dunamis: (miraculous) power, might, strength Original Word: δύναμις, εως, ἡ: Disarm America and Repeat History
2 Corinthians 4
1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
King James Bible
The Light of the Gospel
The result of all of this is that the United States has become what Plato originally spelled out in The Republic and Michael Parenti made famous today – a plutocracy. That is, a nation which is ruled by the rich, where money is valued over “goodness.” Like the Cambodian generals who sold arms to their enemies our political system has been corrupted by those who steer some of the most powerful companies on the planet. Indeed, with their massive funding of political office-holders the rich have made it impossible for the United States government to have a “moral compass.” These wealthy individuals have created a type of Wall-Street Republic where office-holders have become a commodity (or security) to be bought and sold like any other commodity. To be sure, those that are supposed to represent the people have instead become an investment that the wealthiest amongst us use to perpetuate their own affluence.
Wars are fought for the dual-purpose of creating a market for the investment of surplus capital as well as for gathering that which is needed to fuel (at times, literally) the commanding heights of the economy, i.e., land, labor and resources. Solvable politico-economic problems, from global warming to expensive private health care, persist because putting an end to them would also put an end to the profits of those who benefit from their continuance. This great gathering of wealth translates into unmatched political power within US society which in turn has made it possible for the wealthy to pursue their own interests without regard to how it may impact the rest of the world. Their pursuit of evermore riches is sowing the seeds of not only their own destruction but possibly the great mass of humanity as well.
Alas, we must ask, then, what can be done? The answer is the same as it has always been throughout history – we, the people, must fully grasp the enormous power the few have over the productive forces of society which has created a situation where wealth is so entrenched in the political system that the current political-economic arrangement is beyond reform. In so doing, we will see that there are only two choices in front of us – continue down the existing path which will inevitably end with an ethically and fiscally bankrupt republic or bring into existence a political and economic order founded on justice and equality. Unfortunately, the economic elites of our day have left us with no other choice.
Today, it seems that the United States government has lost its “moral direction.” Indeed, as a single but deadly example, in the last ten years US policy-makers have been responsible for the deaths of at least one million people during the course of the US war on Iraq.
In a country of just 32 million people this would be equivalent to the United States suffering the deaths of some 30 million men and women (instead of 5,000) during the same war. In addition to Iraq, our political leaders have been responsible for the deaths of many more people across the globe as a result of non-stop war on an ever-growing list of nations over the last decade. Sometimes referred to as a state of “permanent war,” since 2000 the US government has waged war upon or began “military operations” within the nations of: Sierra Leone (2000); Nigeria (2000); Yemen (2000; 2001; 2004-present); East Timor (2001); China – the Hainan Incident (2001); Afghanistan (2001-present); Somalia (2001-present); the Philippines (2002); Cote d’Lvoire (2002); Sahara (2001-present); Iraq (2003-present); Liberia (2003); Georgia (2003; 2008); Haiti (2004); Pakistan (2004-present); Kenya (2004); Ethiopia (2004); Eritrea (2004); Lebanon (2006); Uganda (2011); Libya (2011); Sudan (2011-present); Jordan (2012); Turkey (2012); Chad (2012); Mali (2013); and South Sudan (2013). Recognizing that some of these “interventions” were to “protect US citizens” from social unrest within a given country, the great majority of them were not. Notably, not one of these “wars” (limited or otherwise), has been formally declared by the United States Congress as required by the Constitution. Today with US military personnel deployed to more than 150 countries (out of a possible 195), before its global war is over the deaths in Cambodia caused by the Khmer Rouge may pale in comparison with what the United States government is prepared to inflict on the rest of the world.
