Occupying Iraq, the U.S. spends about $300 million a day. For Afghanistan, it’s $200 million. These numbers are approximations because the Pentagon doesn’t really know how much it has spent on anything, or how many it has killed in its several wars, big and small. It doesn’t really care, I don’t think. Imagine a team of alcoholics parked permanently at the bar, downing pints and shots with an open tab into infinity, or until the Second Coming, at least. In 2001, Donald Rumsfeld admitted that $2.3 trillion were unaccounted for. He blamed it on sloppy bookkeeping. It must be hard to keep track of so many digits.
As firemen and cops are being fired across America, as teachers are being told they must accept austerity measures, the country is broke, after all, as public radio and television, with their supposed liberal bias, lay on the chopping block, as more homeless sprawl and tent cities spring up, as casinos, a sure sign of desperation, mushroom, the United States has entered another costly war without any fanfare or discussion whatsoever. Obama didn’t have to persuade anybody, no sending a Secretary of State to make a fool of herself in front of the United Nations’ General Assembly, no congressional vote, which, last time I checked, was supposed to be a Constitutional requirement, no media blitz. No lies even. He simply ordered more than a hundred Tomahawk missiles, so far, to rain down on Libya, with many more to come. In any case, this it not even a war, but merely a “kinetic military action,” according to an Obama aide. Such straight faced butchery of language, even as one butchers real people, shows that the United States has entered a deep psychotic state. Upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama himself declared, “I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.”
If this is Obama pacified, I hate to see him riled up, but of course he doesn’t get riled up. Suave, articulate and personable, Obama is proving to be just as deadly as Bush, but clearly more cynical. A great, loyal tool of the establishment, Obama has dampened protest from American liberals. Though they know he has betrayed them, they’re reluctant to show appropriate outrage because, not that long ago, they have cheered and wept for him so openly. The day after Obama won, Rebecca Solnit burbled in the Nation,“ Citizenship is a passionate joy at times, and this is one of those times. You can feel it. Tuesday the world changed. It was a great day.”
The President of the United States is a traveling salesman for the military industrial complex. In 2010, Obama came to India to visit the Mumbai home of Gandhi, a hero of his, someone he would most like to dine with, very touching, before announcing a mega arms deal of GE fighter jet engines and Boeing military transport planes. Now, as he bombs Libya, Obama tries to sell F-18 fighter planes to Brazil. According to an aide, “President Obama underscored that the F-18 is the best plane on offer” as he made a “strong pitch” to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
The President of the United States is also a spokesman for murderers and crooks. He doesn’t rule, but obeys. His main job is to deceive the masses as he serves his enablers. He can say anything at any time, and means none of it. The President of the United States is the world’s most visible actor, in short. Campaigning in 2007, Obama said, “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States.” Quite a performance. This year, as Wisconsin teachers fight to retain their right to collectively bargain, Obama has said absolutely nothing. One would have to be a fool to think he would join them.
Offshoring began under Clinton, and has continued unabated. Under the banner of free trade, the only goal of Globalism is to couple capital with the cheapest labor available. Since organized workers are anathema to the bosses, American companies have moved their factories to totalitarian countries where workers have little rights, where they cannot be unionized. The idea is to roll back the clock to the earliest days of industrialism, where workers toiled all day long for next to nothing. In February, a bill was even introduced in Missouri to eliminate child labor laws. It seeks, in part, to get rid of “the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen. Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day are also removed.” Don’t laugh. This may be a sign of things to come.
As for work that can’t be outsourced, foreign workers are allowed or even invited in. U.S. borders are not porous out of charity or ineptness, but because this benefits American businesses. During the recent housing bubble, builders employed countless Mexican workers, and every stateside restaurant these days seems to be staffed by Mexican busboys, cooks and dishwashers. Chinese engineer students can stay after graduating from American schools, and Indian doctors and nurses are given special visas. There are certain jobs, however, that can’t easily be staffed by aliens, such as teachers, for example. If Albanians could be imported to teach English and American History to American kids, it would have happened already. The latest attack in this relentless war against American workers is the announcement that Mexican truckers will soon be allowed to drive into the U.S. Though ignored by the mainstream media, this calamity won’t just put tens of thousands of American truck drivers out of work, but also many American dock workers. Containers can be shipped to Mexico, then trucked into the U.S. by cheaper Mexican drivers.
Again, American borders are porous by design, just as other countries’ borders are routinely violated by the U.S.A. There is a huge difference, however: when Americans enter another country illegally, it’s never to empty foreigners’ bedpans or to wash their dishes, but usually to kill them.
As Obama fizzles out, as he loses legitimacy, the power brokers will come up with other figureheads and slogans for American liberals and conservatives to become passionate about. These candidates will jabber, jab and insult each other. As in professional wrestling, the battle will appear fierce. Barack, meanwhile, can look forward to a lucrative memoir and six-figure speaking fees. Even that man of malapropisms and snafus, the much despised Bush, is getting $150,000 each time he opens his mouth these days.
LINH DINH is the author of two books of stories and five of poems, and the recently published novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.