They Do This in Our Name (But You Already Knew That… Right?): Why I Will Not be Voting in this Year’s National Election (Part 2)

Posted: 30 September 2012 in Faith and Life

Go here for Part 1here for an “excursion and here for Part 3

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. (President Barack Obama Inaugural Address January 20, 2009 emphasis added)

These terrorists kill not merely to end lives but to disrupt and end a way of life… But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows. (President George W. Bush Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2001 emphasis added)

Argument

These two strikingly similar quotes from our current and most recent former presidents could be considered merely the post-9/11-requisite reassuring rhetoric of our commander-in-chief[i] were it not for the fact that these men are fully capable of mobilizing the vast resources of the US military to carry out the threats laid out in their speeches.

In other words, they hold the power to eliminate, destroy, stop and defeat. Given the destructive power of said military they are certainly capable of eliminating significant numbers of people and things, of stopping certain actions and of destroying life and property.  Defeat, as we have learned, is another thing entirely.  But the point here is they can, and have, brought to bear the full force of US armed “superiority” to eliminate large numbers of humans (if not movements) and destroy large bits of cities, towns and the critical infrastructure upon which they rely.

In (further) other words, they are quite powerful men.

For our concern here the critical point is that they engage in these activities in our name—in the name of every man, woman and child who calls the United States of America home.  In the quotes provided above they make it clear that they are in the destruction business to protect “our way of life”—that is, the American way of life.

They do this in our name and I am refusing to vote in this year’s national election because I no longer wish to have the destruction of human lives done in my name.  I will not give my vote to any man or woman who promises, and then fulfills the promise, to rain down destruction and death to protect our “way of life” (more on this “way of life” below).

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you think ALL the killing done since September 11, 2001 (or should we go back to February 1991?  Yes, let’s) is justified then I would encourage you to stop reading now.  I am going to convince you of nothing. So… Just move on.  There is nothing to see here.

Historian and Former Army Captain Andrew Bacevich (using an appellation developed by Arthur Schleslinger in a 1973 book) reminds us of the dangers of the “imperial presidency”: the problem of the constant addition to (but never subtraction from) presidential powers. He reminds us:

Critics of whoever happens to occupy the White House often make a show of decrying the resulting “imperial presidency.” This qualifies as mere posturing. In fact, for members of the political class, serving, gaining access to, reporting on, second-guessing, or gossiping about the emperor-president (or about those aspiring to succeed him) has become an abiding preoccupation. The imperial presidency would not exist were it not for the Congress, which has willingly ceded authority to the executive branch, especially on matters touching, however remotely, on national security.  Bacevich, Andrew (2010-04-01). The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (pp. 68-69). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Notice the last sentence. In the speeches referenced above both Presidents were promising to use the full power they had obtained to assure national security.  It is not my intent here to prove that the power of the US President has gone well beyond what the Constitution provides for (read Bacevich or Schlesinger), but rather to bring home the point that both men have used that power to secure a “way of life”—to act in our name—in increasingly destructive and always highly questionable ways.

By voting for either party we merely affirm our acquiescence to this ever evolving (power wise) status quo.  At some point we have to say “enough”.  That is the point I have reached.

In another publication Bacevich[ii] lays out how the so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT—or, as he calls it, the war formerly known as the global war on terrorism—unofficial acronym WFKATGWOT), has evolved in just 11 short years from the “shock and awe” of Rumsfeld (remember that?), to “counterinsurgency” (COIN) under Petraeus, to “assassination” via drones and special forces under Vickers.  The men named here were/are all part of the Executive Branch (the “Presidency”) and recommend to and then execute the orders of the President.

I would add a phase to Bacevich’s model and suggest that the very first phase in the WFKATGWOT, used when the idea of a GWOT was only the distant dream of the architects of The Project for the New American Century, be called the “sanctions regime” of Clinton/Albright.

All of these phases have two things in common: 1) the stated goal of protecting the American Way of Life and 2) the attendant death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people—mostly Muslim, mostly in the Middle East, mostly non-terrorists (whatever terrorist means anyway[iii]).

