Measured in Oil, Money, and Blood
I have an urge to kill. It is an overwhelming, hormonally powerful desire to destroy, to decimate, to eradicate, and obliterate. It came over me yesterday as I was reading the newspaper headlines. I had just finished perusing the comic section (my favorite strip is Stephan Pastis’ ‘Pearls Before Swine’) in our local blat (a necessary relief from the bad taste left in my brain from the morning scan of that philistine capitalist rag, the Wall Street Journal) when a small banner-line on the blat’s front page caught my eye.
It said: “Measured in blood and treasure; the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle.”
This fragmental excerpt was taken from a report just released on Thursday (17 April 08) by the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), an in-house DoD (Department of Defense) think-tank at the Pentagon (not to be mistaken for the National Institute for Strategic Studies, which is a Ukrainian strategic studies organisation). Authored by former Pentagon official Joseph Collins, the report carries substantial authority in its pronouncements, coming as it does from within the defense establishment of the United States itself. In other words, Collins’ analysis is not just the emotional ranting of another leftist liberal pro-peacenik (to use some of FOX News’ favored rhetorical flavoring).
Aside from constituting renewed confirmation of facts and circumstances I myself have known to be true for years, what particularly caught my eye was the use of Collin’s specific term ‘debacle.’ If you will pull your handy Merriam-Webster’s Abridged Collegiate Dictionary from its spot on the shelf and thumb through it to the ‘D’ entries, you will soon note the specific primary definitions given in that worthy tome for the word ‘debacle’. Stemming from the French root ‘debacler’ and originally referring to the Spring break-up of winter ice on the river, the modern English use-derivative translates simply to ‘break-up’, ‘an overwhelming defeat or disaster’, and ‘a total, often ludicrous collapse or failure’. And that’s being transliteratively kind! Other dictionaries peg the meaning in similar terms of utterly catastrophic failure.
Reflecting on that fact, I had to admire Collins’ choice of that particular term, for that is exactly what the Bush Administration’s egregious war in Iraq has become: a monumental disaster of the worst possible sort. The absolute worst part of it is that this chaotic situation is the present result of the Bush decision to depose Saddam, a truly colossal error in judgement that has had wide-ranging consequences. Not just for the United States, but for the entire world.
To me, the most tragic aspect of what has now come to pass in Iraq is that it was an entirely avoidable situation that did not have to take place, had the American people possessed the ability to inform themselves fully on Middle Eastern affairs. In his excellent biographic sketch on the life of former Saudi Oil Minister Sheikh Zaki Yamani (‘Yamani’, by Jeffrey Robinson, 1988, ISBN 0-87113-323-7, 302 pages), Robinson states with sharp-edged discern, “Much the way young children see the world filled with cowboys and Indians, or cops and robbers, American foreign policy makers also have an adolescent predilection for pigeon-holing”…and somewhat later…“Americans in particular seem to have always had a very black and white view of the Arabs.”
Robinson is being kind, in his typically reserved English outlook on things, for his understated observation is quite revealing of American naiveté, not just in world affairs, but in most of the broader and more generalized aspects of life itself. While it is true that Arab culture is a world characterised and influenced chiefly by extremes (both climactic and cultural), one may no more generalize about the Arab peoples in certain ways than one may insult someone’s mother to their face. In particular, the highly intricate shades of political and religious coloring that predominate in the Arab nations constitute a vast minefield that threatens any Westerner foolish enough to venture into it with guaranteed destruction. So subtle are the nuances of many considerations pertaining to religion, politics, and tribal interactions amongst the Arabs that only an extremely courageous and charismatic hero or a monumentally deplorable, abject fool would even dare to contemplate stepping up to the plate in the ball game that is life in the entire Middle Eastern region. To our great misfortune, the American President, George W. Bush is a charter member of the latter category and in his deficit wisdom he has surrounded himself with a cast of malevolently Machiavellian characters the likes of which American politics has seldom before experienced.
That George Bush is an incredibly weak and extremely incompetent individual in terms of his ability to lead a major nation like the United States in dealing with its own internal, domestic affairs is a given, by virtue of a simple examination of his track record. In terms of his ability to help conceive and formulate appropriate international and foreign policy for the nation, he has slightly less than the intellectual qualifications of the Three Stooges combined. That status quo has well suited the stronger carnivores in America’s elitist upper circle of corporate influence manipulators, such as Richard Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearle, Donald Rumsfeld, and all of the pro-Israeli plotters that have influenced the Bush Administration’s policies in their efforts to perpetuate Zionism, regardless of any and all consequences.
