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A general call back to popular rule, and honesty in politics, against the unreality of political discourse in this era.

Why do they call it "defending our country" if our troops are engaged in far-off countries with people who are not going to attack the United States itself?

And, frankly, is there really a country in the world anymore that would attack the United States?  The terrorists of 9/11/01 attacked the United States, but they don’t represent a country.  And if they did, the United States would have attacked two of its current allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for those are the origin-countries of the terrorists.

Syria?  Iran?  North Korea?  Would they invade us?  Maybe they’ll join forces, march through Mexico, and stage a pitched battle for control of Chula Vista?

The promoters of "defense" as such would like to tell us that "freedom isn’t free," mostly to shut us up, but having thousands of troops sitting behind Green Zones in Iraq isn’t a price we pay for freedom, so it isn’t "defense."  The occupation of Iraq has some other purpose, clearly, but it isn’t "defending our country."

The same logic applies to the rest of the US Armed Forces.  The National Guard may in fact "defend our country," so they do indeed count in that way.  And I’m sure the US would need a small army to repel invaders and maybe a couple of nukes to deter them from invading.  But the United States does not run a military that is as big as the rest of the world’s militaries combined, paying for it out of a national debt of nearly $9 trillion (a huge chunk of it owned by one of our Nation’s so-called "enemies," China), and with 702 bases in 130 countries (as of 2004), for the sake of "defending our country."

There were historical threats to the US: Hitler, or maybe the Soviets with their nuclear arsenals.  But they’re dead, and so the US Armed Forces is sent around the world looking for another national enemy to justify its enormous bulk.  There’s a non-national enemy about, in al Qaeda, largely created with US money (see Loretta Napoleoni’s Terror Incorporated for more about that), but it’s obvious to any observer that they’re a low military priority, otherwise the bulk of the troops would be in Afghanistan and Pakistan (and perhaps in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt) instead of in Iraq.  (If they were to be regarded as criminals, the US might send police after them; but this would be the rational, European response.)

Now, I’m sure that American foreign policy can be rationalized.  But "defending our country"?  Against what?

*****

Are the police in America still putting people in jail for smoking pot?

The medical profession practically regards the stuff as a wonder drug.  The objections to smoking have been quieted by the notion of vaporizers.  The "war on drugs" people still have a tough time dredging up data on how harmful it is to smoke marijuana.  Has anyone killed themselves yet from too much pot inhalation?  Are we still supposed to believe the mythologies of Reefer Madness?  (Meanwhile booze still effects cirrhosis of the liver, and lung cancer still claims nicotine addicts.  If you propose the criminalization of alcohol or tobacco, of course, everyone will tell you about how Prohibition failed.)

Illegalizing alcoholic beverages with Prohibition, of course, required a Constitutional amendment.  Illegalizing hemp-smoking, however, required no such thing.  Does anyone ask why?

So how are marijuana smokers still this great menace in the eyes of the legal authorities, that they can justify jailing people for possession of the stuff? (Take a look at the various state laws if you’re still not sure about what they’re permitted to lock people up for.)  What social aim do the cops claim to defend in enforcing such laws?

*****

How is it that the proponents of "fiscal prudence" in American politics claim that big Federal programs will be funded "at great taxpayer expense" or "on the backs of future generations"?  Does anyone believe them?  Do they believe themselves?

The US government runs a debt of nearly $9 trillion.  Is the US government "solvent"?  Can it be "solvent"?  Are the Feds going to levy super-high taxes to pay off any significant portion of that $9 trillion?  No, they aren’t.  So why talk as if Federal spending is all somehow going to be "paid for," when it’s not?

The debt is endlessly expanded according to a scheme called "dollar hegemony."  Dollar hegemony is the power the US holds as a result of having issued the world's reserve currency; it allows the US government (and owning corporations) to be the world's biggest welfare bum.  The Feds cut the checks, and the foreign banks cover them.  Read Michael Hudson's Super Imperialism to review its history.  Our conversation about it might take a gander at a recent entry in the Feral Scholar blog.

