Der amerikanische Autor und Edgar-Gewinner Thomas Adcock berichtet exklusiv für CULTurMAG in seiner wöchentlichen Kolumne von dem täglichen Wahnsinn des US-Wahlkampfs. Heute:
Tomorrow night’s televised presidential election “debate,” in which some fifty-five million viewers in the United States will behold the handshakes and platitudes and decorous snipings of candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, is the first of three such ritualistic events in this season’s grossly expensive bidding for White House occupancy.
America’s longest war might be mentioned, strictly in passing. Something along the lines of, “We’re grateful for the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who are defending American values in Afghanistan…,” blah-blah-blah.
Either candidate is capable of mouthing this blather, which is as meaningless as Muzak. So it hardly matters which man’s lips move on the subject of sacrifice. The Uniformed are unlikely to be cheered by a politician’s painless remarks.
The Uniformed are too busy for cheer. Of late, they are much occupied with the matter of so-called “insider attacks.” They live with the existential fear of being murdered at any moment by Afghan soldiers or cops, armed and trained at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and purported to be our comrades in a worthy war.
Anyway, first things first here on the home front: tomorrow evening’s debate topics are restricted to domestic matters. Which is to say, the concerns of people who do not understand that terror is as much a part of a soldier’s uniform as trousers and boots.
What will go unmentioned tomorrow—unmentionable as well at succeeding “debates”—is admission of the motive behind America’s questionable involvement in Afghanistan, now the longest war in our history, surpassing even Vietnam. As I write, we are eleven years in Afghanistan. The president has promised the Uniformed over there that they may return home—in whole or maimed for life, or in coffins—two years and three months hence.
The question unasked by presidential debaters: Why does a faraway conflict in a landlocked nation of tribal warlords and illiterate peasants dependant on opium crops—a conflict grown to civil war, involving social complexities incomprehensible to the average American and to many of the most sophisticated statesmen, a conflict that costs the U.S. Treasury $5 billion monthly—grind on for eleven years and counting?
The motive? Neither Mr. Romney nor Mr. Obama will remind television viewers of perilous observations advanced by two of America’s most successful military leaders, both deceased. One was world famous, the other lost to the obscurity of official marginalization.
“War is a racket, it has always been,” wrote U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler in his 1935 book of the same title. “It is possibly the oldest [racket], easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned [both] in dollars and the losses in lives.”
He added, “A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. …Out of war, a few people make huge fortunes.”
When he died in 1940, General Butler was the most highly decorated military officer in American history. But his book was swiftly condemned as an apostasy. The Pentagon ridiculed him for naïveté. Respectable politicians called him a communist, no matter that he was a lifelong member of the Republican Party. Respectable educators banned him from classroom textbooks. Twenty-one years after his death, the supreme commander of Allied forces during World War II, would amplify General Butler’s realizations in a farewell address to the nation as its two-term president.
“Our military organization today bears little resemblance to that known by any of my predecessors,” said President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the 17th of January, 1961.
He said the country’s “permanent armaments industry of vast proportions,” in conjunction with a bloated Pentagon establishment, exerted “total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—felt in every city, every state, every office of the federal government.”
He famously added, “[W]e must not fail to comprehend [the] grave implications. In the councils of government, 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.”
So it did, and so it has. Over time, warfare has become a leading American industry, as driven by financial profit for its shareholders as any other business corporation. But none dare call it’s name: War, Incorporated.
Corporatized military adventurism, dreaded by General Butler and President Eisenhower, flourished during the cold war years with an armaments build-up in the U.S. and former Soviet Union such as the world had and has never seen. Intervening hot wars between then and now, with brisk and endless revenues for the likes of Halliburton and scores of other war profiteers, have brought us to the now pointless business of Afghanistan, and before it the monstrous moral and legal corruption of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.
And should the promised departure from Afghanistan be kept, there is the fallback innovation of War, Inc.: the “War on Terror,” as it is parroted in the news media, requiring no specific terrain upon which to wreck deathly havoc and wrest blood money.
The military-industrial complex took shape long before the Eisenhower years, as General Butler reflected in a 1935 essay for Common Sense magazine:
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the [Citibank] boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
No, we shall not hear of such cris de couer at “debates” between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama. That would risk bringing ordinary Americans close to realization that War, Inc., has looted the public purse and prostituted the national purpose.
We shall hear instead of lesser things, visceral things. Mr. Romney, for instance, is said by his campaign staff to have memorized a menu of “zingers” with which to taunt Mr. Obama, in hopes of distracting the president from presidential mien.
