Since we have a circus, we might as well treat it like a circus and put some money on the second clown from the left. I'm referring to the presidential campaign that began the day after the last election.
We're going to need a good betting line.
But, first, let's agree on a few facts. Fact one: Anybody who runs for president is crazy and we should treat that person as we treat any other crazy person. To wit: don't believe anything they say, don't let them go off by themselves unsupervised, and don't let them make their own rules about nap time. People who run for president have spent a lifetime lying and weaseling in order to get to a place where they can lie and weasel in front of a nation. This conduct is not to be encouraged.
The corporate press says the 2008 presidential campaign will cost one billion dollars. It will cost more. John Kennedy's 1960 campaign cost $9.7 million. Richard Nixon's came in at $10.1 million. Roughly, one dollar in 1960 is worth about seven dollars today. Kennedy or Nixon would have to spend $70 million to be president in 2008, about $400 million shy of what the 2008 Democratic or Republican nominee will spend.
We don't get much out of their billion-dollar campaign. We certainly don't get a conversation about what's actually going on. For instance, we're not leaving Iraq, no matter who wins. Democrats don't want to talk about it because they want their voters to think they're for a withdrawal. Republicans don't want to talk about it because they want to paint Democrats as "cut-and-run," and how can you do that if there are 60,000 American troops in Iraq next year, the year after, and for decades to come?
We are building the largest embassy that has ever been built in the history of embassydom; it's about the size of Vatican City and can be seen from space. Latest cost estimate is $1.3 billion, and it will open in June. The embassy will have the largest swimming pool in Iraq, 15-foot-thick walls at selected locations, restaurants, a Marine barracks, 300 houses, 21 towers, its own electricity and water...all of it placed inside the Green Zone right next to the puppet -- oops, make that next to the sovereign government of Iraq.
The embassy will house 8000 hostages -- oops, make that 8000 staff. As I said, the compound is inside the Green Zone section of Baghdad, an Arab city of 5,000,000 residents, 4,991,000 of whom object to being occupied. An occupation, by the way, entering its fifth year. Advanced military thinkers note that the embassy is within mortar range of 4,992,000 Baghdad residents.
Then there are the "enduring bases." We have no permanent bases in Iraq. Let me make that clear. We have, the Pentagon says, enduring bases. There is Balad air base, 43 miles north of Baghdad. According to "Air Force in Iraq 332nd AEW," an Air Force website, "In terms of aircraft movements, Balad is the busiest single runway operation in DOD and second in the world only to London's Heathrow airport."
The U.S. has built at least four superbases, (Al Asad air base, Balad air base, Camp Taji, and Tallil air base). They are home to 60,000 soldiers, thousands of contractors, fast-food restaurants, movie theaters, supermarkets, cyber cafés. These are huge installations. American troops arrive, complete their tours, and go home having never left their base. The United States is not leaving those bases either; they were designed to last decades. And who would we leave them to, the grateful population of Iraq?
Chalmers Johnson, a UC San Diego professor emeritus and author of, to name three, Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, writes that the Defense Department's "Base Structure Report" admits to having 737 military bases in 130 countries in 2005. That figure does not include bases in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Uzbekistan, or secret installations in Israel, Australia, United Kingdom, Jordan, or bases in countries who do not want it known they host American military camps, or bases that fall under other categories we don't know about.
All but three dozen of these bases (the Pentagon calls them Cooperative Security Locations) are listed as small, many serving as storehouses for prepositioned military arsenals. But, they are available for American military use during emergencies, and an "emergency," as any presidential candidate will tell you, can mean whatever you want it to mean.
Follows are a few questions for our candidates. Why, exactly, do we need 700 military bases in 130 countries? If we actually need 700 military bases in a 130 countries, shouldn't we have 1500 bases in 190 countries just to make sure we have enough to go around? Perhaps 3000 is a better number.