Reflections on War
Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
June 12, 2011
TABLE OF CONTENTS SUMMARY
1. Defense versus Offense
2. On American Militarism
3. Why Are
4. Strategies for Peace
5. Mark Twain and the Wanton Waste of Projectiles
6. The Permanent War Economy
Subjectivity of Perspective
8. Are Americans “the Good Guys”, or Ruthless
Aspects of War
10. The Fog of War
11. Proper Priorities
Considerations of Ideology
True National Security
Pathetic Aspects of Militarism
16. Political Aspects of War
17. Let’s Make Friends with Iran!
18. Fundamentalism: Action and Reaction
Tragedy of War
Absurdity of Deficit Financing of Wars
21. The Titanic Struggle between Capitalism and
22. Sensible Strategies to
23. What the Hell Do We Do
Now in Iraq?
24. The Dangers of
25. Demagoguery and McCarthyism
26. The Responsibility of
27. Truth and Consequences
28. True Patriotism
29. Support Our Troops!
30. The Corrosive Effects of
31. Militarism and Madness
32. Mercenaries in the Fray
Empirical Observations about Empire
34. Thinking Outside the Military Box
35. The ‘Right’ Is Wrong
36. Mission Possible?
37. Bait and Switch Strategies
Jingoism and Hopes for Peace
39. War Propaganda
40. Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
41. Irony and Cynicism
42. The “Big Lie” Phenomenon
43. Culpabilities of Manichean Righteousness and Brazen Presumption
Secrecy and Stupidity
Pretexts for War and False Flag Operations
Mysteries of 9/11
Nature of Ideas
Reflections on War .
1. Defense versus Offense
The award-winning film producer Ken Burns created
an insightful seven-part series on World War II. The first part was called The
Necessary War. Since the Second
World War was thrust upon the United States by the gathering threats of world
domination by fascist Germany and imperial Japan, and by the horrific Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor, it is viscerally understandable that Americans regarded that
war as “a necessary war”. Yet it is
easy to imagine that it was NOT exactly necessary from the standpoint of the
This is an important idea. The International Military Tribunal at
Nuremberg after World War II enunciated the ‘Nuremberg Principles’ concerning
war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Tribunal stated that it is the “supreme international crime”
to wage a war of aggression. If
international law and effective institutions and binding mediation were to prevent
all nations from starting wars, the world would be safer and saner and more
General Douglas MacArthur made the compelling
observation: “I believe that the entire effort of modern society should be
concentrated on the endeavor to outlaw war as a method of the solution of
problems between nations.” Let us honor this
In national security matters, a good defense is
important. An overly aggressive
offense, however, is not only the supreme international crime, but it is also a
reckless strategy that tends to make everyone less safe. It creates heightened risks of expanded
violence and military overstretch and social instability and blowback
retaliation. Wars also have the
unintended financial repercussion of misallocating resources and creating large
public debts. This deprives a nation of
options for financing other more important domestic priorities. And wars are often used to facilitate
repression of citizens and dissenters, which is socially undesirable and
definitely contrary to our great national ideals.
George Bush was asked by the television journalist
Tim Russert on his Meet the Press
program in February 2004 whether the war in Iraq was “a war of choice, or a war
of necessity”. Mr. Bush predictably
said it was a war of necessity. But his
case was not at all convincing. The vast
majority of people in the world see the Iraq war and occupation as a U.S.
gambit to gain access to, and control of, the oil resources of the Middle
East. It is seen as an imperialistic,
unjust, illegal and unethical state of violent aggression. That would mean that actually, the Iraq war
was quite unnecessary!
“An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.” --- Mark Twain
The Statue of Liberty was once the most evocative
symbol of America in the world. It is a
symbol of freedom and legal justice and opportunity. Our leaders have now managed to alter that perception with
symbols like shock-and-awe bombings, drone air attacks against people in Pakistan
and other countries, the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and
images of the humiliation and torture of prisoners. These are symbols of arrogance and oppression and injustice. It is shocking to delve into the actual details
of our national activities in these regards;
I encourage people to read such books as The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a
War on American Ideals.
is becoming obvious that our national priorities are distinctly wrong-headed. We should devote more of our resources to
domestic priorities and to improving people’s lives, NOT to trillion-dollar
wars and military occupations of other nations. It is a pathetic travesty for our leaders to confuse occupation with
the aftermath of 9/11, the United States should have developed a strategy to
find Osama bin Laden and the criminals responsible for the terrible terrorist
attacks on our nation. The
Administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney instead unwisely “shifted its
sights … from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to
preparations for the war in Iraq,” according to a June 30, 2008 article in the New York Times. The diversion of resources and attention to
Iraq from Afghanistan has had costly, risky, and highly counterproductive
It is my strong belief that our country should
stop acting as an aggressor nation. We
should never again fight unnecessary wars.
We should use peaceful means to resolve conflicts. We should adopt fairer and more sustainable
means of gaining economic advantages in the global competition for resources. We should invest in peacebuilding activities
rather than military occupations. And
we should stop using brute force to try to impose our ideologies, our economic
system, and our form of government upon others.
We should make it a top priority to solve our
energy problems by peaceful methods. We
have been spending more than $10 billion per month for years on the occupations
of Middle Eastern countries. We would
be far better off if we invested this money in programs designed to reduce our
reliance on fossil fuels, and to fund conservation and efficiency
initiatives. We should be making an
Apollo Project-like effort to find alternatives to our addiction to oil. Wouldn’t that be a better idea? Wouldn’t the best plan be to put our efforts
into breaking our addiction to oil, and to mitigating our vulnerability to ‘Peak
Oil’ depletion? Wouldn’t it be a much
better plan to commit more of our money and energies to reducing the extensive global
threats posed by the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and related climate disruptions,
rather than to military occupations and lavish armaments procurement and war
These reflections on war seek to explore our
current military involvements and the nature of war throughout history to
provide valuable insights into some of the most important conundrums we face in
a world of rapidly growing population and diminishing resources.
2. On American Militarism
Dwight Eisenhower spoke the following insightful and
important words at the end of his presidency in 1961:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of
unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial
complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists
and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination
endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing
for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the
proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with
our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper
Fifty years have passed since Eisenhower spoke these
words, and the lobby for the military-industrial complex is more powerful than
ever. Pentagon spending has soared. Congress and the media have
become complicit with right-wing think tanks in helping to boost military
spending and encourage “preemptive warfare”. Power has been seriously
abused by the Executive Branch of government. Civil liberties and
democratic processes have been eroded by an intrusive and secretive
bureaucracy. Oversight and accountability have atrophied. We have
been misguided by our leaders into tacitly supporting costly wars and
occupations and reconstruction projects in the Middle East. And, as with the Vietnam War, once we have
committed our country to wars with ill-defined goals, we often stubbornly continue
the wars to ‘save face’.
It is becoming urgent that the American people
become more aware and knowledgeable, so that they will act to ensure that our
Constitutional republic and our civil liberties are protected. We must act to make certain that, as Abraham
Lincoln concluded in his Gettysburg Address, our nation “shall have a new birth
of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall
not perish from the earth.” This should
NOT include an arrogant and interventionist attempt to forcibly export our
democracy and the evangelical ideologies of our own religious fundamentalists to
Mead once famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can
change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
My goal in this Manifesto is to help elevate the
public discourse above partisan arguments and the distracting minutia of daily
headlines, and to advance more important and bigger picture perspectives. When we fail to accurately understand
history, or to learn from it, we risk being doomed to repeat it. This is true for a very simple reason: human motives, vanities, and drives for
dominance do not change, so the actions and behaviors and gambits of those in
power are never new under the sun.
Inoculations against pathogens can help prevent
infectious diseases. In a similar
manner, a greater awareness and a renewed dedication to true justice and peaceful
coexistence could help prevent war and provide us with greater national security. Better insights, greater political wisdom,
and clearer understandings are needed.
So are enlightened approaches to foreign policy and peace-building and
mutual security. Such things could
inspire us to better sense and sensibility and greater pragmatism. It might even provide us with valuable revelations,
or a transcendent epiphany!
“You can't depend on your judgment when
your imagination is out of focus.”
--- Mark Twain
My aspiration in writing this manuscript has been
to create a modern-day version of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which challenged the authority of the power-abusing
monarchy of England back in the year 1776.
To readers, both men and women, I submit the same caveats as Thomas
Paine did back then (paraphrased for more modern gender inclusion):
“In these pages I offer nothing more
than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense: and have no other preliminaries to settle
with the reader than that they will divest themselves of prejudice and
prepossession, and suffer their reason and feelings to determine for themselves
… and that they will generously enlarge their views beyond the present day.”
Thomas Paine (again
the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the
important thing is the IDEAS THEMSELVES, and not the author. Yet it may be necessary to say that the
author of these words is not connected with any Party, and under no sort of
influence, public or private, other than the influence of reason and principle.”
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3. Why Are
“The failure to dissect the cause of war leaves us open for the
--- Chris Hedges
The underlying causes of American involvements in
wars and military interventions and CIA-backed coups since World War II are
similar to the causes of wars and conflicts throughout history: we fight
for control, power, competitive advantage, profiteering and economic ascendancy. We also fight for nationalistic pride and ideological
supremacy. The underlying struggle is
primarily about getting access to energy or other natural resources or foreign
markets or cheap labor or acquiring or defending territory. We also get into wars, in part, so that bankers
and the defense industry and myriad contractors and war suppliers and investors
in these companies can make bigger profits.
Investors and shareholders seem to love growth in revenues and profits
over all other values, and they wield enormous influence in our
corporate-dominated capitalist society.
Our leaders try to deceive the public about our
national motives. They mislead the
public into supporting wars by using misinformation, specious ideological
arguments, utopian claims, cherry-picked understandings, jingoistic
huckstering, scare tactics, secrecy, economic shock treatments, and appeals to
patriotic duty and nationalistic impulses.
They exploit divisiveness and mutual distrust in order to get power, and
to strengthen control, and to achieve domination. Our leaders use deceptive spin and propaganda and outright lies to
effectively brainwash American citizens and our troops. They indoctrinate our soldiers with the conviction
that their sacrifices in war are justified as righteous and noble causes. A closer introspection into the nature of the
wars of today reveals that these perspectives are not exactly the truth.
Herman Goering, the early head of Adolf Hitler’s
storm troopers and later of the German Air Force during World War II, told a
psychologist during the time of the Nuremburg War Crime trials that a nation’s people
can always be manipulated into supporting and fighting wars by their political
leaders. Goering said:
the common people don’t want war. But
after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it’s
always a simple matter to drag people along, whether it is a democracy or a
fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be
brought to the bidding of the leaders.
This is easy. All you have to do
is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of
patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."
This is pathetic, but true. For all of us, our thoughts and feelings and
beliefs are strongly influenced by a complex set of factors that will be
explored at length in this essay, for hopefully salubrious purposes. Please read on!
4. Strategies for Peace
An editorial in the Cousteau Society’s Calypso Log once observed:
“If peace were waged with as much commitment and as much passion, and as
many resources as those spent on war, the environment could be protected rather
than squandered, and millions of people around the world could enjoy their
lives rather than living in fear, hunger, and poverty. The money that
goes into weapons of destruction could go into education, arts, science, health
care, clean sources of energy, affordable housing, and businesses and
technologies that improve the quality of life and the health of the
planet. An ethic of respect for all life could be nourished. It is
This brings up the age-old ‘guns vs. butter’ debate. The purpose of these writings is to explore
the profound underpinnings of this ideological and practical conflict from many
perspectives, in the hopes that our ideas and understandings can be harnessed to
achieve greater enlightenment and increased hopes for positive and peaceful change
in the world.
Edward Stettinius, the U.S. Secretary of State in
1945, made this apropos observation:
“The battle of
peace must be fought on two fronts. The first is the security front where
victory spells freedom from fear. The second is the economic and social
front where victory means freedom from want. Only victory on both
fronts can assure the world of an enduring peace.”
Extensive evidence indicates that we are failing
today on the security front because the deliberately manipulative exploitation
of fears and insecurities by our leaders has created growing insecurities in the
peoples of other nations. Our
aggressiveness and correlated injustices help terrorists recruit more people to
their causes. Our focus on our own
security without giving adequate consideration to the security of people in
other nations has created increased risks of retribution and ‘blowback’ in the
form of violence against our troops and citizens abroad, and arguably even to those
of us at home, in the long run.
At the same time, we are failing on the economic and
social front by allowing capitalism to operate without sensible priorities or regulation
or adequate fairness. Ever-greater
economic inequalities and social conflicts are being created, both domestically
and abroad. Almost all of our foreign
aid is military rather than being targeted toward the goal of improving
economic and environmental conditions in other countries. These strategies make the world an
increasingly dangerous place.
Roosevelt made his famous “Four Freedoms” speech on January 6, 1941. In it, he said we should base our societies
on four essential human freedoms. “The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into
world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in
such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act
of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.” Really?
After so many years of participating in an astonishingly costly arms
race, and hyping up fears and militaristic responses, and using domineering
strategies, and exacerbating international insecurities, these words shake us
to attention. Do more weapons, troops, military
spending and preemptive wars make us safer?
Or do they actually make us less safe?
The trap of arrogance in superior military power is that it
rationalizes aggression and the violation of the sovereignty of other
nations. It thereby creates many
enemies. I believe that true mutual
respect is necessary for real peace and friendship on the international
Books have been written about the advantages of ‘soft power’
over ‘hard power’, and I find convincing perspective in arguments that hard
power alone is misguided and risky. Right-wing
elements in our nation nonetheless consistently use manipulative arguments and
propaganda to hijack our foreign policy into focusing on an arms race and
military actions, rather than on mutual security and peace.
Ninety percent of our foreign aid goes for guns, not
butter; in other words to military
goals rather than to good neighbor assistance designed to buttress countries
against poverty and desperation and radicalism and concomitant political
instability. We allow too much
influence in foreign policy decision-making to forces that militate for war,
like investors and corporations seeking bigger profits for arms manufacturers
and companies which provide war services.
Victor Hugo wrote long ago, “There is nothing more
powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
Let’s truly commit our nation to trying to GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!
5. Mark Twain and the Wanton Waste of
Mark Twain was an outspoken member of the
Anti-Imperialist League, the first national American peace movement. He
was outraged at politicians who unethically capitalize on national tragedies to
push through unrelated agendas. The battleship USS Maine was hit by
unexplained and mysterious explosions in the harbor of Havana in February 1898,
killing 260 people. Soon thereafter, the United States intervened
militarily in Cuba and the Philippines.
Mark Twain, in his anger at the U.S. occupation of
the Philippines, wrote these words in the year 1900, and they still have relevance
to our country today:
“… I have seen
that we do not intend to free, but rather to subject the people …
We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. … It should, it seems to me, be our
pleasure and duty to make these people
free, and let them deal with their own
questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am
opposed to having the eagle put its
talons on any other land.”
Writing for The
Nation, John Nichols points out:
Mark Twain was no fan of war, which he described as ‘a wanton waste of projectiles’,
and he nurtured a healthy disdain for anyone who suggested that patriotism was
best displayed through enthusiastic support for military adventures
abroad. The phrase ‘our country, right or wrong’ was, he argued, ‘an
insult to the nation’.
But Mark Twain’s deepest disgust was reserved for politicians who played
on fear and uncertainty to promote the interests of what would come to be known
as the military-industrial complex. Describing how Americans were sometimes
goaded into war by their leaders, he noted: ‘Statesmen will invent cheap lies,
putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of
those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse
to examine any refutations of them; and
thus he will by-and-by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank
God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque
The Devil’s Dictionary defines ‘Projectile’ as follows:
The final arbiter in international disputes. Formerly these disputes were settled by physical contact of the
disputants, with such simple arguments as the rudimentary logic of the times
could supply -- the sword, the spear, and so forth. With the growth of prudence in military affairs, the projectile
came more and more into favor, and is now held in high esteem by the most
courageous. Its capital defect is that
it requires personal attendance at the point of propulsion.
6. The Permanent War Economy
The stimulative economic impact of World War II
helped bring the world out of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Since
then, a stubborn ideological argument has gained outlandish influence: it contends that a permanent war economy
with profligate military spending is one of the best ways to create jobs and
stimulate the economy and make us safer.
A full-cost accounting of militarism clearly contradicts
this conviction. Lavish military
spending is a waste-oriented and cost-maximizing perversion of the
self-correcting mechanisms of the competitive cost-minimizing free market
system. Chalmers Johnson investigated
this topic at length in the last book of his Blowback Trilogy. Johnson indicated
that what he calls “military Keynesianism” is an ideology that is erroneous. This ideology holds that the debt
financing of wars, weapons, munitions and large standing armed forces is
good for the economy. Such debt irresponsibly
defers costs to the future and threatens to bankrupt our nation; it is a policy
that Johnson calls “a form of slow economic suicide.”
Our permanent war economy suffers not only from wrong-headed
priorities, but also from procurement improprieties, no-bid contracts, and lavish
pork barrel spending. The non-partisan
group, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, released a report in May 2006 that
indicated Pentagon financial management practices are an “embarrassment”. It said that federal spending priorities are
scandalously wasteful. It also opined
that such spending priorities effectively serve to actually undermine our national
The federal government’s spending priorities include
significant amounts of waste and hidden fraud in military procurement. Much of this is entirely secret
(‘classified!’), and hence more liable to wasteful earmarks and financial shenanigans. These squandered funds represent a sustained
non-productive use of capital and labor.
They distort American values and divert resources from more peaceful,
just, and wholesome investments and goals.
They represent an outrageous cost of lost opportunities and better
War is the ultimate expression of competition. But war gives us a compelling example of why
fair and sensible regulations and rules of law are required for the social
good. War and military occupations for
ignoble purposes -- like resource grabs and profiteering -- must be prevented. They are simply too counterproductive and
devastating to millions of people around the world. Both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman considered war
profiteering to be a form of ‘treason’ -- but today it seems to have become standard
operating procedure as a means of allowing defense contractors and aerospace
companies and war services corporations and investors to make sometimes unethical
Harry Truman chaired a
Senate committee during World War II that launched an investigation into shady
wartime business practices. He found
"waste, inefficiency, mismanagement and profiteering." Today’s gargantuan military spending is
highly likely to be many times worse.
Truman argued that such behavior was at best unpatriotic. Today we are so accustomed to war
profiteering that we regard it as ‘business as usual.’ But this does not completely hide the fact
that war is a scurrilous way to make profits, and one that we should honestly find
ways of controlling more rigorously and responsibly.
We cannot allow competition to be a rogue’s economic
free-for-all. We cannot allow our
system to continue to be dominated by militarism, exploitive ‘disaster
capitalism’, manipulative marketing, predatory banking practices, unscrupulous
profiteering, and wrong-headed supremacism and reactionary ideologies. We also cannot let the system be subject to
inadequate oversight and accountability.
Wars must not be waged that are based on an anything-goes-to-get-what-you-want
morality. And no nation can accept any and
all means to accomplish the end of building an imperialistic empire. Competition must not be allowed to devolve
into a disregard for workers and the environment in favor of prerogatives for capital
and investors and speculators.
