The US Addiction To War,
Mayhem And Madness - Part I
By Stephen Lendman
16 September, 2006
US-led aggression in the Middle East and the three failed attempts to
oust Venezuela's Hugo Chavez since 2002 (with a fourth now planned and
likely to be implemented soon) are just the latest examples of this
country's imperial agenda and the "new world order" it has
in mind. The way this country now engages throughout the world isn't
much different than what it's done close to home and worldwide since
inception. Only the venues chosen, the scope of our aims, and the extent
of our power have changed. This article in two parts gives some historical
perspective and then concentrates on the imperial grand strategy of
the Bush administration under which regime change is a central element.
In Part II, the focus is
on the war in Iraq as a case study of imperial madness and its consequences.
It also covers a possible little discussed economic motive behind what's
now being called "the long war."
Maybe it's something in the
air or water around the Capitol that makes it happen - causing the men
and women elected or appointed to high office to do bad things. It may
in part be going along to get along for some of them. But mostly it's
the dangerous and deadly sickness or syndrome of power corrupting and
absolute power doing it absolutely. That's bad enough, but when it happens
to rulers of a superpower and those in league with them, it can inflict
immeasurable harm and human suffering. In cost/benefit analysis terms:
what serves the interests of a superstate comes at the expense of the
The US Has Always
Been A Warrior, Imperial Nation
There's no longer a dispute
that the US pursues an imperial agenda. What once was hidden behind
a politically correct facade and would never be admitted publicly is
now seen as something respectable and even an obligation to advance
"western civilization." How low we've sunk in coming so far.
But how different is today from the past? Not much for those who know
the country's true history that's quite different from the proper and
polite version of it taught in school at all levels. Expansionism and
militarism have always been in our DNA since the early settlers first
confronted the nation's original inhabitants and then over the next
few hundred years slaughtered about 18 million of them to seize their
land and resources. We may even have put language in our sacred Declaration
of Independence to give us a birthright to do it. In it we called our
native people "merciless indian savages," and with that kind
of framing gave ourselves a moral justification to remove them. It's
a code based on the notionof might makes right and what we say goes.
It didn't matter that our original inhabitants lived mostly in peace
for 20-30,000 years on the lands we took from them. There also was no
concern that the native peoples treated the early settlers graciously,
helping them survive through the early years of struggle and hard adjustment.
We showed our gratitude with hostility, open warfare and genocidal extermination.
It never ended and continues in less conspicuous ways today as the current
unstated national policy is to eliminate native cultures through assimilation
into our own. It's hardly a testimony to the benefits of "western
civilization" Gandhi thought would be a good idea when asked what
he thought of it.
Our belligerence wasn't just
directed against the indian nations as we always were apparently willing
to pick a fight. It's hard to believe that this country since inception
has been at war with one or more adversaries every year without exception
to this day. That's in addition to all other attempts to destabilize
or overthrow governments of nations whenever their leaders weren't willing
to sacrifice their national interest in service to ours. Imperialists
don't ever tolerate that, especially one that happens to be an unchallengeable
But long before we gained
that status, we pursued a land-grab policy throughout the 19th century
to expand the new nation from "sea to shining sea" including
taking the half of Mexico we wanted along the way. It's surprising we
didn't take all or most of Canada as well and nearly did twice in the
past: during the War of 1812 with the British when our interest was
more on expansion than the British impressment of our seamen and again
in 1920 when we eyed Canada for the same reason we're waging two wars
today - O-I-L. Only fate may have prevented it from happening. A few
cooler heads also likely prevailed, and our attention both times got
diverted to other "adventures" and priorities.
But despite our tradition
of imperial expansion, we stated our aims carefully and diplomatically
and still do. The closest we came early on to an open admission of our
true intent was in code language like "manifest destiny" or
being willing to heed Rudyard Kipling's racist call to ally with Britain,
take up the "White Man's Burden," and engage in "savage
wars" to bring civilization to dark-skinned people in countries
like The Philippines we decided didn't have any. So in our imperial
wisdom, we came, stole, and conquered "for their own good"
and in the process left lots of bodies around to prove our good intentions.
