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World in Crisis; Candidates in Denial

by SAUL LANDAU

 

Guideline for US campaigns: “Monkey politics works … monkeys prefer to hoot, howl, and throw feces rather than use logic.” http://badtux.net/2005/07/art-of-practical-politics.html

With each presidential election US politics drifts further down the proverbial Egyptian river: Global warming; Middle East mess; deterioration of infrastructure and simultaneous disappearance of safety net; the decay of habeas corpus and First Amendment — signposts of democracy. Indeed, 2008 presidential aspirants have yet to acknowledge the shady 2004 Ohio voting process that made Bush a winner. Voting for President, chief manager of the global empire ­nee democratic republic — has become dubious.

In 1960, thousands of dead Chicago voters decided Kennedy’s victory over Nixon. But losers like Nixon then, Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, just go along. They understand “the nature of the game”–thanks, Mick Jagger.

Manipulators use technology to distract the public: sell commodities and obfuscate issues. Voters fight through the slime of hi tech digital as well as old fashioned print forms to figure out who stands for what–if anything. On February 19, Presidents’ Day, for example, Yahoo’s headlines featured bombing attacks in Iraq alongside truly vital news: actress Bridget Moynahan, pregnant with ex-boyfriend Boston Patriot quarter back Tom Brady’s child; more important than Bush spending $600 billion to prosecute his Iraq War, exceeding the amount spent on the Vietnam War.

Bush says it’s for security. He excludes national health from security, however. His proposed budget would slash almost $80 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over five years. Obviously, the long-range value of Middle East adventures outweighs health care for America’s grandparents and its 50 million poor.

Deborah Burger, President of the California Nurses Association, declared the competition over: “The debate over guns and butter is over. The guns have won.” (San Bernardino County Sun, February 15, 2007)

Next year’s military budget includes maintenance costs for almost 800 world wide bases, exclusive ski resorts for officers and weapons systems that
etain Cold War targets. Indeed, much of the military budget still aims at a foreign power that no longer exists; nor is one likely to surface in the near future. Emerging powers, China, India, Brazil as examples, understood the lessons of Cold War stupidity. Large military budgets ensure dominance briefly; then they drain and destroy the country itself.

2008 major presidential candidates seem uninterested in exposing the myth of “more money means strong defense, which means security.” Security? Remember Peanuts’ thumb and blanket metaphor? Our provides a different kind of security: it is one of the largest polluters, a major contributor to global warming. Shouldn’t someone scream at candidates to stop using “security” when they mean “anxiety,” as in the Department of Homeland Anxiety?

How do military bases make Americans secure in “democracy” as scientists assure us that global warming will soon lead to flooding of coastal urban areas? “With more than 2,500,000 U.S. personnel serving across the planet and military bases spread across each continent, it’s time to face up to the fact that our American democracy has spawned a global empire,” wrote Chalmers Johnson. (“Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic”)

According to the Pentagon, it costs hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain them, a sum that dwarfs national budgets of some industrialized nations. Pentagon figures show US bases occupy 29,819,492 acres around the world, larger than many nations. These bases will show the Soviet Union it can’t threaten us! Wait! The Soviets collapsed in 1991; so why continue to maintain bases and millions of military personnel throughout Europe and Asia?

Why didn’t Congress or the media ask? In lieu of a discussion, neo conservative ideologues stepped into the policy vacuum to spread a preemptive war doctrine, in which the United States would apply democracy through force–the foreign policy equivalent of botox–to erase the world’s wrinkles. Well known names like Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Defense Secretary now World Bank President, and his former Defense Department underlings like Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, advocated new generations of nuclear weapons–without explaining how they defend this country from outside attackers. Would they have advised Bush to nuke Michigan if Canada invaded? Would they tell him to scorch Arizona if Mexico intruded?

