The American Love Affair With War
Donald Trump’s recent assassination of Iranian Maj. General Qassem Soleimani was not an exceptional act of madness by a deranged president. It was instead the continuation of a long, unfortunate American tradition. Military aggressiveness has been a feature of U.S. foreign policy for a very long time.
As I detail in my book Crimes and Cover-Ups in American Politics: 1776-1963, Americans love to portray themselves as the “greatest,” the “good guys” in each of their nearly continuous foreign skirmishes. While it certainly appears to any disinterested observer that we are the initiator in most, if not all, of these conflicts, the official mantra is that we are never at fault. We are only defending ourselves, even if the opponent is smaller and weaker to a laughable degree, as it usually is.
Abraham Lincoln set so many horrific precedents, and his manipulation of events that resulted in the South technically firing the first shot at Fort Sumter, paved the way for false flags like “Remember the Maine” in 1898, the sinking of the Lusitania which “forced” us to enter World War I, the “sneak” attack on Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin incident which is now universally acknowledged to have never happened, the “weapons of mass destruction” lie under Dubya Bush, and many other less obvious ones.
Each time one of these false flags occurred, or stories demonizing the latest flavor of the month in some far-flung land appeared in our state-run media, the overwhelming majority of the American people swallowed the propaganda. H.L. Mencken defined it perfectly nearly a century ago when he said, “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
In just the past few decades, this “endless series of hobgoblins” has included Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong-un, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and now Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was that rarity; a bogeyman who literally came out of nowhere to be suddenly categorized as one of the world’s most dangerous characters. Who had even heard of him before he was assassinated by our forces? And how did he cause the “hundreds” of deaths of Americans which are now routinely attributed to him? Hundreds of Americans were killed in Iran by this guy? Are there even hundreds of Americans in Iran presently?
And, like all modern bogeymen, Soleimani has been described as a “bully.” Alex Jones, now a pathetic shell of what he once was, declared that we couldn’t keep letting Iran “push us around.” Exactly how has Iran ever “pushed us around?” And how do you describe an officer with a military that is only a fraction of ours, in size and power, as a “bully?” That is like Mike Tyson assaulting a kindergartner, claiming they “started it,” and thereafter castigating him as a “bully.”
We definitely “started it” with Iran with the 1953 overthrow of their democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. This was perhaps the CIA’s first foray into replacing elected officials in other countries with U.S. puppets. Patrice Lumumba of Congo would be assassinated in 1961, three days after the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic was gunned down six months later, and in 1973 Salvador Allende died of supposedly self-inflicted gunshot wounds during a coup d’état engineered by the CIA. There were others, but suffice to say it is beyond ludicrous to be outraged by the alleged (and totally imaginary) interference by the Russians in our 2016 presidential election.
In 1976, due to the revelations from the U.S. Senate hearings chaired by Frank Church, which first exposed the above plots, as well as the CIA/Mafia efforts to assassinate Cuba’s Fidel Castro, to the public, Gerald Ford was pressured to sign an executive order stating: “No employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire in, political assassination.” Less than forty years later, “liberal” President Barack Obama would not only assassinate American citizen Anwar al Awlaki, who had not even been charged with any crime, he bragged about it publicly, and then killed his sixteen year old son the next month for good measure. Talk about impeachable offenses!
Well-meaning liberals still talk about the assassination attempts on Castro, and other American efforts which were successful, as if we “learned” something from that post-Watergate 1970s era. Many of these same people presumably voted for Obama and Hillary Clinton for president. Obama, as noted, bragged about assassinating an American citizen, and Hillary memorably gloated, “We came. We saw. He died.” Were they just appalled by assassination in their youth? They certainly seem to approve of it now.
When pre-Chelsea Bradley Manning exposed the shameful conduct of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the response on the part of most Americans wasn’t favorable. Public opinion polls don’t give us much confidence about America’s collective moral barometer. We just don’t like whistle blowers. Donald Trump’s pardon of Navy Seal Edward Gallagher demonstrates that both “liberal” and “conservative” leaders support the kind of behavior that was also exposed in all those leaked photos of smiling U.S. military men and women, posing next to dead corpses, and engaging in various forms of often sexually-themed torture of enemy prisoners.
