The corporations which are America require huge amounts of public money -- taxpayers' money in the form of subsidies, tax breaks and purchase orders – simply in order to survive. Defense budgets, typically, provide massive amounts of such "free" money for corporations, expending trillions of public dollars on research and development to the ultimate benefit of private corporations. But a military funded in this way is hard to sustain in the face of the inevitable resistance to the constant drain on taxpayers’ resources in the absence of a clear and present danger. Therefore an enemy is always required.
For over half a century, from the 1940s on, Soviet Communism was the perfect adversary; strong, vigorous, heavily armed, with an intellectually sustainable version of capitalism based on State enterprise rather than private enterprise. Both versions of capitalism needed the other to feed the military tax drain. Finally, the State enterprise model collapsed, throwing the now-former Soviet Empire into a phase of primitive capitalism that has taken them out of the game.
For a moment there was a kind of peace.
Then the Kuwaitis acted the fool, Saddam Hussein took the bait, and the good old days of million-man armies was back again. But for only a season; Saddam was simply not strong enough to engage the superpower for long. Through most of the 1990s, the US military-industrial complex found itself missionless, the victim of falling budgets and insistent demands for the fabled peace dividend, with a civilian leadership focused on a domestic agenda.
Today, that vital need for the military-industrial complex to maintain taxpayer’s agreement to their depredations, meets the energy sector’s problem of trying to keep up with America’s insatiable demand for ever more of the earth’s limited resources. The resources they need are in the Middle East and Central Asia, and a ready-made Enemy in the form of so-called Muslim extremists stands in the way of their seizure and control. As occasional American facilities and interests began to be attacked by “terrorists” around the world, as Palestinian resistance to the occupying American client state expressed itself in direct action “terrorism,” and as “terrorist” links could be found or manufactured to older foes such as Saddam and Qaddafi, the think tanks in and out of the bureaucracy began to weave the threads of the next myth of Enemy out of both truth and fantasy. Osama Bin Laden’s mad attacks solidified the myth into reality.
But the marketing of the myth needs more work. Bush’s State of the Union speech tried to rally the country against an ill-defined “terrorism” that – in the Cole’s Notes version of the mass media – has become Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Now, most third-graders know that, if push comes to shove, the USA could whip the behinds off all three with its current manpower and weaponry, and still not be breathing heavily. This kind of threat doesn’t generate the enthusiasm that the crusade against Communism could inspire, and pretty soon there will be grumbling over the costs. Many Americans have already come to understand that most of the money spent in tax breaks is going to relatively few absurdly rich individuals and corporations, while the public has to make do with second class services in order to pay for them. Pretty soon they’ll begin to wonder why $400 billion a year – more than $1,400 from every man, woman and child in the USA – is being spent to defend against a motley crew of dirty riflemen currently being chased from cave to cave.
What’s needed for the right wing is a new battle cry, carefully manipulated with Madison Avenue precision, to become the excuse to spend trillions of dollars on dangerous toys for the boys. The next stage, the demonization of Islam itself, is already well under way. Maggie Thatcher, the old girl of the old conservatism has been dragged out on to the stage for the last time to state the case directly, declaring Islam to be the new Bolshevism:
“Islamic extremism today, like bolshevism in the past, is an armed doctrine,” she declares. “It is an aggressive ideology promoted by fanatical, well-armed devotees. And, like communism, it requires an all-embracing long-term strategy to defeat it “
Rudely reminiscent of previous campaigns launched in America to create the Enemy -- against Italian “anarchists” in the 20s, the “inhuman” Japanese of World War Two, the Red Menace and Yellow Peril from the 40s through the 1980s – the anti-Islamic “crusade” builds on the deep historical strains of anti-Other in American society. The Know-Nothings, the KKK, the America Firsters, McCarthyism, Organization Man, the homogeniety of American culture, moves to seal the borders, and growing protectionist sentiment all feed from a basic intolerance of difference in America. The fabled Melting Pot enforces an agreement to sameness that contrasts strongly with the multiculturalism that flourishes elsewhere.
By all the means at Madison Avenue’s disposal, intolerance is ratched up at certain periods in order to drive the public mind toward an acceptance that trillions of dollars that could otherwise be used by the people for health and education and good things should be diverted to feed the corporate giants who manufacture death. It helps that the current Enemy speak English (if at all) with heavy accents, that their costumes differ from ours, that their religious practices and system of ethics are essentially antithetical to much of the established American religion of capitalism-consumerism. Driving home the message that different is dangerous, the crowds, like those at the Colosseum in ancient Rome, are whipped into a frenzy of race hate until they are screaming “Kill! Kill! Kill!
And, of course, the Arabs don’t even have real countries. In the words of one fanatic
, Arab states are merely “the fictions of cartographers, resulting in the current mess of patron states, oil colonies, phantom states.” It shouldn’t be an ethical problem therefore to wipe them off the map. Maggie Thatcher agrees. “[Having defeated Afghanistan,] the second phase of the war against terrorism should be to strike at other centres of Islamic terror that have taken root in Africa, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. This will require first-rate intelligence, shrewd diplomacy and a continued extensive military commitment. Our enemies have had years to entrench themselves, and they will not be dislodged without fierce and bloody resistance.”
The first of these non-countries to go seems likely to be Iraq. Of course Saddam Hussein is a horrific tyrant, a butcher of his own people. But why does this make him a target? The horror of his rule was fully matched by Pinochet in Chile, Sukarno and Suharto in Indonesia, the series of military dictators – Carlos Arana, Romeo Lucas Garcia, Rios Montt – who raped Guatemala for decades. And each of these and many others of similar histories was an ally of the United States. Why then Iraq?
It is pointed out as an excuse for an attack
that Saddam Hussein has used poison gas on local populations. Ignored is the fact that the US used more chemical weapons in Vietnam than Saddam Hussein could ever dream of acquiring, and that the world is without an anti-biological warfare treaty because the U.S. refuses to go along with the rules the rest of world agreed to. Why then Iraq?
It is claimed that Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction and that this, in and off itself, is enough to justify invasion. And yet the Americans are perfectly comfortable with Israel secretly stockpiling nuclear bombs. Why then Iraq?
Finally, it is claimed that Iraq is a danger to its neighbours. And yet these same neighbours say that isn't so, with it's old foe Saudi Arabia going so far as to embrace Iraq in a public arena. Why then Iraq?
Iraq is Muslim. Iraq is the Other. Iraq has a leader -- evil as hell though he may be -- who is willing to face down the American imperialists. He is willing to openly support anti-American causes. He has oil and he has regional clout, both things the American corporations consider to be their own monopolies. For all these reasons. But most of all, the Pentagon needs an enemy to fight, and Saddam Hussein fits the bill perfectly.