"A major consequence of globalisation has been to deprive democracy of all substance and hand over power to the financial markets." Jean-Marie Harribey in Le Monde
Since end 2002 I have written nine articles on the decline of the American century and its hegemony.
Donot click yet .Go to one of the articles at the end for facts and figures and back gound.
The next domino to fall will be credit card defaults, and after that... who knows? There are so many exotic funds out there, with trillions of dollars in paper - or rather computer-screen money - all carrying assorted acronyms, and all about to disintegrate into nothingness. Over the next couple of years, scores of banks that have thrived on these devices, based on quickly disappearing equities, will fail.
The most frightening forecast so far comes from the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB), "The end of the third quarter of 2008 (thus late September, a mere seven months from now) will be marked by a new tipping point in the unfolding of the global systemic crisis.
"At that time indeed, the cumulated impact of the various sequences of the crisis will reach its maximum strength and affect decisively the very heart of the systems concerned, on the front line of which (is) the United States, epi-centre of the current crisis.
"In the United States, this new tipping point will translate into - get this - a collapse of the real economy, (the) final socio-economic stage of the serial bursting of the housing and financial bubbles and of the pursuance of the U.S. dollar fall. The collapse of U.S. real economy means the virtual freeze of the American economic machinery: private and public bankruptcies in large numbers, companies and public services closing down."
"We are not experiencing a "remake" of the 1929 crisis nor a repetition of the 1970s oil crises or 1987 stock market crisis. What we will have, instead, is truly a global momentous threat - a true turning point affecting the entire planet and questioning the very foundations of the international system upon which the world was organized in the last decades." ---
|Corporate Culture and Greed Sink the American Republic |
|by K. Gajendra Singh May 19, 2009|
Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.
In 1981, when I went over to the Romanian TV in Bucharest, then under the Ceausescu regime, to record a broadcast on India's Independence day, the Director General, a powerful communist party apparatchik, looked at the line in my speech 'India is the biggest democracy ' and sheepishly demurred that China was also a democracy and held regular elections. Without further ado I removed the line. Yes, China still holds regular elections, so does USA, Iran, India and many other countries. USA elected a new President last November. There were elections to restore democracy in Pakistan last year. India has just concluded 2009 Lok Sabha elections in a massive electoral exercise. In fact the ritual of holding elections has become the only imprimatur of so called peoples consent to be ruled by the 'elected' but mostly an entrenched elite.
The word democracy derives from the Greek word and refers to rulers elected by the citizens from which the slaves were excluded in Plato's Republic. So much for the pristine model, the West so proudly harkens to. The evolution and development of the model by which people changed over from a king ruling by divine right, but mostly by force of arms, to peoples' consent is full of blood shed and chicanery. In essence it was generally agreed that the ruled would be provided security of life and property in return for paying for the upkeep of the ruler and the elite, and the armed forces to protect the masses from foreign invasions and police from thieves, robbers and other goons. The concept of the rule of law basically evolved in Europe and the West and is somewhat alien to other polities and cultures, although its has been adapted and so proclaimed.
Thus in actual practice the picture is quite different and many a times a distortion of the so called social contract between the ruler and the ruled ,with many ideas like 'no taxation without representation', equality before law and justice for all ,marginalized if not thrown to the winds.
Elections in USA
Let us take the elections by secret ballot in USA. It has been reduced to a year long TV theatre of the rich for the rich and by the rich in which the voters are mostly spectators. In the so called elections for the president under the existing electoral system, the candidate getting the most popular votes need not get to the White House (as happened with Al Gore in 2000), thus negating the principle of equal rights for all citizens. A complicated system of carrying of the states is resorted to. No attempt has been made to correct these basic flaws.
Bush vs Gore Elections of 2000
In this respect the counting of the votes and the final results of 2000 elections were a charade, because the votes of mostly Blacks and Hispanics were not counted under various pretexts in Florida whose governor Jeb Bush was candidate George Bush's brother. This electoral blot exposed the system's arbitrariness if not incompetence.
