Wednesday, May 26, 2010


My alarm clock went off the other day, some time last week, just before 4:00AM. I didn't think much of it as I had set it to do exactly that, but am always amazed that it actually works.
As is my custom at such times, I leaped (leaped) out of my comfy bed, rushed out of the master bedroom, down the hall, through the den and living room, jumped over the Jacuzzi, through the playroom and into the pantry to turn it off, least it disturb my neighbors.
Why you ask? Well if I don't put the alarm out of reach I'm likely to turn it off, roll over and go back to sleep. Making myself get up to switch off my alarm clock is a pretty common tactic, I know a lot of people who do it. After I accomplish this I usually go back to my bedroom and fall back onto my bed anyway, and close my eyes for a few moments. However, before I do that, to ensure I don't return to a gentle slumber, I turn on the lights, and my radio. This usually works to keep my consciousness somewhere near the surface, above the deep waters of sleep, and I usually get up in two or three minutes to begin my day. Usually.
My radio has been tuned onto the same local Los Angeles station since 2004, KTLK, 11.50 on your los Angeles AM dial. This is the only Progressive talk radio station in L.A., and at that time in the morning The Bill Press Program is entering it's second hour, which starts at about 4:06, a brief newscast preceding it.
As I got my self up, made coffee, deactivated the burglar alarm and minefield, folded the clothes I had washed the night before, etc., I couldn't help but notice that packed in the six or seven minutes between the end of Bill's first hour and the beginning of his second, and framing the news, were three separate commercials for the National Guard, three of them! Each lasting for about 45 seconds, or so.
These were recruitment commercials of course. That's the only reason the military ever advertises, to get new members. All three of these ads spotlighted two voice actors pretending to be hip young people, college age, with one telling the other about the benefits of joining the National Guard, those being primarily, money for college, and highlighting the idea that this is a part time job, the enlistees will be able to attend college and still hang out with their buddies, family, and significant others, as if they were speaking about getting a job as a morning newspaper delivery person. These ads focus primarily on being deployed in domestic emergencies, such as firefighting, or hurricane relief efforts, etc. They also highlight the "Patriotic" factor. How easy it is to serve your country at the same time you're getting money for school, and only working one weekend per month, and two full weeks out of the year.
Well I'm all for being patriotic. I'm a veteran myself, and the offer sounds really good frankly. Sounds really good... if the country weren't involved in two unnecessary wars.
These ads invite you to go to the National Guard's website to learn more. Well by golly, I did just that. I looked over the sight pretty good. It explained all the benefits you can get if you join, eligibility requirements, the types of jobs available in the Guard and the training you will receive for those jobs (eight weeks of Boot Camp! Always a charming experience), on and on. I could not find, however, any reference to the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. Not one.
There was this though in the FAQ section, the question being is there a possibility I may be assigned to combat, or something like that, and this was the answer: "Yes. Guard members can be mobilized to protect and defend America in battle domestically or overseas (emphasis mine)." Well I don't know who the National Guard would likely be battling at home... illegal immigrants? (the Obama Administration announced yesterday it is sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the boarder region, kowtowing to Republican demands, and despite evidence that these people entering the country actually stimulate the economy, and help it grow, but why let reality get in the way of a good argument). But I am concerned that they are using deceptive advertising (by ommission) in keeping up their enlistment quotas (numbers are hard to come by for some reason, at least for me. However since the end of February 11% of the casualties in Iraq were suffered by elements of the National Guard, approximately 484 soldiers. 3,500 members of the Iowa National Guard will be, or are deployed in Afghanistan this year).
And before I hear all this crap about how unpatriotic I am, and not supporting our troops, I say balderdash! And I never use that word lightly.
These wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are and were absolutely unnecessary. The stated reason the Bush Administration gave for attacking Afghanistan in 2001 was to bring the instigators of the 9/11 attack in New York to justice (or to kill them), specifically Osama bin Laden and the members of Al Qaeda, which were thought to be harbored by the Taliban, the regime that was governing the country at the time. A week before we began bombing that country the Taliban offered to try bin Laden in their own court, under Islamic Law, and asked the United States to present it's evidence linking him to 9/11. Bush wouldn't accept this, opting for war instead, and in October we will have been there nine years, the second longest military engagement in our nation's history.
Maybe the Taliban would have found bin Laden guilty and executed him, maybe not. Maybe during that time period other options could have been developed and explored. We'll never know. I do know that war should always be the very last option that the United States should utilize. So I say the Afghan War was and is unnecessary.
As for Iraq, hell, I don't even think that those who lied us into that war know why they did it. Hopes of controlling that countries huge oil supply probably. But they screwed that up as well as everything else.
Two unnecessary wars. Almost five and a half thousand American soldiers killed. Probably a million innocent Iraqis have died since we invaded in 2003, and the war in Afghanistan "has caused the deaths of thousands of Afghan civilians directly from insurgent and foreign military action, as well as the deaths of possibly tens of thousands of Afghan civilians indirectly as a consequence of displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war" (Wikipedia).
But ours is a "constant war economy." Washington politicians keep funneling money to the war contractors, who in turn funnel money into election campaign coffers. Congress wants to keep funding vastly expensive weapons systems to combat enemies that no longer exist, and that the Pentagon says it doesn't want or need. Private contractors outnumber soldiers.
And the War Machine wants America's children as cannon fodder to keep it all going.
In 1935 U.S. Marine Major General Smedley Butler, twice awarded the Medal of Honor, wrote, "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
Here's how it seems to work. The ultra rich and Corpocracy game the economic and political system to work in their favor since the Reagan era, bribing Congress to do their biding in the form of campaign contributions, thus creating the greatest disparity between the rich and the Middle and Lower Classes in history. The Middle Class is effectively destroyed. De-regulation runs rampant championed by Congress, but especially the Republican Party. Accordingly the economy buckles due to Wall Street malfeasance and greed, sending the country into the largest recession and economic downturn since the 1930s. Unemployment rages, while a select few make billions as hedge fund managers. The military industrial complex requires us to constantly be at war in order to sell it's goods and services. Our nation's children look to the military as a way to cope with the economic realities they find themselves in, therefore they see it as an opportunity to counter the huge cost of a college education, fostered with the hope that they can advance in life, in a system that is geared to keeping them in servitude.
Last Sunday I traveled to the pier in Santa Monica once again (see, The Ocean At Santa Monica) to attend a Save the Whales rally held at the end of the pier (Yes, I'm a whale lover. Love them whales... Love em!).
As I walked west on th pier toward the ocean, there is an exit that leads off the pier onto the beach. As I passed I noticed hundreds of small white crosses that had been planted in rows in the soft white sand. Over a thousand actually, each representing a dead American soldier who had served in Afghanistan. I know it was over a thousand because we had moved past that tragic milestone the week before, on the 18th, to be exact. The site was labeled "Arlington West." A lone woman stood in the midst of the crosses playing "Taps," on a flute like instrument. A sign proclaimed that if a cross were placed for all of innocent civilians who had died due to the war the entire beach would be covered.
I got fairly misty as I walked away.
I once told my lovely case manager, Erin, that if she were my daughter, and she spoke about enlisting in the military, I would kidnap her, chain her up, and hide her in the basement, rather than have her risk her life in either of Bush's wars.
I couldn't bear another cross down there on that beach with my loved one's name on it.
Not for these wars. Not for the reasons provided by the recruiters and the government.
Not for the War Machine.

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