It's not easy to establish a clear line in history between the time when American democracy belonged to citizens and when it was lost, but wars give us starting point.
The first wars were fought over ideas. There was the Revolutionary War in the 18th century and then in the 19th century, the Civil War "preserved the union' and ended slavery.
In the 20th century came the wars for national imperialism. First, Teddy Roosevelt's wars in the Philippines and Cuba, then WWII which more or less accidentally resulted in imperial expansion.
After 1945, the U.S. was very good at waging war but no longer so good at winning, so we kept practicing. Wars waged against Korea and Vietnam failed to accomplish anything but massive destruction on somebody else's land, ratchet up the hate index for the U.S., and give the Pentagon an excuse to exercise its military muscles and escalate its budget.
Increasingly, especially since the implosion of the U.S.S.R. in 1989, the U.S. military has been used as a tool to interfere in the politics of smaller and weaker nations, to intimidate and harass, to make the world safe for corporations, which is also known euphemistically as "making the world safe for democracy' and "protecting American interests.'
The U.S. has been the only unchallenged superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Relieved of the need to protect the world from "the communist threat', citizens expected the defense budget, larger for many decades than the military budgets of the rest of the world combined, to finally yield to common sense. Americans anticipated a peace dividend in spending that reflected the irrelevance of the military sink hole and left room to support the economy, education, and social programs.
It didn't happen. New arguments were created, like the wars in the Middle East, or exploited, like 911 or the earthquake in Haiti, to keep the bloated military budget growing.
First responders, U.S. style, are not the Red Cross and not the Salvation Army, but U.S. soldiers armed to the teeth patrolling the streets of a devastated city, supposedly protecting the dead, dying and starving, but transparently marking territory, protecting the regime from imaginary encroachment by other countries.
One of many riveting scenes during the past few weeks was the black faces and skeletal bodies pressed against the airport fence in Haiti awaiting distribution of the tons of food and water piling up on the tarmac. Face to face with the desperate, on the inside of the fence, was not USAID, not the State Department, and not FEMA, but the U.S. military, locked and loaded, ready to do whatever necessary to keep the provisions safely away from those in urgent need.
The grounds of Haiti's presidential residence, located directly across the street from a hospital, eventually filled with marines and U.S. helicopters carrying medical supplies that waited indefinitely for distribution as people died and the marines in charge hung out until they had approval from higher-ups.
As reports from the rest of the world trickled in through the BBC and Al Jazeeraz, we learned of the complaints generated in country after country by the high handed arrogance of the U.S. military controllers of Haiti's one-runway airport who seemed intent on refusing entry to any plane that did not display the insignia of the U.S.A. Eventually, according to one report, the airport was turned into a military base and all non-U.S. flights were rerouted to the Dominican Republic.
We heard the international community voice the fear that the U.S. military was once again using aid as a pretext to extend American imperialism. Sri Lanka's insistence, after the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004, on prohibiting entry to the U.S. military began to seem quite rational, even to Americans.
Does any of this sound like it could be President Barack Obama's doing? He is the calm, reasoned, constitutionally designated commander in chief of the military, but is he in control of it? Or has the military, like its budget, been allowed to run amok?
Military spending, including discretionary and nondiscretionary is now closing in on 50% of every tax dollar the federal government spends. Nevertheless, it's the financing for America's social fabric, education, social security, Medicare and aid to the poor, that is scheduled for reductions. The massive, irrational, tax subsidies for the military and defense contractors make most of us unwilling collaborators in the coming reckoning. (For more dismal information about the U.S. military and the weapons industry go to http://www.globalissues.org.)
Today, the U.S. military brazenly supports the corporate agenda, from the oil wars in the Middle East to the juntas in Central and South America that regularly replace democratically elected presidents with puppets that international elites, including the U.S. corporate sector, find less likely to support challenges to plutocracy and fascism.
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court, demonstrating once again that it is no tool of democracy, handed corporations unlimited control of election advertising in the warped pretense that money equals free speech and that corporations are people. The case the Court was deciding, whether an ad about Hillary Clinton was prohibited corporate interference in an election, was not directly related to its ruling. Dispensing with precedent on corporate funding of elections was apparently something that the right wing of the Supreme Court just had to get off its chest.