Al Gore had won the national popular vote and stood to gain the presidency if a full recount of legally cast votes in Florida was allowed, but five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court sided with George Bush and stopped the Florida recount, effectively handing Bush the presidency. Almost a year later, in November 2001, a group of eight large news organizations finished a study of the uncounted Florida ballots and discovered that under any standard used for the chads - dimpled, hanging or fully punched through - Gore would have won if all ballots considered legal under Florida law were counted
The ruling that stopped the Florida recount and handed the presidency to George Bush is disappearing down the US legal world's version of the memory hole, like in George Orwell's '1984'; government workers disposing off politically inconvenient records. The Supreme Court has not cited it once since it was decided, and when Justice Antonin Scalia, who loves to hold forth on court precedents, was asked about it at a forum in 2006, snapped, 'Come on, get over it.'
There is a legal argument for pushing Bush v. Gore ruling aside. The majority opinion announced that the ruling was 'limited to the present circumstances' and could not be cited as precedent. But many legal scholars insisted at the time that this assertion was itself dictum ' the part of a legal opinion that is nonbinding ' and illegitimate, because under the doctrine of stare decisis, courts cannot make rulings whose reasoning applies only to a single case.
The heart of Bush v. Gore's analysis was that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county. 'Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms,' the court declared, 'the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another.' If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted ' precisely the system that exists across the country right now.
The Supreme Court's highly partisan resolution of the 2000 election was a severe blow to American democracy, and to the court's own standing.
The 2004 Election was Stolen ' Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Writing in 'Rolling Stone ' on May 1, 2006 in a piece titled 'Was the 2004 Election Stolen?', Robert F. Kennedy Jr. asserted that Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted - enough to have put John Kerry in the White House. He added that 'despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad never received their ballots - or received them too late to vote - after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations. A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states, was discovered shredding Democratic registrations. In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes, malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots. Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment - roughly one for every 100 cast.'
Various rightwing groups among the whites and Republican ruled districts discourage the Black and Hispanic voters from registration and create obstacles at the time of the voting. There has been a litany of malpractices resorted to by political administrators specially of the Republican party in denying voting opportunities to those who vote by post .But the most glaring thing is that an extremely wealthy 'Democratic' nation has not even established a foolproof system of voting by machines to avoid vote rigging or manipulation. After every elections there are complaints and discrepancies galore, some of which have been enumerated above. In this respect US could lean from India, perhaps by constituting an Independent Election Authority to organize free and fair voting and counting of ballots.
Elections of the Rich for the Rich and by the Rich
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics more than $5.3 billion was spent in financing the US federal elections last November. The Center added that the presidential race alone would cost nearly $2.4 billion to win 'the most powerful job' in the world. That is for the side which funded him the best. It really amounts to the corporate houses bidding for the post of the next Resident of the White House, who then does their bidding. Don't hold your breath. The annual advertising budget for just one corporation, Coca-Cola, in 2006 was $2.6 billion. The same Wall Street Banksters who brought US economic and financial situation to this sorry pass contributed US$ 600 millions. So what do you expect. The same bunch of people are misadvising President Barack Obama who by all accounts are only preserving the interests of their former colleagues on the Wall Street and inside the government. It is like a revolving door with so called financial experts moving in and moving out from Wall Street to Washington administration and vice versa.
So naturally, George Bush during his eight year tenure at the bidding of his financiers gave tax breaks to the richest segment of the ruling elite. The result; the current crisis financial and oncoming social crisis which has been brewing as a result of the accumulation of 30 years of creeping ' under Bush II, accelerating ' income redistribution in favor of the rich. The wealthiest one per cent have increased their share of returns to wealth ' dividends, interest, rent and capital gains ' from 37 percent a decade ago to nearly 70 percent today. This is the highest proportion since records started, worse than the situation in the 1920s, which incidentally preceded the 1930s.
Campaign and Lobbying Contributions
The financial industry as a whole spent $5 billion on lobbying and campaign funding between 1998 and 2008, according to a report by two consumer groups. A 231-page report in March by Essential Information and the Consumer Education Foundation, details the lobbying and campaign spending by the financial industry and the legislation they got in return. Financiers after spending billions of dollars to help elect members of Congress pay insider lobbyists to remind politicians of the financial industry's interests every year.
An amendment, which would have given bankruptcy judges the ability to adjust or "cram down" mortgages to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, was not able to garner the 60 votes. After the vote, Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, the second highest ranking Democrat and author of the legislation, broke a taboo of the Senate with a charge of institution-wide corruption and said, "And the banks - hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created - are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." Some say that the Congress is fully owned and controlled by a tiny sliver of narrow, oligarchical, deeply corrupted interests that even Durbin's explicit admission will be largely ignored and would hardly cause a ripple.