By failing to understand just exactly how incredibly complicated the entire Middle Eastern situation actually is, Bush bought the NeoCon ‘Democratic Middle East’ hypothesis without so much as a second thought, from all appearances. Failing to understand even the most basic facts about the ageless conflict between the Jews and the Muslims, and further supported in that misguided understanding by intellectually ignorant American Christian evangelicals who regard the Jews as their closest allies against Islam, Bush was allowed to set the entire Middle East afire with his impetuous urge to depose Saddam Hussein and install a democratic state in his absence. The raging, totally out-of-control and further disintegrating conflagration we are presently faced with would never have happened if Americans had paid even the slightest attention to wiser foreign policy analysts who understand that region. Moreover, the fact that Bush was allowed to push ahead with this unimaginably foolish plan (not just by the elected representatives of the people, but by the people themselves through ill-informed complacency) is proof that America has become such an egocentric and utterly self-obsessed nation (contrary to all the PR bullshit we are constantly bathed in, about how America is only trying to help make the world ‘safe for freedom, peace, and human rights’) that we are no longer capable of doing the right thing in any sphere of our broad and pervasive affairs.
At high risk of sounding like a broken record, repeating the same cracked tune over and over, philosopher George Santayana’s classic comment about the consequences of failing to learn from history once again falls on the collective neck of American judgment with all the merciless irreversibility of a sharply-honed guillotine blade.
At such moments, when confronted with yet another damning, yet highly authoritative indictment of Bush’s unfathomably stupid adventure in Iraq (as Collins’ INSS report has once again shown it to be), I quickly find a blind, raging haze of bright crimson fury welling up within me to think that I am a native citizen of this abysmally grotesque nation of naifs we call the USA. At such times I’d much rather be a citizen of Iceland, or Denmark, or ANY other nation where the entire purpose of life has not been engineered to solely consist of endless mass consumption of material things, the blind and selfish pursuit of obscene wealth, and cultivation of a near-deliberate disregard for intelligent awareness of what life’s nobler possibilities truly are.
Any calm and rational assessment of where we as a nation presently are, as a result of Bush’s madness in Iraq and his demonstrated ineptitude in wisely leading the nation, would quickly reveal that almost all of the present multiplicity of crises we face in America at this given moment are tied to the stunning inability of our nation to understand the more subtle aspects of contemporary world culture. In his book (THE AMERICAN CENTURY: The Rise and Decline of the United States as a World Power, by Donald W. White, 551 pp., New Haven, Yale University Press) author White references this inexplicably sudden loss of vision and enlightened understanding that has in past decades characterised America. Part of the contributing mass of factors responsible for our inability to take the larger view may of course be found in the steamroller that is commercial and corporate power in America, dedicated to eliminating or minimising any concerns other than those directly linked to commercial conversion of public resources into highly concentrated private wealth. This process is greatly facilitated by a parallel descent into a state of politically correct national silliness wherein strong, central truths and higher awarenesses fall equal victim to paralysingly trivial peripheral side-issues in our courts of law, that have absolutely no inherent relativity to concerns of greater consequence.
In a nation wherein ignorance is not just tolerated, but in some cases actually valued and defended, it has become relatively easy for powerful corporate entities to take advantage of that ‘lowest common denominator’ mentality that flourishes under such conditions and enslave the majority of the population in an endless process of consuming material goods that not only creates great wealth, but guarantees little chance of intelligent reflectivity on the part of these economically subjugated, low-IQ masses who are kept manically sucking at the teat of material superfluity.
Plunge these horrifically deleterious forces into a contextual political matrix wherein big money totally and absolutely controls access to political process (i.e. reference specifically the huge sums of money required to successfully campaign for pubic office) and you begin to understand how hollow and inconsequential ‘stick-men’ such as George W. Bush can be successfully exploited and manipulated by malevolent corporate players like Richard Cheney to carry out foreign policy schemes that anywhere else in the world might be looked upon with abject dismay or frank disbelief.
