How’s My Swing, Dr. Strangelove?

From Rusty Nelson, Former PJALS Co-Director:

We’ve all been ‘selected’ for special offers that sound too good to be true, and are.  Before me is a provocative offer too bad to be fake.  It’s provocative because it involves a free sports implement, bad because the marketing language boosts the terrifying spiral of American popular and institutional violence.

It’s a golf club, of all things.  It’s bad enough the offer is from the Patriot Golf Company, but the club is called the B2 Bomber 460cc driver.  Does that make you want to launch a few drives, bomb the fairway, nuke Indian Canyon?  Probably not, and it’s been decades since I’ve mishandled a putter, never mind a driver, but this is a stark example of our culture’s overwhelming embrace of war, unchecked military spending, and institutional violence.

As we decry the escalation of violence encroaching upon our families, homes and sacred spaces, we pay for ever higher levels of violence by our military, buying doomsday weapons as if they might somehow protect us.  As if we never noticed we are safest when our neighborhoods are unarmed, our military has constructive tasks at home, and our security is in well-maintained infrastructure, education, health care and community.

Consider the actual B-2 bomber.  The only need it ever filled was enriching war profiteers.  Some folks will claim it was important to employment and the economy, but we have navigated this kind of baloney on every kind of economic rollercoaster.  Astounding sums of money were spent to improve on the well-documented flaws of the over-hyped B-1.  Now, according to that esteemed military journal, Popular Mechanics, splendid progress is being made on a new instantly-obsolete, dual capable bomber, the B-21. Not because the B-21 would add anything to our security when it is rolled out sometime in the nebulous future, but because it’s almost on schedule and within budget.  Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington and Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, adds, “they’re making it work in a very intelligent way.”  And there’s a statement to remind us why military intelligence is one of the first terms that comes to mind when oxymorons are discussed.

Nothing is remotely intelligent, or even sane, about spending over $50 billion for 100 airplanes, which, if ever used for their raison d’etre, would cause the greatest calamity in history.  Not that anyone expects the price tag to remain so modest.  And, not that anyone with a voice in the federal government has any idea why I see this corporate welfare program as a nightmare.

Representative Smith is considered a progressive Member of Congress.  He makes more sense that most when talking about diplomacy instead of lethal force to solve international conflicts.  But, when it comes to representing his district’s financial interests in the Military-Industrial Complex, he can quickly step back to pre-Viet Nam rationalization.  And why wouldn’t he?  The American public is practically in lock step with the notion that we must have firepower, and the more the better; the side with the best and biggest will win; and the U.S. military can do no wrong.  The mass media, whether reactionary or liberal or objective (remember that one?), loves to cover wars and weapons and warriors.  NBC News recently had a breathless report on our heroes in the Arctic, intercepting Russian nuclear-capable bombers.  The reporters thought they had a great story, but to people who hate war and pay attention, it was all about fools’ gold:  Russia plays the U.S., keeping us on edge, convincing us we must have bigger bombers, faster fighters, and more of everything than Russia and China and North Korea and Iran, all put together.  And we’re so easy.  We take the bait, every time, even decades after Gorbachev had the nerve to show us how foolish the nuclear arms race is and left us racing ourselves to the bottom.  It turns out that Russians generally don’t understand peace any better than Americans, so they’ve reverted to a piper whose favorite tunes suit dancers with a death wish.

The F-22 Predator jets shown in Alaska on the NBC news program were to have been replaced by the F-35, the ultimate weapon, the pride of the Pentagon.  With nearly two trillion dollars spent, the air force has managed to put 400 F-35s into the air, proving it would be a very bad idea to build the 2500 still on the drawing board.  Meanwhile, a subsequent article in Popular Mechanics gushes over the next generation of fighter jets which will delight our grandchildren, should they survive our renewed interest in nuclear weapons.  Yes, against any sane judgement and dusty treaties, putting aside the near-apocalyptic accidents and misunderstandings of the Cold War, our leaders have decided to show how much “In God We Trust,” by updating our restless nuclear arsenal.

Nothing says folly, danger, and doomsday quite like nuclear weapons.  The greatest minds devoted to human destruction have come up with amazing ways to destroy our planet many times over with atomic power, but no one has figured out how to tame the waste and byproducts from nuclear energy, for medicine, electricity, or weapons of mass destruction.  There is no “failsafe.”  There’s no putting the genie back into the bottle.  And the worst part is not what happens by accident, spills, earthquakes or cost overruns (the B-21 will cost $40 million/year to maintain).  In the best laid Pentagon plan, the $500 million bomber delivers the priceless bomb, on schedule and on budget, and destroys the Earth.

The B2 bomber may be a good driver, but I won’t recommend it.  It does bring up some possibilities for other names, though.  Imagine taking your Stealth 2-iron and Fallout wedge to play the Nagasaki Course at Hanford.  Watch out for the Three Mile Island sand trap and the Fukishima water hazard.  You’ll love the greens fees.

-In a previous life, Rusty Nelson played a little golf and once conducted a radio interview with the Masters champion.