A dime a dozen

("A million here, a million there and pretty soon you're talking about real money" - US Senator E. Dirksen)

What is the role
Who bakes the roll
Who rolls the bills
Who pays them?
National parlance
We are told
Has national instruments
Brave and bold
Diplomatic
Informational
Military and
Economic1
Tools which never
seem to fade
Tools with which
Suppliants are made.
Dense
Inert
Metal
Explosives2
with blades unseen
So don’t forget
Once upon a time
‘Twas Ivy Lee3
Who told old John D4
To kill a socialist
only costs
a dime.

* Everett Dirksen (1896-1969) US Senator, Republican, was to have made this statement in a budget speech. He was an early supporter of the US war against Vietnam, “even though it costs us $1.5 million a day”.

  1. “The term grand strategy generally refers in foreign policy discussions to a country’s overall approach for securing its interests and making its way in the world, using all the national instruments at its disposal… (sometimes abbreviated in US government parlance as DIME).” Ronald O’Rourke, Michael Moodie, “US Role in the World: Background and Issues for Congress”, CRS (12 July 2017) p. 1. []
  2. The USAF calls it “focused lethality” to avoid collateral damage– presumably peripheral killing and destruction. Collateral deliberately implies that something was “unintended” and therefore merely negligent and not culpable. Focussed lethality means that the weaponry is designed for assassinations– the delivery vehicle is only of secondary importance. []
  3. Ivy Lee (1877-1934) one of the founders of modern propaganda along with Edward Bernays. John D. Rockefeller was probably Lee’s most infamous client. []
  4. John D Rockefeller (1839-1937), founder of the Standard Oil Trust (now ExxonMobil et al) and one of the richest and most powerful dynasties in the US. Ivy Lee was supposed to have pursuaded him to begin philanthropy (at the same time to save taxes and make his vicious companies appear socially responsible). One of the gimmicks Lee was to have recommended was John D’s practice of giving young boys dimes (10 cent coins) in public as a way to encourage “entrepreneurship”. Coins is also an acronym for “counterinsurgency”. US corporate language is saturated with cynicism. []

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa (Maisonneuve Press, 2003). Read other articles by T.P..