JANUARY 28, 2010
"Patriotism" "Machoism," and Profit: Obama the War President
by Myriam Miedzian
In 2009, an Afghan-American defense contractor, Hamed Wardak, hired Patton Boggs, a blue chip lobbying firm to push for an extended U.S. presence in Afghanistan. The lobbying firm in turn set up a nonprofit front group – the Campaign for a U.S. Afghanistan Partnership – on Wardak's behalf to act as the "face" of a campaign for increased U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.
Here we go again! In late 2002, The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) was set up by Bruce Jackson, a former Lockheed Martin vice president. And we all know what happened in March 2003.
The role that weapons manufacturers and others who stand to profit from wars play in fostering unnecessary wars – by fomenting war scares, libeling those who are anti-war as unpatriotic, bribing government officials both illegally and legally via campaign contributions, influencing much of the media etc. – has been widely documented and reported by H.C. Englebrecht, author of the aptly titled Merchants of Death, Norman Cousins, author of The Pathology of Power, and many others.
Our long standing tradition of viewing support for war as patriotic and opposition as unpatriotic plays right into the hands of the people who stand to make money from those wars, and leads much of the media to applaud wars, however unnecessary, and to condemn those who are against them. Back in the 19th century, Republican Abraham Lincoln was vilified as a "moral traitor" in the Illinois press because of his opposition to the Mexican-American war.
The other ingredient in the pro-war mix is captured in a recent New York Times article entitled: "The Label Factor:
Is Obama a Wimp or Warrior?" Helen Cooper writes,"Like every Democratic president since John F. Kennedy, President Obama is battling the perception that he's a wimp on national security." In what appears to be an escalation in macho criteria, his sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, stepping up drone strikes in Pakistan, and other belligerent measures, are still not enough to establish Obama's macho credentials. He must also learn to talk really tough – as in stating that we are at war with terrorists – and he must get rapid results for whatever non-combative steps he takes with Iran, Russia, North Korea, or any other nation that we have conflicts with.
As Cooper points out, the concern about Obama's toughness is not limited to Republicans. For example, Foreign Policy magazine recently had a cover of Mr. Obama next to that "notorious wimp" Jimmy Carter with an equal sign in the middle.
Even though he is Commander in Chief, for a president to not follow the orders of his generals, to resist military action when they call for it, to fail to allocate the funds they request, is probably the most politically high risk action he can take, for it leads to accusations of being unmanly, wimpy, weak on defense and endangering our national security. The implied lack of patriotism is intensified in President Obama's case since 58% of Republicans and 33% of all Americans either believe that he is not a U.S. citizen, or have serious doubts.
And so, unlike President Kennedy who took the risk of not following the numerous military officials and cabinet members who pressed for an air assault on Soviet missile sites in Cuba – which may well have led to a nuclear holocaust. President Obama, has chosen to follow military advice on Afghanistan.
By doing so, he, plays right into the hands of Osama Bin Laden who sees the presence of American military forces in Muslim countries as bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy without achieving any positive results. According to his "peacenik" son Omar, Bin Laden was thrilled when George W. Bush became president. Nothing like a highly belligerent president to humiliate and enrage Muslims by sending Christians, Jews, and women to fight and kill Muslims on their own soil. As Bin Laden fully expected, thanks to Dubya, Al Qaeda "franchises" have sprung up in numerous countries on several continents.
The truth is that we are not at war. We are trying to prevent mostly young male terrorists – who live in countries which include Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, France, England, Holland, Canada, the U.S. – from blowing us up or gassing us. There is no end in sight as long as macho talk, posturing, and action continue to win over thoughtful, informed long range defense planning.
The combination of mindless "patriotism" and "machoism" goaded on by financial interests, comes at a very high human cost. In his book about the men who ran the Vietnam war, David Halberstam informs us that "the thing Johnson feared the most was... that his manhood was inadequate." When a member of his administration started to "go soft"on the war, Johnson dismissed him with , "hell he has to squat to piss." Result of Johnson's need to prove himself macho: approximately 60,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese killed.
Dubya with his "manly" swagger, tough talk, and extreme lack of empathy, was the very embodiment of mindless macho – at least when it came to risking the lives of others. Result of this tough guy presidency: so far approximately 5,300 Americans and according to the very lowest estimates,100,000 Iraqis have been killed. Approximately two million Iraqis have fled the country.
The macho-patriotism intimidation factor allows the Pentagon to enjoy enormous and largely unquestioned budgets. The revolving door between the military and weapons manufacturers facilitates pushing war in order to make big bucks. Unlike questioning government expenditures on health, education, infrastructure, the president and members of congress, as well as the mainstream media, know that seriously questioning the Pentagon budget is tabu.
In 2008, an internal audit revealed that Pentagon expenditures included close to $15 billion in Iraq war goods and services that were unaccounted for. Many members of congress expressed their intense shock and dismay, but this did not stop them for going on to vote for increases in military spending. In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called for a three year freeze on many domestic programs. At the same time he has asked congress for an extra $33 billion for the Pentagon, to add to the $708 billion budget already approved for next year. Not to worry; he'll get it.
Myriam Miedzian is Author of He Walked Through Walls: A Twentieth-Century Tale of Survival