There’s a now (rightly) forgotten “war film” from the 1950’s called Kiss Them for Me that stars Cary Grant and Ray Walston as Navy fliers on leave during WWII. It’s a slight piece of film making (mostly designed to appeal to women – with Jayne Mansfield and Suzy Parker as eye candy for their vet husbands). But there’s one scene that sums up the mentality of the military: after spending the entire time trying to weasel out of more combat duty (and finally succeeding because Walston is elected to Congress), the guys learn that their ship has been hit by a kamikaze and destroyed and that all their colleagues have been killed.
They all go back to active duty out of respect and affection for their fallen comrades. Their actions reflect the attitudes and beliefs of a generation of Americans well documented by both Tom Brokaw and Ken Burns.
Fast forward to yesterday’s Blackwater hearings.
Erik Prince, he of unlimited capital, Republican convictions, and evangelical dominionist beliefs spent much of yesterday morning defending the actions of his
band of hired soldiers of fortune employees before the House Oversight Committee. The gist of what Prince said can be summed up in this quote:
We do not have the same rules of engagement as a US soldier….
The members of the committee clucked and preened and ruffled their feathers and acted suitably dismayed, defensive, or demagogic according to their political party affiliations. We heard lots of talk about accountability and controls and – well, oversight. This is all well and good, especially given Blackwater’s track record, its ever-growing forces, and its plans to become a domestic force. Somehow or other our “government” needs to find the political will (I’ll give you a moment to get up from falling off your chair laughing) to stop – or at least rein in – the ever growing power of what is becoming a state sanctioned private army.
Note to Baby Boomers: IT’S OUR FAULT….
Let’s think about history for a few minutes. In 1961 outgoing US President Eisenhower, a Republican, warns the American people about the growing power of what we now know as “the military-industrial complex,” the growing encroachment on our national defense thinking by corporate interests in the business of making war materiel. In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, uses the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (and the subsequent Resolution), as big a pile of crap in its own way as the Bush administration’s WMD intelligence, to escalate the Vietnam War to phenomenal levels – and enrich the defense industry.
Of course, we know how that escalation was effected. A national military draft. A draft that affected, eventually, anyway, young men at every social and economic level. It even affected our most recent two Presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Their records speak to their belief in that conflict – and the necessity of their service in it….
That draft galvanized American Baby Boomer resistance to the Vietnam War. A generation coalesced around the war issue (well, that and great rock music and drugs and free love) and and eventually achieved an end to the conflict – kinda sorta. Protesters applied pressure to Congress and Congress applied pressure to the Johnson and Nixon administrations, and eventually the war ended.
More importantly, at least to the evolution of an entity like Blackwater, the draft ended. An all volunteer military began for the US in 1973 and continues to this day.
Such a force was fine for the first ten years or so. But the massive military buildup under Reagan created the seeds of the current Blackwater mess. It was during the Reagan administration that merger mania overwhelmed American business and “outsourcing,” that most beloved of corporate strategies, developed. As Reagan’s “strategy” of MAR (“mutually assured [economic] ruination”) ostensibly aimed at bankrupting the Soviets spread to the federal government, Reagan’s military adventuring (remember Lebanon? Panama? Grenada? the Contras?) stretched military forces and it became necessary to find ways to free up troops from support duties such as food/laundry/custodial service, etc.
You know their names – Halliburton, Bechtel, KBR – and they’ve achieved their own notoriety as symbols of the the cronyism and corruption of the current administration. But they generally have been involved in engineering, construction, and service provision activities. Most of their contract work has been for the Department of Defense. While they’ve certainly joined the military-industrial complex as major players, they’ve been involved on the industrial side, not the military.
Blackwater is all about the military. Founded by a group of former Navy Seals and initially capitalized by the aforementioned Erik Prince, Blackwater has avoided directly competing with the goods and services offered by the well known contractors mentioned above. Blackwater is about “protection.” As Prince himself explains:
Blackwater is dedicated, and its employees risk their lives to protect Americans overseas. Under direction and oversight, the company allows veterans to continue their service to the US. Blackwater employees are all veterans….
And on the subject of why the “government”needs Blackwater’s protection while in Iraq:
Bad guys just have to get lucky once. – Erik Prince
The State Department has been the principal employer of Blackwater. The State Department has defended Blackwater’s actions. But these are military duties, right? So why is a private group of mercenaries composed of guys who can’t get the military life out of their systems doing the military’s job?
The all volunteer military.
Since BushCo has mired us in not one but two quagmires (don’t be fooled into thinking that Afghanistan is any less a quagmire than Iraq), our military is now stretched to the point where it can’t cover actual military duties such as providing protection to diplomats and other government officials. And that can be traced back to…
We didn’t want to serve in the military madness that was Vietnam, and we’ve made it abundantly clear that a draft of our well coddled little Millenials would be political suicide, so what’s a war mongering chicken hawk like George “Mission Accomplished” Bush to do?
Hire somebody to do the killing that the volunteer military can’t handle. And that’s what GWB has done.
Because that’s what we Boomers want him to do….
What was it Hunter Thompson called us again…?
Categories: American Culture