Thursday, December 3, 2009

Been There, Bombed That

Keeping Score On Our Wars
once worked with a woman who showed up late every morning with a different excuse. She finally got canned after telling the boss that her hair hadn’t dried yet.
I was reminded of her while listening to Obama the other night giving us yet another excuse for a bigger and better war in Afghanistan. Such speeches are always the same except for the name of the nation in which we have decided to kill people and break and take their stuff. Since my childhood, and excluding World War II, the list has included the Philippines, Greece, Korea, China, Lebanon, Angola, Congo, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Mozambique, Guyana, Panama, Grenada, Serbia, Somalia, Venezuela, etc.
To be fair, some of those were only air strikes, raids or government overthrows rather than full-bore invasions. If you go back in history to the days when we grabbed off a big hunk of Mexico, invaded Canada thrice, stole Spain's empire, nabbed Hawaii, had our Marines collecting on sovereign loans for our bankers, and our war fleets opening new markets in Asia, you can add a couple of dozen more. And if you tote up our global military interventions over the 233 years of our history, we make the Romans, whose empire lasted 500 years, look like homebodies.
Washington’s excuses for all these armed excursions are inevitably implausible since they're cover stories. Our empire makes war for imperial reasons, then pretends in public that its motives are defensive and/or idealistic . Like my colleague’s excuses, those motives keep changing. There’s been Manifest Destiny, the white man’s burden, christianizing the heathen, teaching the wogs a lesson, war to end war, antifascism, anticommunism, restoring order, nation-building, combating drugs, and lately antiterrorism.
If tardiness was the common thread in my co-worker’s dismissal, greed is the glue that holds our wars together. No matter the reason we’re fighting this time, a few of us are making money on war all the time. So steadily profitable has war become that conservative commentator John McClaughlin says that we have entered upon “an orthodoxy of continuous war.”
Interestingly, if you read through Obama’s speech, he doesn’t give much indication of what victory might look like. At best, there’s hope that the Taliban can be routed and that the thieves market in downtown Kabul can maintain the pretense that it’s a national government. There’s also the usual blather about throttling al Qaeda. This reminds me of the joke about the fellow who comes to see Jerry Lewis claiming that he’s found the cure for muscular dystrophy. “Are you absolutely sure?” asks Jerry. “Absolutely!” replies the visitor. Jerry then produces a gun and shoots the guy dead.
More interesting than Obama’s war speech this week was the release of a Senate Report affirming that the Bush administration let bin Laden and and his cohorts escape from Tora Bora. Why not? There would have been no reason to continue their war if if there was no more al Qaeda!
Such revelations are barely news anymore. The imperial impulse has implanted itself so deeply in our souls by now that we assume that the other 95 percent of the world is there for us to buy off, borrow from, or bomb, as we see fit. Like political campaigns that grew from an election season cottage industry to a non-stop billion dollar business, so our wars are becoming just another permanent economic sector, like sneaker retailing. Wars are good business, as we used to say in Vietnam days. Invest your kid!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Decade End Review

Checking Out Our Big Ideas
Our leaders have come up with some big ideas in recent years. Virtually all have been bought by ordinary Americans, and many are still being paid for in one way or another. Nearing the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I thought it a good time to review some of these brainstorms.

FREE TRADE was the idea that we would be able to buy tons of cheap Chinese stuff at Walmart if we merely gave up our good-paying manufacturing jobs and went into hellacious hock to foreigners. It has worked out perfectly--for the Chinese!

DEREGULATION was the idea that if you let greedheads run our financial system without rules and regs, it would not only make everyone rich but automatically correct itself if, by any chance, something went wrong. Though the system then drowned in a cesspool of corruption, that seems no reason to sour on the basic premise of capitalism that the worst people for the worst motives will somehow work for the benefit of us all.

COUNTERINSURGENCY is not what happened at the mall on Black Friday, but is rather a euphemism for conquest. Its main idea is that, using translators, we can get perfect strangers in distant countries to help us kill their own people and run their countries for them. The idea has a spotty record, with its worse recent showing in Vietnam. Two things in its favor are that Americans, particularly SimCity players, love to organize other people’s places, and that since it’s being done overseas and thus out of mind, counterinsurgency offers fabulous opportunities to steal both from foreigners and from our government.

is the idea that if you oblige people by law to buy inadequate insurance from financial companies who make their money by denying health care, they will not only be healthier but somehow save money. This is considered superior to socialistic foreign systems where people go to doctors and hospitals when they get sick.

GREEN is the most dazzling sales tool since the first marketer figured out that you could get people to spend money simply by using the word Save in ads. Just call them Green and you can sell white elephants, red tag items, and blue light specials.

is finally acceptable after centuries on religion’s moral shit list. The Bible dumps on it bigtime, and in 1179 Pope Alex III and his cardinals decreed that it be punished by excommunication. No matter, usury now comes with every credit card in your pocket and personal loan you make. Organized religion, obsessed with matters sexual, seems to have taken a vow of silence on this particular sin. Banks are charging such ridiculous interest rates that loansharks are biting themselves. It won’t be long before Shylock’s House of Vig opens a branch on your block.

FULL SPECTRUM DOMINANCE is an old idea in a new kevlar helmet. Schemes to take over the world were once evils ascribed to the Soviet communist empire and villains in James Bond movies. Now they’re the official mission impossible of the American empire. This bit of Pentagonese means what it says--that the U.S. and its ‘interests’ should dominate the whole world, including the oceans and the skies, not to mention the oil fields. The other 95 percent of humanity hates FSD, but Americans are either ignorant or approving of it. One of the great questions for history is why the American people, who know nothing and care less about the world, are so willing to empty their wallets and volunteer the lives of their kids to boss it around?