Matching Grant Challenge
BruceMatch
We’re slowly making headway in our annual fund drive, but not nearly fast enough to meet our make-or-break goal.  On the bright side, a generous CounterPuncher has stepped forward with a pledge to match every donation of $100 or more. Any of you out there thinking of donating $50 should know that if you donate a further $50, CounterPunch will receive an additional $100. And if you plan to send us $200 or $500 or more, he will give CounterPunch a matching $200 or $500 or more. Don’t miss the chance. Double your clout right now. Please donate.
 unnamed

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)

pp1

or
cp-store

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Agents of Universal Deceit

American Overkill

by RON JACOBS

A frequent target of antiwar protests when I lived in Frankfurt am Main, Germany was the local Amerika Haus.  These buildings existed in several European cities and were essentially outposts of the United States Information Agency, which was part of the propaganda wing of the United States government and under the aegis of the CIA.   As the US war in Vietnam grew in intensity and scope, their presence became a sore point among leftists and other war opponents in the countries that hosted them.  At the same time, the Frankfurt Amerika Haus was where I heard Kurt Vonnegut give a lecture that did not support the war in Vietnam.

In Justin Hart’s new book Empire of Ideas: The Origins of Public Diplomacy and the Transformation of U. S. Foreign Policy Amerika Haus and many other aspects of Washington’s propaganda machine are addressed.  This history of the origins of the current government propaganda machine in Washington covers the years 1936-1953 and presents the debates, uncertainties and ultimate use of that machine as an important tool in the proliferation and maintenance of US markets overseas.

After watching Michelle Obama’s presentation of the award for Best Picture to a film praising the CIA from the White House, it’s somewhat difficult to believe that there was a time when politicians and government officials questioned the usefulness of propaganda in the battle for US hegemony.  Yet, that is exactly where Hart’s tale begins.  In a rather interesting tale, he presents the beginnings of what is euphemistically called public diplomacy in Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy towards Latin America.  It represented a new understanding that spreading US culture helped open markets overseas while simultaneously justifying the growing US Empire to the domestic audience, an audience which to that point was mostly isolationist in its outlook.

This new approach was not without its detractors.  Most of them came from the extreme right, who saw propaganda as communist-inspired, given its use by the new Soviet government in Russia.  This concern was also related to the fact that cultural diplomacy (another euphemism for propaganda) was championed primarily by liberals and
empireideasprogressives with Henry Wallace leading the charge.  The presence of liberal and elements at the forefront of this movement lends further credence to the argument that it was liberals and progressives who were at the forefront of the US hegemonic endeavor.  It’s obvious from Hart’s telling that the inclusion and acceptance of propaganda as a useful tool for those interested in building the US Empire (pretty much every official in Washington) was not without its ups and downs.  However, by the time Harry Truman was president, it was clear that its role was accepted and certain to expand.

Of course, when propaganda failed, the iron fist became ungloved. By 1950, the US military was engaged in a brutal war in Korea whose aim similar to the efforts of the cultural propaganda committee.  In other words, to keep the Soviets from expanding into markets Washington had defined as its own.  Meanwhile, the Marshall Plan, hyped as bringing democracy, was underway in Europe and part of the same process.    As William Blum makes clear in his latest collection, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, the folks that truly benefitted from the Marshall Plan were the US corporations that rebuilt Europe.  Just like the so-called reconstruction funds apportioned to Kosovo after its “liberation” and Iraq after the US invasion, the truth about those reconstructions is that they were primarily a means to move taxpayer dollars from the US treasury into the coffers of a few giant corporations.

Blum’s new book is a collection of commentary exposing the true nature of Washington’s ongoing campaign to spread its democracy around the world.  While reading it I was reminded of the t-shirt that shows a photograph of a US bomber plane dropping bombs on some city somewhere on planet earth.  Inscribed above the photograph are the words
“Democracy, We Deliver.”  America’s Deadliest Export explores the lies involved in this campaign and exposes the brutality and associated arrogance.  In his inimitable style, Blum rips into the lie of US propaganda and takes Hart’s academic discussion into the streets, simultaneously pointing out the hypocrisy of US democracy and indicting it for the fraud it is, not only abroad but at home, as well.

While Hart’s text looks primarily at the role of US propaganda overseas, Blum’s tends to focus on how it is utilized to manipulate domestic public opinion.  He takes the concept that Washington and its military act only for the good of the world and traces its history from the “Good War” to the “humanitarian” intervention in Libya, and the “liberation” of Iraq.  Along the way, he not only shows the lie behind the concept but how that concept is accepted by most US citizens in the same way Christians accept the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary.

These two books provide a complementary narrative on US foreign policy.  While Hart’s examines the development of the US imperial propaganda machine, Blum’s looks at its growth and also the brutality of the military whose operations the propaganda seeks to misconstrue.  As we move into an age where the only victims of US wars are those whom our propaganda claims to be freeing and the assumption of our national goodness is enforced and reinforced to the point of overkill, the understanding these two books provide is more crucial than ever.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.