FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Stupid Empire Prevails

by SAUL LANDAU

“The reason we have a Department of Defense is to break things and kill people. The problem we have now is that so much of the money is not going to the people who are breaking things and killing people.”

— Ret. Marine General Arnold L. Punaro, Member of the Defense Business Board, to the Washington Post (7-21-11)

As strategic minds of Washington figure out nation building in Afghanistan while undermining the crumbling infrastructure at home, U.S. political culture focuses on gay marriage and debt ceilings.

On his radio show Rush Limbaugh still severely stresses the President’s middle name, “Huuu—ssssein.” Millions righteously titter over Rush’s “subtlety” and, of course, continue to believe the radical Muslim Obama was born in Kenya. For Rush, Obama represents the left, a threat to our rights to choose our own doctors and keep all our money. Left and progressive circles have re-christened Obama: President Disappointing.

In judging the President, both sides tend to overlook or obfuscate the strength of imperial institutions in shaping policy. As dysfunction grabs hold of basic governance and reasonable priorities, much written anti-Obama rhetoric stays personal. “He falls hard for the best and the brightest white guys, “ wrote Frank Rich in New York Magazine (July 3), as if Obama could have instead confronted and changed the white guy pillars of the entrenched institutions and embedded culture.

Obama inherited an imperial legacy, which offers him limited options. Henry Luce’s American Century rules still prevail in policy assumptions and find public voice in editorials in the leading newspapers. God-History-Destiny chose the United States to patrol the world, to define the strategic and economic order, no matter how tattered its economy becomes. Western Europe still has not challenged those assumptions.

As he swore the oath in January 2009, the legacy dropped invisibly but heavily on the President: the permanent and massive military (almost $1 trillion a year worth, counting intelligence, nuclear weapons and unbudgeted wars) would receive unquestioning support from the congressional majority and major news media.

Eisenhower had observed and feared this military-industrial and scientific complex after just one decade. Sixty years later, almost every congressional district contains a “defense-related” project.

Obama’s campaign rhetoric, a President seeking “change,” did not include challenging the establishment of some 400,000 members of the armed forces in nearly 800 bases around the world (40 countries), plus two simultaneous wars underway. In addition, this “defense” industry and its spin offs, the bases that support towns and small cities, account for millions of jobs.

Did Obama imagine that the financial crises would somehow provoke the Establishment, to which he’s beholden, to surrender the rules and costs of empire so the poor and middle class at home would suffer less? Only a cynical wizard would have foreseen that Republicans would decide to prevent Obama’s re-election at all costs. They chose the debt ceiling as their issue to force a crisis, thus dwarfing unemployment, foreclosures, homelessness and the spreading poverty that has attacked the population and forced states and cities shut down school, clinics and libraries – and let infrastructure erode.

Members of Obama’s own party in Congress signed onto the lunatic Republican parade of horrors debt ceiling spin, which far transcends people’s basic needs; therefore Congress must drastically reduced or even eliminate basic social programs.

In the late 1940s, American liberals became major partners in what became the permanent war economy. In 2011, this monster has grown and eaten huge hunks of the national treasure. The unquestioned imperial budget – don’t forget free trade treaties – combines with the constant corporate desire to reduce the socially necessary cost of labor. Verbiage about debt ceilings and government waste cover the proverbial corporate ass.

You don’t hear CEOs complain about costs of empire because empire protects investments and enforces economically advantageous measures. The public, however, receives this message in euphemisms that begin with words like “free,” “security,” “defense,” and “war on terrorism.”

Congress doesn’t ask how to slash hundreds of billions from dubious imperial adventures so as to rebuild the infrastructure. Rather, Republicans (and some Democrats) forged a consensus to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs that cost the effort and blood of American workers to establish. Only the amount remains for debate.

As the consensus hardened against taxing the filthy rich, according to the CIA World Factbook, the USA dropped to 46th in the world in infant mortality – behind Cuba.

A Lancet survey on maternal mortality found Albania ranked 22nd, with 8.1 per 100,000 live births, and the US 39th, with 16.7.

These falling ratings and steadily high unemployment (over 9%) should point the President to a logical agenda. Instead, Obama has ignored the visible erosion in U.S. standards and focused, as he promised in his campaign, his rhetoric and attention on winning “hearts and minds” – never mind the war – in Afghanistan, which remains 181st or last on the list of nations’ basic indicators after a decade of U.S. do-goodism (occupation), exactly the place it occupied when the Taliban ruled.

The empire receives its yearly funding increase to multiply destruction and death – while simultaneously multiplying U.S. enemies in the name of fighting terrorism. Debate on this issue remains minimal, while fire and brimstone emerge over how to cut further funds that sustain the nation’s infrastructure.

“It reminds me of ancient Rome,” said a friend. “Bachman and Palin might rule instead of Nero and Caligula.” As former Harvard President Derek Bok warned, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Saul Landau’s latest films is: WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP. His BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch.

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail