An American Narcissist

 Clive Hambidge

 It would seem unfair to single out Mitt Romney as a modern day narcissist when the insufferably long American election campaign crowds to a rowdy and inglorious finale with both men and their teams equally aware that the only change that Americans have experienced has meant being short-changed, whilst being pistol-whipped by challenger and incumbent rhetoric. But heck! In for a dime in for a dollar, Romney it is; for he represents a “Collective Narcissism,” in the form of a Republican Party that is moving so viciously to the right that it just might fall off an East Coast cliff and not just the “fiscal cliff” as American debt spirals out of control, as too American foreign policy.

Polls reckon Obama will prevail in this down-to-the-wire election. We will know more around 7pm this evening in London. We will know absolutely tomorrow morning. It seems even the Super-Pacs can’t save Mitt! The cost of this high theatre that began two years ago? More than $2 Billion. The cost to America of a Romney win would be incalculable. The whole world wants an Obama win. Only Israel is pensive as is Romney’s old consultancy friend Netanyahu. Don’t worry Benjamin the billions of US. Dollars, pencilled in for 2013, will flow your way to continue to make the lives of Palestinians intolerable, it matters not who takes the White House.

A Very Private Affair

Whoever wins, the problem of American Private Military Companies (PMCs) remains.  This industry is worth over $100 billion and growing. Providing services in illegal wars even though it is prohibited. At the 72nd plenary meeting on the 4th of December 1989 the “United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 44/34 the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training Mercenaries. It entered into force on 20th October 2001 and is usually known as the UN Mercenary Convention.”  This is why, if any closure is to take place (don’t hold your breath), or more likely a “ beginning of the end” on American privatised systematic abuse around the world and mainly in Muslim nations, then clearly America needs a law professor at the White House helm and not a business man.

What values would a Romney Presidency bring to foreign policy, if he succeeds?  In particular what would his administration be bringing in the form of sustainable regulatory rules and oversight to the opaque “battle space” system of outsourcing by the Department of Defence (DOD) to Private Contractors in the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan? Probably more of the same with increased robotised sophistication. Hard Power means “shall we burn the village to save it?” (Peter Clothier) Winning hearts and minds by the use of deadly force is somewhat paradoxical is it not, if not narcissistically insane?

The Case for American Exceptionalism

In 2009 it was estimated that 200,000 contractors were working in Afghanistan and Iraq “in support of U.S. military and civilian agency missions.” Writing for the Brookings Institute, Feb 2010 (just before the publication March 2, 2010 of Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, which worryingly “largely avoids discussion of social issues” whilst making the case for American “Hard Power” which means ultimately killing, stealing and corrupting with impunity abroad), according to Peter Singer, “In management terms, the military contracting of services has risen at such a rate that the system of oversight and supervision has become wholly inadequate.” Singer is here calling for much needed economic oversight because, “The Pentagon estimates that as much as 10 billion dollars have gone missing or been misspent by private military contractors in Iraq.” One can make the assumption that the same level of corruption and incompetence applies to the support of the “battle-space” in Afghanistan, and erstwhile support for military bases around the globe. Singer goes on “at a time of unprecedented growth in contracting services (as much as 700 percent), the workforce responsible for this role (oversight) has shrunk (by about 25 percent). The result is that in 1997 one DOD auditor was responsible for $642 million in private contracts; today it is one for every $2.02 billion in contracts.” This then is the nub for Singer, essential mismanagement of US Dollars. “It is time” he declares “to subject these enormous expenditures on defence services to the same measure of scrutiny and transparency that we currently bring to bear on defence systems and other goods, as well develop an over arching set of measures to provide strategic guidance, oversight and management.”

If one looks at The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) testimonies from November 18, 2010 evolving through March 2, 2011, April 25, 2011, November 30, 2011, and June 28, 2012, before the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S Senate Committees dating from November 18, 2010, through to June 28, 2012 (pending) we see a dog’s breakfast of planning aground missed opportunities to tackle financial corruption. The Special Inspector General found it “difficult for Standing Inspectors General to free up and deploy the resources required to deal with contingency operations”. They are expensive “and time consuming to establish [the] staff, and deploy new Special Inspector General for specific contingencies” that “hard lessons [should have been] learned from Iraq experiences, correcting in particular the limited in-country oversight that SIGIR previously identified”. He holds that, “the United States could improve defence wartime contracting explaining and summarizing key trends in SIGIR’s criminal investigations, including path breaking programs such as the SIGIR’s Prosecutorial initiative;” because coordinating “between agencies and especially between State, USAID, and Defence has not ensured the level of integration and accountability required to achieve success in those difficult missions.”