Eminent journalist Bill Moyers wrote recently that when eight CEOs testified before Congress at the House Financial Services Committee almost its every member had received contributions from those banks last year. 'It is like paying the cop on the beat not to arrest you, right?' Last year, the securities and investment industry made $146 million in campaign contributions. Commercial banks, another $34 million. More than half of the 300 companies helped by the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) have dished out $114.2 million for politicking, with $77 million spent on lobbying last year and $37 million spent on federal campaign contributions for the 2008 election. Recipients of the $700 billion federal bailout package in the finance and auto sectors may view their contributions and lobbying as the smartest investments made in years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
So who cares for the American taxpayers? President Obama's Chief of Staff Geithner has hired as his deputy a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs. The new deputy secretary of state was, until last year, a CEO of Citigroup. Another CFO from Citigroup is now assistant to the president, and deputy national security advisor for International Economic Affairs. And one of his deputies also came from Citigroup. One new member of the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board comes from UBS, which is being investigated for helping rich clients evade taxes.
Neo-cons Straussian Republic
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, 19th cent German philosopher, inspired by Plato's Utopia akaRepublic in turn inspired the 20th Century political philosopher Leo Strauss, at whose feet sat the influential Neo-cons and Zeo-cons who chose George Bush as their instrument for implementing Staussian ideas. Leo Strauss was an admirer of the British Empire and of Winston Churchill as an example of the will-driven statesman. Both Tony Blair and George Bush admire Churchill too. Some of the Neo-cons who formulated the New American Century Project for US domination of the world believed they could create new 'reality' by force of arms and promoted invasion of Iraq against UN Charter and world opinion.
In Plato's Republic the citizens are divided into three classes; the common people, the soldiers and guardians. Only the last have political power and naturally the smallest in number (Three percent of US population!) First time the guardians can be elected by the legislators or voters, then it becomes hereditary. In USA the corporate chiefs, their ideologues in think tanks and universities and hangers on are the guardians. Without a draft now, soldiers or cannon fodder is now mostly composed of young men from poor and rural communities. The common people are the rest of US population, Hispanics, the Blacks and other poor folks and the rest of the world.
Neo Conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz ,Douglas Feith, Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, John Bolton, Eliot Abrahms (almost all Jews) and others were very influential in Bush administration and supported using American power, including military force, to bring 'democracy and human rights'(!) to other countries. Unlike traditional conservatives, neoconservatives are generally comfortable with a minimally-bureaucratic welfare and, while generally supportive of free markets, they are willing to interfere for overriding social purposes as they deem them.
The merger of corporate and government powers in modern America is plain and simple fascism, believes Gerald Celente, the founder of the Trends Research Institute and publisher of Trends Journal. Bush regime was a "corporate republic," bringing the methods and mentality of big business to public life; a coalition of lobbies, doing the bidding of clients in the oil, mining, military, pharmaceutical, agribusiness, insurance, and media industries; and a predator state, intent not on reducing government but rather on diverting public cash into private hands. In plain English, the Republican Party has been hijacked by political leaders who long since stopped caring if reality conformed to their message.
The real economy is not a free-market economy. It is a complex combination of private and public institutions, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, higher education, the housing finance system, and a vast federal research establishment. The real problems and challenges -- inequality, climate change, the infrastructure deficit, the subprime crisis, and the future of the dollar -- are problems that cannot be solved by incantations about the market. They will be solved only with planning, with standards and other policies that transcend and even transform markets.
Free Markets and the first US bail out!
USA never had a "free market", there was always government intervention in the economy, and indeed that intervention was welcomed by the captains of finance and industry. They had no quarrel with "big government" when it served their needs. It started way back, when the founding fathers met in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft the constitution. The first big bailout was the decision of the new government to redeem for full value the almost worthless bonds held by speculators. And this role of big government, supporting the interests of the business classes has continued all through the nation's history.
