatest casualties, is happening right here in America. Millions are crippled or killed every year.
If four died, in full view of the American public in Ohio that terrible day, and if dozens die a full color videotaped death in Vietnam, how many, many more expired that same spring day in our most advanced hospitals for lack of a cure for a disease, or on our highways for lack of safe transportation? Old people, wasting away in wornout bodies, and cancer victims, waiting for a cure, just don't make the front page.
No, the war is right here. Viet Nam is merely a part of it, a simple geographical extension of deadly domestic policy.
The war—here—is that of the U.S. government against the American people: the endless series of battles among pressure groups, politicians, commissions, judiciary, etc. for control of the mechanisms of government and, thereby, control of the lives of other people. The process isn't so overt as napalm, but it is every bit as brutal and deadly.
The list of victims includes all Americans—the children trapped in our public schools; the millions whose taxes wrest from their hands their means of survival and happiness and control of their lives; the kids whose lives and careers are ruined by the spectre of the draft or colleges that have been federally funded into mediocracy and irrelevancy; the millions of slum dwellers who have been thrown from their homes for Urban Renewal or who have been turned into wards of the state by welfare. Those who have been hurt or killed by the ineptitude of the Food and Drug Administration make up only a small portion of the total. Perhaps what makes the FDA especially important among the many agencies controlling, ruining, our lives is that as long as its activities in any way hamper research into methods of preventing human death (whether chemically, biochemically, or synthetically), eventually it will get us all.
Those who wish to end either the war in Viet Nam or bloodshed in America, must realize that Mark Rudd's intentions to "bring the war home" are fraudulent. The war is already here. The alphabet soup in Washington (FDA, ICC, FCC, etc.) is the enemy, and all those who refuse to resist their own immolation (or worse, who actively endorse and participate in the process) are responsible for its continued existence. There must be millions of liberals who oppose the war and what happened at Kent. But if you ask them, you'll find a lot of them support legislation against hard narcotics or, more often, such bans as the one on thalidomide.
Either a man has a right to use his body however he pleases (as long as he doesn't violate the same right of others) or he does not. Those liberals who denounce the soldiers at Kent, who yet applaud Mitchell's valiant attempts to save the children of America from themselves, are trying to straddle a barbed wire fence.
Slowly, they are coming to the painful recognition that it is not the type of political structure, or who runs it, but the existence of any structure at all that is to blame for so many of the problems they have in past years concerned themselves with. Sander Vanocur, NBC newsman, for example, is quoted by Edith Efron in the July 4, 1970 issue of TV Guide as saying:
"I am questioning some of the fundamental tenets of my past political philosophy. The question I am asking myself now is whether big government, big business, big labor are not all destructive of the human spirit. That sounds like something we used to laugh at when George Romney said it, but it's not so bad. I'm not sure any longer whether massive societies like ours can be governed from one central point."
This sort of self-questioning, to one degree or another, seems to be fairly prevalent now among liberals—and conservatives as well (viz. the anarchist-traditionalist split at the Young Americans for Freedom convention last summer). Great. The only difficulty is every day that the liberals spend rethinking their bromides the government consolidates its power at an ever faster rate. Every day new victims fall before the monster, To be sure, let those who favor politics do their thinking and do it carefully, but let them never forget that, whether in Saigon, Kent, or Bellevue, the stakes are real human lives.
One of the more ambitious plans of some liberals to end not merely the war, but war per se, is world government. But government is war, and to consolidate the sanctions and equipment (i.e., guns) of the world in the hands of a single leadership is to make the warriors all the more deadly. Political hacks of the nation-states participating in the consolidation can be expected to accede to the idea only if it increases their effective power over their citizens. Power, after all, is what the best or worst of wars is fought over. If mutual disarmament were to aggrandize political control, it could be expected to occur; otherwise, not.
All of which is to say that world government would surely be world dictatorship. Would you expect that the leaders of either the American or Soviet State would settle for any merger that freed their citizens of American or Soviet control?
If one concedes that world government, at least in the foreseeable future, would mean global enslavement, then the only question is whether such a terrible fate is preferable to the awful cruelties of war. Of course, as this magazine has often pointed out, these alternatives are not the only ones. There is the yet-to-be achieved ideal of world liberty, people entirely free of the shackles of state. But only as the liberal sees the untenability of his various solutions to the horrors of war can he be expected to wish to look beyond the self-constructed framework of false alternatives.
This is the value of such studies as that of the FDA's policies by Lynn Kinsky. There is no escaping it; the goals of the FDA simply cannot be achieved by the FDA. The agency—any agency, government in general—is not merely inefficient, but often destructive of human life. Whether more have died through the "peaceful" activities of states than through wars, I will leave to the historians to determine. For now, it is enough to know that many have been killed both ways. As I said, the war is here. End it here and you'll end it there.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Stop the War!".