Taking one example of a difficult mission, “the Department of State’s Police Development Program” (PDP) in Iraq, he states “The request for an appropriation of $877 million for PDP” in Fiscal Year 2012 is probably in excess of actual needs;” for “he does not believe that the Iraqi government has “bought in” sufficiently to the PDP; it has not, for example, made financial commitment to the program, as required by law,” so now he supports “the idea of a standing expanding Special Inspector General for overseas contingency operations with as recommended by the Commission on Wartime Contracting for Iraq and Afghanistan. He noted that such an entity would include quick reactions and continuous oversight at the inception of stabilization and reconstruction operations; cross–jurisdictional oversight; flexibility; experience; and staff committed to deployment.”  In other words, nothing changes except the rhetoric.

Singer, or The Inspector General and others like them, do not make a moral case because all are clearly of the opinion, as are those that would examine their words and actions, that what the U.S. is up to in Iraq and Afghanistan (and they’re up to no good) both illegal wars, is America’s, by right, as the world’s dominant power thus missing the point whilst developing an argument. Even when singer refers to crimes by contractors in Iraq he sees this as only an “embarrassment”. Singer:  “Contractors were involved in many of the most egregious and embarrassing incidents in the war, including Abu Ghraib and the Nisour Square shooting in September 2007. These incidents matter not only because of the consequent embarrassment to the nation, but also because many military officers believe private contractors have undermined our counterinsurgency goals, reflecting negatively upon U.S. grand strategy across the region.” [my emphasis ] which must be then to set the Middle East ablaze not with the light of Democracy but with the military torch that only a Christian fundamentalist could embrace whilst probably speaking for God. One suspects that Romney is such a man, and that the Republicans oppose an Obama second term because he might, just might, expose a money trail that leads from the battle-space back to American high office.     

One would expect then from manager Romney, in light of escalating military costs and clear corruption, that he would propose working with congress to prevent further damage to the USA’s reputation abroad in predominantly Muslim nations to educate “all Americans” to be cautious with their hard earned dollars that are disappearing in war zones faster than a stoat down a hole, but hell no. Romney is a corporate man and corporate men are dangerous indeed, especially when they are Republican and when in office quickly fall in love with retired generals, and are, by their own admission “severely conservative”, having scant regard for other nations’ sovereignty, unless that nation’s capital is Tel Aviv. Now on the evening of November 6, 2012 we recognize that Romney’s ultimate narcissistic ambition is to be Commander in Chief with the weapons to prove it; ‘He is America’, just a few Electoral College votes away from turning your American dream into a nightmare.

John Avlon, writing for The Daily Beast October 11, 2012, states “This week Mitt reiterated one of his most expensive and longstanding political panders a commitment to increase military spending to 4 percent GDP adding at least $2 trillion to federal spending over 10 years.” On October 17, 2012 ‘Romney for President’ announces its Military Advisory Council where General Tommy Franks USA (ret), Past Commander Central Command, gushed “Governor Romney is committed to restoring America’s leadership in the world. Instead of playing politics with our military”, as the General played military with our politics, “he will strengthen our defence posture by reversing the president’s devastating defence cuts.” Taking the military biscuit, however, was advisor General James Conway, USMC (ret) Past Commandant of the Marine Corps, “I consider the unprecedented national debt amongst the five greatest threats to the security of our great nation. And yet I see no indication the current administration, if re-elected, is intent on changing that trajectory. Clearly defence should bear a portion of the burden in order to regain control of our debt”, all good so far, “but”, he drones on absolutely no pun intended, “the idea of massive military cuts at a time of increased global instability should not be in the cards. As I listen to Mitt Romney, I am convinced that he “gets it”.”

The wizard that was

Brilliant!! This military strategy then would, by adding to the deficit, cut it. Jon Stewart was right Romney is a wizard, a Wizard of Oz hiding behind the bellowing voice and the billowing flag of American military aggression. Romney in cahoots with, “General General”. In his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness published in 2010, Romney makes clear that American military programmes need expanding, recommending that 100,000 soldiers should be added to the Marines and Army, a missile defence system strengthened, whilst updating America’s nuclear stockpile; and, intensifying research into cyber-warfare.