US Democracy 'an Oligopoly of 'New Economy'
US corporate media disseminates paeans of praise of US capitalism. Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers wrote in 'Counterpumch' last December that today's 'new economy' is based not on new technology and capital investment, as former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan trumpeted in the late 1990s, but on price inflation generating capital gains (mainly in land prices, as land is still the largest asset in the U.S. and other industrial economies). The economic surplus is absorbed by debt service payments (and higher priced health care), not investment in production or in sharing productivity gains with labor and professionals. Wages and living standards are stagnant for most people, as the economy tries to get rich by 'the miracle of compound interest,' while capital gains emanating from the financial sector provide a foundation for new credit to bid up asset prices, all the more in a seemingly perpetual motion credit-and-debt machine. But the effect has been for the richest 1 per cent of the population to increase its share of interest extraction, dividends and capital gains from 37 per cent ten years ago to 57 per cent five years ago, and nearly 70 per cent today as mentioned earlier.
Savings remain high, but only the wealthiest 10 per cent are saving ' and this money is being lent out to the bottom 90 per cent, so no net saving is occurring. The disparities have reached unacceptable level - 1% of Americans hold 21% of the wealth while 50% of the population holds only 13%. This is the highest proportion since records started, worse than the situation in the 1920s, which incidentally preceded the 1930s.
Americans' Capitalist Dream Turns into a Nightmare
In the last eight years alone, while vast fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000; consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions; meanwhile homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic levels.
Foundations of Plutocracy's Win over Democracy
In a piece titled 'Capitalism's Self-inflicted Apocalypse' Michael Parenti recently wrote 'The Constitution itself was fashioned by affluent gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to repeatedly warn of the baneful and dangerous leveling effects of democracy. The document they cobbled together was far from democratic, being shackled with checks, vetoes, and requirements for artificial super majorities, a system designed to blunt the impact of popular demands.
In the early days of the Republic the rich and well-born imposed property qualifications for voting and office holding. They opposed the direct election of candidates (note, their Electoral College is still there). And for decades they resisted extending the franchise to less favored groups such as property-less working men, immigrants, racial minorities, and women.
Today conservative forces continue to reject more equitable electoral features such as proportional representation, instant runoff, and publicly funded campaigns. They continue to create barriers to voting, be it through overly severe registration requirements, voter roll purges, inadequate polling accommodations, and electronic voting machines that consistently 'malfunction' to the benefit of the more conservative candidates.
At times ruling interests have suppressed radical publications and public protests, resorting to police raids, arrests, and jailings'applied most recently with full force against demonstrators in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the 2008 Republican National Convention.
The Decline and Fall of US Media
Media, one of the pillars in a democratic state to act as a watch dog against politicians' wrongdoings has been reduced to a corporate lapdog in USA. There are many valiant examples of courageous media outlets and journalists ,but over 90% of the print and audiovisual media in USA is controlled by five corporate entities , who naturally act as the mouthpieces of the corporate interests i.e. military-industry, energy, healthcare etc they represent.
US companies control, or influence most of the world's visual media, the principal source of information. The profits for a media giant income from media industries, film production, book publishing, music, TV channels and networks, retail stores, amusement parks is much more than magazines, newspapers and the like. Firms that do not have conglomerated media holdings simply cannot compete in this market.
United States constitutionally has the freest press in the world. But by any standard of democracy, such a concentration of media power is troubling, if not unacceptable.
Award winning journalist David Barstow revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended. But he got no notice from ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox -- the very companies that have simply suppressed the story from their viewers as their owners benefited from the War.
Greg Dyke, the then Director General of BBC, so popular in India, attacked American television reporting of Iraq war "For any news organization to act as a cheerleader for government is to undermine your credibility," he said. "They should be... balancing their coverage, not banging the drum for one side or the other." He added that research showed that of 840 experts interviewed on American news programmes during the invasion of Iraq, only four opposed the war. "If that were true in Britain, the BBC would have failed in its duty." However, BBC itself gave in its over all coverage a mere 2% time to opposition's anti-war voices. It was the worst of the leading broadcasters, including US networks, according to Media Tenor; a Bonn-based non-partisan media research organization. So much for the most hyped pristine western media outlet.
ABC of USA with 7% was the second-worst case of denying access to anti-war voices. (In India one TV channel prides in aligning with CNN) In a 4 July, 2003 comment in 'the Guardian' titled 'Biased Broadcasting Corporation', Justin Lewis, Professor of Journalism at Cardiff University confirmed the above result while refuting the anecdotal view that BBC was anti-war in its coverage. 'Just the opposite was the truth'.