Important perspectives and considerations follow in
the chapters below. This economic analysis
is provided to debunk one of the unspoken and insidious rationalizations for
rapid escalations in military spending in the last ten years: that such spending is necessary and
desirable for creating jobs and economic growth, and for ensuring that we gain
control of needed resources. Arguments
like this are dangerous and disingenuous because they ignore fairer and smarter
ways of investing our energies and taxpayer dollars. They conceal motives of amoral profiteering and illegal
interventionism and injustice in aggression and dishonorable meddling in the
sovereign affairs of other nations.
Subjectivity of Perspective
We Americans tend to think of ourselves as generous
and optimistic and fair-minded. There
are certainly many ways in which this is true, but we also have a poorly-founded
“we’re the good guys” delusion about the nature of our foreign policies. In the aftermath of the
9/11 attacks, shocked with surprise and an immeasurable amount of anger, many Americans
bewilderedly wondered “Why do they hate us?”
Our leaders jumped in with simplistic and emotionally manipulative
theories about Islamic religious extremists who envy or despise our
freedoms. But they failed to provide us
with more nuanced and multi-faceted and accurate understandings. It was as if terrorists had attacked the
Statue of Liberty or a towering casino in Las Vegas, rather than some of the
most distinct symbols and citadels of unjust imperialism and brutal militarism
in the world -- the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
There is a surprisingly large gap between our
American self-perceptions and the way other people in the world see us. In a study by the Princeton Survey Research
Associates in 2002, only 18% of Americans considered “U.S. policies and actions
in the world” as a main cause of the 9/11 attacks, while 81% of those in the
Middle East saw it that way. Which of
these perceptions is most logical and plausible?
In a videotape from the supposed mastermind of the
9/11 attacks, sent less than a month after the hijackings, Osama bin Laden
talked about the humiliation and degradation of the Islamic world, and of innocent
children being killed in Iraq, and of insecurity in Palestine, and of infidel
armies in the land of Muhammad. He did
not say anything about hating our culture or freedoms or democracy.
Americans “the Good Guys”, or Ruthless Imperialists?
Americans do not readily admit that we have a global
empire, or that our actions are imperialistic in any way. But a thorough and objective evaluation of our
economic influence in the world, and of the far-flung extent of our military
bases, make it clear that we are operating one of the most extensive and
domineering empires in the history of the world. It may not be as ‘vulgar’ as the old forms of British colonialism
and mercantilism, which were such anathema to our Founding Fathers, but the sophisticated
schemes of today’s corporate
globalization, institutional bribery, cronyism, speculative development, exploitive
international banking, privatization, surges of interventionism and militarism,
pervasive war imagery, radical social engineering, ‘vulture capitalism’ and
other reckless forms of economic shock therapy are equally unjust and
unsustainable. These things represent
the modern face of imperialism.
Any astute student of the lessons of history will
recognize that the Roman Empire and the British Empire demonstrated that
imperialism and militarism pose grave threats to democratic governance. This is one of the primary reasons that our
Founding Fathers initiated a system of checks and balances in our government --
they wanted to prevent tyranny.
Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is
eternal vigilance.” We must remain vigilant against various forms of
authoritarianism that are encroaching upon American society. Our greatest
protection from tyranny is NOT in the weaponry that we amass, but rather, in
the words of Abraham Lincoln, “in the preservation of the spirit that prizes
liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere.”
When our leaders are intolerant of deviation from
their doctrines and when they anti-democratically suppress opposition, as the
Bush Administration eagerly did, they trample upon human rights and dignity. This contributes to the repression and
exploitation of citizens, and leads us on a slippery-slope course that
effectively facilitates an un-American acceptance of authoritarian rule.
George Washington warned his countrymen against
foreign entanglements. Ever since then,
empire abroad has been seen as a permanent temptation of our republic, as well
as its potential downfall. I advocate
finding ways to make the world fairer and more just, and NOT to merely pursue
harsh foreign policies that are oriented around economic exploitation, increases
in social inequality, the export of arms, and the hubris-filled meddling in the
affairs of other nations.
A detailed and extensive compilation of good ideas
on ways to make our societies better, safer, and more sustainable has been set
forth at www.EarthManifesto.com; see the ‘Foreign Policy Priorities’ section
of the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane
One of the principal problems with empire-building
is that great risks accompany the inevitable decline and fall of an empire. History shows that the following
characteristics generally prevail during such times: natural resources are squandered and decimated; a dangerous arrogance of power exists that
results in a bloated and overextended military that gets involved in costly and
debilitating foreign wars; there is widespread
political mismanagement and corruption;
an unfair plutocracy is established with an ever-growing disparity
between the influence and fortunes of rich people and those of everyone else; the populace grows complacent and is diverted
by materialistic indulgences and lavish forms of entertainment and sports spectacles; the public is divided and becomes
effectively disenfranchised, so the populace becomes increasingly cynical and
apathetic; and a massive influx of
people and their customs from abroad creates divisive tension and disruption.
Think about this. Here are seven primary characteristics
of the decay of civilization, and the United States has channeled them here in
the twenty-first century as if they were some sort of virtuous Holy Grail!
Another important consideration is this: When our empire-building adventurism
eventually encounters overwhelming hurdles and opposition, the rich and
powerful will become increasingly jealous and desperate to protect their prerogatives. To secure their advantages and increase
their control, they will strive to impose ever-greater repression and
authoritarianism on our society.
“A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”
--- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
It is generally not recognized that repression,
power abuses, human rights violations, and other despotic actions are symptoms of
an underlying agenda that emphasizes narrow political and economic ends. These ends generally revolve around a simple
and despicable goal: giving the
powerful few a maximum opportunity to accumulate power and wealth at the
expense of the many. John Perkins, who
wrote the compelling memoir, Confessions
of an Economic Hit Man, has written another book that contains important
perspectives on the inside story of the role of the U.S. in world affairs. It is entitled The Secret History of the American Empire. It reveals how corporate manipulations, economic
opportunism, corruption, assassinations and other forms of American corporate
skullduggery have severely impacted numerous nations in Asia, Latin America,
Africa and the Middle East. Perkins
concludes that positive and revolutionary change is possible. He furthermore indicates that such change is
Our democracy is under assault by the Executive
branch of our government. The Bush Administration
exploited the opportunity presented by 9/11 to engage in a furious assault on
our values and principles and civil rights.
Extensive details of this are revealed in the book Takeover -- The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of
American Democracy. Americans
should strongly oppose such developments.
Ignorance and apathy allow arrogance to advance its dangerous and unjust
Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the
longest-serving chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, warned against
“the arrogance of power”. He once
“The price of empire is America’s soul, and
that price is too high.”
9. Counterproductive Aspects of War
from being right or wrong in justification and motivation, offensive militarism
is generally counterproductive in its outcome.
Fighting terrorism with hyper-aggressive military forces is proving to
be destabilizing and so wrongful that it is harming hopes for peace and the
national security of Americans and those in the Middle East. One reason that aggression is decidedly counterproductive
is that its injustice is clearly tangible to thousands of innocent civilians
when they suffer physical or mental or economic harm. Military actions also wantonly and unjustly damage the economies
and infrastructure of victim countries. While war is a divisive influence between Americans, it can help
unite our “enemies”, so it is a lose-lose strategy.
Powerful anxieties exist amongst the peoples of the
world today. It is almost certain that
these stresses will get worse in coming decades as competition increases for land, oil, minerals, fresh
water, forests, fisheries, control, domination, and "the hearts and minds
of men". It is easy to suppose that the safest way to the future would be
in minimizing economic, social and environmental stresses, and NOT by
acting in ways that makes them worse.
How can we ensure that we best accomplish this?
For one, we must give higher priority to
international cooperation and the goal of achieving peaceful coexistence.
Communities must be strengthened against radicalism. Official policies should have the objective of preventing “failed
states” and the destitution and alienation of communities from which terrorists
are recruited. Investing in the fight
against poverty would be a more intelligent and successful undertaking than
investing in military aggression and supremacy-oriented gambits.
And instead of having fired so many military
personnel who speak Arabic and Farsi because of their sexual orientation, we
should long ago have abandoned the bizarre “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. We should honor and thank such linguists for
the contributions they make to improve communication, facilitate understanding
and help reduce extremism. We should eliminate
all military discrimination against gay people that is encompassed in the
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which has unfairly led to the discharge of more
than 14,000 highly qualified male and female service members, many of them in crucially
important roles, due to their sexuality.
The United States military has long demonstrated a
"strong aversion to change".
President Truman made an effort to integrate the Army in 1948 by issuing
an executive order to end racial segregation in the armed services. General Omar Bradley, the Army chief of
staff at the time, flatly refused, saying desegregation would ruin the
Army. Because of the military's
reluctance and bureaucratic hedging, it was not until 1954 that Truman's order
was implemented. Today, one-third of
people in the Army are African-Americans, though they constitute only 12% of
the general population. This
over-weight representation of blacks in the military reflects the poor opportunities
that are available to this segment of our society in other arenas. Participation by blacks in this dangerous
role is a reflection of the appeal of the all-volunteer army to people in the
middle and low-income categories, where they have fewer opportunities than
people in higher-income classes.
The strong resistance in the military today to ending the “Don’t Ask,
Don’t Tell” policy is a similarly wrong-headed and discriminatory policy, and
it is costly and unfair, to boot. Let’s
end it now! The Center for American
Progress proposed a smart and practical five-step solution in June 2009 that would
have been a good guideline to follow to sensibly end this odd policy.
John F. Kennedy stated in his inaugural address,
“Let us never negotiate from fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” Instead of our military aggression, let us
commit ourselves to making the world safer through more generous non-military foreign
aid, more equitable social justice, cooperative problem-solving, better
opportunities for sustainable development, and the equality-embracing
empowerment of women.
Instead of stubborn intransigence in the defense of entrenched
interests and the status quo, we should be seeking a consensus to find ways of
achieving farsighted goals of energy conservation, development of fossil fuel
alternatives, economic stability, the creation of meaningful jobs, the
mitigation of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and the establishment of global
protections of fresh water and healthy ecosystems.
Better ways to balance the needs of competing
constituencies must be found. Conflicts and antagonisms must be
defused. We must strive to prevent
others from being galvanized into either terrorism or militant actions because
of self-righteousness, prejudice, fear, injustice, frustration, despair, or
hatred. Simply put, if we sow justice
and non-violence, then we will improve our chances of being able to harvest
peace. When we sow injustice and
violence, we harvest discord and social turmoil and retaliation.
“Shall we? That is, shall we go on conferring our
Civilization upon the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give these poor
things a rest? Shall we bang right
ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game;
or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first? Extending the Blessings of Civilization to
our Brother who sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on
the whole; and there is money in it
yet, if carefully worked -- but not enough, in my judgment, to make any
considerable risk advisable.”
--- To the Person Sitting in Darkness, Mark
10. The Fog of War
Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the
Vietnam War, admitted in the film The Fog
of War that American leaders essentially committed war crimes during the
Vietnam War. More than TWO MILLION Vietnamese people were killed in that
war. It was a war that the famous
Pentagon Papers revealed to have been expanded by deceptions and routine lies
and the suppression of information by the federal government. History seems to be repeating itself in the
current decade with the evasions, prevarications, equivocations, propaganda and
other forms of dishonesty that the Bush Administration used in its war
rationalizations for attacking and occupying Iraq.
McNamara also conveyed the compelling insight that
people often do not understand other cultures or foreign perspectives, and that
this is the case because we do not cultivate empathetic understandings of
them. We misjudge other peoples because we have a profound ignorance of
their history, culture, values, beliefs, nationalistic pride, personal dignity
and deeper perspectives. We apparently cannot
put ourselves in the shoes of others, as we were clearly unable to do with the
people of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The Vietnamese wanted sovereignty and self-determination, not Chinese
Another vitally important insight of
McNamara’s is that, if the United States cannot persuade other nations that
share similar interests and values of the merits of proposed uses of military
power, we should not proceed unilaterally.
We are not, after all, infallible or omniscient, he noted. We are, in fact, blinded by the premises of
our solipsistic and selfish and distorted worldviews, as well as by the
propaganda of corporations and right-wing think tanks that rationalize war in
order to profit from it.
Ideological beliefs often manifest themselves in a
form of political fanaticism that can skew our perceptions of reality. This was shown in the ‘domino theory’, which
used hyped-up fears of monolithic communism to get us to invade Vietnam. That conflict proved to be an extremely
costly quagmire. Reckless and inflexible
ideology, augmented by groupthink and technocratic decision-making, can produce
horrible results. The failure to take
into account opposing points of view and the variability of local contexts can
be a serious one.
Imagine the U.S. were
occupied by a foreign power, for any reason whatsoever. Do you think that any of us would find it
acceptable to live under ruthless tactics of foreign military forces and police
and security agents? Would we have a
stable society if war helped to cause 40% unemployment like there is in
Iraq? Isn’t it certain that our gun-loving
and freedom-embracing citizens would be radicalized into a powerful insurgency
that would oppose occupiers from the beginning? As Robert McNamara noted, we do not have the God-given right to
shape every nation in our image, so we should not act as if we do!
A gripping film has been produced that is even more
provocative than The Fog of War. It is titled The Most Dangerous Man in America:
Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. This film makes it clear that dissent and personal conscience and
freedom of the press and the courage of whistleblowers are critically important
aspects of our democracy. The inertial
power of the status quo is remarkable today, as we are finding it extremely
difficult to extricate our nation from costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even
though it is widely understood that government deceptions got us into this
Jared Diamond makes the following cogent point in
his brilliant book, Collapse: How
Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. He writes that the most troubled nations in the world, politically
and environmentally, are ones that are overpopulated and whose peoples are undernourished
and desperate. Poverty is a national security
threat not only for the people that live in failing states, but also for other
nations which get embroiled in wars or are attacked by terrorists or are destinations
for emigration and refugees. Instability
in poor nations often leads to impulses for authoritarian regimes to take over,
which “attack neighboring nations in order to divert popular attention from
It seems apparent that the U.S. acts heavy-handedly in
foreign affairs partially to divert attention from its own domestic problems
and unemployment. I highly recommend the
insightful observations about political and environmental instability around
the globe that are contained in the final chapter of Jared Diamond’s Collapse, which is titled “The World as
a Polder: What Does It All Mean to Us
Today.” A polder, incidentally, is land
reclaimed from the sea by a system of dikes and pumping operations, like 20% of
the land in the Netherlands. By its
nature, a polder requires collaboration and unity to achieve a common good
A British Brigadier General in March 2007 described
the American occupation of Iraq as being characterized by “cultural
insensitivity” that borders on “institutional racism.” Can we know how the Iraqi people have felt
when they have been subjected to what we euphemistically call “collateral
damage” during our massive air strikes and helicopter gunship attacks? Can we understand what anathema it must be for
them to have so many thousands of troops and security contractors heavy-handedly
occupying their country and patrolling the streets, breaking down doors,
terrorizing civilians, and shooting people with impunity on the
roads and at checkpoints? Can we
empathize with how devastating our occupation must be, with air strikes taking
place daily for years on end, and with millions of people having been driven from
their homes as refugees?
has been torn apart by our military occupation as well as by ferocious
sectarianism and rampant local corruption, a surge in religious fundamentalism,
and the violent tyranny of death squads.
All of these forces were radically escalated by the U.S. occupation. Matters have been exacerbated by poor
governance, fomented violence, ineffective reconstruction efforts, missing munitions,
squandered funds, fraudulent corporate profiteering, and our shortsighted lack
of an exit strategy from the start. See
the film No End in Sight -- and think
are suffering from ‘ideological blowback’ from the stupidity and incompetence
of what one Iraqi engineer termed the U.S. reconstruction “joke that nobody
laughs at”. According to former Iraqi
Cabinet member Ali Allawi, the United States has manifested “rank amateurism
and swaggering arrogance” and “monumental ignorance” during the occupation. Our occupation is more a part of the problem
than a solution to Iraq’s problems, so we should more honestly deal with this
troops home! A petulant George Bush
charged Congress with “wasting his time” by trying to end the war in Iraq and pursuing
investigations into corruption. Really?
You don’t say! Was it wasting the president’s time to have
Congress exercise its Constitutional oversight responsibilities after so many
years of fraud and corruption, and after so much gouging of taxpayers and money
squandered? Was it wasting the
president’s time to strive to overcome obstructionism to enact the will of the
majority of Americans to find a way to bring our troops home? Was it wasting his time merely because opposition
was fruitless, given that his militaristic foreign policies were rubber-stamped
by Republican majority loyalists in Congress from 2001 to 2007? Someone should have reminded George that we still
do have a democracy! (More or less!).
"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no
question about it."
—George W. Bush, July 27, 2001
George Bush liked to harangue Americans with his opinion
that terrorists hate our freedoms. But
it is the Bush Administration that acted as if it hates the freedoms of
American citizens. It was just so
danged inconvenient to our President, apparently, for Americans to use their
freedoms to oppose interventionism, express dissent, criticize imperialist
foreign policies, advocate peace, and demand true oversight and accountability.
11. Proper Priorities
Our political leaders put an absurd overemphasis on
security through lavish spending on war, armaments, munitions, high-tech
weapons, war-service contractors, and other policies of crony capitalism and
aggressive militarism. At the same time, they disingenuously deny and fail
to adequately fund the growing need to responsibly improve our national
security by creating fairer economies and more just societies worldwide.
Simultaneous with our profligate spending on
militarism, we cut back on the maintenance of our society’s infrastructure and
the basic needs of people here at home. As Joel Andreas wrote in his
edifying book, Addicted to War -- Why the
U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism, “Cutbacks in social programs have caused far
more devastation in this country than any foreign army ever has.”
The “war on terror” skews our priorities far out of
balance. It allows politicians to
establish misguided and shortsighted priorities that ignore far greater
existential threats. It is undeniable,
in retrospect, that Americans would be far better off to have spent $1 trillion
in the past 8 years on different priorities than the war in Iraq.
prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the Iraq War debacle will eventually
cost our country an astounding $3 trillion.
This figure includes all of the deferred costs of veterans’ health care
and disability compensation and replenishment of military equipment and the
cost of borrowed money to finance this mess.
Spending that much money on this terrible misadventure is shocking and
We could and should have invested in different
priorities to make our societies safer, saner, fairer and more
sustainable. According to author and
finance expert John Talbott, terrorism is not in the top 10 of his assessment
of the potential biggest costs associated with the 25 Greatest Threats to Our
Prosperity. We should, therefore, not
spend such outlandish sums on a poorly conceived ‘war on terrorism’.
Here are the Top Ten Priorities that come to mind to
help us achieve prosperity:
(1) Implement energy efficiency and conservation
measures and find renewable alternatives to fossil fuels in this era of Peak
Oil and resource wars.
(2) Revolutionarily reform our foreign policies to
focus them on making the world safer and more peaceable by supporting
initiatives that emphasize diplomacy, negotiation, cooperative problem-solving
and the mitigation of disparities in wealth, power and economic insecurity.
(3) Create a fiscally-sound government and balance
the budget instead of indulging in the insidiously irresponsible expediency of
deficit spending. Borrow-and-spend
courses of action are fiscally imprudent; they defer costs to people in the future and increase the
likelihood that our nation will suffer economic disruptions that stem from our
having become the world’s largest debtor nation. Our economy has been subjected to serious hard times partially
because of fiscal irresponsibility and the imprudent tax breaks given during this
time of war. Imperial overstretch, bubble
economic policies and other financial shenanigans have made this state of
(4) Address looming challenges caused by resource
depletion, habitat destruction, and problems related to species extinctions and
(5) Undertake intelligent and far-sighted programs
to reduce the risks of the “threat multipliers” of crushing poverty and
human-caused ecological disturbances.
(6) Boldly deal with preventing or minimizing
climate change impacts that are being caused, and will be exacerbated as the
years pass, by our spewing billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions into
the atmosphere every year.
(7) Invest in programs that are designed to make our
societies fairer, especially programs that involve Clean Money and Fair
Elections, and universal health care, and good quality public education, and
social and legal justice.
(8) Find ways to encourage fair trade and prevent
the marginalization of the majority of people in the world, which is exacerbated
by ruthless and inadequately-regulated capitalism.
(9) Shift people’s behaviors from wasteful
consumerism and mindless materialism to more genuine, meaningful, wholesome, holistic,
sustainable and peaceful endeavors.
(10) Focus our understandings on the profound folly
of international policies that interfere with family planning programs, the
availability of contraceptives, the rights of women to choose to have an
abortion, and sensible initiatives designed to reduce the rate of human
There is a gravely tragic irony in the fact that the
horrific hijacking of four airplanes on 9/11 has so effectively facilitated the
hijacking of our national priorities into costly and risky undertakings instead
of ones that are intelligent, far-sighted, fair, sustainable, peaceful, and
The unintended consequences of our wrong-headed
priorities and our actions and our omissions are likely to be dangerously
destabilizing in the years to come.
What is to be done? There are
many positive initiatives that we could be undertaking, and these will be
explored further below. Also, the One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively
Transform Our Societies and the Progressive
Agenda for a More Sane Humanity contain many important ideas which would,
if adopted, have far-reaching and salubrious impacts for the greater good. Check these out in Part Four of the Earth
Considerations of Ideology
The 45-year-long Cold War ended with the collapse of
the Soviet Union, leaving the world with a single superpower: the United States. An ideological movement arose that held that the greatest safety
for Americans could be achieved only by making permanent a “full-spectrum
dominance” of all other nations. Thus,
instead of a socially-beneficial peace dividend in the form of reduced military
spending after the end of the Cold War, ideologues from the right wing of the
Republican Party dramatically drove up the amount of money that we spend on the
Our military supremacy ploys were facilitated by a dangerous
and belligerent hubris that was disguised by disingenuous and hypocritical rhetoric. This arrogance helped to get us to invade
Iraq, an action which is proving to be one of the most critical and costly
blunders in the history of American foreign policy. After having been baited by Osama bin Laden
and other extremists, we have acted with a reactive cowboy mentality and
responded in a manner that is extremely damaging to our prestige, our principles
of fairness, our civil liberties, our national safety, our unity, and our
historians Will and Ariel Durant wrote a magnum opus in a monumental
eleven-volume series entitled “The Story of Civilization”. From the vast knowledge of history they
gained during their 40-year-collaboration on these books, they created The Lessons of History, a dazzlingly
insightful and almost poetic summary of historical understandings that I highly
recommend. In Chapter XI, ‘History and
War’, the Durants make a curious but valuable observation:
“When the states of Europe freed themselves from papal
overlordship and protection, each state encouraged nationalism as a supplement
to its army and navy. If it foresaw
conflict with any particular country, it fomented in its people hatred of that
country, and formulated catchwords to bring that hatred to a lethal point; meanwhile it stressed its love of peace.”
distinct similarities of these stratagems to the machinations of George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney and their manipulative schemes to get the U.S. involved in wars
abroad. “An evil exists that
threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic
security and protect our homeland."
Who said this? George Bush? (No; it was Adolph Hitler!)
John Steinbeck wrote in his 1940 book, The Log From the Sea of Cortez:
is a war now which no one wants to fight, in which no one can see a gain -- a
zombie war of sleep-walkers which nevertheless goes on out of all control of
intelligence. Some time ago a Congress
of honest men refused an appropriation of several hundreds of millions of
dollars to feed our people. They said,
and meant it, that the economic structure of the country would collapse under
the pressure of such expenditure. And
now the same men, just as honestly, are devoting many billions to the
manufacture, transportation, and detonation of explosives to protect the people
they would not feed.”
today make similar mistakes. It would
be giving our representatives a lot more credit than they deserve to say that
they are really being honest. Our
national politics are strongly affected by institutionalized bribery (corporate
lobbying) and a ‘culture of corruption’ in Washington D.C. Our decision-making is perverted by sound-byte
deceptions and influence peddling and gimmicky sleight-of-hand accounting and
irresponsible deficit financing. Instead
of honesty dealing with these systemic problems, our leaders prevent change and
manipulate the public with slick marketing.
April 2008 New York Times story
indicated that a secret Pentagon campaign began at the start of the wars in the
Middle East. Investigative
reporter David Barstow revealed that the Pentagon has used
“propaganda pundits” embedded on all major news network programs. The purpose of this Pentagon program was to
provide military spin to the news, and to cover up war failings, and to try to
fool the American people into giving their support to America’s wars -- no
matter how costly or misbegotten the wars may be. One former participant in this effort calls the Pentagon program
“psyops on steroids”. Such
‘psychological operations’ spin in the media undermines the proper functioning
war reporter Joseph Galloway writes: “This program violated the laws against
covert propaganda operations mounted against the American public by their own
government. But in this administration,
there's no one left to enforce that law or any of the other laws the Bush
operatives have been busy violating.”
seems to be a particular psychological profile that contributes to war. It is found in personalities who arise at
times in history to exploit a kind of insanity sparked by economic crises, anxieties,
social instability or other vulnerabilities.
Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are amongst the most famous examples of
this demagogic propensity. This type of
leader demonstrates a monomaniacal drive for dominance. They use grandiose convictions, ideological
arguments, overweening hubris, inscrutable impulses, and ruthless suppression of
dissent to rule with an iron fist. How
can we inoculate ourselves against such despotism, especially when it strives
to institute aggressively expansionistic regimes?
Arrogant attitudes are often accompanied by contempt toward
others. Greater respect and cooperative
collaboration is required today for our civilizations to evolve toward
solutions to the social, demographic, geopolitical, ecological and resource-allocation
challenges that are clearly intensifying year after year. In light of the increasingly urgent need for
compromise and more harmonious win/win problem-solving, it is increasingly
foolish and dangerous to harbor prideful supremacism and contemptuous tough-guy
attitudes, and to give support to politicians who pander to such self-centered,
domineering and greedy ways of acting in the world.
Extremism begets extremism.
Violence begets violence in response.
And exploitive economic policies that are enforced with interventionism
and humiliating military oppression beget opposition and blowback retaliation
and terrorism. To secure a prosperous
and safer world for rich people and middle-class people and poor people, for
Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and atheists, for people
everywhere, we need fairer and more enlightened economic and foreign policies.
True National Security
There are many indicators that point to offense as
the principal motivation for U.S. foreign policies, rather than defense. Principal amongst these indicators are:
(1) The U.S.
military has a stated objective of “full-spectrum dominance”.
nation intervenes militarily in other countries and shows a chilling disregard
for the lives of non-Americans with our bombings, harsh occupation tactics, lack
of accountability, and too often ‘trigger-happy’ security contractors like the
former Blackwater USA.
support despotic and dictatorial regimes like those in Saudi Arabia when it
suits our interests.
pursue a merciless economic agenda that imposes severe sanctions against
peoples whose leaders do not kowtow to our demands.
arrogantly use a new variety of ‘gunboat diplomacy’ in the form of CIA covert
operations and intimidation by aircraft carriers, heavy bombers, jet fighters,
helicopter gunships and drones.
maintain a nuclear arsenal with an outlandish overkill capacity. And,
(7) While we
occasionally close military bases within the U.S., we are adding to the more
than 700 military bases that we have in over 130 countries abroad.
The U.S. military should emphasize the defense of
our country, and not aggression or preemptive attacks on other countries.
No matter how persuasive the justifications are that politicians
provide for attacking other countries, it must become an inviolable principle
that offensive aggression is an unjust and intolerable international crime.
It is also exceedingly odd that we are not willing
to target a foreign despot like Muammar Gaddafi, but we bomb the hell out of the pawns that do his
the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union both produced such an
excess of devastating nuclear weapons that the strategy was called Mutually
Assured Destruction (MAD). We still
have 10,000 nuclear weapons -- overkill! -- and a costly and dangerous program
to maintain them. This arsenal should
have also spent more than $100 billion in the last 25 years on “Star Wars
initiatives”, despite the fact that this ‘Theater Missile Defense’ system
raises a complex web of geopolitical issues.
It stimulates mutual insecurities around the globe; it makes a dangerous militarization of space
more likely; and it exacerbates the
international arms race. Even one war
in space could encase the Earth indefinitely in a shell of whizzing debris that
would make space travel highly hazardous for peaceful space exploration
launches, as well as for crucially important scientific and communications and
our policies regarding consumerism, rampant development, unchecked population
growth and militarism are contributing to accelerating ecological damage. These activities could be described as
Collectively Assured Destruction (CAD).
Both MAD and CAD have been driven by dominance ideologies, rash empire
building, inadequately regulated capitalism, and abuses of corporate, political
and military power, as well as by authoritarian communism. It is becoming increasingly apparent that we
must boldly restructure our societies to prevent destructive activities, and to
mitigate the extent that we are all acting as reprobate ‘cads’!
Aspects of Militarism
We must reject the hubris of our
government’s crusade to aggressively dominate the world. In the more than
700 military bases that the U.S. has abroad, our military deploys more than
500,000 soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian
contractors. Serious conflicts result
when Americans are involved abroad in traffic accidents, public intoxication,
violence and rapes. We also have 6,000
bases in the U.S. and its territories. We
do not need all of this -- and we would be better off if we were not spending
so much money on maintaining this military empire. I suggest that we reduce military spending by 25% and phase out a
quarter of our military bases here and abroad in the next 5 years.
The U.S. is the world’s leading arms
dealer. We export weapons to scores of
countries. This fuels conflicts and
wreaks havoc around the planet. While
our leaders boast about democracy, security and peace, we sell weapons to
dictators, human rights abusers, and countries at war, or countries preparing
for war, sometimes with each other. An
article in the newspaper asserted that 20 of our top 25 arms clients in the
developing world in 2003 were undemocratic regimes or governments with records
as major human rights abusers. Far from
serving as a force for security or stability or peace, American arms sales
frequently empower undemocratic and unstable regimes. Arms sales have increased dramatically in recent years. This is not a healthy trend, and it is not
an export of which we should be proud.
Smart people say that additional taxes on arms sales would be wise, with
the proceeds to be used for purposes of peacebuilding and non-military foreign
aid and improving our own country.
We should create more dynamic international
institutions that are empowered to capably resolve conflicts. Let’s start with a powerful and
generously-funded U.S. Department of Peace with a mission of creating peace
both domestically and internationally.
Let’s create a Cabinet-level Secretary of Peace to demonstrate a
commitment to the causes of conflict-resolution and international
cooperation. This would be propitious
for our true national security. It is
my conviction that we would be wisest to be open to visionary new ideas rather
than continuing to heavily invest in resisting such ideas. If we temper
our feelings with confidence, rationality and philosophical equanimity, we
might have a better chance of channeling our concerns and passion and moral
energy into constructive actions that will help achieve necessary and desirable
16. Political Aspects of War
National security through ever-increasing military
prowess carries a prohibitive price tag. Our military adventurism is not
only a wasteful and costly gamble, but it is also a very high risk game.
We have already spent over $780 billion dollars on the war in Iraq, and the
costs escalated substantially every year from 2003 to 2008. More than 4,400
Americans have been killed as of May 2011, and more than 32,000 of our troops
have been wounded. This is in addition to more than 1,400 American
soldiers who have died in the war in Afghanistan.
There are probably more contractors
in Iraq than American troops, so it should be no surprise that many hundreds of
them have also been killed, and many thousands have been wounded. And hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi
civilians have died, while millions have been injured or displaced from their
homes. Civilian casualties during our occupation of Afghanistan are
making the war there less tenable. The
problems facing Afghan society are economic and social and political in nature,
so they require economic, social and political solutions. The U.S. should play a more constructive
role in Afghanistan by engaging civil society rather than by waging war. Unfortunately, over 90 percent of U.S.
funding in Afghanistan is directed toward military purposes, and inadequate
focus is given to non-military strategic options.
President Bush assured Americans two weeks before attacking
Iraq that such an invasion would “contribute greatly to the long-term safety
and stability of our world.” No one
could convince a reasonable person that this, or any of the Bush
Administration’s subsequent Pollyanna-ish war reassurances, has proved to be
true. A National Intelligence Estimate
(NIE) done in July 2007, which contained a consensus view of all 16 U.S.
intelligence agencies, provided an unambiguous repudiation of the contention by
the Bush crowd that the war in Iraq made us safer.
Evidence with the same conclusion was provided by
the Oxford Research Group. This is an independent
British non-governmental organization which reported on October 7, 2007 that
the U.S.-led “war on terror” is failing because it is fueling an increase in support
for extremist Islamic movements.
Military aggression has contributed to social instability in the world,
and to dire debt and financial problems.
These developments are not auspicious for the security and well-being of
billions of people.
It would likely have been far better if Mr. Bush and
his cronies had seen beyond their ideology and heeded Mark Twain’s wise
“It is easier to
stay out than get out.”
Instead of making the world a safer and more just
place, our actions in Iraq have resulted in an increased number of terrorist
incidents worldwide and made international hostilities worse. They dramatically increased antagonisms
toward the United States government during the Bush years and made the Middle
East less stable. They have increased
the risks of retaliatory actions in the future from terrorists who are driven
to martyrdom or who may seek to obtain ‘loose nukes’ or other weapons of mass
destruction. This explains why polls
indicated that the majority of people in the world regarded the U.S. as the
worst threat to world peace during the Bush/Cheney Administration. All of our leaders should do everything they
can to genuinely change such perceptions, and NOT merely by using rhetoric,
spin, propaganda, misinformation or outright lies. The book Rogue Nation
provides a valuable perspective and a more detailed understanding of these
On November 1, 2007, Karen Hughes announced her
resignation from her position as the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and
Public Affairs for the State Department.
“Nice try” in challenging circumstances, Karen. Attempting to improve America’s image abroad
was a difficult challenge when our foreign policy was so widely perceived to be
unjust and imperialistic and militaristic.
Somehow public relations just can’t overcome the negative aspects of our
cultural triumphalism, arrogance, condescension and aggression. Winning hearts and minds is hard when our
rhetoric and actions are so dissonantly mismatched. Effective diplomacy requires a lot more than we’ve given it!
I have a gut feeling that it is a singularly bad
idea to pursue strategies that create enemies faster than we can imprison or
kill them. It is costly and dangerous
and counterproductive and pathetic.
Let’s make friends, not enemies!
17. Let’s Make Friends with Iran!
The United States has
acted with a hawkish bellicosity toward Iran for many decades. The stepped-up rhetoric during the Bush
Administration was partially a Neoconservative ploy to stimulate nationalism
and patriotism, and to rally Americans around our flag. We must be more vigilant
to guard against the ratcheting-up of rhetoric and rationalizations for war against
Iran is a legitimate
player in the Middle East. It is
arguably much more legitimate than the United States, being in the neighborhood
right between Iraq and Afghanistan. It
is folly to threaten Iran as aggressively as the Bush Administration did. Iran and its domineering religious Ayatollahs
have been the beneficiaries of our invasion and occupation of Iraq and the
elimination of Saddam Hussein. This
strengthening of Iran and of battle-hardened Sunni fundamentalists in Iraq has
created greater danger for our ally Israel.
We should use honest negotiations to boldly integrate Iran into a more stable
Middle East. We should not exaggerate the
nuclear capabilities of Iran the way George Bush and Dick Chaney did with Iraq
under Saddam Hussein. We must deal with Iran strategically and diplomatically, and not
as if we are on a dominance-oriented, self-righteous, militaristic Crusade!
current conundrum with Iran is partially a backlash against our having helped
overthrow the freely-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran in
1953. In a CIA-sponsored coup (code
named ‘Operation Ajax’), the CIA helped install the despotic Shah. We subsequently supported the Shah and his
brutal SAVAK secret police for more than 25 years. Many Iranians regard the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and hate us
for this, and for the repression and barbarous torture that accompanied the
Shah’s rule. Our harboring of the Shah
after he was deposed, and our support for Saddam Hussein in the costly war
between Iraq and Iran in which there were ONE MILLION casualties between 1980 and
1988, contributes to this Iranian sense of injustice and anger. We have
been acting like an enemy to Iran since 1953, but it seems like it would be a far
better plan to start acting like a good neighbor, or even as a friend!
more nuanced position, as embodied in a speech in Cairo in early June 2009, had
a more conciliatory tone. This deprived
the Iranian mullahs of some of their strength, and may begin to destabilize the
hardliners in Iran. Pakistan, which has
about 80 nuclear warheads, is much more dangerous than Iran, and we are goading
extremists there constantly with our support of a repressive military.
ideologues in their hubris advocate military supremacy and preemptive war doctrines
to achieve a variety of narrow ends.
They either do not realize, or will not admit, that we need to make more
committed efforts to negotiate constructively with legitimate regional
decision-makers in the Middle East. It
is counterproductive and blockheaded to rely so exclusively on confrontation
and the imposition of harsh economic sanctions on people in other countries. The same is true of militaristic policies
that result in widespread violence and have the collateral effect of creating
millions of refugees. Furthermore, the
use of clandestine covert operations to destabilize other nations can be quite
A key to a safer
and more stable Middle East would be to create a fair and lasting peace between
Israel and Palestinians. We should
seriously use our influence to make this happen. President Bush spent eight years with the ‘road map’ to peace
figuratively “tucked in the glove compartment”. Until Barack Obama toned down this
strategy, the U.S. unwisely spent much more effort ratcheting up its rhetoric
and its preparedness to preemptively attack Iran over nuclear issues and
Iranian involvements in the Iraq war.
A Kyl-Lieberman amendment to the
Defense Authorization Bill of 2008, passed in September 2007, could have been used
as a green light for a ‘preemptive attack’ on Iran. This amendment condemned the largest branch of Iran’s military as
a ‘terrorist organization’. The action got
a strong reaction from Iran: the
Iranian parliament responded almost immediately by declaring the CIA and the
U.S. Army as terrorist organizations. Some
say that there is an ironic validity for such a point of view!
An attack on Iran should not be
considered for any reason. We
must also prevent any future war tactic designed to distract and divide
Americans. We cannot allow a ‘Wag-the-Dog-like’
scenario from developing in which Americans are manipulated into giving their
support for new preemptive wars. The
use of such actions to divert Americans from vitally important domestic
priorities would be particularly dangerous and objectionable. (“Wag the Dog” was a 1997 movie starring
Dustin Hoffman in which a war was fabricated to cover up a presidential sex
President Bush once
spoke publicly about World War III in connection with Iran. He did this as a part of a campaign that is
suspiciously similar to the misleading tricks that were used to get us to invade Iraq. He and Dick Cheney and others figuratively
beat the drums in 2008, partially as an electioneering ploy to hype up fears and
prey on our pride and use misleading intelligence to maintain power. It is beyond imagination that we Americans
are so arrogant, fearful or trigger-happy that we can even contemplate starting
World War III. World War II began in
Europe when Hitler’s armies invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Historians might one day look back on our
current adventurism in the Middle East and say that the U.S. took the initial
steps into World War III by invading Afghanistan and Iraq, the two countries
that neighbor Iran immediately to its east and west.
does not promote peace. Imagine how
severely threatened Americans would feel if any country attacked and occupied both
Mexico and Canada and caused refugees by the millions to cross into our country. Imagine our response if such a country rattled
the saber with furious accusations about our activities in abetting a
resistance. This gives us a better idea
about how close we got in 2008 to being involved in a wider war.
One consequence of our misguided
support of the Shah’s repressive regime is that it gave power and impetus to a reactive
and harshly fundamentalist Islamic government to come to power. This brought more injustice and oppression
to the people of Iran. Such a
belligerent and domineering religious fundamentalism would weaken if we did not
provide such powerful counter-support to it by threatening Iran. Hard-liners in Iran have been strengthened
by our attacks on Iran’s neighbors, just as hard-liners in the United States
have been strengthened by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Other forms of blowback retaliation are likely in the future if
we do not change course.
top foreign policy priority should be to defuse Middle Eastern tensions. The elections in Iran in June 2009 showed
that the repressive regime there is willing to take ruthless steps to continue
its domination. But that regime’s days
may be numbered by its harsh suppression of civil liberties, as the regimes in
Tunisia and Egypt were, and as the regimes in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and
even Saudi Arabia may be.
is a dangerous misapprehension to believe that the strength and security of the
American people lies principally in full-spectrum dominance and aggressive
militarism and arrogant bravado and macho dude ruthlessness and policing
occupations and torturous clandestine operations. We are neck deep in ideological, strategic
and tactical blunders related to our costly invasions and occupations of Iraq
and Afghanistan, and it seems crazy to me to continue brazen counter-supporting
antagonism against Iran’s leaders.
Our ‘beating of the drum’ for war with
Iran in 2008 even included real war preparations. A second aircraft carrier strike group was dispatched to the
Persian Gulf area early in the year, ironically led by the USS Abraham Lincoln,
the same aircraft carrier upon which George Bush declared “Mission
Accomplished” on May 1, 2003 after the invasion of Iraq.
The run-up to a war against Iran received
a significant setback in December 2007 when the 16 Intelligence agencies of the
federal government gave the Bush Administration a smackdown in the form of a
National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which indicated that Iran is not actively
working on a program to create nuclear weapons. Despite this consensus report of American intelligence,
right-wing pundits and war hawks continued to advance the idea that a war on
Iran is justified and desirable.
Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut
was asked about Iran on national television in June 2007, and he said that
“we’ve got to use our force, and to me, that would include taking military
action to stop them from doing what they’re doing.” Really?! Are we mad? We were thinking of stopping them from doing
what they were doing? This suggestion
is not just bizarre -- it is outrageous and foolish. Have we learned nothing about the costliness of relying so
exclusively on intimidation and domineering militarism?
Senator John McCain of Arizona hammed
it up in a video taken of him on stage in April 2007, singing “Bomb bomb bomb,
bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann”. Good God! This is not humor; it is a
form of severely irresponsible pandering to the hard-right hawks in the United
States. No presidential candidate
should be so obtuse. Even Hillary
Clinton was hawkish enough during the 2008 Presidential campaign to suggest that,
if elected, she would “totally obliterate” the 70 million people in Iran if
that country were to use a nuclear weapon against us.
Barack Obama, as a Senator, suggested that
the U.S. might need to intervene militarily in Pakistan; I submit that such ideas of American
unilateralism and violations of the sovereignty of other nations must be
abandoned. The dangers of an Islamic
extremist coalition coming to power in nuclear-armed Pakistan are great enough
without our provoking such an outcome!
Pakistan’s former ‘President’ Pervez
Musharraf, who had originally come to power in a military coup, declared
emergency rule on November 3, 2007. He
suspended the constitution, shut down independent media outlets, removed
Supreme Court judges, and jailed thousands of lawyers and civil activists. George Bush had characterized Pervez
Musharraf as someone who truly “believes in democracy”, but this authoritarian
act moved nuclear-armed Pakistan a step closer to political turmoil that could
have devastating consequences. Staunch U.S.
support for this military dictator was of questionable merit at the time with
respect to our long-term interests in the Middle East. We have been provoking Islamic extremists
with our arrogant policies there for decades.
The assassination of the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
on December 27, 2007 was an event that complicated the scene in this dangerously
volatile country, and our hundreds of drone bombing attacks are a curious means
of conducting foreign policy.
In 2008, more than 20 retired generals
defied military tradition and outspokenly criticized the Bush Administration
war policies in Iraq. They recognized
that the 3 pillars of our democratic system have failed to create sensible
policies: (1) the commander-in-chief
ignored alarms raised by military commanders on the ground; (2) Congress failed to properly exercise its
legislative responsibilities and oversight duties; and (3) the media abdicated its important investigative and
give us pause for concern to consider the following quote from Chairman Mao of China in
1950, concerning General Douglas MacArthur and the foolhardy drive of American
troops toward the Yalu River and the Chinese border with North Korea:
arrogant enemy is easy to defeat.”
Fundamentalism: Action and Reaction
Islamic nations that were championing the ideal of
secular government and religious pluralism before September 11, 2001 were
driven towards right-wing fundamentalism in reaction to our wars. A long history of Arab humiliation and
resentment is boiling over into more powerful motives for opposition and
retribution. Our lack of understanding
of the perspective of Palestinians toward what they regard as the 1948 ‘Catastrophe’,
together with our one-sided support of Israel’s aggressive militarism in the
past decades, are contributing causes for Middle Eastern instability and
Terrorism involves the killing of civilians for
political reasons. The U.S. is
effectively indulging in state terrorism in the handling of its
preemptive wars. Our nation ironically
harbors terrorists when they happen to side with American interests and
ideologies. For instance, Orlando Bosch
and Luis Posada Carriles were involved in a number of terrorist activities,
including being architects of a 1976 bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner that
killed 73 people. Nonetheless the
federal government allows them to remain free on U.S. soil. This is worse than hypocrisy.
“Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the
--- Sir Peter Ustinov
It seems clear to me that, as the only nation that
has ever dropped nuclear bombs on people, it should be our leaders’ obligation
to abide by international arms treaties and NOT to try so diligently to develop
new tactical nuclear weapons. American
nuclear policy is “illegal, immoral, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully
dangerous”, according to the late Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense
during the escalation of the Vietnam War.
Our enormous and expensive Cold War nuclear arsenal should be reduced,
and we should more justly address national and international problems related
to resources, mutual security, environmental challenges, social issues, foreign
policy and peaceful coexistence.
Military solutions and bombs must yield to fair and pragmatic political
“War is never a solution; it is an aggravation.”
--- Benjamin Disraeli
Tragedy of War
Modern warfare is, in many senses, a tragic failure
of civilization and society. Words cannot comprehend its terrible
atrocity. War causes incalculable pain and suffering to countless
innocent victims that are killed, wounded, tortured, frightened, or scarred by
violence and hate. Horrible and indiscriminate munitions like Agent
Orange, napalm, landmines and depleted uranium are barbarous and inhumane.
Warfare is colossally wasteful of resources and
lives. It is also damaging to the environment. It creates
instability and long-lasting upheavals in both the societies of the country
attacked AND in those of the aggressor. We are seeing, just as we saw in
Vietnam, that war is mentally crippling and highly negative for the troops and
citizens of the aggressor, as well as those of the nation attacked. The number of veterans that are being
treated for post-traumatic stress disorder is in the hundreds of thousands, and
this number is escalating. Many more
are being denied treatment to save money on veterans’ healthcare costs. And thousands of troops and veterans of the
Middle East wars have committed suicide, which points to the accumulating
problems of war. Committing suicide is
often the result of mental
health issues and has become a tragic “hidden epidemic”.
Dwight Eisenhower said this: “I hate war as only a soldier
who has lived it can; only as one who
has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
Violent conflicts are taking places in many places
in the world. Humanity simply must
develop better means of resolving conflicts and mitigating antagonisms that
lead to war and genocide.
The predominant paradigm of modern life is a
relentless striving for dominance. Our federal government leaders seek to
control and dominate both U.S. citizens and foreign peoples. The human
race seeks to control and dominate nature, ignoring the dangers of these
drives. And men have sought to dominate women for thousands of years by
defending patriarchal religions, even taking the drastic step of burning
thousands of women to death ‘at the stake’ during the centuries-long
Inquisition. “Heresy”! (Horrible,
A political comedian once said that there is a ‘red
state syndrome’ that provides religious support to politicians who are eager to
invade other countries with other people’s children while denying healthcare to
millions of kids at home. These
politicians, predictably, always say they are guided by God. Not so funny! We must wake up to the negative impacts of forces of domination
and the ruthless ruses they employ. We must find ways to create more
enlightened approaches to peaceful coexistence. For this reason, I call for a new form of ‘Instantaneous
Absurdity of Deficit Financing of Wars
Ambrose Bierce defined the undesirable condition of IMPROVIDENCE as the
“Provision for the needs of today from the revenues of tomorrow.” Let’s stop being so improvident!
The federal government uses the insidious political
expediency of borrowing enormous amounts of money from people in the future to
help finance military, industrial, investor, consumer and political goals. They do this instead of following more
frugal and responsible ‘pay-as-you-go’ strategies. This is a shrewd tactic, because it greases the wheels of war and
obscures the obvious truth that our wars would be FAR LESS POPULAR if people
recognized the actual costs, and had to pay for them today. As it is, our deficit financing has led to a
startling and risky increase in our national debt in the past decade. This makes it necessary to devote an
ever-bigger portion of the national budget to interest costs on the debt. It consequently becomes even more difficult
to properly address important social, healthcare, environmental and
One honest and fair means of confronting this
insidious problem would be to commit to ‘paying as we go’ by increasing
gasoline taxes to cover the cost of wars in the Middle East. This would force people to realize that a
principal reason for our military occupations is our dependence on oil and our
correlated powerful desire to control oil resources in the Middle East.
The cost of our wars and occupation and troops would be around $1.00 per
gallon. How eager would the American people be for the doctrine of
preemptive warfare and for having our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan if they
saw the direct correlation of the cost of these wars to the amount they pay at
the pump for gasoline?
In general, taxpayers should be required to pay in
full for government programs instead of being allowed to foist the cost on
future generations through the expediency of deficit spending. Our
representatives would be forced to make difficult choices in a more responsible
way. Once they, and we, were squarely
faced with the necessity of finding the money for the true and full costs of
government programs, it is almost certain that there would be much less
enthusiasm for such things as preemptive warfare, corporate welfare, historically
low tax rates for rich people, bureaucratic waste, pork barrel spending, and
costly new entitlements.
Another way to effectively encourage peacebuilding
and diminish support for war, and to help finance our defense and war-making establishment,
would be to enact taxes on arms sales and war profits.
For more comprehensive understandings and deeper
insights in related economic issues, check out the “Comprehensive Global
Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview”. This can be found in Part One of the Earth Manifesto. In particular, see Chapter 44 – The
Nature and Wealth of Nations; Chapter
#45 - Capitalism and Democracy; Chapter
#46 - Pathological Aspects of Capitalism;
and Chapter #47 - Particular Problems Associated with Corporatism. And for bold ideas on how we could be intelligently,
fairly and courageously addressing the serious
problems facing us here in the Twenty-First Century, see the compendium of
ideas found in Part Four, including “One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively
Transform Our Societies” and the long list of “Progressive
Ideas for a More Sane Humanity.”
21. The Titanic Struggle between Capitalism and
a youngster I was led to believe that communism was evil, and that people in other
countries that were ruled by a Communist Party were brainwashed by their
governments. It wasn’t until many years
later that I realized that “brainwashing” turns out to be a nuanced and
infinitely-varied phenomenon to which people in all nations are subjected, to
one degree or another. In truth, deeply
ingrained biases and sympathies affect everyone, and our beliefs are subtly
conditioned by parental influences, catechisms, partisan spin, subjective
personal experiences, educational biases, indoctrination, assumptions, radio
and television, think tank doctrines, advertising and prevailing national
is an ideology that arose in the early years of the Industrial Revolution as a
reaction to the inequality, injustices, labor abuses, dangerous workplaces, and
sink-or-swim ruthlessness of the capitalist economic system. Capitalism idealizes freedom and
laissez-faire market economics at the expense of fairness and equality. Communism, on the other hand, idealizes
equality and centrally-planned economies at the expense of freedom. In practice, neither system has proved to be
tenable or fair in their ‘pure’ forms.
Both systems have, of necessity, become more egalitarian, and both have adopted
varying degrees of regulation in response to market economics. Both have also been subject to powerful
corrupting influences and authoritarianism.
business-as-usual status quo in capitalist societies is primarily concerned
with profits and narrow self-interest, so it strives to keep economic and
political systems the way they are -- or to change them in decidedly regressive
ways. Entrenched interests are
consequently allowed to impede progress and oppose common-good reforms and
prevent changes that would be beneficial to the greater good. These vested interests lobby to privatize
government functions, and they basically advocate the substitution of the
bottom-line best interests of corporations for the best interests of the
people. And corporations, as is argued
very persuasively in the book The Corporation -
The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, act almost
exclusively in ways that, in an individual, would be regarded as pathologically
of government activities to corporations has almost doubled in the last decade,
but rather than achieving the goals that vested interests claim, like greater
efficiency, better management and lower costs, we have reaped a spike in costly
no-bid contracting, incompetence, excessive fees, unfair cronyism, price
gouging, inadequate monitoring, less accountability and fraud.
The ideals of
economic fundamentalism are laudable:
they hold that free markets are guided by what Adam Smith called an
‘invisible hand’ to create the best conditions for the public good. Unfortunately, our economic and political
systems are corrupted by monopoly abuses, deceptive practices, unfair vested
interest domination, unwise pork barrel spending, institutionalized bribery, dishonesty,
financial shenanigans, imperialistic abuses of power, and distorting influences
that militate for war and war profiteering.
Giant corporations often cheat the public to make bigger profits instead
of improving their products and their production methods, or they gain
outlandish subsidies that perpetuate inefficient, wrong-headed and polluting
industries. They also often treat workers unfairly and externalize
significant environmental costs onto society and indulge in unfair tax
avoidance schemes like tax shelters and offshore incorporation.
are generally so entrenched that opportunities for societies to be radically
remade are severely limited. Yet there
is a growing need to dramatically transform our societies, and I believe that
radical changes will be required in response to the gathering threats of
unsustainable activities, debt crises, increases in inequality, resource
depletion, pollution, ecosystem damages, species extinctions, climate disruptions,
and the dangerous influences of religious fundamentalism and empire building
and human overpopulation.
often work to change society in ways that are demonstrably contrary to the
common good. Rich and powerful people
tend to be in favor of radically engineering societies along lines that are
most profitable to them personally. It
is curious that a coup d’etat like
that inflicted on the Chilean people by General Augusto Pinochet on September
11, 1973 has certain characteristics in common with natural disasters like the
December 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well
as with the ‘shock and awe’ of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. All of these events created collective
trauma and instability that gave corporations and politicians opportunities to
institute radical economic and social ‘reforms’. These often come in the form of economic fundamentalism as
prescribed in the ideas of Milton Friedman and his ‘Chicago School’ of
economics. This ideology advocates deregulation
and the use of ‘free trade’, privatized services, private property ownership
rights, reductions in social spending, crony contracting, tax cuts favoring the
wealthy, and the aggressive exploitation of resources and workers. These activities serve primarily to promote
prerogatives that benefit investors and small groups of privileged people, and
they undesirably stimulate materialism, consumerism and concentrations of
wealth to the detriment of the general good.
It is no real surprise
that capitalism capitalizes on catastrophe, but it is sad that such ‘economic shock
treatments’ are accompanied, all too often, by repressive measures and the
oppression and even torture of dissidents and others who oppose such
measures. When legitimate
(or at least legal) strategies fail, military action to protect the interests
of the powerful often ensues.
once said: “Only a crisis -- actual or perceived -- produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that
are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive
and available until the politically impossible becomes politically
inevitable.” I advocate keeping good
ideas for the greater good around, and not just ideas that will benefit the
The author Naomi
Klein compellingly points out that crises tend to provide Machiavellian
opportunities in victim countries for injuries to be inflicted “all at once”. I encourage everyone to read her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster
Capitalism for more extensive insights into these ideas. The circumstances that surround the banking
bailout in September 2008 are frightening for the lack of oversight and for the
‘fox in the henhouse’ nature of allowing the financial industry and its
facilitators in government to set the terms of the biggest government bailout
Just as the
nature of “economic shock therapy” is unjust, the injustice of unshackled
militarism and ‘preemptive war’ is dangerous for our security. We must strive to prevent these actions. To the extent that they contribute to
terrorism, and are facilitated by demagoguery and fear-mongering and the
abdication of the traditional investigative reporting and watchdog roles of a
free press, we must find ways to strengthen our society against these
weaknesses. The next five chapters deal
directly with these ideas.
22. Sensible Strategies to Defuse Extremism
One of the consequences of the United States’
willingness to engage in offensive warfare is that we are fanning the flames of
Arab nationalism and Islamic religious zealotry. Harsh and aggressive
warfare being waged by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan is giving much
more forceful impetus to radicalism and dangerous cultural and religious
conflicts between Christians and Muslims worldwide. It is spawning an increasing numbers of newly-inspired jihadists
around the globe, as confirmed by the July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate mentioned
Extremism signals, countersupports, and ironically
strengthens that which it opposes.
Injustice sparks injustice. Violence
fans violence. It seems clear to me that U.S. economic and military
policies have been a primary causative factor in sparking Islamic extremism and
retaliatory ‘blowback’ such as that suffered on 9/11. Not only did the
U.S. support and empower both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in the 1980’s,
but our economic sanctions, military bases, and armed interventions in the
Middle East have been a significant factor in angering Muslim populations,
convincing them that we are either ruthless imperialistic infidels or representatives
of the devil. This has provoked al
Qaeda extremists and contributed to the highly destabilizing influence of
conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To effectively encourage the possibilities of peace,
and to eliminate a principal cause of instability in the Middle East, we should
make stronger efforts to create peace between Israel and its neighbors by
helping establish a secure homeland and better opportunities for Palestinians
and the people of Lebanon. To do this, we should act more prudently and
with greater diplomacy and statesmanship, and seek fair compromise by all
concerned parties. We should balance
our foreign policy initiatives, and continue to give Israel billions of dollars
per year in foreign aid only with the condition that they act boldly to help
guarantee fairness and peace in the region.
23. What the Hell Do We Do Now in Iraq?
Richard Clarke, counterterrorism czar
under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, wrote a book entitled Against All Enemies in which he
indicated it is essential that we protect our country against foreign enemies
as well as “those who would use the terrorist threat to assault the liberties
the Constitution enshrines.” He makes
the important point that rather than our foolhardy invasion of oil-rich Arab Muslim
Iraq after 9/11, we should have followed three key policies: “First, the
President would have engaged in a massive effort to eliminate our
vulnerabilities to terrorism at home and strengthen homeland security. Second, he would have launched a concerted
effort globally to counter the ideology of al Qaeda and the larger radical
Islamic terrorist movement with a partnership to promote the real Islam, to win
support for common American and Islamic values, and to shape an alternative to
the popular fundamentalist approach.
Third, he would have been active with key countries not just to round up
terrorists, end the sanctuaries, dry up the money, but also to strengthen open
governments and make it possible politically, economically, and socially for
them to go after the roots of al Qaeda-like terrorism.” He added, “Nowhere on the list of things
that should have been done after September 11 is invading Iraq.”
The Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare was used
to justify the attack on Iraq and the subsequent U.S. occupation. The rationalizations for the war shifted
suspiciously and disingenuously from finding alleged Weapons of Mass
Destruction to deposing an evil dictator to deceptive rhetoric about spreading
freedom and democracy. The real threat to the United States by Saddam
Hussein was hyped up far beyond rational probability. Actual costs of the
war were ridiculously underestimated.
In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, Republicans in the
Administration told us it would be a “cakewalk war”. Reasonable warnings and understandings about the occupation were
ignored. Unrealistic outcome scenarios
were advanced, such as the expectation that the Iraqi people would accept
American occupation forces as liberators. The true reasons for the war were suppressed. In connection
with the “war on terror”, dissenters have been intimidated and collateral
injustices have been intensified. Such
actions are unwise and unfair and irresponsible!
By invading Iraq, “we broke it”, and we now have
assumed the obligation of fixing it.
There will, unfortunately, be no easy fix on a battleground that has
become ground zero for economic, political and religious opposition to the
aggressive full-spectrum dominance gambits of the United States. The quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan are too
expensive for us to be able to continue indefinitely. The options are admittedly not good, and the potential for bad
outcomes is enormous no matter what we do, whether we escalate the war, try to stubbornly
‘stay the course’, or leave altogether.
We made a bargain with the devil to get the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
and his militia to cooperate in a ceasefire in 2007, but as with all Faustian
bargains, there are likely to be risky downsides. “We’ll see”, as the Zen master says. Muqtada al-Sadr is still working to see that U.S. troops are
expelled from Iraq.
We must stop trying to impose our hegemony on the
Iraqi people. Sure there are dangers in
withdrawal, but we simply will be unable to claim victory now that we have rather
thoroughly devastated the country of Iraq.
We cannot afford the escalating monetary costs, and we cannot continue
to goad the Iraqi people by adhering to our wrong-headed, hard-nosed, ‘trigger-happy’,
humiliating and repressive military occupation.
It seems to me that we would have been wisest to follow
the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group in 2006, rather than
clinging to George Bush’s war and occupation strategies in Iraq. We must make committed efforts to achieve
peace and stability using a bold surge of both regional and international
diplomacy. And we must achieve a
redeployment of our military, starting with a return home of our National
Guard. We must begin to heal the wounds
we have created. “Thank God” that the
militaristic McCain was not elected President!
A number of Governors of various
States have expressed heightened concerns about the deployments of National
Guard personnel and equipment to Iraq.
They acknowledge that Americans are more vulnerable to large-scale
disasters when significant numbers of National Guard members are absent. In the aftermath of any widespread
devastation caused by a major fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado or domestic
terrorist attack, people will have less emergency assistance due to such
deployments. It is quite clear that the
Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare makes us less safe in this regard. We should not give so much emphasis to
offensive actions at the expense of maintaining good preparedness and balanced
24. The Dangers of Demagoguery
1934 German film Triumph of the Will is
an infamous piece of propaganda by the director Leni Riefenstahl from the early
years of film-making. It is a
mind-numbing cavalcade of political theater, prideful militarism, impassioned
harangue and exhortation to duty and loyalty and obedience. The film shows an astonishingly faithful
furor by the German people for their Führer,
Adolf Hitler. The film “catapults the
propaganda” by hailing order, discipline, sacrifice, work and conformity. Its indoctrination is effected through a
sweeping adulation of pageantry, glory, spectacle, pride, goose-stepping
soldiers, and the hailing of authority.
like Hitler offer simple-minded arguments, and repeat these arguments endlessly
to make them insidiously persuasive.
Accompanying the rhetoric of the demagogue, a drumbeat for war often
disturbingly resounds deeply in the recesses of our brains. Al Gore perceptively observes in The Assault on Reason that our current day demagogic leaders “don’t actually offer greater
security from danger, but their simplistic and frequently vitriolic beliefs and
statements can provide comfort to a fearful society.”
A demagogue is a person who obtains
and abuses power by means of passionate rhetoric that appeals to the emotions
and prejudices of the populace. At a
time when we really need unity and healthy community and rational cooperation to
solve problems, a number of wily demagogues have gained notoriety by nefariously
exploiting people’s fears and gullibility and biases in order to advance
policies that divide people and directly hinder the general good and obstruct
cooperation toward achieving peaceful coexistence. Such people pervert and corrupt fair dealings and good intentions
by skewing national priorities into costly fiascos. The obsession with getting, holding and abusing power is
sometimes sedulously wrong-headed.
political party of Adolf Hitler and Dr. Josef Goebbels, the “Minister of People
Enlightenment and Propaganda” in the so-called Third Reich, tried to advance
their goal of a Thousand Years’ Empire and supremacy. After the worst global devastation in war in all of history, things
sure didn’t turn out that way. A
similar fate has befallen the quest for a permanent majority by the Republican
Party, and for many of the same reasons:
gross injustices have been perpetrated, astonishing inequities have been
facilitated, perverse priorities have been adopted, and financial systems have
been seriously abused. In pandering to economic
fundamentalists and the right wing and narrow-minded religious fundamentalists,
Republicans have acted with imperialistic aggression in a kind of ruthless, twisted,
narcissistic and monomaniacal Machiavellian madness. (“Get an afterlife, guys!”)
when leaders effectively say, “Be afraid.
Trust us.” It is shocking and awful that our last President acted with such
demagogic contempt for rules of law and Congressional oversight. George Bush and Dick Cheney seem to have resented
constraints on their ability to use power in a triumphalist, expansionistic,
overweening and narrowly partisan manner.
The truly duplicitous nature of much of President Bush’s rhetoric was
revealed when he said, “See, in my line of work, you got to keep repeating
things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of
catapult the propaganda.” Truth,
George? You played rather loosely with
“Those who can make you believe absurdities
can make you commit atrocities.”
One of the most compelling films on the Internet is Zeitgeist Movie. I recommend that readers watch it at
zeitgeistmovie.com, when you have two hours to devote to the undertaking. The film contains cogent parallels to the
film Triumph of the Will. But it is much more sophisticated, modern, and
illuminating. Its slant is a
provocative one that casts suspicion on some cherished beliefs of those who
embrace certainties and dogmas. Part I
of the film discusses the power of religious myths, providing an enlightening
exploration of the almost comedic absurdity of any adherence to inflexible
orthodoxy and religious absolutes and convictions that it is a form of sinful
blasphemy to question the truth of dominant myths. Part II introduces the perplexing and suspicious evidence about
the official story of 9/11 and the wars it spawned, and the actions of our
government. Part III makes one think
about what really goes on inside international banking and the Federal Reserve
and our economic institutions.
film Good Night and Good Luck is
about trusted broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and his eventual courage in
standing up to the Communist-fear-mongering of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the
1950’s. Joseph McCarthy was known as “tail gunner Joe”. He was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin
in the years from 1947 to 1957 who was known for his shrewd and calculating scheme
of hyping up the fear of Communism to gain power and notoriety for himself.
McCarthyism is the legacy of blatant Republican
attempts to discredit people, blacklist them, ruin their reputations, and use
fear and intimidation to devastate dissent, erode political opposition and
destroy liberal causes. Demagogic
McCarthyism was a factor that contributed to the promulgation of rigid
hard-line American foreign policies during the Cold War. Even the liberal “best and the brightest” of
the John Kennedy Administration were swept up in the need to embrace
overwhelmingly strong military stances.
This contributed to the U.S. involvement in the terribly misguided,
unjust and deadly Vietnam War in which millions of people were killed. The Vietnam War was arguably an indirect
result of McCarthyism.
politics today is still heavily influenced by the need to talk and act
tough. This may be a result of powerful
psychological needs that are incited by fears and insecurities and pride of
American citizens. Politicians
consequently find it advantageous or even necessary to offer a tough facade in
the face of challenges to our superpower dominance in an increasingly
multi-polar political world.
Barack Obama, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009,
contemplated our next move in the quagmire of the Middle East, and decided to
follow recommendations to escalate the war in Afghanistan after 8 years of
deteriorating conditions and high costs.
He, too, has been strongly influenced by political considerations like
since the days of patriotism-questioning, liberal-baiting Joseph McCarthy and
the beginning of the Cold War, shrill voices of hawkish war proponents have
argued that if the U.S. shows ‘weakness’ on the international stage, our
enemies will take advantage of us and harm us.
The fact of the matter is that a state of peace is an equilibrium among
many forces. Hubristic militarism and
imperialistic economic exploitation exacerbate conflict and anger and
humiliation, and can thus serve to encourage retaliatory opposition in the form
of terrorist movements and committed insurgencies in occupied countries.
The exploitation of American
insecurities in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was undertaken in emulation
of the cunning and amoral tactics of Joseph McCarthy. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney used reckless right-wing ideologies
to manipulate the public’s fears, this time of terrorists. They skewed our foreign policy into
inflexibly hard-line, costly, and dangerous undertakings, including a
heightened probability of endless war.
This new form of modern day McCarthyism eagerly
belittles and suppresses political opposition and people who have differing
perspectives. It demands loyalty to ideologies and officeholders, not to fair
principles. Fear and stoked nationalism have been used to gain public support
for imperialistic trade and banking interests and an aggressive military. Radical right-leaning politicians have
perversely thrown in, as a part of their ideological and behavioral package, some
social engineering gambits such as regressive tax policies, wrong-headed priorities,
misguided rollbacks of environmental regulations, and even religious evangelizing
and moralizing and Creationism.
megalomaniacal drive of political leaders, together with ethnocentric urges to
assert superiority, may reflect people’s compensatory needs to deny
insecurities and throw off the yoke of insignificance. These were definite factors that motivated
Germany to start World War II after the humiliation of heavy reparations that
were exacted in the aftermath of the defeat of Germany in World War I. There are striking similarities to these
deep motivations and inscrutable psychological impulses that are being demonstrated
by our leaders in their efforts to get the United States into wars here in the Twenty-First
it be that bizarre good-old-boys eccentricities, or a Strict Father upbringing,
or feelings of inadequacy, or even a reaction to alcoholism were involved in
drives that led George Bush to launch unnecessary wars? Or is it really just about the oil? Macho dudes and demagogues, relent!
26. The Responsibility of Journalism
It is one of the checks and balances in our
democracy for voters to be well-informed by the media. The healthy functioning of society and our
political system relies on a free press and journalistic integrity. When Big Media becomes highly beholden to
corporate powers-that-be, it undermines democracy. Journalists simply
must adhere to higher standards of conscience and objectivity and rationality.
advances in technology have had astonishingly far-reaching impacts on human
society. The invention of the printing
press with moveable letters by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-fifteenth century
revolutionized book printing and fostered rapid development in the arts and
sciences. It also facilitated the
extensive propagation of religious texts.
This stimulus of the mass transmission of ideas dramatically changed the
way people learn and communicate, so it effectively “democratized”
knowledge. The last 100 years has seen
further advances in communications, with radio, television, film and the
Internet all increasing the flow and diversity of information.
has unfortunately become a medium that can be used to sway people in deceptive
and manipulative ways. Al Gore speaks
passionately about “The Assault on Reason” in his book of that name. He explains how logic, reason and truth are
under assault from forces of blind faith and narrow ideologies. Democracy falters in the wake of this
assault, due to the fact that democracy relies on citizens being well-informed
rather than being duped by propaganda and shallow understandings of complex
are subjected to a barrage of carefully-crafted spin that is piped into our
brains through the medium of television.
Americans on average watch television for a brain-numbing excess of 4
hours per day. Four hours per day! Four hours of PROGRAMMING that consists of
slanted news coverage provided by a corporate media, combined with mindless
entertainment, all of it interspersed with commercial messages created by
advertising agencies to convince us to buy things we don’t need. When we watch TV, we often give our
attention to idols, celebrity trivia, sporting contests, sensationalism, crime
stories, shootings, steroid scandals, fake “reality shows”, political
photos-ops and sound bites, and other shallow stories and shows. As a result, we tend to be distracted from
R. Murrow would be horrified by the extent to which we allow television to
distract, delude, entertain and insulate us today without providing adequate
investigative reporting and objective insights into the realities of the world
we live in.
television programming is valuable, of course.
PBS stations, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and the
National Geographic Channel in particular offer insightful journalism and very
rich perspectives of human cultures and the natural world. Some TV programming attains high qualities
of accomplishment. Together with the
auspicious trend toward wider distribution of documentary films, there is hope
that such forms of communication will make positive contributions to our social
evolution. The Internet, too, offers
tremendous potential for improving our understanding, and for acting as a
democratizing force in the world.
got a ‘gut feeling’, as macho dudes like to say: We all in our innermost awareness know what is true and what is
false. Just as native speakers of a language have an innate sense of the propriety
of grammatical usages (some people more than others!), each of us has the
natural capacity to feel what is true.
We can intuitively detect deceptions, lies, propaganda and
‘bullshit’. But we can also be quite
gullible. It is clear that our native ability to detect falsehoods can be circumvented by
demagoguery and seductive suasion.
If you tell the truth you don't have
to remember anything.
--- Mark Twain, 1894
turns out that confidence and depth of conviction are poorly correlated to
objective truth and accuracy of understanding.
While this observation is most obvious with regard to the obtuseness of
fanaticism, it is true in more subtle ways of almost any judgment that is
framed in black-and-white terms. There
is a pronounced relativity of point of view, circumstance, context and subject
interpretations that makes almost any ‘certainty’ contradictable or not applicable
from the perspective of differing points of view. Errors of perception can be made due to poor reasoning, as well
as due to distortions caused by emotional hijackings.
27. Truth and Consequences
old Italian proverb says: “Si non e
vero, e ben trovato.” Roughly
translated, this means: “Even if it’s
not true, it still makes a good story.”
says to his disciples in John 8:32,
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” There is some valuable and profound truth in
this generalization, no matter what one believes about the contention that
Jesus was the virgin-born son of his Zeus-like Father, God. President James A Garfield’s offered a
contrasting and ironic perspective on truth;
he asserted that “The truth will set you free, but first it will make
you miserable.” Whoa!
Speaking truth to power is, of course, a dangerous thing to
do. Woe! But ignorance rarely turns out to be bliss. Our government treats us like Jack
Nicholson’s character in the film, A Few
Good Men, when he yells, “You can’t handle the truth!” I say, give us a chance!
truth is rarely to be found in sources of authority, because authorities have
such narrow vested interests. Our
government owes us greater honesty. The
whole truth is extremely important in a democracy to ensure an informed
citizenry that is empowered to choose better governance and wiser choices of
action. The truth is vitally important
to us if we want to maintain our personal freedoms and any degree of social
justice and egalitarian fairness. We
must demand the truth and attendant deeper understandings. We must insist on responsible government,
together with greater transparency and accountability. Too much government secrecy undermines
truth can be found by striving to see deeply and clearly, and not by embracing
dogmas and doctrines and orthodox worldviews.
The truth can inoculate us against lies by revealing when ‘the emperor
has no clothes’. The truth is not often
found in conventional ideas or blind acceptance or traditionalism or
ideological certitudes. I encourage
readers to keep an open mind!
realism and pragmatism are ways of dealing with facts. For instance, in the great 1975 film, Three Days of the Condor, Robert
Redford’s character has discovered a plot to invade the Middle East for its
oil. (Really!) He disparagingly asks an operative of the
CIA, “What is it with you people? You think
not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?” Touché!
the response of the CIA operative is chilling.
He basically says that when Americans begin to run out of oil or food,
they will not care how their government goes about getting it, they will just
want the government to do whatever is necessary, no matter what is involved. Injustice, violence, war … whatever!
may be true. But “might is not right”. The consequences of using military might to
achieve economic and political objectives at the cost of terrible injustices
will eventually prove to be calamitous to the greater good, just as it did when
Hitler tried to conquer the Western world.
Peak Oil and subsequent decline could become the most daunting challenge
of this century, but using military might to gain greater access to dwindling fossil
fuel supplies is a shortsighted plan for many reasons adduced herein. Investing boldly in conservation and
efficiency and cleaner energy alternatives is a much better plan.
this fact were more widely understood, I believe that the American people would
support wiser steps to solve this problem rather than following militant ‘geostrategic
imperatives’ or drilling more aggressively and riskily for oil in our coastal
waters. Everyone must be involved in
the solution, and we must make behavioral changes. We can do this, if we develop a bigger picture perspective before
we get truly desperate. The best way to
achieve this is with properly structured incentives.
I believe that there is a bigger geostrategic imperative than dominating
the world to get access to oil. The
real GEO-strategic imperative is that we begin to lead sustainable lives, and
that we sensibly begin to recognize the vital importance of a healthy natural
world. This is why I believe we must
begin to act more fairly and peaceably and in more ecologically sane ways.
28. True Patriotism
True patriotism consists of questioning and opposing
abuses of power, not accepting them without question. As Mark Twain once said:
“My kind of
patriotism and loyalty is loyalty to one’s country, and not to one’s
institutions or officeholders.”
Patriotism is not an unthinking obedience to the
politicians in power. In truth, patriotism in America should be an honest
commitment to the principles and ideals that this country really
represents. This includes the primary concerns of our Founding
Fathers: fairness, freedom, justice, human rights, limited government
intrusiveness, honesty, and fair representation of the best interests of its
The United States’ misguided “war on terror” has
been rolled out with as little sacrifice for the average American as possible. We have avoided implementing a military
draft. We have used the wondrous and
ill-fated expediency of deficit spending so that the burdens and costs are more
hidden. An all-volunteer army has been
recruited with an over-emphasis on minority recruitment, allowing college
students and those with better opportunities to be insulated from the need to
serve and suffer the terrible personal consequences of war.
These are brilliant strategies, but they are cynically
discriminatory ones. Our nation’s young
people who are sent abroad are primarily from the class of citizens that have
little power and are largely disenfranchised, with few opportunities and
inadequate voices and poor alternatives.
is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
--- English poet Samuel Johnson
Those in power have been all too effective in
controlling our attitudes toward war. We allow military recruiters in our
high schools, for God’s sake, to sell our young people on the benefits of
volunteering to fight and kill in this new era of preemptive wars of choice.
The “No Child Left Behind” law even mandates that every student’s contact
information must be provided to military recruiters. In the year 2007, 29% of Army recruits did not even graduate from
high school. This is well above the
Army’s goal of just 10% of recruits who do not graduate from high school. Recruiting people who have felony convictions
increased during the days of the Bush Administration, and the maximum
enlistment age was increased from 35 to 42.
