I Want a List

I want a list.

I want a full accounting of every weapon in the country. Not Iraq; I don't give a fig about Iraq. It's halfway around the world, it has no means of threatening the United States from its territory, its economy is decimated, it has been disarmed more effectively than any other country in the history of the world, its every move is closely monitored by any number of other agencies and countries, and it knows that any move to threaten any other country would be instantly suicidal. There are plenty of threats to the safety of Americans. Iraq is not one of them. Among all the American-trained dictators plaguing the planet, he's the least of our problems.

I want a list of our weapons.

After all, we pay for them -- and pay, and pay, and pay. John W. Snow, the CSX chairman nominated yesterday to replace the loose-tongued ex-Alcoan Paul O'Neill as Treasury Secretary (great, just what we need -- another titan of corporate America, and veteran of the Ford Administration, in Dubya's cabinet) was strident in the mid-'90s in his advocacy for a balanced budget. I wonder what he'll say now about his new boss's infliction of a giant sucking wound where the federal surplus of 18 months ago once was? That money, yours and mine, went almost entirely for weapons and the capacity to use them. I want an accounting.

It's the United States, after all, which has proven that it poses a threat to not just its neighbors but countries anywhere in the world -- ask Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Serbia, Pakistan, Sudan, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Panama, Libya or Grenada, all countries the U.S. has bombed or bullied in the last 20 years. It's the United States whose foreign policy is now officially predicated on reserving the right to strike militarily anywhere in the world, any time it likes, for any reason, and without any backing by an ally or international body. It's the United States whose weapons are sold to one or more sides of virtually every one of the five dozen or so wars now raging in the world. It's America with the oldest and biggest nuclear weapons program in the world, the U.S. alone that has proudly used such weapons on civilian populations, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's the U.S. whose weapons are now the weapons of choice for everyone from mentally disturbed serial killers to jungle guerrillas to kleptocratic dictators the world around. It's the government of the U.S., including every embassy and consulate around the world, that makes it a priority to pay for the marketing, credit underwriting, and purchase of those weapons, and closes the deal. It's the U.S. that underwrites and trains intelligence agencies and secret police the world over, including any number of countries where state torture and murder are the norm. We pay for it all. I want a list.

I want it in three weeks.

I want to know every single weapon or potential weapon in the possession of the United States government. Not just the Pentagon or the Department of Defense, but every single agency down to the U.S. Mint and the Library of Congress. If the Library of Congress's assistant medical archivist carries a can of mace in her purse when she goes to the parking garage, I want to know about it.

Not just what the government owns; I want a list of every potential weapon government employees possess, too. Every firearm John Ashcroft and his NRA-loving appointees own, and everyone else down to the grade C-3 summer interns. That includes dual-use weapons, like nail files, or certain kitchen spices which when mixed with a nasal decongestant can produce a certain redness in the eyes. I want the list. All of it. Typed. Neatly. No typos, please.

But that's not all. After all, it's not just our government that poses a threat to the world; corporate America does, too, and as we've repeatedly witnessed (ask Mr. Snow), our government is a revolving door with corporate boardrooms. They're all in on it together, and if Coca-Cola doesn't constitute an invading army (and a global menace) I don't know what does. Therefore, I also want all of the weapons or potential weapons possessed by any business in the United States.

Let me clarify that: any entity that does business in the United States, whether or not they're owned by Americans. Air Botswana, this means you. That includes all their employees, and all of the subcontracting employees and agencies (like Coke's bottling plant at Ouagadougou) they work with. Can't be too careful.

You've got three weeks. And it had better be complete. Alphabetized, please. With an index.

Of course, I don't think you'll cooperate. I don't think everything will be in the list that has been specified in my demand. The Pentagon alone routinely can't figure out what it has done with billions of dollars of taxpayers' money. Asking it to account for every single paper clip -- after all, it might poke an eye out, and besides, at $90 per paper clip they've got to be able to do something other than hold paper together even during a nuclear war -- seems like a long shot. And I expect many companies won't fully cooperate, either. They'll claim proprietary information or some other lame excuse.


We'll have to inspect them, of course. Unannounced visits, preferably accompanied by a battalion or two. When they object, we'll call it part of their sustained pattern of non-cooperation.

Have I mentioned that I retain the right to shoot down any aircraft that appear over the skies of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio or certain parts of West Virginia? They'll probably pitch a fit about that, too.

But then, that's what you'd expect from people whose love of power is so fierce that they would willingly endanger their own people, right?

After all, by making America a country loathed by billions of people around the world -- some of which are virtually guaranteed to be as omnicidally inclined as the power-crazed, money-poisoned thugs now running our country -- it's you and I who are being put at risk. We're the ones who will be walking past the exploding hotel or working in the office towner that collapses. We're the collateral damage.

And we're paying for it. We're filing the tax returns, we're getting the money extracted from our paychecks. We pay for the carnage. Now, and later.

The least we can get out of the deal is a list.

Three weeks.

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