Admiral Mike Mullen, the Pentagon boss, whom I admire, is worried about the declining character of the armed forces:
â€śWeâ€™ve learned a lot about ourselves in the last decade; some of itâ€™s been pretty unpleasant stuff,â€ť Admiral Mullen said in an interview. â€śI want us to understand what weâ€™ve seen, to a depth that we can ensure that our moral compass stays true, our ethical compass stays true.â€ť
Mullen’s worries bear relation to the mass assassinations yesterday in Tucson, in that across the past decade the society has being trained to accept perpetual war as a way of life.
Our kids, our soldiers, growing up, are trained to envision life as a video game. And Obama’s Secretary of Education spent most of the past decade turning five Public Schools in Chicago into military academies.
The Spectre of the Gun haunts the society’s blood, born as we were coeval with Industrialism, with no time, as in Europe, to prepare for that onslaught, in a protracted war for control of the continent against nature and its natives.
Armies destroy countries — often their own.
Japan and Bismarck’s Germany — reduced to cinders by 1945, having provoked with their martial successes and crimes the remainder of the industrialized world into alliance.
The Russian empire in its Soviet phase — an elephantine Military-Industrial Complex riding the backs of an impoverished and well policed working class, an inverted pyramid, an unstable equillibrium nevertheless held in place for several generations by secret police, radio and television.
For people like Gore Vidal, whom I admire, it’s a given: the American empire was born in 1898 with our adventurism contra Spain in the Philipines and the Caribbean. We then built a huge permanent army to help win the world wars. That work done, the monster turned upon Dr Frankenstein. The republic’s cancer exhibited itself in 1963. We’ve been watching it die all our lives. The installation of Bush-Cheney, in retrospect, seems the end. The full-page tombstone in the New York Times.
However one might parse our history, no Western society could withstand in perpetuity the things we’ve done here and abroad for the reasons we’ve done them since October 2000. Mullen seems to sense this, and indeed, almost to be saying as much out loud.
And the eloquent Sheriff Dudnick of Pima County yesterday echoed him:
“This has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in and I think its time we do the soul-searching,” he said. “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous and unfortunately, Arizona has become the capital. We have become the mecca of prejudice and bigotry.”