Virginia Is For Killers
In modern war, Littell says, there is no way to finely calibrate responsibility for the death and destruction wrecked. “So who is guilty in this immense enterprise of war,” he asks, “everyone or no one?”
The process of war—which is to say the killing of foreigners and the concomitant oppression of the state’s own people—invariably selects out for reward the sickest people in society (the psychopaths, socio-paths and megalomaniacs, the sadists) but the sick ones are nothing, merely a relatively small fraction of the state’s total mass of war-making functionaries. Littell warns the reader not to become obsessed and preoccupied with the sickos because it isn’t the sickos that matter; it is, rather, “the ordinary men that make up the State—especially in unstable times—now there’s the real danger.”
“The man who pulls the trigger—the shooter—knows that he is only the last link in a very long chain…The machinery of State is made of the same crumbling agglomeration of sand as what it crushes, grain by grain. It exists because everyone—even, down to the last minute, its victims—agrees that it must exist.”
In 21st-century America, the “ordinary people,” for example consist of the middle-aged, G-12-level administrator who works in procurement to keep the troops fed and equipped; the soccer moms who work as accountants and managers for the arms manufacturers and builders of death machines; the church deacon who is a software engineer for a defense contractor or an electrical engineer for a missile design firm; the Boy Scout Leader who flies transport aircraft on contract to the military; or the legions of other functionaries and contractors—government and private—that keep the gears of the military-industrial complex grinding, day in, day out, who go home in the evening to their suburban homes and host bible study groups or put on dinner parties to raise money for their children’s private schools or their favorite charities—the ordinary people, the dangerous people, your friends, your relatives, your spouse, your children, those solid citizens who are repelled by big-city violence on the evening news who nevertheless are as responsible for death on the battlefield as the shooter, the virtual-reality drone gamester the generals and politicians who plot surges and troop deployments or pilot the planes and fire the cruise missiles.
“Virginia Is For Lovers” the ad-man’s slogan proclaims on billboards and travel brochures. But today, Virginia is for Killers as well as lovers because Virginia is ground zero of the military-industrial complex that carries on perpetual war around the world wrecking death and destruction wherever its shooters tread with tooth and claw exposed, dragging their tail of ordinary people behind them. Virginia is the No. 2 recipient of federal defense dollars, and while it ranks only third in the absolute number of current and retired federal employees (California and Texas have more), not to mention defense contractors, people dependent on the federal government comprise an interest group almost three times larger proportionately given Virginia’s overall smaller population.
Virginia’s ordinary people, therefore, have much at stake in the looming federal budget fight over defense cuts, and those defense cuts are looming large as a campaign issue in the Old Dominion. War has been very good for the Virginia economy and the ordinary people who live there, and the state stands to lose many jobs and federal defense contracts if the automatic defense cuts known as “sequestration” kick in automatically on January 2 as scheduled to occur under last year's Budget Control Act. Virginia politicians—from House Majority Whip Eric Cantor, to both candidates aspiring to replace Jim Webb in the U.S. Senate (former Senator George Allen and former governor Tim Kaine)—are not bashful in making it clear that for them patriotism is, after all, just good business.
Virginia rode out the recession and is prospering in the meager economic recovery in far better shape than most other states, in no small part because of the huge number of federal government workers and “private-sector” defense contractors who live across the Potomac from the nation’s capital. And in this campaign season, Virginia politicians are not even bothering to disguise the fact that they see war and the machinery of war as a jobs program.
Cantor has said numerous times that sequestration would do "incredible damage," "devastate the economy," "threaten nearly a million jobs," "cause catastrophic damage," and so on. Gov. Bob McDonnell has joined in the chorus warning against the economic damage and job loss scheduled defense cuts would cause.
And, George Allen warns that “our military readiness is at risk and so are more than 200,000 jobs in Virginia.” As one newspaper headline read, “Allen Took Kaine To Task For Supporting Deal That Could Put More Than 200,000 Virginian Jobs At Risk Due To ‘Draconian’ Defense Cuts.”
According to the Washington Times, Allen was not even satisfied with a proposed deal to mitigate sequestration that his opponent supported: “I could never envision myself voting for something that could be so potentially harmful to Virginians. We need to be putting Virginians first, as far as I’m concerned…”
The Washington Examiner described the first Virginia Senate debate this way: “Allen targeted Kaine’s support for a budget deal that could slash defense spending by $600 billion — a potentially devastating blow to Virginia’s Pentagon-reliant economy.”
The ordinary Virginian’s view of scaling down America’s war machine was probably captured best by a defense contractor from Northern Virginia quoted in the Washington Post who said he was leaning toward the GOP presidential ticket for the first time in his life: “Obama, he’s not really favoring government contractors right now. It definitely drives me in the direction of Romney right now. . . . I’m primarily concerned about my livelihood.”
“Putting Virginians First,” “I’m primarily concerned about my livelihood,” “favoring government contractors”—those sentiments pretty much sum it up. War may be a racket, as Marine Major General Smedley Butler said, but in Virginia, it is also big business. Modern warfare as waged by Empire America may be hell for the victims as General Sherman said but it is also a hell of a jobs program for the ordinary people of America. Harsh as it may sound, it is hard to avoid the disturbing conclusion that Virginia is for killers, the ordinary people who profit big time from big war.