Monday, I had a day off. It was great. I was in DeKalb. I had time to watch a television show while I ate breakfast. It was mostly commercials. I headed for the YMCA out on Bethany Road but I stopped for coffee and newspapers in the local Barnes & Noble.
I’d like to tell you that I went to a local, independently owned coffee shop with newspapers I’d purchased from an independent bookseller. But DeKalb doesn’t have any independent book or coffee shops since Borders and Barnes & Noble hit town.
A nice young staff person saw me standing in front of the “Current Events” display in Barnes & Noble’s magazine section. “Can I help you find something?” she asked. “No,” I said, “I’m just looking.” I said. “Ok,” she said.
“Say,” I added, “do you normally put PEOPLE Magazine in ‘Current Events’? It seems like it belongs in your Entertainment Section.”
“Oh no sir, we keep it in ‘current events.’ That’s store policy.”
She took a puzzling look looked at the latest PEOPLE, two copies of which were prominently displayed at the middle bottom of the section. “You don’t think Tom Cruise’s engagement is an important ‘current event?’”
“I guess I probably don’t,” I said. “Boy,” she said, “my roommate sure does. She loves Tom Cruise.”
“He’s a good actor,” I said.
I reflected on how happy Cruise looked on the cover. I remembered that I once saw Tom Cruise on Oprah. He spent most of his time telling Oprah how happy he was.
He got so happy he started jumpng around on Oprah’s studio couch. Oprah told him that she loved him.
I didn’t feel happy. I was still thinking about the latest news from Occupied Iraq. I had just heard something about 38 fatalities in a brief report on NBC’s “Today Show.”
That was the television show I watched between commercials.
The report was sandwiched between longer “Today Show” segments on other matters. There was a story on how to “nourish your marriage” by sending your children away to summer camp. There was a piece on how caffeine can help you lose weight. The longest story was about how some Americans are building “Palaces for Pooches” – miniature houses worth $10,000 and more — for their dogs.
The “Today Show” is mostly about being a happy white suburbanite. The Iraq story was read quickly and almost apologetically by the uptight newslady they position about thirty feet from this big family-style couch where they put happy-serious Katie Couric (who gets tens of millions of dollars each year for just being Katie), happy-earnest Matt (Laurer?), and happy-mischievous Al Roper (the black weather guy who used to be really fat).
As the Iraq news was reported, Katie, Matt, and Al looked on with pained grimaces. But they were getting ready again to smile and laugh alot, after the next batch of commercials.
I think Al was really looking forward to the doghouse story.
Outside the NBC studio in mid-town Manhattan it was a sunny day. A nice white lady with a guitar was entertaining happy white toddlers with children’s songs. One of the songs had some scary lyrics, saying “I’m gonna get you, you better run away.” NBC did about 10 seconds of her and the kids before and after each set of commercials.
Back in my friendly “local” bookstore, I sat down to look at some newspapers in Barnes & Noble’s coffee shop. I learned from Investors’ Business Daily (IBD) that American President George W. Bush met on Monday with Occupied Iraq’s Prime Minister. When he and the Iraqi official appeared before the press, the President said that “there are not going to be any timetables” for US withdrawal from Iraq. The way ahead,” Bush added, will not be easy, but “we are there to complete the mission.”
No matter, I reflected, how vile, bloody, imperialist, illegal, immoral, and racist that “mission” may be. No matter how unpopular that “mission” is, even at home. No matter that 60 percent of Americans – the purported majority ruling force in the democratic form of government announced by the Declaration of Independence (1776) – say they want to withdraw some or all troops from Iraq.
I was reminded of all those bumper stickers I saw in the parking lot walking into the bookstore. They say:“These Colors Don’t Run;” “The Power of Pride;” “God Bless America;” “Support Our Troops.”
Reading on, I learned that 6 more U.S. troops died on Monday, bringing the official American death count in “Operation Iraqi Freedom” (a small fraction of the Iraqi Body Count) up to 1,750.
The injury count, I reflected, is much higher, but you don’t hear much about that. I guess flag-draped coffins and solemn military funerals are one thing. Young people being flown back with missing limbs is another, so the military and its friends in the media don’t give a lot of coverage to the large number of predominantly poor and working-class troops returning from Bush’s murderous “mission” with horrible burns, scorched lungs, shattered ear drums, and severed arms and legs.