Theodore Roosevelt welcomed
Kipling's call, publicly supported an expansionist foreign policy before
he became president and during most of his time in office. He wanted
colonies to make over in our own image and was willing to go to war
for it if that's what it took to do it. He won a Nobel Peace prize for
his efforts and was the only US president to get one until Jimmy Carter
(another dubious man of peace) received the award in 2002. While president,
TR's foreign policy was to solidify the country's world position it
gained from the Spanish-American war during which and after he had a
hand in extending the US empire to The Philippines, Cuba, Haiti, Guam,
the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Canal Zone area part of
Colombia that broke away to become the new nation of Panama. Building
the canal there across its isthmus fulfilled TR's dream to link the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans even though it took devious tactics to arrange
the deal, manage to begin construction during his time in office, and
inally see it completed about four and a half years before he died.
TR also ironically allowed the number of US possessions to shrink during
his second term in office - maybe out of guilt over what he did in his
first four years and earlier.
Woodrow Wilson was another
of the "noted" presidents we now revere as one of our greatest
who came to office with noble promises of wanting to reform national
politics and have an enlightened presidency only to fall far short.
While proclaiming all nations had the right of self-determination, he
believed that America had a duty to see they all had the kind we practiced
even if we had to bring it to them at the point of a gun. The result
during his tenure was the military occupation of Nicaragua, Haiti (beginning
20 oppressive years) and the Dominican Republic. He also had his problems
with Mexico and did what any good US president would do. He sent in
the Marines to invade the country, seize and occupy Veracruz, the country's
main seaport, manage to resolve that dispute and then do it again with
Army regulars under General John Pershing (the Dwight Eisenhower of
WW I in charge of the American Expeditionary Force sent to Europe) to
hunt down Pancho Villa as payback for Villa's cross-border incursion
intothe US killing 19 Americans. Pershing didn't find him but nearly
began a full-scale war with Mexico trying before Wilson decided the
whole adventure was a bad idea and called it off.
But all this was prologue
to what Wilson wanted most while claiming otherwise - getting the US
into WW I to further our undeclared imperial ambitions. In 1916 Wilson
was reelected on a platform promise of: "He Kept Us Out of War"
- referring to the one raging in Europe since 1914. Of course, he had
to promise that as the US public overwhelmingly wanted nothing to do
with it. But he no sooner was reelected than he began making plans to
get into it. He established the Committee on Public Information under
George Creel which was able to turn a pacifist nation into raging German
haters resulting in the Congress overwhelmingly declaring war on Germany
in April, 1917. Once in the war, he managed to control most public anti-war
sentiment with the help of the outrageous Espionage and Sedition Acts
that outlawed criticism of the government, the armed forces or the war
effort, imprisoned or fined violators and censored or banned publications
daring to publish what the Wilson administration wanted suppressed.
Itall has a familiar ring to it.
After the war, Wilson failed
to create the new world order he had in mind. The vengeful Treaty of
Versailles set the stage for the greater conflict to follow in 20 years,
and Wilson left office a defeated, broken and very ill man. Despite
it all, we hail him as one of our greatest presidents, even though with
an honest assessment it's clear he fell far short. It's also clear there's
a thin line between the ones we call our best and those we rate our
worst. It hardly matters as the only qualification for the job is to
faithfully pursue the interests of the power brokers who get to choose
the ones they think will serve them best. It was true for Theodore Roosevelt,
his younger cousin Franklin (who had a little Great Depression to deal
with and had to give some to save capitalism), Woodrow Wilson and the
current undistinguished incumbent in Washington.
At the heart of those interests
is the pursuit of wealth and power and a system of governance beholden
to capital, now more than ever dominated by giant predatory corporations
that control and decide everything - who governs and how, who serves
on our courts, what laws are enacted and even whether wars are fought,
against whom and for what purpose. It's for the profit, of course, because
wars are good for business, which is why we wage so many of them. Corporations
have to keep growing. They're mandated by law to do it to maximize shareholder
value for their owners, and the only way they can is by increasing profits.
They do it by growing sales, keeping costs low, expanding their market
share when possible and always seeking new opportunities globally for
their products and services. It doesn't matter how they get them as
long as they do, and the surest way when others fail is through strong-arm
imperialism. The easy kinds through favorable (one-way) trade agreements
or other market-opening arrangemens are always preferred. But if those
methods fall short, the alternative is direct confrontation or all out
aggressive war. When it happens, corporations are the winners as long
as the adventure doesn't harm the economy. It usually harms the public
interest asked to sacrifice butter for guns and their civil liberties
in the name of greater security (never gotten), and then having to pick
up the tab.
