Monday, April 15, 2013

PAYING FOR WAR

When I wrote Are we courageous enough to face the why? I was responding to how we categorize those who take actions we find unfathomable as “crazy,” their actions as “senseless.” In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy I have read, and responded to article after article that simplify the larger issue of violence in our society (and the world) to a singular conflict over “gun control.” Each side of the conflict seems quite content to call out the opposition as “extremist,” “out of touch,” etc. Despite the enormous amount of attention dedicated to the issue, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen the weapons industry and gun manufacturers referenced in connection to the NRA and other gun advocacy groups. Instead the emphasis has been on the outrageous “polarizing” comments of individuals, and the “fringe” interests they represent. The rhetoric on both sides seems to have so many common terms it’s becoming progressively unclear to me just who owns this conflict narrative. There are, however, several things that do seem clear to me. Presenting the narrative as a conflict ultimately serves to reinforce the perception that gun owners are under attack, and strengthens any defensive argument the gun lobby makes. The righteous indignation that follows serves as validation of what I believe is essentially a coldly calculated business decision. Seen from this perspective the “extremism” is actually quite sensible: the more guns on the streets - the more violence we see - the greater our fear - the more weapons are sold. Any regulation of guns amounts to a restriction of gun sales, and less guns sold means less weapons industry profit. I am not implying that this business decision is an ethical one, but it is a rational one, and our insistence on categorizing it as extreme, crazy, senseless is only providing cover for an industry acting in its own best interest.


The other conflict dominating the news? Proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts to stem the deficit “crisis.” Similarly here, “extreme” positions mask the underlying dynamics. I do hear some talk about the deficit being a function of lost tax revenue due to massive cuts for the rich (and straight up tax evasion) coupled with high unemployment (of folks who would otherwise be paying taxes on their income). What I rarely hear is a critique of the wholesale looting of the treasury that has been pulled off by private “defense” contractors and... you guessed it... the weapons industry. Possibly a passing reference to the costly execution of two wars, the waste and mismanagement (“incompetence”), but never an actual indictment of war profiteers themselves. In Money Out of Politics, I brought up the specter of corporate leadership buying into office and then legislating for their own profit. Borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for the Iraq War and then sounding the alarm on program insolvency should raise a little skepticism over the sincerity of those who are clearly looking to cash in on these programs through privatization. Like “gun control” the issue will be tethered to the big government/small government (no government) narrative, but again this is only to inspire outrage and provide cover. The actual objective is to funnel government money, and ultimately the resources of our people, into the coffers of a select few. Until we free ourselves from the illusion of separation between the corporate elite and “our” government leaders, the prevailing idea that politicians are merely influenced by lobbyists and not directly connected to the corporations themselves, we will continue to be trapped inside their scripted narrative. As I wrote in Visions of Peace, “As weapons dealer to the world and our own best customer, is it any wonder that American cultural promotion of war (violence, conflict, competition) is second to none?”

Tax day. How much are you paying for war?
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Take Action - Global Day of Action on Military Spending
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Related articles:
The Atlantic - Paying the Costs of Iraq, for Decades to Come
Reuters - Iraq war costs U.S. more than $2 trillion: study
Tom Engelhardt - The Enemy-Industrial Complex

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