Atypical America Leaves the World Perplexed

In view of their unjust imposition of seven decades of crippling economic sanctions on Cuba, has anybody ever imposed sanctions on the United States? If not, why not?

Just a Few Surreal By-Products of American Exceptionalism

The killing with a perfectly legal assault rifle of two innocent peaceful demonstrators, and the wounding of another, on the street in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Then the failure of a jury of his American peers to convict the perpetrator. Then an ex-president of the United States publically congratulating the killer for getting away with murder. This whole chain of events looks highly irregular–grotesquely so–to non Americans all over the world. To normal people from other countries the incident, its legal derivations and the social acceptance of it smacks of grave nationalistic illness of the sort that affected the German people during Hitler’s Nazi regime.

To this level of mindless brutality–on the part of the killer, the judge and jury and a large part of the American people–we must add the massive hypocrisy of Americans selling themselves as paladins of world democracy and the good life, the mythical shining city on a hill. If they believe that absurd and dangerous commonplace, why shouldn’t we?

The Americans Burden Themselves

Americans are encumbered with a set of anti-social, individualistic values, considered aberrant in most advanced countries, and a low level of education, which also suffers from a cruel ideological slant. Their primary and secondary schools teach children that their country is uniquely blessed by God and thus divinely empowered to impose their way of life on the rest of the world. But the truth is that they are not exceptional. They form a branch of the great apes of the species homo sapiens, just like the rest of the people in the world. Nor is their form of government, in its current state, superior. It is gravely and demonstrably flawed. And their fervent efforts to impose it around the world, while violently suppressing other people’s lifestyle choices, have given rise to at least a century of universal worldwide unease.

Commerce Against Humanity

The pursuit of commercial militarism underlies the system. In order to be even marginally legitimate, wars must be fought in defense of sane principles such as humane values or self defense. Today most wars are fought for the profit of the few: big bankers, big arms makers, big pharma and big everything else. Does anyone know the details of the commercial arrangements underlying all the war materiel that the U.S. and U.K. so liberally bestowed upon Ukraine? Are the Ukranians paying for all that big-ticket armament in comfortable monthly installments or are American and British taxpayers generously making them a gift of all those expensive war toys? If it’s the former, when does military solidarity cross the line into arms profiteering? If it’s the latter, and they are passing the cost of the arsenal to their countries’ citizens, have they bothered to inform them as to where their tax money is going?

The never-ending encroachment of revealed religion in the American government. For the wise American founders “freedom of religion” included freedom from religion. The Constitution of the United States accorded no role for organized religion in the new American republic. That lowbrow religion should have slithered into the American government’s highest offices, in the guise of “spiritual advisors” speaking in tongues, is seen by outsiders as a sad commentary on the state of the nation.

This Is Going to Hurt

The American disregard for human pain, suffering and life itself abounds. This hardly requires comentary. It’s enough just to mention the all-too-familiar names: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Irak, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan… Sometimes the American executioners don’t even need a war to reap tons of pain and discord. These are just some of their alleged victims: John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcom (X) Little, Martin Luther King and Black Panther co-founder, Dr. Huey Newton. His Black Panther colleagues, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, were gunned down by 14 police officers as they lay sleeping–or having been drugged; it’s not clear which.

The (In) Human Factor

The killers and facilitators. While we’re at it we should name some of the Americans’ most illustrious killers and facilitators in this atypical history. The most egregious is seldom pointed out. He is the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Heinz Alfred (Henry) Kissinger, President Nixon’s right-hand man during Nixon’s fruitless and unscrupulous last-ditch attempt to win the Vietnam war and the re-election to the U.S. presidency. The Nobel Prize was never the same again. Kissinger’s rapsheet includes cozying up to Latin American military dictators and retarding the Paris Vietnam peace negotiations in benefit of Nixon’s reelection, a delay which cost thousands of American–and many more Vietnamese–lives. For a compelling and detailed account of Kissinger’s time in the White House, see Seymour Hersh’s Kissinger, The Price of Power.

Then there’s Augusto Pinochet, the CIA-annointed dictator of Chile; and Jorge Rafael Videla, the military-junta-appointed president of Argentina between 1976 and 1981, the bloodiest years of fascist repression in that benighted country and further afield. Their outrages included the Operation Condor campaign of assassinations of some 60,000-80,000 suspected leftists all over South America between 1968 and 1989, a project designed by the CIA and carried out by a host of Latin American dictators. Nor must we forget to include in this rogues’ gallery Israel’s on-and-off-again president, Bibi Netanyahu, the architect of the ruthless apartheid regime against the Palestinians.

McNamara and Westmoreland in Vietnam

Robert McNamara’s middle name is “Strange,”as in “Strangelove.” The U.S. Secretary of Defense between 1961 and 1968, he ramped up the Vietnam war unconscionably, and having failed to defeat the Vietnamese communists, moved inexplicably on to a series of prestige appointments beginning with the presidency of the World Bank. McNamara’s mediocrity was superseded only by that of William Westmoreland, the commander of Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MACV) in 1964. U.S. troop strength on Westmoreland’s watch went from 16,000 when he arrived to its peak of 535,000 in 1968 when he was kicked upstairs to Army chief of staff.

After losing the war to the Vietnamese under, General Vo Nguyen Giap, the American commander permitted himself the luxury of criticizing the incompetence of his enemy. It is summed up in this summary from a 1998 interview for George magazine:

In the 1974 film Hearts and Minds, Westmoreland said that ‘The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful, life is cheap in the Orient.’ “Westmoreland’s view has been heavily criticized by Nick Turse, the author of the book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. According to Turse, many of the Vietnamese killed were actually innocent civilians, and the Vietnamese casualties were not just caused by military cross-fire but were a direct result of the U.S. policy and tactics, for example the policy ‘kill everything that moves’. He concluded that, after having “spoken to survivors of massacres by United States forces at Phi Phu, Trieu Ai, My Luoc and so many other hamlets, I can say with certainty that Westmoreland’s assessment was false”.

U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger warmly greets Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, in 1976, during the heyday of the CIA-engineered Operation Condor program of mass assassination by South American dictators of suspected leftists all over Latin America.

Wait, There’s More

Elliott Abrams was the scourge of Guatemala as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (a title which deserves a Nobel irony prize) under the Reagan administration. He collaborated with the dictator, General Efraín Rios Montt, in the genocide of the country’s Mayan people between 1982 and 1983. He was also involved in the Iran-Contra operation and twice convicted–later pardoned by George W. Bush–of withholding information from Congress. Abrams was still at it until at least 2021, appointed by President Donald Trump’s atypical Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, as U.S. Special Representive for Venezuela and Iran. They considered that both of those countries required urgent re-directioning. Iran is a thriving Shiite Muslim society in the Middle East, with massive oil deposits. And Venezuela is clearly guilty of being the home of untold natural resources including a sea of petroleum and a mountain of gold, just waiting for someone with the capital and knowhow to exploit them.

There’s one more remorseless bully who’s necessary on this list, George W. Bush, the wholesale butcher of Baghdad, in company with his stellar running dogs, British prime minister, Tony Blair, and José María Aznar, the pathetic extreme-right-wing Spanish president who was desperate to come out in the photo with those he considered los caudillos.

The Americans haven’t fought on their own ground since the civil war which ended in 1865, but to how many countries have they exported disastrous wars in the past century and a half? How many civilian victims? How many dead and maimed soldiers resulted–including many thousands of their own? That’s indifferent to them; they’ve got an unlimited supply of gold stars for the grieving mothers. Robert McNamara decided to limit the number of college-educated white boys sent to Vietnam, lest they join the anti-war students when they got home. Since the the U.S. armed forces are made up increasingly of black and brown minorities that American plutocrats consider expendable.

In the end, even Colin Powell was sacrificed before the United Nations Security Council in 2003 in the Americans’ ultimately fruitless pursuit of Irak’s fabulous petroleum riches. I have one last question before we leave the subject of the Americans’ tragic story of murder and mayhem around the world. In view of their unjust imposition of seven decades of crippling sanctions on Cuba, has anybody ever imposed economic sanctions on the United States? If not, why not?


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Is American Exceptionalism Limping?

This is where American Exceptionalism is planted, in the innocent minds of children.

Best to Define Our Terms First

Let’s start with “exceptional.” It’s not complicated. Something exceptional is out of the ordinary, usually on the positive side: an exceptional athlete, an exceptional writer or teacher or mechanic… From there to American Exceptionalism in the current sense is a long leap.

Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international relations at Harvard University. Writing on, October 11, 2011, Walt characterizes America’s unique exceptionalism with cool realism:

Most statements of “American exceptionalism” presume that America’s values, political system, and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration. They also imply that the United States is both destined and entitled to play a distinct and positive role on the world stage.

The only thing wrong with this self-congratulatory portrait of America’s global role is that it is mostly a myth. Although the United States possesses certain unique qualities — from high levels of religiosity to a political culture that privileges individual freedom — the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been determined primarily by its relative power and by the inherently competitive nature of international politics. By focusing on their supposedly exceptional qualities, Americans blind themselves to the ways that they are a lot like everyone else.

Foreign, The Myth of American Exceptionalism

Nevertheless, Americans are undoubtedly exceptional, if not always in good ways. As Walt points out, they’re uniquely unaware of the ways they are like everyone else. That fact alone negates most of the exceptional rights Americans–especially those in power–like to arrogate to themselves in their dealings with other countries. Manifest Destiny didn’t disappear with the Mexican War nor the snatching of Hawaii. It’s still alive and kicking, though a long series of American governments have pretended–and continue to pretend–not to notice. They prefer to emphasize the supposed democratizing effects of American intervention. That is a bald lie of course, but they’ve been peddling it more or less successfully for generations. Lately, however, it’s growing exceptionally thin.

What Changed?

Under the immense influence of the military/industrial complex and loose-cannon, high-tech American billionaires like Robert Mercer with his sinister election-meddling dwarves, American government–and ultimately American society–changed radically. With virtually absolute power over America’s priorities this new ruling clique permitted itself the luxury of taking off the gloves and baring its fists both at home and abroad. As a consequence people, both east and west, are living worse lives, if they’re living at all.

The American power elite consider their military supremacy a determining factor, the definitive justification for imposing their truculent rule everywhere. But they hadn’t counted on the remarkable resilience of poor people defending their homelands, nor the rise of China, nor the implications of a China-Russia coalition. And when the Taliban reared its turbanned head last week and booted the occupiers out of Afghanistan after 20 years, the geopolitical world experienced a sea change. America’s undisputed world suzerainty had ended.

It’s no mystery that the United States has always been a place where the playing field was tilted in favor of big enterprise. The American rich can now purchase politicians and, through them, impose their wills on the country and the world. This reality goes a long way towards explaining why many foreign countries look askance at American-style democracy, which suddenly doesn’t have any clothes on.

How Are They Exceptional? Let Me Count the Ways

  • The Americans are exceptional for still trying to sell the “Free World,” which Neil Young dismounted utterly in 1989 with his brilliantly cheeky “Rockin’ in the Free World.” To mention the Free World today in enlightened company elicits a snort-beer-through-the-nose hilarity.
  • They’re exceptional for losing wars one after another to theoretically much weaker countries. How do they manage that?
  • Their response to the Covid-19 pandemic was so exceptional–the worst in the world–that I won’t bother elaborating on it. The interesting sidebar on this story is how the pandemic revealed a major flaw in American-style democracy. Americans have so much “freedom” that the government couldn’t implement an effective universal plan to fight the virus, and they paid the consequences with more than half a million deaths. China, on the other hand, an unvarnished dictatorship, dictated a set of regulations that stopped the virus in its tracks and permitted social and economic life in their country to go on as usual and steal a march on the rest of the world in the process.
  • Their firearms policies, which are careening from the ridiculous to the sublimely insane, are unique in the world, truly exceptional. Though school shootings figure first in American press coverage, gun suicide numbers are much higher, especially among war veterans. All of them should have been prevented decades ago. The Second Amendment is just a smokescreen.
  • Their recent foreign-policy blunders, at the hands of Antony Blinken, a truly exceptional Secretary of State, are making observers around the world ask themselves about the qualifications of the man who appointed him.
  • Their exceptional education system precludes most young Americans, including black and brown youth, from getting college educations. And those who do manage to graduate are saddled with terminally debilitating college debt.
  • Their responce to hard-core American racism–in all of its manifestations, from police brutality on the streets, to mandatory sentencing in the courts and disproportionate presence of minority inmates in American prisons–is pathetically exceptional.

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country…

Even the most liberal Americans are tarred by their country’s uber-patriotic, exceptionalist brush. It was inevitable. They were all born and raised under the American bell jar, obliged to breathe toxic air and drink tainted water, both literally and figuratively. Even the best efforts of left-wing professors are incapable of changing those perceptions. America is where young Americans got their first driver’s license, their best friend, their first kiss. In all fairness, America has undeniable attractions–the mountains and seashores, those amber waves of grain. It’s a land of opportunity, if only for a fast-diminishing few. It has brilliant, committed minds like those of Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges and all the other clear-eyed thinkers and truth tellers. But it doesn’t have enough of them to offset the dream of the quick buck, glittering consumerism, the greatest brain-washing operation the world has ever seen, and the promise of eternity up in heaven, speaking in tongues.

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