Compare and Contrast - Part 3

I read several articles at the NY Times site Monday which resonated together in my mind for a couple of reasons. I here conclude the exploration of those reasons which I began in Part 1 and continued in Part 2.

I ended Part 2 at the bottom of the hierarchy of sacrifices our Very Serious Persons so willingly make — the brown-skinned children of many countries who must be sacrificed to war in the cause of showing Them how tough We are, or who are simply swept aside when the ground is cleared for us to reap the rewards of our investments in other lands.

Which brings me to the third article I read in the Times on Monday which ended up twining itself in my mind into the two previously mentioned. There's a reason why this report on Afghanistan's potential mineral riches came from the U.S. military. The article quotes a Paul A. Brinkley, identified as "deputy undersecretary of defense for business." We have a deputy undersecretary of defense for business? Indeed.*

What isn't — perhaps — clear is why it's come just now since, as Rachel Maddow noted on her show Monday night, this information isn't new. Nor is it the case, as the Pentagon told the Times, that no one other than the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologists who did a comprehensive study of Afghan mineral deposits in 2007 "had bothered to look at the information." Maddow showed a USGS press release from 2007 which described that agency's 2007 assessment having been "unveiled" in November, 2007, at the 3rd annual U.S. - Afghan Business Matchmaking Conference organized by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, in Washington, D.C.

It does seem to be the case that this is the first time ordinary Afghans (and USians) have been directly informed. A second Times article describes Afghan reporters excitedly calculating what each Afghan's share of the potential wealth to be produced by the mineral deposits might be, supposing each Afghan were to receive an equal share of the profits. That's a lovely supposition. I doubt that's the same speculation which was generated at the Pentagon by this trove.

The 2007 USGS press release said the assessment will "be used in rebuilding Afghanistan's natural resources sector, provide valuable new information to the global business and mining communities, and serve as a foundation for future work on areas of mineral resource potential." That second purpose is well underway. A Pentagon task force is "trying to help" the Afghans put in place a structure to handle the mineral development. "International accounting firms with expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines." The Pentagon is also "helping" the Afghan government make arrangements to seek bids on the mineral rights.

Any number of other eyes have no doubt been drawn to this potential source of great wealth, from the Taliban, which was fighting to rule the country even before they knew it contained such treasure, to corrupt Afghan officials, to an Afghan neighbor. Says the Times:
American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region.
We have invested in this promising start-up; we can't leave 'til it is safely producing our dividends. And we advise you not to upset us. You wouldn't like us when we're upset.

There is a great deal of unease in U.S. political culture at present. Tea partiers, utterly oblivious to their privilege, are enraged at government intrusion into their lives while insistent on retaining every government benefit which accrues to them. If the Times Jeff Zeleny is to be believed, they have Democratic members of Congress lying low, hoping to meet with smaller, more select groups of constituents without providing a target, or a video-op, for the tea party activists who showed up at town hall meetings during Congressional recesses last year.

Those activists show no awareness that their "movement" is funded, promoted and, in part, organized, in a highly profitable loop, by the same people who have helped to create the economic insecurity the U.S. and other nations face, and whose shills are well-paid to persuade them of the lie that any financial vulnerability they feel is because their taxes are too high.

Democratic members of Congress may be avoiding unfiltered exposure to constituents, but George Bush "emboldened" Corporocratic politicians generally. He showed them that if you ignore relatively comfortable USians long enough, many will give up and go home — and all may seem to have done so. Because while you are ignoring them, the corporate press will ignore them right along with you.

Those in the press who aspire to Very Seriousness thought the spectacle of tens of thousands of earnest, middle- and working-class citizens engaging in mass protest against war was in very poor taste, so they did the respectable thing and averted their gaze. The sight of small numbers of raucous folks with tea bags dangling from their hats protesting against taxes, however, is fascinating. On the one hand, so delightfully tacky — what a giggle. On the other hand, these people are agitating for something which really matters — lower taxes for wealthy newscasters and their corporate owners.

President Obama, like his predecessors, has chosen to surround himself with a select group of Very Serious Persons. The Tea Partiers are funded by deadly serious persons. They are continually being roused by deeply unserious people whose every utterance they take seriously.

These people are not going home. The rallies may peter out, but the Very Serious Persons who use such forces for their own purposes are always in the game, and always All In — for a value of "all in" which corresponds to their values.

*Actually, Brinkley's Dept. of Defense biography identifies him as "Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Director Task Force for Business and Stability Operations", and his area of concern originally seemed to the business structure of the Pentagon. But he moved on to transforming business in Iraq, and subsequently, Afghanistan.

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