“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21. The United States, the most Christian nation on earth, has placed its treasure in destruction and death. As Associated Press’ Dan Morgan reports ( June 12 2004 , Tallahassee Democrat), the Pentagon “plans to spend well over $1 trillion in the next decade on an arsenal of futuristic planes, ships and weapons with little direct connection to the Iraq war or the global war on terrorism.”
The 2005 defense budget – the word “defense” has become a joke in the post Cold War world – will reach $500 billion (counting the CIA), $50 billion higher than 2004. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next ten years, the armada of aircraft, ships and killer toys will cost upwards of $770 billion more than Bush’s estimate for long-term defense.
Morgan reports that Bush wants “$68 billion for research and development –20 percent above the peak levels of President Reagan’s historic defense buildup. Tens of billions more out of a proposed $76 billion hardware account will go for big-ticket weapons systems to combat some as-yet-unknown adversary comparable to the former Soviet Union.”
The mantra heard in Congress, “we can’t show weakness in the face of terrorism,” fails to take into account the fact that when the 9/11 hijackers struck, the US military–the strongest in the world–failed to prevent the attacks. So, logically one would ask, how does a futuristic jet fighter defend against contemporary enemies, like jihadists who would smuggle explosives into a train station or crowded shopping mall?
Rather than face the nasty facts of cancerous corruption, which translates immediately as war profiteering in Iraq , the political class accepts defense uber alles as an axiom. Congress accepts this dubious assumption and then squanders the taxpayers’ money and America ‘s heart on useless weapons of mass destruction.
Congress, following the President’slead, hardens the American heart by making weapons a priority over housing, health, education and jobs. The budget they pass each year awards billions to the swindlercorporations that produce the lethal instruments: General Dynamics, Lockheed and the other household names of mass weapons production. Think of the fortunes by the schnorrers who sold SDI to the late President Reagan! Or how Reagan took money from the hungry and homeless – “it’s their choice,” said Reagan – and handed it to the fakirs who pretended that could stop incoming missiles.
The Bush presidency has taken military spending (wasting) to new heights (depths). More frightening, a military culture has emerged that includes military language in everyday speech – yes sir. The military that carried low social prestige until World War II has become a highly respected institution. Its recruiters have become as ubiquitous on high school and college campuses as ivy on the walls. At graduation ceremonies, some high school administrators don military garb alongside those with traditional black robes. But, wait a minute! In a republic, a professional military merits minimal status. Indeed, republics need citizens’ militias, not standing armies at a time when a foreign state poses no immediate threat to US security.
Indeed, Vice President Dick Cheney, a warmonger, liar and draft dodger — “I had better things to do” than serve in Vietnam — represents the new heart of the nation. Without disclosing his evidence, he continues to insist that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda and keeps secret his minutes – executive privilege — with the dishonest Enron officials, one of whom laughs about overcharging “those poor grandmothers” in California. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who will use such evidence on tape to prosecute Enron officials for rigging energy prices to bilk Californians, claims “this is further evidence of the arrogance that was so fundamental to the business practices of Enron and the other energy pirates who acted so rapaciously” (Business Report, 6/06/04).
For Cheney, rapaciousness is as American as apple pie. Indeed, Cheney belongs in Ripley’s Believe It or Not: he may be the first man who suffered several heart attacks and does not possess a heart. Cheney stands as an allegorical reference to the nation’s morality in the early 21st Century.
Vice President Cheney, although he denies this, has looked out for the interests of his former company. As CEO of Halliburton, from 1995-2000, Cheney made his and the company’s fortune in the national security-energy arena, that shady area that has removed itself from accountability. Indeed, Congress does not have clear oversight over hundreds of billions of military dollars. $10 billion gets allocated simply for “missile defense.” Behind such an authorization, the military demands: “trust us.” The Founding Fathers would have scoffed at anyone uttering these two words – especially in reference to money.
With the sounds of scandals of tens of billions of dollars still reverberating in the public’s ear, why would Congress cede its accountability function to the Pentagon? The military apparatus, a killing machine, stands for heartlessness by its very nature. And the Bush Administration and its military spokespeople have even given prevaricating a bad name. From the President down to key cabinet members, the Bushies link dissembling with heartlessness as if they were the proverbial horse and carriage. Under Bush, lying has grown deep institutional roots as well.
On April 29, the State Department released a report on the “Patterns of Global Terrorism.” In it, Department researchers put forth the claim that in 2003 terrorist attacks had fallen to only 190, their lowest since 1969. In fact, as anyone who could count knew, the number of attacks had risen dramatically.
“It’s a very big mistake,” acknowledged Secretary of State Colin Powell on June 13 to ABC’sThis Week. “And we are not happy about this big mistake.” Powell predictably denied that political motives lay behind this rosy report, which could have served to support Bush’s claim that he was winning the “war on terrorism.” “Nobody was out to cook the books,” Powell said.
But Powell had spewed a series of lies to the UN Security Council. On February 5, 2003 he presented a power point lecture of lies about the location of Iraqi WMDs, claiming incontrovertible evidence for every fib he uttered.
The military demands of the Iraq and Afghan Wars have obscured the crying needs of this age. The arch Christian, George W. Bush, directs Congress to waste the nation’s treasury on destruction and death, while extolling the “value of human life” in his campaigns to prevent stem cell research and abortion. He offers little to nothing to alleviate starvation, homelessness and disease and he ignores or exacerbates the deterioration of the environment. How will the meek inherit the earth if they starve to death, die of exposure, bomb shrapnel or environmental toxicity? Or does Bush think inheriting the earth means getting buried six feet under it?
Bush’s world means publicity for a macho man image, like landing a military jet on an aircraft carrier as he did in May 2003, when he grabbed his dress-up-as-pilot photo-op on the USS Abraham Lincoln. It means that he possesses an inherent right to imprison, torture or kill anyone he chooses, while selectively enforcing international law. He angrily explained that he had to use force against Iraq to implement UN Security Council resolutions, avoids even linguistic coercion to pressure Israel to abide by many UN resolutions relating to actions toward Palestinians and flaunts the Geneva Convention relating to anywhere the United States is involved.Bush presents himself in public as a decisive man, but one who does not read and reflect. He claims he is humble before God, but struts arrogantly before other men and women and has asserted unprecedented power — in the name of Jesus.
Bush represents American empire, an era where military spending accelerates and social spending declines, where the President and the Attorney General assert the “might makes right” formula to circumvent basic liberties regarding “enemy combatants”–including US citizens – and international agreements. The first three words of the Golden Rule dictate Bush and Ashcroft’s policies: Do Unto Others. A good percentage of the public here and abroad, however, have begun to grow increasingly concerned about what others will now do to us. In Saudi Arabia , an American engineer has apparently been kidnapped in retaliation for the US treatment of Arab prisoners at Iraq ‘s Abu Ghraib prison.
Such events may well color the voting public’s heart; it may decide it does not want to continue following Bush’s military treasure.
Saul Landau’s new book is The Business of America: How Consumers Have Replaced Citizens and How We Can Reverse the Trend. His new film is Syria : Between Iraq and a Hard Place,distributed by Cinema Guild (800-723-5522).