How the 99 percent are cannon fodder for America’s wars

Last fall, when the Rust Belt was damp and cold, I hung out in Cleveland’s Public Square with some Occupy guys. They were not rowdy college students. They were not carrying signs or using camera phones to capture videos. They were (re)tired men in middle age who had lost their jobs when the plants went dark and the work dried up.

They looked stunned, as though they had only moments ago received the news. I asked about retooling. Learning the new computer skills so they’d be ready when the plants came back online. “Not for me,” they replied. ”Too old.” These were not the Occupying miscreants the media was portraying. They never had considered being out of work, unable to feed their family, pay their mortgage. They pay their taxes and fly the American flag from Memorial Day until the end of September.

When the helmeted police came to close down the Occupy site before the Christmas season so that merchants could decorate Public Square with miles of lights and singing snowmen to tempt families to spend, spend, spend, the guys left quietly. They had no quarrel with the cops.

Marines storm Cleveland

Last week the US Marines came ashore for a week of showing off their skills of destruction. It was their turn to camp on Public Square. There were parades with children cautiously petting the flanks of mammoth tanks. Waving flags and cheering on our courageous warriors were some of the Occupy guys. The Marine announcer, flanked by the Mayor and some decorated local heroes, explained that most of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force demonstration is rooted in very similar Marine actions in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Liberia.

The theme of the week was to educate us on what our Marines would do if caught in the crossfire of a revolution in a foreign country. I heard the word “terrorist” almost as often as I heard “Semper Fi.” On the third day the Marines gathered a band of followers and painted a mural on a long wall, a mural of Americans winning it all.

I quote a newspaper account - from the Cleveland Plain Dealer - of the Marines swarming ashore from Lake Erie lest any reader think I am confabulating US military showmanship:

The Marines storm Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland on 16 June, using some of the military’s newest tactics and equipment. The simulated amphibious assaults are among the high points of Marine Week where the invading Marines will come by land, water and air. 

There were huge clouds of smoke, machine-gun fire, and everything but Tom Cruise jumping from a helicopter to make it real. About 20,000 onlookers were pumped, patting each other on the back, thrilled to be on the winning side.

That winning side, the US military, is the One Percent of the world. That is, they parallel the One Percent of the US, the bankers, the (ad)venture capitalists, the Wall Streeters, and those who populate the Beltway,

are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. (Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair, May 2011)

There will be consequences

The US State Department in the person of it’s own One Percenter Hillary Clinton, continually reminds President Bashar al-Assad’s that Syrian military attacks will have consequences.

“The international community can and does learn what units were responsible for crimes against humanity and you will be held responsible for your actions,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said as activists reported tanks were again surrounding Haffeh. (Chicago Tribune 6/11/12)

After a meeting of the 83-country “Friends of Syria” conference in Tunisia, at the beginning of April, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the Syrian regime to “stop killing” its citizens or face serious consequences. “There is no more time for excuses or delays … this is a moment of truth,” declared the Very One-Percenter.

Clinton has repeatedly warned Russia that its support for regime will have negative consequences. Russia, China and Iran were not invited to the conference about Syria, making one wonder what value the conference would have with only yeah-sayers reinforcing each other’s viewpont.

“The situation is spiraling towards civil war, and it’s now time for everyone in the international community, including Russia and all Security Council members, to speak to Assad with a unified voice and insist that the violence stop, and come together with Kofi Annan to plan a political transition going forward,” Clinton said on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna after a meeting with him.

Last September, the US representative to the UN, Susan Rice, followed the consequences line in trying to keep the Palestinians in their place. In an interview with the BBC, she assured the world that any UN attempt to short-circuit Israel was a serious miscalculation. “There is no shortcut to peace negotiations,” she warned. “It will be much tougher to get Israel to the table after action in New York.”

And defying US pressure did result in serious consequences for the Palestinians, a cut in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority administered through USAID, and a cessation of funding to UNESCO (the UN educational, cultural and scientific organization), who granted full membership to the PA. The USAID programs are critical for supplying some of what Israel has taken away during the occupation: rebuilding infrastructure and creating economic growth and vital water resources, and health and humanitarian assistance.

Because US working class soldiers (our Ninety-nine Percenters) make up the majority of the US military forces, they become the One Percent as they learn how to sneak onto foreign shores under cover of darkness. They are the One Percent who have the best weapons, the best training, and the lion’s share of victories. But when the war is over, One Percent Warriors return home. Once decommissioned, they are no longer triumphant.

They face free-fall into the group where one out of six people cannot find a full-time job, where mortgages turn to dust along with the houses they had secured, and all the good jobs require the education they do not have. Without their weapons, they control nothing. When the One Percent Warriors arrive home, do they realize that they have spent their tours of duty killing those who mirror themselves: the 99 Percent who Occupy the world? Our enemies have endured lives of vast inequity, where the wealthy control power, corruption assures power, and the military enforces power. Now they are restless, refusing to defer to the One-Percent. Could it happen here?




Alice Bach has collected facts and thrust them into the sun for examination. Unfortunately most will run scared into a defensive stance of denial and mistrust. Too bad we Americans aren't better at examining facts for I'm certain the next bell tolls for thee.


I think your term "One Percent Warriors" is exaggerated. These 99 Percenters are lured by jingoistic propaganda such as you describe, and even more important, by the prospect of employment and potential careers. They rent (and in some cases sell) their souls to be used as tools by the 1%.

It would be interesting to see what the laid-off Occupiers you started this piece with think of the military show. Have you interviewed them?

It might also be interesting to know how much money -- federal, state and municipal -- was spent on this circus. And how those sums compare to Cleveland's real need for federal, state and municipal fiscal resources.

Alice Bach's picture

The men at Occupy Cleveland,who have been out of work since the plants have closed or whose  jobs have been outsourced are very pro military, very pro USA.  I think that is why they are so dazed.  They have done everything right. How could they be facing possible foreclosure. How could their families need help from the Food  Pantry at Church?  The guys I reconnected with at the Marines’ spectacular were waving flags and cheering on our boys.  

Yikes. I guess it will be a long time before the U.S. 99% makes much progress -- it can't see who its allies are and aren't.

Jingoism spreads more murk than an octopus.

Alice Bach

Alice Bach's picture

My past careers have been as a book editor, a journalist, and a writer of children’s books.  Then I joined the Catholic Worker, learned to make soup for hundreds of homeless folks, and went to graduate school.  I have taught religious studies at both Stanford University and Case Western Reserve University.  Being unsuccessful at tearing down the Ivory Tower of academia, I decided to concentrate on writing about Palestine.  My goal is to tear down the Apartheid Wall with words.