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Steven Weber Headshot

Gun to the Head

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Of all the exasperating realities of how our country is really run (corporate interests holding sway over -- mostly -- duly elected representatives) the most egregious must be the irresistible control wielded by the arms lobby.

For the last 50 years or so, it seems that no American president regardless of party affiliation has been able to resist the influence of entities whose main business is war. Regardless of ideology, platform or personality, what these presidents all share is an obeisance to perpetuating income for what we know now as The MIlitary Industrial Complex, emphasis on the word "industrial."

For, it is an industry, one in which the imperative is to make money. And they make lots of it but only if specific people buy what they sell: arms and the opportunities to use them. If there has ever been a more insidious warping of democracy -- and there have been many challenges to this ignoble honor -- it has not made its presence known as much as the spectacle of wars as regularly scheduled as the introduction of the latest iPhone.

Like most things, the corporate mentality corrupts with its inherent greed (the arts, media, manufacturing, community and national service, politics, etc.) the machine a government uses to wage war has been corporatized to be profit-driven as opposed to protecting a nation's citizens or its sovereignty. Sure money was made in WWII but no one would deny that there was a true impetus to wage battle against forces who were comparatively old school next to today's war masters; all they cared about was the brutal subjugation of freedom through the use of genocide. Easy to go butter-to-guns. But the war industry, ever-looking for ways to maximize profit, has eliminated the butter stage altogether and has created war-on-retainer, complete with a marketing department, R&D and all the other elements required for the development and mass distribution of its product. There's probably a foosball table in the employee lounge and casual Fridays. It's ring-around-the-collar on a colossally lethal scale.

So, even a president who has shown his mettle in the face of opposition in the form of right-wing quasi-conservative politicians (who themselves are underwritten by billionaire haters of democracy) and their constituents who have been methodically indoctrinated by a corporate-owned media bent on wresting intellectual curiosity from the hearts and minds of the very people they are supposed to be informing, a president who has championed health care reform, passed the stimulus, turned the U.S. auto industry around, etc. and who has basically been on the right side of history and the frequently fractured American psyche is suddenly found to be in submission to the seriously flawed idea of waging war.

And the obvious difficulty he and his spokespersons have in trying to sell this most recent brand of such a beloved and trusted product bespeaks his own distaste for the thing. It was easy for the Bush folks to hawk war, Art Fern-like, the slickness dripping off the ends of their pointers as they concocted scenarios and outcomes all calculated to rouse the public into a buying frenzy: Iraq is Black Friday! Spend spend spend!

But for Obama, the sell is harder. He doesn't like the product. He doesn't believe in it. Hell, he most probably hates it. But sell it he must.

And why? Why does the main thrust of our political leadership seem to be aimed at creating a psychologically receptive environment for the perpetuation of war? Why, despite the majority's opposition -- both national and international -- to the notion of America as a warring nation, do we persist in being just that?

A person will only act against their principles if there is a gun to their head. And sometimes the gun goes off.