Fear! Bombs! Fear! Bombs! etc., etc.
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2014 – Thomas Adcock
BOSTON, Massachusetts U.S.A.
The past few months have brought the world a bushel basket of headline barbarism, courtesy of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his disciples in the cause of murderous depravity, rape, and religious lunacy. We are duly frightened, of course, if not altogether rightly so.
Of late, I am thinking hard on the “rightly” aspect of this fear; on how an unseen few of my fellow citizens will reap political and financial benefit from fear, leaving the rest of us poorer and weaker—or dead. It occurs to me that the plot of a nineteenth century English fairytale, “Chicken Little,” correlates with the freshly energized rhythms of modern-day American industrial warfare.
The fairytale’s protagonist is a nervous pullet by the name of Henny-Penny, who waddles beneath the fruity boughs of an oak tree and becomes convinced of apocalypse at hand when an acorn falls on her head. Whereupon, Henny scurries to the task of sharing panic with her feathered friends: Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey. The resultant avian stampede—from barnyard familiarity to a thought-free plunge into a deep, dark, dangerous forest—redounds to the benefit of an antagonist named Foxy Loxy. Hungry, the fox feasts on hysterical fowl.
Compare the English tale to the quality of American war behavior, an opera of four parts:
Act One: Corporate media, television in particular, provide the stage for a choir of hysterics owned by the merchants of military armaments. These Henny-Penny warblers, safely beyond the age of conscription or combat-capable physique, strike up a lusty rendition of the old fairytale’s signature song—“The Sky is Falling.”
Act Two: With all deliberate speed come multi-billion dollar aerial blitzkriegs—financed with Wall Street loans. Thrilling film for nightly TV news shows!
Act Three: As the warblers are eventually seen as fools (and food), the general public joins with doubters, dissenters, apostates, and gray-headed fist-shakers of yore in wondering—Why, for the love of motherhood and apple pie, is America doing what it’s doing?
Grand Finale: The king remains in place, though not as safely as before. Ornery subjects are again proved correct; they believe that while Evil itself is invincible, practitioners of evil are not. Moreover, that Evil has ironic precepts: certain evildoers evolve into respectability; those already of the respectable caste are prone to devolution; pragmatism, read cynicism, is the guiding force of global alliances.
By the way, what of those Wall Street loans? A few more of us will come to recognize such transactions as the central purpose of industrial warfare. Such purpose is driven by the calculated execution of a deadly simple formula: Fear! Bombs! Fear! Bombs!, etc., etc.
Thus do profits gush aplenty in the counting houses, plumping the purses of the devoutly amoral.
In fact, over the past decade of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq—now with no end in sight—the U.S. has paid Wall Street $250 billion (€196 billion) in war bond interest alone, according to the nonpartisan Costs of War Project at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
One might think that legitimate war in the name of the American public should be fought with public funds—a dedicated war tax. The last time that happened was 1941. Today, of course, Washington dares not ask the people to put their money where their politicians’ mouths are.
Further according to the War Project research: Should war spending continue as forecast by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the interest tab is expected to reach a minimum of $1 trillion dollars six years hence.
Meanwhile, Americans of ordinary means see the national infrastructure crumbling; too many elected officials who are, in actuality, corporate vassals; a rapidly shrinking middle class, once the bulwark of democracy; stagnant wages and plunged living standards; and a Pentagon budget dwarfing that of China, Russia, Germany, France, and Britain—combined.
And where forty-two percent of this country’s children live in “food insecure” households, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University in New York.
What call you, cutthroats?
We are now at war with an entity. The U.S. media have labeled it the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” or ISIS. Never mind that this entity is neither nation-state nor Islamic. I prefer to call the cutthroats what most people in Syria and Iraq call them—the Da’ish, a newly coined pejorative in vernacular Arabic.
To date, Da’ish propagandists have produced YouTube beheadings of two American captives. These atrocities have been faithfully reported in the American press, though an intriguing corollary has not: Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the war against Da’ish, carried out nineteen beheadings in August alone, according to a report in the British newspaper The Independent. One victim beheaded was an alleged sorcerer, at least one other homosexual.
Horrid and medieval as these crimes of our friends and foes are—equally horrid, the murders and massacres and rapes accountable to Da’ish—the American government, and American citizens, have routinely ignored such behavior in a multitude of past instances. And we Americans tend to ignore the fact that we are as capable of barbarism as anyone else: In Iraq and Afghanistan, as latest example, the innovative Torquemada methodology known as water boarding has been our principal technique for torture.
