The “Habit Helpers” of America’s Warring and Spying

America was born with a musket in one hand and a spy glass in the other, and she has never let go of them. They are two addictive and consequential habits that if not broken will someday break America herself.

In the “Land of the Official ‘Habbits'” are the Oval Office with its Warrior and Spy Chief; his war and spy agencies; Congress with its two houses of ill repute; SCOTUS that never saw an American war it didn’t like; and finally, the war and spy industries. The population of this land outnumbers that of small nations.

The Land of the Habit Helpers

The warriors and spies in this land are more powerful and have more money than any other known entity on earth. So they are well endowed to support their habits. Even so, they don’t want to leave anything to chance. So they also depend on millions of “Habit Helpers.” Who are they? I was once one of them. Let’s take a brief look at them. Knowing who they are is a must if there is going to be any chance of breaking the habits. There are six by name; the banksters, the behavior shapers, the gun industry, science, foreign enemies (yes, I mean foreign enemies), and bystanders.

The Banksters

Behind every war is a bankster. Why? It’s simple. They manipulate the official warriors and spies into going into debt to help finance their habits and then reap the profits from the interest rates.

The Behavior Shapers

George Orwell once said that “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

There are 9 kinds of behavior shapers; think tanks, zealots, shams, religion, education, the news media, the PR industry, the entertainment industry and the toy industry. The differences among some of them can be gossamer thin.

1. Think Tanks. They provide the warriors and spies with the ideology for their habits. Whether neoliberal or neoconservative doesn’t make a whit of a difference according to a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who noted about the candidates for the 2008 presidential election, “Neoconservatives and neoliberals are really quite similar – The American public – will still get war either way.” [1]

2. Zealots. Not all ideologues belong to think tanks. Those who don’t, I call free-lance zealots.

3. Shams are a motley lot, but they all share at least one thing in common. They pretend to be what they are not. There are two groups of shams, compromised non-profit organizations (NGOs) and front groups.

Most NGOs are tax exempt. So right out of the starters’ gate, they are saddled with a quid pro quo. I call it “hush money.” Favors are exchanged. The regime loses some revenue, but gets to temper the activist NGOs that could be troublesome if not indebted to the regime. Some of these NGOs also accept foundation and corporate money, which hushes them further.

Front groups camouflage their real purpose, euphemize it, or obfuscate it. Most front groups are backed by corporate interests and promote those interests. The war and spy industries don’t really need to depend on front groups. There is no pretense about their lobbying groups.

4. Religion

“We are bringing God to the soldiers, and the soldiers to God.” Honest to God that was enthusiastically said by an Army chaplain. [2] Religion, of course, has provided the “spiritual motivation” and the spiritual rationalizations for wars and violence ever since deities were invented and battles fought. America was just one of the newest lands where deadly beliefs could be practiced. Remember the Puritans? There was nothing pure about their savage intolerance of alien beliefs (e.g., the 17th century burning to death of 400 some “Godless” Pequot Indians, and the Salem witch trials in which 20 mostly women were executed for practicing what the God-fearing townspeople believed was witchcraft).

Since religion is the art of “seeing what is believed,” not of “believing what is seen,” it is perfectly understandable that from the moment many millennia ago creatures walked upright and started explaining natural “mysteries,” there would sprout and grow to this day countless religions that tolerate if not promote wars and violence.

5. Education

Religion and education are much alike. They both receive government funds. They both are a source of employment. They both cross over sometimes into the other’s territory. They both start with young formative minds. They both fill those minds with doctrines, leaving little room left for critical reasoning to question those doctrines, including learning how to discover and distinguish real knowledge from beliefs. They both pick and choose facts and conclusions from the same storehouses. And they both help sustain America’s warring and spying habits.

The roots of American education were grounded in two necessities. One was the need for the Industrial Revolution to depend on literate but docile workers. The other was the need to help get America ready for WWI, and so the American Council on Education was hurriedly formed to ensure a supply of trained military personnel.

Fast forward to modern times and you will find countless examples of how education and educators are either in the laps of the warriors and spies or are coerced by them. Here are just two examples, the use of public schools as military recruiting stations; and the Air Force’s “CyberPatriot” program to teach middle and high school students to be what I call future “spies in the skies.”

6. The News Media. To get the public behind its warring and spying, Senator Arthur Vandenberg once said “Scare the Hell out of the American people.” [3] And then there was the mainstream’s hyping the buildup to the Iraq War. Anything more need to be said here?

7. The PR Industry. The similarity between PR and BS can be deadly. The media provide the medium. The PR people prepare the message. Scratch an assistant secretary for public affairs or any other political appointee presiding over public relations for the war and spy agencies and you are likely to find underneath a former executive in the public relations industry, the two-sided business of promoting the positives and accentuating the negatives dressed up as positives.

8. The Entertainment Industry. Remember learning about the Roman gladiator days? Hollywood now turns the “real” into “reel.” Hollywood’s “reel” interest in Washington’s wars and foreign policy affairs began by making training and propaganda films for President Woodrow Wilson’s administration in support of WWI. Since then, Hollywood has become far more active and sophisticated. There’s also a cozy quid pro quo between Hollywood and the military and national security complex. Hollywood submits its war glorifying movie scripts to the complex for review and gets access to dazzling military equipment to use for props in profitable movies. The complex, in turn, gets dazzling PR aimed at movie goers.

