By Jason Miller
Mom, apple pie and malevolent leaders
Somebody tell Karl Rove to drop the applause sign. The minions he manipulates are cheering for an America that does not exist. That abstract concept of America, and its embodiment of liberties and human rights, is a fiction. Norman Rockwell's portrayal of America was an idealistic perversion of a landscape, which for many, has been littered with oppression, bigotry, greed, torture and even murder. Goya's brutal painting "Duel with Cudgels" comes closer to capturing the essence of the underlying mean-spiritedness of that is very much a component of this nation. Bush, his Neocons, and the obscenely wealthy Oligarchs, who finance Republicans and Democrats alike, embody the face of America which is seldom portrayed by our flag-waving mainstream media. Yes, there is a dark, brutish aspect to this self-proclaimed beacon of freedom and liberty, and I am going to delve into it. Read on if you dare to take an introspective look at the darker aspects of our national identity.
As early as 1661, American colonists began engaging in the slave trade. With the advent of the birth of our nation in the late 18th Century, even our hallowed Constitution legally endorsed the evil institution of slavery. Abolitionists who rose to oppose slavery, like John Brown, were executed as terrorists. Even an incredibly bloody Civil War and three Amendments to the Constitution were not enough to end American oppression of the black race. The specter of Jim Crow arose in the south in the 1890's. Its power did not dwindle until courageous leaders like Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King, Jr. arose in the mid Twentieth Century. Their tireless efforts forced the federal government to enforce human rights for the black race. Fear of the growing power of a minority led to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., a peaceful proponent of civil rights. One can make a strong case that the US government facilitated the assassination to stem the spread of King's "radical ideas". In today's America, racism hides behind a veil of "political correctness", and those who practice bigotry do so covertly, in a cowardly attempt to avoid legal consequences.
The Native Americans have not fared so well in America either, at least not since the Western Europeans invaded their continent. In 1830, the US Congress passed the "Indian Removal Act". This measure eventually enabled the federal government to resolve the problem of a growing population in the state of Georgia by moving the Cherokee Nation to the state of Oklahoma. In 1838, on the forced 1,000 mile march, 4,000 Cherokee men, women and children died in what is now known as "The Trail of Tears".
Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader who organized opposition to forced Native American colonization, showed his insight into the ugly aspect of America when he spoke to the Osage tribe in 1812. In his speech, he said, "Brothers, the white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled, they are feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they sting their benefactors to death."
Thanks to Howard Zinn in Voices of a People's History of the United States for uncovering a telling quote from the Saturday Pioneer, a newspaper in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Ironically, L. Frank Baum, who also wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (an "American literary classic"), was the paper's editor in 1890, when the quote appeared. Shortly after the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the subsequent murder of Sitting Bull, Baum's paper wrote, "The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent....and the best safety of the frontier settlers will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians." The Saturday Pioneer had just defined the concept of "Manifest Destiny", the belief that America had the divine right and destiny to expand its borders across the North American continent and beyond.
We take what we want
Driven by a psychotic hubris, our leaders were convinced that America had the right and the duty to "civilize" the rest of our continent with our "superior" Democratic and Protestant ideals. Sound familiar? America began unleashing its imperialistic impulses on sovereign nations in 1846. President James Polk annexed Texas, and sent American troops to help this future state gain its independence from Mexico. Two years and 38,000 dead combatants later, America brought Mexico to its knees, and proudly included Texas, New Mexico, and California in its borders. Robbing the Native Americans of their land was not enough to satiate the appetites of our imperialist leaders for "White" conquest.
William McKinley came to office in 1896 to preside over a country that still had a ravenous appetite for expansion. Under McKinley, the US waged war against Spain in Cuba. America drove the Spaniards out, leaving a power vacuum that was quickly filled by greedy US corporations. 500,000 Filipinos were killed as America wrested the Philippine Islands away from Spain. Our government justified their deaths by proclaiming that the American victory would enable the US to civilize the savages in the Philippines. McKinley also arranged for the annexation of Hawaii and Puerto Rico during his unprecedented advance of the cause of Manifest Destiny.
The price of avarice
In the early Twentieth Century, Upton Sinclair and his fellow muckrakers cast bright lights into the shadowy corners of corporate America. There they exposed ruthless, avarice-driven exploitation and victimization of American workers and consumers. Sinclair's expose' of the corrupt and dangerous practices of the meat-packing industry, The Jungle, led to the passage of The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Prior to the efforts of Populists and Socialists like Sinclair, America's system of unbridled capitalism, enabled by laisez-faire economic policy by the federal government, allowed ruthless corporations to treat their workers like cattle. Greedy profiteers were also able to market their products to consumers with virtual disregard for quality and safety. Millions of Americans sustained injuries, worked in perilous, inhuman conditions, received grossly inadequate wages, or died as a result of corporate lust for profits. During the so-called Gilded Age, corporations reigned with an appalling disregard for humanity. However, pressure from muckrakers, Socialists, unions, and Populists eventually curtailed the power of the Oligarchs.
