Clueless at the State Department
Since the day Dubya was installed in the White House by court appointment, not a week has passed, it seems, that his administration has not said or done something at odds with reality as understood by most of the world. From Kyoto to Columbia, Saudi Arabia to North Korea, the Bush administration continually misreads or simply ignores facts and conditions “on the ground” and elbows forward with the neoconservative, belligerent, and imperialistic agenda of Pax-Americana, which is accompanied by the shrill insistence, as vocalized by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz and William Kristol, that we will get what we want, or else a few hundred thousand people will die.
Now comes word the State Department will hold a two-day conference designed to “explore the roots of anti-Americanism worldwide.” According to Richard Boucher, scholars will “share their thoughts” with State Department types and, hopefully, some of the dunderheads will come to a better understanding of why people across the world find the US loathsome. Naturally, for a huge number of people outside of the State Department, and beyond America itself, the reasons are obvious. As Gore Vidal wrote in The Guardian earlier this year, “Our imperial disdain for the lesser breeds did not go unnoticed by the latest educated generation of Saudi Arabians and by their evolving leader, Bin Laden, whose moment came in 2001 when a weak American president took office in questionable circumstances.” No longer are the “lesser breeds”–as many Arabs, Asians, Central and South Americans are viewed by our managers–so easily deceived or intimidated. More and more, the victims of US foreign policy are beginning to fight back, and even on occasion respond violently, if often ineffectually. “American foreign policy has invited everybody, actually, to try to humiliate America, and to give it a bloody nose,” Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical Muslim cleric, arrested in March by Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorism squad, told Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor last September. “When a president stands up before the planet and says an American comes first, he is only preaching hatred.”
Nobody likes a bully. Yet, in spite of the painful lessons of 911, large numbers of Americans do not consider the US an insolent and violent bully lording over “lesser breeds,” but rather as a “peacekeeper,” a generous, selfless friend willing to rescue helpless and endangered innocents from Nazism, Communism, and from evil men such as Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. The long and brutal history of US intervention in the private affairs of other nations is rarely mentioned, let alone explained. Our government and military–exactly one hundred years after the vicious and deadly US subjugation of the Philippines, which resulted in the death of one million Filipinos–is still practicing “Benevolent Assimilation,” as Mark Twain called it, “which is the pious new name of the musket.” Few Americans know anything about our support of Suharto in Indonesia, or the 500,000 killed during his CIA-supported coup, or the 120,000 to subsequently die when Indonesia invaded East Timor. Or does the average American know anything about our support, under Reagan, for Jonas Savimbi of UNITA in Angola, which resulted in the murder of 750,000 humans, two-thirds of them children.
Precious little is mentioned of direct US military intervention in Nicaragua (1912), the Dominican Republic (1965), Grenada (1983), and Panama (1989). Or the CIA-engineered coup against the popular and democratically elected leader of Iran, Mossadegh, or of CIA involvement in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. Henry Kissinger is now consulted on how best to deal with terrorism and Iraq–yet the media never broaches the subject of his complicity in the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende in Chile. So removed is the American media from the past (and present) misdeeds of its government that when the idea of extradition proceedings against Kissinger for his role in the 1973 military coup in Chile–and his possible connection to the murder of the American film-maker and journalist Charles Horman–the US media hardly covered the story.
In general, these are historical non-events in the United States, seldom mentioned or provided the attention and public examination due. So blinkered is the American public to the role its government has played in subverting the political process of nations around the world that when “blowback” finally arrives–as it surely did on 911 and will continue to do in the future–the people will have no contextual frame of reference. The corporate media–as an intellectual handmaid to more than fifty years of US imperialism and self-serving crimes in the third world–serves the assigned and largely automatic role of generating historical amnesia. For instance, in the days following the bombings of the WTC and the Pentagon, MSNBC asked: “To the question ‘Why do the terrorists hate us?’ Americans could be pardoned for answering, “Why should we care?”
Intellectuals in the mainstream just don’t seem to get it. “Anti-Americanism can be mere shallow name-calling,” opined Salman Rushdie in The Washington Post. “Anti-Americanism can be hypocritical: wearing blue jeans or Donna Karan, eating fast food or Alice Waters-style cuisine, their heads full of American music, movies, poetry and literature, the apparatchiks of the international cultural commissariat decry the baleful influence of the American culture that nobody is forcing them to consume.” It is obviously no matter to Rushdie–who had his own close call with Muslim extremists–that the “baleful influence” he mentions may arrive in Iraq or Iran via a Tomahawk cruise missile. Chances are the unfortunate inhabitants of the El Chorrillos slum in Panama–nearly 4000 of whom died under a barrage of American bombs for the crime having lived in close proximity to Manuel Noriega–knew little of Donna Karan. Mindless consumerism aside, Rusdie may wish to consider something written by another Pakistani, Mushahid Hussain, before he pens another article for The Washington Post: “The problem is that American goodness is hardly ever exported, remaining confined to its shores. This gap between what America says at home–liberties, rule of law and democracy–is rarely practiced in American foreign policy.”
Chances are Richard Boucher and his coterie of hand-picked intellectuals at the State Department will not waver greatly from official conclusions already reached on anti-Americanism. Our unelected leader has already pronounced these on numerous occasions: they are envious, they hate democracy and civilization, they are evil. Of course, the State Department approved intellectuals will not characterize anti-Americanism in those precise words–and they may even throw in a few mild and entirely flaccid criticisms of the way we conduct business around the world–but they will surely not take Dubya, Clinton, Reagan, et al, to task, or will they dare vilify in any significant manner the machinations of Empire.
Kurt Nimmo is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He can be reached at: email@example.com