Perpetual War, Perpetual Terror
---- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
In the United States last year there were over 11,000 deaths by firearms. No other nation comes even close to matching this appetite for death. That is eight thousand more than died on 9/11, but about the same number as those innocent Iraqi civilians that perished by our actions in Gulf War II. And the costs to society from injuries and death due to firearms you ask? More than $60 billion. Those who produce instruments of death in this country are not ignorant, however; they know the statistics, they simply brush them aside. Profit, after all, is much more important than stopping Americans from arming themselves to the teeth and killing each other. What else explains the gun lobby’s attempts to go against common sense? The Second Amendment must be honored and preserved, they say, even if the Founding Fathers lived in times of muskets, Indians, English threats and manifest destiny, never imagining the killing power of today’s firearms. It is no coincidence, then, that the same nation that allows so many of its citizens to die at the hands of loaded weapons would naturally export its appetite for human death abroad.
Today, the U.S. is responsible for 40% of all worldwide weapons’ sales. Tanks, fighter jets, artillery, helicopters, missiles, landmines, machine guns, mortars, bullets, grenades, guns, you name it, Guns’R’U.S. has it. Our nation supplies the world in instruments of death. The United States’ Military Industrial Complex (MIC) makes a killing from death, suffering and destruction. It exists only if people die. Its signature is everywhere; in the millions of landmines buried worldwide and the millions of amputee victims, many of them children. It can be seen in civil wars that ravage the developing world, from Africa to Asia to Latin America. From sea to shining sea, our weapons we can see, from the exponentially growing threat of WMDs – many of which were distributed at one time by our own government – to the military hardware of tyrants and dictators, war criminals and warlords.
The MIC’s front for assuring continual human violence is the US government, the Pentagon in particular. President Bush has just granted the Pentagon a military budget of $401 billion for the next fiscal year. That’s $400,000,000,000.00. This, of course, does not include our little warmongering expedition to the Fertile Crescent, which by last estimates had already cost an additional $160 billion more. With so much of our money going to the Department of War one has to wonder where our priorities are. Certainly not in education, healthcare or in the creation of jobs.
The Pentagon and the Military Industrial Complex are one and the same, having morphed over time to form the most lethal killing institution the world has ever seen. Through a sliding and revolving door that turns citizen soldiers into armament industry executives and company officers into military policy makers, the MIC has embedded itself into the military branch of the US government, thereby assuring itself of unlimited contracts, access, information and profit. Military industry executives and lobbyists have also slithered deep into top administration positions, occupying vitally important posts that decide national and foreign policy. Ex top government officials now sit on boards of today’s biggest suppliers of military might. One need only look to the Carlyle Group to find the marriage between government and MIC. George Bush the First had until recently sat on the board of this powerful yet clandestine group. This intertwined dancing tango of cronyism is exactly what Eisenhower warned about. Like a virus MIC has spread itself throughout the hallways of the Pentagon, penetrating from top to bottom through the disease called greed. Now one and the same, the Pentagon and MIC have a common interest, motive and ability to shape how funds are used and wars are waged.
The Pentagon is the Department of War, not Defense. It is in business to kill, kill, and kill some more. Without war, violence and weapons there is no Pentagon. And so to survive, to remain a player, wars must be created, weapons must be allocated, profits must be made and the Military Industrial Complex must continue exporting and manufacturing violence and conflict throughout the globe. And, as always, in the great tradition of the United States, enemies must exist. Indians, English, Mexicans, Spanish, Nazis, Koreans, Communists and now the ever-ambiguous Terrorists. The Cold War came to an end and so too the great profits of the MIC. Reductions in the Pentagon budget threatened the lifeblood of the industry; a new enemy had to be unearthed. There is no war – hence no profit – without evildoers, without terrorists lurching at every corner, waiting patiently for the moment to strike, instilling fear into our lives, absorbing our attention.
We are told our nation is in imminent danger, that we are a mushroom cloud waiting to happen. And so we fear, transforming our mass uneasiness into nationalistic and patriotic fervor, wrapping ourselves up in the flag and the Military Industrial Complex. We have fallen into the mouse trap, becoming the subservient slaves of an engine run by greed, interested not in peace but constant war, constant killing and constant sacrifice to the almighty dollar. Brainwashed to believe that War is Peace we sound the drums of war, marching our sons and daughters to a battle that cannot be won either by sword or gun.
