Stopping Orwell's Nightmare

The God of
War doesn't dine on raw shank bone or bellow orders quite like he used
to. When he talks to Congress, say, it goes more like this:

"And, oh,
while you're up, I'm going to be needing, uh (cough, cough) . . . $159
billion this go-around, you know, for the troops. Thanks."

It works.

With the
war on terror in its ninth year and disappearing from even the pretense
of national debate, let alone outrage and protest, and with the
President of Hope prosecuting it so quietly most of us no longer
notice, we could be at an eerie national transition point, beyond which
war is no longer controversial or a big deal but just the way things
are: "normal," like background noise. And the enormous transfusions of
cash it requires - well, nice people don't talk about it.

Oh Lord.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Then along comes Alan Grayson,
freshman congressman from Florida, who has some fresh ideas about how
to forestall this Orwellian transition. He introduced one of these
ideas in the House last week. It's called H.R. 5353:
The War Is Making You Poor Act. It's steeped stunningly in common sense
and common knowledge, appeals in a blatant, teabagger sort of way to
self-interest and everyman's taxation phobia - and strikes me as the
focal point, almost Gandhiesque in the clarity of its outrage, of a
reborn movement to end our wars in Asia and halt the spread of American

purpose of this bill is to connect the dots, and to show people in a
real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars," Grayson wrote.
"War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that
no one notices it anymore."

H.R. 5353
directly addresses the war's current "emergency" spending bill, which
is about to come up for a vote and will - of course! of course! - pass
as usual, with little debate, with perfunctory media mention. The
current White House request, part of the National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal 2011, is for $159.3 billion.

The War Is
Making You Poor Act plucks that number out of anonymity and screams,
"Wait a second!" This is an enormous amount of money, almost beyond
calculation, and we must not make a decision about it transfixed in
financial numbness.

The bill
mandates that our operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan be
funded out of the regular Department of Defense budget, which in 2011
is $549 billion. The $159.3 billion in special funds would be used
instead to eliminate the federal tax on every American's first $35,000
of income (or $70,000 for married couples). And that still leaves $16
billion for paying down the national debt.

Yeah, I
know, it's crazy. You can't mess with the system like this. The War
God's funding machine grinds with bipartisan inevitability. I've
watched the process over the years in mounting despair. Our elected
reps are, at best, helplessly polite in the face of this inevitability.
Dissent is token. We're on a permanent war footing in this country and
will be till hell freezes over. Thus it is written. Read the New York

bill comes from so far outside the Beltway consensus I felt instant
enthusiasm for it. My guess is that others will, too. Within a few days
of the bill's introduction, nearly 24,000 people had signed the
congressman's online petition endorsing it. For starters, I'd like to see that number hit six figures. Why not seven?

The bill
right now has seven co-sponsors: Dennis Kucinich, Lynn Woolsey, John
Conyers, Barbara Lee, Bob Filner and two Republican mavericks, Ron Paul
and Walter Jones. Call your rep and urge him or her to support it as
well. This is the only way it's going to happen, folks - we have to
make our numbers felt on Capitol Hill. We have to break the unwritten
rules that make even honest debate over these hellish wars

coverage of Grayson's bill has been skimpy and dismissive. The big news
outlets crossed over long ago into Orwell's nightmare and, at their
privileged remove, fully embrace it. As Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald
notes: "The decree that we are 'at war' has been repeated over and over
for a full decade, drummed into our heads from all directions without
pause, sanctified as one of those Bipartisan Orthodoxies that nobody
can dispute upon pain of having one's Seriousness credentials
immediately and irrevocably revoked."

I submit that it's time to reclaim our country - $159 billion at a time.

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