I am regularly struck by the discontinuity between a nation which brags about its ongoing quest for peace and our worship of the acts of war. Based on which gets more public attention, I would have to conclude that what notice peace gets is trivial in comparison to war. We play war, we are entertained and amused by war, and we love war – as long as we don’t have to be the ones fighting it. We try to leave that role for others to play. We as a nation are always actively promoting war over talking about peace. This weekend, Memorial Day, is a notable example of the discontinuity.
Memorial Day began as a Southern remembrance of those who died defending the right to generate immense wealth through involuntary non-wage labor. As the defeated party, the South couldn’t be allowed to bestow honor upon the vanquished while the victors were treated to scorn and disdain! In response, the North adopted the practice of honoring the fallen, in part to attenuate the anger of impoverished no-wage Northern veterans over the lack of a service bonus. “Look how much we care about you – now go away empty-handed!”
It isn’t much different today. Despite the bold assertion of Gen. John J. Pershing, while serving as first chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission, that “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds”, one has to wonder just how much glory the public is willing to bestow upon the casualties of war when the cemeteries are full. At a time of economic collapse, are you willing to reduce the support of the living to purchase more space the bury the bodies? Why should you be? You aren’t too keen on supporting the wounded veterans who can’t live without assistance! Neither do you care, in the comfort of your living room while watching Dancing With the Stars, that 1 in 4 homeless people are military veterans. Who cares about the dead?
Considering how much public money has been spent honoring the over 1.3 million American war casualties with battlefield parks and marble monuments, one would think that most Americans would be reaching for their wallets every time someone waves a flag in their faces and then passes the service hat. But maybe there is a reason why this isn’t happening. Despite the ongoing news that our active-duty personnel in the field have yet to be adequately supplied and trained to conduct operations, billions of dollars are continually wasted on pugilistic pork intended only to keep the already wealthy corporations richer than Croesus. It’s good for the national defense!
(I guess that statement is intended to assuage the guilt about not supporting our past veterans as we strive mightily to make more of them in the future.)
Take the F-22 fighter – PLEASE! The Bush administration had decided that the F-22 was “superfluous” because it would “be of little use” in the irregular wars the U.S. is now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and may soon be fighting in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Somalia. But Democrats in the Congress are worried that such job cuts will affect their constituents, and are pressuring President Obama to maintain the purchase of these $200 million boondoggles. It doesn’t stop there. They also support building several ships that the Navy deemed too vulnerable to missile attack and wants to cancel. Anyone remember HMS Sheffield (built at a cost to British taxpayers of millions of pounds sterling) being sunk by a relatively cheap Exocet missile during the Falklands War? The US Navy certainly does! They are still smarting over the Chinese sub which infiltrated undetected into a US naval task force conducting an anti-submarine exercise! Maybe these warmonger Congressional Democrats should ask their GM retirees if their pensions should be sacrificed for the profitable benefit of Lockheed-Martin and United Technologies? I doubt the answer would be in the affirmative.
But let’s look at the logistics of fighting wars of the irregular kind. That takes boots on the ground, and bullets to afflict their attackers. Let’s assume that American kids can be pried away from the orgasmic pleasure of virtual war presented by Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV and be sent to actually fight in real-time. Are you aware that the US military arsenals are supplied by only one American firm? In 2005, US ammunition stocks got so low that purchases were made from manufacturers in South Korea, Canada and Israel.
Why not be supplied by US firms? An excellent question! “It’s good for the national defense!” – isn’t it? This raises a touchy point which US military planners might want to think about: If Al Qaeda had sufficient submarines, they could do to us what the US Navy did to the Empire of Japan during WWII: make it almost impossible to supply their fighting forces. How does a nation conduct a Terror War Against Terrorism if it can’t pass the ammunition? So why are we using foreign sources for the most basic element of modern war – the bullet?
But even if a military supplier is still in business in the US, can we be sure that its dealings are on the level? One US punk who should be dragging an M-16 around Afghanistan instead of illegally profiteering by selling the Pentagon out-of-date Albanian ammunition and was recently convicted for that offense. But continue to mindlessly render unto Caesar’s Armies! They come, they seize, they conquer!
Are we not a nation of “Christian soldiers” who favor torture? Yes! We are a nation which is willing to ignore violation of anti-torture laws because it was done against non-Christians in the name of national defense. Don’t all laws have flaws, and are only intended to be rules for fools? Yes! They only apply to the little people! So why should we be persecuting a small business man for profiting off the Pentagon even through he was violating weapons procurement regulations? His “illegal” act was also performed in the name of national defense, after all! Christ, you KNOW it ain’t easy! You know how hard it can be to convince Christians to leave their churches praying for victory and go to war to actually fight! Oh, the morality!