Neo con strategy promised peace through war in the turbulent Middle East. In turn, US citizens would receive eternally free flowing, reasonably priced oil. In 2002, desk-bound neo cons — few have experienced an actual fist fight — rejoiced in their virtual wars of choice. Faustian intellectuals, like Perle and Feith, kvelled over easy victory in Afghanistan in 2002. They gushed at Bush’s May 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech. Invincible American power!

Then reality hit. Resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq! The braggadocio claims of neo con speechwriters for Bush proved less than factual. Did they not study recent history? In post World War II wars–when enemies fought back–US forces did poorly. No victory in Korea; defeats in Southeast Asia. Thus far, no victory signs from Afghanistan or Iraq.

Military power in Iraq’s alien culture exemplifies deadly impotence. How will US troops remake that nation as part of a democratic order? In recent campaigns, only right and left wing candidates Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader dared demand an end to US imperial adventures. Pursuing it, both said, will destroy the fabric of the republic.

Real conservatives complained that Bush had run up deficits into the multiple trillions, the results of that spending illustrated by pictures of dead bodies in Iraq and mutilated veterans returning home. Meanwhile, the US health crisis grew worse as Bush reduced spending on vital domestic programs. In November 2006, voters responded by electing a Democratic Congress.

Bush vowed not to increase taxes on the filthy rich to pay for his Iraq war. But he does plan to make Medicare recipients pay more for their drugs and doctors. The President that screams patriotism to justify his “surge” of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, sees no patriotic duty to aid almost 50 million Americans without health coverage. The USA has dived to number 37 in world health-care indicators. (Burger, San Bernardino County Sun, Feb 19, 2007)

Wounded veterans will not receive long term care, or get less than good treatment. A February 2007 Harvard University study predicted that medical costs for the tens of thousands of injured vets will require more than $660 billion over the next four decades. Hundreds of Iraqi veterans have already hit the streets to join the panhandling and homeless population. How will society deal with amputees, blinded and brain damaged soldiers, who need support? Bush doesn’t mean material support. His idea of “Support our troops” means pasting bumper stickers on cars to boost morale, but he won’t ask for more taxes to give returning vets needed care.

In 2005, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied a quarter million veterans enrollment for VA health coverage. Some support for troops! Returning vets from Afghanistan and Iraq will have little chance of getting treated.

These harsh facts indicate that the disguised US Empire has begun to fade. Yet, political babble persists as if nothing much had happened since the end of the Civil War. The wealthy supply candidates with money and speechwriters script the same “freedom” and “greatness” metaphors, which they test on focus groups. Belief obviously has little to do with running for or being president. Presidents routinely dissemble–bullshit the public — on war and peace and how taxes are spent. How ironic that Bush, the greatest prevaricator in the history of the presidency, compared himself to George Washington on President’s Day!

Candidates that speak honestly, or who make a social gaff, get short shrift from the mainstream media. In 2004, Dennis Kucinich for example became “Kucinich But He Can’t Win.” Non establishment candidates received scant airtime (Nader and Buchanan as examples).

Ironically, Americans think of virtues as “telling it like it is.” Yet, the media ridiculed Howard Dean for saying “Yee ha” too loudly, when he shone as the man who predicted the horrors of going to war in Iraq. Media reality became public reality.

In 2007, blind ambition prevails: Hillary wants to govern, no matter the cause. She takes a “strong military” position, whatever that might mean. She sort of opposes and sort of supports maintaining the US military in Iraq, often taking both sides in the course of a week.

Most candidates support free trade–power to transnational corporations. They don’t question NATO’s role, despite the fact that its charter expired when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The road to denial is well paved for the 2008 elections. Global warming, rotting infrastructure, war disaster will play in the media alongside truly important celebrity items. On December 11, 2014, the fiftieth anniversary, the media will reprint for one day Martin Luther King’s words: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

SAUL LANDAU’s new book, BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, with a foreword by Gore Vidal, is now available from Counterpunch Press. His new film, WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE, is available on DVD from roundworldmedia@gmail.com

 

 

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

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