knee to the groin and an application for Food Stamps.rnHarry, meanwhile, gave them Hell, all right. Unless Hellrngave them Harry. (There are two names for men who orderrnflunkies to kill strangers: Charles Manson and Mr. President.)rnThe New York Tribune observed of General Ulysses S.rnGrant’s “immobile, heavy, and expressionless” visage that it wasrn”the face of the only man in America, perhaps, who could makernthe calculation of the multitude of lives necessary to blot out arnmultitude of other lives.” This calculus requires a certain moralrndensity; an inability to credit persons unknown to you withrnlives, families, feelings, and histories of their own. Politicians,rnwho perforce see people merely as an agglomeration of leverpullersrncalled the “electorate,” are capable of making this deadrnreckoning; curiously, many military men cannot, perhaps becausernthe men they drill are all too real to them. Among thernmost memorable of American antiwar voices was that of GeneralrnSmedley Butler, the maverick marine, who told a radio audiencernin 1939:rnNow—you mothers, particularly! The only way you canrnresist all this war hysteria and beating of tom-toms is byrnasserting the love you bear your boys. When you listenrnto some well-worded, some well-delivered war speech,rnjust remember it’s nothing but sound. No amount ofrnsound can make up to you for the loss of your boy….rnLook at him. Put your hand on that spot on the back ofrnhis neck. The place you used to love to kiss when he wasrna baby. Just rub it a little. You won’t wake him up, hernknows it’s y o u . . . . Look at this splendid young creaturernwho’s part of yourself, then close your eyes for a momentrnand I’ll tell you what can happen.rnSomewhere—5,000 miles from home. Night. Darkness.rnCold. A drizzling rain. The noise is terrific. AllrnHell has broken loose. A star shell bursts in the air. Itsrnunearthly flare lights up the muddy field. There’s a lot ofrntangled rusty barbed wires out there and a boy hangingrnover them—his stomach ripped out, and he’s feebly callingrnfor help and water. His lips are white and drawn.rnHe’s in agony. There’s your boy.rnToday, Butler’s speech would be derogated as mawkish—rnthat is, if the two or three corporations that have gobbled up allrnour radio stations would permit its broadcast. (Sure theyrnwould. It could air right after the “Noam Chomsky Hour.”)rnYou see, mother is not supposed to care if her son dies on a foreignrnbattlefield, fighting because a few degenerate old menrnhave ordered him thither; he’s only one boy, after all—therernare plenty more where he came from. The thoroughly modernrnmother must cut the apron strings—or power-suit tails—whenrnTroy or Trey or Treg is but an infant. After all, we’ve got to preparernhim to compete in the global economy. No sooner has hernbeen graduated from daycare than off he goes to Stanford,rnwhere if he’s a sentimental slob he can e-mail mom a lovingrnmessage on Mother’s Day. If he’s of the working class, he canrnlearn the skills that will enable him to compete in the globalrneconomy by joining the world’s largest and richest and deadliestrnsocialist organization, the U.S. Armed Forces.rnThe best reason to oppose the military-industrial complex isrnthe most intimate: because it can kill your son or brotherrnor cousin, and its social and economic fallout can destroy yourrntown. But arguments from personal experience are consistentlyrnbelittled. For instance, the only legitimate defense against arncharge of prejudice is the oft-lampooned “some of my bestrnfriends are . . . ” Yet this is inadmissible; the prescribed defensernis to make a windy speech about brotherhood, get misty-eyedrnwhen Tiger Woods wins the Masters, and then go home andrnunderpay your Guatemalan housekeeper.rnDuring the Gold War our Presidents became masters ofrnspangled orotundity, of ghosted magniloquence, as the rottingrncarcasses piled up offstage. How could we possibly have enduredrnthree consecutive rulers such as JFK, LBJ, and RMN—rnderanged monograms who, their publicists assured us, dreamedrnGreat Dreams. (The only compliment more glowing is that arnPresident “made America believe in itself again,” as Ronald ofrnBel Air was said to have done. Indeed, who among us will everrnforget where he was at the moment he learned that Grenadarnhad been liberated?)rnYes, these men thought big. Kennedy, after declaring thatrnhe and his Harvard touch-football-playing suckups were willingrnto make Middle American boys pay any price and bear any burdenrnto perform the constitutionally mandated task of preservingrnthe libertarian democracies of Quemoy and Matsu, next setrnhis sights on colonizing the moon, which had never done us anyrnharm. (Presumably our Pulitzer Prize-winning historian hadrnheard colorable tales of sluttish seleno-starlets just dying for onernof those fabled 45-second Kennedy love marathons.) Thernpathological liar Johnson declared war on poverty, which he apparentlyrnintended to win by killing as many poor boys as possiblernin Vietnam. Then came Nixon, geostrategic thinker for thernages. In one of those sententious post-Watergate books thatrnwere intended to burnish his reputation and make us forgetrnabout his fascistic misuse of the FBI and IRS (or is any use ofrnthe internal security system by definition a misuse?), Nixonrnquoted De Gaulle that “France was never true to herself unlessrnshe was engaged in a great enterprise.” To which (he Tricksterrnadded: “I have always believed that this was true of the UnitedrnStates as well. Defending and promoting peace and freedomrnaround the world is a great enterprise. Only by rededieatingrnourselves to that goal will we remain true to ourselves.”rnTrue to ourselves. You might think you can be true to yourselfrnby raising a family, participating in the life of a small and vitalrncommunity, writing books about your people’s history,rnbuilding houses or farming land or simply studying with thernbirds, flowers, trees, God, and yourself, as Dvoi’ak had it—butrnyou would be wrong. Worse, you would be small, meager,rnmean, niggardly, pinched. The measure of a man’s greatness isrnhis willingness to abandon his family and go abroad to murderrnstrangers on behalf of… your guess is as good as mine. “Whatrnare you fighting for?” screamed a pretty blonde from a Catholicrngirl’s school. “It’s not my security.” Even if we discount thernpossibility that our men have died and killed for corporate interests,rnfinanciers, the munitions industry, or the foreignersrnwho embroiled us in the republic-razing Gold War, we are stillrnleft with Mr. Nixon’s “great enterprises.”rnThe kids’ lemonade stand on the street corner is a great enterprise;rnthe cabinetmaker’s shop is a great enterprise; the townrnhistorical society’s new museum is a great enterprise; the undertakingsrnof the warped and scrofulous men who rule us call tornmind Thoreau’s remarks on the pyramids: “There is nothing tornwonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men couldrnbe found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing arntomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiserrnand manlier to have drowned in the Nile.”rnAUGUST 1997/15rnrnrn