9. The Toy Industry. From toy pistols for small hands, to sophisticated, interactive WiFi war games for pre-teens, the toy industry has carved out its own niche so I will treat it separately rather than include it as part of the entertainment industry.

The toy industry is obviously sensitive as its trade association issued the following statement in 2013 on the subject of “toy guns and violence”: “The Toy Industry Association (TIA) and its members are proud of the important, life-shaping role that toys, games and play have in the development and growth of children.” [4] Unwittingly or not, they were acknowledging the “life-shaping role” of their industry’s products, precisely the point I want to make here, that violent toys and games, especially the highly popular video games, put the players, at least certain kinds of players, at risk for behaving antisocially in real life.

The Gun Industry

Real toys for big boys. Were it not for the campaign donations and intensive lobbying by the handgun industry and its powerful lobbyist, the National Rifle Association, that have burdened America with indiscriminate gun buying, I would treat the industry as an adjunct to the entertainment industry, although with apologies to wildlife like deer not entertained in being shot at. But the gun industry and the 2nd Amendment misinterpretations and the Supreme Court’s misruling are what they are and so we have in America a population that almost equals the population of citizens’ guns, virtually no gun control and far more gun related violence and death compared to other “advanced” countries. That this is so is not a coincidental to the fact that the regime is gun happy.

Why is it not a coincidence? A possible explanation comes to mind. America from the beginning has fought rather than negotiated international disputes and in that beginning guns (muskets) were available. “In guns we trust” eventually became officialdom’s unofficial motto. Americans have become accustomed and indifferent to American guns at home and away, giving war-mongering politicians carte blanch to create enemies and then have their draft-free military (“let others do it)” fight them. For most Americans, bloodshed becomes out of sight and out of mind unless one is in a school, theater, or mall with a gun-firing psychopath. Otherwise, where our guns are used seems to be a matter of indifference.

Science

Big Boy and Fat Boy, created by mad scientists, ordered dropped by a vindictive warrior-in-chief, turned two cities into death, destruction, and history.

Meet “Frankenstein America.” Science research and development (R&D) are a yearly multi-billion dollar enterprise, almost all of it funded by the federal government. My guess is that the biggest chunk of that money is spent on R&D for war and spy gadgetry (trying to pin down figures is like going blindfolded on a “Treasury” hunt).

Some of the research subjects and gadgets developed sound right out of George Orwell and science fiction. Here is a tiny list of Frankenstein’s gadgets either in operation or on the drawing board: air and underground drones; dust particles that are miniature sensors; exoskeleton suits for herculean feats; explosive sensing bees; genetically modified soldiers; insect-sized drones to inspect caves for terrorists; radar rats; and many more gadgets too secret to know.

The “hard” sciences aren’t the only ones cashing in on the R&D cash cow. So do some if not all of the “soft” or social sciences such as psychology and anthropology. War has always been a boon for psychology. For example, psychologists developed the testing of military personnel for WWI; and taught pigeons how to guide bombs in WWII. Anthropology’s roots in warring and spying are older than those of psychology. Early American anthropologists collaborated with the military in its forays against Native Americans, and a president of the American Anthropological Association was censured by it in 1919 after he criticized scholars who served as spies during World War I. [5]

Foreign Enemies

The hardliner Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, once said “In order to bring a nation to support the burdens of maintaining great military establishments, it is necessary to create an emotional state akin to war psychology. There must be the portrayal of external menace.” [6] America’s regimes have never met an enemy it didn’t create for her own purposes.

Bystanders

The silent Americans. They are everywhere. Millions and millions of them. A bystander on war and spy matters is one who may oppose those matters, but is basically silent and inactive about them. The millions of Americans who say when polled that they disapprove of the regime’s drone strike killings, for example, but do not actively protest against them are bystanders. The Vietnam War protestors, on the other hand, were clearly not bystanders.

Why are silent Americans silent? I was one of them for a long time for fear of jeopardizing my career. There are many other reasons, but none of them, including mine, justify America’s warring and spying.

Parting Remarks

America does not do warring and spying on a small scale. Relying on the world’s largest and most expensive war and spy agencies and industries is not sufficient. America does more. She leans on her “Habit Helpers”

If America’s two habits aren’t broken she will herself be broken sometime in the future. There are at least five dismal scenarios that can be imagined, but that is beyond this particular essay.

Notes:

1. Giraldi, P. Neolibs and Neocons, United and Interchangeable. AntiWar.com. August 14, 2007.

2. Abernethy, B. Army Chaplain Boot Camp. Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, April 4, 2008.

3. Schorr, D. Truman Doctrine to Reagan Doctrine, the Fatal Flaws. The Christian Science Monitor, March 12, 1987.

4. TIA. Toy Industry Association (TIA) Statement on Toy Guns and Violence. October 29, 2013.

5. Price, D. Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in the Service of the Militarized State. AK Press; Reprint edition, 2011.

6. Parenti, M. Messianic Nationalism: The American Perspective, 262 in Harrison, T.W. and Drakulic, S. (Eds). Against Orthodoxy: Studies in Nationalism. UBC Press, 2011.