Also, overweight, less physically fit people were even recruited.
Military recruitment violations dishonorably
increased 50% in 2007. Sexual abuse of
high school girls by authority-figure recruiters sometimes despicably occurs. This is a mere prelude to the far-higher
incidence of sexual abuse of female soldiers by men during their military
service. This should be regarded to be as
scandalous as the heinous abuse of boys and girls by priests. Military authorities must do a better job of
screening those who enlist for tendencies toward brutality, white supremacism,
sadism, misogyny, sexual abuse, emotional imbalances, and religious fanaticism.
Once military recruiters convince young people to
join up, recruits are indoctrinated with strict ‘boot camp’ obedience and patriotic
duty and self-righteous nationalistic fervor.
Violence, prejudice and hate are subtly preached to them. Then our troops are sent abroad, often for
questionable purposes and under false pretenses. The fact that support for war has been achieved by exploiting fears
and insecurities of the American people is ethically wrong. So is the use of propaganda and deception
and disingenuous, constantly changing rationalizations for war.
“True patriotism hates
injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”
--- Clarence Darrow
Support Our Troops!
In my opinion, we should support our troops by NOT
sending them into harm’s way for mercenary, religious, ideological or illegal purposes. We should not attack other nations using
deceptive justifications. We should
extricate our troops from places they should not be. How should we best support our troops? Doonesbury author Gary Trudeau had a political cartoon with a soldier
discussing this issue with his superior.
Let’s see, if we cut funding, our soldiers will be forced to be brought
home to safety; if we support funding,
and continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely, our troops will face
ongoing mortal danger. “Permission to
think it through denied,” the commander ordered in the Doonesbury strip.
It is only a myth that Republicans strongly support
our troops. This myth is belied by the truth: we attacked Iraq with a politically-driven
war plan; we committed resources inadequate
to ensure security for the Iraqi people from the start; we made incredibly poor plans for the
occupation; we blundered by pursuing
punitive de-Baathification policies that alienated a significant segment of the
Iraqi people; and we occupied Iraq with
severe shortages of body armor and equipment.
Repeated redeployments of troops have been required, and we have been pathetically
unwilling to adequately fund veterans’ facilities and healthcare for the
wounded and those damaged psychologically.
“War in the end is always
about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of soldiers
by politicians, and of idealists by cynics.” --- Chris Hedges
Many men and women in the military are making great
personal sacrifices for their country.
If history is any indicator, veterans who survive are highly unlikely to
be fairly appreciated and supported once they return home, especially those who
are injured or incapacitated or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many returning veterans will face
homelessness, domestic instability, unemployment, drug addiction, poverty,
incarceration, and other social ills in the coming years.
30. The Corrosive Effects of Power
Power corrupts, and the on-going abuse of our military
power makes all Americans complicit in the worst kind of corruption, which is
violence that kills and maims thousands of innocent people. Our military
strategy of relying on aerial bombardments from bombers and helicopters and
drone aircraft is outrageous. It is
terribly uncaring about the “collateral damage” harm that is done to civilians
and women and children. Smart bombs? Give me a break! It is not exactly giving the targets of the
bombing a trial by jury, or a fair shake at determining guilt!
The United States has used its air
supremacy to drop bombs on many countries in the past 50 years. This is not intelligent or justice-oriented foreign
policy. We have already suffered deadly
“blowback” in the form of retaliatory attacks related to our interference in
the affairs of peoples in the Middle East, due in large part to our harsh use
of economic sanctions, aggression, military occupations, and ruthless covert
The history of the Central
Intelligence Agency shows that clandestine activities have been used to help
overthrow democratically-elected governments, including Iran’s in 1953,
Guatemala’s in 1954, Brazil’s in 1964, Greece’s in 1967, Chile’s in 1973, and
many others. We have also helped
overthrow dictatorships that we didn’t like.
The CIA was created to develop long-range strategic intelligence, but it
has failed in many ways, leaving a “Legacy of Ashes” along with its $40 billion
The School of the Americas (now called the
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) is an infamous police and military training center in Ft. Benning,
Georgia. Many of Latin America’s
most notorious dictators and killers learned the latest
"counterterrorism" techniques there.
Often these tactics have been used against ‘leftists’ and people like
farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina. I submit that we should more wisely
formulate our foreign policy and ensure that it is fairer and more democratic
and more definitively oriented toward a just, sustainable and peaceful future!
can we marshal a penetrating introspection into the truth when authority
figures, with media collaboration, strive to persuade us to have faith in ideas
that are delusional, erroneous, illusional and demonstrably dishonest? Reason, as Al Gore notes, is generally
better than fear and emotionality for making good decisions. Reason trumps blind faith, and faith trumps
fear, and fear trumps reason. Rock,
paper, scissors! This helps to explain
the tendency of shrewd demagogues to enlist fear and emotion to trump reason
and embrace faith, and to then screw the hell out of everyone for power, profit
and political advantage.
“Unthinking respect for authority is the
greatest enemy of truth.”
people gain and maintain advantages and special privileges at the expense of
the public by tailoring the truth to accommodate their ambitions. They betray America’s democratic processes
by using deception, misinformation, secrecy, intimidation and the suppression
of open and honest debate. Our
idealistic principles are betrayed by an odd-fellows coalition of rich people,
corporations, Big Government, right-wing think tanks, and religious
31. Militarism and Madness
The checks and balances of our Constitution have
been eroded by the increase in the power of the Executive branch since
September 11, 2001. Differing viewpoints and dissent have been under assault,
as if such activities are treasonous -- rather than being more truly patriotic
than blind obedience. We must reject
the villainous and tyrannical tendencies for authorities to suppress peace
the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War and the Vietnam War, public
insecurities were increased and fears were heightened. This resulted in citizens of the U.S. allowing
the executive branch of government to exercise more power and to abrogate the
public’s civil liberties during each of these conflicts. The seemingly endless wars in which we are
now engaged are being used to justify incursions into privacy rights and
domestic civil liberties. Our great
Constitution is a ‘covenant’ that runs from our Founding Fathers to us, and
then to future generations -- and it contains no exemption from applicability
during times of war.
though the executive branch increases its powers in times of war at the expense
of the legislative branches of government and the people, it is rarely a propitious
tactic for the people. Thomas
Jefferson, who was the principal author
of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United
States, was a strong believer in the ideas that the powers of the federal
government should be vigilantly constrained, that human liberties should be
expanded, and that representative democracy must be protected. Noting the dangers of wartime
usurpations of federal government power, he said:
“… should we wander from (these principles) in moments of error
or of alarm,
let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road
which alone leads
peace, liberty and safety.”
Let’s bring our troops home! After World War II, the U.S. successfully
made a rapid shift from a war-focused economy to a peace-time economy. Millions of armed forces personnel were
brought home and given opportunities under the G.I. Bill. Educational benefits and other progressive
policies were used to build a large American middle class. We must once again authorize and implement
similarly farsighted programs to create a stable and fairer society as we bring
troops home from foreign wars.
Mercenaries in the Fray
What the hell is with all of the American mercenary
contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan? Contractors
amounted to less than 5% of the total force deployed in World War II and the
Korean War, and about 10% in the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War, but the
number of contractors in the occupation of Iraq has probably exceeded 100% of
the number of military personnel. This makes
it easier for the Administration to fight an unpopular war, and it may be good
for those who profit from war, and believers in outsourcing and privatization
may love it, but this seems like an insidiously costly and foolish idea to
Security contractors are extremely expensive, and
they are not subject to adequate command and control structures, or
transparency, or oversight, or accountability.
It is disturbing to find out that there are so many private armed
security contractors in occupied nations from companies like Xe, formerly
Blackwater, which was founded by a Christian fundamentalist. Are we on Crusade?
A study of chaplains in the military reveals that
there has been a distinct infiltration of the military by evangelical
Christians. The culture of authority,
duty, and sacrifice in the armed forces provides fertile soil for evangelical
involvement. It offers avenues for the
advancement of religious drives to conquer and convert others, as well as
splendid opportunities for chaplains to take advantage of government programs
that offer steady pay and generous benefits and comfortable pensions. This religious infiltration of the military,
like a similar one by white supremacists, should be more rigorously controlled. Non-Christians in the military must not have
their religious beliefs trampled by evangelicals.
Empirical Observations about Empire
United States has completed a 21-building embassy compound in the dangerous
Green Zone in Baghdad. It cost more
than $700 million, which was far over budget due to poor planning and shoddy
workmanship. It is the biggest embassy
on the planet, and TEN TIMES larger than any other U.S. embassy in the world. Why have we built this compound, and the
accompanying huge permanent military bases in Iraq? Are we thinking we can occupy Iraq indefinitely, and that this
embassy will serve as an Imperial Control Center, perchance?
is as though we are emulating the First Emperor of China, who conscripted
700,000 laborers over a 20-year period to build an enormous mausoleum for himself
in Xian, China. The Emperor had the
tomb filled with thousands of ‘terracotta warriors’ to protect him after his
death. It is a bizarre delusion that
the Emperor believed that this would work!
As destiny and poetic irony would have it, soon after the Emperor died
in 210 B.C., the aroused Chinese citizenry raided and all but destroyed the
enormous monument and its contents. What will the fate be of our own enormous monstrosity in
Baghdad? With mortar shells flying
regularly in the vicinity, even during the ephemeral period when we had a
surge-level number of troops occupying the country, its long-term destiny does
not appear to be propitious. Are we
34. Thinking Outside the Military Box
“All of us can do
something, can ask questions, can speak up.
It is the American thing
to do. It is the patriotic thing
to do.” --- Howard Zinn (I concur!)
Really “thinking outside the box” is sometimes
valuable. Let’s consider this: if we were to reduce military
spending by 10% each year for the next 5 years, it would save about $300
billion. If half of this were to be applied against budget deficits, we
still would have $150 billion to invest in peace building, demilitarization, infrastructure
improvements, sustainable development planning, sensible expenditures for Homeland
Security, robust emergency-response systems and personnel, and other important
Can we alter our foreign policy to be more
intelligent, generous-minded and farsighted?
Can we soothe passions, and find common ground in policies that are more
rational, sensible, and concerned with mutual security? Can we separate religious fundamentalism
from policy-making, and marginalize the dangerously anti-democratic, male authoritarian
and ethnocentric aspects of dominance ideologies and established
religions? Can we find ways to emasculate dangerous zealotry and its
wrongful rationalizations which assert that our side is good and right while
the other side is evil and wrong? Can
we prevent religious extremists from gaining the power to provide support for
politicians or terrorists in their drives to wage wars or attack innocent
Fundamentalism, whether economic, political or
religious, is about power, doctrine and control. It is NOT about economic wisdom or democratic fairness or
spiritual truth or the righteousness of any particular God. We must find ways to marginalize extremism
in all its forms. We must prevent any
form of fundamentalism from being enshrined at the center of power!
The Golden Rule should be an honored principle. It should be a guideline for all foreign
policy considerations. As Will and
Ariel Durant observed in their fascinating book, The Lessons of History:
“Somewhere, somehow, in the name of humanity, we must challenge a
thousand evil precedents, and dare to apply the Golden Rule to nations, as the
Buddhist King Ashoaka did in 262 B.C. Magnanimity in politics may be the
trust wisdom, and a great empire and little minds go ill together.”
Let’s demand positive change along the lines of the
ideas contained herein. Let us follow
through to remove those from power who refuse to embrace such progress. The
staunch Strict Father “strength” of the past 50 years cannot be trusted;
it is too damaging to world peace, and it is making almost everyone in the
world less safe.
35. The ‘Right’
warfare and belligerent aggression are wrong in many ways: wrong from the standpoint of international
law, wrong from the perspective of Golden Rule fairness, and wrong in their
disrespect for the sovereignty of other nations. These are counterproductive strategies because of their
tendencies to create more enemies. They
are ineffective because of their failure to create salubrious and effective
interpersonal dynamics. In a sense we
are fighting rich men’s wars while spilling poor people’s blood. This is unconscionable!
Hear this, supporters of right-wing conservatism:
We must stop ignoring the mutuality of security needs in our foreign policy
determinations. A safer, more
sustainable world cannot be achieved by military actions alone. Please give a higher priority to the need
for cooperative stances toward the enactment of fair domestic policies and
just, enforceable international laws. Such
laws must be well-designed to create less inequality, less collateral damage,
and less poverty. We need to staunch,
rather than reinforce, frustration and resentment and disenfranchisement and humiliation
and immoral forms of exploitation.
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in
and moral courage
--- Mark Twain
There are better ways to build true justice and
peace. As Albert Einstein once said, “Peace cannot be kept by
force. It can only be achieved through understanding.” Not only do we need a greater empathetic
understanding of the perspectives of others, but we also need to better
understand ourselves and our national motives.
By being honest with ourselves, and fairer to all concerned parties, we
can move beyond the ‘might is right’ mindset, and truly seek peace. Let us reject the set of ideas and
convictions that has gotten us into the calamitous danger in which we find
ourselves, and seek a radically different set of ideas and understandings and diplomatic
efforts and progressive philosophies to reduce this danger.
Numbing routines, busy lives, unexamined motivations
and obsessive pursuits can hinder our progress in this direction. Could we possibly create more profound
commitments to non-violence through finding greater peace within our selves?
Perhaps a national movement that encourages transcendental meditation
might help overcome our aggressive impulses.
Repeat the mantra after me: Om mani padme hum.
implies recognizing more than one-sided truths. It means seeing truths that are more all-encompassing. To achieve understanding, we must recognize
the truths contained in alternate points of view. To understand politics in the Middle East for instance, it is not
enough to try to understand the mentality of Arabs and Muslims and the
psychology of their inadequacy of influence or their long history of
humiliation and accompanying anger. It
is important to also try to understand the mentality of Americans and the
motivations that underlie our actions, together with the Strict Father
psychology that drives us to support leaders who talk tough and act strong and
are militarily aggressive, as if such attitudes are best able to make us
Our fear and
anger in the wake of the shocking 9/11 attacks gave great impetus to
belligerent and righteous voices. Together
with our addiction to fossil fuels which are so abundant in the Middle East,
these influences make us desperate to do whatever it takes to protect our
overweening power and to perpetuate our addiction by militarily facilitating
our access to oil reserves abroad.
understanding is becoming ever more critically important. Right understanding means an accurate
comprehension of circumstances, and an intelligent acuity of perception, and an
open-minded interpretation of the way things are which corresponds closely to a
coherent, expansive, and ethical way of seeing. It is NOT right understanding merely to agree with orthodox
ideas, to conform to political correctness, to accept simplistic explanations, or
to embrace self-righteous convictions of absolute certainty.
by their very nature are averse to change.
They are obsessed with control, so they tend to favor actions and
policies and attitudes that address only the symptoms of problems, not their
underlying causes. This seems to me to
be true for perspectives on crime, punishment, war, terrorism, and even drug
use and teenage pregnancy and other hot-button social issues.
think they are being farsighted by endorsing enormous increases in defense
spending and advocating harshly punitive interrogation methods. Maybe they think it is shrewdly farsighted
to support harsh sentences to deter crimes and to advocate that education be
privatized and to strive to implement abstinence-only sex education and to institutionalize
inequities, and to enforce Draconian penalties for smoking marijuana, and to censor
what they consider to be pornography, and to strive to outlaw abortions, and
other such things. So, the way they see
the world, they may actually think that they favor addressing underlying
causes. I believe that a fair, honest
and comprehensive evaluation of these complex issues contradicts and refutes such
To diffuse the
potential contagion represented by this dangerous cocktail of opposing points
of view and powerful conflicting motives, and indeed to prevent the increasing
likelihood of expanded conflicts in the Middle East, we must take off our
blinders and our one-sided ways of seeing the world. Leaders on all sides must recognize and admit the need for fair
negotiations and win/win solutions to international problems. We need to cultivate a reasonable modicum of
mutual respect and make lasting commitments to diplomatic solutions. And we must emasculate demagoguery, cowboy
rhetoric and religious fundamentalism, and instead support statesmanship and
honorable efforts to promote peace and mutual security.
36. Mission Possible?
It is essential for good foreign
policy to re-evaluate the mission and the results of actions in light of
changing circumstances and realistic understandings. People are generally committed to their own self-interest without
having a strong concern for the interests of others. It is, nonetheless, quite important to understand the
points-of-views of adversaries as well as allies. Both our domestic policy and our foreign policy must
intelligently assess the effects of our policies upon others, and take into
account concerns for the general populace, not just investors and upper social
An unclear mission can lead to
catastrophic results. Military
solutions do not work without strong diplomatic and pragmatic political
endeavors. We must reduce tensions, and
recognize legitimate local grievances.
We must reject military aggression as a strategy for solving problems,
or for adjudicating power disputes, or for advancing an imperialist
agenda. A serious re-evaluation of our
policies and the politicians who advance them is imperative. We must avoid blundering into political and
social messes abroad that we do not understand.
Unilateral militarism, and both
Islamic and Christian religious fundamentalism, have been cast in the light of
infamy by developments in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has become clear what can happen when military missions are
unclear, and when religious extremists try to enforce their views on all.
Bait and Switch Strategies
The Bush cabal stimulated people’s
fears in the years from 2001 to 2009.
They did this partially to promote militarism and unwarranted influence
for the military/industrial complex.
The role of investors and many profit-obsessed war-service industries is
significant in this undertaking. The
political capital gained from the national tragedy of 9/11 was used to ram
through a neoconservative agenda in unrelated realms of social, economic
and environmental policies. This
opportunity was used to make regressive changes in tax policy and to implement
distinctly misguided environmental and energy policies. It was also used to advance oppressive
policies toward poor people and women and gay men and lesbian women. For crying out loud!
Power was abused by invoking enemies
to implement internal surveillance programs, and to harass people, repress
dissent, control the press, and suspend rules of law. This is a shrewd but unconscionable trick. Terribly,
terribly shrewd. Coldly and
calculatingly and arrogantly and mercilessly shrewd. It’s far-right thinking, to be sure, but far from being right, or
reasonable, or sensible, or fair, or acceptable.
It is a sad irony that the 9/11 terrorist attacks
have strengthened the reactionary political right wing in the United
States. The politics of the “war on terror” have had the effect not only
of facilitating war, but also of enriching the wealthy at the expense of peace
and the common good. This is a
dastardly misfortune for the majority of people on earth.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the
people of United States and the world became ever more effete pawns of
politically influential arms merchants, war profiteers, multinational oil
companies, privatization and outsourcing interests, neoconservative ideologues,
nationalistic supremacists, the gun lobby, and reactionary religious extremists. Quite costly consequences have resulted.
