By John Pilger
The joining of hands across America’s illusory political divide has a long history. The native Americans were slaughtered, the Philippines laid to waste and Cuba and much of Latin America brought to heel with “bipartisan” backing. Wading through the blood, a new breed of popular historian, the journalist in the pay of rich newspaper owners, spun the heroic myths of a super-sect called Americanism, which advertising and public relations in the 20th century formalized as an ideology, embracing both conservatism and liberalism.
In the modern era, most of America’s wars have been launched by liberal Democratic presidents—Harry Truman in Korea, John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson in Vietnam, Jimmy Carter in Afghanistan. The fictitious “missile gap” was invented by Kennedy’s liberal New Frontiersmen as a rationale for keeping the cold war going. In 1964, a Democrat-dominated Congress gave President Johnson authority to attack Vietnam, a defenseless peasant nation offering no threat to the United States. Like the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the justification was a non- existent “incident” in which, it was said, two North Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked an American warship. More than three million deaths and the ruin of a once bountiful land followed.
During the past 60 years, only once has Congress voted to limit the president’s “right” to terrorize other countries. This aberration, the Clark Amendment 1975, a product of the great Vietnam anti-war movement, was repealed in 1985 by Ronald Reagan.
During Reagan’s assaults on central America in the 1980s, liberal voices such as Tom Wicker of the New York Times, doyen of the “doves,” seriously debated whether or not tiny, impoverished Nicaragua was a threat to the United States. These days, terrorism having replaced the red menace, another fake debate is under way. This is lesser evilism. Although few liberal-minded voters seem to have illusions about John Kerry, their need to get rid of the “rogue” Bush administration is all-consuming. Representing them in Britain, the Guardian says that the coming presidential election is “exceptional.” “Mr. Kerry’s flaws and limitations are evident,” says the paper, “but they are put in the shade by the neo-conservative agenda and catastrophic war-making of Mr. Bush. This is an election in which almost the whole world will breathe a sigh of relief if the incumbent is defeated.”
The whole world may well breathe a sigh of relief: the Bush regime is both dangerous and universally loathed; but that is not the point. We have debated lesser evilism so often on both sides of the Atlantic that it is surely time to stop gesturing at the obvious and to examine critically a system that produces the Bushes and their Democratic shadows. For those of us who marvel at our luck in reaching mature years without having been blown to bits by the warlords of Americanism, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, and for the millions all over the world who now reject the American contagion in political life, the true issue is clear.
It is the continuation of a project that began more than 500 years ago. The privileges of “discovery and conquest” granted to Christopher Columbus in 1492, in a world the pope considered “his property to be disposed according to his will,” have been replaced by another piracy transformed into the divine will of Americanism and sustained by technological progress, notably that of the media. “The threat to independence in the late 20th century from the new electronics,” wrote Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism, “could be greater than was colonialism itself. We are beginning to learn that de-colonization was not the termination of imperial relationships but merely the extending of a geopolitical web which has been spinning since the Renaissance. The new media have the power to penetrate more deeply into a ‘receiving’ culture than any previous manifestation of western technology.”
Every modern president has been, in large part, a media creation. Thus, the murderous Reagan is sanctified still; Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Channel and the post-Hutton BBC have differed only in their forms of adulation. And Bill Clinton is regarded nostalgically by liberals as flawed but enlightened; yet Clinton’s presidential years were far more violent than Bush’s and his goals were the same: “the integration of countries into the global free- market community,” the terms of which, noted the New York Times, “require the United States to be involved in the plumbing and wiring of nations’ internal affairs more deeply than ever before.” The Pentagon’s “full-spectrum dominance” was not the product of the “neo-cons,” but of the liberal Clinton, who approved what was then the greatest war expenditure in history. According to the Guardian, Clinton’s heir, John Kerry, sends us “energizing progressive calls.” It is time to stop this nonsense.
—New Statesman, August 20,2004