Putting the Pentagon Out of Business
It’s a seemingly impossible task and, even if it is seriously attempted, it is a task that will require the commitment of many more than are currently engaged. Those who join in the endeavor will find themselves up against some of the most powerful and ruthless human, governmental and corporate entities in the history of the planet. It is a task that cannot be accomplished by merely going after the primary target. Indeed, the task can only be completed once those involved understand the complicity of the entire nation. This includes our own individual complicity.
The Pentagon pretends that civilians control it. This is malarkey. The Pentagon controls the civilian government. Solely by the amount of money it commands, the Pentagon controls Congress. Its tentacles reach into almost every sector of the economy. From napkins used by GIs in the deserts of Iraq to cruise missiles exploding in the Libyan sky; from the manufacturers of predator drone parts to the Climate Initiative Lockheed and city officials are trying to impose on the people of the city of Burlington, Vermont, the industry of war is what drives the US economy. There is a reason why Washington spends more on "defense" (read "war" and its associated evils) than the rest of the world’s capitals combined. That reason, to put it succinctly, is that the US economy exists to make war. (For a concise and current look at the nature of the war-based economy in the US, I suggest reading Andrew Cockburn’s article "Why the US Defense Budget Soars, Even as Military Shrinks" in the March 16, 2011 edition of the Counterpunch print newsletter-Ron J.)
Even when there is no war, the combined efforts of the Pentagon advertising machine and the politicians earning their war lobby dollars has enough of the US public convinced that tax dollars should be spent preparing for the next war. This perception plays not only on the fear of a belligerent Other, but also on the everyday citizen’s understanding of how politics works. Those among the populace who oppose war and its accompanying economy are left without an effective voice precisely because politicians understand that the way to reelection goes through the Pentagon.
Recently, a couple protests against the wars in Central Asia and North Africa were held in the United States. The attendance at both was sparse. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that George Bush is no longer running the wars. Instead, it is the Democrat’s turn to lead the charge up the latest version of San Juan Hill. Or, to put it differently, this time Barack Obama and his party are heading towards the shores of Tripoli. Given the misconception during the Bush years that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party were against the war in Iraq, the fact that the US continues to fight there and in a few other nations (most obviously Afghanistan and Libya) means that many liberals who were against the wars when Bush ran them are now, at best, neutral about them. Another less acknowledged reason for the lack of participation in the antiwar protests can be summed up with the words disgust and despair. Disgust that the supposed antiwar candidate is as much of a warmonger (and a liar about it to boot) and despair that there is truly nothing that anybody can do about it. It is this latter fact which needs to be addressed, yet isn’t.
If we are to be honest with ourselves, the United States is further down the road to permanent war and domestic fascism than it has ever been. The fact that war on three fronts is being openly waged while countless other fronts experience covert operations is an established fact. Also established is that torture and other violations of the Geneva conventions occur regularly under US command. Furthermore, the legal ability to hold people without charges until they die is now standard operating procedure in some cases. Meanwhile, the looting of the national treasury by the Pentagon, its associated industries and the banks that finance it all continues with no real obstruction. Most recently, this has appeared under the guise of deficit reduction. Sideshows around issues like the defunding of public television and radio are created by raging liberals while the wars these broadcasters shill for rack up bills in the tens of millions every day. Liberal bloggers and television personalities attack morons like Glenn Beck while they urge those participating in the biggest labor uprising in decades to take their anger back to Anytown, Wisconsin and get people to vote Democratic. Unfortunately, too many people will do exactly that and be surprised when the Democrats they elected strip them of the next group of rights in the monopoly capitalists’ rifle sight.
If there is a genuinely radical left in this nation, it is time for its members to exit those conferences in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and assorted universities always being held and start organizing. No matter what the mainstream media and the social media moguls want you to believe, protests like those that occurred in Egypt and Tunisia do not occur in a vacuum. They were the result of years of organizing at a very grassroots level. The people and organizations involved suffered many defeats before they achieved the level of victory they are currently trying to maintain. Change does not come easily. It does not begin with compromise, but with clear, basic and implementable demands. In the case of the United States, the demand that the Pentagon no longer control the economy, the politicians and the life of the nation’s residents can not be any more clear or basic. The challenge now is to figure out how to implement it.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org