It’s not easy to establish a clear line in history between the time when American democracy belonged to citizens and when it was lost, but wars give us starting point.
The first wars were fought over ideas. There was the Revolutionary War in the 18th century and then in the 19th century, the Civil War ‘preserved the union’ and ended slavery.
In the 20th century came the wars for national imperialism. First, Teddy Roosevelt’s wars in the Philippines and Cuba, then WWII which more or less accidentally resulted in imperial expansion.
After 1945, the U.S. was very good at waging war but no longer so good at winning, so we kept practicing. Wars waged against Korea and Vietnam failed to accomplish anything but massive destruction on somebody else’s land, ratchet up the hate index for the U.S., and give the Pentagon an excuse to exercise its military muscles and escalate its budget.
Increasingly, especially since the implosion of the U.S.S.R. in 1989, the U.S. military has been used as a tool to interfere in the politics of smaller and weaker nations, to intimidate and harass, to make the world safe for corporations, which is also known euphemistically as ‘making the world safe for democracy’ and ‘protecting American interests.’
The U.S. has been the only and unchallenged superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Relieved of the need to protect the world from ‘the communist threat’, citizens expected the defense budget, larger for many decades than the military budgets of the rest of the world combined, to finally yield to common sense. Americans anticipated a peace dividend in spending that reflected the irrelevance of the military sink hole and left room to support the economy, education, and social programs.
It didn’t happen. New arguments were created, like the wars in the Middle East, or exploited, like 911 or the earthquake in Haiti, to keep the bloated military budget growing.
First responders, U.S. style, are not the Red Cross and not the Salvation Army, but U.S. soldiers armed to the teeth patrolling the streets of a devastated city, supposedly protecting the dead, dying and starving, but transparently marking territory, protecting the regime from imaginary encroachment by other countries.
One of many riveting scenes during the past few weeks was the black faces and skeletal bodies pressed against the airport fence in Haiti awaiting distribution of the tons of food and water piling up on the tarmac. Face to face with the desperate, on the inside of the fence, was not USAID, not the State Department, and not FEMA, but the U.S. military, locked and loaded, ready to do whatever necessary to keep the provisions safely away from those in urgent need.
The grounds of Haiti’s presidential residence, located directly across the street from a hospital, eventually filled with marines and U.S. helicopters carrying medical supplies that waited indefinitely for distribution as people died and the marines in charge hung out until they had approval from higher-ups.
As reports from the rest of the world trickled in through the BBC and Al Jazeeraz, we learned of the complaints generated in country after country by the high handed arrogance of the U.S. military controllers of Haiti’s one-runway airport who seemed intent on refusing entry to any plane that did not display the insignia of the U.S.A. Eventually, according to one report, the airport was turned into a military base and all non-U.S. flights were rerouted to the Dominican Republic.
We heard the international community voice the fear that the U.S. military was once again using aid as a pretext to extend American imperialism. Sri Lanka’s insistence, after the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004, on prohibiting entry to the U.S. military began to seem quite rational, even to Americans.
Does any of this sound like it could be President Barack Obama’s doing? He is the calm, reasoned, constitutionally designated commander in chief of the military, but is he in control of it? Or has the military, like its budget, been allowed to run amok?
Military spending, including discretionary and nondiscretionary is now closing in on 50% of every tax dollar the federal government spends. Nevertheless, it’s the financing for America’s social fabric, education, social security, Medicare and aid to the poor, that is scheduled for reductions. The massive, irrational, tax subsidies for the military and defense contractors make most of us unwilling collaborators in the coming reckoning. (For more dismal information about the U.S. military and the weapons industry go to www.globalissues.org.)
Today, the U.S. military brazenly supports the corporate agenda, from the oil wars in the Middle East to the juntas in Central and South America that regularly replace democratically elected presidents with puppets that international elites, including the U.S. corporate sector, find less likely to support challenges to plutocracy and fascism.
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court, demonstrating once again that it is no tool of democracy, handed corporations unlimited control of election advertising in the warped pretense that money equals free speech and that corporations are people. The case the Court was deciding, whether an ad about Hillary Clinton was prohibited corporate interference in an election, was not directly related to its ruling. Dispensing with precedent on corporate funding of elections was apparently something that the right wing of the Supreme Court just had to get off its chest.
So now, instead of the U.S. Congress being an occasionally unreliable agent of international corporations, it is on track to become a wholly owned subsidiary.
With complete control of Congress comes complete control of the U.S. military, all its appropriations and all its weapons industries. Today, the sale of armaments internationally is done promiscuously; it is a mere profit center to bolster CEO salaries and shareholder return.
Arms sales are often made to small or developing countries that could never afford the stratospheric expense if not for U.S. foreign aid dedicated to that purpose.
So, when China reacts with unshirted fury to weapons sales to Taiwan, as it did last week, some might wonder who to blame–the U.S. government or the profit motive of Boeing, Lockheed or Microsoft (yes, Microsoft).
Thanks to the Supreme Court, it shouldn’t be too long before that blurry, officially unacknowledged symbiosis between government decision and corporate action resolves into sharp clarity. China can then confront the less than neighborly behavior of a corporation and it will indeed be the same as taking on the U.S. government, no questions asked.
Just as NAFTA, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been extensions of America, Inc., the new and regulation-free power of corporations to buy elections may create a U.S. military that is another nifty new international profit center for big business.
Multinational corporations are free floating, rootless, entities and will soon be the new sheriffs in town, with a guaranteed, ever expanding, tax payer financed military strong arm.
Local protesters? Use Homeland Security to finish creating a police state and disappear them.
That pesky open internet? Get rid of it.
Monsanto’s Round-Up resistant super weeds strangling the food supply?
Drug pusher GlaxoSmithKline hawking another deadly concoction for another made-up disease?
Resistance in the Middle East to Exxon’s coveted oil pipeline through Afghanistan?
Privatize social security?
With control of Congress, corporations will have the money- their own and ours – and the military manpower to handle any challenge. They will also have the CIA, education, social security, Medicare and the rest of America’s institutions in their hands: All the goals of globalization, thanks to the Supreme’s gift, on an expedited timeline.