The debaters will each declare America to be “the greatest country in the world.” They will not mention academic studies that reveal the stupendous cost of supporting War, Inc.—the cost of diverting our national treasury from productive and peaceful use. Facts: we own the worst socioeconomic conditions in the developed world; our educational and health care policies are inferior; the rates of homicides and massacres, by gun-toters, maniacs and milquetoasts alike, are highest in the world.
Our debaters will certainly not consider the conscientious objection of another marginalized man of his time—Ralph Nader, a former Green Party candidate for the U.S. presidency.
“America,” says Mr. Nader, “is becoming an advanced third-world country.”
Tidbits from the Campaign Trail
All this year, governors and state legislators under majority Republican Party rule have insisted that voter fraud (by which they mean dirty rotten imposters showing up on election day to cast ballots for dirty rotten Democrats) is a grave threat to American democracy, despite virtually no evidence of such crimes—let alone a crime wave. Never mind, the Republicans said, tough new laws are urgently required. Thus did one Republican-controlled state after another adopt new rules with the practical effect of—surprise!—disenfranchising those unlikely to vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: racial minorities, students, poor and elderly citizens.
Now comes an outfit called Strategic Allied Consulting, allied with Mr. Romney’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Last week, Strategic was caught filing bogus voter registration forms throughout the Republican-controlled state of Florida on behalf of persons trusted to cast ballots for Mr. Romney. Certain of those trustworthy persons, it seems, are dead. Local prosecutors are investigating the conduct of Strategic, headquartered in Republican-controlled state of Arizona. If found guilty of violating Florida election laws, the firm’s principals could be imprisoned for five years.
Strategic has run or continues to run voter registration drives in four other states key to Republican hopes on November 6th: Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and North Carolina. To date, state and national Republican Party organizations have paid almost $3 million in fees to Strategic Allied Consulting.
Mr. Romney’s personal appeal has plunged ever southward since last month’s release of a secretly recorded video in which he told a jovial banquet crowd of fellow Republican multi-millionaires that roughly half the American electorate are parasitic layabouts who feel “entitled to health care, food, housing, you name it.” According to a poll conducted by Bloomberg News, only forty-three percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Mr. Romney—three points lower than the favorable rating for former President George W. Bush, widely adjudged by political scientists as probably the worst president in U.S. history.
The low and lowering public opinion of Mr. Romney now extends to his vice-presidential running mate, the hyper-ambitious Congressman Paul Ryan. In a recent interview with the New York Times, veteran Republican political operative Craig Robinson said, “I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.” Days prior to that remark, Roger Simon of the online newspaper Politico observed Mr. Ryan’s discomfort during a disastrous address to a crowd of pensioners in New Orleans, most of them elderly women.
Mr. Simon’s report from the scene: “Ryan delivered his remarks in the style dictated by his Romney handlers: stand behind the lectern, read the speech as written, and don’t stray from the script. Ryan brought his 78-year-old mother with him, and introduced her to the audience, which is usually a crowd pleaser. But when Ryan began talking about repealing ‘Obamacare’ because he said it would harm seniors, one woman in the crowd shouted ‘Lie!’ Another shouted ‘Liar!’ and the crowd booed Ryan lustily. Who boos a guy in front of his 78-year-old mother? Other 78-year-old mothers.”
Mr. Romney’s popularity is not destined for improvement as a consequence of Mr. Bush’s next speaking engagement. Four days prior to the November 6th presidential election, Mr. Bush will address the “Alternative Investment Summit” in the Caribbean tax haven of Grand Cayman—one of several places around the world where Mr. Romney accordingly protects his own vast fortune from taxation, according to his 2010 tax return.
Further according to Mr. Romney’s U.S. tax record for 2010, he claimed a $74,000 business expense deduction for the care and feeding of a horse named “Rafalca,” co-owned by his wife, Ann Romney. At tax time in that year, the Oldenburg mare was a promising bet for commercial dressage competition. So, the deduction was deemed legitimate. But no such horse expense was claimed in Mr. Romney’s recently released tax returns for the 2011 period—despite the fact that Rafalca was bound for competition at the London Olympics in August 2012, which surely elevated her market value. Political observers believe it possible that Mr. Romney was embarrassed to again claim horse expenses of $74,000 because he recently learned of the average annual income for ordinary Americans: $41,673, according to the federal government’s National Average Wage Index.
Copyright © 2012 by Thomas Adcock
THOMAS ADCOCK is a novelist and journalist based in New York City. Winner of the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, given by Mystery Writers of America, his books and articles have been published worldwide. Writing as Tom Dey, he is currently completing a new novel titled “Lovers & Corpses.” Mehr zu Thomas Adcock hier und hier.