For those who remember former Nixon appointee Leon Panetta as a moderate Democrat, his current transformation is a sad disappointment. With his recent speeches in Monterey Panetta's makeover became complete.
Panetta's role in the CIA and as the Secretary of Defense ushers in a new phase of using the military to enforce the policy of corporate America, which requires the complacency of foreign governments to back up its economic supremacy.
Panetta's makeover includes his characterization of the all-volunteer army as the core of American democracy. Paying people to carry guns has nothing to do with democracy. The citizen draft is the most democratic way to apportion the nation's defense because it chooses everyone, both rich and poor, alike. The draft was dropped because citizens objected to bad wars with the advent of Vietnam.
Recruiting poor high school kids from small rural town who need jobs and education, or immigrants who receive citizenship in return for service, is more akin to a paying job than a democratic approach to national defense. Historically a nation's army was used for self-defense and a paid army was more properly called a mercenary army.
The U.S. increasingly relies upon paid mercenaries for its military force. Newsweek reports that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq "will be a boon for the private security industry." In the first four years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the U.S. paid $10 billion for what the media politely calls the 11,000 "private security contractors." Panetta doesn't mention these mercenaries, but they can hardly be called democratic armed forces.
Panetta goes on to praise two institutions that he helped lobby for as a congressman-the Naval Post-graduate School and the Defense Language Institute-as "national treasures." Both are dedicated to providing the language skills necessary for U.S. military intervention in other countries and making the military's job of controlling other countries easier.
Recall that President Bush installed military intelligence operations in every U.S. embassy around the world. These secret agents answer only to their military commanders rather than diplomats and the media does not investigate their activities. Unfortunately Obama continued this program. Having the military take such a prominent role in foreign diplomacy is a clear signal that the U.S. has entered a new stage in attempting to dominate world affairs.
Since the beginning of the Bush Wars, the language institutes hired over 1,000 instructors and more than tripled its budget. The Defense Language Institute (DLIFLC) began training troops in 2003, in a push "to win the hearts and minds" of Iraqis and Afghanis.
Enrollment increased 500 percent and over 15,000 military personnel received training in 2009 alone.
"We went in with the idea we'd overthrow the governments and 'Gee, it would be great,'" Stephen Payne, DLIFLC command historian, told the Medill National Security Zone blog. "We had no training going in, and when the next phase hit, we weren't prepared."
In a nation devoted to democracy wouldn't it be better to praise the teaching of foreign languages for diplomacy and peace making rather than for covert military operations? But Panetta seems to have drunk Bush's kool aid; he goes on to tell us that the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan will end "when the individuals who have threatened this country are no longer there to threaten our country."
This suggests that Iraq had something to do with the attacks in New York City on 9/11, the same excuse President Bush used for invading Iraq. It has been proven beyond any doubt that Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. History recounts how the Bush/Cheney regime used 9/11 as a pretext the invading Iraq despite Bush's flimsy excuses now that he was mislead.
Panetta defends the military budget that Mother Jones estimates at $1.2 trillion a year, including hidden cost. The U.S. budget equals the rest of the world combined. Almost 5 percent of U.S. GDP goes to the military; it spends 10 times more than China and 20 times more than Russia. And Panetta claims the U.S. will suffer if it cuts this budget?
Panetta is an even greater disappointment when he tells us that the job of the military is to protect the American dream-making a better world for our children.
The American dream is already destroyed. The rapid increase in globalization, the de-industrialization of the U.S., the destruction of labor unions, the monopolization of the U.S. economy, the rise of corporate power, and the precipitous increase in wealth disparity marks the end of the middle class. This is the first time in American history that children can expect a lower standard of living than their parents.
The growing power of the radical right, the anti-immigration movement, the anti-tax refuseniks, the Tea Party nutters, and aggressive corporate and business power will insure that the middle class does not return. America has lost its greatness and joined the historic ranks of empires that rely upon military power to retain their might. It's a sad day for the country, while Leon Panetta does his best to guide our country along this new path.
Don Monkerud is an Aptos, California-based writer who follows cultural issues and politics and writes occasional satire.