The Disease of Presidents

It would seem that there is something infectious in the Oval Office, some pathogen, perhaps in the woodwork. This apparently causes an insidious condition that has afflicted almost all presidents.

Every president enters office announcing that things will be different now, that the US will behave more responsibly while abroad in the world. There will be more transparency, fewer secrets. We will cut the cost of the military. We especially will avoid the temptation to slip into war. We will curtail our military and espionage efforts, and become more accountable to the people.

There is something infectious in the Oval Office.

Within weeks, every president forgets this pledge. Far from avoiding war, every president has deceptively led us straight into, or kept us in, yet another war, often of record-setting duration, always at great public cost, and sometimes secret, with many innocent lives lost, and often with great loss of international respectability. Every president except one.

Jimmy Carter, if memory serves, is the only president in the past sixty years or more to keep the country out of war his entire term. Jimmy Carter, the weakling, ridiculed by St. Reagan and the macho Republicans who never hesitate to send young people off to die in some strange country while they tend to their investments in the highly profitable military-industrial-security complex.

What would be your reaction
to random bombings in your city
from someplace on the
other side of the world?

Barack Obama is no exception to the presidential affliction. Although he has been thwarted by Republicans at nearly every turn in all attempts at good domestic governance, he too slipped quickly into warmongering mode. He made Bush’s national security state, which had grown to enormous size, his own. And he made it permanent. Tens of thousands of “national security” people don’t have much to do, so they go around harassing and arresting ordinary citizens.

We have been involuntarily committed to endless war.

Drones became the weapon of choice. “Surgical”, guilt-free targeting of individuals with minimal numbers of civilian deaths without having to actually go there. “Advisors”, but no “boots on the ground”. Then more bombs, more militants. And so, Obama continued the trend of secret attacks in the Middle East that supposedly killed terrorists only. Of course it wasn’t terrorists only. Sometimes it wasn’t terrorists at all. Sometimes people were killed at a funeral. Or a wedding. Or a village meeting. Or were rescuers killed coming to the aid of victims of a previous attack. Killed by someone in a Quonset hut in Kansas.

What would be your reaction to random bombings in your city from someplace on the other side of the world?

Barack Obama is no exception
to the presidential affliction.

There are always claims of success, followed soon after by news the intended victim survived, although others didn’t. News of a worsening situation, with new militant groups, new recruits, new suicide bombers, further actions by unfriendly regimes. Could it be we’re not doing this right? And we’re not even talking about corporate practices that kill people, destroy the places they live, poison the planet. The remaining survivors of Bhopal have lived in misery for 30 years now, and Big Oil and Coal have poisoned huge areas in every part of the world.

Especially after 9/11, sums of money that beggar the imagination were handed out to practically anyone who asked, no strings attached. Every military-security contractor, every local politician. The US sent some forty cargo transport planes to Iraq, each one filled to capacity with pallets of hundred-dollar bills. Billions simply vanished. The total cost of all our post-9/11 warmongering is some four trillion dollars—a full quarter of our annual gross domestic product. Probably at least half of it was simply wasted, much of it slipped into the personal accounts of generals, private contractors, adventurers, and politicians.

The presidency has become
the biggest factor
in the recruiting of new terrorists.

We are not getting rid of terrorists, we are recruiting them, and now there are many more. The presidency has become the biggest factor in the recruiting of new terrorists to fight the American threat, even more effective than corporate policy. Even some of our own citizens travel to the violent parts of the Islamic world in order to volunteer for suicide bombing of random innocents from the West, especially Americans. Yet we fail to make the connection between what we do and what happens because of it.

The way to avoid all this is simple: track down the pathogens that have afflicted every president except Carter, and remove them from the Oval Office. Quit giving away pallets of hundred-dollar bills. Close most military bases and quit sending soldiers there. Close the Pentagon’s unnecessary spy operations. Quit outsourcing military stuff to corrupt corporations and self-made espionage agents. Stop torturing people, which is no doubt still going on today. Close every military prison not on our mainland. Quit meddling in every third world country’s politics. Wrest some sort of control over the endless corporate malfeasance.

Quit pretending we’re doing all this to protect America, because we’re not. What we are doing is protecting ill-gotten gains of corporations. Instead, pay attention to the more than sufficient security threats at home. Dump the million-person do-not-fly list, most of which is bogus. Quit pretending terrorists are invading from Mexico. Quit spying on us.

Less cloak and dagger. More accountability. More justice. More equality. More actual help for those who need it.

Why is it so hard to see that the reason we have so many murderous enemies is the way we behave?

The only cure
is to begin acting
like a genuine democracy.

Would that be enough to end recruitment of anti-American terrorists? With many decades of violence and treachery behind us, we’d have to be good for a long time before anyone would believe us. Think that will happen? The threat of violence against the US will not end, of course. But we won’t contain it by our almost purposeful recruitment of terrorists. Throwing vast sums of secret money at the problem via non-governmental contractors only makes it worse.

Unfortunately, the simple cure of detoxing the Oval Office won’t work, I’m told. The only cure is to begin acting like a genuine democracy.

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