I was six years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Was that a terrorist attack, or do we excuse it from that definition because it was pulled off by an aggressor nation? A sneak-attack it surely was, as Japan had diplomats in Washington at the time with the stated purpose of de-escalating their aggression in the far East. President Roosevelt had it right when he called it ‘a day that will live in infamy’ as he addressed Congress and asked war to be declared at the very moment Germany was following Japan in declaring war against us.
A ‘sneak attack.’ A day that will live in infamy
Yeah well, 9-11 and Pearl Harbor were both sneak attacks and days that will live in infamy, but the difference is we don’t wallow in the misery on an annual, five-year and (now) twenty-year interval. We’ve had four twenty-year intervals since Pearl Harbor and I may have missed something, but I don’t remember any heads-bowed, moments-of-silence or presidents gathered along the way.
What we did have at the end of that war was a Marshall Plan for the ultimately defeated Japanese that made them into an international industrial giant in quick-time. Good for them and good for us. In no time at all they were flooding America with small, well-built automobiles and buying up half of Hawaii.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress had seen fit to provides some health care for 9-11 responders? Then Jon Stewart wouldn’t have had to show up repeatedly in D.C to beat them around the head and neck. Those fire-fighters didn’t even ask for a Marshall Plan, just a bit of help on the way to dying from the aftereffects of repeatedly charging into a collapsing Trade Center to try and save lives.
The World Trade Center attack and response
The attack on the World Trade Center was a major fuck-up on the part of national intelligence, as those who knew it was coming couldn’t wade through the various bureaus to get the attention of the FBI. But we’d been there before as a nation. We shouldn’t have had our entire Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor either. 2400 died on December 7,1941 and 2,750 on September 11, 2001. To put that in perspective, we lose nearly that many lives every month in America in automobile accidents. For a relatively short period, the entire world was on our side.
(Britannica) For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) invoked Article 5, allowing its members to respond collectively in self-defense, and on October 7 the U.S. and allied military forces launched an attack against Afghanistan. Within months thousands of militants were killed or captured, and Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders were driven into hiding. In addition, the U.S. government exerted great effort to track down other al-Qaeda agents and sympathizers throughout the world and made combating terrorism the focus of U.S. foreign policy.
Good, as far as it goes. Who wouldn’t agree that Article 5 was appropriate and provided an instant coalition? Punishment applied. Time to bring the troops home in America and across Europe.
But Bush, Cheney, Powell and Rumsfeld had other ideas
Those other ideas marked the day that George Bush stopped being president and Cheney took over.
At a moment when America had the support of the entire world, Dick Cheney had other fish to fry, oilfields to be taken over and a perfect storm at hand to re-ignite a military-industrial agenda. Cheney was (and still is) deeply into the profitable side of the war machine through Halliburton, a military supplier from which he retired as Chairman and CEO when he became Vice President.
George Bush is not to be let off the hook. He was the president, but he was also a sort of gee-whiz nice guy and not by a long shot the man his father was. Cheney rolled over him for the remaining two terms of his presidency.
Halliburton became the object of several controversies involving the Iraq War and the company's former ties to Cheney. Upon his retirement from the company during the 2000 U.S. presidential election campaign, he left with a hearty ‘Hi-ho, Silver’ and a severance package worth $36 million. Many would ask, “Who was that masked man?”
Halliburton gained $39.5 billion in "federal contracts related to the Iraq war." Many individuals have asserted that there were profit motives for the Bush-Cheney administration to invade Iraq in 2003.
Oh by-gosh and golly, you think?
At any rate, we didn’t bring the troops home. We stayed and turned this little profit center into a twenty-year, trillion-dollar industry. Some say $6 trillion and others $10 trillion, but we don’t actually know because the Pentagon keeps losing the figures.
Everyone was happy, including Osama bin Laden
Halliburton was certainly happy with the $40 billion Cheney tossed their way, as were Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman with their hunks of the multi-trillion-dollar cost of the longest war we ever fought. The Pentagon was happy to get out from under the glare of never once being able to balance their books and even Osama bin Laden died with a smile on his face, having achieved everything on his destroy-the-West wish list. Osama hoped to:
Drive the West out of the Middle East
Strike fear permanently into the hearts of Americans
Weaken America financially (and I don’t mean the stock market)
Turn both liberal and conservative Americans against one another
Destroy America’s international reputation and
Inflame the Muslin world against capitalist theology
Well, I guess he succeeded beyond all his wildest hopes. And we celebrate those hopes every 9-11, with heads bowed and moments of silence.
