The Illusion of Power

February 13, 2012


Power is deceptive. Those who have power overestimate the extent and the permanence of it. Those without power similarly overestimate its permanence, even as they underestimate their own power and ability to change things.

The Bush regime believes it is all powerful. Those in opposition underestimate the Bush administration’s weaknesses and underestimate their ability to destroy the arrogant Bush regime.

In general, people tend to think in terms of years instead of decades. The Bush administration’s time horizon is much, much closer; they tend to think of hours instead of years.

However, the five years since 9/11, the weakness of the U.S. empire has been exposed. Even if people in this country do not realize it, people throughout the world do realize the weakness of the “American Empire,” which is rooted in its internal corruption, a corruption that permeates every aspect of American life. The war profiteers make money but can’t seem to create a population willing to fight. The ruling class has sacked the American treasury. There is no money for healthcare, education, or even the basic infrastructure of our country.

Katrina is the most dramatic and vicious example of the unwillingness of the ruling class to provide for the working class, but the weakness doesn’t stop there. Instead, we are weak even in the places where the power structure says it wants to be strong. Recently, the Marines were called upon to produce troops for Iraq and other areas, despite the fact that they are undermanned and face budget restraints. The most significant statistic is that the recruiting pool for the Marines shrunk by one million between 2000 and 2004 . Education is so under-funded that it can’t adequately educate the working class, which makes up the primary recruiting pool, to even go and fight wars. The ruling class is so concentrated on making money that they cannot even make those who are not making money go to war to protect their interests!

In addition, male supremacy within the Army, Navy, and Air Force has caused sexual attacks on young women recruits. The armed forces have had to totally reeducate their recruits against male supremacy, which ironically is a mainstay of their political ideology. They are training their army in a philosophy contrary to their capitalist position.

More immediately, the corruption directly affects the current Army’s ability to fight:

In the aftermath of the onslaught on Lebanon you can open up the Israeli press, particularly the Hebrew editions, and find fierce assaults on the country’s elites from left, right and center

The overall panorama is one of chickens of all ages coming home to roost. mall pustules highlight large rot. Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, a narcissistic bully, secretly took time off the morning he ordered the terror bombing of south Beirut to tell Bank Leumi to sell his stock portfolio before the market plunged, which it soon did by nearly 10 percent.
The capacity of the US armed forces to fight intelligently and effectively has been almost destroyed by a system of graft-ridden procurement that favors expensive weapons systems validated by bogus tests. Israel’s supposed military requirements have been a particularly ripe sector of that racket and the consequences are plain to see. Israel’s receipt of Patriot missiles was no doubt hugely profitable for the parties involved in the transaction, but in defensive function entirely useless. The Patriot missile batteries stationed near Haifa and Safed, much trumpeted by the Israel Defense Forces, played no significant role in the recent conflict.

Israel’s generals paraded on TV in resplendent uniforms even as people in northern Israel too poor to flee found either no shelters at all (particularly Israel Arabs) or, in other words of Reuven Pedatzur in Ha’aretz, “sat for more than one month in stinking shelters, some of them without food or minimal conditions.”
Disfigured by its “special relationship” with the US arms industry, of which the US Congress is an integral component, the IDF has been morally corrupted by years of risk-free-brutalization of unarmed Palestinians, many of them children. It’s one thing to level an apartment building with a missile from a plane or crush a protester with a bulldozer of lob shells at a Palestinian family having a picnic on a beach or kidnap middle-aged and democratically elected Palestinian politicians. It’s another to confront a foe, with modest but effectively deployed weaponry, prepared to fight back.
Alexander Cockburn, The Nation, Volume 283, Number 7, 9/11/06 (Page 10)

There are several things about the Cockburn article that are important, even though I rarely agree with him and even here he wanders away from the subject. But it is not who articulates the position but what is said. In any discourse, political or otherwise, the first step in this country is to attack the speaker, not the content of the thought. Even ancient Greeks understood the logical fallacy “argumentum ad hominum”.

In this case, Cockburn is absolutely correct. The corruption of our system permeates every aspect of our society, causing us to be powerfully destructive but substantially and morally weak, corrupt and ideologically wrongheaded.
The corruption goes to the very core of our society. Cockburn notes in passing that the reason these weapons are built is to reward the war profiteers, not to win wars. This is an important point; these huge weapons are tremendously destructive but not militarily tactical. The corruption is there; not explicit bribes and thievery as we typically understand those concepts, but corruption nonetheless. The US war machine is built by taxing working people who are indoctrinated with fear and xenophobia. Since the prevailing ideology is that firepower wins wars, not correct strategic and tactical military use of a committed army, it is easy to sell bigger and more expensive weapons. That feeds the coffers of the war profiteers but it does not create an effective defense. That is why in Afghanistan, we see ten million dollar bombs being used to blow up horse-drawn carts alleged to contain a rifle. It is also why the Taliban is now coming back to power and the production of opium is higher than any time in history. The war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon only increases the power of religious extremists, and further impoverishes the working class in this country. The corruption, therefore, is not simply bribes and crimes, but is an entire system of exploitation and commercialization of civilization.

