Thursday, August 18, 2016

"You Don't Know What The Pentagon Is? (Scornfully) It's The Capitol!"

I overheard something significant at the beach in South Portland this week, where a group of day camp kids were playing with kayaks and building sand castles. A boy who appeared to be about 9 said scornfully to a peer: 

"You don't know what the Pentagon is? It's the capital!"

A 9 year old boy living in the heart of the U.S. empire could be forgiven for thinking this is the case. Maybe he's seen this pie chart and knows that military = Pentagon:

Or this one, detailing the role of the war supplemental (renamed the "overseas contingency fund") plus the budget lines hiding weapons development such as nukes under the Dept. of Energy:

No, who am I kidding? A 9 year old has not likely seen either of the charts. 

Nor has he likely seen the headline "Army reports it cannot account for $6.5 trillion" and concluded that, if you're the boss, you can hide trillions in taxpayer dollars and no one has the power to make you say what you spent them on. He probably hasn't signed the petition volunteering to help the Army find the missing money either.
Sign the petition here.

A 9 year old in today's U.S.A. is living in a propaganda society so pervasive that it shuts down the capacity for real analysis. 

As a prime example I call your attention to a recent article by climate change guru Bill McKibben. Writing in the New Republic (a neoliberal magazine my husband mysteriously started receiving the same month a friend gave him a subscription to the much more radical Adbusters) McKibben called for a war on climate change akin to the mobilization that led to a win during WWII.

For a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College McKibben has a pretty shallow analysis of that global conflict. He gives the impression of having watched a lot of rah-rah "history" programs with Hitler as the ultimate bad guy and the U.S. as the knight in shining armor. His only critique of U.S. war-time performance was that they stayed out of the fight for too long.

He appears to be completely unaware that WWII was a continuation of the colonial conflicts that had been poorly resolved by WWI after the Ottoman Empire unraveled; that U.S. corporations like IBM and Ford profited from doing business with Nazi Germany right through the war; and that bombing Japan with nuclear weapons was the opening salvo in the (ongoing) Cold War with the U.S.S.R. Which had its roots in the colonial conflicts arising when the Ottoman Empire unraveled. Just ask Afghanistan.

Unaware as well that the U.S. and its allies knew about the concentration camps but kept quiet until they tardily liberated them to great fanfare. Also unaware that many of the Jewish people who died in camps or in transit had been denied permission to emigrate to safety, sometimes being literally turned back from U.S. shores. Also unaware that Pearl Harbor happened after the U.S. cut off imperial Japan's oil shipments -- and that the U.S. government knew that Japan was planning the "surprise" attack.

But for white men of McKibben's generation -- men without the habit of reflection, anyway -- WWII was a glorious victory and a grand project that got us all working together. That it unleashed nuclear catastrophe on the planet is not even worthy of a mention by the eminent environmentalist.
Image by Anthony Freda from "Pentagon Carbon Pollution Is Killing Life On Our Planet" went2thebridge July 19, 2015
But the really shocking ignorance on display in McKibben's long article is the pass he gives the Pentagon on its major role in driving carbon pollution and thus climate change. He doesn't just let the Pentagon off the hook -- he literally doesn't even mention them. 

Maybe that 9 year old and McKibben should sit down for a talk sometime, so the founder of wouldn't be so bewildered about why neither of the corporate parties will take on slowing down the runaway train of climate chaos in any meaningful way.

If you'd like to help, why not take the Natural Guard pledge? Affirm your commitment to remind people who are concerned about climate change that the Pentagon and its contractors are an enormous elephant in the carbon belching room. 

Then, in discussions about national "security" you can remind people that climate change is the biggest threat to our global safety. And continuing to burn more and more fuel for "safety" isn't taking us in the right direction.


Sarah Roche-Mahdi said...

Terrific piece, Lisa.

Bob Klotz said...

I have no reason to defend McKibben; in fact, I have shared my concern regarding some of the response -- & lack there of -- regarding the impact of the military by McKibben and others in the climate change movement.

At the same time, a lack of reference to the military impact on the climate does not necessarily/automatically equate to anything but a lack of reference -- which is true of a host of other issues not referred to within the finite limits of an article with a particular focus.

Also to suggest that a lack of reference to the more complete story of past wars implies "unawareness" seems a bit extreme.

I know 350 to more than connect the dots between social/racial/economic/political justice & climate change...but certainly not perfectly.

Here's hoping that we can continue to gently nudge those of us who need to take on these issues TOGETHER...though frustration is understandable...

I would encourage those with concerns about this issue to communicate them directly to Bill -- including via the Facebook-based dialogue on Friday, August 19; see information here:

Lisa Savage said...

Thanks, Bob, for your feedback. While I don't agree with a strategy of "gentle nudging" at this point in history, I am all about the exchange of ideas and real information that is scarce in the U.S. I appreciate hearing your point of view and I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Since I wrote this post I've come across an excellent analysis of the McKibben piece in Counterpunch by Elliot Sperber, which goes deeper than mine did. You can read it here: David Swanson also had a couple of things to say about the McKibben piece in his article "The Unbearable Awesomeness of the U.S. Military"