In totalitarian societies, people take for granted that their governments lie to them, so people adjust accordingly. They learn to read between the lines. They rely on a flourishing underground 'telegraph'. At the peak of the cold war some Soviet journalists were taken around USA to watch TV programs, look at newspapers and listen to debates in the Congress. They were surprised that all were saying the same thing. "How do you do it?" the startled Russians asked their US hosts. "In our country, to achieve this, we throw people in prison; we tear out their fingernails. Here, there's none of that? What's your secret?"
In spite of the exposure of lies of US and UK leaders and the media before and after the invasion of Iraq or about Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Georgia or Russia, western media specially American still pimp out lies ordained by their corporate maters. George Orwell wrote: "Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks the whip. But the really well-trained dog is the one that turns somersaults when there is no whip." This is true of the US mainline media.
Public relations is the twin of advertising. In the last twenty years, the whole concept of PR has changed dramatically which has now become an enormous propaganda industry. It is estimated that pre-packaged PR now accounts for a large content of some major newspapers. The idea of "embedding" journalists with the US military during the invasion of Iraq came from public relations experts in the Pentagon, whose current strategic-planning literature describes journalism as part of psychological operations, or "psyops". The aim, says the Pentagon, is to achieve "information dominance" - which, in turn, is part of "full spectrum dominance" - the stated policy of the United States to control land, sea, space and information. And now cyber space too. They make no secret of their objectives.
Corporate Control of Education and Mind
Prof Henry Giroux of McMaster University in Canada, who was one of the most prescient and vocal critics of the corporate state and the systematic destruction of American education, was driven to the margins of academia and left the United States in 2004.
"The emergence of what Eisenhower had called the military-industrial-academic complex had secured a grip on higher education that may have exceeded even what he had anticipated and most feared," Giroux, who wrote ' The University in Chains' said. "Universities, in general, especially following the events of 9/11, were under assault by Christian nationalists, reactionary neoconservatives and market fundamentalists for allegedly representing the weak link in the war on terrorism. Right-wing students were encouraged to spy on the classes of progressive professors, the corporate grip on the university was tightening as made clear not only in the emergence of business models of governance, but also in the money being pumped into research and programs that blatantly favored corporate interests.' Corporate and Pentagon money was now funding research projects and increasingly knowledge was being militarized in the service of developing weapons of destruction, surveillance and death.
Frank Donoghue, the author of "The Last Professors ;The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities," details how liberal arts education has been dismantled. Any form of learning that is not strictly vocational has at best been marginalized and in many schools abolished. Students are steered away from asking the broad, disturbing questions that challenge the assumptions of the power elite or an economic system that serves the corporate state. This has led many bright graduates into the arms of corporate entities they do not examine morally or ethically. They accept the assumptions of corporate culture because they have never been taught to think.
Only 8 percent of U.S. college graduates now receive degrees in humanities about 110,000 students. Between 1970 and 2001, bachelor's degrees in English declined from 7.6 percent to 4 percent, as did degrees in foreign languages (2.4 percent to 1 percent), mathematics (3 percent to 1 percent), social science and history (18.4 percent to 10 percent). Bachelor's degrees in business, which promise the accumulation of wealth, have skyrocketed. Business majors since 1970-1971 have risen from 13.6 percent of the graduation population to 21.7 percent. Business has now replaced education, which has fallen from 21 percent to 8.2 percent, as the most popular major.
'In decaying societies, politics become theater. The elite, who have hollowed out the democratic system to serve the corporate state, rule through image and presentation. US universities, have become vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. Our press, which should promote such intellectual and moral questioning, confuses bread and circus with news and refuses to give a voice to critics who challenge not this bonus payment or that bailout but the pernicious superstructure of the corporate state itself. We kneel before a cult of the self, elaborately constructed by the architects of our consumer society, which dismisses compassion, sacrifice for the less fortunate, and honesty. The methods used to attain what we want, we are told by reality television programs, business schools and self-help gurus, are irrelevant. Success, always defined in terms of money and power, is its own justification. The capacity for manipulation is what is most highly prized. And our moral collapse is as terrifying, and as dangerous, as our economic collapse. '
Corporatism has crushed the capacity for moral choice resulting in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lack of compassion for the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed and the sick.
