The price of sacrificial lamb chops

Expanded from the 12-26-2004 Daily Sparks Tribune
12-31-2004 Comstock Chronicle

Like the American dollar, the value of an American life has been substantially devalued by Dubya and his dunces.

Families of soldiers killed in the Vietnam War usually got the following severance package: A visit from a couple of uniforms in a car with an ugly paint job, $10,000 and, if they were lucky, a body to bury. (Unlike today, I assume that they also got a personally signed letter from the secretary of war.)

By the time of Poppy Bush's Gulf War I, what used to be called "combat insurance" had been cut to $6,000 per supreme sacrifice.

Only the name has grown.

Combat insurance is now officially called "the death gratuity payment." As wise man George Carlin has warned for decades, beware when they start adding syllables. Last year, His Accidency the President signed legislation increasing the tip to $12,000. He added a conservatively bitter sweetener: the rebate is now fully IRS-exempt.

That ten grand of 1968 Tet Offensive blood money is worth $54,252.87 in 2004 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, the $12,000 paid today is the equivalent of $2,212 in 1968 greenbacks. Either way you slice it, the body in the bag is now worth less than 20 cents on the dollar from the high water mark of the last quagmire.

The Bush-Cheney neocon artists have put our money where their mouths are. They have officially cheapened life by means of a law passed by congress and signed by the president establishing the market price by government decree. Where is deregulation when we really need it?

What do you expect from blackguards who last May announced a 3.4 percent cut in the 2005 budget of the Veterans Administration? Last week, experts warned that the number of today's soldiers needing psychiatric care for the next 35 years or so may reach into the hundreds of thousands.

Dubya's dunces believe that the free market can solve all problems. Iraq was supposed to be a demonstration of pure, unfettered, deregulated, non-union free-market capitalism.

This helps explain Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld's moral obtuseness on everything from vehicle armor to writer's cramp.

The only common sense conclusion is that you have to be freaking stupid to volunteer for this dumbass outfit. If this be heresy amid an epidemic of mindless flagwaving, let the heretics be fruitful and multiply.

Let the unspeakable ring out across the land. Last week on Sam Shad's Nevada Newsmakers on KRNV TV-4, Washoe County D.A. Dick Gammick rightly decried the courts martial and imprisonment of several U.S. Army officers. Their crime: using some abandoned vehicles and cannibalizing spare parts in order to deliver badly needed supplies for their fellow combatants.

I thought my response a quite logical corollary: You gotta be crazy to volunteer for the U.S. armed forces today. My fellow panelists vehemently disagreed. Seated between Mr. Gammick and Retail Association of Nevada exec Paul Enos, I felt sandwiched by White House press releases.

The youthful Mr. Enos launched into the standard "Saddam was a bad guy" defense. The D.A. argued that I was "way out of line" and that "freedom isn't free."

At a press conference on that very day, Bush the Lesser said "the enemies of freedom" know that "a democratic Iraq will be a decisive blow to their ambitions because free people will never choose to live in tyranny."

"They might choose to live in a theocracy, though. Americans did," opined Maureen Dowd, the magnificent auburn-haired asp of the New York Times.

The pious ghouls in power have used the grateful dead to promote and pass new tax cuts for the rich while conducting a budgetary assault on every non-war government program. You name it and the reductions have been announced in the past week. Forests: cut. Student loans: sliced. AIDS aid: terminal. Health care for veterans: consistently collapsing. Food for the starving: devoured.

The last is perhaps the unkindest cut of all.

Desperate, hungry, undereducated people — here and abroad — become prime recruits for the Timothy McVeighs and Osama bin Ladens of this world.

The Bush leaguers have reneged on promises of aid to impoverished and starving populations around the world. As always, short-sighted America will mandate sufficient lifeboats only after the Titanic has hit the iceberg and sunk.

We continue to support dictators and thugs. As we have since we overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, we consistently export terrorism. (Do a web search for "School of Americas Fort Benning Georgia.")

I have been most touched by the continued sheepish faith of the families of the slaughtered.

Now that the silence of the lambs has been broken, I'll say it again: Anybody who volunteers for the U.S. armed services today is crazy. Nuts. Suicidal. Deluded. Divorced from reality. In serious need of psychiatric care and mood-altering hard drugs.

Bloody reality suffuses the soil of southern Asia and fertilizes the furrows of the homeland when the hollowed husks of the hallowed are returned for tax-exempt recycling.

The weeping lambchops are smitten by what I can only term the red-state mentality hard-wired into limited minds by decades of John Wayne movies.

They voted on emotion and cosmetics rather than fact and continue to send their children to war in exchange for slogans, speeches and 30 pieces of silver adjusted for inflation.

Happy New Year?

Be well. Raise hell.


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Copyright © 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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