--Originally published elsewhere on April 18, 2010, when General McChrystal appeared on the front page of The Atlantic, and before his "interview" with Rolling Stone that terminated his career.--
Now it’s official. General McChrystal has been placed in the pantheon of American icons, sanctified next to the likes of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and John Wayne. He now aligns with the many American gods that are manufactured as fast as a Big Mac or an Egg McMuffin. Heroes like these are not human. They only play the image of what America wants them to be, but mostly they reflect the self-delusion of the American culture, a bubble where we are morally superior, smarter, and therefore richer.
This month The Atlantic magazine published an article, “Man Versus Afghanistan,” elevating General McChrystal to the heights of a Julius Caesar, the man who determines the course of history and who can rebuild Afghanistan into a democracy as prosperous as many imagine America to be, or as Rome was before it crumbled into history’s dust.
Kaplan describes General McChrystal as a man who “has never submitted to fate” (p. 26). With such a job title for McChrystal, we might believe that he can also leap over tall buildings in a single bound. As our newly anointed Superman, the general sleeps four hours a night, runs eight miles, and eats one meal a day. McChrystal is America: the country no longer conceives new ideas because its vision is blurred by lack of sleep; the country can only run mechanically one foot in front of the other because it no longer innovates; the country eats its daily meal devoid of taste and nutrition.
In his story about General McChrystal, Kaplan takes the predictable and enjoyable job of describing the apparent virtues of the general whose “physical regimen…itself expresses an unyielding, almost cultic determination.”
By attempting to create a cult hero of McChrystal—the Army of One—Kaplan enjoys the easy road of fantasy and fanaticism while the rest of us scratch our heads and ponder. Why the hell did the Bush administration spend trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives to invade Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, nor had WMDs, nor harbored terrorists until after U.S. troops invaded. Despite this, Kaplan boldly states his preference for imperial war—“The 2003 invasion of Iraq, to which I subscribed,…”—as he bizarrely twists this invasion into “Balkan antecedents.”
Yet we wonder. Now that the U.S. has spent trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives, almost ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than one million civilian lives, when are we finished? What’s the goal? What results do we expect? When the U.S. leaves Iraq and Afghanistan, will these countries be stable? What’s to stop them from simply returning to despotic, theocratic regimes?
Kaplan doesn’t consider any of these questions. Not once does he mention America’s dependence on oil and, consequently, its dire need to occupy much of the Middle East to ensure a stable supply. Instead Kaplan bloviates about how the most powerful military in the world can overcome fate thanks to the likes of General McChrystal who lacks sleep. Kaplan ignores the atrocities by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who now brags on mass media how he authorized the same sort of torture as Afghan and Mexican authorities use for power and plunder. Kaplan describes a few characteristics of Afghanistan, which we find also in Mexico and other third-world countries, such as, “the country is so decentralized,…it is extraordinary complex, with different tribal and sectarian reality in each district.” Likewise, Mexico’s history and current situation reveal how it has always plodded along with a weak central government. Each region in Mexico has always had its autonomous leaders (caciques), which, as in Afghanistan, have become drug lords reaping billions of dollars in the drug trade. As these drug lords gain wealth, they carry more power than their federal governments. The large profits of such unrestrained businesses are able to usurp governmental authority. This has happened in both Afghanistan and in Mexico. Whether they sell opiates, cocaine, or oil, the successful businessmen ply their power to increase their wealth and to impose their own politics, usually fundamentalism to the point of fascism, and ignore the freedom and development of the less privileged classes. The scenario resembles the U.S. Republican agenda.
Kaplan writes, “McChrystal believes that the ‘ideological piece’ of al-Qaeda is ‘truly scary’: that a new brand of totalitarianism—al-Qaeda the franchise—is running amok and motivating small secretive groups around the world, and that victory in Afghanistan is necessary to deliver a ‘huge moral defeat’ to it” (p. 62).
Clearly as we invade and occupy foreign countries in order to control their resources, the more they will resist. Instead of fighting for reliable oil supplies, America must do what it does best: innovate and create renewable sources of energy.
If certain bellicose Americans were so concerned about moral defeats or moral responsibilities to carry the imperial burden and set the world straight, why didn’t the Bush administration invade the dictatorship of North Korea or China, or any other unjust government? Like many other neoconservative knuckle draggers, Kaplan refuses to state the crass and simple truth that the U.S. occupies Iraq and Afghanistan in order to secure stable oil supplies and, above all, to keep our enemies from taking control of the vast wealth the petroleum reserves represent. Making this clear to the otherwise beguiled, American middle class would only shatter America’s moral self-image, albeit mostly self-delusional.
If the U.S. were so altruistically concerned about saving other countries from dysfunctional governments, why not invade Mexico? Instead, under the Merida Initiative, we continue to pour billions of dollars ineffectively into the Mexican government, which morally defeats the U.S. because the Mexican government takes bribes from the various drug lords and explicitly supports the Sinaloa cartel over the others. As Mexico slips over the edge of complete anarchy and unbridled capitalism, the U.S. blindly funnels money without oversight as to how it is used.
Just as the U.S. props up a corrupt and crumbling Mexico, so too, it supports the Karzai government in Afghanistan, a mere racketeer operation. As Kaplan quotes, “’Afghanistan was a cakewalk in 2001 and 2002,’ says Sarah Chayes, former special adviser to McChrystal’s headquarters. ‘We started out with a country that hated the Taliban and by 2009 were driving people back into the arms of the Taliban. That’s not fate. That’s poor policy’” (p. 64).