I suppose that at some point, the ability of foreign banks to maintain the dollar’s high value will be compromised, and there will be a currency devaluation.  Or maybe the banks with huge dollar holdings (e.g. China) will find some new way to keep the global economy afloat.  But are the proponents of "fiscal prudence" talking about that?  No, they’re not.

*****

Is anyone really discussing American politics in honest terms (besides the elites in their secret meetings, and besides the good folks in the blogosphere)?  I don’t think so.  Rather, political language has become a tool for taking political decisions out of the hands of the public, and for aggrandizing the power of political elites.  The process is described in great detail in Murray Edelman’s Constructing the Political Spectacle.  For Edelman (1919-2001), political discourse existed to create "good guys-bad guys" narratives, in which the politician talking to us (or being endorsed for us) is always the "good guy," and her or his opponent is always the "bad guy," and the problem-being-framed is some made-up bugaboo (unless it's a real problem, in which case it can be blamed on the person experiencing it).  Edelman's point, throughout his tight volume, was that none of it is (necessarily) real.

The blogosphere, however, does its best work in debunking the political spectacle, allowing the average citizen to retrace her steps back to the point before she was bombarded with political spectacles and acquiesced in the power of those who made them.  The ultimate solution, of course, is to make our politicians (and their high-finance owners) less powerful so that we (as individuals, as citizens, as workers, as a union of free producers) can share power equally.  That, of course, would be revolutionary, so for now we can do our share to deconstruct the hokum that passes for political discourse today, and re-engage those who have been quieted into acquiescence in the political spectacle.

Originally posted to Cassiodorus on Wed Aug 29, 2007 at 12:34 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tips for the blogosphere (nmi) (13+ / 0-)

    "How long? Not long." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by Cassiodorus on Wed Aug 29, 2007 at 12:31:35 PM PDT

  •  My sentiments exactly (6+ / 0-)

    It's incredible how people in the US can be beaten into cowering stepford's with crazy talk from insane people.  If they only stopped to think about it, there isn't a nation on earth that would attack us, unless they want to commit national suicide.  It's laughable. I don't get it, and never have.

    Terrorist cells should be handled through intelligence and special ops, not our military, since terrorists don't operate by a national military. We are killing just to kill. All wrong all the time. I hate it. Defense contractors love it.

  •  When one group of people makes the rules (4+ / 0-)
    and another group has to obey them, there's going to be problems.

    Workers' Councils

  •  Cassiodorus, (7+ / 0-)

    Have you had occasion to read Chalmers Johnson's "Nemesis"?

    If not, or even if so, I'll use the occasion to spam this harrowing statistic from one of his recent articles at Znet:

    Equally alarming, it is virtually impossible for a member of Congress or an ordinary citizen to obtain even a modest handle on the actual size of military spending or its impact on the structure and functioning of our economic system. Some $30 billion of the official Defense Department (DoD) appropriation in the current fiscal year is "black," meaning that it is allegedly going for highly classified projects. Even the open DoD budget receives only perfunctory scrutiny because members of Congress, seeking lucrative defense contracts for their districts, have mutually beneficial relationships with defense contractors and the Pentagon. President Dwight D. Eisenhower identified this phenomenon, in the draft version of his 1961 farewell address, as the "military-industrial-congressional complex." Forty-six years later, in a way even Eisenhower probably couldn't have imagined, the defense budget is beyond serious congressional oversight or control.

    The DoD always tries to minimize the size of its budget by representing it as a declining percentage of the gross national product. What it never reveals is that total military spending is actually many times larger than the official appropriation for the Defense Department. For fiscal year 2006, Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute calculated national security outlays at almost a trillion dollars -- $934.9 billion to be exact -- broken down as follows (in billions of dollars):

    Department of Defense: $499.4

    Department of Energy (atomic weapons): $16.6

    Department of State (foreign military aid): $25.3

    Department of Veterans Affairs (treatment of wounded soldiers): $69.8

    Department of Homeland Security (actual defense): $69.1

    Department of Justice (1/3rd for the FBI): $1.9

    Department of the Treasury (military retirements): $38.5

    NASA (satellite launches): $7.6

    Interest on war debts, 1916-present: $206.7

    Totaled, the sum is larger than the combined sum spent by all other nations on military security.

