June 11, 2007
An asylum for the sane would be empty in America.—George Bernard Shaw
Step back and look at the big picture. The farther you step back, the bigger the picture gets. Step back too far, and the world becomes a reductio ad absurdum, resulting in a kind of Buddhism. My departed friend Charles Bukowski wrote in one of his many poems, “We cannot acquire too much…there are laws we know nothing of.” What prompts this avenue of thought is a gloomy editorial not too long ago in Capitol Hill Blue by its founder, Doug Thompson, out of Washington, D.C. Every once in a while, like some of us, Thompson seems to nosedive into a depression. The title of his article ( March 9th, 2007) indicates as much: “Turn off the life support: America is dead”. Here’s a sample:
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to pull the plug on this failed democratic republic called The United States of America. Turn off the life support. Disconnect the IVs. The US of A is brain dead with no chance for revival….
It doesn’t matter who controls Congress. Congress is a dead institution, ruled by timid legislators who no longer exercise any real role in the governing of this nation. It doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court may or may not do. The President of the United States has declared himself a “war time President” and granted himself dictatorial rights that no one in Congress or the Court appears able to successfully challenge him….
We need to rethink this experiment called America. Maybe we need to start with a clean sheet of paper…. Maybe it’s time for a new American Revolution. After all, the last one started because another guy named George tried to destroy our way of life.
All of this may be accurate, but it is too idealistic. [In fact, in the interim, Thompson has toned down the article, removing some of what has just been quoted.] We do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world of the possible, the tolerable, and/or the just barely manageable. We cannot go back to the dream of the Founding Fathers of the American Republic or to its original Constitution. To attempt to halt the present day free-for-all in America and begin anew would likely make matters worse, opening the door to greater demagoguery and perhaps complete chaos.
The truth is, the U.S. Constitution no longer exists. It is long gone, and nobody is particularly concerned. That optimistic framework of self-governance and independence was rendered irrelevant by the Civil War (a.k.a. The War of Northern Aggression) which lasted from 1861 to 1865. The legitimate issue of slavery aside, when half the country invades, pillages, ransacks and subjugates the other half, that event can in no way be indicative of the rule of law, and was certainly not authorized by the Constitution. The Civil War marked the end of the American Republic of 1789. We live in the aftermath, a postscript; we are making it up as we go along. Many wonderful and fantastic achievements have occurred during this aftermath—in the realm of inventions, science, entertainment, industry, space exploration, the arts, business, etcetera—for which Americans can justly be proud. But many terrible things have happened as well, mostly in the governmental sector, for which Washington must take the blame, along with the citizenry who tolerated or ignored what Washington was doing.
On the foreign policy horizon, let’s keep everything in perspective and on the table. G.W. Bush, who is a modern day, real-life Charlie McCarthy, and his mentor, Richard Cheney, who corresponds to Edgar Bergen, are only symptoms of a larger problem, a mystery bigger than the aberration misnamed “neoconservatism”. Bush and Cheney are the end-products of an historical development a century in the making.
America’s current predicament on the world’s stage can be accurately diagnosed, but not so easily reversed. May I suggest that it is the result of two overly ambitious concepts in the realm of foreign affairs, which concepts have evolved over many decades, commencing around the start of the 20th Century, at the time of the Spanish-American war of 1898.
First, there was the brainstorm borrowed from the British Empire experience, innocently conceived by President William McKinley and by his idealistic Secretary of State, John Hay, that to get America directly involved in overseeing the internal affairs of other nations was a brilliant, beneficent idea for all parties concerned. Hay and McKinley did not recognized it as inherently dishonest, at odds with the tradition of a republic born in revolt against an empire. They did not comprehend that it was meddling and officious. Soon their idea was taken for granted in the hallways of the White House, starting with Teddy Roosevelt. By the time of Woodrow Wilson and that of his mysterious éminence grise, “Colonel” Edward House, American triumphalism was firmly entrenched. It was an article of faith that led to wars. Some were small, like the guerilla insurrection which broke out in the Philippines after the Spanish-American war. Others were titanic, like the Second World War and its precursor, the Great War of 1914-18.
