Legislation

The United States: A Nation on Suicide Watch

“The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required major
shifts in national resources from civilian to military
purposes and contributed to the growth of the budget deficit
and public debt. Through FY 2018, the direct costs of the
wars will have totaled more than $1.9 trillion, according to
US Government figures. Pollution is a serious issue. The
United States (US) is a “large emitter of carbon dioxide
from the burning of fossil fuels; deals with water pollution
from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; has limited
natural freshwater resources in much of the western part of
the country that require careful management. Deforestation;
mining; desertification; species conservation; and invasive
species (the Hawaiian Islands are particularly vulnerable)
are widespread. Long-term problems for the US include
stagnation of wages for lower-income families, inadequate
investment in deteriorating infrastructure, rapidly rising
medical and pension costs of an aging population, energy
shortages, and sizable current account and budget
deficits.”

“The onrush of technology has been a
driving factor in the gradual development of a “two-tier”
labor market in which those at the bottom lack the education
and the professional/technical skills of those at the top
and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises,
health insurance coverage, and other benefits. But the
globalization of trade, and especially the rise of low-wage
producers such as China, has put additional downward
pressure on wages and upward pressure on the return to
capital. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household
income have gone to the top 20% of households. Since 1996,
dividends and capital gains have grown faster than wages or
any other category of after-tax income…In December 2017,
Congress passed and President Donald TRUMP signed the Tax
Cuts and Jobs Act, which, among its various provisions,
reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%; lowers the
individual tax rate for those with the highest incomes from
39.6% to 37%, and by lesser percentages for those at lower
income levels…The new taxes took effect on 1 January 2018;
the tax cut for corporations are permanent, but those for
individuals are scheduled to expire after 2025. The Joint
Committee on Taxation (JCT) under the Congressional Budget
Office estimates that the new law will reduce tax revenues
and increase the federal deficit by about $1.45 trillion
over the 2018-2027 period.”

****

Are those the words
of some left wing liberal publication or fake news from the
mainstream media or conspiracy tinfoil hats? No, they are
excerpts from the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) 2019
World Factbook, an unflinching look at
all the planet’s nations and their political systems,
military expenditures, resources and internal and
transnational troubles.

We’re Number
One! We’re Number One!

Yes, indeed, the US
has real problems, not imagined, as Republicans, Democrats
and those with “Star Spangled Eyes” like to claim
otherwise. “The US is the greatest country in history with
the world’s most powerful military. God Bless America!”
they shout out or proclaim after every speech.

Perhaps at
one point in history’s past the nation had a shot to be
the greatest of all time, at least in this solar system.
Maybe that could have come after WW II, or the end of the
Vietnam War, or even the largely successful Civil Rights
movement. But now the country and its people are delusional
in thinking that “everything’s groovy”.

What’s to
worry about? Gas prices are low, the National Football
League season is underway and the Major League Baseball
playoffs are just around the corner. What fun to watch these
sporting events as military aircraft fly overhead and
20-something millionaires run around the baseball diamond or
up and down the football field in stadiums, by the way, largely financed by the public. Who
cares about lead infused water in Newark, New
Jersey; Flint and Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania?

And what can be said about the wars in
Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Where’s the victory to put in
the US “Win” column? The American public has largely
forgotten these tragic conflicts save those whose families
have made a sacrifice. But sacrifice for what? Testing out
new equipment, technology and war fighting doctrine? The
War on Terror has siphoned off cash badly needed for
US infrastructure repairs and has taken the lives of
thousands of Americans.

Yes, it is correct that there has
been no repeat of the 911 attacks, but the US is dealing
with its own home grown terrorist problem: active shooters. Is the US military
going to start hunting them down here like they do Islamic
State terrorists in the Middle East and
Africa?

Hell on Earth

At any
rate, the only maniacs who want US personnel to remain in
Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, three hell-holes created, in
part, by the US, are zealous military leaders, defense
contractors/suppliers, corrupt officials the US has propped
up in the three countries, and black market operators eager
to steal American weapons and sell them to the Taliban or
groups like the Islamic State.

