Fall Down Go Boom

     First blow things up, then dump money on it.
     That pretty well sums up U.S. foreign and domestic policy these days.
     This week we dumped a quarter of a million dollars on relatives of villagers we killed accidentally in Afghanistan.
     Technically, our “ally,” the government of Afghanistan paid them, but we know where the money came from. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is $26 billion, according to CIA statistics, and we have been sending that country $15 billion a year in military aid alone since 2001.
     The Pentagon admits it killed some innocent people in Garani village, near the Pakistan border, by accidentally dropping three bombs on them. Washington admits we killed 25, but we paid off 140 of them on Tuesday, according to a National Public Radio reporter who was there. Two thousand dollars per corpse and $1,000 for each maimed person.
     Some policy.
     That’s essentially our domestic economic policy too, except we dump money on the bankers who dropped the bombs, instead of the people they ruined.
     I’m a big fan of President Obama, but I think he’s faking his way through the two biggest problems he inherited.
     In an article in the Vermont Bar Journal, attorney Kevin Ryan wrote, “The development of modern media has put a premium on the ability to couch content or lack of it, truth or falsehood, in sweet sounding words that lull the listener’s mind to sleep, producing an empty and arrogant parade of language. We are a republic of words, but increasingly the words are devoid of meaning, functioning instead only as placeholders for feelings, prejudices, or cynicism.”
     Ryan wrote the article from which that was taken under the reign of President George W. Bush, who certainly used that tactic far more frequently, and for far more topics, than does President Obama. In fact, Bush used that tactic exclusively. Words were not used to stimulate thought, but as a way to shut off debate. Liberals: Bad. Conservatives: Good. War on Terror. War on Drugs. “We’re just looking for sound science.” Four legs: Good. Two legs: Bad.
     Obama is not as bad as that. But when it comes to the wars and the economy we’re still getting the runaround.
     Take the famous “Stress Tests” for banks, which were supposed to show – excuse me, which were supposed to cover up – how badly the banks are ruined. That $45 billion the major banks are supposed to need in new capital is pure eyewash. Under Washington’s rules, the banks are allowed to estimate the value of the worthless subprime-backed securities they own not by how much they are worth today, by how much they paid for them, and how much they think they can sell them for in the future.
     That’s not oversight. That’s fraud.
     When it comes to the wars, the people we kill are supposed to be “militants.” That’s the placeholder the Pentagon and White House use for people, and the U.S. media dutifully follows. What the hell is a militant? Is it an armed guerrilla? Is it a member of a political party or a religious group that, at the moment, is in or out of power? Is it a person who thinks incorrectly?
     In fact, militant is just a word we use instead of “people.” The Pentagon said it killed 25 militants in Garani; the government of Afghanistan and the villagers there said we killed 140 people.
     I think they were probably all people. Calling them militants cannot substitute for an intelligent policy, a policy with real aims and achievable goals. It’s a substitute for thought, a vacuous placeholder meant to shut off debate.
     There’s no question that the only way to prevent the U.S., and world, economic system from collapsing is to throw a lot of money at it. The theory is that once the economy stabilizes, we will pay off the debt with the increased tax revenue.
     That will never happen. U.S. politicians are too cowardly and self-seeking to ask us to pay for what we get. So when the depression is over, or as it ends, we will ruinously inflate the dollar to pay off our foreign creditors.
     First blow things up, then dump money on them.

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