Monday, March 24, 2008

Love, American Style

By Michael Green

Outside I hear the ground shaking
Up from underneath
It’s only when the empire’s breaking
That you see their teeth

Americans love to think that they are a peaceful people, and that they fight wars only when they must.

Unfortunately, you can count in nanoseconds how long those assertions hold up when exposed to such insidious commie dirty tricks as the application of logic or the examination of empirical history.

Sure, any war can be spun as some necessity against some Very Bad Person, preferably of brown skin, slanted eyes and/or differing deity. Not only can any war be so spun, probably every war there ever was has been, at least since the days when governments had to start offering some justification or another for their little foreign adventures.

But pick your barometer – any one will work – and you’ll quickly see who are the militant folks on the planet. For Americans, it turns out to be that bloated, frightened meth-addict staring back at them in the mirror, not some overseas evil emperor du jour.

For example, suppose you wanted to measure comparative national war-like tendencies by simply counting wars. Since World War II, the US has messed around, in ways big and small, in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Lebanon, Granada, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan again, and Iraq again. No country in the world can begin to match this record in the last half-century. And I’m not even listing here the covert operations (almost everywhere), including the ones that toppled democratically elected governments (Iran, Guatemala, Chile, etc.), the long-term occupations of Latin American countries by the US military, the gunboat diplomacy of the American Navy around the world, the aiding and abetting of other killers (Saddam invading Iran, for example, apartheid South Africa or the Israeli occupation of Palestine), the militarization of the oceans and of space, or the myriad other ways in which the US leads the planet in aggressive tendencies.

Who has China been invading lately? Russia? Cuba? Heck, even Saddam couldn’t touch this record for aggression, especially once you account for the fact that the US government assisted his foreign soiree into Iran (complete with the chemical weapons, of course) and likely green-lighted the one into Kuwait as well.

Isn’t the sheer volume of them – especially relative to the number of wars other countries have fought – a bit problematic for maintaining the pretense of America’s pacific intent? The list above goes to nearly twenty. Isn’t that a bit much for a peace-loving country?

But scratch that measure if you must (perhaps it cuts too close to the bone). Maybe we can detect America’s dislike for war in another metric, say military spending. Oops. Turns out that’s going to be a bit problematic too. I guess it won’t be a huge surprise to anybody that the US spends more on ‘defense’ than any other country in the world.

The United States not only outspends every other country in the world on military goodies, it outspends ALL other countries of the world. Combined. That’s right. Take all 190-plus countries out there and add together their defense budgets and you still won’t equal America’s alone. What’s more, that doesn’t even include the costs in veterans’ (so-called) care, munitions replacement etc. Oh, and did I mention that one-sixth of USA's population doesn’t have healthcare coverage? Never mind. I’m sure those are completely unrelated facts.

Anyhow, does that sound like a peace-loving country to you? They love it so much that they outspend nearly 200 other countries in the world – combined! – in buying shit for war? And think about this for a second: How absolutely disastrous does your diplomacy have to get so that you need to be able to fight off every other country of the world, all at once?!

Okay, okay, so that one didn’t work out so well either. The good news is that at least they don’t make the world an uglier place by continually inventing new and more vicious weaponry. Not the peace-loving Americans! You know, like atom bombs, napalm, bunker-busters, cluster bombs, neutron bombs, space lasers, phosphorous bombs and stuff like that! Who would build such things? What kind of depraved mind would harness so much of its scientific and industrial establishment to such ends? Who would... er... um... Hey, wait a minute! What do you mean that they invented and manufactured all those things?!?! I thought they were the peace-loving people! Meanwhile, can I interest you in some depleted uranium at a very, very attractive price?

Okay, but they must be good neighbors, really, because they’re always the ones who are pushing for all sorts of international treaties to limit war, weapons and the worst practices of nasty governments. You know, for example, how they signed on to the United Nations Charter (which they more or less also wrote), and its requirement that states may only use militarized aggression in the case of self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council to do so in a collective security operation. Or maybe you prefer the treaties against land mines, child soldiers or the weaponization of space, which they’re pretty much the only folks not signing? The “quaint” and “obsolete” Geneva Conventions against torture and war crimes? How about the International Criminal Court, which John Bolton led the Bush administration into single-handedly trying to destroy? Hmmm... Wonder why they would have wanted to get rid of that? Gee, I thought genocide and war crimes were a bad thing! America is the world leader in supporting human rights and seeking peace. So, remember, if you hear someone tell you that they have been abdicating, avoiding, ignoring and destroying all these (and myriad other) treaties that seek to end or prevent war, it’s just the liberal America-hating media elites telling lies again, because they want them to lose their wars.

Alright, alright, so it turns out that none of these measures of warlike tendencies turned out so very well. But at least the rest of the world thinks of them as nice, peaceful neighbors, right? Well, just not right now. And just not when they are engaged in their wars, which is most of the time. People didn’t like Vietnam, they didn’t like Central America in the 1980s, they didn’t care for Iran, Guatemala or Chile, Granada or Lebanon, and they resent the hell out of the US support for Israeli colonialism in Palestine. They can’t stand America’s duplicity, hypocrisy and arrogance when it comes to so many aspects of international diplomacy, including the aforementioned treaties they have avoided when they are not trying to destroy them. Yet nothing has so inflamed world opinion as the gross transgression against international law and human morality that is Iraq. America’s standing in world opinion isn’t the only measure of how comparatively warlike they are, but it certainly is a valid one. When everybody else in the neighborhood hates you, or hates something you do, it’s a moment for a little reflection and introspection, isn’t it? Unless, of course, you’re just an arsehole. Then why bother?

Americans fight by far and away more wars than any other country in the world. They spend way more money on their military than every other country in the world, combined! They out-do the world in creating new and vicious ways to liberate more and more people from the ongoing hassle of being alive. They abdicate every treaty meant to keep the dogs of war at bay, from ABM to Geneva to the UN Charter. Or else they smash them. And, finally, they are admired for their peaceful tendencies in every part of the world. Except where they are not. Which turns out to be just about everywhere.

What a record! Even if you disqualify one of these measures for some reason or another, surely the fact that they all point in the same direction is uncomfortably telling.

Way too often America’s pacific intentions are harder to find than the elusive Higgs boson particle. Probably you’d need a massive supercollider and a bunch of expensive detection equipment to do it, too.

But because of these monsters and the record they’ve created, Americans have to face an ugly and unfortunate fact. Despite what their sixth grade civics teacher told them, they are not the liberators of the world. They just like to think they are.

But thinking and being are, alas, two different things, as they found out going into Iraq – thinking they’d be greeted with chocolates and flowers.

They may get them yet, however. Perhaps they’ll be handed to them at the exit ramp, as they leave Iraq and their latest example of bringing love, American-style to the world.

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