Make the world safe from America
(Editor’s note: A portion of this letter ran earlier this week, but due to a scanning error not all of it was printed. This letter was originally run in The Times 12 years ago, before Operation Desert Storm began.)
“In a sordid slime harmonious, Greed was born in yonder ditch; With a longing in his bosom – for others’ goods an itch; Christ died to make men holy; let men die to make us rich; Our God is marching on.”
– “The Battle Hymn Of the Republic Brought Down To Earth”
By Mark Twain
The 20th century began with split orders. America had been fighting in the Philippines for one year. General Arthur MacArthur received orders from the McKinley administration: “Detach major elements to China. Put down the Boxer Rebellion.”
Thus, in 1900, America was fighting in two wars. Twain’s phrases, published in 1901, poetically launched American imperialism onto the world.
By 1905, European generals and leaders of state were spiritedly producing invasion and counter invasion plans. Interlocking alliances were forged. New weapons were stockpiled: machine guns, artillery, tanks, mustard gas.
In 1914, 65 million men in 30 nations were armed. Most believed the war would be over in months. Alas, men are optimists. In 1918, the Great War ended in mid-mushroom.
Within 20 years, Japan raped Nanking and Hitler’s legions were marching. In America and Britain, politicians equivocated. Poland became brutal memory. Finland bravely resisted. France capitulated. In six years, 50 million died. The mushroom was full.
In 1948, U.S. and Russian “advisers” learned guerrilla warfare in Greece. OSS became CIA, and covert imperialism sought to control the world.
In 1950 China struck. 33,600 GI’s died in Korea, the “forgotten” war.
Advisors were sent to Southeast Asia: Kennedy’s number-crunchers made parody of war operations. Brave men died by the thousands over I I years. Senior officers retired in disgrace. Tragically, many did not. They lead today.
Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and in 1990, Americans mass in Arabia.
“It all began in Iraq,” anthropologist Debos tells us. “Six millenniums ago, culture as we know it began.” In Iraq, Twain’s “let men die to make us rich” illumines our time like a bloody lance used over and over again.
Homer’s “Iliad,” 24 chapters of gore and “heroic” suffering, was the wrath of Achilleus unloosed. Today, thanks to the wrath of Bush, Western culture may have closed the loop: Iraq, as it were, may be apocalypse now.
On Veterans Day, 1990, I listened quietly to the remarks of gracious people at Aspen’s Vietnam Memorial. We heard stirring notes of martial music complete with drums and bugle.
We were entreated to remember our men and women “over there,” that “our hearts are with our forces.” Prayers were “rendered.” Two Marines were resplendent in symbolism and plumage.
Not mentioned, however, were the fortunes being made by oil speculators, Gatorade bottlers and and clothing suppliers.
Nothing was said about munitions dealers, aerospace contractors and financial consortiums. Dow Chemical will earn strong dividends as will General Electric and Motors.
Unsaid also was, “Who pays the estimated $60 billion to finance the war? The answer: innocent future generations.
In the 1930s, U.S. companies sold scrap iron to Japan while capitalists invested in German industry that supported Hitler’s Wehrmacht. 296,000 GI’s died.
In the 1960s, military contractors “tried out” weapon systems, experimented in “killing fields,” “free-fire zones” and other arcane actions. Vietnam was “good practice” and “good business.”
Israel, supported by streams of U.S. arms, controls the Middle East, guarding our interests. A religious state forged in ovens and chimney fire is losing its soul due to U.S. influence, ergo imperialism.
From these follies, we graduate to Bush’s, “Let’s hope he (Saddam) comes to his senses.”
In “Civilization And Its Discontents,” Freud said, “Men’s instincts are engaged for the struggle for life of the human species.”
“Manufactured consent,” Chomsky’s term for the state’s brainwashing tools – its institutions and corporate media – fosters the belief we are warriors. We’re John Waynes and Rambos prepared to murder for the state.
Force, “a sordid slime harmonious,” has too long been the knee-jerk of capitalism. It is time to make the world safe from America.
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