It's part of the same dirty
business Senator Henry Cabot Lodge noted in his 1885 unguarded moment
comment that "commerce follows the flag." Today it's more
true that the flag goes where commerce directs it to secure new markets
and a corporate friendly environment once they've been opened for business.
That's how imperialism works and why war is an effective geopolitical
way to pursue it. War, of course, is just geopolitics by other means,
and powerful capital-controlled countries like the US use it freely
because it works so well most often. The great political economist Harry
Magdoff wrote of it this way in his Age of Imperialism in 1969: "Imperialism
is not a matter of choice for a capitalist society; it is a way of life
of such a society." He also knew the only way our system can work
is through repression, institutionalized inequality and militarism all
camouflaged in the deceit of serving the public interest. Magdoff knew
those elements are in the DNA of our capital-controlled society that
thrivs and prospers best by pursuing a global predatory policy that
assures continued economic growth at the macro level, geopolitical control,
and greater wealth for the rich and powerful at the expense of all others.
Our tradition of imperialism
began at the republic's birth, but until the end of the "cold war"
wasn't discussed in polite society or acknowledged publicly. But that
changed in the 1990s, and now it's seen as something respectable, a
matter of national pride and contributing to the advance of civilization.
It shows in our new language that portrays us as agents of a humanitarian
mission (a benign Pax Americana or modern "white man's burden")
still hiding the cold reality that what we're really up to is keeping
the world safe and profitable for corporate America. Those on its receiving
end need no explanation, but the public at home does as it harms them
too. They must be convinced that what's good for business also serves
them, but it's never stated in those terms. It's always sold at home
as an effort to achieve national security, make the world safe for democracy,
or bring our form of rule to other parts of the world we decided need
our version of it. It doesn't matter if it's true or not, just thatwe
say it is and can convince people to believe it. Based on our track
record, that's not a problem as time and again the public is willing
to swallow most any reasons government officials tell them (reinforced,
of course, by the corporate media trumpeting them like gospel) to get
them to go along with the schemes they have in mind, no matter how outrageous
they are. They're never told the truth because it's so unpalatable it's
has to be suppressed, especially in time of war when it's the first
The Second Great
War to End
All Wars Changed Everything
The US emerged from WW II
as the only dominant nation "left standing." We became the
world's leading and unchallengeable economic, political and military
superpower almost like we planned it that way, which we did. We decided
while the war was still ongoing to take full advantage of our new post-war
status once it was clear what the outcome would be - to dominate all
other nations, have them serve our interests, and do it either through
cooperation or by force of one kind or other. With our allied global
North partners we've done it through political and military alliances
as well as trade and other economic agreements and incentives where
we have to give enough to developed nations to get more back in return
if we do it right. With the developing world though it's another story,
especially those nations with vital strategic resources like large hydrocarbon
reserves. Our dealings with them are crafted one-way on the basis of
all take and little give in return. For us, it's a sweet deal to serve
our doinant capital interests, but for them it's a pact with the devil
- one always made at the expense of the public welfare everywhere.
The Beginnings Of
Our Current Imperial Grand Strategy
One way or another, the US
is moving ahead with its plan to rule the world with little regard for
how likely it is to succeed. The Bush administration makes no pretense
about this and has put its plans in writing for anyone to read and know
what it has in mind. Current era thinking goes back at least to 1992
and a Pentagon document written by Paul Wolfowitz, former Bush administration
Deputy Defense Secretary and current World Bank president, and the now-indicted
Richard Cheney aide Lewis Libby. It was an outline of a plan for US
world dominance with no allowable challenge from other nations. At the
time, the George H. W. Bush administration dismissed it as off-the-wall
and over-the-top after it was leaked to the public, but in September,
2000 the neo-conservative think tank Project for a New American Century
(PNAC - established in 1997) revived the plan and put meat on its bones
in a document they called - Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies,
Forces and Resources for a New Century. Leading PNACmembers are well
known and include Vice President Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and a rogues
gallery of many other high ranking Bush administration neocon officials.
