In the 1970 film, Patton, General George S. Patton is a man driven by his obsession to be the best field commander in the war–and to be recognized for it.
George C. Scott as George S. Patton
And he sees British General Bernard Montgomery–his equally egotistical rival–as a potential obstacle to that latter ambition.
So, in Algeria, he conjures up a plan that will sideline “Monty” while he, Patton, defeats the Germans–and bags the glory.
The trick lies in throwing a sumptuous dinner-–in the middle of the African desert-–for a visiting British general: Harold Alexander.
As Patton (George C. Scott, in an Oscar-winning performance) tells his aide: “I want to give a dinner for General Alexander. I want to get to him before Montgomery does. I want the finest food and the best wine available. Everything.”
The aide pulls off the dinner–where, indeed, “the finest food and the best wine” are on full display, along with attentive waiters and a candelabra.
So think about it:
- In the middle of the desert
- while American and British forces are forced to subsist on C-rations
- and are under repeated air attack by the Luftwaffe
- and tank attack by the Afrika Korps
a handful of ultra-pampered American and British military officers find the time–and luxuries–to throw themselves a fine party.
Now, fast-forward from Algeria in 1943 to Washington, D.C., in 2013.
Returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $40 billion in food stamps for the poor. That’s double the amount previously sought by Right-wingers.
The cuts would include drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules. As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.
Food stamps, the largest U.S. anti-hunger program, are the pivotal issue for a new U.S. farm law costing $80 billion a year.
One in seven Americans–15% of U.S. households–received food stamps at latest count. Enrollment in the program soared after the 2008-09 recession–a direct consequence of the Bush administration’s refusal to regulate powerful, greed-fueled corporations.
Republicans claim the program is unbearably expensive at $78 billion a year.
Meanwhile, as 49 million Americans have trouble putting meals on the table, Republicans are eager to spend billions of dollars for another project.
An unnecessary war with Syria.
One of these right-wingers is Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard–and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.
He–like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration–claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.
That proved to be a lie.
He also pushed the lie that Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.
He has never apologized for either lie–or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.
In a recent column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter–not only in Syria but Iran as well:
“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
“They can explain that Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice–who also helped lie the nation into the needless 2003 Iraq war–is another big promoter of “give war a chance”:
“My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead–and one cannot lead from behind.”
Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war are John McCain (Arizona) and Lindsey Graman (South Carolina), who issued a joint statement:
“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on the ground.
“In addition, we must begin a large-scale effort to train and equip moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition with the game-changing weapons they need to shift the military balance against [Syrian dictator Bashir] Assad’s forces.”
Except that there are no “moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition. The opposition is just as murderous as the Assad regime–and eager to replace one dictator with another.
In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles. A single one of these costs $1,410,000.
Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile
A protracted missile strike would rain literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.
Navy officials say it costs about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.
Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?
Powerful people–whether generals, politicians or the wealthy–will always find abundant money and resources available for projects they consider important.
It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that such people will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.