As Russia put its military hardware on display in Red Square to commemorate the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany, the US – also a major player in World War II – kept its hyper-firepower under wraps and its people in the dark.
Ever since May 9, 2008, when Moscow brought back rumbling tanks
and screeching jets to Red Square for the annual Victory Day
celebrations, it has aroused accusations in Western capitals of
“flaunting its military might.”
The charges are loaded with irony for a glaringly obvious reason: The Russian military, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union – and aside from a five-day war with neighboring Georgia, who, it must be noted, attacked Russia first – has been parked at home.
In the same period of time, however, the Western military junta, known affectionately as NATO, has been circling the planet like a pack of fat vultures looking for its next easy takeout.
It seems to require little explanation as to why the Russians take their tanks for a spin around town every May 9th: Russia lost an estimated 26.6 million soldiers and civilians from mid-1941 to 1945, according to the Russian Academy of Sciences. Given the depths of this human tragedy, made more surreal by a simultaneous sense of triumph, Russia has certainly earned the right to hold a military parade once a year without arousing suspicions of gearing up for another shot at empire.
Witnessing the Victory Day celebrations in central Moscow for many years, I began to ask myself a question: Why doesn’t America drive its tanks down Main Street each year, say, for Veterans Day? I posed this question to an American friend of mine, and I got the haughty response: “Because America is a democracy.”
So according to this fuzzy, feel-good logic, good democracies don’t march their soldiers and showcase their latest missile systems around self-satisfied places like Washington, DC, or Brussels, Belgium, because that would smack of something faintly fascist. Instead, we drive our battle tanks down the main streets of Baghdad, Iraq, and Kabul, Afghanistan, and call this beneficent behavior “democracy building.” Do the denizens of Washington begrudge the residents of Baghdad the lack of an annual military parade? Somehow I doubt it, but Baghdad should begrudge Washington the stench of hypocrisy.
Would shutting down Washington for a joyous day of military pomp and parades risk exposing some uncomfortable truths about the present state of our democracy? Would watching tanks and drones buzz through town be a bit like the vampire confronting its horrible reflection in the mirror at midnight? Would such a momentous event as a military parade, coming at a time when the US Military is overstretched across its global empire and the economy remains in tatters, expose the lie of American democracy?
Although We the People are said to hold the reins of power, we have no collective control over how much Uncle Sam can spend on weapons, nor any say whatsoever as to where those pricey weapon systems will be used. The worldwide protests that greeted the blatantly illicit invasion of Iraq calmed any exaggerated expectations we may have held out for 'people power.' With the Pentagon’s annual price-tag for expenditures approaching the trillion-dollar mark, and military follies continuing at a Napoleonic clip, the loss of our democratic voice is no insignificant footnote.
Ron Paul, the perennial presidential candidate the corporate media loves to ignore, summed up US foreign policy during the last debates as such: "We're under great threat, because we occupy so many countries. We're in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We're going broke."
So isn’t it time for we Americans to be a bit more honest with ourselves? Isn’t it time to shelve the consumer-driven Macy Day parades and embrace our true colors, which is becoming anything but red, white and blue? Isn’t it time we got something more substantial than cartoon floats bobbing up and down Madison Avenue every Thanksgiving? Isn’t it time for a full-throttled, white knuckle display of raw American firepower straight down the throat of Main Street, USA.? Of course it is. The American taxpayer forks over a trillion dollars each year to feed the insatiable appetite of the military-industrial complex, so where’s our military parade? Shouldn't we get a peek at what are tax dollars are buying? Why should Baghdad and Kabul get all the fireworks?
Since confronting the extreme lethality of American democracy with a military parade would push the ship of state uncomfortably close to the rocks of truth, we must settle for candy-coating our consciences into oblivion with other less unsettling displays of American power.
Behind the massive curtain in our Land of Oz, we must distract the 'consumers' with non-stop Hollywood entertainment, sporting events and a dazzling array of consumer goods to gloss over any discomfort that may come with questions regarding America’s foreign policy prerogatives. So long as Americans keep on shopping, as George W. Bush advised in those harrowing moments of shock and awe that followed the deadliest attacks on the US mainland, our enemies will continue to envy us.
But supposing America did decide to come out of the closet in true character with a Red Square-style military parade, we would be confronted with another problem: We don’t have any public space comparable to a Red Square, or even a Tiananmen. Why is that? After all, these massive public places are used for more than showcasing missiles and goose-stepping soldiers. In the off season, these open-air venues provide the people a place to assemble, occasionally with purpose - a collective act that is not suffered lightly in America’s Time of Troubles.
As long as the American people assemble peacefully at the mall, as opposed to The Mall, it will be business as usual in the United States.
Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which
examines the dangerous consequences of extreme corporate power
now prevalent in the US.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.