All is fair in love and war.....
Woodrow Wilson continued to justify American imperialism under his foreign policy of Wilsonian Democracy. Refining the notion of Manifest Destiny, Wilson asserted the necessity of America to employ any means necessary, including force, to install democracies in nations around the world. In large part, his doctrine rested on Kant's notion that democracies are less likely to be war-like than dictatorships or monarchies. Wilsonian Democracy propelled the US into World War I. How ironic that America, the self-proclaimed model for democracy, engaged in yet another war. Is this an indication that Kant's notion was inaccurate, or can one conclude that the US is not truly as democratic as the state-sponsored propaganda would have the masses believe? During the war, Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, and other war protestors who violated the Sedition Act sacrificed their freedom for exercising their First Amendment rights. As they sat in prison for standing up to our imperialist leaders, over 100,000 Americans died in the "war to end all wars". Our government employed flag-waving propaganda and mandatory conscription to thrust millions of young men into the horror of war, yet those who protested in the "land of the free" were imprisoned.
Ask the Japanese citizens during World War II for their perspective on the "American Dream". After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the federal government employed curfews as a means to marshal control of the "enemy within". Bowing to pressure from business interests who wanted to eliminate Japanese-American competitors, the US government eventually made the decision to move 110,000 people of Japanese descent into ten relocation centers throughout the United States. Stripped of their homes, businesses, and possessions, they were interned behind barbed wire for over two years. Their alleged crime was disloyalty to America. Over 2/3 of them were American citizens born on American soil. Disgracefully, our government imprisoned them without a trial and without charging them with a crime. Guantanamo Bay is not without precedent. It is frightening that in a "free nation" like the United States that such a history could repeat itself without widespread public outcry.
Appetite for destruction
American leadership is still drunk with power, arrogance, and an insatiable appetite for the accumulation of wealth. Based on a statement of principles drafted in 1997, and a think-tank created to formulate ways to implement the principles, The Project for the New American Century paved the way for George Bush and his pack of Neocons to launch the unprovoked and unsubstantiated invasion of Iraq. Several of the war hungry Neocons, like Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney, signed the statement of principles. The events of 9/11 gave them the rationale they needed to initiate their aggression. Their imperial intentions are clearly outlined at http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm. Their concluding paragraph states:
"Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next."
What is perhaps equally disturbing is that a vast majority of the Democrats have made little tangible effort to challenge the illegal actions of Bush and the Neocons, making them complicit partners. Short of a few exceptions, like Bill Moyers, the mainstream media has forsaken their duty as the Fourth Estate. Rather than informing the American people of the truth about our corrupt and malevolent government, they bow to the pressure of their corporate masters and feed us versions of the truth that withhold details and present criminal act by our government in a benign manner. A British Member of Parliament recently showed the guts to openly challenge several of our venal Senators (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4556113.stm). When will our own elected representatives and members of the press show that kind of spine? Perchance most of them have simply sold out and become party to the "Dark Side" of our national identity.
The Bush administration has demonstrated its commitment to making the Twenty First Century the "American Century". However, the reality is that the invasion of a small country like Iraq has stretched our military to its limits. After two years of US military occupation, Iraq is still in a state of chaos, and many Iraqis want our military to withdraw. The sun is setting on the "American Empire" as Bush and his people desperately struggle to fan the dying embers and rekindle the flames. There are multiple countries with nuclear capabilities. China wields a great deal of economic power over the United States as it continues to parlay its colossal trade surplus into an opportunity to finance a large portion of the US debt. Terrorist acts, over-dependence on credit, and weaker nations with nuclear capabilities are proving to be the David to our Goliath. Redefining the term "debtor nation" with a $7.5 trillion national debt, America is bleeding red ink. The failing effort in Iraq is costing billions of dollars that this country does not have. America's dominance is rapidly diminishing.
Bush has launched a war with no end in sight against the "evil terrorists", an elusive, shadow target which cannot be definitively beaten. Perpetual fear and hatred of the "terrorists" motivate many Americans to support a seemingly endless war, and enable Karl Rove to manipulate the masses. The Neocons are free to pursue their policy of military proliferation of American interests to their hearts' content. However, the waning strength of this nation, coupled with the rising strength of nations like China, make this model unsustainable. Americans have been duped into following a ruinous course.
Hypocrisy and hubris....when do they end?