Oh, and let’s not forget
that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (the Baron Harkonenn of the US government)
and his boss President Donald Trump who are eager for war with Iran (which borders
Iraq and Afghanistan, among other nations). That push has
already started with the US exiting from the nuclear accord
with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in May 2018.
The Trump administration has since unleashed punishing
economic sanctions, and has adopted a blind-support policy
for Israel and the bloodthirsty Saudis who would like
nothing better than to have the US go to war with Iran. Yes,
lets “do Iran” if not by direct military action then
through subterfuge and dicey intelligence likely to be used
to justify an ill-advised invasion.

The attack-Iran crowd
has been singing the same old tune for at least 40 years now
and it should have long ago been dust-binned. But here we
are, again, moving toward the precipice of conflict.

“According to the National Iranian American Council,
“The past 40 years in U.S.-Iran relations have been
riddled with missed opportunities. While the Iranians and
Clinton administration failed to initiate serious dialogue
after Mohammad Khatami’s election, the George W. Bush
administration pocketed Tehran’s assistance after the
U.S.invasion of Afghanistan, put the country in its “axis
of evil,” and ignored its offer for a grand bargain. Under
the Trump administration, however, we are likely witnessing
the greatest missed opportunity in four decades: a failure
to capitalize on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka
the Iran nuclear deal.”

War planners in the US have
already sorted through all the airstrike contingencies and
have plans, classified of course, for air/missile strikes.
But you need not wait for the day when the aircraft and
missiles take to the skies over Iran and the talking heads
from left, right and center media rant and rave about a
brand new war, or retired generals show up to blather about
this and that weapon system. Prepare yourself now. Be an
educated armchair warrior by reviewing Anthony Cordesman’sOptions in
Dealing with Iran’s Nuclear Program.
It addresses the
use of conventional and nuclear weapons by the US and
Israel.

What’s the Frequency
Kenneth?

It is commonplace for Americans to
lionize US military leaders and look to them as calming
voices, counterweights to warmongering government officials
and their advisors. Ironic, isn’t it? Can we look to our
divine US military leaders to change the current thinking of
the war hawks in the administration, congress and the think
tanks that dot the Washington, DC Metro region?

Nope.

Consider this review by William Bacevich, a decorated combat
veteran, of the newest US Central Command boss, Marine Corps
General Kenneth McKenzie. McKenzie’s area of
responsibility (AOR) includes Iran.

“General Kenneth
McKenzie became the twenty-fourth commander of CENTCOM (more
formally known as United States Central Command). On May 8,
at an event sponsored by the Institute for the Perpetuation
of War and the Promotion of Regime Change, more formally
known as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
(FDD), he outlined his plans for building on the legacy of
his 23 predecessors. None of those predecessors, it should
be acknowledged, succeeded in accomplishing his assigned
mission. Nor, I’m willing to bet, will he.

The essence
of that mission, according to General McKenzie himself, is
to promote stability. “A stable Middle East underpins a
stable world,” he announced, and “our steady commitment
to our allies and partners provides a force for
stability.” As to how the region became unstable in the
first place, he offers no opinion, leaving listeners with
the impression that previous exertions by CENTCOM forces in
invading, occupying, bombing, and otherwise spilling blood
throughout his Area of Responsibility (AOR) had nothing to
do with the absence of stability existing there today…This
much seems clear: To listen to McKenzie, Iran is the
ultimate source of all evil. To cite just one example,
during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the general charges that
“at least 600 US personnel deaths in Iraq were the result
of Iran-backed militants.” This was indeed nefarious, and
one is hard-pressed to think of a comparable episode in
recent military history, although US support for Saddam
Hussein pursuant to his war of aggression against Iran might
fill the bill.”

Don’t Bogart that Joint My
Friend

How are we faring in that other Long
War, the War on Drugs?

