Nov 30, 2009

Whistling Past the Graveyard of Empires

The Long Gray Line waits with breath at attention for the commands of the president, but will you, the American public, really hang on every word of the president's speech tomorrow at West Point? What will you be looking for? Nuance? Restraint? That last glimmer of Hope, of that "yes, we can win this war" attitude, of the thought that perhaps, here in the darkness there is light at the end of the tunnel? That after eight years and a number of twists and turns, here while the train is stopped so we can figure out if we want to go on or back up, perhaps you will see a promise of a glint of a glimmer of the sundown of ultimate defeat after another 7 or 8 years of traveling in darkness yet to come?

Tired of Hope yet? Tired of war in the graveyard of empires? Ready to send some more marines and national guardsmen out for their third and fourth tours of duty into the mountains and deserts despite their PTSD and their IED-battered cerebellums? Ready to keep feeding the yawning maw of the military industrial congressional complex?

Well, I have seen commentary that Obama has been manipulated by the generals--and to a certain extent he has been manipulated by the sneaky leaks, by the generals trying to bring pressure to bear on his deliberations--but it seems to me that Obama painted himself in a corner when it became clear to him in Iowa last year that he just might be able to win the nomination.

There's a sucker born every minute, and the con men will always tell you that the mark has to believe. So if the generals did manipulate or pull the con on the President, it's not like they didn't have an easy and willing mark.

In order to establish his hawk credentials against McCain, he insisted that Afghanistan was the war he would prosecute with vigor. And indeed, within a week of taking office, he ordered drone attacks in Pakistan and has now in fact ordered more drone attacks than George W. Bush.

You can tell it will be an escalation--why else deliver the talk at West Point? Ever heard of a retreat speech given there? (The closest you might get is MacArthur in maudlin feeling sorry for himself as he began fading away.) And I marvel at how, after all of the sneak previews during the last week, the little peeks inside the box, they still do their PR coordination in the manner which Edward Bernays would have approved: in Parade Magazine.

Yep, tucked inside the massive advertising supplements--if you are like 95% of the newspaper readers in the country, I'm sure you know the drill--strip out the various sections from the real estate pages and the auto ads and the advertising supplements for Christmas lights and clothes, plasma TV screens and iPods, retaining less than 50% of the totality of the dead trees and there is the Parade Magazine with "A War Briefing from General Petraeus" written by Col. Jack Jacobs (U.S. Army, ret.) military analyst for NBC and shill extraordinaire for the military industrial complex. A message from General Petraeus to tug on your patriotic heartstrings, and would you believe it just happens to be right after Thanksgiving and two days before Barack Obama goes to West Point to tell us, finally, what he has decided.

We don't get the details of course, just the reassurances on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, our own "war briefing" in a publication that reaches--according to its own circulation claims for advertising penetration-- 72.7 million people, nearly half of whom are over 50. I mean, talk about getting to the really loyal and consistent voting people in this country--the people who still buy the newspaper or have it delivered to their permanent address. In the country of the sleepwalkers, the Parade Magazine reader opens his and her eyes onto the far off dirt and rock of our manifest destiny. Or maybe it's the L-tryptophan from all that turkey that really puts us in the receptive mood for the war briefing? And the blind shall see. Bring it on, but with calmness.

Sure, Petraeus readily admits that "many Americans, including some members of Congress, question whether the war in Afghanistan remains worth fighting." At which point you know that "some members" refers to the cowards and the appeasers, you know, the traitors who voted against the War Powers Resolution way back at the tunnel's entrance in 2001--well, you know what will follow, don't you? Wanna feel better over your Sunday coffee and for the rest of the week as you work off the tryptophan high? Well, Colonel Jacobs will calm your soul with the words of the General:

Once the President settles on a strategy for Afghanistan, [Col Jacobs] asked, what will America need, besides more troops and good intelligence? "Time," Petraeus replied, "and as General McChrystal observed, lots of humility."

Notice the assumption? There will be more troops, and we will need good "intelligence." But the kind of intelligence we need now is moral and ethical and practical. Real intelligence, not digitized information, or information from turncoats. Get ready for a long humble war. Sorta like Vietnam was LBJ's war. But humble? I don't think so. McChrystal led the dark and, as we now know, secret ingredient in the Iraqi "surge"--the targeted assassination program. The mask of humility hides the grin of empire. The audacity of drones. BHO's war.