Hubble, bubble toil and trouble

There are manifestly great issues facing Americans: in climate change that gives rise to “super Storms” the enormous debt burden, numbering trillions, and the resulting immiseration of American citizens in a land of plenty. Yet it is the lack of moral and ethical dimension in the form of corporate greed and military political connivance that represent the greatest danger not only for Americans but for the peace and security of the people of the world. Democracy itself is under threat, under erosion, and under scrutiny by American corporate and military leaders who lay claim to have greater competency to run the country as a business whilst providing security at home and abroad, instead of career politicians wallowing in complacency or taking a ride to ever expanding immoral lowland. “Mission creep” is on. In truth and at the extreme end, privatisation and bloody business extends and perpetuates illegal and unconscionable wars, endemic corruption and therefore lack of oversight. Privatisation means that wars must be created and continue so that men with little faith in democracy can make untold profit on the back of suffering, turmoil and death. It seems. No it is a fact with almost compete impunity.

Special Rapporteur Philip Aston in his 2009 Mission to the United States of America Report to the Human Rights Council stated, as have others before and after him that, “There have been numerous and credible accounts of private security and other contractors (PCs) engaging in a pattern of indiscriminate or otherwise questionable use of force against civilians. At least in Iraq, that use of force has resulted in a significant number of casualties, conservatively estimated to be in the hundreds; perhaps thousands. For example in Iraq, the DOD (Department of Defence) established Reconstruction Operating Councils (ROCs), administered by a private security contractor. While in theory DOD contractors report casualties and use of force in serious incidents reports (SIRs) to the ROCs doing so has not been compulsory for all contractors. The most comprehensive study to date found that few firms ever report shooting incidents that such incidents are often misreported, and SIRs that are filed are almost uniformly cursory and uninformative.” He goes on, “For far too long, there has been a zone of de facto impunity for killings by private contractors (PCs) and intelligence agents operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. There is some debate whether federal court jurisdiction extends to PCs of Government agencies other than DOD, a debate that Congress should resolve expeditiously by clarifying that it does. But the principle accountability problem today is not the inadequacy of the applicable legal frame work. Rather, US prosecutors have failed to use the laws on the books to investigate and prosecute PCs and civilian agents for wrongful deaths, including, in some cases, deaths credibly alleged to have resulted from torture and abuse.”

A sealed fate

It was FDR after a period of 150 years who put the Great Seal of the United States on the dollar bill. Two Latin phrases on the Seal should be taken into every American heart including Her Presidents. E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) and for those with a moral core Annuit Coeptus, (God Favours our Undertakings), invocative of the soul of America and demonstrative of the vast majority of Her citizens in their actions. Thus showing, “the mature aspect of American idealism [which] leads its people to a prompt response to the good, the beautiful and the true, to the expression of an active humanitarianism and an invocative approach to reality” (A.A. Bailey). Every time a dollar bill is given in good faith, it represents the light of America, is both symbolic and indicative of American folks readiness to share an uncommon wealth. When it is squirreled away by men like Romney, in blind trusts, it represents arrogance and a deluded elitist self belief that is founded on nothing but the narcissistic premise ‘if I’ve earned it, then why can’t I keep it?’ And ‘if I have power why shouldn’t I use it?’ There are millions of reasons why, in the form of American citizens bereft in the Land of the Brave, and those who suffer unneeded privations in other lands, as a direct result of American hegemony.

To sleep per chance to dream

Through the cacophony of shrill and competing claims by both men that “crossing the aisle” they would unite not only Democrat and Republican but simultaneously a divided nation at odds with itself, at odds with the world, and most definitely at odds with human rights, (at home and “across salt water”). One thing becomes increasingly apparent to thinking America that both men are victims -and therefore American citizens- of “Continuity Of Government” (COG). A American machine then has declared “war on terror” in perpetuity.  Accordingly, the policy making of an automaton gives rise to “global tensions” and generates “a political constituency for terrorists” (Richard Ashby Wilson); “the machine sees but does not understand”.

How does America sell Pax Americana democracy to a doubtful world when the mind of its Presidents, past and present, is trapped in a speeding bullet? America has been planning a rash departure from reality for decades ‘it’s the American Dream’. But, as His Grace Bishop Riah Abu Al-Assal, former Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and one of the great men of the Middle East; has said time and again if “you must dream make sure it isn’t in bed.”  So good night America and sweet dreams.

Clive Hambidge is Human Development Director at Facilitate Global. He can be contacted at

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