The Office of National Drug Control and Policy’s
(ONDCP) 2019 National Drug Control Strategy document
describes the massive US local, state, and federal machinery
set up to defeat drug trafficking organizations from getting
their products to US streets and into the bodies of American
citizens.

“The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas
(HIDTA) Program provides assistance to law enforcement
agencies operating in areas determined to be critical
drug-trafficking regions of the United States. HIDTAs
provide an umbrella to coordinate Federal, state, local, and
tribal drug law enforcement agencies’ investigations, and
act as neutral centers to manage, de-conflict, analyze,
provide intelligence, and execute drug enforcement
activities in their respective regions. With the recent
inclusion of Alaska, the first new HIDTA in 17 years, the 29
regional HIDTAs now include designated areas in all 50
states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District
of Columbia. The regional HIDTAs bring together more than
21,000 Federal, state, local, and tribal personnel from 500
agencies through 800 enforcement, intelligence, and training
initiatives, all designed to disrupt illicit drug
trafficking and dismantle criminal and drug trafficking
organizations.”

The US military, of course, plays a key
role in the US War on Drugs, supporting HIDTA’s
among other activities. Take, for example, US Southern
Command’s (SOUTHCOM) role in the Joint Interagency Task
Force-South (JIATF-South). A 2005 briefing by former US Coast Rear
Admiral Jeffrey Hathaway shows that no less than 14 agencies
worked, and likely still do, chasing down illicit drugs in
the SOUTHCOM AOR. These include the National Security
Agency; the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines; the US
Coast Guard, and the National Reconnaissance Office, among
others. According to one of Hathaway’s slides, every step
involved in JIATF-South operations from interdiction to
prosecution leads to intelligence. That is an interesting
point. So 14 years later and all the intelligence collected
has led to what, exactly?

Let’s revisit the CIA’s 2019
World Factbook for a read on how the War on Drugs
effort is going. The US is the “world’s largest
consumer of cocaine (shipped from Colombia through Mexico
and the Caribbean), Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and
marijuana; a major consumer of ecstasy and Mexican
methamphetamine; a minor consumer of high-quality Southeast
Asian heroin; an illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana,
depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine.
It is also a money-laundering center.”

Great!

This
piece could go on and on citing data from a myriad of
sources showing, among other things, the 500% growth rate of the US prison population,
income inequality according to the Gini Coefficient which sees the US
(41.5) right near Iran (40), or that one in six children in the US live in
hunger. But, hey! The stock market is up, unemployment is
down, and the dollar menu at McDonald’s is fabulous.

The
forever wars on Drugs and Terror, or the trumped up wars to
come; income equality; homelessness; hunger, infrastructure
collapse and the fracturing of US society into tribes is
clearly a nationwide social, political and cultural
sickness: perhaps mental illness. Even the Internet/World
Wide Web, once viewed as a global unifying/liberating force
for change/good has become what is termed the Splinternet, reflecting large in-group
fanaticism, censorship and a polarization of political
beliefs. It is now polluted with advertisements just as
radio and television are.

But there’s still time left on
the clock to change the direction of the country. Who or
what will do that and when it will happen I’m not sure.
But I take heart in Robert F. Kennedy’s insight below that
there are many who long to make “life worthwhile” for
everyone in America, once again.

“For Too much and too
long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and
community values in the mere accumulation of material
things. Our gross national product…if we should judge the
United States of America by that—counts air pollution and
cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways
of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the
jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of
our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic
sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead,
and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets.
It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the
television programs which glorify violence in order to sell
toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does
not allow for the health of our children, the quality of
their education, or the joy of their play. It does not
include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our
marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the
integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our
wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning;
neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it
measures everything, in short, except that which makes life
worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except
why we are proud that we are Americans.”

John Stanton is a Virginia based writer. Reach
him at
jstantonarchangel@gmail.com

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