We are selectively outraged people, socially conditioned to madness by cues from the cheerleaders of Fear. In most horrible world circumstances, we exercise a benign neglect. Often enough, we find a popular demon as our predicate for bombs, and Wall Street wherewithal to deliver them. Leave it to the devoutly amoral and their governmental subordinates to dryly conduct the risk-to-benefit ratios and cost analyses; to tally up and divvy up the booty.
Head cheerleader of the Fear Squad this time is Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whom I would wager keeps a fainting couch in his Washington chambers in the event of his being overcome by “the vapors,” as is said in his home state. Early on, he took to the TV airwaves to warn of Da’ish perfidy: “They’re intending to come here to the United States!” President Barack Obama, he further declared, “needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed!”
Soon thereafter came Chuck Hagel, the U.S. secretary of defense and apparently our minister of overstatement. He said Da’ish constitutes an “imminent threat to every interest we have.” In fact, Mr. Hagel emphasized, Da’ish is “beyond anything that we’ve seen.” (Notwithstanding the Third Reich, evidently.)
Ordinarily Mr. Hagel does not say stupid things. But Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona often does. So, too, U.S. Lieutenant General William Mayville Jr., commander of an Orwellian-inspired “Operation Enduring Freedom,” the official title of our ceaseless war in Afghanistan. All three men are worrisome. As the noted dissenter Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
As General Mayville said the other day, “We believe the Khorasan Group was nearing the execution phase of an attack.” He referenced September 29, the date of initial American bombing of Da’ish installations, and an obscure terrorist cell incidentally crushed in that raid—a cell the general promoted as more evil than Da’ish itself. After a few days’ media excitement, no one of credible knowledge could be found to confirm the general’s stirring yarn. The “Khorasan Group” evaporated as quickly as one says, “Ph-fffit!”
Convinced that Da’ish operatives are poised along the Mexican border with the United States, Congressman Franks declared the other day, “We know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez.” This surely gave his overseers sugarplum dreams of fresh war profits. “So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona,” said Mr. Franks. “It is something that is real.”
Speaking of the obtuse, Governor Rick “Specs” Perry of Texas goes further than Congressman Franks: He suggests that terrorist cells loyal to Da’ish have already decamped on U.S. soil—somewhere. Recently, Mr. Perry purchased horn-rimmed eyeglasses as a means of distinguishing himself from his predecessor as lackwit governor of Texas pining for the presidency. He wore them while telling reporters, “There’s the obvious great concern that because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across (sic), that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be crossing the border—and I think there is a very real possibility that they may have already used that (sic).”
Congressman Duncan Hunter, a Californian of the Republican Tea Party persuasion and avid reader of conspiracy-themed websites, claimed that U.S. Border Patrol agents have arrested ten Da’ish soldiers trying to sneak over from Mexico. “When you’ve got ten, you know there’s dozens more (sic),” said Mr. Hunter in a Wednesday interview on the right-wing television outlet Fox News. The secretary of Homeland Security, of which the border patrol is a division, said he had no idea what Mr. Hunter was talking about.
To insure maximum jitters in its viewing audience, this was a recent CNN-TV teaser to a story set to follow a commercial message for depilatory cream: “Is Ebola the ISIS of biological agents?”
Help! The sky is falling!
It is worth noting that Da’ish stands upon a pair of Achilles heels. While able to perform the easy task of cutting off heads, the gang is unable to enforce bans on cigarette smoking in two major cities it rules—Raqqa, Syria, and Kirkuk, Iraq.
American bullet shells
…recovered from Da’ish rifles
As it was wisely said by Pogo, the main character in the late Walt Kelly’s long-running, eponymous newspaper comic strip, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
I am reminded of this as I read a battlefield report recently issued by Conflict Armament Research, a British company founded in 2011 by former United Nations weapons inspectors. Bottom line: “[A]mmunition transferred into Syria and Iraq to help stabilize governments has instead passed from the governments to jihadists, helping to fuel the Islamic State’s rise and persistent combat power.” A hefty portion of this firepower, it turns out, was made in the U.S.A.
Paranoia = Profit
A few weeks from today, Americans of a certain age will pause for a moment’s remembrance of where they were on the Friday afternoon of November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a sniper trained by the U.S. Marine Corps, a man with the rank of private who nonetheless held government clearance to read classified documents—prior to his defection to the now defunct Soviet Union and then, mysteriously, his repatriation.
In the late 1950s and early ‘60s, the “Cold War” raged across the world with dirty little proxy battles on behalf of the two reigning superpowers—the United States and the exhaustible Soviet empire. Here in America, the usual suspects hunted for a demon, which they found in the Hanoi-based National Liberation Front, led by an anti-colonialist and—gasp!—communist named Ho Chi Minh.