Throughout this time-period, government decision-making by each branch of government has shown a disregard (or lack of understanding) for the Constitution. With out a doubt, we now have a sitting president that has recently made news for choosing to “consult” Congress before deploying the United States military to the sovereign nation of Syria as part of a “humanitarian invasion.” The president has maintained that even if Congress does not grant him some kind of formal approval that he has the “authority” to send troops to the Middle East nation anyway. Throughout the government-media discussion of the possible invasion of Syria there has been barely more than a whisper, that by Constitutional design, Congress is the only branch of government that has the power to move the nation from a state of peace to a state of war. To be certain, the rather conservative (but non-slaveholding) Alexander Hamilton who is probably the most talented political figure in the history of the United States wrote in Federalist #69:
“The president is to be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it [italics added]. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy: while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which, by the constitution under consideration [which was adopted], would appertain to the legislature [italics added to legislature only].
In other words, congress was given the power to raise, fund and regulate the military while the president of the United States, by Constitutional configuration (Article II, Section II, Clause I), is only to be the “commander-in-chief” of the military “when called into the actual service” of the country. The political body which “calls” the president into the “actual service” of the nation is the United States Congress through a declaration of war. Thus, the president’s war powers (including President Obama’s) are latent and not active until Congress – the most democratic political entity of our three branches of government – makes them so.
Some say that we live in the “Age of Irony” where the actual or manifest meaning of something is the exact opposite of the intended meaning of that thing. How ironic is it then that the United States has elected a president who is supposedly a Constitutional scholar yet believes that whether Congress gives him the “authority” to wage war or not (note: not “declare”) that he still has the power to do so on his own accord?
LOSING OUR “MORAL DIRECTION”
Whatever President Obama believes his war powers to be, what do we mean by “losing our moral direction?” We don’t mean the same thing as what the Westboro Baptist Church means when they say the country has lost its “moral direction” through the legalization of gay marriage, abortion and other such things. Instead, what is meant by saying that government leaders have lost their “moral direction” is that government decision-making, and particularly recent government decision-making, has rarely considered the impact of those decisions on the overwhelming majority of the American people, and at times, people throughout the world. Too often, when we examine recent government policy we find that consideration is only given to how decisions made by the state will serve a narrow group of economic interests, i.e., the rich. Who are “the rich?” They are, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, the richest ¼ of 1% of the US population that has more wealth than the other 99% combined. These incredibly wealthy individuals control the commanding heights (or means of production) of the US economy. Wealth provided to them from their control over some of the most powerful corporations in the world translates into near uncontested control over national policy through their allocation of massive campaign contributions and extensive lobbying dollars to congress and the president.
This is not to say that past political leaders have regularly behaved with the utmost legality and the strongest of ethics in mind. The fact of the matter is that they have not. Even a brief review of American political-history demonstrates that the United States government has made decisions that might be considered morally questionable. Whether it was the perpetuation of slavery, the overthrowing of foreign governments or the denial of voting rights at home, the federal government has on more than one occasion been out of step with justice and equality. Yet, in recent years, our political leaders’ transgressions seem to be so outrageous that we would not be wrong to add their recent misconduct to this list of shocking historical examples of government illegality and a failure of ethics. St. Augustine once said, “An unjust law is no law at all.” However, as we shall see below, in the United States today, law and justice have less and less to do with each other on issues of national importance and more and more to do with protecting private wealth at the expense of the people. The result of this corrupting of the American political system has made the strengthening of the American empire not only possible but the downfall (or at least the downward descent) of the American republic inevitable.
IRAQ: A PLACE FOR CAPITAL INVESTMENT
More than ten years after Congress “authorized” President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and almost two years since President Obama declared the war to be over, neither the American people nor the Iraqi people have gained anything from the war. In fact, even though President Obama declared the war over in December of 2011, at the beginning of 2014 there are still some 2,000-5,000 US military troops, 4,000-5,000 State Department employees and 16,000 private military contractors stationed in Iraq. In addition, an estimated 15,000 US soldiers are posted on the Iraqi border in neighboring Kuwait. These numbers and the US’s establishment of the largest embassy in the world in Iraq indicate that minimally the occupation of Iraq continues.