We are programmed to see the world as a conflict between "Us" versus "Them", "Good" versus "Evil," that we must inflict death on those who are not with us and on those against us. The MIC prays on our human emotions and psychology, exploiting human nature and our still fragile memories of the horrors of 9/11, manipulating us to believe that what they say and do is right for us all. We unite behind one common enemy, fearing for our lives, complacent and obedient, blindly descending like a plague of locusts onto foreign land, devastating, usurping, conquering and devouring those who have been deemed enemies of the state, those who harbor and live among them, "evil ones," "evildoers" and "haters of freedom," all for the sake of profit and pillage, ideology and empire. Power unfettered and unleashed, our freedoms die and are released
The so-called "War on Terror" is but a charade, a fear-engendering escapade, designed to last into perpetuity, helping guarantee that the Military Industrial Complex will grow exponentially in power. It is a replacement for a Cold War long ago since retired and unable to deliver a massive increase in defense spending. Terrorists and the countries that harbor them have replaced the Soviet Union and Communists as enemy number one. With a war that may go on indefinitely, pursuing an enemy that lives in shadows and in the haze of ambiguity, the MIC will grow ever more powerful, conscripting hundreds of thousands of our youth, sending them to guide, operate and unleash their products of death.
Rumblings of bringing back the draft are growing louder, and if you think your children and grandchildren will escape it, think again. In a war without end, in battles that do not cease, the MIC will need human flesh from which to recycle those who perish and fall wounded. Empire building needs bodies and drones to go with military might, instruments of death need trigger fingers and human brains, and, with so many expendable young men and women being conditioned in this so-called "war on terror," MIC will continue its reprogramming of citizen soldiers from peaceful civilians to warmongering killing machines. After all, "War is Peace."
Yet the Department of War, ever steadfast to use its weaponry, fails to realize that no amount of money will win this war if the root causes of terrorism are not confronted as priority number one. If you get to the roots, you pull out the weed. If not, it grows back again and again. But perhaps a perpetual war is what MIC has sought all along. A lifetime of combat, a lifetime of profit, a lifetime of power. Assembly lines of missiles, bombs, tanks and aircraft operate without pause, helping expand a sluggish economy and the interests of the Pax Americana. Profit over people, violence before peace, the American killing machine continues on its path to human extinction, and it is the hands and minds of our best and brightest building and creating these products of decimation.
While we look over our shoulders for terrorists and evildoers, the world ominously looks directly at us with both eyes intently focused on the armies of the "Great Satan" and the "Evil Empire," not knowing which nation will be attacked or on whom the storm of satellite-guided-missiles will rain down on next. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In becoming pre-emptive warmongers, we are also becoming victims of our own making, helping assure a swelling wrath of revenge, resentment and retaliation against us. If we kill we will be killed, if we destroy we will be destroyed. The MIC is leading us down a steep canyon of fury, making us a pariah, a rogue country in the eyes of the world. We are becoming that which we fear most, a terrorist state. As political scientist and ex-marine C. Douglas Lummis has said, "Air bombardment is state terrorism, the terrorism of the rich. It has burned up and blasted apart more innocents in the past six decades than have all the anti-state terrorists who have ever lived. Something has benumbed our consciousness against this reality." Today we are seen, along with Israel, as the greatest threats to world peace. When hundreds of thousands throughout the planet call Bush "the world’s number one terrorist," that less than admirable distinction is automatically imputed onto the nation as a whole and the citizens in particular. This can be seen in the world’s perception and treatment of us today.
When the day comes, not too far in the future, when one of our metropolitan cities goes up in a mushroom cloud or in a vapor of suffocation or when tens of thousands of citizens die of biological or chemical demons, we must dive deep into our national psyche and question why we allowed those in power to guide us down the road of cause and effect, action and reaction. And, in the end, we must realize that those same WMDs we once so gleefully created and exported have come back to our shores, haunting us and our children for the suffering we have helped spread onto the world through our idleness, impotence to act and automaton-like acquiescence.
Can you imagine spending $400 billion dollars to alleviate poverty in the Middle East, helping to educate millions who now get instructed by hate-spewing madrassas? Can you imagine spending $400 billion dollars to fight terror at its roots rather than at its extensions, helping to improve the lives of millions who today have nothing to live for, except martyrdom? Wouldn’t $400 billion dollars go further than perpetual bloodshed in the insidious war on terror if we alleviated the suffering, ignorance and poverty of the world’s poor, -- the roots of terrorism –- by helping to provide jobs, education and medicines which would in turn spawn a sense of goodwill towards the U.S.? Could it be remotely possible that our foreign policy, our support for puppet dictators and monarchs, our quest for empire and resources and our unyielding military, financial and political support of the dehumanization of the Palestinian people by Israel all leads to the subjugation, injustice, humiliation and misery of hundreds of millions of people? Could this be why we are so hated throughout a world where billions have nothing while we bathe in the spoils of abundance? As long as MIC acts in our name, as long as it plunders humanity we will be hated. Gandhi once said that "an eye for an eye only leads to more blindness." If that is so, then our nation is on a collision course with an ominous black hole whose darkness we shall not escape and whose exit we will never again see.
Manuel Valenzuela is an attorney, consultant, freelance writer and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel that will be published in 2004. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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