One of the numerous salient points Collins makes in his caustic analysis of the failed ‘Iraq War’ adventure is that as a direct consequence of our present actions, America’s military forces have been so far over-stretched by the past 5 years of costly warfare that the nation’s most basic ability to defend itself from a direct strategic military threat has been severely, perhaps critically compromised. With both Russia and China gaining enormous economic power, year by year, America has allowed itself to be brought to a state of near-complete exhaustion by a war that not only cannot be won, but that threatens to spiral continually downward into a broader series of chaotic socio-religious conflicts that have characterised the fragmented Arab nations of the Middle East since the early 1900s (but in truth for centuries). With American troops nearing total moral and physical depletion in a war that has now gone on for half a decade (with no resolvable end in sight), and with America’s war-fighting hardware inventory similarly depleted materially to an alarming degree, the nation has never faced a more uncertain economic future in a more gravely vulnerable state of ill-preparedness.
Along this same line, another point made by Collins in his report was that American military aircraft, many built over 20 years ago and intended only to fly a certain number of hours per year, have started to exceed their fatigue-specified life-spans at an alarming rate, requiring imminent replacement. With today’s first-line aircraft going for a cost of between $200 to $500 million dollars each, it doesn’t take advanced math to determine that we simply cannot afford to replace the present inventory of warplanes that are prematurely wearing out in the numbers necessary to assure adequate future North American air defense.
Meanwhile, Russia's armed forces are starting to grow substantially once again, thanks to the greatly increased production of oil from its vast Siberian reserves and the subsequent infusion of resulting revenues into its economy. China, a nation that will in the immediate future very likely eclipse the US as a major world power (thanks to its growing and increasingly modernised economic and industrial infrastructure) continues to build a modern and even more powerful military capability than ever. These shifts in world power are easily discernible by anyone with even the most modest ability to think logically. Anyone who thinks this shift in global power is NOT being monitored closely by a number of foreign powers around the world is clearly not very bright. While American continues to waste itself materially, militarily, and economically on an irresolvable conflict between the Jews and the Arabs (for that is still the most utterly basic issue underlying the Iraq War, make no mistake), both China and Russia look on with barely constrained glee like vultures waiting for the kill.
When one factors the deplorable state of US defense capability in with the attendant economic crisis associated with near-criminal, predatory American mortgage lending practices (the so-called ‘sub-prime’ market that has now brought our economy to near-failure), and adds the burden of the Bush Administration’s habitually deficit spending policies to its refusal to focus on pressing and unresolved major domestic issues (healthcare, retirement, social security, et al), one has all the ingredients for a total economic melt-down. None of this is astro physics, nor are these conclusions of the esoteric quantum physics variety, since anyone who cares to think for a few moments on the subject may draw these conclusions straightaway. In fact, for anyone in our nation's higher levels of strategic thought to be unmindful of the dire consequences implicit in our present state of affairs would suggest that the United States has already reached its apex of cultural ascendance and is on the downward slide towards historical oblivion. QED Rome, Imperial France, ancient China, and so many other socio-poltical powers that once held sway in the world. I suppose it's a jolly good thing that George Bush is not a violinist, since the parallel to Nero's pyroclastic Rome would be outright frightening!
One further aspect of our present state of national disintegration as a world power that has always interested me is the influence of the American pro-Israel lobby that we have seen exert such a powerful influence in getting the half-baked NeoCon ‘Middle East democracy plan firmly inserted into Bush Administration official foreign policy. It amazes me to think that the average American simply has no clue whatsoever about all the money and pressure being applied by these American-Jewish lobbying groups to force America into unwavering support of the state of Israel in its conflict with the Arab world, regardless of any larger consequences. More appalling yet is the fact that the moment any courageous and articulate public figure dares to point this fact out and make public comment upon it, the entire weight of politically correct American leftist sentiment comes crashing down on that individual to instantly dismiss him as an irrational Jew-hater or an emotionally imbalanced anti-Semite. As we all know, once anyone has uttered the words ‘Jew-hater’ or leveled the charge of ‘anti-Semite’ against someone openly voicing such opinions, all chance for a rational, intelligent dialogue has just been thrown out the rhetorical window with the same rapidity that small-minded people’s minds snap shut.
The fact is that ever since America failed to intervene on the matter of Germany’s persecution of the Jews by the Hitler regime in the late 30s and early 40s, our nation has borne the burden of a massively unrequited collective guilt complex over that shameful abnegation of our humanitarian duty to our fellow beings. The moral legacy of that failure has successfully paralysed any subsequent attempt to objectively point out the Israeli state as one of the most culpable co-dependents of present Arab contentiousness and in fact the basic nucleus of the entire Middle Eastern sectarian conflict we are presently dealing with. When you combine that unhappy fact with America’s long-lasting naïve reliance upon Israel to serve as its ‘honest intelligence’ eyes and ears (in return for military support) in a Middle East it does not understand (or take the trouble to understand), you have an unparalled opportunity for massive influence mongering on the part of the strong and very wealthy pro-Israel lobbyists that exist within the United States. The collateral outcome of such efforts to keep America firmly on Israel's side in the Palestinian conflict may be seen in the efforts of the NeoCon pro-Israel proponents (Wolfowitz, Pearle, etc., with their ‘Project for a New American Century' plan) within the Bush Administration’s highest level planning circles.
From my viewpoint, as someone who understands all too well how the Israel-Palestine question has figured (and will continue to figure) at the core of the Middle East’s continuing volatility, it is unfathomable that our nation could sell its ethical and moral integrity out so completely over our massive residual national guilt complex about America’s shameful disregard for the welfare of the Jews under Hitler. Aside and apart from that, it is also unfathomable to me that we Americans persist in refusing to become sufficiently knowledgeable about the peoples and cultures of the rest of the world with whom we must interact fairly and wisely, both economically and socially. The final insult to my own intelligence (and I sincerely hope to thousands of other Americans who are still able to THINK) is how the unsophisticated religious fundamentalism of so many God-fearing Christians has so firmly welded itself at the hip to American political process in a nation that was founded on the basic principle of distinct division between state and worship! "In God we trust"? No thank you--I'd rather have an athiest for a President than someone who trusts an omniscient invisible deity whispering in his ear (I'd be more likely to suspect clinically uncontrolled schizophrenia!).
But the problem doesn't center exclusively on the heads of state we appear to have unwisely elected. Even further beyond my understanding is how the people of our nation daily hand over total control of their lives to a small core of extremely powerful private corporate interests that have nothing more noble in mind than profiting obscenely from commercial exploitation (both domestic and global). Even allowing considerable leeway for the fact that the average American is deplorably stupid and ill-equipped to think about anything of greater importance than how to keep his hulking SUV’s gas tank filled, you’d still think that a few of them would get at least a glimmer of understanding about all these cause-and-effect related events after suffering the consequences of so much inept national policy for so long! But apparently not!
Yesterday, after reading the news releases and a summary of details from Mr. Collin’s report for the Institute for National Strategic Studies, I felt the slow burn I’ve been doing throughout these past years grow alarmingly into a red-tinged fog bordering on pure white-hot anger. It was about as close a feeling of sheer anarchic destructiveness as I can recall feeling in a long time. It truly must have been something approximating an urge to kill, to destroy, to obliterate something, for it was that kind of mindless anger that rises phoenix-like from the ashes of forlorn despair. The sort of feeling Mao Tsedung expressed when he spoke of first requiring a total tear-down of the entire ancient cultural heritage of China before the new cultural revolution could be built (in referencing this, I am merely being rhetorical, since we all now how disastrously simple-minded that policy was). But ever the peaceful person that I am, after a few minutes I felt all this deadly venom channeling safely away through the mature conduits of moderated constraint that have always characterised my life, despite my attenuated constitutional tolerance for blithering ignorance of any kind.
At any rate, today I resolved to do something about all that pent-up venom and poisonous despair in reference. As soon as I finish this up these remarks, I’m going down to the local hardware store to buy a 10 gallon container of ROUND-UP weed herbicide (remember, I'm a chemical warfare sort of guy). Then I’m going out into the back yard and viciously lay waste to several dozens of square feet of weeds that have, like the egregious foreign policy decisions of the Bush Administration in reference, been growing increasingly out of control in recent years. I expect to take great satisfaction in utterly and mercilessly destroying those annoying and unwelcome floral invaders of the family herb garden, despite all of my peace-loving tendencies. After all, I’m only human, aren’t I? And killing things out of raging, uncontrolled blind anger is such an endearingly human trait, don't you think?
PS: God bless Wall Street and a very happy 'Feast of the Passout' to all my Hebrew friends.
POSTSCRIPT (May 2011):
In 2006 Professor John Mersheimer (Dept. of Political Science, University of Chicago) and co-author Stephen Walt (JF Kennedy School of Goverfnment, Harvard University) wrote a truly masterful and exhaustively researched paper titled 'The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy'. While pertaining to the massive support for Israel that exists within the United States, it has a lasting relevance that any one concerned with the Middle East should be acquainted with. This 82 page paper may be found in PDF file format here: The Israel Lobby . As the long-lasting Israeli/Palestinian conflict continues, with no sign of real progress forthcoming, the conclusions and observations documented in this paper remain exceptionally illuminating and informative.