    This spending helps sustain the national economy and represents, essentially, a major jobs program.

    If we're interested in honest discourse, it should be called the "offense" budget (or, alternatively, high tech industry subsidy), because, as you point out, it has very little to do with "defense".

    If we're nostalgic, we could simply start referring to Pentagon by it's old monicker, "The Department of War".

    "The assumption that what currently exists must necessarily exist is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking." -- Murray Bookchin

    by Autarkh on Wed Aug 29, 2007 at 01:05:50 PM PDT

  •  It's always, always, (3+ / 0-)

    always about the money.  Military spending, pharmaceutical profits, dollar hegemony.  Of these, I know the most (which isn't all that much) about pharma.  If aspirin had just been discovered we would probably never see it in a drug store.  Pharma won't produce anything that doesn't give them obscene profits- period.  If you can't patent it and prevent anyone else from producing it, they are out of the picture.  That is why they are working on synthesizing drugs related to marijuana.  If all they did was dry and package a natural substance they couldn't make any money.  Therefore, they will not support legalization.  They are hoping that they can get their own, patented product and don't want any competition from a "natural" drug.  

    I haven't said this well, but I hope you can all climb in my head to see what I'm getting at.  And no, I am not high as I'm trying to write this.  (sigh)

    "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Wed Aug 29, 2007 at 03:21:46 PM PDT

  •  cassiodorus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    Recommended!

    Big kudos for exploring 'dollar hegemony' (people quarrel over what to call it).  However the Feral Blogger link seems to be blank...  I'm on a reading binge on the subject and would be much obliged for the intended link.

    The kleptocracy surely multiplies doublespeak in inverse proportion to real wealth amassed.  Maybe we could do a board game diary on global dollar economics?  The midweek cybernetic crapshoot edition?

    Kudos.

    •  My link is OK (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      stonemason

      Stan Goff loves to talk about this stuff:  http://www.stangoff.com

      A "Dollar Hegemony" board game sounds fascinating!  Has one been designed yet, or can I be the first?

      "How long? Not long." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Aug 30, 2007 at 11:02:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  you're second (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        after the FED, LOL.

        It seems like an easy concept, how the nations have become bought into protecting the dollar, once you realize how they could poison their own well by dealing in other currencies (so to speak) but for some reason too many people never get outside the US POV.  

        Let me know if you take this up.  

        I'm working on ideas for another "kiddie corner economics diary" about this.  I keep thinking;  it can't be that hard.  It's just that most people in the US don't know dollar hegemony exists.  Once you see that, the reasons for warring against the would-be dollar-jilting Persians become obvious (another problem:  US people think they're Arabs... but that's another diary...).

  •  the US military follows the business model (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    of exercising and drawing down the inventory to grow financially. The war machine has to be used up for reinvestment.  Simple financial accounting and economic capital growth must necessarily lead to endless war(s) of any size available.

    Well, I guess I don't know what you mean by "equal justice under the law." - Bushy McSpokesperson

    by gatorcog on Thu Aug 30, 2007 at 10:27:51 AM PDT

    •  Right -- (0+ / 0-)

      except that doesn't justify it.  What justifies it is this nonsense about "defense."  I am merely wondering if people buy into this rhetoric about "defense," or if they're even paying attention.

      "How long? Not long." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Aug 30, 2007 at 11:04:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not justifying it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        I've been thoroughly castigated by right-wingers for even suggesting it.  Not only does it not justify it, it makes killing for profit even more horrid, as descriptive as it is.

        Well, I guess I don't know what you mean by "equal justice under the law." - Bushy McSpokesperson

        by gatorcog on Thu Aug 30, 2007 at 11:46:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The point, then... (0+ / 0-)

          is to deprive the justifiers of their "defense" justification, and to let them know that we are thinking rationally and that not just any sh*t will fly...

          "How long? Not long." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

          by Cassiodorus on Thu Aug 30, 2007 at 11:50:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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