Judging from events of the past year, the 1980s will be a time for survival. The scale and intensity of “small” wars, the priorities of militarism, the plans for military intervention by the big powers and the escalation of the nuclear arms race afflict virtually the entire planet. These threats grow more acute in the grip of economic crisis.
Opposition to the mania of militarism also mounts. In Britain, 25,000 women encircled an American nuclear air base in a dramatic gesture of outrage. In the US elections, voters endorsed the “nuclear freeze” proposition in eight of the nine states where it was on the ballot. In more than 50 cities and towns, including Milwaukee, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Jose and New Bedford, voters approved a Jobs with Peace referendum which demanded reduced spending for military intervention as well as for nuclear weapons. In Baltimore and Pittsburgh, voters passed measures requiring city officials to publish in the daily newspapers the amount of taxes paid by local citizens that are used for military purposes. In Washington, though, plans moved ahead for war. Congress passed a $232 billion military budget at a time when even some defense industry executives urge spending reductions. This fiscal 1983 budget, furthermore, is only a down payment. It locks the country into a spending spiral for high-priced, high-tech weaponry that will be extremely difficult to break in the decade ahead.
US preparations for intervention in the Middle East have also moved forward visibly. In Oman, 2,500 US troops participated in amphibious landings in early December as part of Operation Jade Tiger. Similar exercises were held in Morocco and Somalia a few weeks earlier. The US Marines who landed in Morocco were on their way home from their tour of duty in Beirut. In Lebanon, their replacements began training Lebanese troops with new US-supplied military equipment. Pentagon officials signed an agreement to construct and modernize three airfields in eastern Turkey to accommodate NATO fighter-bomber operations in the Persian Gulf. NATO’s defense ministers, at their last meeting in Bonn, declared that the organization would sanction and support military operations outside the boundaries of the alliance.
The campaign against nuclear war and opposition to military intervention in the Middle East are inseparable parts of the same struggle. In this issue, we focus on the intricate relationship between US nuclear strategy, intervention plans and battle doctrine. Next month, we will examine the arms trade in the region, including supplies by the big powers and the military industries of Israel and Egypt, and the trends toward militarization in the region over the last two decades.
Survival, for many Lebanese and for the Palestinians in Lebanon, is an immediate and painful task. In Beirut, the Lebanese Army has taken over from Israel, arresting thousands of Palestinians and treating the Palestinian communities in the most abusive and contemptuous manner. Those Palestinians not apprehended have been pushed into the isolation of their own homes—if they are lucky enough still to have homes. The situation is more desperate than at any time in the past, even 1948, according to persons living there. Phalangist leaders flaunt the mass murders at Sabra and Shatila. The regime of Amin Gemayel, supported by US, French and Italian troops, makes no secret of its wish to reduce substantially the number of Palestinians living in Lebanon, now estimated at more than 50,000. Foreign Minister Elie Salem, speaking in Washington in mid-December, allowed that the 238,000 Palestinians who were legally registered residents might stay. What about the hundreds of thousands of others? “All illegals legally belong someplace else,” Salem said.
In the south, the material conditions of life are wretched. Israeli-supported militias spread a similar web of coercion and fear. Thousands of Palestinians and other prisoners are in their sixth month of captivity in the Ansar prison camp. The scraps of news that emerge from the south are chilling: A guard “accidentally” shoots a prisoner dead; another officer fires into a crowd of Palestinians protesting the lack of shelter and other abuses, leaving more dead and wounded.