Who is Going to Stop US?

January 1, 1999

“What sets the West apart is its persistence, its capacity to stop at nothing.”

–Hans Koning, Columbus: His Enterprise, 1976

“Wherever Western man went and goes, slavery, robbery, lawlessness, culture-wrecking, and the outright extermination of both wild beasts and tame men accompany him.”

–Lewis Mumford, Myths of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power, 1970

“There are 3 billion people in the world and we have only 200 million of them. We are outnumbered 15 to 1. If might did make right they would sweep over the United States and take what we have. We have what they want….If we are going to have visits from any aggressors or any enemies I would rather have that aggression take place out 10,000 miles from here than take place here in Anchorage….Without superior air power America is a bound and throttled giant, impotent and easy prey to any yellow dwarf with a pocket knife.”

–President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a speech
given at Anchorage, Alaska, Nov. 1, 1966

NOTE: Though this essay was written during the Clinton Administration, it is just as relevant under the Bush, Obama and Trump Administrations. The US creates many demons du jour – Osama Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda Network, and the Taliban, ISIS, Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, etc.. The reader should keep in mind that the goal continues to be consolidation of world power for the United States. Our bully means continue to disregard international law and human consciousness with total impunity.  It is an existential threat to the future of humankind and the ecological Planet.

I would submit that the far more important question for the people of the United States and the world to consider is not how and when we are going to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq–or Slobadan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, Fidel Castro of Cuba, or other candidates for Hitlers du jour–but who is going to stop us, the United States, and current President Clinton’s aggressions? Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government, like so many other political leaders and governments, have acquired various dangerous, threatening military arsenals, and have ruled with dimensions of repression. The list of leaders and governments with similar patterns–often identified as allies of the U.S.–is a long one. And indeed this contributes to further endangering our world. But the truth is that, more often than not, the United States has substantially contributed directly to the arming of other nations, including “rogue” regimes such as Iraq, or, ironically, indirectly because other nations have been forced to arm themselves in self-defense from threats to their sovereignty directed by U.S. forces or their proxies.

Historically, the central theme intensely and forcefully motivating U.S. foreign policy is the consistent assurance that the “Third World” be made safe for “free” market forces and expansion, enabling the continued excessive material benefits to transborder corporations and the collective American Way Of Life (AWOL).

Thus, I would submit that the far greater danger to the world is the hegemonic nature and imperial motivations of the United States. The historical pattern of acquisition of arsenals and use of military, political and economic weapons by the United States, a country with but 4.5% of the world’s population while consuming an amount approaching half the world’s resources, has set the most dangerous and violent example of all. U.S. policies and practices have been conducted with such a double standard and in such a self-serving manner, and with such insensitive and brutal ferocity, as to be virtually beyond comprehension to most residents within the United States of America.

As a natural born citizen of the United States (born on the day of our national independence, July 4) who proudly carried the U.S. flag in my small-town parades, who received an honorable discharge from four years of service in the U.S. military, including duty in Vietnam, and who was admitted to the practice of law by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, it pains me deeply to have come to this conclusion. I express it with a heavy heart.

But a conscientious review of the documented, uncensored version of the historical record leaves me with no choice but to indict the prevailing cultural ethos and behaviors of the United States government and the civilization it has represented and encouraged in its pursuit of, first continental, then hemispheric, and subsequently, global “manifest destiny.” Our civilization has developed at the cost of Holocausts still awaiting genuine acknowledgement and solemn reflection–first in acquiring our land base through pure armed theft while deracinating and murdering millions of the original, Indigenous Americans (or “savages” as they were called), and second in developing our agricultural and industrial economy through the atrocity of slavery and exploited immigrant labor. Both Holocausts are of genocidal proportions. Then, our land expansion and control of many of the world’s resource areas beyond continental borders has been carried out by a century of brutal hegemony, justified by the belief espoused first in the 1840s that it is “Our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the development of our yearly multiplying millions” (John O’Sullivan, Democratic Review, Summer 1845). And, when added up, our world hegemonic policies have amounted to yet a third Holocaust, causing the collective murders and maimings of dozens of millions in dozens of countries.

Our perspective as a people is similar to that of citizens from previous empires. It seems that citizens of every imperial power live in a biased and shielded milieu which portrays the arrogant policies of expansionism in a kindly light. From my personal experiences in “Third World” countries, beginning in Vietnam in 1969, and continuing in twenty-plus other countries since, it has become clear to me that virtually all the people living in the “Third World,” with the exception of their own wealthy elites, view the active policies of the United States and their European predecessors as forcefully perpetuating their repressive status quos, dooming their lives to continued misery. It is important to note that the people of the “Third World,” with about 4.5 billion people, comprise nearly 75% of the world’s population, a vast majority living on the lion’s share of the planet’s land mass. These 75% are squeezed by their being forced to live on but 15% of the world’s resources.

The developed industrial, capitalist, now “neoliberal,” global “free” market model requires accelerated consumption (and the accelerated production that must precede it) of the earth’s limited natural resources by ever increasing populations. This consumption ethic defies the finite carrying capacity of the earth. In addition, this stimulated production/consumption cycle creates incredible amounts of dangerous discharges of pollutants and toxic wastes, further endangering the ecological health and survivability of the planet.

It is impossible for the United States to honestly criticize the actions of other nations when our own behavior has been so despicable and criminal, and when our perspective is so controlled and biased. Our government has mastered the art of war-making propaganda, and our mass media has lost the capacity to critique and challenge it. Since 1947, the U.S. has illegally and brutally intervened over 200 times into the internal affairs of over 100 sovereign nations, contributing to or directly causing the murders of more than 20 million human beings, and the maimings of millions of others. Not one of those military interventions had been authorized by a Congressional declaration of war as required by our Constitution. Instead, each presidentially-initiated intervention has been reported as justified to assure protection of “democratic” or “civilized” values from “Communist,” “terrorist,” or other evil forces.

Additionally, the U.S. has conducted over 6,000 major and minor covert actions throughout the world. Since the founding of our Republic over 200 years ago, the U.S. has launched over 400 military interventions, mostly into “undeveloped” areas, bullying our global “manifest destiny.” All these interventions have blatantly violated a long list of international and domestic laws, and the Constitution, all of which the U.S. government is obligated to obey. Only 5 of those 400 interventions were legally authorized by the Constitutionally required declaration of war. There is rarely any opposition voiced by elected and appointed officials, including the President, who have sworn to uphold the law and Constitution as a condition of their serving in office. The United States is a lawless nation-state. It calls itself a Constitutional democracy. It is not! It is a plutocracy and corporate oligarchy.

Tragically, “national security” matters are defined as such by only a few officials within the government who are not subject to scrutiny, and whose decisions are always shrouded in secrecy, making a mockery of democratic principles. Furthermore, careful study of military and covert interventions of the U.S., once the record becomes public, reveals that virtually all of the original and continuing rationalizations for the interventions are lies, or are so deceptive as to be fraudulent. The sad truth from the empirical historical record is that the U.S. government generally lies about the nature and circumstances of its interventions. That can be counted on. If a representation turns out to be truthful, it is most likely because it is self-serving or accidental. When the government knows that its goals require illegal aggression, it must act without impairing the moral and political standing of the United States at home and abroad. This reality forces the government to choose covert operations requiring political proficiency in the principle of “plausible deniability.” Of course, “plausible deniability” is double-speak for lying.

Political leaders, governments, and popular movements that have been labeled “terrorist” or “Communist” or “drug traffickers,” for example, by the U.S. government, as threatening “national security,” virtually always are involved in efforts seeking self-determination from U.S. foreign (economic) policy objectives. Those leaders, governments, and movements praised and/or supported by the U.S. government virtually always represent regimes supporting repression of their own peoples’ efforts for justice and self-determination, assuring the kind of “stable” political climate necessary to please the needs of financial investors and corporate profiteers. The presumption, in fact, is that the U.S. government lies, virtually all the time, and the documented, historical record clearly reveals this! If and when the tables are ever turned, let there be mercy on our souls.

Saddam Hussein and Slobadan Milosevic are the latest political leaders that the U.S. has demonized and placed on the global hit list in order to further U.S. articulated strategic interests. The U.S. government has a long history of using this tactic, this pretext, to whip up the popular frenzy and hysteria needed to justify illegal aggression. Some of the earlier unfortunate victims of U.S. demonization campaigns have been Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, Guatemalan President Jacabo Arbenz in 1954, Dr. Salvador Allende in Chile in the early 1970s, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua in the 1980s, Manual Noriega of Panama in the 1980s, Muammar Kadaffi of Libya, 1980s to present, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam in the 1950s and 1960s, Kim Il Sung and son, Kim Jong Il in North Korea, 1950s to the present, and President Fidel Castro of Cuba, 1960s to the present, among others. This pretext provides wide flexibility accommodating the often changing needs of U.S. policy, either for supporting or overthrowing a leader, depending on the strategic interests of the moment and the geographical region. It also provides convenient enemies in a post-Cold War era where the Pentagon needs justification for continued large military budgets.

Most people in the United States (myself included), whether political officials, “experts,” academicians, or ordinary citizens, remain ignorant of the cultures, religions, history, issues, or unique circumstances of the countries and regions where the U.S. intervenes. Since the United States brutally conquered the Indigenous Americans, it has enjoyed the protection of being surrounded by safe territory (oceans, friendly Canada, and quasi-subordinate Mexico). Its comfortable geographical position, along with its arrogant, imperial self-righteousness, have contributed immensely to a people very isolated from global realities, a people quite ignorant about public affairs in a global context. In truth, having a consciousness beyond the parochial matters, albeit necessary, of making money and surviving as a frenzied consumer, has not seemed important. In fact, having a global and ecological consciousness is very threatening to the comfortable continuation of AWOL.

In the case of the Middle East, the most heavily armed region in the world thanks in large part to the United States, Westerners continue to be insensitive or ignorant of the fact of colonial interventions, and that these interventions have created long-standing disputes over national boundaries and control of oil and other resources. These interventions, and the manner in which the U.S. has promoted Israeli interests over Arab ones, have created deep resentment among Arab people. The U.S. defiance of a number of United Nations resolutions condemning Israel for its pattern of interventions into neighboring Arab countries and Palestine has left deep scars. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, killing more than 17,000 people, and its bombing of Iraq’s nuclear plant in 1981, are examples of brutal aggression for which Israel received no punishment despite U.N. condemnation. Iraq’s history with Kuwait, and the issues that Iraq expressed as reasons for their invasion of Kuwait in 1990, are simply not acknowledged, not addressed whatsoever. Thus there is no context presented for us to understand, no diplomacy considered appropriate. It is just “naked aggression” deserving of bombing and more bombing, then murderous sanctions against the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile, the majority of U.S. Americans continue their Christmas shopping knowing little about the effects of the renewed December 1998 bombings, and feeling virtually nothing for the Iraqi people. A million Iraqi civilians, many of them children, have died as the result of the sanctions imposed as a punishment on Iraq. Forty thousand children die every day in the world for lack of nourishment, while in the U.S., millions of people collectively spend $5 billion each year on special diets to lower calorie consumption. U.S. children have more pocket money–$230 per year–than the half billion poorest people alive. The average U.S. family affects the environment 40 times more than a family in India, 100 times more than a family in Kenya. Annually, the U.S. consumes 45 barrels of oil per person, compared to Hungary with comparable figure 18, Brazil 3, India 1, and Kenya 1/2 barrel per person. The U.S. imports far more oil today than it did in 1973. As of 1990 there were 42 million more U.S. cars on the road burning 27 million more gallons of gas every day than in 1973. The rich nations consume per capita, with a small minority, 15 times the amount of oil used by the poor nations with the majority of the world’s people.

In sum, AWOL, and the Western way of life in general, pose a dangerous, imminent threat to all life on the planet. We in the West have refused to seriously pursue radical conservation or alternative decentralized energy strategies using replenishable resources. We continue to be addicted to oil, a substance that took four billion years to form, but will be entirely depleted in four more decades after only a century of exploitation. AWOL requires the majority of the world’s people to remain poor, often in misery, in order to feed its insatiable appetites. AWOL also destroys the ecosystem, the environment that we are absolutely dependent upon for our survival. When the poor revolt to achieve some justice, we label them “Communist,” or “narcoguerilla,” or “terrorist,” or when a political leader stands up to the United States we call him/her a “Hitler-like devil,” thereby justifying some of the most barbaric and criminal acts known to humankind. But to our citizenry these U.S. acts of aggression are articulated as necessary responses in order that our “good” overcomes their “evil.” Thus U.S. intervention is considered noble. Case closed! The conventional belief that the West has been on the defensive against aggressive forces, both during the Cold War and since, is pure mythology.

Again, the question is, not who is going to stop Saddam Hussein, or Kadaffi, or Kim Jong Il, or whoever is the bad guy du jour. The question is: Who is going to stop US? With the defeat of the Soviet Union and the Socialist Bloc, the vulnerability of “Third World” nations and peoples has increased. No matter how dysfunctional or repressive the Soviet Union was or wasn’t compared to the United States, it did offer some effective protection to revolutions of the poor, and deterrence to U.S. bully interventions. With the triumph of the “neoliberal” and “free” market and the accelerated advance of a global supermarket economy, the environment and the ecological integrity of the planet have become even more vulnerable. And the citizens of the developed market-dominated Western “democracies” find themselves increasingly nominal and impotent.

There is always a chance, the hope, that the grassroots of the United States and Western Europe will rise up in response to corporate oriented, oligarchic governments and the corresponding ecological crisis, perhaps along Green principles. There are many people in the U.S. and Europe who are already trying to simplify their lives, consuming less, while striving to expose the lies of government and directly resist the habitual, continuing illegal interventions orchestrated by the U.S. government. This is very promising. The December 1999 massive nonviolent demonstrations in Seattle protesting the WTO’s anti-labor, anti-environmental, anti-social policies is extraordinarily encouraging.

The Indigenous peoples are struggling worldwide to preserve what is left of their integrity, even increasing their commitments to resist further market encroachments and the cultural deracination that results. They are invaluable teachers for the so-called advanced, industrialized peoples. And there are numerous, relatively small (small is beautiful) efforts underway in countless locations throughout the world practicing survival out of necessity, utilizing small-scale appropriate technology, solar and replenishable energy resources, and functioning without dependence upon external inputs controlled by governments and their transborder corporate cohorts. The imposition of “neoliberal” economics and its requirement for ruthless economic restructuring has increased the number of the world’s impoverished people. Thus some have taken matters in their own hands with a spirit of self- and community-reliance based on local labor and resources. This may be the revolution that offers us the most hope, along with the Indigenous model, as we enter the next millennium. One thing is certain: Continuation of the carefree, Western consumptive model will assure our rapid extinction.

So the answer to the question, Who is going to stop us?, is the people, both here and everywhere, as we begin to see with our hearts and muster the courage to confront the political/economic powers that appear so intransigent. It will require people in the “First World” to break free from our materialist stupor so that our spirits and wisdom can be liberated to act with a revived consciousness of the interconnectedness of all of life. Certainly the human condition is facing grave threats from impending ecological imbalances, from new outbreaks of diseases, from famine, and from technological disruptions due to yet unforeseen system breakdowns.

If we don’t act as sensitive and sensible people of conscience, GAIA’s (the living earth) correction mechanisms will assure our extinction.

One Comment

  1. Mark S Foley
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Brian, for a very well written and researched article/essay on the then-current state-of-the-world and the over-arching role the USA has played in its goal of worldwide Hegemony. This year of 2020 shows just how much damage our AWOL has done and continues to do to the entire planet. It convinces me even more that electoral politics in its current form will never address the underlying dysfunction of Capitalism. Either we reclaim the Planet as our own through acts of self-determination, or we will continue to be swept downstream, rudderless, with the the pending waterfall within sight, ready to accept us all into oblivion. Brian, you have the foresight of Noam Chomsky and the historical grasp of Howard Zinn – but more importantly for me is that you got WOKE when being exposed to all the lies while “serving” in S. Vietnam. Thank you for being my role model as I still enjoy the comforts of living in the belly of the Beast. Voting out Trump is now a priority, but at least I realize that voting in a Democrat only perpetuates a rotten-to-the-core imperialistic system, which will inevitably lead us to the brink of extinction.

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