Growing up Canadian, with tons of US media input, we notice early that Americans regularly assure each other that many things happen “only in America” which have in fact been common in dozens of other countries for ages, and are often done far better elsewhere. To be clear, Canadians also lie to ourselves a ton – especially about where our wealth really comes from, but being smaller, we look outward more than our neighbours do. In fairness, this kind of vanity is quite normal for any great power, the Chinese word for China is “Central country” and all roads famously lead to Rome. The thing that is strange about the US version of ascendancy historically, is that Americans like to think of themselves as having great power, but not actually being a great power in the traditional (that is, oppressive and exploitative of others) sense. “Freedom” is the constant watchword – and it just wouldn’t do, to think about how much freedom is stolen from others, so that all of us in the rich west as a whole, can enjoy the prosperity we believe soul-deep, to be our inalienable birthright. (Which is not in any way an irrelevant hallucination – the sense that this right has been despicably betrayed, is a huge part of active political rage right now – a powerful force of which canny idiots are making far better use than the clever and civilized – so far)
The National security act of 1947 is the most important piece of American legislation that most Americans don’t know about. This act established the primary new institutions of the cold war. The USAF (as opposed to the US Army Air Corps, then Force), the CIA (which Buckminster Fuller brilliantly dubbed Capitalism’s Invisible Army) and the NSC – the almost completely secretive zero-oversight National Security Council. So what? Lots of countries have independent air-forces, spy agencies and standing war-councils. This is true – but the unbelievably arrogant informing ideas of this particular crop of American projects were wrong in almost every way ideas can be – and the extent to which the foundations were set off-level has caused incalculable harm since. (“Domino theory” anyone? How about the brilliant strategy of keeping pressure on the North Koreans, by stubbornly refusing to ever sign a peace treaty with them – not really working-out too great now, is it?). I hate to tell you this, but that group of thinkers were blind unholy racists – they honestly believed that entire foreign populations could simply be bullied and repressed, indefinitely. A very ugly definition of power – which is profoundly un-American in spirit.
Just to add clarity here, I’m not generalizing when I say racist – I invite you to read up on the lives of the Dulles brothers, Curtis LeMay and perhaps most importantly, George F Kennan – who was such a thoroughgoing misanthrope, he even despised his fellow Americans. Should this reading still seem inconclusive (though it won’t) just stick a toe into the story of RAND-figures like Albert Wohlstetter (key architect of MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction) these were NOT mentally-healthy individuals.
The crucial corrupting idea at the very top of this strategic thinking? That the US alone had ‘won the war’ (already a dangerous bit of hubris) in a way that proved they were objectively superior – and thus must now take over the reigns of economic control that had long given the British outsize world (empire) power, and use their always unfair but inertially well-established trading dominance (and the international ring of military bases which sustained-it) for American purposes, to run the whole world profitably.
You may be offended and think me exaggerating – but check the on-the-record history of the CIA, from the fifties onward – they have scammed, blackmailed, discredited, jailed and where that didn’t work outright murdered other people’s great leaders, again and again – not because they were dangerous to their own people or to the world, but because they refused to betray or hurt their own people, just to make rich foreign shareholders even richer. Arbenz in Guatemala was famously taken out for the sake of a fruit company. Salvador Allende was killed (and the psychopathic mass-murderer Pinochet brought to power) with the help of Kissinger’s state department, largely to protect the shareholder assets of a telecom giant. Repeatedly, the US has deliberately imposed murderous psychos on totally innocent populations, who in no-way threatened America – strictly for the sake of the super-wealthy – who didn’t even use the stolen money to invest in America, but kept it parked offshore, to cheat their own population as well!
Ionic, isn’t it?
