“We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living.”
— General Omar Bradley, November 10, 1948
“We are a nation at war, in fact, two wars,” affirmed President Obama. “One that we have to win against the ruthless killers that attacked us on 9/11, against al Qaeda and bin Laden, a war in Afghanistan that has to be won. We are also in a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and waged; a war that has cost us thousands of lives, billions of dollars and has not made us safer.” (Detroit Press, June 24, 2010)
Didn’t the ruthless 9/11 killers die when they crashed their skyjacked jets into buildings, or the Pennsylvania ground? How to wage war against one man, bin Laden, or his shadowy terrorist gang (al Qaeda) that sneaks away from soldiers, and communicates through the internet? Why should armies and air forces assume the role of police? Does Obama mean to equate current wars with the metaphor used in the interminable “wars” against drugs or poverty or cancer?
To Hell with war, I told myself on July 4, as the people of Alameda, California (my town) celebrated the onset of the war for freedom and independence by forgetting war: a parade, backyard BBQs, booze and fireworks. Yes, speakers honored the noble men and women fighting for our freedom and independence abroad – without thinking of what war means to those fighting and dying on both sides. The speeches also neglected to mention the unpleasant daily reality: the foul Gulf goop.
Oil, we learned in cooking class, does not mix well with water. The fish, sea animals and plants had already learned this lesson. The massive outpour of gas and oil destroyed the harmony of life in the water. Technology – or human error in handling technology; if only we could replace them with perfect robots – caused the problem. Surely, technology can fix it. When? No one knows.
Network media mavens evoke disaster about the Gulf’s fate, while the gulf between reality and rhetoric grows accordingly. Right wing radio and TV refer to this monumental disaster as a mistake caused by one oil company. They then blame the socialist and Kenyan-born Obama for demanding punishment for all the “innocent” oil companies. Imagine the tragedy if they stopped drilling off shore, and paid a fair share of their taxes! That’s the patter coming from right wing radio and TV hosts who assure their bitter listeners, whom the American Dream has unfairly eluded, that the government had indeed taken their hard-earned tax money to reward welfare cheats who buy vodka and crack.
Barbara Simpson (KSFO June 14, 2010) referred to the commander-in-chief as the dreaded “B.O., meaning body odor and the need for a deodorant soap to get rid of the smell. I think of that every time I think of the man who is president.”
As the defense budget mushrooms along with the deficit, the Republican Party attacks Obama’s health-care plan costs. They lovingly spend for the military budget. But they hate Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-Mass) Sustainable Defense Task Force, which proposed — after the wars are resolved — massive cuts of the nuclear arsenal, war equipment, and military personnel (The Hill June 11). The money saved could go into needed construction.
In response, Barbara Simpson accurate described herself: “Silly me, I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that if we aren’t able to defend ourselves against enemies determined to destroy us, new houses and highways would be the least of our concerns.”
Would she have called President Dwight Eisenhower a wuss? “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” (“The Chance for Peace,” speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apr. 16, 1953)
No major Republican or Democrat has addressed Eisenhower’s concern, or answered the question: how has nearly ten years of war in Afghanistan and almost as many in Iraq protected us? Does pissing away trillions of dollars equal defense? Recall a quote attributed to that pinko Eisenhower: “The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.”
The President has not addressed this issue, much less right wing Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats. As the already impressive gap between reality and rhetoric widens, teachers of peace might adopt a slogan: “Drill Baby Drill” – meaning holes in the heads of the 60 million Americans who voted for McCain-Palin in 2008 and millions more who grasp at denial rather than face the grizzly challenge of acting in their world.
SAUL LANDAU is the author of a A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD