“We Were the Greatest…”
How much time and energy and how many resources have been senselessly squandered by the United States over the past half century? And what has the rest of the world been up to in the meantime? The answers to these questions are determining the short, medium and long-term future of the world.
While the rest of the world has advanced on many fronts, and continues to do so, the US flails hopelessly in a fishbowl of erroneous ideology, drowning in exceptionalism and entitlement. Americans are convinced they are not like other people around the world, they’re special. And that specialness entitles them to rights and privileges that people of other countries do not enjoy. American pre-eminence since the Second World War would seemed to confirm this worldview. They live, after all, in the richest, most productive country in the world. They are blessed with an exemplar democratic government. And their dollar is the currency of world trade.
It seemed only natural to them to take the next logical step: world domination. Convinced that their system had rightly triumphed over all others it was their obligation to extend it to the rest of the world. There would, of course, be dissenters in less-enlightened foreign countries, but they could be brought to see the light.
The cornerstone of this aspiring world empire was laid in 1944 at the Mount Washington Hotel, a ski resort in Bretton Woods, in Carroll, New Hampshire. There, during 22 days of meetings, 730 delegates from 44 Allied countries hammered out the shape of the world to come. This was the meeting that determined the regulation of the international monetary and financial order after World War II. With the outcome of the war in view and American predominance clearly in evidence, the results of the conference were a foregone conclusion. After the approval of the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the forerunner of the World Bank, the playing field was definitively tilted in favor of the US, a fact that has benefited them until today. Tomorrow is another matter.
Imperial Intelligence to the Rescue
The American “intelligence services,” whose clandestine activity in Europe was initiated during WWII under the auspices of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the direction of Colonel (later Major General) William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan (1942-45), were the first piece in the imperial puzzle. Donovan united and coordinated the efforts of several US intelligence units, a project that gave rise to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1949. In 1952 the National Security Agency was created to handle signals intelligence. The NSA is today the United States’ largest and best-funded intelligence operation.
With this information and clandestine-intervention infrastructure leading the way, the US embarked upon an industrial-scale overt and covert campaign of interference in the affairs of other peoples’ countries. The recurring theme of all of this information gathering, black ops and proxy wars, was anti-communism. This Swiss army knife of world domination apologetics arose from the existential terror that Western capitalists experienced when confronted with Soviet successes with their collective societal solutions in the early 1930s. The Soviet industrial and economic surge happened to coincide with the depths of the Great Depression in the West. It’s not clear whether the subsequent blossoming of anti-communism in the US was the cause or effect of the Cold War, but since then it has been the determining factor in American foreign policy. After the fall of the Soviet Union it only required a slight twist to morph into anti-Russianism.
In our living memory anti-communism has been the gossamer pretext that provided ideological cover for non-stop wars, regime-changes, unsavory allies and false-flag operations around the world. They included the Korean War, the Vietnam War, coups d’etat in Greece, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Iraq, South Yemen, and many more. They’re going on still in Afghanistan, Syria, and Venezuela, to mention just a few. William Blum in his book, Rogue State, A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, published in 2000, provides a more complete list from the early days.
While the Americans were sowing mayhem around the world the Soviet Union–later Russia–was faced with an eventual encirclement of some 1,000 US military bases. The recent addition of NATO missile installations among the 12 Eastern European nations that have joined NATO since 1999, further complicated the Russian position. During this period of American threats they dubbed the Cold War, Russia was obliged to maintain an adequate defense. It is ironic that a country whose GDP ranks 11th in the world, should be the principal bulwark against the imperial pretensions of the United States with the world’s greatest GDP, 12 times that of the Russians (2017 data from Worldometers.org).
Pretending Nobody Is Looking
The rest of the world has not been oblivious to the last century of American imperial ascendence. Those who didn’t notice were the Americans themselves, who were blinded by a steady diet of myths and lies drilled into their minds over decades of relentless brainwashing. The mind-bending procedures were rudimentary, with the intellectual level of a Captain America comic, but they were pervasive. Americans were subjected to anti-communist rhetoric distributed by churches, schools, the media, Hollywood, the water they drank and the very air they breathed.
