Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Aristocracy of Pull

Jane Smiley at HuffPo


In light of the Walter Reed scandal and the other evidence that American soldiers serving in Iraq are getting less that adequate (let's call it "indifferent" care), it's revealing to return to September 10, 2001, and a speech given by Donald Rumsfeld to Pentagon outsourcers at the Pentagon. Quoted in Jeremy Scahlll's new book, Blackwater, it is more than interesting, it is damning:

"The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, to the security of the United States of America. This adversary is one of the world's last bastions of central planning. It governs by dictating five-year plans. From a single capital, it attempts to impose demands across time zones, continents, oceans, and beyond. With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defense of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk. Perhaps this adversary sounds like the former Soviet Union... [but] this adversary is closer to home. It's the Pentagon bureaucracy."

What is this but a declaration of war on the Pentagon? Rumsfeld might now say that he was using metaphor and hyperbole for effect, but as all us post-Freudians know, there are no slips of the tongue. What you say is what you mean. What Rumsfeld meant was that he was going to hobble and cripple the Pentagon in their planning and their long term thinking. He was going to make sure that one time zone didn't know or care what the other time zone was doing, that there would be no central organization, and no sense of the common good--either of the armed forces or of the nation. The armed forces were going to be run for fun and profit. All experts were going to be undermined and all hucksters promoted.

Given the fact that in 2001, we know Rumsfeld and Cheney were planning war with Iraq and just looking for an excuse (which they got and recognized the very next day), we have to suppose that what we have seen happen to the army in the last six years--its breakdown from a well-trained, well-equipped, well-educated superior volunteer force that the Pentagon was proud of to a struggling mess, where injured soldiers are redeployed (see Salon, Sunday) because of staffing shortages, where injured soldiers get poor care or no care (see the New York Times, Sunday and Minday), where female soldiers are at risk of rape from not only their fellow soldiers, but their commanding officers (also in Salon), and where recruits are increasingly actual convicted criminals--we have to accept that when Rumsfeld declared war on the army, he was not kidding, and he carried out his plan, and that, indeed, his success in destroying the army was the very reason Cheney called him a great Secretary of Defense.

Scahill goes into the reasons he sees for Rumsfeld's war against the army--mercenary soldiers are in your future (though Scahill doesn't answer the question of healthcare and benefits for these soldiers. No doubt, as with most outsourcing, a mercenary will find himself up shit creek when he gets a serious head injury). You can read Scahill's book, and you should--I am. What interests me here is not the goal but the philosophy. In Rumsfeld's audience that day were lots of war industry representatives who were drooling at the chance of taking over military functions and charging us, the US taxpayers, for them at a very high rate--higher than the Pentagon was charging us. The plan was that we would have a smaller, more flexible, but more expensive army, through which Rumsfeld, Cheney, and their cronies could make millions. That was to be the new army's first and primary goal--scamming the taxpayer, and Rumsfeld was going to do that under the banner of the free market, by equating his very own generals and soldiers to Communists! The gall of these people does serve as a continual spur to outrage!

When you and your relatives are fighting about who is a patriot and who isn't (you--yes, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Rice--not), you can ask them if the loyalties of our ruling class can be shown to be to us, regular US citizens, or to some other group, such as themselves--wealthy citizens and investors of all nations. After 9/11, our government gathered up the Bin Ladens and other Arab investors and sent them out of harm's way. Yesterday, Halliburton declared that it is moving its headquarters to Dubai. No prominent Republican that I know of has shipped his children off to the Iraq War. Jonah Goldberg didn't bother to sign up. Neither did Ann Coulter. Most importantly, Bush took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and he has subverted it at every turn. The Constitution represents the will of the people. It, in fact, represents the people and is their document. But this is nothing new for the corporate class. They are used to aggrandizing themselves at the expense of the nation. When Goldman Sachs demanded tax breaks from the City of New York as the price of keeping their offices there, and then turned around and handed out princely bonuses at the end of 2006, it was no surprise--corporations have no loyalties--not to their workers, not to their customers, not to their nations. And don't get me started on their perennial resistance to product safety. Every time a corporation witholds taxes owed or keeps them offshore, they are acting in an unpatriotic manner, and yet they are the first to scream when dissenters raise legitimate questions about, for example, using the American army as a band of mercenaries to conquer oil lands in the Middle East.

Money, as we know, doesn't care who owns it. No one should be surprised that a corporate hacks like Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush have been utterly indifferent to the army and the soldiers, and have, in fact, treated them as expendable cogs in the war machine. Some day, with luck, Rumsfelld will be tried. Will his defense be "I've always been a jackass", as Libby's defense was "Gosh, what an idiot I am, I can't keep track of a thing"? Yes, Rumsfeld is and has always been a jackass. But he broke the army and the defense of this country as a matter of malignant policy. His words show his intentions and the pictures and articles we see all around us show the results.

There are new pictures and observations (mostly about food) at my website

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