Second, the entire body politic of America—not just “the elites” in Washington, but “the man in the street”—came to believe that the United States had somehow acquired the right, indeed the duty, to intervene in matters that were legitimately none of America’s business. It was a presumption which amounted to hubris across the board. There is no such right, duty or obligation. Ezra Pound stated in 1927: “The principle of good is enunciated by Confucius; it consists in establishing order within oneself. This order or harmony spreads by a sort of contagion without specific effort. The principle of evil consists in messing into other peoples’ affairs.” Pound was correct, and so was Confucius. But hubris is still with us, big time. Indeed, it remains the sine qua non of American foreign policy.
No matter how unwise, deluded and suborned the politicians in Washington might be, no matter how powerful its various war lobbies and special interest groups might become, America could not have arrived at the point of being where it is today—an overextended and perhaps near bankrupt empire—unless the above two premises were in place and in play.
On February 15th, 2007 an important article appeared in The New York Review of Books by foreign policy scholar William Pfaff. It was entitled “America’s Manifest Destiny” and explicates some of the above ideas in great detail. Pfaff argues for a more reasonable and a less grandiose approach to American foreign policy; he argues against the interventionist and triumphalist mode which has proven to be so counter-productive, if not actually self-destructive. Such heresy has routinely been denounced as “isolationism” for the past 70+ years, but it is nothing more than common sense.
The most thought-provoking sentence in Pfaff’s long article could be his rhetorical question: “What is the threat that America keeps at bay?” The short answer is that most of the presumed threats are illusory. More to the point, they were created by Washington to advance a private agenda, often quite brazenly. This is becoming clear as mud today, but it has been the case since 1917. The train wreck in the Middle East, which accelerated out of control after 9/11, should force at least some literate Americans to reevaluate their history and ask themselves the simple question, “How did we get here?” How, indeed?
For starters, take the Cold War. It was a response to the actual threat posed by the Soviet Union, its surrogates and satellites. But the Soviet Union as a “Superpower” entity was itself the creation of American interventionism. The cause of Soviet communism was hugely advanced when Washington, in the person of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, intervened in the internal affairs of Europe in the late 1930’s. This meddling by Washington culminated in a fratricidal war on the continent of Europe, which ended with Stalin and the Red Army in full control of half of it.
Please note that the Second World War began as a European war in September 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, the upshot from a long-standing, unresolved border dispute between Germany and Poland. This dispute was due to the bizarre circumstance of the German port city of Danzig on the Baltic Sea having been detached from Germany by the Versailles “peace” treaty of 1919. Danzig was left surrounded by Polish territory of the newly-resurrected Polish state. The new Polish republic was itself a creation of English, French, and American diplomats at Versailles. Without a doubt, the disagreement with respect to the northeastern border of Germany could have been resolved peacefully by the two parties concerned through negotiations, had it not been for the outside interference of London and Washington. That interference directly led to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of August 1939, signed in Moscow, in which Germany and Russia sought to regain territory they both had lost to the Poles in the Great War. The conflict continued on Polish territory, which served as a battle ground in a gruesome struggle between Germany and Russia, and resulted in the German military occupation of all of Poland. It ended in 1945 with the outright annexation of eastern Poland by the Soviet Union, and with the submergence of the rest of Poland behind the Iron Curtain for more than forty years.
To a remarkable degree, still unappreciated to this day, the war in Europe which commenced in 1939 was promoted behind the scenes by the Roosevelt Administration, using London as its cat’s-paw. The first and perhaps greatest victim was Poland. The sequence of events is as follows. At Washington’s instigation, London and Paris declared war against Germany, but not Russia.