The U.S. merely empowered the mujahedeen commanders to transform into gangster-oligarchs and drug lords under the American-supported Karzai. So long as the U.S. occupies Afghanistan, the people will enlist and fortify al-Qaeda and the Taliban as a form of resistance to protect their country. That’s exactly what Americans would do if they were invaded. In the midst of all-out war between competing drug businesses in Mexico, the U.S. Homeland Security Department can only sit on its hands as billions of dollars of illegal drugs cross the border along with hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens while millions of dollars of weapons are exported to support the Mexican chaos. Among the illegal aliens crossing the southern border, how many are al-Qaeda operatives carrying various types of WMDs? Let’s ask Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano.
Mexico and Afghanistan rank among the desperate third-world countries. Both countries enjoy strong religious traditions permeate through every fiber of their cultures, if not making them outright theocracies. As God’s dark humor goes, this means that corrupt men rule in an arbitrary legal system with authoritarian misconduct. Like Afghanistan, Mexico has a weak government, unable to control its own military and police, much less the marauding drug gangs grabbing power and wealth. Such weak governments have little to offer their people and are unable to restrain the barbarous greed of unbridled businesses such as monopolies and drug cartels.
In the U.S. a central debate rages. Made wealthier than the Democrats by corporate lobbyists, the Republicans are especially eager to keep government small, even weak, and to oppose regulating the otherwise unchecked greed of big business such as the healthcare industry, Big Oil, and Wall Street bankers. These elitist groups in America argue that large corporations should have more power than government—as if businessmen volunteer selflessly for the development of society. This political ideology, known as neoliberalism, calls for the rule of a small, wealthy social class—the patricians and the ruling political nobility.
This debate rose to a new height when the majority right-wing Supreme Court justices voted to overturn two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations. The mostly extremely conservative Supreme Court ruled that the government may not regulate corporations’ spending for elections. As President Obama said, this court ruling gives “corporations more power to drown out the voices of regular Americans” in political debates where already most have lost their sense of citizenry in the face of mammoth businesses. Now more than ever before, big business can buy the votes of congressmen and senators in the form of campaign contributions and additional investments in political advertisements.
This new, highly political ruling by the Supreme Court moves the U.S. another step closer to a complete coronation of power for 10 percent of the population that owns 80 percent of the nation’s wealth. This class power and inequitable distribution of wealth represents one of the defining characteristics of third-world countries like Mexico and Afghanistan. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has delivered more power to the corporations while weakening the government’s ability to check corporate greed in the best interests of society.
All over the globe, the rulers of third-world countries from Arabia to Zimbabwe squander and squelch the good will of the broader lower classes. Out of some 200 sovereign countries on the globe, more than half operate with hugely inequitable distribution of wealth, where the vast majority of people live on poverty-line income, live with hardly a chance of education, and consequently live without much self-determination. Ironically, the larger social classes at the lower end of the income ladder are the ones who bear more children who, in turn, have fewer chances of education, and less freedom and autonomy.
Often the lower classes become so beguiled by the media, especially the likes of Fox News propaganda, that they ignore their own place in society and their rights. Instead they behave as if they are part of the highest social class, supporting the political interests of right-wing patricians. Perhaps by playing the part, they sense the tingling sensation that maybe they are affiliated with the wealthy at least for a moment, even as many are paid to badger Democrat congressmen at city hall meetings or choose to participate as Tea-Baggers and White Supremacists revolting against the government instead of taking part in the political system to defend their rights as regular citizens. The same is true for the middle-class, born-again Christians who vehemently oppose abortion, demanding that the government regulate individual women’s choice. At the same time, these confused activists oppose government regulations on the very industries—such as healthcare and banking—that devour them financially.
Meanwhile, a tiny social class rules society. The elite enjoy the power and privileges of education, usually secular, and of wealth. Given this inequality, corruption, and arbitrary rule, the governments of most third-world countries are weak. These governments often lack adequate social infrastructure to provide the broader population, the lower class, with healthcare and an education unfettered by religion, which would allow them freedom to choose more clearly about life-defining decisions such as reproduction, careers, and life-style in general.
Instead as, in Mexico, most of Central and South Americas, in Afghanistan, and in most of the Middle East, religious doctrine proves to be the most available form of education, and its authoritarian rules dictate almost all aspects of individual life, rendering the lower class submissive and ignorant. This, in turn, benefits only the wealthy class.
The various policies of the Republican Party in the U.S. serve no purpose for regular Americans. The American right wing has never worked for the best interests of the middle class. Born-again Christian fundamentalists generally want the government to dictate all aspects of an individual’s personal life from abortion to sexual orientation, and at the same time, they want to reduce government regulations over corporate power. From their contradictory belief system, we discover how their goals resemble closely the same theocratic ideology prevalent in countries like Afghanistan and Mexico. The Republican agenda also includes deceiving Americans to justify invading, occupying, and rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan while ignoring the simple fact that the real purpose these wars is mainly to control the world’s largest oil reserves.
Like the government in Mexico and Afghanistan, the U.S. government is weak. President Obama struggles against the overwhelming industrial power of the defense contractors pushing to sell more invasions while the Big Banks and insurance companies lobby to reduce regulation. As in Mexico and Afghanistan, the U.S. is in the grip of a right wing whose goals are to increase theocratic authority and ensure “less government.” As an icon of America, General McChrystal is fighting a war of morality which only lightly veils a war for power and plunder, while enjoying meals void of nutrition, sleepless nights that blur vision, and long runs on empty.
Causes Mark Biskeborn Supports
Democracy instead of Corporatism