Military Waste – Ooops On Purpose

In 1676 there were rebellions all over the American colonies, Bacon’s Rebellion being the most famous.

After rebellions were suppressed, commissioners were sent in to find out what had happened. In the collected grievances from the people of Charles City County, VA, overtaxation was a major complaint, with military waste being the first on the list:

‘That besides the great quantitys of Tob[acc]o raised & payed for building and erecting of forts w[hi]ch were never finished but suffered to goe to ruine, the artillery buried in sand and spoyled with rust for want of care, the ammunition imbezelled as afores[ai]d…’

These forts, even when built, provided little comfort to the colonists’ overwhelming feelings of insecurity from sporadic attacks by Amerinidians, given that the style of the attacks was quick acts of violence in mostly remote places and then a quick retreat.

In any case, the people believed their taxes to be exorbitant and also that they got nothing for them but rulers who abused them.

still image from "Full Metal Jacket" of the Sargeant pointing his hand in the viewer's face, saying "High School is about dedicating yourself to the United States Marine Corp!"

The grievances reminded me of this passage from Orwell’s 1984 about how useful wastefulness is to military states:

‘The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, of pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labor power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labor that would build several hundred cargo ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labors another Floating Fortress is built. In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population.’

Military ‘waste’ is a contentious term, perhaps. But less so when remembering MLK’s words about how bombs that are dropped in Vietnam are landing on the heads of poor black kids in Americas poorest cities. Sure, the Floating Fortress that is built and destroyed unused must be better than the Floating Fortress that is built and then employed destroying life. To not build it at all would be best – there is plenty of work and employment to be had fixing the place up as is.

The conquest of the Americas, as begun by the Spanish, was simple: go over there and exploit the shit out of everything and everyone. Import more people to exploit if you run out of / kill off all the people. It is what we still are – is it who we will be?