This document was and still
is a grand imperial plan for US global dominance to extend well into
the future to be enforced with unchallengeable military power. The PNAC
plan was a blueprint for the current "war on terror" (now
being rebranded as a war against "Islamic fascism") and "preventive
wars" now raging in Iraq, becoming that in Afghanistan, and planned
and "signed off" for against Iran, likely Syria, and possibly
Venezuela and other targeted states not submissive to US authority.
This plan was also a 21st century update of the Truman Doctrine, conceived
by State Department advisor and analyst George Kennan who was the ideological
godfather of "containment" and the "cold war." Kennan's
plan became the first post WW II formulated strategy for US global military
and economic dominance. He did it by creating the myth that the Soviet
Union was a serious threat to our security, and we had to take preventive
The truth was the "Russians
were never coming." In fact, they had their hands full until around
1960 just rebuilding their war-torn nation to its former state after
being devastated by the Nazi Wehrmacht. The public, of course, never
knew the truth, and the leadership was able to convince it to go along
with the big lie through scare tactics. As already explained, it's an
age-old tactic that always seems to work. This time it was to justify
a planned military buildup in peacetime. The myth of a Soviet threat
and world communist conspiracy was used to sell it, and it remained
the method of choice until that nation came apart in 1991 to what are
now 15 separate and independent republics.
We then had a brief respite
while the first Bush administration desperately tried to find a new
enemy to keep the public off guard and hypotized by the fear of a "new
Hitler" threatening us. Saddam, of course, took the bait and obliged,
and the Gulf war and its aftermath ensued, followed by a dozen years
of brutal and crippling economic sanctions and continued bombing up
to the second Iraq war. Now after nearly 16 years, the US-led reign
of terror against a defenseless nation and its people continues unabated
with no end in sight or plan for it except the apparent intent to foment
a full-scale civil war hoping to divide the country to make it easier
to rule. The combination of endless war, harsh economic sanctions and
no serious effort to rebuild or aid the people has effectively destroyed
the most advanced and prosperous nation in the Middle East. It's also
caused extreme suffering, hardship and mass disease, death, and destruction
to millions of Iraqi victims whose only mistake was having been born
inthe wrong country at the wrong time. It's a country with the terrible
misfortune of having immense and easily accessible oil reserves that
are coveted by the most powerful nation on earth wanting to control
Post 9/11, The Gloves
Came Off As Well As Any Pretense of What Our Present Aims Are
The second war against Iraq
became possible after 9/11 and was spelled out in what may be called
the Bush Doctrine. It refers to this administration's aggressive foreign
policies which were framed by George Bush in an address to the Congress
shortly before the attack against and invasion of Afghanistan in which
he stated the US would "make no distinction between 'the terrorists'
who committed these (9/11) acts and those who harbor them." Bush
arrogantly went on to say "Every nation, in every region, now has
a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
It didn't matter that Osama bin Laden was our invention and a former
CIA asset against the Soviets in Afghanistan and again in Bosnia in
the 1990s against Slobadan Milosevic and Serbia in the Balkan wars.
The public didn't know it or once did and forgot so it was easy using
him and an ill-defined al-Quaida to scare it to go along with the schemes
we had in mind but needed the power of fear to do it. The ploy worked
as it aways does, and now the nation is embroiled in two endless wars
and others in the queue to begin by whatever means the plans are to
pursue them and whenever they're intended to be rolled out.
It's all part of the Bush
Doctrine and Messianic mission which also include the notion of a permanent
state of preventive war (now called "the long war") against
those nations and "Islamic fascists" we claim threaten our
national security, whether or not it's so. That notion became the pretext
for the Iraq war, others we have in mind, and our claiming the right
to ignore the inviolable rules and established codes of warfare in the
Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions going back to the 1850s. This
recognized and accepted body of international law covers what weapons
are banned, the treatment of prisoners including prohibiting torture
and mistreatment, and the care of the sick and wounded. But, by Bush
Doctrine standards, those laws are now judged "quaint" and
"obsolete" and no longer apply. From now on, the law is only
what we say it is or make up as we go along despite the fact that all
treaties and conventions we're signatories to are the supreme law of
the land. That's a level of arrogance only animperial superpower without
challengers can get away with, but it's much easier when a complicit
corporate media goes along as cheerleaders "fixing the facts around
the policy." The Bush administration pursues this policy wantonly
and recklessly regardless of who approves or doesn't. It even writes
it down so others can read it and know what we have in mind. It makes
for frightening reading for those who do it.