In 1997, with the advent of The Project for the New American Century, America laid out a publicly available plan for global domination. Historically, Americans have pursued a policy of aggressive global expansionism under the guise of altruism, the "right of manifest destiny", or under the pretext of protecting its regional interests. The United States flaunts its lofty Constitution and Bill of Rights, yet with each passing day continues to deny basic civil rights to homosexuals (5% of the US population). It defies the UN and Geneva Convention with alarming regularity. Americans earn an annual per capita income of $34,000.00 compared to the world per capita of $7,000.00. We consume 25% of the world's fossil fuels while 2 billion people in the world have no access to electricity. In 2000, the Bush regime installed itself to rule our Executive branch by manipulating the voting process. Had Jeb Bush not been the governor of Florida, Al Gore would be our president. Grossly abusing their ill-gotten power, Bush and his Neocons have engaged in a consistent pattern of false propaganda to manipulate public opinion. Their unilateral decision-making almost never shows regard for relationships with allies or the United Nations. Bush has consistently rewarded incompetents, war criminals, and deceitful individuals with promotions in his regime. America has some serious house-cleaning to do before we forcefully export our value systems to our neighbors.
In the spirit of advancing the cause of Protestant superiority, our Senate is now considering a bill heavily promoted by America's own religious radicals, the Religious Right. The Constitution Restoration Act would, for the purposes of judicial review, recognize "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government." And Bush really expects critical thinking people to swallow his Newspeak about "spreading freedom and liberty" around the world? With the virtually silent consent of the Democratic minority in Congress, Bush and the Neocons continue to pursue an evolved version of Manifest Destiny as they attempt to brutally force America's "Christian" and "Democratic" ways upon the American people, and upon the rest of the world.
Sweet little lies.... and crimes against humanity
Why were Americans surprised at the attack of 9/11? The Neocons have convinced many Americans that our nation was an innocent victim of attacks of "evil terrorists". How naive can a person be? America, in its supreme arrogance and imperialistic endeavors, has been enraging people in foreign nations for years. If the terrorists did actually carry out these attacks autonomously, America was far from innocent. Was it tragic? Yes. Do the perpetrators deserve to be punished severely? Yes. However, America has been provoking people and nations for many years. Those who died in the World Trade Center that day were certainly innocent victims, but America as a nation was not.
In saying "if the terrorists did actually carry out" 9/11, I intentionally left the culpability ambiguous. While there is little doubt that Bush, the Neocons, and other members of the obscenely wealthy Oligarchy (see http://www.dissidentvoice.org/May05/Miller0517.htm) knew that the strikes were going to occur and chose to allow them to happen, there is also compelling evidence that they actually orchestrated and perpetrated 9/11. David Ray Griffin advances that theory with clarity in 9/11 and the American Empire at http://www.newtopiamagazine.net/articles/47. The deaths of 3,000 American civilians in an attack that appeared to be carried out by terrorist representatives of the Middle East (with its coveted oil reserves) provided the Neocons and Oligarchs with a golden opportunity to mobilize the American people to engage in the invasion of Iraq, yet another scapegoat in this sick scenario. Given much of the world's justifiable hatred of America, it is unlikely that the terrorists needed much prompting by our leadership to carry out the attacks. Careful scrutiny of the evidence presented by Griffin, including the actions of our government before and after the strike, the nature of the strike on the Pentagon, and the collapse of the WTC towers, lends significant credibility to the idea that the Neocons and the Oligarchs were directly involved in the perpetration of the WTC tragedy.
Whether one believes the terrorists acted autonomously, or that the Neocons and Oligarchs sponsored the attacks, Bush, the Neocons and our other Oligarch leaders bear the responsibility for the deaths of the 3,000 Americans in the World Trade Center. Foreknowledge of the attacks and subsequent failure to defend our nation are crimes against the American people. Direct responsibility for the attacks represents an even more substantial crime. Both are grounds for impeachment, removal from office, and criminal prosecution.
Hope on the horizon
I still believe in the inherent decency of many of the people in the United States. Our Constitution is an unparalleled contract between citizens and government upon which to build a republic that fosters individual rights and freedom. A capitalistic economic system which includes government restraints and social welfare programs for the poor has proven to be beneficial to a majority of the American population in the past. Despite the ugly stains on our history, Americans made great evolutionary strides in the 20th Century toward realizing our tremendous potential for economic and social justice. However, under the Neocons, the Religious Right, and the Oligarchs, much of that progress is eroding. America is a nation comprised of millions of people and dynamics, and to expect it to live up to the idealized notions of truth, justice, and the American way would be unrealistic. Yet, the fact that the ideal is unattainable does not give us license to abandon the principles of our Constitution to the extent that we have. Americans have a choice. If enough people are willing to take an introspective look into the soul of our nation, and into our own souls, it is not too late to peaceably end the reign of the corrupt and restore America to a place of sanity, and dignity. People of conscience and critical thought need to stand up and say "enough" to the Oligarchs and Neocons. Together we can reclaim our nation and make it a true beacon of liberty!
Jason Miller blogs at Thomas Paine's Corner.