Howard "Buck" McKeon, Republican Representative from California has a starring role in Jill LePore's New Yorker article about how the United States got itself into a state of unending war.
This is a very lucid article, which uses publicly available information to reveal just how our system works.
But first, a word about Buck. Mad Dog does not know how he came by that name. It wasn't because he was a Buck private, because he never served in the military. He did follow do the now familiar road of starting at Brigham Young University, leaving to go on Mormon mission, then marrying and starting his family which grew to six children, started a business, went back to college and got his degree, started a business which went bankrupt, which in Republican circles seems to be a rite of passage to the next inevitable step in life--bank president.
I suppose banks must like to appoint people who have gone through bankruptcy to be their presidents, because, well, they've been there; they have all the experience they'll ever need.
And then, from bank president to nominee of the Republican Party to go to Washington to fight spending, except defense spending. You wouldn't want to cut defense spending if you represent McKeon's district, which has an Army fort, an Air Force base, a naval weapons station, and a Marine mountain warfare training site.
McKeon, who is strongly pro life, pro gun is also strongly pro war. His district depends on it. He added language to the 2012 defense authorization act to give the President, even a Democratic president, the right wage little wars or big wars as he sees fit. McKeon has never met a war he did not like.
The rationale for wars is now, "we'd rather fight them in the streets of ...(insert name) than in the streets of New York." Or "deny the terrorists sanctuaries." Which is wonderful for a Congressional district like McKeon's California 25th, because it means anywhere you can find a nest of terrorists, and you can find them in a myriad of places from Afghanistan to North Africa, to sub Saharan Africa to East Africa to West Africa, to Indonesia to Berlin, Germany, well, you can fund a nice war to go flush out those rats.
It's steady work.
In the 1950's, the rationale for a defense budget which amounted to 50% of government spending was the world wide Communist conspiracy. It justified hundreds of American military bases all around the world, 55,000 troops in Germany, 35,000 in Japan, 10,000 in Italy, not to mention Korea. No other country in the world has any bases to speak of outside their own territory.
Once communism fell, the attack on the World Trade Center was used to justify "rooting out" the terrorists, denying them sanctuaries, i.e., sending American troops and weapons all over the world, because, after all, that's where the terrorists are. They hide out all over the world. Whatever country you feel like invading--terrorists.
Andrew Bacevich has decried this new American mindset of unbridled militarism. We aspire to be the policeman for the world. The cheering section for this state of perpetual war is comprised of rightwing loudmouths (Limbaugh, Beck--fill in the blank), neo con opinion page columnists--Yes, Dr. Krauthammer, we are talking about you--retired generals who find work in foundations or political office, Jerry Falwell, Tom Clancy and assorted other people who make good money pedaling the idea of killing bad guys. They speak of honor, glory, duty, God, country, but none of them, except the generals, have ever served in uniform, or experienced a shot fired in anger at them.
In Vietnam, the military industrial complex was sustained by the fantasy that the USA needed to fight communism in the rice paddies. Once Vietnam fell, all the dominoes would fall one after another. We had to stop them there or witness our own collapse. Of course, we lost Vietnam and nothing like that happened. Now, we trade with Vietnam and buy cell phones and clothes made by those rabid commies who threatened to destroy us.
Afghanistan had a certain cachet--there were some nasty fellows who lopped off the heads of teachers who dared teach girls, and Osma Bin Laden, reputed mastermind of the 9/11 attack, was hanging out there in some cave, or so we were told. Actually, he may have been in Pakistan, our sort of ally. So, 10 years later we are still trying to deny bad guys sanctuaries.
But as soon as we wop the ground hog on the head in one part of the lawn, another pops up from another part, and now we've got 'em in Algeria, Malawi, Somalia, who knows where else?
It keeps the men and women who volunteer for the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force employed--and make no mistake about it, we have a mercenary force now. None of those people would be there if they could get paid better doing any other job they might expect to get. And it's wonderful for business in the 25th district and right here in Portsmouth at the Navy Yard and at a hundred small factories making things for the war machine.
After 9/11 Jim Lehrer asked the salient question: "Why do they hate us so?"
Those wild eyed fanatics from the Middle East simply did not see us the way we see ourselves. Look at Mr. McKeon. Does he not look like a nice man? Father of six, husband, pillar of the church.
But read Jill LePore's portrait of the war making machine which America has become and you might be able to see us through different eyes.