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US Politics and the Military



The world watches with concern developments in the US. The aforementioned Pew survey said the prevailing opinion is that US action in the Middle East is motivated by oil. Incidentally, it is useless to dismiss the survey on the grounds that it is "technically flawed". As far as I know, it met the highest professional standards. The departure of key figures in the government's economic team suggests serious trouble, and the heavy spending on the military is seen as a device to obscure this fact. The new homeland security department will compare with the Pentagon in size, and the two together will have a preponderant influence on American politics.

What truth is there to this? Here are a few random items which throw some light on the subject. In Louisiana two society women are fighting for a seat in the US Senate. President George W. Bush flew there and in his speech adopted a folksy tone presumably attuned to the Louisiana mentality. Every sound bite was greeted with a roar by people waving little flags. The President told the crowd to vote Republican so that he can do something for the state, which sounded like a bribe.

Quite different was a splendid dinner in Washington honoring former President Bush, a man who has earned enormous respect. There is no public figure in the US who has occupied so many top jobs, and I think there never has been. It is too bad that the political system deprived him of the second term he deserved. The dinner was sponsored by the National Defense University Foundation, and the evening opened appropriately with a film showing the former President parachuting. I felt uncomfortable, recalling the story of a recruit who was told: "Your parachute will open. If it does not, pull the cord on the emergency parachute. There will be a truck waiting for you on the ground". The recruit jumped, the parachute did not open. He pulled the cord on the emergency parachute, but it too failed to open. The angry recruit said "Doggoneit, I bet the truck won't be there either!". This is one reason why I would refuse an invitation to jump.

The former President was the recipient of the first Patriot Award, a bronze eagle with an American flag. The present administration likes the word "patriot", so we should define it. In a gracious and humorous speech, President Bush defined it as a performing a lifetime of service. Is that what the Foundation had in mind, or does it mean something more military? The president of the Foundation, General Paul Cerjan, explained the Foundation's purpose. The main one seems to be to raise money for the military from private sources if public funds are inadequate. The Pentagon already has a huge budget. Does this mean that the Foundation will hit companies and individuals who wish to maintain the favor of the Pentagon?

I did not realize that there is an Archdiocese for the Military Services. I suppose it is Catholic, but we need more information about its status. The head of the Archdiocese, Bishop John Kaising, gave the final benediction. Isn't the head of an Archdiocese an Archbishop? This is one of the many things about the workings of Washington which we must explore.

Ronald Hilton - 12/7/02


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