Victory for the Filthy Rich
Old fools lie, young suckers die
…Meanwhile, the One Percent goes shopping
By Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2014 – Thomas Adcock
EAST GREENWICH, Rhode Island U.S.A.
Here am I in a postcard-pretty small town on the Atlantic coast, a proudly historical place where every Wednesday evening the lads of the Kentish Guard gather in Peirce Street. There, they take up old-fashioned fifes and drums and play a medley of martial tunes, to the delight of passersby such as myself.
The idea is to commemorate a time, two hundred and forty years ago, when constant vigilance was required to deal with colonial British troops determined to quash upstart notions of American independence from a London-based empire of organized money and military supremacy.
Two hours after the Peirce Street pageantry of Wednesday, September 10, came a White House television address. President Barack Obama told us he would launch a “counter-terrorism campaign” to “degrade and ultimately destroy” a well-financed army of misogynistic thugs and religious lunatics skilled in beheadings and crucifixions who call themselves the “Islamic State” of Iraq and Syria.
And by the way—air strikes only over Iraq and maybe Syria, Mr. Obama promised. There shall be no American “boots on the ground,” he said, meaning no boots added to the many hundreds of boots already in Iraq—footwear for U.S. “advisers” to that crumbled nation’s excuse for an army, and “guards” posted to Washington’s diplomatic installations. Minutes later, Mr. Obama added, “As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission.”
I watched both performances, live on Peirce Street and once removed via television, and vastly preferred that of the fifers and drummers.
The Kentish Guard of Rhode Island was chartered in 1774—two years before the Declaration of Independence irked King George III—as a militia necessary for greeting imminent threat to American soil. The fife and drum lads of today remind us, with no need of bombast, that keeping a weather eye for potential danger is a good plan.
By contrast, there was Mr. Obama’s address, one that could just as easily have been delivered his lying, imbecilic predecessor, George W. Bush—half-truths and patriotic shibboleths included. Regrettably, Mr. Obama skated past a pesky mandate of the U.S. Constitution, under which war may be commenced only by Congressional declaration—to defend against attack on the United States or its armed forces, or to forestall a reasonably imminent attack.
Then, on Tuesday of this week, General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chief of Staff, blew the president’s non-combat promise to smithereens. Namely, he offered up a loophole big enough for a battalion of boots to bust through. “If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific (Islamic State) targets,” he said, “I’ll recommend that to the president.”
On September 10—one day and thirteen years after al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, those horrid events exploited by Mr. Bush and ex-Vice President Dick Cheney to lead the country to war based on a pack of lies—Mr. Obama sounded a familiar bugle of panic. This time in the wake of a headline-grabbing series of barbaric acts against individual civilians—atrocities calibrated for maximum attention by YouTube-savvy goons of the Islamic State.
Acknowledging that his administration had “not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland,” Mr. Obama nevertheless asserted, “[T]hese terrorists could pose a growing threat.” Expanding on his supposition, the president added, “Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners, including Europeans and some Americans, have joined (the Islamic State)…Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.”
Deadly attacks are hardly novelty events in America, where the population of privately owned guns exceeds the population of people. Currently topping the personal weaponry sales charts is the AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, which accommodates a magazine clip of one hundred hollow-point, organ-melting bullets, all of which can be fired off in the course of a few minutes. A civilian version of the standard-issue U.S. Army machine gun, the AR-15 has been used in a startling number of mass murders, and is available at fine stores everywhere.
But let us ignore such reality. Let us sink into yet another swamp of fear that Mr. Obama admits is founded on no “specific plotting against our homeland.” About that word homeland, so evocative of the Third Reich: it is a creepy addition to the American political lexicon, courtesy of the lying Mr. Bush and his lying henchmen.
From the time of the Greek tragedian playwright Aeschylus (525 B.C.-456 B.C.), many have expressed themselves on the prevarications of war. My personal favorite comes courtesy of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the English editor and moralist. “Among the calamities of war,” he wrote, “may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.”
While we’re at it, let us engage in another of the subtle forms of lying and ignore a second big, fat, reality-based threat to the national security of America: economic injustice.
According to Forbes Magazine, a favorite journal among Wall Streeters and associated tycoons, the richest One Percent of Americans own nearly half the country’s wealth. The most glaring evidence of disparity lives in New York City, world headquarters of finance capitalism, a financial mutation that produces gobs of fast money for a few and commonwealth for even fewer.
On the very day of President Obama’s declaration of what he dare not call war—the same day on which the Kentish Guard reminded us of threats from a British military in service to the filthy rich—the New York Times newspaper chronicled the following:
- Developers of a below-ground parking garage under construction in Crosby Street, a one-time haven of cheap digs for youngsters starting out on life in Manhattan, announced a non-negotiable purchase price for a single-car space: a cool $1 million (€770,000).
