A commentary with poetry about US policy to unilaterally achieve Full Spectrum Dominance, enabling US military forces, especially air power, to “attack anywhere—and to do so quickly and with greater precision than ever before.”
At 6:40 pm of St. Patrick’s Day late afternoon, a New York Times News Alert hit my email box, announcing that the UN Security Council had approved a no-fly zone over Libya. Once more American coordinated air power would rule the skies over another portion of our embattled globe. I also noted with disgust in another news story that Senator John Kerry strongly advocated for the no-fly zone over Libya, prompting me to reflect that there’s never been a war Kerry didn’t support except his own.
A couple of years ago, I wrote the following poem about America’s air superiority over the battlefield, which has steadily evolved since the Second World War:
Driving down I-87 from Woodstock
where I’ve chosen to make a new home
in lovely Tinker Street apartment,
while spring struggles to be spawned
in bright sunshine from winter’s frigid gloom,
I see startlingly splayed all across the wide blue afternoon sky
a myriad of contrails form one perfectly prominent
quite foreboding Swastika.
If that wasn’t ominous enough
in these daunting times of planned demolition
of the whole freaking Global Economy,
as I turn onto the wide-looping ramp of Exit 17 leading to I-84,
a huge dark-grey Air Force C-17 Globemaster III
lumbers down a landing arc into Stewart Air Force Base –
like predatory hawk swooping onto prey,
or B-17 Flying Fortress over Dresden,
or Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress, over Hiroshima,
or F-86 Sabre over the Yalu River,
or B-52 Stratofortress over Hanoi and Haiphong,
or UH-1D Iroquois over El Salvador, Guatemala, Niagara, Honduras,
or AH-1W Supercobra over Grenada,
or F-14 Tomcat over Libya’s Gulf of Sidra,
or F-117A Nighthawk over Panama City,
or F-15 Eagle over the Highway of Death to Basra,
or UH-60 Blackhawk over Mogadishu,
or B-1 “The Bone” over Mesopotamia,
or Air Tractor AT-802 over Columbian farmland,
or F-16 Fighting Falcon over Belgrade,
or Tomahawk Cruise Missile over Afghanistan,
or B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber over Baghdad,
or MQ-1 Predator Drone over Pakistani wedding party,
or Air Force Space Command satellites over the whole friggin’ world.
Mesmerized by its awesome beauty, I can’t take my eyes off it
nor calm the death rattle of shivers deep within marrow.
The impunity with which America expands its military might is unparalleled in history. This is graphically demonstrated by this list of US military interventions throughout the world from Wounded Knee to Libya since 1890, compiled by Evergreen State College Professor Zoltan Grossman. No nation has extended its military power to the extent that political leaders on both sides of the aisle, both neo-lib Democrats as well neo-con Republicans, have supported in creating Pax Americana during the past sixty years. The number of military bases both within the continental US and spread throughout the globe has increased up to one thousand. Few know exactly how many, because the precise number of bases the US operates is classified.
Increasingly, the use of American air power, as described above in “Portents”, and which has been unleashed again over Libya, is the hallmark means of US military might. Recently, Tom Englehardt published this perceptive article, “Taking the War Out of Air War”. It relates the almost total domination of US air power during the past half-century of so, to include the land invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Englehardt’s article points out that during the past 40 years the US has lost only two planes to enemy fire, a Navy plane during the First Gulf War and an F-117A Stealth fighter downed by a surface-to-air missile over Serbia in 1999. He points out the increasing use of unmanned drones with sci-fi movie-like names, such as Predator or “Reaper, as in Grim”. Escalating incursions by drones into Pakistan increasingly are reported and condemned.
This recent article describes the successful launching and future plans for the highly secret unmanned X37B Orbital Space Vehicle. Two of these robotic mini-space shuttles have been manufactured by Boeing’s Phantom Works Group for the US Air Force. They can be launched, as well as re-entryed from orbiting in space, at both Cape Canaveral in Florida or Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Full Spectrum Dominance includes outer space as well as anywhere on the planet.
Since we’re not losing any of our planes to enemy fire, have you ever wondered what happens to surplus military aircraft after they have become obsolete? Several years ago, I lived for a couple of years in Tucson, Arizona, home of Davis Monthan Air Force Base. One of the operational missions of the base is to serve as a large desert storage depot for unneeded USAF aircraft, since the dry climate and alkali soil of the high Sonoran desert makes it an ideal location for aircraft storage and preservation. Here’s a poem with photograph’s I took about this mission:
Wide-mouthed, eyes slack
I stare in terrible awe
at the acres X acres X acres
stretching the wide horizons
on both sides of Wilmot road
just southeast of Tucson’s downtown.
Millions of dollars to the tenth or so power
of moth-balled flying war machines,
rows upon rows and still more sleek rows.
F-16s, F-14s, stubby A-10 Intruders
even vintage F-4 Phantoms from the travesty
of my ignoble war so long, long ago
balanced on the left by scores upon scores
of C-130s, C-5s, C-141s and here and there
a Stratotanker or thirty.
A companion notes that they’ve cut way back
on the number of aircraft in storage,
“Used to be over 8,000,” he drawls. “Now its down
somewhere near 5,000 or so planes,
all battened down tight, gathering dust
in the high Sonoran desert.”
Let’s see, at a conservative estimate
of $25 million a pop neatly stacked, row by row
that’s billions upon billions of dollars sitting idle
at this one Air Force Base alone.
No wonder the growing poor go hungry,
the homeless litter the dirty streets,
the aged sick lie alone slowly dying,
and school children sit fallow in boredom.
US policy makers have effectively learned that as long as American boys’ — and increasingly girls’ — blood is not spilled, most citizens, like Rhett Butler, “Frankly . . . don’t give a damn.” The ideal weapon is an unmanned drone, jockeyed into position from a safe bunker thousands of miles away in the Nevada desert — remote, silent, deadly, not shown on nightly Fox TV news, likely not to be reported in the hometown newspaper.
Increasingly, the US becomes the weapons manufacturer for the world, being home to 14 of the world’s 20 largest defense contractors. We lead the world substantially on monies spent to arm and support our own military forces — over $670 billion USD, over seven times more than the second largest military spender, China, at $91 billion. As well, the US is the leading exporter of arms to the armies of other nations. Few citizens care — instead millions buy and play with their kids the latest version of Black Ops, which assures us, “There’s A Soldier In All Of Us” . . .