The case of Iran in 1953 is especially telling. Nowadays, Americans have all sorts of weird ideas about what Iran is, and what Persians are ‘really’ like – based upon their staggering ignorance of even recent history (just for the record, my own Persian friends are all smart, kind, creative, dedicated, and really funny). Try this thought-experiment – How would the average American feel about a country that had eliminated Washington and brought back the rule of King George at the point of a bayonet? Guess what, the states did that to Iran – and worse.
Like almost every other nation on earth, Iran emerged from WWII determined to develop a modern economy, using a secular multi-party democracy. Mossadegh was elected in 1951 with a mandate for steady development, more freedom and prosperity for all. He introduced many progressive reforms to stimulate rapid progress – but he also couldn’t help noticing that most of Iran’s resource wealth was being pumped straight into the hands of super-rich Brits. (Tea-tax from afar on us WHY, exactly?) The money from Iranian oilfields was exactly what they needed to modernize, so he took steps to bring the assets back under national control. The British panicked, and MI6 actually subcontracted the CIA to take Mossadegh (progressive, democratic, secular, and WILDLY POPULAR remember) out of office, arrest him on bogus charges, and force the almost universally despised Shah in – with far greater powers than the monarchy had enjoyed there for ages.
Iranians were not pleased about this – no one likes to see some gang of foreigners come in and steal things – rights, freedoms and hopes most especially, nor do they respect a leader who betrays their interests – so naturally, they organized against the Shah in huge numbers. So – did the CIA notice, say, hey, we just destroyed the democratic future of millions of people for the sake of a few dozen shareholders who live thousands of miles away – and learn something from their mistake? Nope – they proceeded to help the Shah set up one of the world’s most feared gestapo-style secret-police forces, to make sure that the hated monarch would stay in power – torturing tens of thousands, to intimidate millions.
Crazy enough for you, yet? That’s not all – this direct subsidy for the imposition of repressive monarchy, on a people who had unequivocally rejected-it, was accounted on the books in the US as a “Charitable foreign aid” contribution. So not only did they specifically kill Iranian democratic freedom and make sure it would stay dead at almost any cost, they also officially congratulated themselves for being so very generous (it really was not a cheap project).
On the opposite end of the awareness-scale – many Americans do like to think about the Ayatollah – because he makes it feel comfortable to think of Iran as a country full of religious fanatics, rather than presenting a dramatic history-lesson about how dangerously furious people get, when you force a vicious murderous dictatorship on them. Even then, the revolution which brought him to power is greatly misunderstood. It was in fact a popular front – not just the religious, but also the much embattled labour organizations and progressive groups from all around the country which finally won the day and toppled the brutal Shah, a generation later. The Ayatollah, being a highly-paranoid guy, moved to consolidate his power by liquidating his own so-recent allies just as fast as he could (there is always a ‘night of the long knives’ in this sort of history). But his personal brand of puritanical extremism was not at all what average Iranian citizens were rising-up, hoping to achieve. What most wanted, was just to get back to balance – where they were already, before either extreme! Anyhow – you’d think the US would at least be consistent about opposing the Ayatollah himself, right? Nope – not if you have a memory, you wouldn’t.
Starry shark – endlessly mindlessly eating
Cut to central America – the backyard, geopolitically speaking. From 1936 to 1979, Nicaragua was run by the Somoza dynasty of dictators, in ’79 the last of them was overthrown, and a program of leftist reforms was instituted across the country – redistributing unused land from the super-wealthy, and boosting literacy and rural health-care standards massively. This was an openly socialist program, it was also widely popular. The US has never been happy with anyone openly leftist too nearby, but after having backed the previous oppressive dictatorship for many decades, they were too embarrassed to do more than make diplomatic noise – at first.
Then, in 1981, Reagan accused Ortega’s Sandinista government of supporting revolutionaries in El Salvador (true) – which was especially irksome to the US, since once again they had all their money (“aid” which was many orders of magnitude greater) riding on the brutal (literally, nuns shot by death-squads), condor-style, right-wing side of local politics. The CIA was tasked with putting together an opposition force to make Nicaragua fail – a team of recruited ex-military mercenaries from the region, rather than any sort of organic grassroots opposition movement (though it was of course, always sold as such).
