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Washington’s Wars

Washington’s Wars

Washington’s Wars

The New York Times reported on October 22 that the United States has “just over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories,” which is a staggering total. But in an intriguing revelation the Times reported that there are a further 37,813 troops deployed “on presumably secret assignment in places listed simply as ‘unknown.’ The Pentagon provided no further explanation.”

It is not surprising that Washington’s war-spreaders do not supply information to the American public concerning the location of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen involved in clandestine operations around the globe, because this might bring to light the lack of justification for such deployments. Concurrent with denial of information, however, is an energetic campaign aimed at convincing Americans that everything to do with military strength is laudable and that those who voice the slightest criticism of the armed forces are unpatriotic or even traitorous.

The American public, including the many who maintain a sane and even-handed approach to military expansion, are in general (if one may use that word in this context) much in favour of the military. For example, they love seeing and hearing marching musicians at public functions, but it is not the love of music that has motivated the Pentagon’s conductors to allocate over 400 million dollars a year on 130 military bands.

Don’t get me wrong: as a former soldier I am much in favour of these bands. There are few things more rousing and toe-tapping than a drumming, thumping, immaculately dressed, triple ranked, step-perfect batch of hooters and tooters. They’re marvellous. And they’re one of the best psychological operations weapons that the Pentagon has got to convince the citizens of America that their military is perfect.

The bands draw vast crowds at sports events and all sorts of community gatherings, and even the most kind-hearted, sweet tempered pacifist citizen can hardly fail to be moved to ecstatic flag-happiness by the joyful tunes of unbridled patriotism.

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