The amount of money that we are spending on the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI,
and on troops, munitions, warfare, reconstruction, spying and covert operations,
and Hopes for Peace
War hawks gained support for war in Iraq by using
several unsavory strategies. In addition to using deceptive
rationalizations and exploiting people’s fears, they took advantage of desires
for revenge and nationalistic drives for superiority. They censored reports
and information from the battlefield. They distorted the truth of how the
war was going. They refused to allow news coverage of coffins coming home
of soldiers that had been killed. They even covered up the ‘friendly-fire’
killing of Pat Tillman. What the hell really
“The U.S. military itself invariably conducts its
own investigations into any charges of excessive use of force, and the
investigations are normally oriented toward covering up what happened.” (This quote is from Chalmers Johnson, in his
book Nemesis: The Last Days of the
Something is terribly amiss when we allow so-called
“chickenhawk” leaders -- ones who avoided military service to their country and
yet are staunch proponents of aggressive militarism -- to be the very people
that make decisions to wage wars. This is onerous particularly when the
missions of the aggression are unclear, and when the wars are based on manipulative,
jingoistic impulses and distortions of intelligence and facts. Taunting and arrogant “bring ’em on”
bravado has foolishly put our troops in greater danger.
Dick Cheney once said he had “other priorities …
than military service”. Many other
people might have had other priorities too, but they had fewer options than Dick
Cheney because of economic inequities and uneven opportunities in our
society. It is obscene that Dick Cheney
embraced doctrines that eagerly sent troops abroad at an enormous cost, especially
because his motives were so conflicted, considering his strong ties to business
interests that profit from war, like Halliburton and its affiliates.
The hubris of misguided American
foreign policy is, by its failing, finally starting to have the effect of
reducing support for the Christian right’s agenda. This is a glimmer of a fortuitous trend, one that bodes well for religious
moderates and progressives to put more distance between themselves and the
radical elements within their faiths. The
rejection of the domineering right wing would be healthy for democracy because
it would strengthen support for the separation of church and state, and at the
same time reinforce the right to privacy that protects citizens from government
Our hopes for peace arguably hinge on
conquering ignorance and reining in extremist elements and rogue leaders. We must develop a better and more practical
balance between (1) the compulsions for strength and toughness and obsessions
for dominance, and (2) the growing urgency of needs for better ways to be
developed to achieve peaceful coexistence and prevent resource wars.
A solution to the
Palestinian problem must be found in order to create peace in the Middle
East. I highly recommend that all
readers watch the documentary film, I
Have Never Forgotten You, which provides viewers with a compelling
understanding of the horrific consequences of the Holocaust during World War
II. The film gives good insight into
the extraordinary anguish and honorable integrity and deep humanity of Simon
Wiesenthal, a man driven to bring awareness of the genocide that was committed
against millions of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Simon Wiesenthal was the man who helped bring to justice many German
war criminals that were responsible for the Holocaust.
tragedy of the Holocaust gives a powerful raison d’etre, a reason for being and right to exist for the
country of Israel as a haven for Jews, who have suffered not only this
genocide, but also many other persecutions and pogroms in nations throughout
the world over the centuries. Of
course, giving territory to the Jews was far from a perfect solution, because
it was a calamity to many Palestinian people whose lands were appropriated to
provide a homeland for the Jews. To
make this ‘right’ at this point in history, all nations must help make an
epoch-defining effort to atone for the injustices done to the
Palestinians. Just as the world helped
the Jews in 1948 by giving them a homeland, a secure homeland must be created
for the Palestinians and there must be an outpouring of international support
for Palestinian prosperity and economic security.
only by sowing justice can we harvest peace.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! Check out the Earth Manifesto essay entitled “Sow Justice, Harvest Peace!” for further
insight into related ideas. We must
find ways to all get along better together.
This requires collaboration, compromise and commitments to negotiations
and win/win solutions. This can be
accomplished. All parties must try
harder to move respectfully toward a lasting solution of the
Israeli/Palestinian problem. Only by
doing this will we be able to defuse the tinderbox of the Middle East and truly
establish secure foundations for peaceful coexistence.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we
practice to deceive.”
--- Sir Walter
Aggressive foreign policy is facilitated by war
propagandists who make use of hyped-up threats, misleading rhetoric and deceptions.
The media is complicit in this, because they often get caught up in supporting
the Establishment’s war enthusiasms. The
majority of newspapers and television and radio stations in the U.S. actively
promoted the lies and manipulations of George W. Bush and his Administration in
the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Catherine Austin Fitts, the former Assistant Secretary of Housing under
former President George H. W. Bush states: "George Orwell once said that
omission is the greatest form of lie. That's the best description I know of corporate media today."
The so-called Yellow Press was created more than 100
years ago to boost newspaper sales by hyping war. Yellow journalism
consists of widespread practices within media organizations that include
exaggeration, fear-mongering, sensationalism, propaganda propagation and
jingoism. I call on all journalists to
be more responsible and to demonstrate greater integrity.
The “best and the brightest” would no doubt
encourage more comprehensive news coverage and better investigative reporting
by the media and stronger protections for whistle-blowers. They would also likely support increased
news diversity and the prevention of further conglomeration in the media like
that which has given Rupert Murdoch such outlandishly manipulative influence
and Roger Ailes such a domineering stage for conservative propaganda on Fox
of the dilemmas of the news business is that public ownership of newspaper and
media corporations subjects them to the overriding need to make bigger profits
every year. Faced with declining
classified ad revenues because of Internet competition of sites like Craig’s
List, newsrooms have been forced to cut costs, so they have developed more
entertaining opinion-based reporting.
As a result, hard news and public interest reporting are suffering. In the breach, ‘faux news’ and government
and corporate propaganda have expanded.
This is subversive to valid and accurate understanding.
struggle ensues. Will the media act as
a force for truth and enlightenment and democracy, or one of collaborative
deception and indoctrination? Will the
media be controlled by power-mongering politicians and fear-mongering manipulations
and shortsighted profiteering? Will the
slow demise of newspaper newsrooms and non-partisan investigative reporting
accelerate the trend toward Orwellian domination of thought by right-wing front
groups or Big Brother government, or will countervailing influences within the
Internet contribute to revolutionarily positive change, enlightenment, reform,
and fairer democratic governance and accountability? We’ll see!
40. Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
Breathe deep and let go. Let’s ponder for a
moment the social dynamics of the typical American high school, because such
settings are instructive microcosms of the world. There are many cliques
in high school. There are the student body leaders, football players,
cheerleaders, athletes, cute popular girls, effeminate guys, thespians,
studious types, macho bullies, spoiled rich kids, and so on.
Consider this: The best student leaders in
high school were those who had charisma and social skills, and who reflected
qualities identifiable as “emotional intelligence”. The very last type of
person that young adults should elect for student body leadership is the macho
bully type. On a national level we need
to be able to filter out all of the clever manipulations that result in leaders
being elected that pander to the macho bully in us all. This is a weak
point, perhaps, but I want it to be a backdrop to a continued focus on American
One of the most powerful lobbyist organizations in
the U.S. is the National Rifle Association. It strongly opposes sensible
gun laws such as a ban on assault weapons and background checks for those who
are in a hurry to buy guns. The unbalanced, wrong-headed and negative
influence of this aggressive right-wing industry should be reduced. This
is a very good reason to get the detrimental influence of Big Money out of our
political process, as recommended by Clean Money advocates. See Chapter #49 of the Comprehensive Global Perspective for further details on Clean Money
campaigns and the salubrious effect they would likely have on politics and our
conservative leaders staunchly defend the Second Amendment of the Bill of
Rights, advancing the interests of the gun lobby. But they ironically support the efforts by some who want to erode
protections of free speech that are contained in the First Amendment, and of fair
trial and habeas corpus rights that are contained in the Fourth Amendment. They also seem willing to look the other way
in ignoring Geneva Convention agreements against torture, and in supporting the
abrogation of international arms control treaties, and indeed in committing
crimes under international law by waging wars of aggression.
Our nation’s refusal to ratify the 1997 Mine Ban
Treaty is despicable because it would have helped to eliminate the terrible and
indiscriminately deadly use of landmines.
Princess Diana was involved in the humanitarian project to rid the world
of landmines, and in her honor we Americans should step forward and endorse the
Mine Ban Treaty, which all of our closest allies have signed.
41. Irony and Cynicism
Listen to this:
George W. Bush, speaking at a commencement address at West Point
Military Academy on May 27, 2006, stated: “Like the Cold War, we are fighting
the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom, questions all
dissent, has territorial ambitions and pursues totalitarian aims.” My eyes roll. My mouth sags open. Who,
exactly, is the most guilty of vaulting ideological ambitions and unopposed
power? And why are Americans so
gullible as to allow our leaders to follow perverse domestic and foreign policies
such as those put in place by right-wing neoconservatives?
The Cold War was a struggle between the United
States and the Soviet Union for economic, political and military
dominance. Ideological foundations were
fundamental to such a sustained and fear-oriented conflict. The battle of ideologies was framed as a
struggle of capitalism against communism, and of Freedom (equality be damned)
against Equality (freedom be damned).
It was also a fight between proponents of the rights of capital against
the rights of workers, and between those who espouse unbridled competition
against those who organized their economies according to authoritarian
No matter what else can be said about it, the Cold
War conflict was extraordinarily costly.
It was a socially and environmentally calamitous for both the Soviet
Union and the United States. The
opportunity costs of these enormous expenditures are hard to fathom, but the
world could have been much saner if so many resources had been devoted to better
purposes. The Cold War helped bankrupt
the Soviet Union at a great cost to the people of that country, and it consumed
huge amounts of energy and resources.
Hindsight tells us that, if we could have devised a better way to defuse
such strife instead of exacerbating it, the vast majority of people in the
world would have been much better off.
The Western world is still mindlessly crowing about
the valiant victory of capitalism over godless communism, but we are deluded in
not recognizing that this was surely a Pyrrhic victory, one that has left us
with a bloated and entrenched military-industrial complex that can hardly be
honestly regarded as good, moral, necessary, right or best.
Neoconservative foreign policy is a form of crackpot
imperialist adventurism. It is driven
by our addiction to oil and militarism, and by our failure to prevent
politically-entrenched energy, defense and war service industries from
controlling Congress and the White House.
Vast and corrupt fortunes are made on fossil fuels and weapons systems
and hyped-up pork barrel spending. This
state of affairs is facilitated by a type of propaganda that is known as the
‘Big Lie’ phenomenon.
42. The “Big Lie” Phenomenon
“Big Lie” is a term first coined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf. This term was made famous by Josef Goebbels,
the propaganda minister for the German Third Reich. The idea was simple enough:
if you tell a ‘big lie’ often enough, most people will come to accept it
as the truth. During World War II, the
U.S. Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the CIA), described how
the Germans used the Big Lie: “Their
primary rules were: never allow the
public to cool off; never admit a fault
or wrong; never concede that there may
be some good in your enemy; never leave
room for alternatives; never accept
blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that
goes wrong; people will believe a big
lie sooner than a little one; and if
you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."
Some say that the “war on terror” is the most
pernicious modern example of the “Big Lie” phenomenon. The “War on Terror” has been sold to us as
an undertaking designed to make us safer.
Yet in truth this can be seen in the larger context to be a gambit of
global hegemony, not unlike that of Adolf Hitler’s invasions of other countries. The “war on terror” has inadvertently
created a more dangerous and belligerent world. Our national actions since September 11, 2001 have been imperialistic
and wrong-headed and illegal under international law. We have indulged in preemptive wars of aggression and military
occupations of two entire nations. The
attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were planned well before 9/11. Many distortions and falsehoods have been
exposed, but the mega-lie survives.
The “war on terror” is a classic example of a Big Lie
because it creates an exaggerated myth in order to exploit circumstances for
the purpose of advancing narrow interests.
The five most significant big lie deceptions promulgated by the Bush
Administration in the run up to the wars in the Middle East are these:
(1) These wars were not about Unocal oil pipelines
in Afghanistan or control of the oilfields of Iraq; (2) No one could have imagined terrorists hijacking airplanes to
be used as missiles, (3) Saddam Hussein was partially responsible for the 9/11
attacks; (4) Saddam Hussein had ‘weapons
of mass destruction’ that were an imminent threat to the United States; and (5) These wars are being fought to make
43. Culpabilities of Manichean Righteousness and
leaders tend to portray issues in terms of good guys -- us! -- and
“evil-doers”, who are an amorphous and ambiguous group of demonized
“others”. Yet, the fact of the matter
is that the U.S. has a sordid and ignominious past that conceals a very bloody
role in international affairs. The CIA
has backed numerous military coups abroad over the years, and our government
routinely interferes in the affairs of nations worldwide. We staunchly support regimes who repress
their citizens like that in theocratic Saudi Arabia, which is an extremely
undemocratic country. The U.S. has many
times used the CIA and clandestine operations to foment regime change abroad. This has not been done in the interest of
democracy or justice, but in furthering the interests of corporate power or
profiteering or hawkish supremacy or domination. These drives have been accompanied by deeply amoral and unfair
policies and attitudes that are thuggish, preachy, macho dude-ish, unbalanced, and
regard the secret police of the old Soviet Union as merciless, but are less
aware of the nefarious role that the American CIA has played in international
politics. The CIA helped to topple Mohammed
Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, and to install
the despotic Shah in 1953. The SAVAK,
the notorious Iranian secret police under the Shah from 1953 to 1979, was
ruthlessly repressive in its tactics, and it was created with the help of the
Saddam Hussein. Evil? He killed thousands of his own people, and
waged a war against Iran from 1980 to 1988 in which ONE MILLION people died. He invaded Kuwait in 1990, and when a
coalition of forces led by the U.S. vanquished him from Kuwait in February
1991, he caused hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells to be blown up and set on fire,
committing one of the most egregious environmental crimes in history. Evil, indeed!
how did Saddam Hussein get into power?
Oops -- he was able to take over the government of Iraq in a palace coup
after years of help from the CIA. How
did he get the chemical and biological weapons that were used in the war
against Iran and later against Iraqi Kurds? Surprise! -- they were obtained from U.S. sources during the
Reagan Administration, when we covertly sided with Iraq in providing arms for
the Iraqi war of aggression against Iran.
did Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait in 1990?
Could it be related to Saddam’s meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq,
April Glaspie, eight days prior to that first Gulf War in 1990? In that meeting, Ambassador Glaspie is
purported to have encouraged Hussein’s ambitions, saying, “… we have no opinion
on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. James Baker (then Secretary of State) has
instructed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”
Osama bin Laden -- evil, right? How did
he gain the stature of arch villain?
Let’s see, here are the facts:
The U.S. government opposed the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan
in 1980. We gave money and arms to the
mujahideen, who were Muslim guerrillas that fought the Soviet interventionism in
Afghanistan for a decade. Osama bin
Laden was a wealthy Saudi who supported the mujahideen, so the CIA assisted him
in his efforts to rid Afghanistan of Soviet invaders, who Muslims regarded as
the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in defeat in 1989, the Taliban came to power. This vicious group of backward-looking,
woman oppressing, terrorism-supporting rulers began to regard Americans as the
new foreign infidels once the Soviet invaders were vanquished. Our government has created many of its own
woes, and ours -- and we must now demand that more sensible plans are
undertaken. Let’s remove our military
from Iraq and Afghanistan!
44. Secrecy and Stupidity
economic sanctions and military interventionism in the Middle East have given
credence to Islamic fundamentalists’ characterization of the United States as
“the Great Satan”. We have posed far
more of a threat to the Muslim world than the Soviet Union did. This is one reason that Osama bin Laden and
other international ‘terrorists’ have apparently committed themselves to making
our foreign policies in the Arab world prohibitively expensive. In this, they have been remarkably and
astonishingly successful so far.
cannot accept the deceit by our leaders that has resulted in spending well over
one trillion dollars on a broad “war on terror” that ignores fairer priorities,
truer justice, graver threats, and smarter courses of action.
of the reason that we have gotten into the dangerous foreign predicaments of
today is because the Bush Administration was one of the most secretive in
history. Our nation has perpetrated
many incidents of harsh interrogations and mercilessly punitive torture in Abu
Ghraib prison in Iraq and at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and in an
untold number of other places using CIA “prisoner renditions” where suspects
are kidnapped and sent to secret prisons abroad. The prison at Guantanamo Bay is a stain on our honor and
integrity as a country, a symbol of harsh and merciless imprisonment. We should stop using punitive Gestapo-like
‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques.
Torture and ‘confessions’ that are coerced do not yield reliable information. They also endanger the safety of our troops
who may be taken prisoner, and indeed make our nation less secure due to the
increased nature of blowback due to such provocations.
A Brigadier General who
taught ‘prisoner of war interrogation’ for 18 years to U.S. Army soldiers
indicates that torture tactics are morally wrong and they undermine our values
and put our national security at greater risk.
Politicians who play loose with waterboarding and brutality in
interrogations have abused their powers for repugnant ideological reasons.
Daviel Levin, the former
U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General, had himself waterboarded to determine
if he believed that the practice is torture.
Levin “knew that those doing it meant him no harm, and he knew they
would rescue him at the instant of the slightest distress, and he knew he would
not die; still, with all that
reassurance, he could not stop the terror screaming from inside of him, could
not quell the horror, could not convince that which is at the core of each of
us, the entity who exists behind all the embellishments we strap to ourselves,
like purpose and name and family and love, he could not convince his being that
he wasn't drowning. Waterboarding, he
said, is torture. Legally, it is
torture! Practically, it is torture! Ethically, it is torture!”
Yet George Bush and Dick
Cheney and Attorney General Michael Mukasey were unwilling to unequivocally
declare waterboarding to be torture. The
Administration fired Daviel Levin, that courageous soul who personally tested
the practice. Levin was viewed as being
‘too independent’. He was honorably
trying to represent justice, but the Bush Administration seems to have preferred
loyalty to politicians rather than honesty to the American people. The President and the Vice President should have
stopped circumventing the rule of law and the balance of powers and instead
honored the Mission Statement of the Department of Justice, which indicates
that the mission is “to ensure public safety” and “to
ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans”. Torturing detainees did not accomplish this!
U.S. spends more money on munitions and “intelligence” that any country ever. But our leaders are using this power to
advance megalomaniacal tendencies of power and control. By asserting that we must crush ‘evil enemies’,
and by claiming that God is on our side, the Bush Administration deceived Americans
into supporting merciless means to advance narrow ends. But these ends are in conflict with
democratic fairness and true justice and a true moral rectitude. Altogether, these historical developments
are pathetic and wrong-headed. We must
begin a new era of more intelligent, just, open and respectful foreign policies
that adhere to domestic and international rules of law. We must shift our course, and stop violating
international agreements. Many people advocate
that we become respected members of the International Criminal Court and
support the prosecution of individuals who cause war
crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
are challenged to think about what is being done in our name by the CIA and personnel
in U.S. military intelligence and by prison guards and administrators. Some say that “a few bad apples” were
responsible for the Abu Ghraib prisoner humiliation scandal. A close investigation, like that done by
Errol Morris in his documentary film, Standard
Operating Procedure, reveals that the photographs taken probably show only
the tip of the iceberg of abuse, humiliation and violence against
prisoners. The infamous pictures taken
in Abu Ghraib by guards are deeply disturbing, but one must realize that
extensive and corrosive corruption starts at the top of the chain of
command. If there are no photos, it
doesn’t happen? No waterboarding
videos, ‘no harm, no foul’?
crimes are mainly the responsibility of policy deciders, not just the sadistic
acts of stress-crazed pawns who are used as scapegoats for those higher
up. The hierarchy of the military is
generally very effective in covering up the truth of the horrid crimes that
occur in the conduct of war -- the beatings, the brutality, the harsh
interrogation tactics, and the vile punishment procedures, all too often of
innocent people. Extensive and
corrosive corruption, and fog-of-war power abuses, and rationalizations that
say “shit happens”, and the sexual humiliation of prisoners and vicious dog
intimidation and psychological atrocities are an incidental boots-on-the-ground
expression of military supremacy gambits and the “shock and awe” arrogance of
power and domination that characterizes our use of desperately ruthless tactics
by our army and marines and air force and ‘intelligence’ personnel to subjugate
people in foreign countries.
on leashes led by female guards? What
an image this presents to the world.
