America's 'New Normal' is Anything But09/13/2011
As the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan looms, America approaches a decade of continuous and expanding wars, both declared and undeclared, in at least four countries. America now oversees foreign military occupations which won't ever completely come to an end but rather stretch on until they morph into private contracting no-bid orgies of waste and fraud. As this happens American politicians and the public go about their business as if waging multiple wars in different regions is a normal state. Congress and President Obama talk about "jobs" and our anemic economy yet never acknowledge their own role in the societal bloodletting now underway.
First Bush and now Obama, along with both Democrats and Republicans, continue to siphon trillions of dollars (Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz now concedes his calculation of $5 trillion was too low), resources and human bodies away from creating a viable economy that could begin to seriously address urgent crises in environment, energy, health, education and food security in favor of waging resource wars and occupation under the flimsy guise of "freedom, democracy and national security."
Earlier this month, with only passing press coverage and almost no comment from the American public, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced his support for a plan that would keep thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline when all U.S. forces are supposed to be at long last out of Iraq.
Last December, with virtually no media scrutiny or public debate, Congress passed H.R. 6523 (Rep. Mazie Hirono voted for it while Rep. Charles Djou didn't vote), a record-breaking $725 billion defense authorization act for FY2011 which continues to fund our wars even as we are eviscerating our own social infrastructure in ways that harm America to a degree no terrorist group could ever hope to achieve in their wildest dreams.
This remarkable sum of money is roughly seven times more than China spends on defense. Such an unprecedented indulgence on war spending, passed by Congress and signed by Obama who won in 2008 largely by posturing as though he was against the wars, is a prime example of a different kind of "don't ask, don't tell." Americans didn't ask and the government didn't tell.
According to current statistics, the U.S. now spends $50 million on the war in Afghanistan alone every single day before lunch (at the rate of $2 billion a week).
At a time when the U.S. economy shows no sign of even a modest recovery and unemployment remains near 10 percent, it would be instructive to hear from our representatives in Washington why they favor pouring trillions of dollars down the black hole of war, instead of reflecting the wishes of their constituents who are increasingly, albeit belatedly, making the connection between our own economic woes and endless military spending. Yet that is the one thing that is barely mentioned by Congress, the president, the public or media.
During President Obama's recent "jobs bill" speech, the only war he mentioned was the Civil War (I kid you not: third sentence, 12th paragraph from the bottom).
America's pursuit of "long wars" has brought us fear without real security, corporate wealth without public well-being and a nation full of ordinary citizens buckling under the weight of our own government's desire to keep the nation in a permanent state of war. All that is without even mentioning the untold and grossly under-documented misery and death we have exported to hundreds of thousands in foreign countries who had never raised so much as a finger against the United States.
As for America's close allies, Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, diplomats in the Gulf recently announced that the planned $60 billion arms deal between the United States and the Saudi Kingdom was being raised to $90 billion, again with barely a peep from the U.S. media and virtually no notice of the American public.
Since 9/11, everything cryptic and corrupt, deceptive and invasive, immoral and illegal is simply called "the new normal" as if we are all supposed to just accept it as such.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
About the author: Jon Letman is a freelance writer on Kauai.