Then, after declaring war, London and Paris did absolutely nothing to assist Poland as she found herself invaded on two sides—from the west by Germany and from the east by Russia. These realities set in motion a chain reaction that the White House realized it could not control from the sidelines. It obliged Roosevelt, a few years later, to railroad an “isolationist” America into the war in Europe, using the ruse of the “surprise” Japanese attack in December, 1941 on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt’s treachery at Pearl Harbor was followed by his military crusade on the European continent, which resulted in, among other things, the carpet bombing of Germany into rubble, the immiserization of Italy and, in general, the wholesale wrecking of Europe as an independent entity. Then came the crowning achievement, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, authorized by Harry Truman, which events killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in a flash, a war crime for the ages.
True, Roosevelt’s intervention in Europe and Asia did, as intended, provide a winning formula to terminate the Great Depression and to divert attention away from the failure of Roosevelt’s domestic agenda. However, in the aftermath it left all of Europe starving, in ruins, and occupied by extra-territorial forces. Moreover, England was broke and reduced to a nullity, the once great British Empire was kaput, the Empire of Japan was smashed, the Red Chinese were in power, the Korean communists in the ascendency, and Stalin had conquered half of Europe, with his agents actively subverting the other half. Such were some of the more obvious benefits of Washington’s triumphalism up to that time for the people on the ground and on the receiving-end.
Bear in mind, as well, that the Second World War was preordained by the defeat of the Central Powers in the Great War of 1914-18. The collapse of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1918 was the direct result of Washington, in the person of Woodrow Wilson, arriving at the eleventh hour to rescue the leaders of the British Empire who had miscalculated and gotten in over their heads, and who had already lost their war against the Kaiser on the Western Front in France. John Bull had finally met his match. The Great War and the vindictive Versailles peace treaty of 1919 not only made the Second World War inevitable, but also created the Soviet Union and launched the career of Adolf Hitler. Twenty years later, the secret diplomacy of another U.S. President, FDR, would propel Moscow into the very heart of Europe and lay the groundwork for the Cold War. This latter enterprise was a belated attempt by Washington to prevent Moscow and the Red Army from ingesting the rest of Europe. It succeeded when the Soviet Union and the fraud known as “communism” finally imploded in 1989 due to the weight of internal contradictions, thereby leaving Washington on stage as the world’s “lone surviving Superpower.”
In brief, the bloodstained track record of U.S. foreign policy since 1898 has been an amazing saga of buttinskyism degenerating into bullying on a grand scale, all masquerading as altruism. The record has been remarkably consistent. [Perhaps the only notable exception was when the U.S. Senate, led by Harvard historian Henry Cabot Lodge, defied Wilson and refused to ratify the Versailles treaty and declined U.S. membership in the League of Nations.] Like the present impossible fiasco in Iraq, presided over by Cheney and Bush, both world wars of the 20th Century were “of choice”, entered into by determined hypocrites and prevaricators operating out of the White House. Sad to say, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is not unique or unprecedented. It is part of a pattern. Except for Soviet ICBM’s during Cold War, America was not a target and has not been in actual danger from any of the countries which Washington has chosen to invade, overrun, or bomb to smithereens. Prior to September 11th, 2001, continental America had not come under attack since British redcoats occupied Washington in 1814, and burned its public buildings to the ground.
The average American, on whose behalf (presumably) and in whose name all this aggressive adventurism was undertaken, has been bamboozled and utilized as cannon fodder by the powers-that-be. Today, a moderate form of mass hysteria reigns. We have been advised or propagandized that America must now confront an Islamic terrorist threat, and we should be prepared to engage in a protracted “clash of civilizations” otherwise known as the “fight against terrorism”. This conflict with Islam magically appeared on the radar screen very soon after the collapse of Communism, which brought the curtain down on the Cold War. Gore Vidal’s wry, off-the-cuff comment—”It’s not a conspiracy; it’s a coincidence”—is most appropriate, if not spot on.