From Albright’s “we think the price is worth it[iv]” in responding to a question about whether the deaths of 500,000 people due to the sanction regime was worth it; to Bush’s joking about “missing WMDs” (These weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere![v]), the existence of which was the pretext for the war he launched that led to over 600,000 excess deaths; to the “we don’t do body counts[vi]” statement of the Petraeus phase, we have the Executive (the Presidency) telling us that killing other people is just the way it goes. Essentially: “Don’t worry. You want your ‘way of life’ or not? Just trust us. We’ll take care of it.[vii] We’ll do what it takes.  And whatever ‘it takes’ will be worth it.”)

And now… Now, we have the beauty of a system, installed by Barack Obama, in which we never have to be embarrassed by how many innocents we have killed in the assassination regime because (Osama bin Ladin’s murder notwithstanding), officially, the assassination regime is classified and, therefore, not open to public scrutiny or accountability[viii].  This, in spite of the fact that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism  has calculated that up to 1,100 civilians have been killed by the drones of this regime in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

From all of this we now understand that to protect “our way of life” our “leaders”—the ruling elite of the USA—are willing—and appear blissfully unconcerned in their willingness—to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

I will no longer support the imperial presidency.  I will no longer participate in its death dealing ways.  I will no longer allow it to use my name.  I refuse to participate in any act that will bring a single person to serve its power until it stops the carnage of innocent souls so we can maintain “our way of life.”

Action Plan

“But Robb”, you will say, “your ‘actions’ here are so passive.  Who will notice?  Who will care?  Who gives a damn that one middle-aged, powerless guy in Northern California refuses to vote.  You need to do something not simply not do something.  We all need to DO something!”

I concur.

So here is what I propose: gather together a group of your friends—trusted ones, ones with whom you feel very safe. (This may be a pretty small group. That’s okay.) Turn off the television—in fact, I would encourage you to do this on a night when the soon-to-be or already-experienced death dealers are debating the fine points of what makes them sooo different—and have a long conversation with your friends about “our way of life.” Once again Andrew Bacevich provides a useful perspective on how this all ties together:

For the United States the pursuit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has induced a condition of dependence—on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people, whether they admit it or not, is that nothing should disrupt their access to those goods, that oil, and that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part through the distribution of largesse at home (with Congress taking a leading role) and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad (largely the business of the executive branch). Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

If these people are killing in our name to maintain “our way of life” then I think we should ask the question of whether “our way of life” is really worth the lives of all the people we are killing to maintain. Maybe we need to start changing “our way of life.”

I first started thinking about “my way of life” back around 2003 when the Sacramento Bee ran a series of articles under the title of State of Denial.  I am not going to rehash all the arguments they made but the short version is this:

There are no conservatives (as in those desirous of “conserving” the beautiful resources of our state) left in California (or, I would add, in the USA).  What we want is to preserve our way of life—our majestic mountains, our pristine coastlines, our amazing forests—by destroying places far away and out of sight.  As evidence they introduced the exhibits of our refusal to drill for oil off our coastline while we continue to use oil, the extraction of which has despoiled the Amazon basin; our restrictions on logging our own forests even as we decimate the boreal forests of Canada; our unwillingness to mine gravel for cement even as we cart off large chunks of various Mexican communities.

When Bush and Obama and their minions (yes, I said minions just as if they were evil warlord types) say they will kill (anyone) to maintain “our way of life” they are saying that they are willing to help us preserve something at the expense of lots of other people.  Well I don’t know about you but if that is the case then I think it is time we stop wasting our time trying to argue for which one of these people will do a better job killing to maintain “our way of life” and start talking about how we are going to live differently.

So… go DO something!  Start talking about “our way of life” and how we can alter it so that others might get a chance to not get blown up.  It is time for us to figure out how to be cosmic conservatives (okay, that is a lame concept but what I really mean is we need to learn how to conserve communities and lives everywhere, not just preserve a little slice of life here).

And Now… What I REALLY think…

Caution: this next part is a rant.

We, Americans, are an idolatrous people.  Our God is Molech[ix]. But unlike our forebears who practiced this particular belief system by sacrificing their own children to an angry god for the propitiation of their own sins, we sacrifice the children of others to the techno-militarism that we have wrought with our own hands (a god of our very own making—like the golden calf of lore) for the maintenance of a “way of life.” We force those children to “pass through the fire[x]” of drone dispensed missiles that sever limb from body, spill brains and end abruptly the hopes and dreams of the next generation in places the names of which we cannot even pronounce. Yes, that is graphic but that’s what our missiles do.