The progressive dumbing down of the American public was also a factor. Their country was the shining democracy on the hill, not the world’s principal predator. And, since the machinations of their country’s clandestine services were by their very nature, secret, most Americans had no idea that their government was guilty of harassing the Soviet regime in Siberia in 1918 or toppling Iran’s democratically-elected Mossadegh government in 1953, or training torturers for the Guatemalan dictatorship from the 1960s through the 1980s. And there is so much more they don’t know–and don’t want to know.
An American mother loses a son in one of the country’s senseless wars and she is awarded a gold star, the same gold star we used to receive in second grade for completing our homework. “No,” you say, “this one is different. It’s for patriotism.” Ah, patriotism, the snake that bites its own tail by glorifying gratuitous deaths while attributing false value to those gold stars. The truth, Mom, is that your son died for no good reason or worse, to keep the wheels of the American war machine turning and its sinister profits rolling in. Companies like Lockheed Martin ($59.81 billion in revenues, 2019), Raytheon ($27.1 billion in revenues, 2018) and and hundreds of others are reaping obscene profits off the lives of young Americans.
That is what your gold star comemorates. At the same time it legitimizes America’s endless wars, and by extension the degradation and abandonment of the country’s own necessities, its infrastructures, health care, education, and cultural and social support systems. Coincidentally, President-elect Biden’s choice for Secretary of Defense is on the Raytheon payroll. Will he be renouncing that sinecure before he is sworn in?
Before we move on, let’s not forget the “enemy” soldiers and civilians (as in innocent infants, adolescents, parents and grandparents…) who are killed and mutilated for the same worthy imperial cause. Pentagon statistics don’t count them. Does that mean their suffering is irrelevant?
Then there’s the question of retribution. It doesn’t occur to Americans to acknowledge the human cost of their permanent wars. It’s not that they lack thinkers. They have hundreds of them penned up in hives on Think Tank Row, an area around Massachusetts Avenue NW in Washington DC populated by septic think tanks. Hasn’t it occurred to the American geniuses that these deadly manifestations of American patriotism might be creating enemies among the survivors? Don’t they realize that there is no more effective way of turning a normal Iraqi youth into a “terrorist?” Do the American thinkers need half their families fried by MQ-9 Reaper drones to awaken them to that possibility? Why are they so reluctant to admit that America requires a constant input of fresh terrorists to fuel their principal growth industry: permanent war?
The American necesssity for war is also a question of internal economics. It fulfills a macabre role in the distribution of wealth in the US, by transferring money from people who pay up to 37% in income taxes–salaried workers–to people who pay far less–big corporations. The United States imposes a tax on the profits of US resident corporations at a rate of 21 percent (reduced from 35 percent by Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act). The corporate income tax raised $230.2 billion in fiscal 2019, accounting for 6.6 percent of total federal revenue, down from 9 percent in 2017. (Source: taxpolicycenter.org)
The never-ending expenditure on war materiel, led by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at $100 million a pop, and the new Ford-Class nuclear aircraft carrier that cost $12.8 billion in materials and labor. Add to that the $4.7 billion spent in research and development of the new Ford-Class carrier line. There are plans for three more, despite growing opinion that, in view of new Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles, the big carriers may be increasingly vulnerable in battle. Now add the costs of all the rest of the toys and trinkets the Pentagon purchases for the armed forces. This astronomical rate of expenditure supposes mega-profits for US arms manufacturers, and it’s the American taxpayer who pays the bills. How is such a sinister hamster-wheel justified? Blame it on the terrorists. During the final days of the Franco dictatorship in Spain left-wing demonstrators used to chant: “¡Vosotros, facistas, sois los terroristas!” “You, fascists, are the terrorists.”