It's there in the National
Security Strategy (NSS) of September, 2002 that was just updated earlier
this year. This plan lays out an "imperial grand strategy"
with more belligerent language than the original version which was intended
to be a declaration of "preventive war" against any nation
or force this administration claims is a threat to our national security.
It doesn't mean it is, just that we say it is. That threat includes
any nation we label "unstable" or a "failed state,"
a term we use for nations seen as potential threats to our security
which may require our intervention in self-defense. However, the very
notion of what a "failed state" may be is imprecise at best.
It may be its inability to protect its citizens from violence or destruction.
But it may also be a nation that believes it's beyond the reach of international
law and free to act as an aggressor. Under any of those conditions,
the US now claims the right to wage preventive war in self-defense although
in so doing that makes u the kind of "failed state" we claim
the right to protect ourselves from.
Before the NSS was updated
in 2006, we had four other important imperial documents. First was the
May, 2000 Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Vision 2020 that outlined
a plan for "full spectrum (or world) dominance." This was
code language or "Militaryspeak" meaning total control over
all land, sea, air, outer space and information with enough overwhelming
power to defeat any potential challenger or adversary even by use of
nuclear or any other new weapons we might develop. Second was the Nuclear
Policy Review of December, 2001 that claims a unilateral right to declare
and wage future wars using first strike nuclear weapons that have the
potential to destroy all human life on the planet if enough of them
are used. Third was the FY 2004 Air Force Space Command Strategic Master
Plan. This was a plan to "own outer space", weaponize it with
the most advanced, destructive and planet threatening weapons and technology
we have or hope to develop including nuclear ones. It also called for
developing and placig out there unmanned space vehicles to surveille
the entire planet and be able to launch an overwhelming attack against
a target country or enemy force that can't retaliate against us from
that vantage point.
The fourth document is the
Pentagon's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review issued in February. As congressionally
mandated, this report is a "comprehensive examination of the national
defense strategy, force structure, force modernization plans, infrastructure,
budget plan, and other elements of the defense program and policies....for
the next 20 years." The review covers the military's main missions
of homeland defense - which, if implemented, even by federally mandating
National Guard troops to patrol our southern border as has been done,
will violate the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 that prohibits the military
from acting in a domestic law enforcement capacity unless expressly
authorized by the Constitution or Congress and only in an extreme situation
like putting down an insurrection. Other missions are the so-called
"war on terrorism" which famed author Gore Vidal says is "idiotic...slogans...lies
(and as nonsensical as) a war against dandruff," irregular or asymmetric
warfare (against non-state enemies),and what Pentagonspeak calls "shaping
the choices of countries at a crossroad" which translated means
the potential threat of China as an emerging global power able to challenge
The document also unveiled
the notion of "the long war" Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
signaled in his February National Press Club appearance when he said
"The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."
George Bush then announced it in his September 5 speech to an association
of US military officers in which he declared war against "Islamic
fascists." The Pentagon report used the phrase "long war,
long global war (or) long irregular war" 34 times in its Quadrennial
Review including as the title for the first chapter called "Fighting
the Long War." The clear message is that all resisting Muslims
and their sympathizers are Islamo-fascists and must be defeated in a
"long war" struggle to preserve and spread "western civilization."
The much clearer message is that post-9/11 the Bush administration embarked
on a messianic bankrupt global racist colonial "war OF terror"
against all nations and peoples everywhere opposing its quest for world
The bottom line for the Pentagon,
backed by administration rhetoric, is to assure the Congress will go
along with the near half-trillion dollar defense budget for adventurism
in the next fiscal year with steady increases in subsequent years plus
the off-budget add-ons for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, others
to come, and any other special funding DOD may ask for. So far, since
9/11, the Pentagon got a blank check for anything it wants called "national
security" - meaning grand theft from the public to enhance profits
for defense-related industries and the well-connected corporations chosen
to rebuild and police the countries we first destroy so they can then
get large, no-bid war-profiteering contracts. It also means the erosion
and eventual loss of our civil liberties now fast disappearing, as a
nation dedicated to perpetual unjustifiable war can only do it at the
expense of a free society at home. It's what James Madison meant when
he wrote: "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps,
te most to be dreaded because it compromises and develops the germ of
every other. In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is
extended...and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those
of subduing the force of the people."
Includes Regime Change
A previous article called
War Making 101 - A User's Manual prompted the writing of this one as
a follow-up. The earlier article about war making laid out the steps
or rules this country follows in preparing to take the nation to war.
The same idea is used here to explain how we pursue our imperial aims.
For them to work, it's essential to have foreign leaders in place who
know "who's boss" and will cooperatively go along and serve
our interests ahead of those of their own people. When they don't, the
plan calls for regime change to replace them with someone who will.
Below are listed and explained the different ways we go about it in
order of preference. Here they're called plans instead of rules.
Plan One: Always
try the easy way first. It works most often.
No imperial state, now or
in the past, prefers the messiness and bother of hot conflict. Even
the tyrannical ones need to convince their people of a plausible reason
to get their young men motivated enough to go to war and fight hard
enough to win it. The US is no different, and ideally prefers "convincing"
foreign leaders to do it our way through diplomacy with enough of a
sweetener to their key political and business elites to gain their acquiescence.
That way works best in states headed by "strongmen" who gained
power politically, militarily or from their royal predecessor or family.
It's a lot easier having relations with one person in power who can
decide everything rather than having to deal with messy democrats chosen
by elections who must answer to voters and may have to consider their
needs along with or ahead of ours. It still works with them if they're
subservient enough to our wishes. It's only when they aren't that we
try another method.
If Plan One fails, up the ante to harsher tactics. This second choice
also works most often.
If at first you don't succeed
the easy way, try again more forcefully. So the second choice is always:
remove the "uncooperative leader" and install a more dependable
new one we can rely on - to do things our way but nearly always at the
expense of the great majority of the people. We've also had lots of
experience with Plan Two, and most often it works.
There are two ways to do
it. Method A is the easy and preferred way. It involves co-opting and
bribing officials to do the dirty work. There are usually ready-takers
willing to go along and share in the spoils. We then train and fund
them, choose the time, opportunity and place to implement the scheme,
then stand back and hope all goes as planned. However it turns out,
we can claim plausible deniability they did it, not us. This was the
method used in Venezuela in three unsuccessful attempts from 2002 -
2004 to oust Hugo Chavez, put the country's oligarchs back in power,
and destroy the Bolivarian Revolution that created a model system of
participatory democracy based on the principles of political, economic
and social justice. Method A failed in Venezuela because Hugo Chavez
gave his people what they never had before and despite the coup plotters'
best efforts they weren't able to defeat the will and spirit of the
people who showed through their determined efforts they wouldn't tolerate
returning tothe ugly past they'll never again accept.
So when things don't work
out, as happened in Venezuela, Method B is tried. It involves eliminating
an uncooperative leader by assassination as discretely as possible.
It may be by a "rogue element's" bullet, some well-placed
and hard to detect poison, or an unfortunate plane crash the CIA conveniently
arranges. We've used this one enough times too, so we're usually able
to pull it off with the public none the wiser in the target country
or at home.
The CIA used this method
to murder Panamian president Omar Torrijos in a 1981 plane crash and
Equadorian president Jaimi Roldos in a helicopter crash the same year.
Perhaps the most infamous CIA arranged coup and presidential assassination
happened on another September 11 in 1973 when General Augusto Pinochet
with strong US backing overthrew and had murdered democratically elected
President Salvador Allende. It ended the strongest and most vibrant
democracy in the Americas and ushered in a brutal right wing military
dictatorship for the next 16.5 years. Hugo Chavez now fears this is
the fate the US has in mind for him and has said so publicly. What happened
in Chile can happen anywhere, and it shows the fragility of a free and
democratic society that can easily be toppled by forces determined and
strong enough to do it. It's not that hard when the public is unprepared
or unwilling to resist to save the liberties it takes for granted until
it's too late. But it also shows how successful people-powercan be when
mobilized in force to resist a looming tyranny it refuses to accept.
That's the lesson of Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and it's visible on
the streets of Mexico in the wake of (another) stolen election and a
system of authoritarian rule the people have begun to resist.
This choice of last resort is only used when the two preferred methods
fail - open conflict or war involving an invasion and possible occupation.
If the top two choices fail,
as was the case in Iraq after years of trying Plans One and Two, and
the target is too important to pass up (again like Iraq), the only choice
left is open conflict or war. It can be simple, quick and easy like
Ronald Reagan's walkover against Grenada in October, 1983 that was mostly
over after several days or G.H.W. Bush's Operation Just Cause invasion
of Panama in December, 1989 that was almost as easy. It might also be
like the Gulf war which was not simple because of the long buildup and
expense but was still quick and involved no occupation.
However it's done, this least
preferred option is messy, costly and usually takes much more time from
planning to completion. It's also only undertaken against targeted foes
too weak to put up a good fight and have no weapons that will cause
us heavy damage or loss of life. Guessing wrong on either count will
make it hard to maintain public support for long, as it's never easy
explaining the body bags when they arrive home in large numbers. It's
even harder when the pretext for going to war in the first place was
based on lies (as they always are), and they're beginning to unravel.
Once the war option is chosen
though, the administration needs to prep the public to go along with
the "big lie" they concocted. It takes time and effort but
involves what so far is the proved the time-tested method of choice
guaranteed to work as explained above - scaring the public to death
by convincing it the targeted country threatens our national security
and welfare. The message repeated ad nauseam is that we patiently tried
reason, but all diplomatic efforts failed and we're only left with one
viable option - force. We've done this so often we're expert at it,
so it's likely the public will be traumatized enough to go along with
even the most implausible, extreme or outrageous plan we have in mind
like using nuclear weapons against a targeted enemy that likely can't
even put up a decent fight against conventional ones.
Sometimes though we outsmart
ourselves or refuse to listen to cooler heads and end up in a hopeless
quagmire. It happened in Vietnam, and it's being repeated again in Iraq
and heading toward more of the same in Afghanistan. But despite a bad
situation that's getting worse, it's usually not good strategy for an
imperial power to admit making a mistake, decide to cut its losses and
leave. It's generally not popular with voters (except when most of them
are fed up and want a quick exit) and doing it also emboldens others
targeted to see us as willing to back down when things go sour. They'll
likely get the idea they can make us quit if they make it tough enough
long enough, and they're likely to be right. It's no different than
a schoolyard bully able to get away with it as long as the ones picked
on allow him to do it. Once one retaliates and strikes a telling blow,
it shows the bully isn't as tough as he wants others to believe.
So to avoid that fate, as
well as saving face, we can never admit a mistake or decide to give
up a bad fight, even ones we can't win - just like we're now doing in
Iraq and beginning to face in Afghanistan. Instead we foolishly have
to keep up the charade with the public, say we're making good progress,
and claim there's light at the end of the tunnel. At most we'll admit
it's taking longer than expected, but we're still on plan and with some
patience we'll succeed. But that strategy only works for so long, because
if winning isn't likely or can't happen before patience runs out, the
only light the public will see in the tunnel is a train wreck in the
making. If it comes to that, the game is over, the administration suffers,
and the opposition party (if that's a proper term any more) will likely
be the beneficiary. The public never is. It's always the patsy during
a conflict and when it ends. It must sacrifice butter for guns and then
pay the tab when the bill comes due.
Will the Public Ever
Realize It's Been Had
The scaremongering scam has
been used so often before with the same or similar language that later
proved false, you'd think the public by now would have caught on. But
you'd be wrong. Up to now, it's worked like a charm every time proving
again you can fool most people all the time so why not keep doing it
- as long as it keeps working. The only differences from one conflict
to the next are the names, dates and places. The playbook is always
about the same. All that's needed is an old one, and then fill in the
But imagine a "what
if" using the well-known Aesop fable about The Boy Who Cried Wolf
but with a different moral. We remember the tale about the bored shepard
boy who broke his monotony by falsely crying "wolf" and getting
the nearby villagers to come to his rescue. When the villagers tired
of his false alarms they stopped coming. That's where our analogy ends.
In the fable the wolf finally came, the villagers ignored the boy's
cry for help and the flock perished. Aesop's fables always had a moral
so we'd learn from them. His was that even when liars tell the truth,
they're never believed. Today, however, when liars keep lying, the public
never catches on and they keep getting away with it - to our detriment.
Hopefully, one day the lesson learned will be that liars can only get
away with so many lies until finally no one believes anything they say.
Maybe some day if the public knew about famed journalist IF Stone and
what he once said - that "all governments are run by liars and
nothing they say shuld be believed."
Watch for Part II of this
article to follow soon on this site. It will include a case study of
lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.