- Bespoke shoes are now available at the new and exciting John Lobb store on Madison Avenue, ranging from $8,000 the pair to $25,000 (€6,018 – €19,000).
- “Best of the month” prices on wine, cigars, and whisky: Domaine LeFlaive Batard-Montrachet 2011—a “rare gem” at the bargain rate of $487 the liter (€376); Saint Luis Rey Regio cigars from Havana, with “notes of leather and salted almonds,” at only $23 (€17.50) per smoke; and Glenfarclas single malt Scotch, containing “luscious fruits” as base flavoring, enhanced by “puffs of coal-like smokiness,” at the per bottle rate of $2,594 (€1,995).
Such are necessities of daily life for the One Percent toilers of Wall Street, that vital engine of America’s military-industrial complex. Ever more briskly paid bankers, bilkers, and bond peddlers are being hired in Wall Street—an unholy number of them in service the “defense” industry, per the Orwellian term.
These “masters of the universe,” a mockery coined by novelist Tom Wolfe now proudly claimed by the wealthy dullards mocked, swallow up ever more of New York’s limited housing stock, at whatever obscene price demanded. They waste no time in thoughts of displacing those who haven’t the decency to be millionaires; they are too busy with the building of gilded ghettos. And they needn’t worry about conscription, not now in this era of the “all-volunteer” army—another locution the late George Orwell would appreciate.
In the April 18 real estate section of the Times, reporter Michelle Higgins advised, “If a million dollars is all you can spend [to buy a Manhattan apartment] expect slim pickings.” The median sale price, she noted, is now $971,428 (€707,532). Ms. Higgins’ article quoted Jonathan J. Miller, president of the Miller Samuel real estate appraisal firm: “Below a million is like a dying breed.” (The sale price is only the beginning, Ms. Higgins’ article noted. Often, the necessary renovations for squalorous digs in Crosby Street, say, are likewise apt to rise to the million-dollar mark.)
Accordingly, the rental market zooms skyward. A one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Manhattan now averages $4,000 (€3,085) per month, according to the real estate firm Douglas Elliman. Across the East River into Brooklyn, a one-time stamping ground for strivers of the working and middle classes, the average monthly vigorish on a one-room flat in a long-time slum called Bedford-Stuyvesant is $2,005 (€1,504).
How easy it is for Washington to slide us into foreign war, and the inevitable killing of young soldiers and innocent civilians, whilst blind to struggles at home. War, we are encouraged to believe, is a more important concern than decadence reflected by figures quoted in foregoing paragraphs. War is camouflage for the enormous transfer of public wealth to the unconscionably greedy.
War is a game played by rich old men: they lie, young suckers die.
How easy it is to mask economic injustice with a bugle call.
We’re all going to die!
And how easily are domestic problems hidden in the frenzy of war, an enterprise that requires little rationality and even less understanding of the customs, cultures, and history of a perceived enemy—or even the enemy’s location.
In a recent study, the National Geographic Society found that six in ten Americans are unable to locate Syria or Iraq on a map. Never mind.
On the other hand, an opinion poll conducted by the Washington Post newspaper reveals a conundrum: seventy-one percent of us support Mr. Obama’s vow to bomb the bejeezus out of territory in Iraq now under the control of woman-hating marauders of the Islamic State—variously termed “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” and “The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shabab”—while a strong majority believes an air strikes-but-no-boots scheme won’t work. But never mind the confusion.
The corporate media, and the politicians they cheer, may be confused on the proper patronymic for Islamic State. But on this, they are crystal clear:
Be afraid! Be very afraid!
As we have seen time and again, fear provides a splendid boost for business. Fear serves the One Percent—those Americans with snouts in the mash trough, whose corporations and counting houses profit hugely from Pentagon contracts. And now all the more so what with prostituted religion in the mix.
Fear is mother’s milk for the politically ambitious. Hysteria is the basic marketing plan of America’s most-watched television news network—the right-wing Fox Broadcasting Company, which is pleased to offer a near nightly platform for the most panic-stricken member of Congress: the pink-faced, whiney-voiced Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
In June, Mr. Graham hyperbolized, “Do you believe that the people who are shooting folks in the head, killing children in front of their parents, beheading people by the hundreds, if not thousands, would not attack us if they could?”
Last Sunday night, Mr. Graham outdid himself in attacking that black man in the big white house in Washington, the one built in the nineteenth century by African slaves. Mr. Graham said, “This is a war we’re fighting. It is not a counter-terrorism operation. This is not Somalia. This is not Yemen. This is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”
About that war on terror business: here, another inane coinage courtesy of Bush & Company.
