Monday, December 29, 2014

End of the Afganistan War, and our Predatory Economy

Yesterday, the US federal government declared an end to the thirteen-year-old war in Afghanistan. I hate to be a nay-sayer, but I’ll bet that the military action in the Middle East will continue, and within a few years America will be at war again. 

Why? In doing research for my work-in-progress, which is about greed, gun violence, and the American war machine, it has occurred to me that the reason America has been at war, almost constantly since the Regan presidency, is that Americans have let their government create a war economy. So much of our GDP and so many of our jobs depend on national defense, that without war, without killing, the American economy would collapse, sending us into the most devastating depression ever.

Before Regan, the US Government maintained a small, yet well equipped military, swelling the numbers as needed when American security was threatened. Even after Vietnam they shrunk the military to reasonable numbers. Regan, however, got the bright idea to expand the military machine to boost the lagging economy so that he could win a second term. It worked so well, and the defense industry began giving politicians such grand kickbacks, that politicians—Republicans and Democrats—just kept expanding and expanding the war machine.

But of course, without some valid national threat—some war to fight—the taxpayers will eventually catch on. So George and Dick came up with the perfect solution, give them a war nobody really cares about, a war that will drag on forever, bleeding the Middle-class of trillions of dollars and funneling that money into the board rooms of Halliburton, Raytheon, DynCorp International, Hewlett-Packard, Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, Northrop Grumann, General Dynamics, Boeing, Lockheed Martin. Lockheed alone bleeds over thirty-five billion from taxpayers each year. The list of corporate fat cats goes on and on, like pigs at a trough. The crimes these politicians have perpetrated on the middle class are even more horrendous than the torture our government inflicted on POWs in Iraq and Guantanamo.

And why? The almighty dollar. It’s all to prop up what has grown into a predatory economy. The only thing our Defense Department defends is their own corporate profits. I wonder how many “good Christian” voters realize that their financial stability hinges on Americans killing people around the globe? I’ve read estimates that as many as 1.5 million Muslims were killed due to America’s actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, although I find that number hard to believe.  

In my novel, The Plain of Bitter Honey, I describe the fall of America. In opening the story, I wrote the following:

The fall of the World Trade Towers at the beginning of the century brought a sharp change in the political climate. Politicians still boasted of the country’s military might, the benefits of technology, and increased corporate wealth; CNN still claimed the country was the land of freedom, but outsiders asserted, on the contrary, that the U.S. was dying, as did Rome, of iniquity and pride and vanity. People were more concerned with Hollywood’s latest scandal than how many people were killed in order to keep the nation’s troughs full. But events confirmed the darker suspicions. After all, a predatory economy can only flourish for so long. Wars bled the country into feebleness and debt while parasitism ran rampant, eating into the country's vitals. The blinded eagle could neither seize new prey nor remove the maggots that feasted in its own flesh.

Countries that were once allies turned hostile. The very people who profited most from the crumbling culture were the first to escape—the rich gathered their wealth around them like cloaks and fled to other countries, engrossing themselves in their private amusements rather than their public duty. Overburdened by their debts—from wars, the astronomical cost of raw materials, the need for Hummers in every garage and flat-screen TVs in every room—the middle class, who had once made America great, defaulted to their creditors, causing a collapse of the world banking system. Desperate people on the fringe became homeless, forming lawless bands of marauders roaming the countryside, seizing what they needed to survive.  Inside the cities alcoholism and drug addiction became the norm; while outside it was every man for himself. Farmlands went fallow, the cost of food skyrocketed, and the epidemic rate of obesity actually fell for the first time in America’s history.

Those who could afford to flee the country did so, and in 2035 when Congress sought to forbid the further exodus of the population, they were talking to empty air.

Public works were visible in the colossal municipal buildings, empty shopping malls, and power plants. Indeed, large-scale expenditures for new Christian cathedrals, sports arenas, military spying technology, and monuments to the fallen heroes of war were widespread. These projects were paid for by budget cutbacks in infrastructure maintenance, which hastened the decay, and the country began to crumble.

In the face of steady deterioration, the remaining population’s belief in the “American way of life” and “a benevolent God who loves and protects us”—the opium of the self-centered masses—remained incorrigible. They were convinced that there would always be a United States of America, and that technology and Christian ideals would keep them at the pinnacle of human culture. So they thought until one man came wandering out of the wilderness, wielding words and ideas rather than guns, to lead them toward a true salvation. 

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