Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Two Worlds

When President Obama gave his fine speech on jobs and the economy the other night there was one glaring omission. He said nothing about the Pentagon/military budget or about our various “wars” and hostilities around the world. It was as if there were no connection between our current predicament and the military budget. This has reinforced my belief that for all intents and purposes we now have two separate worlds: the military/industrial/political world, and the ordinary more mundane world of everyday life, entitlements, work (if you can find it), infotainment, and sports. It is true there are occasional mentions of cutting the defense budget but no one seems to be taking this very seriously and the 400 billion in cuts that have been suggested will probably never materialize, and even if they did it would be the proverbial “drop in the bucket” given the amounts of money involved.

Let us call our everyday world the “Real World” and the Military/Industrial/Political one the “Secret World.” In the Real World we are told such things as Iraq has weapons of mass destruction that are a danger to us and the world, Saddam Hussein is a terrible dictator that has to be eliminated, he was in league with al Qaida, had something to do with 9/11, we have to bring democracy to the Middle East, improve the lot of women, and other nonsense. We heard nary a word about oil (except denials that was why we attacked), the need to control the Middle East, or what we must surmise were the true reasons for our illegal and unconstitutional, criminal attack on a country that was no danger to us and had nothing to do with 9/11 or al Qaida. There may be hints of what the real reasons were but we have no way of knowing what was behind the attack because it all occurred in the Secret World of the Military/Industrial/Political complex.

Similarly, in the case of Afghanistan, people are still wondering why we are there, or at least why we are still there. No satisfactory explanation has ever been given. Oh, yeah, there are the usual fairy tales about helping them become democratic, improving the lives of women, nation building, protecting us at home by fighting them there, protecting them from the Taliban, and other balderdash. Originally we attacked them in reprisal for the 9/11 tragedy and the fact that al Qaida had been training there. But al Qaida was quickly put on the run, do not now constitute any serious danger to us (and probably never really did after their 9/11 success), and in fact the terrorists were mostly from Saudi Arabia (a country we dare not attack). There is talk of a pipeline that is to be built across Afghanistan, and talk that our presence there is required because of the conflict between Pakistan and India, and I guess other things, but of course we do not know what the real reasons are for our being there. I can only assume there are secret reasons, or reasons we are not to be privy to, but, again, that is all in the Secret World.

We in the Real World have little or no reliable information about what happens in the Secret World of the Pentagon, the Military, the CIA, the FBI, and so on. We hear about our bases all around the world, places involved in our “secret renditions,” CIA activities here and there, the activities of our various “special forces” and so on, but what do we actually know about any of this, virtually nothing. Our Real World and their Secret World are completely different universes. If we try to find out about various activities in the Secret World, like torture and the use of illegal weapons, for example, we are told that, of course, they are secret and cannot be revealed because of national security (an excuse that almost surely involves embarrassment for them as well as national security). We don’t even know just how large the budget for the Secret World is or what it is used for. This Secret World is all-powerful and determined to stay that way. There is something to be said for national secrets now and then. As Whittaker Chambers once put it, “For there are kinds of music that the world should not hear,” but this excuse has been terribly abused in the past few years and keeps from the public much of the music that should be heard.

This is why President Obama did not mention it in his speech. He did say something to the effect that we should raise taxes on the wealthy and cut out corporate loopholes to pay for jobs, and he may have indicated in passing that there were to be cuts in the defense budget (I can’t remember if he did nor not), but if he did it was mentioned only in passing and not made at all relevant. Thus whatever cuts are to be made in our national budget are to be made in items that have to do with the Real World and definitely not in those items in the Secret World, even though these latter comprise much more of our annual budget than the former. We know there are enormous wastes in the budgets of the Secret World, but aside from idle talk of them they, too, are virtually immune from inspection. We are told sometimes that billions were wasted here and there, that the Pentagon cannot even account for billions, and so forth, but that is as far as it ever goes. Wasting billions is apparently acceptable in the Secret World because it is more important than the Real World and, of course, accounting is difficult during times of “war,” and so on. Even war crimes committed by those in the Secret World go unpunished because they were, it is argued, committed in defense of our country (whether they were or not). Besides, the Secret World has its own lawyers that tell them whatever they want to hear about legality and the Constitution. It is surely as if the Secret World is “Sacred” and the Real World somehow “Profane.” As long as this remains true there will be no “Recovery,” few jobs, decaying infrastructure , inadequate schools, poverty, and crippling disillusionment, depression, and what is worse if it happens, hopelessness. As a great deal of the so-called Defense Budget has more to do with fattening the bank accounts of corporations and the rich than having any genuine connection to national defense it should be entirely possible to drastically reduce it. But this would require some inconvenience for members of Congress and involve putting country before party, general welfare above individual desire, and is probably out of the question at this moment in American history.

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