The new threat has been wildly exaggerated and, to a certain extent, fabricated. The jihadist danger was entirely avoidable, including the atrocities of 9/11. That is what makes it all so maddening. Indeed, whatever threat does exist was brought into being by Washington’s own counter-productive activities. To cite the most obvious example, in our post 9/11 world, al-Qaeda and terrorism in Iraq did not exist until Cheney and Bush invaded and occupied Iraq. Do you recall the Christian foreign minister of Iraq, Tariq Aziz, explaining in the run-up to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” that Baghdad did not even have diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which was sheltering Osama bin Laden? But now, with a straight face, Bush proclaims that the terrorism, which his own invasion of Iraq created, must be defeated at any price, no matter how long it takes—or America will be placed in mortal danger. This is insufferable, ridiculous and embarrassing. By far, the actual danger to America and Europe is from “blowback”—the unforeseen, unintended but inevitable consequences of bizarre foreign policy initiatives executed by Washington’s crackbrained politicians of both parties. Due to laziness and misinformation, such policies have remained unknown to the vast majority of the American people, who at this point are understandably bewildered and confused. Is it any wonder?
Have you thought about what motivated the Arab terrorists who attacked New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11th, 2001? It must have been something. It may well have been, as Middle East expert Robert Fisk pointed out the following day, a set of circumstances impacting the Middle East which profoundly affected and disturbed them, and which ultimately drove them insane. We were informed by the White House in the immediate aftermath of the attacks that it had something to do with the terrorists’ hatred of our freedom and democracy. But that glib explanation was designed to divert attention away from the true significance of what had happened. It showed no appreciation for the destructive forces unleashed thanks to decades of U.S. foreign policy arrogance, neglect and malfeasance in the Middle East.
There is a common thread woven through the Great War, the Second World War, and now the multiple battlegrounds in the Middle East. The European bloodbath of the Great War, known as World War I, ended with the defeat of the Central Powers. This unlikely outcome destroyed the Ottoman Empire and gifted the world with Communism for Russia, Zionism for Palestine, and a land grab by the British Empire throughout the Middle East and beyond. How is that for a dose of freedom and democracy?
The entry of Woodrow Wilson, late into the conflict on the side of England in 1917, was an impressive accomplishment. It marked a decisive turning point, for which the honorable gentlemen in Whitehall—Lloyd George, Sir Arthur Balfour and Winston Churchill—felt compelled to reward, as a quid pro quo, a kind of gratuity, Palestine to the Zionists, notwithstanding that this transfer would represent a blatant betrayal of the Arabs who had fought alongside the British and against the Turks, and notwithstanding that it violated the most basic human and political rights of the indigenes, the people already there, to wit, the Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians, in the Holy Land.
Albion perfide. I am referring here to the long forgotten Balfour Declaration, the final draft of which was composed in Washington during the summer of 1917, before being passed back to London for a signature by British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour in November of that year. This cryptic document consisting of three short paragraphs, and its subsequent implementation by London starting in 1920 under the leadership of Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, provided the legal framework for a massive confidence trick on the back porch of Europe, which continues to this day. It is the root of our present difficulties.
The rest, to coin a phrase, is history. There is an unbroken connection between the Great War, America’s unnecessary participation in it, and everything which has transpired since then all over the Middle East. It is a continuum. In Iraq, Lebanon and in Palestine, we are witnessing today the third chapter, in effect, of the European war begun in 1914—a war which destroyed Old Europe and which may, in the end, destroy America. International power politics at a critical juncture in the annals of the British Empire have combined with an incendiary U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, based on American domestic politics, to turn the world upside down.
We live in that world. America was sidetracked in 1898, and soon thereafter hijacked by its own unscrupulous, vainglorious politicians, just like England before it. At present, the capitol city of the new empire is carrying out a policy of disruption, war and manipulation in the Middle East to advance the same hidden agenda, just as London did after the Great War. This is the central reality of our time, a reality which is increasingly difficult to deny or ignore, because it has become so apparent and brazen. One fact should also be clear: this project did not start the day before yesterday with Dick Cheney, G.W. Bush and with their accomplices, those agents provocateurs known as “the neocons”. These latter have only perfected a pre-existing scheme and taken it to a new level, employing the diversionary cover story they invented, to wit, “the clash of civilizations.” From one empire to the next. We cannot go back to the dream.
Patrick Foy is author of The Unauthorized World Situation Report.
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