"The political and economic forces fuelling such crimes against humanity - whether they are unlawful wars, systemic torture, practiced indifference to chronic starvation and disease or genocidal acts - are always mediated by educational forces," Giroux said. "Resistance to such acts cannot take place without a degree of knowledge and self-reflection. We have to name these acts and transform moral outrage into concrete attempts to prevent such human violations from taking place in the first place."
The single most important quality needed to resist evil is moral autonomy. Moral autonomy, as Immanuel Kant wrote, is possible only through reflection, self-determination and the courage not to cooperate. But moral autonomy is what the corporate state, with all its attacks on liberal institutions and "leftist" professors, has really set out to destroy. The corporate state holds up as ideal what Adorno called "the manipulative character." The manipulative character has superb organizational skills and the inability to have authentic human experiences. He or she is an emotional cripple and driven by an overvalued realism. The manipulative character is a systems manager. He or she exclusively trained to sustain the corporate structure, which is why our elites are wasting mind-blowing amounts of our money on corporations like Goldman Sachs and AIG. "He makes a cult of action, activity, of so-called efficiency as such which reappears in the advertising image of the active person," Adorno wrote of this personality type. These manipulative characters are people like Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, AIG's Edward Liddy and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein ( incidentally almost all are Jews , underlining their hold over Wall Street and Washington), along with most of our ruling class, have used corporate money and power to determine the narrow parameters of the debate in the classrooms, on the airwaves and in the halls of Congress while they looted the country.
Omniscient and Over Powerful Military-Industrial Complex
While the "official" 2009 U.S. military budget is $516 billion, that figure bears little resemblance to what USA actually spends. ' If one pulls together all the various threads that make up the defense spending tapestry ' including Home Security, secret "black budget" items, military-related programs outside of the Defense Department, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and such outlays as veterans' benefits ' the figure is around $862 billion for the current fiscal year and even $1.1 trillion.
Even these figures are misleading, since it does not project future costs. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, when the economic and social costs of the Iraq War are finally added up ' including decades of treatment for veterans disabled by traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder ' the final bill could reach $3 to 5 trillion. How to control this monster?
Canceling Lockheed Martin's F-22 stealth fighter and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Virginia Class submarine, the V-22 Osprey, the Zumwalt Class destroyer, and Boeing and Raytheon's missile defense system, combined with some judicious reductions in other budget items, would save $55 billion annually, according to FPIF's Unified Security Budget. Against whom they are being built!
For starters, there are 185,000 corporations behind those metaphorical machine guns, and a few are formidable indeed: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Alliant Techsystems, United Technologies, Textron, Teledyne, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Texas Instruments, just to name a few.
The World Policy Institute found that dozens of high Bush administration officials were former arms company executives, consultants, or shareholders, and that this network of influence reaches deep into Congress. The combination of lobbying and PAC money that pours into election coffers every two years gives the arms industry enormous influence over the actions of the executive and legislative branches.
Wastage and Out of Control Defense Budgets
US Government auditors issued a scathing review last year of dozens of the Pentagon's biggest weapons systems, saying that ships, aircraft and satellites are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. The Government Accountability Office found that 95 major systems have exceeded their original budgets by a total of $295 billion, bringing their total cost to $1.6 trillion, and are delivered almost two years late on average. In addition, none of the systems that the GAO looked at had met all of the standards for best management practices during their development stages.
Auditors said the Defense Department showed few signs of improvement since the GAO began issuing its annual assessments of selected weapons systems six years ago. "It's not getting any better by any means," said Michael Sullivan, director of the GAO's acquisition and sourcing team. "It's taking longer and costing more."
US History'Basis of Manifest Destiny and Exceptionalism
Writing on 'Myths of American Exceptionalism ' in 'Boston Review ' on 11/24/06, eminent historian Prof .Howard Zinn said '--The notion of American exceptionalism ' that the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary'is not new. It started as early as 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when Governor John Winthrop uttered the words that centuries later would be quoted by Ronald Reagan. Winthrop called the Massachusetts Bay Colony a 'city upon a hill.' Reagan embellished a little, calling it a 'shining city on a hill.' The idea of a city on a hill is heartwarming. It suggests what George Bush has spoken of: that the United States is a beacon of liberty and democracy. People can look to us and learn from and emulate us.
