Tuesday, June 21

“War Is the Health of New York State.”

The title of this post is not just an abstract “leftist” slogan or a phrase torn from a page of a George Orwell novel. It comes from my observation that Randolphe Bourne’s original line, “War is the health of the state,” written in the midst of the First World War, has again taken on concrete significance for citizens of the United States. Indeed, it could very well serve as part of the figurehead from the mail that I’ve been receiving from New York State senators. As a case in point, I have scanned a portion of a letter I received today from New York State Senator Mary Lou Rath.
At issue in Senator Rath’s letter is her attempt to keep the Niagara Air Reserve Station open. This is a social drama that is playing out in communities all over the United States today in which military bases are being threatened with closure by the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission. As Senator Rath writes, in lines scanned below (and, here, with my underscoring):

“Local, state and federal representatives, along with the Niagara Military Affairs Council (NIMAC), are banning together in a monumental effort to keep our base open, keep thousands of workers in quality jobs and keep our economy alive. We know how much is at stake!”
The kicker, for me, comes in the second paragraph shown here, where the senator argues for the military base’s importance (click on image for enlargement):

In other words, as Senator Rath sees things, keeping the economy alive requires nothing less than a robust “War on Terror” so that the Niagara Air Reserve Station can continue to be a critical component in the nation's perpetual war-making. Note, as well, the importance granted to the “war” by the senator’s use of capital letters. Not only did she dispense altogether with both scare quotes and a judicious use of “so-called” before the expression “War on Terror,” she also, with a stroke of self-important capitalization, made the so-called war on terror look, in print, like the title of a Hollywood blockbuster.

On another note, one wonders if local and federal officials are so lacking in imagination that they can think of no other jobs than these, to stimulate local economies.

For the blog, here, typed out, is the handwritten response I mailed to Senator Rath:


June 20, 2005

Dear Senator Rath:

In response to your letter of June 14, 2005 regarding the Niagara Air Reserve Station, I would like, first, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as follows:

“We are spending all of this money [on the war in Vietnam] for death and destruction, and not nearly enough for life and constructive development… When the guns of war become a national obsession, social needs inevitably suffer.” (1968)
Compare, if you will, the oft-cited words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." (1953)
Respectable senator, Erie County's debt has grown to an estimated $113 million and, at the same time, the amount the County's citizens have paid in taxes to support George Bush's gratuitous take-over of Iraq is rapidly approaching $100 million. [Editor's note of July 10: the actual figure for Erie County's expenditure on the Iraq War is 764.7 million dollars, as reported in March by National Priorities.] The latter figure will surely outstrip the amount of estimated debt soon.

In light of this, you have written to tell me of the need to "keep the economy alive" by contributing further to the so-called war on terror.

Respectable senator, I do not believe in your “War on Terror.” What I do believe is that the relentless militarization of our national and local economy is unhealthy for the citizens of this State, and surely unhealthy for the thousands of civilians the US government has killed, and is bound to keep killing, in Iraq and elsewhere. If supporting George Bush's murderous campaign of corporate self-enrichment that wraps itself in the U.S. flag and fans fear among the populace is the basis of your defense for the Niagara Air Reserve Station, then the sooner the Station closes, the better.

You can take your “War on Terror” and leap into Lake Erie, respectable senator.

Regards, (signed)