To underscore our selected enemy’s demonic propensity, we invented the inane “domino theory,” by which dirty rotten communists would realize their goal of creating a godless caliphate through serial conquests of vulnerable nation-states—à la the inevitable tumbling when an end piece softly chunks a long row of dominoes. To many of us, this brand of paranoia made as much sense as Henny-Penny and her acorn. But one man’s paranoia is another man’s profit; thus did the Vietnam War escalate, concluding with Foxy Loxy’s consumption of the king himself—Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973), a president of in the manner of a Shakespearean tragedy.
At the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum here in Boston, housed in a concrete tower and glass pavilion on the grounds of what used to be a garbage dump, historians continue to disagree on the late president’s deliberations at the nascent stages of a war that brought America low. The question for scholarly debate now, five decades after JFK’s assassination, is this: Did the president intend to withdraw the relatively few American military personnel in Vietnam at the time, and therefore halt the march to a shameful war?
The question is more than professorial palaver. After all, John F. Kennedy succeeded President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), preeminent general of perhaps the last righteous involvement of American military forces in foreign war. In his farewell address in January 1961, “Ike” famously defined this country’s place in the world and warned, as only a U.S. Army careerist could, precisely how a nation’s noble role may be prostituted:
Our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity, and integrity among people and among nations.
Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt—both at home and abroad.
…We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
Yet even as Mr. Eisenhower spoke those words the country began sinking into what would become a morass of death and humiliation. We would pay dearly in lives, treasury, and national reputation; we are paying still. It was a war based on hysteria and government lies—as notably revealed in the classified “Pentagon Papers” history of U.S. military-political interference in Vietnam, disclosed in 1971 by the New York Times and other newspapers.
Vietnam, however, would not be America’s last injudicious war. Iraq was yet to come.
We have rained bombs on Iraq under four presidents: George Bush pére in 1991, Bill Clinton in 1998, George Bush fils in 2003—and now Barack Obama in 2014, who has declared his intent to “degrade and destroy” the execrable Da’ish.
There is much more now to come. More death. More rapes. Many more bombs. And—as in the case of the Vietnam War and the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003—a round of lies to pave a well-worn path.
‘It was never our war’
I am here in Boston for several days. Whenever in town, I visit the JFK Library—to discover what was, and to painfully ask what might have been.
Did President Kennedy truly mean to prevent full-blown war in Vietnam? Was his thinking influenced by President Eisenhower’s prescience? Would an early withdrawal from Vietnam give extra energy to the opponents of President George W. Bush and his bogus eleven-year war in Iraq? If Mr. Bush’s war aims were righteously quashed, could a victory for the fist-shakers of 2003 prevent a quagmire in 2014 to which Mr. Obama seems tragically drawn?
The clues are here, if not the conclusions.
In answer to the first and foremost question, consider the scholarship of John M. Newman, until 1994 a U.S. Army major posted at the National Security Agency, and currently a professor of political science at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mr. Newman’s specialty as an historian is deciphering top-secret government records.
On October 2, 1963, Mr. Newman maintains that President Kennedy decided to pull American military advisers and special operations personnel out of Vietnam, based on a classified report from then-Secretary of State Robert McNamara and U.S. Army General Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in that year. Three days later, Mr. Newman said the president formalized that decision—based on classified minutes of an Oval Office meeting:
…The president also said [of initial personnel summoned home]…that the action should be carried out routinely, as part of our general posture of withdrawing people when they are no longer needed.
From the public library here in Boston, I borrowed book by Timothy Fleming, titled “The President’s Mortician: A Story of How and why JFK’s Murder was Executed and Covered Up.” In it, he posits the question of a Vietnam War that President Kennedy, I believe, wanted mightily to stop in its tracks:
…It was never our war. It was theirs. We made it our war for profit. It was Bell Helicopter’s War. It was Halliburton’s war. It was Brown & Root’s war. It was Ling-Temco-Vought’s war. It was Dow’s war. It was General Dynamics’ war. It was not fought to beat back the communists; it was fought for profit.
On October 5, 1963, President Kennedy met with his cabinet in the Oval Office. Seated in an arc around his desk, his secretaries learned of the anti-war decision. Forty-nine days later, Mr. Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, Texas. The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself shot and killed one day after his crime.
It is rumored in Washington that President Obama, who uses JFK’s desk as his own, is profoundly anguished over his decision to bomb Iraq in the impossible hope of vanquishing the latest evildoer, Da’ish. He is under intense pressure to expand the war—from air, to land. He has repeatedly promised, “No American boots on the ground” will accompany U.S. aerial assaults. Few believe him.
— Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag