Friday, December 24, 2010

Milo Minderbinder, Dick Cheney and ever lasting war.

"The American people, it seems, are bored with war. Like a reality show that's gone on too long, it ceases to shock, shame or even interest. In September, when pollsters asked what the most important problems facing the country are, just 3 percent mentioned Afghanistan. Even when combined with Iraq it has not reached double digits for several months. In a CBS poll in early October it did not register at all. A Pew poll the same month found that just 23 percent said they were following the situation closely. And they do not like what they see. Polls show that 60 percent of Americans believe Afghanistan is a lost cause, and roughly half compare it to Vietnam and favor a timetable for withdrawal."

The war profiteers have done it. With the help of two administration, they have converted an act of mass murder into an endless war attracting very little public concern.  The rich folks' kids are not involved, there is no draft, the voters were distracted with an extension of a deficit bulging tax cut and we are borrowing from a communist nation to pay for it. What's not to like, at least until some future group of voters are forced to pay for it....somehow. And the profits just keep rolling in. As Milo Minderbinder, the war profiteer extraordinaire of Heller's Catch 22,  said, 

"In a democracy, the government is the people, Milo explained. "We're the people, aren't we? So we might as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I'k like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry."

Halliburton Chevron, ExxonMobil, Blackwater and many others, with the swinging door between the Bush White House and the corporate world, has made this a virtual fait accompli! America has become, or maybe I should say has been for some time, the most war-like country in history, only now the corporations are in charge.

How has this happened? The first war of my life time, WWII was a totally different affair. We had been at peace for more than 20 years when the "Japs" bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, "a day that will live in infamy." I was 12 years old, chopping kindling in our backyard in Fontana, California, when I got the news. At first, I didn't understand...where was Pearl Harbor and why did we care?  As my family found a radio and began getting news, the gravity sunk in.

This would change many lives forever. Even as a boy, I realized that something bad was happening in Europe and Asia, something sinister and dangerous. In the back of my carefree adolescent mind, there was already a persistent disquieting fear of Nazi, Germany; the fear that our way of life, our freedom, was in danger. I shortly learned the relationship of the attack and the fear that we all held. 

America was transformed overnight; even quicker. We were, at once, angry, embarrassed, fearful and formidably determined. We all knew we would win but most of us had no idea how long it would take or how deadly it would be. On December 8th, lines to recruiting offices in some areas were blocks long. The small operations were swamped with volunteers. On 9/11, patriots assiduously avoided recruiting stations but retailers ran out of American Flags.

For the first time in American history, many Americans were subjected to income taxes being withheld from their pay checks. This was made more palatable because millions before this had no pay checks. What questions anyone had was answered with the consistent and effective explanantion, "There's a war on!" One half of the cost of the war was financed by the voluntary purchase of War Bonds/Freedom Bonds?Victory Bonds which were treasury notes with interest running from 1/12 to 3% depending on maturity. Provisions were made for deduction from pay checks. Compare and contrast with the $Trillion tax cut given taxpayers to take their minds off the Iraq War.

Americans were nearly 100% in support of the war and the sacrifices they were asked to make. No one complained about rationing. Gasoline, meat, butter, tires; nearly all consumer products were scare and were rationed. 

It was an all out war effort. Schools conducted paper and aluminium collections. Times were tough but no one complained because "there was a war on." The BIG sacrifice, the one people dreaded but were willing to make was the human loss. Nearly half a million Americans lost their lives in the war. I remember as a youth in high school, walking to school and seeing the blue star which honored a member in the family who was in the service change to gold which meant that they had been killed. It happened a lot and was devastating. Nobody was untouched by the heart breaking cold telegrams that families too often received. The incredible heroism exhibited by our military is inspiring. 

The remarkable thing for me was the unity, the patriotism, true patriotism, not the easy demonstrations but actual sacrificial patriotism - the willingness to give part of yourself to your country and what is represents. I was sixteen when the war ended and my emotions were ambivalent - part of me, most of me, was ecstatic that it was over, the killing would stop, that my brothers, uncles and cousins would be coming home; alive, but part of me was disappointed  because I never got the opportunity to fight. 

Five years later, when I was 21, had a job, a girl friend and for the first time in my life, a little money, I got my chance when the N. Koreans invaded S. Korea, but by this time, I was more interested in enjoying adulthood and enjoying being out of poverty than in fighting in a war. Particularly a war of dubious purpose and need. Never-the-less, over my objection, I was dragged kicking and screaming into the start of a new kind of war: was it a war or was it a police action?

I served ably and proudly in the 82nd Airborne. I did two years of active duty and an additional four years in the ready reserve.  I noticed a distinct difference as a serviceman in how I was treated and how the heroes of WWII were treated; certainly not badly but aloof. Nobody cared. This didn't bother me because I didn't care either. I just wanted to resume my life. What I didn't realize, or think about really, was that war has changed. The korean War, "The Forgotten War" was not really an ideological war, it was a political war; the first of too many by the United States. 

I, personally, was through with war, or hope and thought I was. I believe most Americans felt the same way.

Then along came Viet Nam, a totally political and needless war. I think that, for the most part, our government was honorable in it's first. It became more and more political, more and more deadly and more and more needless. It ended tragically and we lost. We were no longer undefeated. 

Again, many of us were through with war and hoped that the USA was too. Wrong again. There are just too many people of power who benefit or think they would benefit by war. I won't go into those people and their reason now but they learned a LOT from Viet Nam; to the extent possible, isolate the public from the war. The Neocons made sure the military was all volunteer...avoid the war awareness that democratic participation produces! Avoid public awareness of the true cost in human life and fiscal cost by privatization. Who cares that a private contractor, a mercenary, is killed? Avoid contemporary awareness of the fiscal cost by borrowing. Who cares about the war if we are not taxed and are not required to make ANY sacrifice.

9/11 provided a fortuitous opportunity for making war. Of course, we made war with the wrong country and with tragic consequences but a profitable war all the same; and that's the important thing to Milo Minderbinder and the Dick Cheneys of the world. Now we are fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are occupying North Korea, Iraq, and in a sense, Germany and Japan. We will stay in these countries indefinitely relieving their governments of the expense of a military, and who knows how long we will stay in a shooting war in Afghanistan, particularly now that nobody really cares and of which fewer and fewer will be aware

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