Mr. Graham’s mentor in disparaging the president is Senator John McCain of Arizona, a foolish old fellow who profoundly resents Mr. Obama for defeating him, badly, in the presidential election of 2008.
“This president really doesn’t have a grasp for how serious the threat from (Islamic State) is,” Mr. McCain griped the other night on CNN-Television. It was vintage McCain, senior-most brayer in a Republican Tea Party caucus insistent on permanent war as the linchpin of U.S. foreign policy.
In a subsequent statement at a Washington press conference, with protégé Lindsey Graham fidgeting at his side, Mr. McCain said, “The president’s plan will likely be insufficient to destroy (the Islamic State), which is the world’s largest, richest terrorist army.”
On Wednesday, Mr. McCain’s warmongering was in full throat at a Senate committee hearing as a demonstrator charged out of the visitor gallery with a banner reading “There is No Future in War.” She scrambled up to the foolish old fellow and shouted, righteously, “Shame on you, Senator McCain! How dare you try to destroy the future of young people in this country?” To which the chuckling senator replied for the TV cameras, “I always appreciate special attention.”
Enter Dick Cheney, of course.
As a dark wizard behind the curtain during the disastrous eight-year regime of George W. Bush, the ex-vice president drafted most of the lies told to inspire the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, which began a decade of war that Mr. Cheney assured us would be over and done with in “a matter of weeks, certainly no more than a matter of months.”
The Bush-Cheney war resulted in the deaths of some five thousand U.S. soldiers and a rash of home-front suicides for those returned, more than a hundred and forty-five thousand Iraqi civilians murdered, the rise of Islamic State terrorism, and a cost to the American treasury of $1.7 trillion (€1.31 trillion). That figure is projected to be an eventual $6 trillion (€4.64 trillion), according to the nonpartisan National Priorities Project, based in Washington.
We may only imagine the dark wizard’s windfall of “deferred compensation” from the job he held prior to the vice-presidency: chief executive of the Halliburton Corporation, the number one military contractor during the war in Iraq.
Surely it was no coincidence, then, that Mr. Cheney was back in Washington on September 10. He spent the morning lobbying old pals in Congress—Messrs. McCain and Graham, et cetera—to increase Pentagon funding for the coming fiscal year, which begins in October. That afternoon, he collected a handsome paycheck for delivering a speech to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, hours before President Obama’s scheduled address regarding the Islamic State.
“The terrorists who threaten this country and our friends…will be on the wrong side of history only if we put them there,” said Mr. Cheney, who, while in office, was tagged “Darth Vader” by his Secret Service detail. “We must deal with threats before they become grave dangers, and dangers before they become catastrophes.”
Darth Vader went on to complain that America’s “relationship with Middle East partners has been badly damaged, and we have got to go prove our self (sic).” Mr. Cheney—who is reliant on a heart pacemaker, and therefore has no pulse; who from 2001-2009 famously kept a man-sized combination safe in his White House office; and who, it is said by some wags, enjoys a morning glass of puppy blood—offered no details of relationship damage among unspecified nations of the Middle East. Members of the Washington Press corps who covered the speech maintained their traditional don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.
For instance, reporters failed to ask Mr. Cheney to state his position on the U.S. expenditure of $7.5 billion (€5.8 billion) every day since June in military action thus far against the Islamic State. Or approximately what Halliburton’s commission on that sum might be, and resultant deposits to the Cheney exchequer.
Those taxpayer billions constitute serious loss for the rest of us, the Ninety-Nine Percent. The National Priorities Project gives perspective:
- Two days worth of bombing in Iraq represents more than the federal money spent to fight this year’s California drought, the cause of record-setting agricultural devastation.
- Bombing costs from June through August amount to ten years worth of emergency food assistance to needy women and children, and the physically disabled. Ten years worth of food squandered in a single summer.
If Americans could back from the unchallenged rhetoric, right-wing propaganda, political showboating and recrimination that constitute “news,” writes William Greider in the current edition of The Nation magazine, “they may be able to recognize an impossible pattern, in which we are caught in a trap of our own making.”
Mr. Greider, author of “The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy,” went on:
When the Cold War ended quarter century ago, U.S. presidents and policy-makers embraced the role of indispensable Goliath: America would use its overwhelming military supremacy to maintain world order. Americans like to see themselves as good guys, but lots of other people do not share that view. To many, the United States looks like an arrogant bully, a last bastion of colonialism. Furthermore, America’s claim of injured innocence has been deeply damaged by its war-fighting tactics, most obviously in its torture of prisoners.
Finally, and after citing the unceasing profligacy of U.S. warfare, Mr. Greider writes of a true reason for fear: “We are in danger of becoming deranged by our own militarism.”
It hurts my heart to see as good man as Barack Obama becoming the newest recruit to madness.
Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag