©2013 By ILANA MERCER
Libertarian extraordinaire John Stossel asks the right questions. He doesn’t always arrive at the right answers. The questions Mr. Stossel poses on his Fox-Business TV show, small mercies, have little to do with the mindless things that busy Big Media.
For a couple of weeks, for example, the impetus among the mindless has been to provide the priapic Anthony Wiener with the boost his worthless life and life’s work have clearly needed. The sexting antics of this engorged organism—a New-York City mayoral candidate and once a Democratic congressman—have allowed Major Media to carry out its mission: knocking down one straw man (Weiner) to conceal the catastrophes of another (Obama).
Back to Stossel. To the question of “Are We Rome?” posed on the July 18 segment of his eponymous show, Mr. Stossel replied, “Not yet.” Wrong. Mr. Stossel takes comfort in the fact that “we don’t kill people for sport. When we go to war, misguided or not, we don’t conquer or plunder. And when we win, we usually leave.”
The popular host is utterly mistaken—just as he was wrong to summarily dismiss the threat to liberty of the “National Security Administration tracking patterns in our emails and phone calls,” to quote his nonchalant column.
Who is Stossel kidding? American assassins hunt down and kill very many innocents abroad by drone. Unmanned aerial U.S. “drones have killed thousands, many of them civilians,” attests Gabor Rona of Human Rights First. And talk about a Roman spectacle! Targeted killing is even a bit of a sport—so much so that the New Rome has established a “new medal that honors drone pilots and computer experts” for their long-distance killing prowess. It was to be called “The Distinguished Warfare Medal.”
Rome’s rulers were not nearly as efficient as the US is at killing. Uncle Sam has industrialized and streamlined war-time slaughter. No longer do thousands of legionnaires lay siege to a city with attack catapults; one pilot flattens it with a single “daisy cutter” (and few qualms).
Compare the demographic and economic indices of countries the US has invaded—for their own good, of course, but without their consent—before and after those faith-based initiatives. You’ll get a better idea of the carnage than John Stossel’s optimism allows.
Libya is no longer. Ditto Iraq. Afghanistan is not doing much better since Rome set up camp there.
The Comitatus—”the sprawling apparatus that encompasses the ministries of government, the lawyers, the diplomats, the adjutants, the messengers, the interpreters, the intellectuals”—refused to keep count of the casualties in the Iraq war. Thus are the losses variously estimated to run from 110,600 violent deaths (Associated Press), to 601,027 (a Lancet survey), and likely even 1,033,000 (Opinion Research Business survey).
Likewise has “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan, still ongoing, been the direct and indirect cause of the deaths and displacement of many thousands of Afghan civilians. (Wikipedia has tallied the “deaths caused by Coalition forces in Libya.”)
Again, contrary to Stossel’s assertion, the latter-day Rome has mechanized the warfare-state’s killing capabilities and has refined its propaganda wing to an art—so fine an art that John Stossel has bought it hook, line, and sinker.
Nobody attempting to tackle the “Are We Rome?” vexation should get away with a failure to mention Cullen Murphy’s book by that name. This question Murphy has asked and answered. Superbly so.
Murphy’s “Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of Rome” draws the unflattering parallels between the imperial rule of ancient Rome and that of modern America, down to the contemporary “musicians” [like Beyoncé and Jay-Z], “the courtesans, diviners, buffoons [clearly categories are not mutually exclusive] … the people who taste the emperor’s food before he himself does … the core groups of bureaucrats and toadies who function within the nimbus of great power.”
The domain name “USA.gov.”, if you will.
Lest you forget, the D.C. hood is also home to your favorite, oh-so gritty media personalities, who gather inside or near the Bubble to reap “the benefits of being at the center of the Imperium.” This means rocking the ship of state just enough to retain street cred with “the folks.”
Ultimately, “All life in Washington today derives … from the capital’s own version of Rome’s annona — the continuous infusion not of grain and olive oil but of tax revenue and borrowed money,” avers Murphy. “Instead of ships and barges there are banks, 10,000 of them designated for this purpose, which funnel the nation’s tax payments to the city. This ‘never-ending flow of revenue creates a broad level of affluence that has no real counterpart anywhere in America. Washington simply doesn’t look like the rest of America.” But its residents “fail to view this as bizarre.”
The rest of the country doesn’t much flinch about the fleecing. The people of the provinces are programmed to go on pilgrimages to D.C., and genuflect to their opulent oppressors. The rest exist merely to serve the masters of modern Rome. Thanks to the graft flowing into the Beltway, the average income in and around Washington D.C. is $85,189 compared to $49,777 for the hinterland, where unemployment rates are almost double.
Unless the pauperized hoi polloi are willing to do something drastic, like repeal the “annona”—the number of that beast is 16: the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—we’ll continue to live as the Beltway’s bitches.
Yet another of Mr. Stossel’s less piercing insights consists in objecting “to President Obama’s $100 million dollar [African] trip,” but consoling himself that “The Romans were worse”: “Nero traveled with 1,000 carriages.”
By Murphy’s telling, when on-the-go, “just one element of the president’s U.S. security detail a thousand strong”! It entails Air Force cargo planes which bring helicopters, Secret Service SUVs, and the official presidential limousine (plus the official decoy limousine). Along for the ride are ground forces, U.S. Naval vessels, with surface-to-air missiles as backup.
When the modern-day Xerxes is on the move, he travels with more auxiliaries than Nero, bringing smaller countries to a standstill.
There’s nothing Spartan or beneficent about the latter-day Rome’s rule.