Eating Liberally Food For Thought: American Way Gone Astray?

by Kerry Trueman, Eating Liberally


Dennis Kucinich and Alan Greenspan haven't got a lot in common, but they agree that when it comes to the war in Iraq, "It's the oil, stupid," as Beltway bellower John McLaughlin put it on his show yesterday. McLaughlin aired a clip from the recent Democratic presidential debate in which Kucinich said:

Everyone knows that the war against Iraq was about oil. This administration is trying to gain control of Iraq's oil with the help of Congress...

Then, McLaughlin read a quote from Greenspan:

I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.

Yes, and I am saddened that we're sending Americans off to die so the rest of us can continue to live large.

McLaughlin noted that Iraq has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, an estimated 300 billion barrels, and that if Iraq's parliament passes the oil law drafted by the Bush administration, American companies will control 63 of Iraq's 80 known oil fields for the next thirty years.

Back in 1954, when Armistice Day was rebranded Veterans Day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called upon all Americans to observe November 11th as follows:

On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.

Our current administration prefers to promote enduring access to cheap gas and billions of dollars in government contracts to well-connected cronies. And our heritage of freedom's been slaughtered on the altar of 9/11, turning us into a tortured--and torturing-- nation.

In the parting speech of his presidency, Eisenhower warned of "the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power" from the military-industrial complex that's gotten us into our current fossil-fueled fiasco:


Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations...

... Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

...Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

If only we had an alert and knowledgeable citizenry. Instead, we've got what Bill Maher called "the haves and the been-hads":

In America, it's not the haves and have-nots. It's the haves and the been-hads. If you, the citizen, deliberately vote for someone who won't give you health care over someone who will, you need to have your head examined. Except you can't afford to have your head examined.

George Carlin, one of our nation's most astute (and hilarious) satirists, is so disgusted by the state of our democracy that he thinks voting is for fools, as he recently told WNYC's Brian Lehrer:

Lehrer: I read that you don't vote, is that right?

Carlin: That's right, that's right...

Lehrer: You've been quoted saying that elections only give us the illusion of choice, that's how you feel?

Carlin: Yeah, I think Americans are led to feel free by the illusion of choice, all through this culture. The only choice you really have in this country is paper or plastic, cash or credit, diet or regular, Coke or Pepsi. We don't really have choices in this country.

Lehrer: Do you not believe in electoral democracy?

Carlin: No! I think, first of all, if you look at the structure of the political process, the electoral process, in this country--the haphazardness, the illogic of some of the steps, the primary system, the electoral college, the voting where we can't get hardly half of these citizens to vote, even...

...the fact that immediately upon election, re-election begins, the cycle begins over for the person who's been elected, they have to raise money, they have to please people, they have to pay off debts. The lobbyists come to town with all of their money and get what they want, essentially: big pharmaceuticals, big agriculture, big insurance, big real estate, big oil, you know the bigs...that's why I don't believe in this process and I think it needs to be blown up.

Lehrer: So is real choice unattainable? Has any country ever met those standards?

Carlin: I don't think so...I divorced myself from the human race a long time ago--and from this culture, this nation--because I think the human race has chosen to organize itself poorly.

I think we were given great gifts; we were given this opposable thumb, the ability to walk upright, binocular vision, and a mind that could distinguish between the objective and the subjective.

And we have used these gifts to produce tequila lollipops that have a worm in the middle... cellphones that'll make pancakes, you know--it's an absurdity, we have been diverted with toys and gizmos from our lives being stolen from

us in this country.

Lehrer: But to say that you've divorced yourself from the human race, it's such a big statement. It backs up what the previous caller said, which is that you've gotten more cynical over time.

Carlin: Cynical is a word that I apply to people like the Ford Motor Company who chose to continue to make the Ford Pinto when the gas tanks were exploding because it would have been cheaper to pay off the widows than it would be to retool--that's cynicism.

Lehrer: How do you characterize yourself?

Carlin: As a skeptic, and a realist. Now, I buy the fact that there is a definition of cynic that fits me and I'll take that, that's fine...

...what happened was at some point I realized that I didn't really see a good ending to any of this--I still don't, you can smell the end coming, you can smell it! We don't know we've already had peak oil, we've already had peak water in the south west and the south east, people don't know this, they go about their business...

Which, in our current culture, is to spend, spend, spend. If the sub-prime mortage meltdown keeps diluting consumer confidence, our whole economy will tank. That's why it's our civic duty to honor Veteran's Day by buying more stuff. You don't want all the sacrifices of our soldiers to be in vain, do you?