We are engaged in a generational struggle, said George W Bush.  And he was right.  We are engaged in a generation-long campaign of blood lust murders of revenge so that we can wake up to “our (unaltered) way of life” each day. It is time to snap out of our revenge-blinded reverie and remember that children are dying.

As Jackson Browne has asked:

When you look into a child’s face

And you’re seeing the human race

And the endless possibilities there

Where so much can come true

And you think of the beautiful things

A child can do

How long — would the child survive

How long — if it was up to you[xi]

“But Robb”, you will now say, “you are just distracting us from the enormity of the events at hand!  THIS election is for our future.  THIS election is the “most critical of our lives”!  Get out the vote!!!  Consider the consequences if Romney/Obama wins!”

Exactly… consider the consequences of an Obama/Romney victory: lots of people are going to die so we can keep “our way of life.”

[i] Of course the President is not “our” commander in chief but merely the commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces.

[ii] Scoring the Global War on Terror: From Liberation to assassination in three quick rounds

Posted By Andrew Bacevich On February 20, 2012 on www.Tomdispatch.com

[iii] See Glenn Greenwald’s The Real Definition of Terrorism www.salon.com/2011/12/10/the_real_definition_of_terrorism/?mobile.html

[iv] Here is the exact exchange in the 60 Minutes interview of May 12, 1996 (though 500,000 may have been a high estimate, Albright did not dispute it):

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

[v] Quote from Bush’s “humorous” slideshow presented at the March 2004 annual dinner of the Radio and Television News Correspondents Association

[vi] General Tommy Franks, Bagram Airforce Base, 2002

[vii] A Perfect Circle’s “Pet” gets it just about right:

Pay no mind what other voices say

They don’t care about you, like I do (like I do)

Safe from pain and truth and choice and other poison devils

See, they don’t give a fuck about you, like I do

Just stay with me, safe and ignorant

Go back to sleep

Go back to sleep

Lay your head down child

I won’t let the boogeyman come

Count the bodies like sheep

To the rhythm of the war drums

Pay no mind to the rabble

Pay no mind to the rabble

Head down, go to sleep

To the rhythm of the war drums

 

I’ll be the one to protect you from

Your enemies and all your demons

I’ll be the one to protect you from

A will to survive and a voice of reason

I’ll be the one to protect you from

Your enemies and your choices, son

They’re one in the same I must isolate you

Isolate and save you from yourself

 

Swayin to the rhythm of the new world order and

Count the bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums

The boogeymen are comin’

The boogeymen are comin’

Keep your head down, go to sleep, to the rhythm of a war drums

[viii] See: International Human Rights And Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Law School) And Global Justice Clinic (NYU School Of Law), Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, And Trauma To Civilians From Us Drone Practices In Pakistan (September, 2012) and Obama’s Shadow Wars Posted By Andrew Bacevich on www.theamericanconservative.com May 29, 2012.

[ix] For a useful historical discussion of Molech see www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10937-moloch-molech

[x] See the prophet Ezekiel’s condemnation of this practice in Ezekiel 16.

[xi] From the song How Long, off the album World in Motion.

Comments
  1. Here’s another reason to not vote: No elite nation-state (esp. the U.S.) cares about the environment (because doing so would jeopardize “our” way of life), and 20 years of political activism by environmentalists hasn’t amounted to jack.

    Long article: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

    (Love the Bacevich refs; he’s dynamite. And the Perfect Circle ref, too – great song.)

  2. JohnK Stoner says:

    OK, give me a rant anytime instead of the pack of sugar-coated, smiling lies which are the stock in trade of the media and so-called government.

  3. Given that foreign bloodshed will not stop in either case, can you not find any reason whatever to vote for one candidate over the other? The system is huge, but it can be worked in. Personally, I am neither a fan of war or terrorism, but I detest the fact that unborn children right here in America are being slaughtered for our convenience as well. So, when I vote, I will keep their faces in mind. Thank you for presenting the anti-militaristic viewpoint so well. You may be wrong about not voting, but you are not wrong that we have over-reacted and over-reached.

  4. […] blogposts on why he is not going to vote in the presidential election (part one, excursion, part two—part three is promised soon). Robb’s general perspective is terrific, I think. He is […]

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