In reality, we have never been just a city on a hill continues Prof Zinn. A few years after Governor Winthrop uttered his famous words, the people in the city on a hill moved out to massacre the Pequot Indians. Here's a description by William Bradford, an early settler, of Captain John Mason's attack on a Pequot village.
Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword, some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived that they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.
The kind of massacre described by Bradford occurs again and again as Americans march west to the Pacific and south to the Gulf of Mexico. (In fact the celebrated war of liberation, the American Revolution, was disastrous for the Indians. Colonists had been restrained from encroaching on the Indian territory by the British and the boundary set up in their Proclamation of 1763. American independence wiped out that boundary.)
Expanding into another territory, occupying that territory, and dealing harshly with people who resist occupation has been a persistent fact of American history from the first settlements to the present day. And this was often accompanied from very early on with a particular form of American exceptionalism: the idea that American expansion is divinely ordained.
Invoking God has been a habit for American presidents throughout the nation's history, but George Bush has made a specialty of it. For an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, the reporter talked with Palestinian leaders who had met with Bush. One of them reported that Bush told him, 'God told me to strike at al Qaeda. And I struck them. And then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did. And now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.' It's hard to know if the quote is authentic, especially because it is so literate. But it certainly is consistent with Bush's oft-expressed claims. A more credible story comes from a Bush supporter, Richard Lamb, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who says that during the election campaign Bush told him, 'I believe God wants me to be president. But if that doesn't happen, that's okay.'
Divine ordination is a very dangerous idea, especially when combined with military power (the United States has 10,000 nuclear weapons, with military bases in a hundred different countries and warships on every sea). With God's approval, you need no human standard of morality. Anyone today who claims the support of God might be embarrassed to recall that the Nazi storm troopers had inscribed on their belts, 'Gott mit uns' ('God with us').
One of the consequences of American exceptionalism is that the U.S. government considers itself exempt from legal and moral standards accepted by other nations in the world. There is a long list of such self-exemptions: the refusal to sign the Kyoto Treaty regulating the pollution of the environment, the refusal to strengthen the convention on biological weapons. The United States has failed to join the hundred-plus nations that have agreed to ban land mines, in spite of the appalling statistics about amputations performed on children mutilated by those mines. It refuses to ban the use of napalm and cluster bombs. It insists that it must not be subject, as are other countries, to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
Fortunately, there are people all over the world who believe that human beings everywhere deserve the same rights to life and liberty. On February 15, 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, more than ten million people in more than 60 countries around the world demonstrated against that war.
There is a growing refusal to accept U.S. domination and the idea of American exceptionalism. In 2006 when the State Department issued its annual report listing countries guilty of torture and other human-rights abuses, there were indignant responses from around the world commenting on the absence of the United States from that list. A Turkish newspaper said, 'There's not even mention of the incidents in Abu Ghraib prison, no mention of Guant'namo.' A newspaper in Sydney pointed out that the United States sends suspects'people who have not been tried or found guilty of anything'to prisons in Morocco, Egypt, Libya, and Uzbekistan, countries that the State Department itself says use torture.
Publishers of Black Commentator, Glen Ford and Peter Gamble stated in 2006 'The United States is arguably the only country on the planet whose national personality and self-image is rooted in centuries of unremitting expansion through race war punctuated by massacre. There have always been 'free-fire zones' all along the coveted, ever moving peripheries of white American power, from the 'Indian country' surrounding the settler beachheads of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown to the 'Sunni Triangle' of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. Whole peoples ' millions ' have been erased in the glorious march of American Manifest Destiny.
'The English settler colonies in North America were different ' unique. Masses of armed migrants came to steal, and stay, and keep stealing. Theirs was an enterprise of aggrandizement at the native's expense, and unlimited expansion. Less than a century and a half after the massacre and near-erasure of the Pequots ' in celebration of which the Governor of Massachusetts proclaimed the first day of Pilgrim Thanksgiving ' the white colonists decided that they were a distinct people, no longer Europeans.
'They were right. American colonial society was shaped by constant depredations against non-whites, close up and brutal. By 1776, one out of five non-Indian residents of the colonies were Black slaves, the control and dehumanization of which had become a daily collective duty of much of the white population. Across the Alleghenies lay unconquered Indian lands that, once cleansed, could usher into being a white empire that would dwarf Europe. The English King and his treaties with the Indians stood in the way; he had to go.
