Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Savage Rules

"Technology is great, but it is killing us."

A tech-savvy Iraqi, Afghan, or Somali? No. This is Frank Palkoska, a West Point fitness instructor, telling the New York Times of the lousy physical shape many Army recruits are in. A generation raised on video games, texting, and computers can barely do sit-ups, their endurance sapped by a walk from the couch to the fridge. The imperial brass are concerned that young Americans are too fat to fight, and with more wars being planned, this is seen as a national emergency.

Obesity is indeed a serious problem, but if it helps slow the killing machine, then Super Size us. Lenin said that capitalists would sell the rope that revolutionaries would hang them with. Little did he suspect that the rope would be used to hold up pants on expanding waistlines, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease serving as the noose. It's fitting in a way. Americans are literally eating themselves into oblivion. Who needs 9/11s when dollar menus do the trick?

Obama's plea that Americans "turn the page" on Iraq, while predictable, is unnecessary. Apart from those families directly affected by the terror wars, most Americans really don't give a fuck about Iraq and haven't for some time. It was massive destruction in plain sight, yet few in the heartland showed any anger, concern, or active resistance. Iraq was a shadow war at high noon. And it hasn't ended, nor won't for some time, pious PR to the contrary. Many political observers concede this, but again, it doesn't register on a national level. Besides, there's the other holy war in Afghanistan to "win," plus the dire Iranian threat to our existence to defend against. Iraq is soooo Bush/Cheney. Move to the next Kindle file.

I've said it ad nauseum, but it remains true: If liberals didn't have the Beck/Palin distraction, they'd scour reactionary America for comparable villains to boo and hiss. Anything to prevent a wholesale defection from the Democrats, or their beloved (if compromised and disappointing) President Hope. There are prominent exceptions, Glenn Greenwald among them. But so long as lunatic Americans air their bizarro conspiracies and political ignorance, liberals will insist on general fealty to the mule, primarily at election time. The Dems may not be perfect, but they're not insane. So goes the mantra. This naturally allows Dems ample room to rob, cheat and slaughter with minimal dissent. Not that they want to rob, cheat and slaughter, mind you. They simply need more grassroots love and understanding to reveal their true selves.

Wait -- which was the insane party again?

At one time, Tom Hanks was a solid comic actor who could pull off dramatic roles, the dreadful Forrest Gump aside. Now he has a new, award-winning career humping World War II. After receiving an Emmy for his HBO series The Pacific, Hanks delivered the standard Greatest Generation speech, thanking those "who helped save the world, which has to be done every now and again."

For one of the most barbarous wars in human history, WW II has become a soothing alternative to present day imperial destruction and decline. It's the last Good versus Evil narrative around, which is why reimagining it over and over again is big business. The reality of what led up to it is of lesser interest. It may have been inevitable, as I believe it was (its seeds sown in the utterly avoidable First World War), but it was far from "great," much less "noble."

WW II was, at bottom, a major shift in global power arrangements, with the US receiving the fattest slice. The genocidal theatrics of Nazi Germany muddled this reality somewhat, at least to the mass population. Those in power knew exactly what was going on, and on a certain level appreciated the Nazi show, hiring as many of its scientists and theorists as they could at war's end.

The Pacific front was much more transparent, its origins pre-dating Pearl Harbor. There was simply no way that the US and its British subordinate were going to cede imperial Japanese control of Asia, especially with its lucrative oil reserves. The Japanese knew precisely what their war was about, and they gave it all they had. But history and technology were against them, Hiroshima and Nagasaki twin exclamation points to their demise. US elites also understood the war's geopolitical reality, but whipped up racist emotions on the home front to keep the populace murderously vengeful. It was a brilliant, bloody effort that reaped unprecedented rewards.

Did crushing imperial Japan help "save the world" as Gen. Hanks claims? Recall that in Korea and Vietnam, the US sided with Japanese collaborators and sympathizers against the nationalists who resisted and helped repel their occupiers. Again, the reasons were obvious: if we weren't going to allow Japan to control Asian markets, we sure as fuck weren't handing them over to Japan's victims. The US didn't expend nukes so that Ho Chi Minh could seize power. So, contra Hanks' contention, the Pacific war didn't "save the world." It led to subsequent phases of imperial violence and mass murder throughout Asia.

Give me Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima over The Pacific any day. That a Hollywood conservative was less celebratory about war than a Hollywood liberal might surprise some, but as our current wars expand under a Democratic president, I don't know why it would.