The official casualty counts do not include the soldiers returning with as yet undetected symptoms of Depleted Uranium poisoning. They don’t include the military spouses who will be injured during their returning husbands’ fits of post-traumatic rage.
It occurred to me that when he was the same age as many of the nation’s growing army of returning amputees, Smiling George was living it up. He was a party animal who made damn sure to keep his butt out of Vietnam.
Uncle Darth Cheney was a Chickenhawk too. He had “other priorities” that kept him out of the imperialist assault on Southeast Asia. He was busy getting flltheir rich and more than content to let poorer and browner Americans fight the “Communist” enemy in Vietnam.
I was reminded that Bush proclaimed “the Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003. He announced the mission “complete” after landing in a jet fighter on an aircraft carrier off the coast of California. This stunt was developed by Hollywood and Pentagon planners on the explicit model of the militaristic movie “Top Gun”
Later they sold action dolls of “President Bush – Elite Force Aviator” (see http://www.detect-a-deal.com/ georgebushtoy.htm). Didn’t that movie star Tom Cruise?
I learned from Investors Business Daily that “Bush will seek to bolster sagging support for his Iraq policies during a prime-time address Tuesday from Fort Bragg.” Known as “the Home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces,” Fort Bragg houses the 82nd Airborne Division and the XVIII Airborne Corps. The U.S. army Special Operations Command and the U.S. Army Parachute Team (the Golden Knights) are also based in Fort Bragg.
Wow, I thought: Fort Bragg is the totally perfect place for an “Elite Force Aviator” President to lecture the American people on why they need to check their guts and renew their commitment to bloody imperial conquest…….I mean… to “freedom.”
“If I was Bush,” I figured, “this is what I’m thinking: ‘Enough with this namby-pamby liberal presidential habit of addressing the citizenry from the seat of merely civilian power – the Oval Office. What a bunch of weak liberal bullshit. I’m going to pull a Chuck Norris. I’m going to Fort Bragg.”
This president knows who the Real Americans are – it’s the troops. “They’re the best,” as U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) said last week while tearfully apologizing for mouthing off on how The Greatest Nation Ever had committed state-terrorist war crimes at Guantanamo Bay.
Bush loves to speak at military installations and to military audiences. I think he may have done close to a hundred military speeches by now. Boy-king George just eats this warrior stuff up. He loves to wrap himself in the aura of imperial militarism – an aura that former leading U.S. Generals turned Presidents George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower counseled presidents to avoid.
He used to do booze, babes, and coke, but now he gets off on messianic militarism. Dubya’s Jesus wears a flight suit, just like him. And just like Dad, who fought for real in “the Good War.”
Moving from Investors’ Business Daily to Monday’s New York Times, I learned that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thinks that “the [Iraqi] insurgency could last as long as a dozen years” (R. Oppel and E. Schmitt, “Bombing Attacks on Iraqi Forces Kill 38 in North.” New York Times [27 June, 2005], A1).
I was reminded of Rumsfeld’s statement on how long it would take to accomplish “the mission” of “liberating” and “securing” Iraq: “I can’t say if the use of force will last five days or five weeks or five months, but it is certainly not going to last any longer than that.”
Ok, so Donny Pentagon’s not a fortune teller.
“Insurgency” is an interesting word. Technically it means an effort to repeal a victory already imposed…to resist a pre-ordained verdict.
Rumsfeld and his colleagues know very well they are not really fighting an “insurgency.” They are trapped in the continuation of an imperial American war that has never been won in the first place. The ongoing resistance to U.S. occupation (March 2003 to the present) is persisting into its third year.
Reading that Rumsfeld projects twelve years of continuing war (what he describes as “helping Iraqi security forces defeat their insurgency”) and recalling that Bush officials have been embracing a generation-long “War on Terrorism” (“World War IV”) since 9/11, I was reminded of something that James Madison wrote in 1795. “Of all the enemies of public liberty,” Madison argued, “war is perhaps the most to be dreaded….No nation,” Madison added, “could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Consistent with Madison’s warning, I learned in Monday’s Times that the Pentagon and “a private contractor” are collaborating “to build a database of 30 million 16- to 25-year olds, complete with Social Security numbers, racial and other identification codes, grade point averages and phone numbers. The database is to be scoured for youngsters that the Pentagon believes can be persuaded to join the military.”
