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Sun Dec 21 12:36:08 CAT 2014

If the shoe fits, fight about it

Peter Delmar | 13 February, 2013 01:09
Peter Delmar
Image by: The Times

Everyone who possibly can should read The New Yorker. Every week it contains some of the brightest and - almost unfailingly - the most trenchant writing on the planet. (It also has a thing about cartoons about dogs which are invariably very funny.)

If you are lucky enough to have an iPad you can get The New Yorker for under $1.30 a pop.

The magazine is primarily targeted at those Americans who understand there is a world beyond its shining seas and want to engage with that world, not necessarily to blow it up and impose military pashas on the various outposts that come within its conquering orbit.

The type of educated East Coast intelligentsia who typically reads the New Yorker is by no means your typical American.

Your typical Americans, it seems, very much want the government to rule large swathes of the world (preferably after shooting as many of the natives as possible) because they just don't trust us.

These Americans, of course, have a point: Idi Amin, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Hugo Chavez and Julius Malema all were or are non-Americans, the sort of people you wouldn't trust to run a small Limpopo roads contract or something slightly more complicated like, say, an FNB advertising campaign.

Americans love fighting the rest of us so much that they are paying the perfectly ludicrous sum of $700-billion a year to keep its fighting men and women equipped with whatever their little martial hearts desire.

The January 28 issue of the US magazine (of which, by now, you will have gathered, I am greatly enamoured) recalled a statement by one Robert Taft, an Ohio senator who, in 1941, said: "Frankly, the American people don't want to rule the world, and we are not equipped to do it. Such imperialism is wholly foreign to our ideals of democracy and freedom. It is not our manifest destiny or our national destiny."

Taft tried three times to get the Republican presidential nomination, but thrice he failed.

That's an interesting quote but nowhere near as interesting as the following (from the same story): "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This is a world in arms. This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

What makes this quote remarkable is the identity of the person who delivered it. It was none other than General Dwight D Eisenhower, in his first major address as president of the US, back in 1953.

When he left office in 1961 and the arms race continued spiralling, seemingly towards a nuclear Armageddon, the war hero turned president warned: "In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."

In faraway little South Africa we have millions of hungry and cold people, but our councils of government have seemingly fallen utterly under the thrall of our military-industrial complex. We have the scandal of the arms deal, of very costly foreign jets that we can't fly and submarines that don't sail because we either don't have the skills, or somebody forgot where he put the spare parts. While our people go cold and hungry.

We once tried - but failed - to invade Lesotho, and the few taxpayers we have left are paying through the nose to finance an arms race with (we can only imagine) the belligerent Botswanans or the aggressive Angolans. Or maybe it's the militaristic Mozambicans that our betters feel so anxious about (I've never been accused of being shy about alliteration).

Now we learn that our military-industrial complex - specifically the three-ring circus that is Armscor - is spending who knows how much of our money to design court shoes for our lady soldiers to wear at regimental dinners. Meanwhile, the Gauteng government has no money for a project meant to create small businesses.

I'm sorry but I'm with the DA on this one : I want to know what those shoes cost to develop. If it was more than R50000, I expect somebody at Armscor to be fired for it.

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