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.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail