WASHINGTON – Some few nights ago, my late wife, Mimi, and I were talking about America’s impending attack on Syria and how Shakespeare saw the degradation that perpetual war inflicts on all people.
I asked her to dig out from “Henry V” the appeal for diplomacy by the Duke of Burgundy tucked in toward the end of the play. The setting is the Hundred Years War, during which England imposed its claims on France at the turn of the 15th century.
We of the 21st century are in our second dozen-year hot war in recent history and seem not to have learned enough. Burgundy speaks of the ruined homes and walls, fields and vineyards; then he turns to the toll taken on culture and souls – us. The parallel between the youngsters of France and the poor children of our cities is riveting.
Burgundy says: “… and ourselves and children have lost, or do not learn for want of time, the sciences that should become our country; but grow like savages – as soldiers will, that nothing do but meditate on blood, to swearing and stern looks, diffused attire; and everything that seems unnatural.”
We have blown a trillion dollars since 9/11 that has achieved nothing more than death in the hundreds of thousands, and political chaos across South Asia and Africa. Those who run the capital have got our president poised to launch another war at $3.5 million per Tomahawk. Yet we are told there is no money for White House tours.
More to the point, there is allegedly no federal money after all this overseas killing to save the hundreds of thousands – millions, rather – of poor American boys and girls. The unspoken claim is that there is little or nothing left in the federal till to build new schools, to hire regiments of new teachers from the best universities, packing them in eight kids to a class, to hire additional professional children’s and home counselors, and more social services follow-up when they get off the afternoon bus. Or for civilized sports, or the arts, or additional environmental and historical field trips.
Nothing for our children? They are mostly black or brown, but they are surely everybody’s children now – in many cases descendants of men who worked our war plants, offspring of those whom the agribusiness coaxed here to pick crops for us on the cheap. Then dumped, to “grow like savages,” to “meditate on blood.” No cash left to “learn the sciences that become our country”?
There’s plenty for the government’s weapons, “security” and spying businesses whenever officials want it. And all they want.
Just down the road from the Pentagon, a gargantuan new building – a full third as big as the 1943 Pentagon, with room for 11,000 classified workers – is going up with next to zero fanfare. Called the National Geospatial Center, it maps and tracks everything on land and space for war. There had to be an appropriation for it; but that’s a state secret. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency claims it cost just $1.5 billion, but none of us really knows.
This sprawling complex is the brainchild of the forgetful National Intelligence boss James R. Clapper, when he ran the NGA a decade ago. The contractors and lobbyists say Clapper is indispensable to our safety.
Clapper claimed his National Security Agency wasn’t spying on Americans, predicted the Muslim Brotherhood would not be a problem in a “Democratic” Egypt and that Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi would prevail over his enemies.
That a blunderer like Clapper can spend $78 billion a year in secret money, while the federal government culturally starves poor children, is testament to the power of the security lobby here.