'The 'American' mission was clear, manifest: to endlessly expand through the elimination of impediments posed by the External Other ('savage' Indians), while keeping white society safe and separate from the 'debauchery' of the valuable, Internal Other (Black slaves). This is the foundation on which the American iconography and celebration is based. Lacking any other, it is the template of white American identity and purported 'civilization.'
From Outright Theft to Glorious Empire
By the turn of the 20th Century, the Red Indians were dead or subjugated and African Americans forced into the long nightmare of Jim Crow. Teddy Roosevelt called Blacks "a perfectly stupid race." "During the past three centuries," Roosevelt opined, "the spread of English-speaking people over the world's waste spaces" (meaning spaces not occupied by "progressive" capitalist-developmental Caucasians) was a great and welcome "feat of power," for which the "English-speaking race" could justly feel proud.
Paul Street described Roosevelt's 'massive, four-volume 1899 study Winning of the West' as 'a white-supremacist paean to Anglo-America's near-eradication of North America's original civilizations.' (Do not forget that segregation existed in USA till mid 1960s and racial antagonism is just about simmering underneath , ready to explode)
Roosevelt became a 'hero' in the Spanish-American War of 1898, a pushover conflict in which a decrepit Spain was ejected from Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The U.S. was now a full-fledged imperial power with tens of millions of 'natives' under its boot ' and proud of it. American Manifest Destiny had gone truly global, as white as ever.
But the Filipinos, who had surrounded and almost run out the Spanish before the Americans arrived, insisted on claiming their independence. The U.S. embarked on a scorched earth and bodies strategy ' as usual. Mark Twain, an anti-war activist, wrote of how 30,000 U.S. troops caused the deaths of a half-million Filipinos. One episode of many in the imperial butchery occurred in 1906 when a whole village sought refuge from the invaders in a dormant volcanic crater on the southern island of Jolo. Sixteen-hundred were massacred by American artillery, rifles and machine guns.
The same tactics have been used in the illegal invasion and brutal occupation of Iraq in which over a million Iraqis have been killed , a million women made widows with five million orphans and over 4 million refugees created , apart from the destruction of the whole country .The massacres at Fallujah Haditha, Balad, Ramadi, and Makr al-Deeb and other places and torture of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib,Guantanamo, Bagram and other gulags are throwback to US history and a proof of its manifest destiny .
How an unshaven drugged President Saddam Hussein was shown on Western TV channels like an animal in a zoo and how the occupying power permitted a Kangaroo Court for his trial and lynching . US leaders and its corporate media had the temerity and obscenity of calling the invasion against UN Charter and occupation ' Operation Iraqi Freedom' .Currently US led West is engaged in 'Operation Enduring Freedom ' in Afghanistan , after having destroyed the country and creating the monster of terrorism from which India and others suffer and will continue to.
The US view of the others as inferior races has never changed. How John Foster Dulles described non-alignment immoral as if joining the US military alliances for rape, murder and looting was moral . How President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger called Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi names after her meeting in the Oval office in 1971, when Washington was supporting its ally Islamabad in the massacre of Bangladeshis struggling for their democratic rights after the real first free elections in Pakistan.
The era of Western military -.capitalist hegemony in history is coming to an end. The first siege of Vienna by Muslim Ottoman Turks in 16th century, its maximum over reach and cause for celebrations in Istanbul, did not herald the fall of Eastern (Eurasian) dominance over the West, the second siege did. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was taken as the triumph of Western arms and 'capitalist civilization'. It was not. It was a sign of coming decline. While the Wall fell, metaphorically, an economic Wall has been raised by Western corporate mafia, which has brought poverty and misery to hundreds of millions in former Communist and Socialist states (except China which had in 1978 adopted the capitalist mode of production in its massive captive free trade Zones along the eastern southern coast , on whose stability and viability the jury is still out ).The so called globalization and capitalism ushered under shock therapy was the greatest charade and con trick of all times .The fall of economic activity and unemployment caused an additional death of a million in Russia alone. Western advisers and their cronies in Russia transferred from $400 billion to a trillion of Russian wealth to the West and created scores of instantaneous Russian billionaires by transferring peoples wealth into private accounts as natural allies of Western Capitalism. Out of seven richest oligarchs, six happen to be Jews, whose influence in US financial, economic, academic and media sectors is overwhelming as outline above.
The new era is taking shape and is in the process of incubation.
K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author.