In 1984 – Daniel Ortega was elected with 67% of the vote – in “the first fair election held in Nicaragua in half a century.” (UN) The CIA went into overdrive, and the ‘Contra’ army was sent in to attack his popular democratic government, by destroying the very facilities with which it was making the most improvements – specifically – a massive campaign of bombings of schools and medical clinics, was paid-for by the US taxpayer (see the incredible Christic institute lawsuit, for more details). I will leave it to you to choose the best word for this (hint: starts with a T). Then, news got out – Congress even passed specific legislation which banned any arm of the US government from ever backing those violent killer maniacs again – the “Boland amendment.”
So – end of story, right? Nope – they went right on spreading destruction just the same – though the behind-the-scenes organizing of their financial support did get a whole lot more complex. Anyone old enough will remember the grotesque spectacle of the “Iran Contra” affair – but the take-home from it never did get taken home clearly enough.
We laughed (and/or puked) when the leader of the free world pretended under oath to just be a stupid amiable old man, who had no idea what was really going on in his own White House – smiled, then said he couldn’t remember authorizing anything much at all. And everyone was thrilled with the idea that a secretary illegally removed evidence of high-level criminality by smuggling it out of NSC offices in her underwear. All rather than noticing that Oliver North was the number-two man in the NSC – a secret government organization completely outside the nicely balanced constitutional system of multi-branch oversight, or indeed any form of democratic, moral or legal control ‘by the people’ whatsoever.
Congress said, in a legally binding way – “The US shall not be at war in any way with them.”
The NSC said – not only are we going to continue to support sustained military attacks on that elected government, we’ll even supply advanced weapons to the Ayatollah (a violation of a total arms embargo – and so, also treason) to launder enough untraceable money to carry out our illegal program. Was there outrage? Did America soundly reject the idea of such grotesque violations of the spirit of the land, the law, and principles of the constitution – by secret government groups like the NSC that believe no law should ever bind them? Nope, Ollie North got a slap on the wrist, and then became a popular pundit.
SO – the next time somebody plaintively or angrily asks the question, “Why do so many people out there hate our freedom?” Please do the responsible thing and finish the question as if those people asked-about actually ARE people. In-full, it runs as follows:
Why do so many people hate our freedom to prop up our own macro-economic position by wrecking their governments, (or corrupting them, to take their stuff at below-market rates) suppressing the domestic policies that they clearly want to live-by, or killing them outright for defying the will of our super-rich, without ever facing any serious consequences, or even being honourable enough to admit that we were the ones whose representatives were trying to rip them off at the point of a political or literal gun?
Must be a bunch of crazy irrational primitive weirdos, huh? Who could possibly relate.
So – am I saying that no one else has any fault or responsibility, or does any big dumb harm? Absolutely and resoundingly not – but we’ve had tons of loud data about those in the vilified target-of-the-month club, all of whom have in-common felt the power of applied military and or trickery-force (a scary-long list, if you look into it), and the pure-heart clean-hands pose isn’t just grossly dishonest at this point, it’s outright dumb – absolutely harmful to US and all western-civilization interests. The last thing we ever want to do is give their worst, reason.
Which means the best way for America to fight all of the most hateful people out there is simple as hell – to actually act like the America that Americans all want to believe they still are – lawful, principled, fair, open and robustly-fertile soil for all those with creative energy to contribute to the grand project – and not to continue to grow ever more panicky fearful and small-minded, and ape more closely that bullying arrogant moribund brutalist empire which once invented barbed-wire concentration camps for disobedient civilians, and as recently as the thirties, thought themselves terribly clever for dropping poison-gas from biplanes, as an economical way to bring “unruly desert tribes to heel.” Not at all a freedom-model – nor in any way a flattering resemblance to find during mirror-check.