In spite of the Bush administration’s claims that the United States’ primary goal in Iraq was to “spread democracy” (after the weapons of mass destruction rationale proved false), former chairman of the Federal Reserve and loyal Republican Party member Alan Greenspan has since noted that the war was actually “largely about oil.” Echoing Greenspan, then Senator and current Obama-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel agreed, stating that “people say we are not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What…do you think they’re talking about?” In an attempt to make the United States’ national interest clear, long time advisor to Western nations regarding Middle Eastern oil, Dr. Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum, says that the US interest in the Middle East (including Iraq) “is not about democracy – it is about oil.
Even if the United States was interested in democracy, out of 176 countries that were evaluated in 2012 by Transparency International, Iraq was ranked as the 169th most corrupt country in the world – certainly not a primary feature of any understanding of democratic government. Some think that the argument that the United States invaded Iraq because it has the second largest known oil-reserves in the world is “conspiracy.” We should not think of one country trying to get at the resources (natural or otherwise) of another country as conspiracy. It only becomes so when the political and military leaders of a nation lie about the real reasons why they want to do so. Thus, the political and military leaders of the country create the conspiracy, namely, the conspiracy to hide the truth from the people so some unseemly political, economic, or military end can be met. Nonetheless, on the whole, these types of government practices, such as the US war on Iraq, primarily serve an economic end. Perhaps Jules Ferry, the Premier of the Chamber of Deputies of France, said it best in 1885 when explaining the purpose behind the “Scramble for Africa” which had begun four years earlier in 1881. Paying no mind to the “White Man’s Burden” (see: “spreading democracy,” circa 2003), Ferry argued that two of the main reasons why European powers “desire[d] colonies” is so that “they may have access to the raw materials of the colonies” and “as a field for the investment of surplus capital.” In other words, colonies were created as a source for capital extraction and accumulation. In examining Iraq, we see Ferry’s words to be no less true today than when they were first spoken during the last part of the 19th century.
Indeed, after invading the country, setting up hundreds of military bases, securing Iraqi oil fields, arresting the president and overseeing his execution it was time for US political leaders and American scholars to set in place the instruments needed to begin the process of capital extraction and accumulation. How did they do this? – By spreading a little democracy. To be certain, immediately after the invasion of Iraq, the so-called Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) was set up by the US government as a type of colonial government to oversee the country during the first year of the war. L. Paul Bremer was put in-charge and given absolute authority to make executive, legislative and judicial decisions for the whole of Iraq on behalf of the United States government. Early on and making clear what would be the new (or should we say, neoliberal) design of the Iraqi economy, Bremer signed CPA Order 39 which stated that all economic sectors within Iraq, including water, electricity and sewage would be made open, without delay, to privatization by foreign investors. In short order, a number of US firms were awarded contracts to “rebuild” or manage many of these publicly controlled industries for the Iraqi people. The only industries that foreign investors were excluded from by the CPA were oil and gas. However, the writing of the Iraqi Constitution would resolve that.
Without a doubt, once the CPA had set down roots the United States oversaw the drafting of the Iraqi constitution. Setting aside the fact that a sovereign nation cannot have another nation “oversee” the writing of its new constitution (imagine if the British government did this after the American Revolutionary War) US political leaders and American academics, nevertheless, put together a new constitution for Iraq. Whatever virtues it might have had politically (it looks a lot like the United States Constitution), as an economic document it cleared the way for global capital to “invest” in Iraq’s most important source of national wealth. Indeed, Article 25, 26 and the second part of Article 109 of the Iraqi Constitution removed any doubt about the role of foreign capital and privatization in the reconfiguring of the Iraqi economy. The Articles stated that while oil and gas were to be developed “in a way that achieves the highest benefit to the Iraqi people,” it was somehow suppose to be done so by “using the most advanced techniques of the market… and [through the] encourage [ment of] investment.” The average Iraqi citizen is poor, with the median Iraqi income not exceeding $6000 per year. So, how can the overwhelming majority of citizens of Iraq invest in their nation’s most important source of wealth? The fact of the matter is they cannot. Who then, can “invest” in the oil wealth of the country that was already nationalized for the benefit of the people, at least to some degree, under Saddam Hussein? The answer is clear, those who own the commanding heights of the US and global economy.
A Call to Persevere
But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. 20But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
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