Those “youngsters,” I reflected, won’t be located in the well –funded private and public schools reserved for the children of the socioeconomic elite. We’re talking about the predominantly black West and South Sides of Chicago and rural white “downstate” communities, but not Lake Forest and Lincoln Park.
The Army, Times columnist Bob Herbert observed, “is chasing potential recruits with a ferocity that is alarming.” It is “desperately seeking to sign up high school kids.”
Disadvantaged high-school kids, that is – the ones with the fewest options and the least protection from family and others (Bob Herbert. “The Army’s Hard Sell,” New York Times [27 Jun2, 2005], p. A19).
Reading Herbert’s column, I was reminded of an Army recruiting add that has recently appeared on American television. It shows a young black male sitting across a table from his mother. He tells her that she should listen to him. “It’s time for me to be a man,” he says, adding that he has “found a way to pay for college.” The way is the U.S. Army, which is stepping in to fill the financial and emotional role of his missing father.
In order to receive a higher education, increasingly necessary to make a livable wage in corporate- globalized America, the young man portrayed in the US Army/Leo Burnett (the second is a Chicago-based advertising firm that boasts special expertise in racial minority niche-marketing) recruiting ad has sagely decided to risk his life in an illegal and immoral war sold to him and other Americans on false premises. Militarism is his solution for the rising cost of college tuition (which is pricing poor and working-class kids out of college at an alarming rate) and the cutback in student financial assistance that results from the combination of huge tax cuts for the wealthy with costly war.
As University of Chicago professors Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and J. Richard Thistlethwaite noted in Sunday’s Chicago’s Tribune, this Army recruiting ad “disrespects” the youth’s mother and “her role in guiding her son, and, by extension, all parents who try to play an important role in their children’s development into young adults.”
At the same time, the Thistlethwaites note, the ad’s promise of college tuition assistance “is a way to coerce young people from families who cannot afford college to enroll in the military. It is the rich preying on the poor; it is mercenary, but hidden behind the cover of the Army College Fund. You should not have to risk your life and be placed in situations where you may have to kill others,” professors Thistlethwaite argue, “just so you can get an education” (Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and J. Richard Thistlethwaite, “Honor Your Mother Like a Drill Sergeant,” Chicago Tribune, 26 June 2005, Section 2, p.3).
Continuing with Monday’s Times, I learned that “the Bush administration is planning the government’s first production of plutonium 238 since the Cold War.” The substance, “valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.” Resumed production of plutonium 238 will cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous waste.
Plutonium 238 is considerably more hazardous than the plutonium used in making nuclear weapons, plutonium 239. Historically, it has been used to power espionage devices, especially military satellites.
Why does the U.S. need to pour billions into once again manufacturing and storing this super-lethal substance even as millions of American children live below the nation’s notoriously low and inadequate poverty level?
Federal “project managers” say that plutonium 38 “is intended for secret missions” and “declined to divulge any details” to the Times.
But Thomas Frazier, “head of radioisotope power at the Department of Energy,” told the Times that “the real reason we’re starting production is national security.” It’s for reasons of state.
Then there’s the comment of an anonymous “senior federal scientist who helps the military plan space missions.” “It’s going to be a tough world for in the next one or two decades,” this space-war technician says, “and this [plutonium 238] may be needed” (W. Broad, “U.S. Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium,” New York Times [27 Jun2, 2005], p. A1).
It’s that little “continual warfare” problem.
I couldn’t wait to hear my Elite Force Aviator President live from Fort Bragg.
I went to the local Y and shot some baskets. On the way out, I looked at a poster I’d noticed before at the Y. The poster shows a scolding Uncle Sam. He says “I Want You” to “support American troops,” to whom we “owe our freedom.”
What was new to me, something I hadn’t caught before and caught now only because I walked up real close, was some small print at the bottom: “Provided Complements of Raytheon, Inc.”
Raytheon is one of the world’s leading corporate war masters —- a $20 billion “defense” contractor that is a leading agent and beneficiary of America’s campaign for endless forward “global force projection” (Get Raytheon’s spin on itself at http://www.raytheon.com/static/node2634.html).
Christ, you can’t even shoot some hoops at the local gym without getting propagandized by the imperial “defense” sector.
Good Morning America. Do you know where your youngsters and your civilian democracy are? You better go upstairs and check. The New American Militarism is on the prowl, at home and abroad.