Thursday, October 19, 2006

Depleted Uranium is a War Crime

Everyone knows about Abu Ghraib, the lack of Iraqi postwar planning, Guantanamo, having bin Laden get away, etc. etc. These issues are front and center. But what do they really mean for how people view the military itself, rather than its political masters? You can view it as a necessary evil, or you can hate it for being a death machine, or you can't imagine America without it, or you can wish it were twice as big and ten times as willing to kick ass. Or whatever.

But any way you slice it, the military per se doesn't take too much heat for its perceived failures. The blame goes (rightly) to the administration, to Rumsfeld, to Cheney, somewhat to Bush depending on how with it you think he is -- it doesn't go to the generals because they were following orders, which is what we expect generals to do. If we had a freelance military, we probably wouldn't have an election coming up. Rightly or wrongly, the generals and their subordinates get a pass. We cluck our tongues at how soldiers could possibly have at those torture victims with such apparent relish, and we shake our heads at how soldiers could possibly commit atrocities against civilians. We wonder how they sleep with themselves when we hear stories of innocent people getting caught up in sweeps and tortured for months without a trial.

But ultimately, it all comes back to the White House. The Bush clan and its army of evil flying monkey lawyers made it happen. The military was just doing what it was told. Case closed. Because the military just bucks up and follows orders.

Wrong wrong wrong.

I am here to tell you that the military basically runs this town. If the top brass wants something to happen, it happens. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be changing the street lights to hot pink. It could be changing the maps so Georgetown is called "Bonerland." Eating pot roast on Tuesday could become a felony and we'd all have to start using the word "coinkydink." It is mind-boggling what the military is capable of doing. A wave of its magic wand: wind farms no longer get built. A slight, goosey hiccup: years of health research are suddenly suspect and need another decade of review. A brief, kittenish thumb-twiddle: we spread cancer and death to civilians that had nothing to do with anything. And all this is made more sinister because the military doesn't sit around and wait for something to do. It needs to look busy. It comes up with new weapons, new demands for bigger and badder stuff (the Chinese menace is the number one excuse for outrageous spending projects, but there are others), new ways to make itself useful. Usually it's just a colossal giveaway to defense contractors. But sometimes the military machine, which is run by engineers and bureaucrats just as much as by HQ, comes up with a really especially bad idea and there is nothing we can do about it because we don't really ever know what the military is thinking until it's already been done.

Very few of you readers know the punk band Anti-Flag. They're not everyone's cup of hot tea, but whatever you want to say about whether they have a beat you can dance to, they get the political ball rolling instead of screaming about cops taking their skateboards.

Also, I interviewed Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) the other day, and he had a few things to say that made it into what I think was a well-written story in my latest issue. And a little bird tells me I'm onto something with this topic and that I should "keep looking," which is the second whiff of Woodward-and-Bernsteinism I've caught since I got this job. They're probably watching me in a tree with binoculars right now and I've already said too much.

What do all these crucial themes have in common? Click here to watch a video that makes the connection explicit.


Blogger charvakan said...

The military does get an enormous amount of deference, but they experience resistance too. You knwo better than I do about the environmental atrocities they're responsible for, especially out West, involving pathogens and radiation. A whole lot of people remember this. And whether it's Gulf War Syndrome or Area 51, there's a vast reservoir of paranoia and mistrust in this country about the Pentagon.

So I think you were a bit over the top about the military getting whatever it wants. They can roll most other interests easily, but there are limits. Good reporting can definitely educate people to the point where they can protest effectively. All three branches of government can be used to alter Pentagon policy.

11:25 AM  

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