In order to illustrate the degree and extent of the corruption in this society, I turn to sports, which have become the metaphor for our society and a dead-on barometer for where we are.

Sports and games are the one distraction for those people who are given no other purpose in life. We have created a corrupt sports system that mirrors the kind of government and world we have created as well:

International sport has long been a form of nationalism, if not an outright proxy for war. Why the swell of pride when the United States, amid cold war tensions, defeated the Soviet Union and then won the gold-medal fame at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid? For millions of Americans (few of whom actually cared much about hockey), those victories by a squad of plucky underdogs seemed to affirm something about our national character. So what exactly are we to think now that the United States, the last remaining superpower, has become a doormat in the realm of sports?

Our athletes in individual sports – Lance, Tiger, Venus – have been capable of transcendent solo performances, and the United States women have won recent world championships in soccer, basketball and softball. But our men’s soccer team failed to muster one victory at the World Cup in Germany. The United States baseball team, at the inaugural World Baseball Classic last March, was defeated by Mexico, Korea and Canada – Canada! – and could not make it even to the semifinals.

It gets worse. United States basketball, long the most dominant of our national teams, has arguably been the most humiliated. The 1992 Dream Team – Jordan, Bird, Magic – brought the American game to the world, a seamless mesh of skill, creativity, improvisation and intuitive teamwork. A mere 12 years later, another Olympic squad of N.B.A. stars, led by the shoot-first point guards Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson and coached by the mercurial Larry Brown, were a dysfunctional mess. On the way to a bronze medal, they lost to Lithuania and for blown out by Puerto Rico.

There is nothing like being beaten at your own game to focus the mind. In preparation for the world championships in Japan (Aug. 19-Sep.3), the new leadership of men’s USA Basketball – Jerry Colangelo, its managing director, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski, the longtime head man at Duke – staged a grand experiment. They convinced 24 players to commit to three years of summer training, leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. And even though Colangelo refuses to use the word “cuts,” only 12 players can be on the roster for an international competition, meaning several of them are trying out for a team for the first time in many years, or perhaps ever.

Most radical of all, the invitees included not just megastars like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant, but also workhorses like Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier and Chauncy Billups. The hope is that a true national team will emerge rather than a thrown-together group of all-stars.

New York Times Sports Magazine, 9/06, Michael Sokolove, Page 18.

Contrary to the position above promoted by Sokolove, the explanation for USA deterioration is not simply salaries paid to so-called superstars. Money corrupts, but this is far deeper and far more pernicious. I watched the USA get beaten at the World Championships, and what struck me is the way the game played in the NBA has corrupted the players themselves. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have become accustomed to getting every call even though 50 percent of the time it is undeserved. Because they are commercial players with big advertising contracts, they get calls they don’t deserve. At the World Championships, those calls were not given, nor should they have been. Anyone can easily see how these great athletes were unable to adjust. The team from Greece which had absolutely no “superstars” easily beat them. This is the result of a system that is corrupt to the core. Just as weapons are made for profit, not to win wars, players are trained to make money, not to learn the fundamentals of team play.

More importantly, the ideology which underpins the American empire is one of individualism and self gratification. In that situation, there is no reason for blind patriotism. Obviously, when Chaney, Bush, Wolfowicz, Rumsfeld, and Pearl refused to fight for the United States because their careers might be affected, then no one will fight for any length of time.

In the 1970’s, the U.S. developed an economic draft. By that I mean that the U.S. provided enough income and incentives to attract poor working people into the service. They had no other viable alternatives. But when these same working poor see the complete corruption of this society, they soon tire of sacrificing their bodies for a leadership that cares nothing for the country or for the soldiers or for anyone else.

The United States is a powerful imperialistic power. That power, used wisely, could further enrich this country and enhance civilization throughout the world. Capitalism at the stage of imperialism, however, is interested not in civilization but in immediate maximum profit. The Bush II regime enforces that worldview. As a result, it lies to initiate an illegal war, uses torture to execute useless espionage, murders 600,000 Iraqis, and impoverishes the American working class allowing the most vulnerable to suffer horrible deaths as happened in Katrina.

That is a corrupt system. Now, with its announcement of nuclear testing and the United States’s anemic and obviously fearful response, the little country of North Korea has exposed the weakness of an imperialistic power that is morally corrupt and militarily impotent. Sadly, while unable to create a society that allows working people to live in peace, this power stills retains the ability to destroy, kill and maim.

Again, we have an alternative vision. One that respects individual societies and promotes individual development, but recognizes that the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few only breeds corruption. We can and will create a society that rewards collective effort with public and socialized civilization that is sustainable. We can and will reward individual achievement, eliminate privilege and contain the greed to which individuals so often fall prey.

Yours in Struggle,

Ronald D. Glotta
220 Bagley, Suite 808
Detroit, Michigan 48226
(313) 963-1320
(313) 963-1325 fax


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