This is how Americans think men in the Arab world should be treated? Think about it. There is hardly a better reason to AVOID getting involved in
wars. We degrade not only others, but
also our own troops and ourselves with our wartime involvements and
is not just those caught in our oppressive operations that are degraded and
harmed. An unprecedented number of
terrible injuries have happened to our troops and hundreds of thousands of
American troops are coming home from the Middle East with deep psychological
wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is caused by fear, trauma, horror and helplessness
associated with wartime experiences, and it is contributing to an epidemic of suicides
by military personnel. Nice going,
policy deciders have not only cost us hundreds of billions of dollars and
severely damaged our moral standing in the world, but they have ruined the
lives of millions. We keep trying to
sweep this failure of stupidly misguided imperialistic undertakings under the
carpet. From now on, let’s try harder
to PREVENT wars! Let us commit our
nation to war prevention, NOT pre-emptive aggression. I plead this case to the successors of George W. Bush and his war
perpetrators and their stubborn wrong-headedness. Sow justice to harvest peace!
45. Pretexts for War and False Flag Operations
A false flag operation is a type of ruse that takes
many forms. One type is a covert
operation that is used to make it appear that another entity has attacked a
nation in order for the leaders of that nation to use the incident to usurp
power for war pretexts, control, domination, and narrow political
For instance, the Reichstag (the German Parliament
building) was set on fire on February 27, 1933 under suspicious circumstances. Adolf Hitler had been appointed Chancellor
of Germany just one month before the fire.
Hitler used this incident to invoke emergency government powers on THE
VERY NEXT DAY after the fire. By ramming
through the Reichstag Fire Decree, he was able to suspend many civil liberties
in Germany. Democracy was thus effectively
abolished in a more or less legal manner.
An Enabling Act soon followed which gave Hitler essentially dictatorial
powers. These acts led indirectly to
the devastating German aggression of World War II. Serious evidence points to perfidious Nazi collaboration in the
setting of the fire.
Let us not make the dangerous mistake of deceiving
ourselves into believing that our nation is immune from being subjected to a
more repressive regime. We could be
only one Reichstag-fire-like incident away -- one day away! -- from an enabling
law of our own that much more seriously erodes our civil liberties and eliminates
our democratic representation in government.
The Bush/Cheney cabal used 9/11 and the threat of
terrorism to undermine civil liberties of the American people. They advanced their agenda using the Patriot
Act, and domestic spying, the Military Commissions Act, the suspension of
habeas corpus, the suppression of dissent, the use of harsh ‘enhanced
interrogation techniques’, and the evasion of rules of law through the use of ‘signing
statements’ and FBI ‘national security letters’. Government violations of FISA, the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act, are likewise unwise.
So are things such as the
neglect of domestic priorities, the
intimidation of artists and intellectuals, the blaming of liberalism,
the assault on critical thinking in public education, and the overwhelming domination of television
media by corporatist influences and talk radio by right-wing personalities.
about the hallmarks of fascist dictatorships in the past century: corporatism, deceptive propaganda, judicial
manipulation, belligerent nationalism, harsh punishments, the aggressive
expansion of prisons, the oppression of
workers, extensive corruption, cronyism, the pandering to religious fundamentalists,
role rigidity, male domination, sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-gay
legislation, opposition to abortion, and the cultivation of divisiveness, fear,
prejudice and hate. Doesn’t this sound
a lot like the trends that have become characteristics of our right-leaning
leaders in recent years?
We Americans must remain alert to the
dangers to ourselves and our children from an extremely serious usurpation of
emergency powers by our government that would severely limit our civil
liberties. We must avoid provocations
or miscalculations in the waters near Iran, which seemed much greater under the
last Administration than the current one, but our presence there does pose
serious risks. We must prevent false
flag operations that could materialize in the form of a staged terrorist act or
even a dirty mushroom cloud. There is a
grave danger that we may not be able to trust that our government will someday actually
be on the side of doing everything in its power to prevent this! Some of the last actions of Pakistan’s Pervez
Musharraf demonstrated to us how the struggle for personal political survival
can seriously harm citizen freedoms.
Lewis wrote the 1935 novel, It Can’t
Happen Here, about “Buzz” Windrip, a southern politician who campaigned on
family values and patriotism and defending the flag. Windrip portrayed anyone as anti-American who was concerned with
individual rights and freedoms. He
essentially advocated a form of totalitarianism. And, yes -- it could happen here. Lewis warned, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped
in the flag, carrying the cross.”
In the run-up to all American wars of the past
century, war plans and preparations have always been made in advance, and war
propaganda has been promulgated and propagated preparatory to launching the
war. These preparations have been
followed by a pretext that is used to get the nation into war. This pretext has generally been so
suspiciously convenient, and so surrounded by mysterious circumstances, that
the pretexts can be seen in retrospect as cunning calculations that fall into
the categories of cultivated ignorance (‘letting it happen’), or of intentional
provocation, or of outright orchestration in the form of covert false flag
The pretext for getting the U.S. into the
Spanish-American War in 1898 was the mysterious bombing of the USS Maine in the
harbor of Havana. The pretext for our
nation becoming involved in World War I in 1915 was the sinking of the RMS
Lusitania by a German submarine. The
pretext for our entry into World War II was the ‘surprise’ Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The
pretext for getting the U.S. into the Vietnam War was the Gulf on Tonkin
incident in 1964, which was either a direct American provocation of the North
Vietnamese or a false flag attack that Wikipedia describes as having been “declassified
as a deliberate contrivance of information to provide a pliable justification
for declaring war on Vietnam”.
This brings us to a closer consideration of the
pretext for our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq: the 9/11 attacks and the soon-thereafter declared “war on
46. The Mysteries of 9/11
When trying to
get to the bottom of a crime and solve a ‘Who Dunnit?’ mystery, readers and
investigators know that it’s important to look at motives and means and
opportunities of those accused of committing a crime. It is also significant to evaluate all available clues and
forensic evidence. The character and
veracity of all suspects must be judged.
Misrepresentations and distortions and inconsistencies in the evidence
must be considered.
Have you ever
served on a jury? American citizens
have a civil duty to serve on criminal juries from time to time, and it turns
out to be an educational experience in collaborative decision-making and Constitutional
democracy. Jurors are given the
responsibility of acting as judges of the evidence. The process reveals how unanimous consensus can be reached among
twelve people who are empowered to listen without prejudice to all of the
testimony, and to evaluate it, to respectfully debate the details, to express
their opinions, and to work together in deliberations designed to reach a just
decision. The prosecutor, the defense
attorney, the witnesses and the experts all have their individual biases, so it
is up to the jurors to evaluate, make reasonable judgments, and come up with a
verdict based on all the direct and circumstantial evidence and the pertinent
law. It does not matter where
individual jurors fall on a continuum of personal perspectives, ranging from law-and-order
hard-liners to sympathetic empathizers, from conservatives to liberals; all of the jurors agree to give fair
consideration to the case.
All witnesses are
sworn in, solemnly swearing that they will tell the truth, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth. It is quite
amazing how much conflicting ‘truth’ jurors hear. It makes one wonder about the nature of truth, and the surprising
extent to which people prevaricate, equivocate, tergiversate -- i.e. distort
the truth! But I digress.
Most Americans would
probably say that the biggest crime in the past decade was the 9/11 hijackings. These crimes resulted in the deaths of more
than 3,000 people in the airplanes and the World Trade Center buildings and the
Pentagon. It would be logical to try to
find out exactly what happened, and who perpetrated this crime, and who helped
plan it, and who helped financed it.
This is important to people everywhere, because in a rush to judgment
and retribution the United States invaded Afghanistan, and then followed up
with a bait-and-switch attack on Iraq.
Furious bombing campaigns that devastate property and kill untold
numbers of innocent civilians can hardly be regarded as a fair trial for any
looking into all the facts of 9/11, and judging them on their merits, a media
circus of confusion and propaganda took place, and secrecy shrouded the details
of the terrorist attacks. Months of
obstruction of an investigation took place by the officials of the federal
government before an official investigation was even approved.
I urge you to think like a juror. Give the following questions serious
consideration by reading Richard Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror. Clarke was the counterterrorism czar under
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He makes
it clear that the Bush Administration studiously ignored the gathering threats
of an attack, and indeed was highly motivated before the attacks to find
reasons to invade Iraq. Subsequent
information has also come to light about the motives for U.S. support of an attack
on Afghanistan well before 9/11 (it concerns a pipeline across that country).
There is cogent evidence pointing to the culpability
of the Bush Administration in letting the terrorist hijackings of 9/11 happen
-- or even of having had a hand in making them happen. I challenge readers to remain open-minded on
this topic. I know, I KNOW, I know: this is too dastardly for serious
consideration; it is incomprehensible
that anyone in our government could contemplate such treachery; no one could be so stupid as to take such a monumental
risk of being exposed as horrid traitors;
our leaders seem like they are too smart to have carried out such skullduggery,
and to do so successfully in secrecy; it
could only be crazy conspiracy theorists who are able to contemplate the
possibility of such preposterous perfidy.
Our natural tendency is to deny any possibility that
the premise of complicity in the 9/11 attacks by the CIA or others in the
government could be true. But consider
the “Top 40 Reasons to Doubt the Official Story of September 11, 2001” (found
at 911Truth.org). Or listen to Richard
Gage’s astounding Power Point presentation at “ae911truth.org”. Richard Gage was the founder of Architects
and Engineers for 9/11 Truth; he provides
a bizarre and compelling analytical overview concerning the highly suspect
official story of the 9/11 attacks. Check
out the documentary film, 9/11: Press for
Truth for startling information about the timeline of terrorist threats
that led up to the hijackings.
Why did the
Bush Administration put up such strong resistance to an investigation into the
circumstances that led up to the 9/11 attacks?
Why? Then, after many months opposing
an investigation, the Administration was finally forced to cave in to pressure
to look into the attacks by creating a 9/11 Commission. It suspiciously appointed Philip D. Zelikow
as Executive Director, a man whose impartiality was seriously compromised by his
connections to the Administration and by his authorship of the September 2002 National Security Strategy that advocated
pre-emptive war doctrines. Many other
conflicts of interest arose that indicate his role in the 9/11 Commission was not
appropriate for finding the whole truth.
the inquiry by the Commission was stonewalled by the Administration for months. Official cooperation was pathetic. George Bush refused to testify in public or
under oath. When the report by the
Commission was eventually published, it contained significant omissions and
distortions. It is a unanimous report,
meaning that anything too controversial was omitted.
Commission did a poor job of answering a significant portion of the 400-plus
questions posed by the ‘Jersey Girls’ spouses and other members of September 11
families. The report did not even
mention the inexplicable collapse of Building 7 of the World Trade Center
complex. The Commission astonishingly
dismissed the question of who had financed the attacks as being “of
little practical significance”.
Really, members of the jury?! The
issue of who paid for the suicide terrorists flight training and expenses has
NO BEARING on who might have been responsible?
compelling avenue of information can be found in the thorough book by Michael
C. Ruppert entitled Crossing the Rubicon:
The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. If
it turns out to be true that the Pakistani Secret Police (the ISI), were involved
in wire-transferring money to Mohammed Atta, one of the terrorist ringleaders
who crashed the first airplane into one of the World Trade Center buildings,
does that have NO significance?
The fact that the U.S. spent $40 billion last year on
organizations involved in intelligence and covert operations could imply that
it’s possible for clandestine operators to have been involved in the collapse
of Building 7. There is extensive
forensic evidence that thermite and explosives were used to topple Building 7 in
the World Trade Center complex, which was not hit by an airplane but fell
nonetheless a full eight hours after the collapses of the North and South
Towers. Building 7 collapsed in a
manner exactly consistent with the way a building falls into its own footprint
during a controlled demolition.
“Conspiracy theory” conclusions abound concerning
the government’s role in the 9/11 attacks.
This is partially due to the simple reason that so much of the official
9/11 story is implausible. I join those
who have called for a new and truly independent investigation! The suspicions go far beyond such minor
pieces of the puzzle as the Bush Administration’s ignoring of the CIA’s ‘Presidential
Daily Briefing’ a month before 9/11 -- the one that was titled “Bin Laden
Determined to Strike in U.S.”, and in which hijacking of airplanes was mentioned
as a risk. It goes far beyond the compelling
questions as to why air defenses stood down while the hijacked planes were en
route to their targets. An honest and
curious juror would at least give skeptical consideration to reading the
synopsis found at 911Truth.org of the “Top 40 Reasons to Doubt the Official
Story of September 11, 2001”.
I again urge readers to watch the compelling and
insightful Internet film, Zeitgeist Movie
(find it at zeitgeistmovie.com). The film manifests a ‘triumph of the will’ in its sheer
audacity of provocative political theater, valuable skepticism of religious
dogma, humor, bold analysis of 9/11 mysteries, mind-challenging suspicions, and
Libertarian perspective of the bankers who control the financial markets in the
world. The film brings to mind
this observation by President John F. Kennedy:
“The great enemy of the
truth is very often not the lie: deliberate, continued, and
dishonest; but the myth: persistent, persuasive, and
As an aside, make no mistake about it: the 9/11 Commission Report is a valuable
document. The chapter “More Than a War
on Terrorism” clearly indicates that bombers and troops are not enough to
combat terrorism. It says: “Long-term success demands the uses of all elements of national
power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert
action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and
homeland defense." It was
negligent for the Bush Administration to have chosen not to heed most of the
recommendations related to national security that are contained in the report!
Nature of Ideas
A frog placed in a pot of water that is slowly
brought from room temperature to a boil is reputedly unable to detect the
subtle increase in temperature and will be poached to death without realizing
its danger. I don’t particularly
believe this, and I like frogs too much to want to conduct an experiment to
confirm it. But in an allegorical sense,
such a story is quite provocative.
Every person is conditioned to their own unique
worldview by their upbringing and their education and peer exposures and
cultural immersion and the powerful influence of mass communications like
books, newspapers, magazines, radio, film, television, and the Internet. Since this is the case, there are two
countervailing curiosities: (1) that so
wide a variety of viewpoints can develop, ranging along generalized continuums
from conservative to liberal, regressive to progressive, conforming to
rebelling, selfishly uncompassionate to generously empathetic, and extremely
closed-minded to rationally open-minded;
and (2) that each community/nation/culture tends to develop prevailing premises,
dominant worldviews, and a Zeitgeist of the times. These frames of reference can be powerful determinants in the
aggregate expression of each society over time.
To be less abstruse, just think of it this
way: there are subtle impacts of the
propaganda and persuasive advertising and doctrinaire spin to which people in a
society are exposed. So, imagine how
much different it must have been, for instance, to be a citizen of the
communist Soviet Union during the Cold War than it was to have lived in the
capitalist United States. Or imagine
how different it must be to live in Ayatollah-dominated Iran or today’s
war-torn Iraq than to be living in the United States. Brainwashing, anyone?
and inculcated faith have an astonishingly influential impact on people’s
supposedly rational thought processes.
Fears, insecurities and drives to belong and conform are easily
exploited by politicians and their puppet-string animators, i.e. the rich and
the powerful. The insiders that
effectively control our economies and political processes manipulate us with
surprising success by framing the debate to their narrow advantage. They use this ideological influence to
control people and maintain their dominating influence and special
advantages. Please keep these ideas in
mind as you are exposed to news and arguments and war enthusiasms here in the Twenty-First
War should be a last resort. Resource wars must be prevented. We must kick our addiction to fossil fuels by
adopting a program like the Apollo Alliance’s “Ten-Point Plan for Good Jobs and
Peaceful coexistence must be given a higher value
and priority. The motives for war must be limited to necessary ones, like
justified self-defense, rather than offensive ones like economic domination and
profiteering and the control of other countries abroad. Foreign policy
must more seriously honor mutual security, and sovereignty, and
statesmanship, and constructive diplomacy. We cannot allow our leaders to
mislead us into war for partisan purposes, or for ones that are provocative,
diversionary, radically unjust, mercenary, or in violation of international
rules of law.
Militarism is a
poor path to peace. U.S. foreign policy revolves around harshly
penalizing peoples whose leaders do not agree with us, and rewarding leaders of
countries that support us, no matter how repressively those leaders treat their
own people. The largely secret relationship between the Bush family and
the dictatorial ruling family of Saudi Arabia is shocking, and some say it is
treasonous to our democracy. Read House
of Bush, House of Saud for deeper perspective on this.
Americans have become a bit numb and complacent to the terrible injustices of
wars that are wrong-headedly being fought in our names. Our society today provides an odd contrast
to the 1960’s, when America was a hotbed of protest, exploration, outrage, and
political demonstration for peace and love.
Today, the outrage over war and injustice has yet to coalesce into
enough momentum to get us out of our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, even though
we elected Barack Obama partially in hopes that he would be successful in this
seems at times as if, even amongst those aware of the horrors caused by
merciless ambition, militarism, fear-manipulated compulsions, and overarching
greed, an Orwellian mind-control movement has wildly succeeded in overwhelming
our natural senses of fair play.
engagement in public life has atrophied as we have become obedient consumers
and greedy investors. Most Americans
have become worse and less engaged citizens.
Good citizenship requires that we evolve from being merely good
consumers to more community-oriented participants in our democracy. If we focus human creativity on true
problem-solving, with the common good foremost in mind, we might be able to
forestall dangerous states of humiliation and resignation and despair. The bright light of rationality and reason
reveal that the ‘war approach’ -- the war on terror, the war on drugs, a war
for oil -- are approaches that are simply too counterproductive and risky to be
thinking, freedom of expression, moral courage and good conscience could help
us overcome the obstruction of those who supported our nation’s war agenda. Individual liberties can be protected and
our national safety can be better ensured if we are somehow inspired to embrace
the greater social good. Let’s roll!
I conclude these observations with a poetic
perspective, quoted by wonderful poet David Whyte:
I know the
truth - give up all other truths!
No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.
Look - it is evening, look, it is nearly night:
What do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?
The wind is
level now, the earth is wet with dew,
the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.
And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we
who never let each other sleep above it.
~ A Poem by Marina
conclusion, we must find better ways to create peace and vanquish injustice and
war. We must embrace higher values and
bigger picture understandings, and move toward peaceful coexistence, wiser
priorities, fairer justice, and ecological sanity.
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain,
January to October, 2008 (Revised
several times in 2009, and again in 2011)
Thanks for reading, and for your consideration of these ideas!
this is the first essay that you have read at www.EarthManifesto.com,
please make note that an insightful Zeitgeist of thought is contained on this
site in the Part One epistle entitled Comprehensive
Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview. The enlightened understandings therein may well be amongst the
most universal and extensively elucidated bodies of thought ever
expressed. Check it out!