We’ve lost our nerve in America and don’t know who we are anymore
I don’t know exactly how that happened or what the terms of surrender were, but it’s been a death of a thousand cuts. Big business slowly but surely found a way to buy its way into national politics and the result has been a slow erosion of all the oversights that make capitalism work. There are no more tools in the toolboxes that took decades to fill. Our get-up-and-go got up and went.
Somehow, as a nation we became afraid of our neighbors, distrustful of our bosses, argumentative with our kids and dissatisfied that our marriages no longer worked as well as their televised counterparts. Roosevelt’s admonishment that we have nothing to fear but fear itself rang hollow.
We were afraid. The family gathered around the table for dinner every evening was suddenly a thing of the past. Kids with sports practice, moms and dads with separate work requirements, too much pressure to get ahead, pay the bills, make some progress, find a way to make things work. That was it. The things that used to work no longer existed. Successive presidents had kept us at war for most of our lives and that simply used up all the oxygen.
Part of it was population
In 1945 America was a nation of 140 million. Farmland began two blocks west of my home in Evanston, Illinois. Things worked, you could depend on neighbors, and no one locked their doors at night. A hook on the screen door sufficed to keep it from banging in the wind. Today we weigh in at 328 million, well over twice our fighting-weight in just 76 years. These days you drive 65 miles west of my old home, through a haze of mini-malls and suburbs before you find a cornfield.
We’re fat, we’re tired and scared because we don’t even know our neighbors, much less depend on them. Jobs are gone, the kids are smoking dope and won’t let us have any. It used to be so easy and now it’s hard to breathe.
But it didn’t happen without our consent
Almost 500 years before Christ, Pericles said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you” and that has held true throughout human history. Those old Greeks knew a thing or two about human nature, but it seems each new generation forgets.
As for what we accept today as leaders in the Congress, if they were children, we would take away their iPhones, shut down the wi-fi and send them all off to bed without supper. The whole damn group, Republicans and Democrats alike aren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.
Mark Twain hit the nail on the head over a hundred years ago: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” If your kids grow up to be greedy, selfish little bastards, you can’t blame it on the neighbors.
The same goes for our elected officials: Lindsey Graham is a moral embarrassment; Chuck Schumer as self-centered as Mitch McConnell, but without the guts; Smooth talking Democrat John Kennedy eased us into Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs; paranoid Republican Richard Nixon was impeached, but he did a great deal for civil rights and opened China to the West.
None of them could run any kind of service business that depended upon repeat customers. But there they are, in a locked system of their own invention, moldering away into their seventies and eighties, sounding off in this or that committee without the smallest understanding of the way the world operates in this century.
The new, young blood in Congress, most of them women look at what's ahead before they get any reasonable degree of power and wonder if it's worth the effort. Politics is a brutally physical sport.
We allow, regret, and allow again We know these people are incompetent.
Fifty years ago, there was a management theory developed by Laurence J. Peter, which became known as The Peter Principle and has never failed to hold true. It espouses that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their "maximum level of incompetence." In other words, employees are promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another.
I would remind you that both the Congress, the Presidency and the Supreme Court are all hierarchal organizations. But now comes the good part of The Peter Principle:
(Wikipedia) The Peter Principle states that a person who is competent at their job will earn a promotion to a position that requires different skills. If the promoted person lacks the skills required for the new role, they will be incompetent at the new level, and will not be promoted again. If the person is competent in the new role, they will be promoted again and will continue to be promoted until reaching a level at which they are incompetent. Being incompetent, the individual will not qualify for promotion again, and so will remain stuck at this "Final Placement" or "Peter's Plateau."
Which explains a great deal about the overcrowded, incompetent, largely immoral, difficult to navigate and seemingly unresponsive world in which we live.
We are not living in a parallel universe, we merely occupy the highest form of human achievement since Pericles. Its name is on the street-sign over there, half hidden by that overgrown forsythia. You and I are both standing on Peter’s Plateau, needing to take a pee and be done with all this.
Image Credit: KSAT.com