Isn’t it odd that whenever a fierce little skirmish takes place in a small, contested area, suddenly civilians are hit by white phosphorous or some other atrocious weapon? We immediately blame terrorists, insurgents, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Israel, Iran, Hamas, bin Laden, Muslims, or some other (usually swarthy) bad guys. They in turn blame the U.S, Bush, Obama, the CIA, Blackwater, the media, infidels, Christians, Israel, Iran, etc. Everyone gets madder and buys more weapons to kill more enemies.
But what if these cruel weapons were being deployed by an independent arms entrepreneur intent only on selling its products and expanding its markets? In terms of costs for advertising and marketing, it’s pretty cheap to hire a handful of malcontents, give them a minimum of equipment to go anywhere US forces and terrorists/insurgents are already killing each other and attack civilians in such a way that both sides would assume the other guys were doing it. Sales of their products would be enhanced, and if their hired terrorists got killed, so much the better.
We don’t know if that is happening, but of course we wouldn’t. When whatever anyone can imagine can now be blogged or photoshopped to whatever specifications someone is willing to pay for, how can we know which accounts reflect reality? Today’s commercialized media and communications, with large payoffs and few risks, are no longer reliable.
Over the last eight years We-the-People, besotted by TV and popular fictions about what’s out there in the real world, and befuddled about the reliability of information we get, have believed that we are in great danger that can only be removed by killing bad guys; that torture will make us safe, and if we torture someone it’s because they are already guilty, and therefore torture, (as well as killing by remote control and using high-tech weapons against unarmed civilians) is moral as long as it saves American lives.
Iraq was no threat to the US. Saddam Hussein was an arrogant, cruel dictator, but he wasn’t dumb enough to think he could successfully attack a nation with nuclear warheads and delivery systems reaching all over the world. Saddam and Iraq were, however, an enormous opportunity for the ideology of free-market capitalism as well as for the bottom line of KBR, Blackwater, Lockheed, Raytheon, and the rest of the military industrial complex.
President Bush had an infantile fantasy of being the most powerful man on earth, agent of God’s Wrath, commanding everything from nuclear weapons to how people have sex. Dick Cheney played on this illusion, and We-the-People gave them the money and power to make it a reality.
First we were dumb enough to think that an episode of made-for-TV "Shock & Awe" on Iraq would fix everything. Later we were dumber, believing that an international conspiracy of terrorism would be revealed and defeated through "enhanced interrogation" of kidnapped suspects, and by making old ladies take off their shoes before boarding airliners.
But recognizing that we have been gullible fools doesn’t reinforce our notion of ourselves as competent, moral people, so we set about explaining that killing villagers and torturing Muslims proves that we are more moral than they are because we are promoting democracy, saving our soldiers’ lives, and making our homeland more secure.
I draw a different moral: Peace doesn’t pay; war, killing, torture and terror are enormously profitable to those who make and broker the instruments, technologies and attitudes thereof. Security, surveillance and deterrence pay well. Fences, checkpoints, roadblocks, surveillance cameras and robotic weapons are profitable for the rich, at the expense of the poor.
The Taliban, the Israelis and al Qaeda justify attacks on civilians on the grounds that the civilians are sheltering the enemy, or are sympathetic to them. The Israelis declare that Palestinians "deserve" attacks with high-tech weapons because they voted for Hamas. Terrorists act for political, ideological or religious reasons, or out of rage or hopelessness – but not for profit. The terrorist mentality is "They deserved to what they got. We should have killed more of them." (... Oh, wait ... we still hear that around Kent, Ohio, every May 4.)
War has never made peace. Today, killing poor people with high-tech – and highly profitable – weaponry and unmanned drones just generates suicidal efforts to resist.
We have a similar dilemma over health care. Rationing medical care by ability to pay is enormously profitable to private insurance and big pharmaceutical companies. Gambling on the cost of medical care is especially profitable when the insurers get to decide what they will pay to losers.
The debate on health care reform has degenerated into an argument between those who believe that we must protect profits and those who believe we should protect people.
Who, then, will stop the profitability of war? The military industrial complex to whom we pay billions for death-dealing equipment? The media who profit from stirring up fear and confusion? The righteous who use sacred texts to justify cruelty and violence?
And who will make sure every human being gets medical care for a healthy life? With the MIC sucking up our tax dollars for profits on weapons and warfare, and the insurance industry siphoning off family income and denying medical care, just how are we more moral than the rest of the world?