Act Locally, Destroy Globally

By Mark E. Smith

Friday, 23 Nov 2012

San Diego Democrats are rejoicing and celebrating. Not only was Obama reelected, but we have a new Mayor who is also a Democrat. I’ve met and spoken with Bob Filner on several occasions and although I don’t vote, I’d predicted that he’d be elected. San Diego is facing a fiscal cliff of its own due to many years of mismanagement. So I’d expected that the folks who rig the elections would allow Filner to inherit the mess created by his predecessor so they could blame him if it wasn’t cleaned up. Also he’s a former Congressman who retired to run for Mayor here, so he has connections in Washington D.C. that the local real estate developers who’ve been running this city might not have, which means he might be able to bring in federal funds that they couldn’t.

Bob’s your basic good guy. He’s a former Freedom Rider, the only white male in Congress to stand with the Congressional Black Caucus when they protested the fraudulent Florida electoral vote in 2000, and he has a strong following among unions, immigrants, and minorities because he has always been willing to stand up for them. As chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Bob demonstrated his strong commitment to supporting the troops and won the loyalty of veterans’ groups. San Diego is a big military town, so the military vote is important.

As Mayor, Bob is expected to greatly alleviate, if not eliminate, the city’s intractable homelessness problem, provide better city services to under-served minority neighborhoods, improve public transportation, and in many other ways help San Diego to live up to its previously laughable motto of being “America’s Finest City.” We have some of the finest weather, but apart from that, the description was far from apt.

It is understandable that one of Bob’s top priorities would be to eliminate homelessness, as perhaps a quarter of San Diego’s homeless are veterans. Bob cares about veterans. Even veterans with PTSD, substance abuse problems, and violent tendencies. They served their country and deserve some service in return. What goes unspoken is the US imperialist agenda that sent these people to war and caused their problems in the first place.

This is something that cannot be mentioned. San Diego has many military bases and many defense contractors. It isn’t commonly described as a military town for nothing. Without the military and defense corporations, San Diego would have little or no economy at all.

It wasn’t always thus. San Diego Democrats protested war vigorously when Republican Bush was President. But when Obama replaced US troops in Iraq with more expensive mercenary troops, expanded the Bush war in Afghanistan, and started wars in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Mali, the Democrats were silent. In a recent article about San Diego’s Hispanic vote, which was strongly Democrat and thought to have been crucial to the election here, a local weekly cited a Republican policy wonk as being concerned that the trend toward Democrats might be permanent unless they “…become dovish and anti military…” which would cost them votes.

That’s the unspoken trade-off. The Democrats can have their candidates in power and even get benefits for the Democratic Party base, but only on condition that they support the Republican imperialist agenda. Any benefits derived over here, are at the cost of innocent people being killed over there.

The dilemma here is that there simply aren’t enough terrorists in the world to justify the number of bombs we drop. The US dropped 16,000 tons of bombs on Afghanistan during the Bush administrations, while all US intelligence admitted that there were no more than two or three thousand terrorists in Afghanistan at most. The so-called collateral damage is inevitable. If you want to aim at an individual terrorist, you have to use a sniper. If you drop a bomb on them, you will kill everyone in their vicinity, which in rural areas is likely to be their entire village.

In his extraordinary book Blood on the Tracks, S. Brian Willson recounts how he went to Viet Nam eager to help protect his country and the world from the Communist menace. He assumed, as many did, that we were bombing military targets. It was only when he was assigned to go out and verify the kills, that he found we were bombing women and children in tiny villages that bore no resemblance whatsoever to military targets. But why?

The answer should be obvious. You can’t award a defense contract for one bomb and expect a big defense contractor to stay in business. You have to award a contract for tons of bombs, a contract worth millions or even billions of dollars, in order to ensure that the defense corporation remains profitable. And then you have to use up those bombs before you can award the corporation another contract for more bombs. But if you’re bombing a country with few military targets, how can you dispose of that many bombs? Only by encouraging the troops to bomb everything they can. Whether or not they’re bombing terrorists, military targets, or tiny villages with a few mud huts inhabited only by women and children (the men, being more mobile, having already fled to safer places or to join the resistance to a foreign invasion), the bombs must be dropped. Tons of them. As many as possible. It is called war profiteering and it is the biggest industry the United States has.

Congress is unlikely to refuse to award a defense contract because all defense contractors are located within Congressional districts and provide jobs to constituents. The military doesn’t even need to pretend to justify the need for a defense contract, and Congress has even awarded contracts for weapons the Pentagon said it didn’t need or want. Jobs are jobs, and when most other jobs have been outsourced, few Members of Congress will vote against a defense contract-particularly if the defense contractor happens to be one of the big donors to their political campaign.

The United States used to be the richest country in the world. Of course all the wealth was obtained through genocide, by killing other people and taking their resources so that our 5% of the world’s population could enjoy 25% of the earth’s resources. But as our military expanded and other sections of the economy declined, the US became a debtor nation and had to borrow money from foreign countries in order to fund its wars. If it wasn’t the military, which is the biggest expense in the US budget, I suspect that Republicans would call something like that an “unfunded mandate.” But it’s different when it’s the military.

I’m sure that those Democrats who happen to be Zionists, were not only celebrating their electoral victories, but were also celebrating the Israeli assault on Gaza. Those who are not Zionists but are pro-war, celebrated the occasion as being an opportunity to sell more arms to Israel. And those who are anti-war, kept silent, as they didn’t want to cost their party any votes. In a system where only pro-war candidates have any chance of winning, even the third parties who ran peace candidates were celebrating–particularly if their party had gained a few votes and brought in enough donations to allow them to continue participating in elections.

All votes are votes for genocide. The price of local gains are wars that kill innocents to justify a defense budget that, like all capitalist enterprises, and like cancer, is based on growth and has to keep growing until it kills its host.

I should be happy for San Diego, but I’m not. I know that anything that benefits us, will kill Palestinians, Afghans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Yemenis, Libyans, Syrians, and people in Mali. I know that every time the defense contractors need one, Obama will start another war. I know those wars will provide jobs in San Diego and the revenues that will enable the city to assist at least a fraction of the wounded veterans they create. Because once they are wounded or emotionally disabled by war crimes, they will have difficulty finding other jobs in an economy based on war. Some might not even want to work in defense plants after they’ve seen the results of indiscriminate bombing on civilian populations.

San Diegans, like most voters in the United States, act locally and destroy globally. That’s what elections are really about, and one of the many reasons that I don’t vote, even if voting would benefit me personally. Like S. Brian Willson, I have a deep and abiding respect for human life, including humans who don’t happen to be US citizens, and I agree that, “We are not worth more, they are not worthless.”

Perhaps the old activist slogan is due for an update. Let’s change it to, “Think globally, and act accordingly.” We already have much more than our fair share–how many more innocent people are we willing to kill so that we can have more?



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