Most of these travesties took place at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and were condemned by most of the world. The photos released to the public were shocking enough, but reporter Seymour Hersh has long alleged that American troops raped Iraqi children in front of their mothers. It’s hard to imagine a worse “war crime” than that, but many in this country would find a way to justify it. How else are we supposed to make them stop “hating our freedom?”
What we saw in those horrific photos of U.S. troop members, posing happily next to dead bodies or piles of naked male Iraqis, should have outraged the general public. Instead, a majority probably approved. The prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba came to represent all that’s true and just in America 2.0: torture, human rights abuses, all inflicted on “detainees” who are the modern manifestation of the northern citizens locked up by Lincoln during the Civil War for opposing his tyranny. Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay, but once elected this promise became as empty as all those Donald Trump made about immigration and ending “all these senseless wars.”
The “liberal” mainstream media is noticeably silent on Trump’s assassination of Soleiamani. A commentator for NBC called it “the smart thing to do,” and absurdly maintained that “Whether most Americans knew it or not, Soleimani was already waging a shadow war with the West and its regional partners.” This “shadow war,” along with the mythical “sleeper cells” right-wingers have been warning about for decades, certainly was waged from the shadows, because no one provided the slightest evidence for it.
We remain the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons on another, when we dropped the bomb on an utterly defeated people, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That hasn’t stopped us from lecturing “rogue” nations like Iran, who our leaders assure us “can’t be trusted” with such deadly weapons. Israel, of course, has had an impressive nuclear program since the Kennedy administration, when JFK was engaged in a behind-the-scenes, increasingly vitriolic fight with then Israeli President David Ben-Gurion about it.
Our citizens love the military. Uncle Sam wants you. Plant those victory gardens. Buy those bonds. Support the troops. Thank you for your service. There was little public outcry when it was revealed that our government pays NFL teams to promote our military industrial complex during its games.
It’s easy for our leaders to support war. It’s always popular, and no one they love will be fighting in one. The $300 “rich man’s exemption” which was instituted during Lincoln’s war of northern aggression- yet another terrible precedent- still figuratively exists. It’s always been the sons (and now daughters, in yet another “advance”) of the poor and working class dying in the trenches, and firing off the missiles. The children of the wealthy are always safely ensconced at college, or getting Donald Trump-style deferments. That doesn’t stop them from developing into adult chicken hawks like Lindsay Graham, Dick Cheney and countless others, none of whom ever sniffed a battlefield but have never seen a war they don’t love.
Ambrose Bierce said that patriotism was the first refuge of a scoundrel. Nothing brings out the “USA! USA!” chants better than waving the flag. Just assure the masses that they’re always right, and the most generous, intelligent people in the world. Young Bill Clinton, fervent anti-war protester during the Vietnam War, the only war in our history that garnered any appreciable amount of public opposition, learned how to salute the troops as well as anyone else. Ronald Reagan, noted nonparticipant in WWII himself, started this ridiculous tradition of a civilian commander-in-chief saluting actual troops.
Our founders never intended for America to have a standing army. They certainly never envisioned a monstrosity like the military industrial complex and its nefarious intelligence agencies. But the public doesn’t seem to mind. Give them the pomp of a good flyover or cannon blast. Watch them tear up at staged reunions between soldiers and their young children. They used to call it bread and circuses.
There are no voices for peace with a large public platform, unless you count Tulsi Gabbard, who has her own questionable baggage. But there are millions willing to beat the war drums when ordered to do so. Mark Twain, who said so many memorable things, noted that “God created war so that Americans would learn geography.” So perhaps it does serve a constructive purpose, although Americans still seem woefully ignorant about geography (and pretty much everything else).
Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War, is still quoted widely by our sociopathic leaders in business and government. John F. Kennedy’s timeless 1963 commencement address at American University, where he advocated for peace as no other American president ever has, was probably the final nail in his coffin, on the other hand.
John Quincy Adams spoke for virtually every American leader during the revolutionary era when he said, “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Our leaders have constructed a foreign policy that does nothing else.
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