Rachel Maddow: How America's Security-Industrial Complex Went Insane
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The following is an excerpt from Rachel Maddow's new book, " Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power," published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
In the little town where I live in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, we now have a “Public Safety Complex” around the corner from what used to be our hokey Andy Griffith–esque fire station. In the cascade of post-9/11 Homeland Security money in the first term of the George W. Bush administration, our town’s share of the loot bought us a new fire truck—one that turned out to be a few feet longer than the garage where the town kept our old fire truck. So then we got some more Homeland money to build something big enough to house the new truck. In homage to the origin of the funding, the local auto detailer airbrushed on the side of the new truck a patriotic tableau of a billowing flaglike banner, a really big bald eagle, and the burning World Trade Center towers.
The American taxpayers’ investment in my town’s security didn’t stop at the new safety complex. I can see further fruit of those Homeland dollars just beyond my neighbor’s back fence. While most of us in town depend on well water, there are a few houses that for the past decade or so have been hooked up to a municipal water supply. And when I say “a few,” I mean a few: I think there are seven houses on municipal water. Around the time we got our awesome giant new fire truck, we also got a serious security upgrade to that town water system. Its tiny pump house is about the size of two phone booths and accessible by a dirt driveway behind my neighbor’s back lot. Or at least it used to be. The entire half-acre parcel of land around that pump house is now ringed by an eight-foot-tall chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, and fronted with a motion-sensitive electronically controlled motorized gate. On our side of town we call it “Little Guantánamo.” Mostly it’s funny, but there is some neighborly consternation over how frowsy Little Guantánamo gets every summer. Even though it’s town-owned land, access to Little Guantánamo is apparently above the security clearance of the guy paid to mow and brush-hog. Right up to the fence, it’s my neighbors’ land and they keep everything trim and tidy. But inside that fence, the grass gets eye-high. It’s going feral in there.
It’s not just the small-potatoes post-9/11 Homeland spending that feels a little off mission. It’s the big-ticket stuff too. Nobody ever made an argument to the American people, for instance, that the thing we ought to do in Afghanistan, the way we ought to stick it to Osama bin Laden, the way to dispense American tax dollars to maximize American aims in that faraway country, would be to build a brand-new neighborhood in that country’s capital city full of rococo narco-chic McMansions and apartment/office buildings with giant sculptures of eagles on their roofs and stoned guards lounging on the sidewalks, wearing bandoliers and plastic boots. No one ever made the case that this is what America ought to build in response to 9/11. But that is what we built. An average outlay of almost $5 billion a month over ten years (and counting) has created a twisted war economy in Kabul. Afghanistan is still one of the four poorest countries on earth; but now it’s one of the four poorest countries on earth with a neighborhood in its capital city that looks like New Jersey in the 1930s and ’40s, when Newark mobsters built garish mansions and dotted the grounds with lawn jockeys and hand-painted neo-neoclassic marble statues.