But this slimedog Miami millionaire making beaucoup warbucks off of endangering our soldiers in the field maybe wouldn’t even have stood trial if he were, for example, Boeing. Boeing has a long history of using bribery as a sales tactic. In addition, Boeing has been investigated for shady business dealings in regard to military contracts as far back as 1918, yet they remain a very profitable business. About all that usually happened to Boeing is that they have paid huge fines for retribution. But since they operate under cost-plus contracts, they always find ways to recoup that temporary loss. Where’s the punishment? Oh, yeah! They have to torture the procurement rules in order to recoup the fine! What an enormous effort that torture entails! What a lot of money must be lavished upon our elected representatives to protect their corporate interests! Oh, the humanity!
Boeing currently insists that fixed-price contracts aren’t going to bring weapons prices down. What this means in “real American talk” is that they aren’t willing to slash profits or become more efficient, not even to support our troops in the field. Boeing “earned” $61 billion in 2008, of which about 52 percent came from military programs. Boeing’s 2008 net income (from information provided in the company’s own Form 10K) was almost $2.7 billion, yet Boeing is included in BusinessWeek‘s list of American corporations which paid the least in taxes. And WHO benefits the most from US soldiers in the field? I don’t have any property in a region threatened by “insurgents”. Do you?
And so it goes. Boeing’s Q1 profit for 2009 was $610 million and they see their economic future as being “solid“. That isn’t stopping them from throwing their workers out the hatch, as Boeing is “only” halfway through a planned 10,000 reduction in employment. Only about 20 of these layoffs will involve white-collar engineers as these engineers will be needed to to take the blame should Boeing repeat qualifying for a place in The Top Supply Chain Disasters of All Time. By showing such a poor performance, shouldn’t Boeing execs have to go first? Don’t be ridiculous! How many generals have become casualties since the Civil War demonstrated that it isn’t wise for them to lead the charge? Not very many. Why should it be any different in the Theater of the Corporate Equivalent to War?
Marine Gen. Smedley Butler – a two-time Medal of Honor winner – once said that:
“War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
The current “Commander in Chief” – elected on promises of hope and improvement in the daily lives of the little people – isn’t helping things any. Despite his new weapons procurement bill signed today, can an honest person really expect that anything significant is going to change? The entire Congress passed this bill unanimously, so you know that there is fresh rat in the vat. We can’t cease producing a military budget which is almost itself larger than the combined military expenditures of the entire rest of the world, can we? It’s for the national defense! It would hurt the bottom line not to defend the nation!
No significant change will occur as long as this nation – founded on furthering graft and corruption in avoidance of government regulation – continues to follow its historical precedents. It will still be expected of the working class to rescue – with their diminishing stock of hard-earned dollars – the executive class who made such a horrible economic mess of things. The working class will in turn continue to receive additional cuts in jobs, wages, and benefits – along with the growing tax bill – as the wealthy take from the poor to give to the rich. That’s robbery! But it’s for the national defense!
Gen. Butler also had something to say about this:
“I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.”
We can readily see that the capitalist racketeers will only bestow any largess upon themselves. How much did Bernie Madoff give to you? But the American people will be told all weekend by FOX and CNN and MSNBC (the morning portion) to feel proud of our war dead, that they were helping buy with their lives a successful economic effort to make the world safe for American-led multinational corporations. Forget that these companies – whose products the American people will soon not be able themselves to afford to buy – aren’t about to share the swag with he who has borne the battle! Forget that the swag itself used to belong to the nations who now send their impoverished citizens to attack us any way they can anywhere they can. Suicide is painless compared to living in impoverished wage slavery! Just keep sending more Americans to die for corporate profits! God will sort them all out, right?
I’ve about given up on Americans realizing that our national heritage and international reputation have been shredded. Who really cares if Obama is following the same path of the Bush/Cheney administration took to the dumping ground of History? The Constitution is only a “quaint” piece of paper, after all! That 1.3 million Americans only died to defend it against all enemies foreign – and domestic is their lookout! So let’s limit the freedoms and violates the principles these warriors died to protect! It’s for the national defense!
Maybe if the war against the world is won in favor of multinational corporofascism, they might see fit to erect a giant obelisk to represent that used in the screwing of the little people to enhance and advance the economic prospects for the wealthy in the world. It could be made of gold-plated imaginary benefits and filled with the empty promises of a better life. It’s about the least they could do – or would – but only if there is a profit for themselves in it. It’s the American Way!