Mallick: Will Libya break the American bank?

By Heather Mallick,

The Toronto Star, March 23, 2011

Three wars. That’s how many Barack Obama is fighting right now, all on Islamic soil and all for the most dubious reasons. All warfare is personal, and the American-led attack on Libya is a prime example, the best since, well, Iraq and Afghanistan. These three wars are attacks on eccentric, flamboyant men — Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and — who damaged Americans’ sense of self.

We thought Americans were hard. They are tender.

Afghanistan is a continuing failure, Iraq is a hellhole and Libya is a pricey, targetless exercise in braggadocio conducted by two men who have no money (Obama and David Cameron), a bunch of reluctant NATOists and one strange loner (Harper) driven by demons not yet known to us.

When will America realize that these wars were and are massively self-destructive? It’s time America sat down and had a talk with its dad, or read Kipling’s If or something.

The attack on Libya comes at a time when the U.S. is more than $14 trillion in debt and about to legislate a new debt ceiling. The U.S. is no longer rich, it just spends a lot on the things you spend money on when you’re trying to look rich. When men do this, they buy flash cars and swan around town with yellow-haired women with inflatable breasts. When the U.S. does this, it starts wars.

I say it’s personal because Gadhafi is crazy. Whether he’s crazy like a fox or just drugged up, the fact is that crazy gets attention. Note that the Americans aren’t bombing Yemen, partly because the Midwest, the place Jonathan Franzen called America’s “strategic reserve of cluelessness,” doesn’t know who Ali Abdullah Saleh is.

But attacking a country run by a crazy man makes Obama look manly in the eyes of his dopier countrymen. The Vietnam-ish consequences — the quagmire, the humiliating loss — are apparently not gouged into the American psyche, which is quivering with status anxiety.

Will poverty do the trick? Things are so bad that in 2008 Chicago had to raise cash by selling its parking meters to a private investment group whose members included Abu Dhabi and something based in Luxembourg. (Toronto sold Highway 407 and now it’s selling Union Station. Watch and learn, Toronto.) Worse, Chicago undervalued its parking — 36,000 meters + 75 years=duh — and lost at least $974 billion on the deal. Chicagoans can no longer afford street parties or park for free on Christmas because they have to compensate Abu Dhabi for the loss.

Is an Abu Dhabi parking rip-off the reason the U.S. keeps bombing the Arab world? Because I would get that. It’s the showing off I don’t get. I have a housewife’s attitude to finance, an almost Thatcherite belief that you don’t spend money you don’t have. Unless it’s for your kids’ education, which is the last thing the U.S. cares about, and why it’s tanking as a nation.

I’m quite serious about the U.S.’s personal animus towards people like Gadhafi, the Berlusconi of the Arab world. But if this column is thick with personal resentment, it’s because I just had the last nail driven into the coffin of my once-intense Obama love. I finished Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia, a little massacre of a book about the corporate con artists taking the U.S. out of democracy and into serfdom. Arab parking meters annoy the hell out of Taibbi. They’re a starter to his main course, which is the privatizing of the U.S.

Taibbi says Obama is complicit. I suspect he’s right, and I’m so irate I’m going to wear my long-treasured Ohio for Obama campaign T-shirt to power-wash the driveway next weekend.

If American voters aren’t yet aware that they’re headed down that muddy road to a peasanty life, Canadians should watch the U.S. and tremble at a Harper majority. The attack on Libya excites Harper, it pleases him. He thinks bombing Arabs is a vote-getter. He’d sell us to Lockheed Martin if he could.

And he’d do it for two cents on the dollar.

Heather Mallick (born 1959) is a Toronto-based columnist, author and lecturer. She writes a twice weekly column for the Toronto Star, an occasional column for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation‘s website, and a monthly column for The Guardian’s website. She teaches courses on politics and writing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and lectures on Human Rights and Canadian nationalism. Until recently she also wrote a monthly column for Chatelaine magazine.

2 Comments on “Mallick: Will Libya break the American bank?”

  1. Florine Wloch
    March 28, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    Wow some of the info of this post is news to me.thank you for updating me.

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