16, 2006, Volume 13 Nr. 49, Issue 217
Americans Manifest Their Destiny:
And to Hell with the Consequences...
to the “catapulted propaganda”, Enron, Haditha, and Abu Ghraib
were not isolated incidents or the work of a “few bad apples”.
American savagery and oppressive behavior pervades our society and
predates our nation’s birth. Building its patriarchal wealth on
the backs of Black slaves and cheap labor while acquiring its
territory through Native American genocide, predatory exploitation
of non-Anglos, the poor, women, and the working class emerged as a
pillar of America’s socioeconomic “success” before we even
declared our independence.
the advent of the Industrial Age, transcontinental railroads, and
the rapid proliferation of Capitalism, an increasingly empowered
young nation with an insatiable lust for more land, resources, and
profits began to seek prey beyond its borders. At the close of the
Nineteenth Century, the American Eagle spread its wings as it began
mimicking the rapacious behavior of its Western European ancestors.
the sun finally preparing to set on the British Empire, the days of
conquest and expansion dawned for the nascent American Empire.
Pathologically hubristic notions like Manifest Destiny and American
Exceptionalism served to dehumanize indigenous people to justify
invasion, theft and murder as acts of necessity to bring
civilization to “primitives”.
his latest book, Overthrow,
former New York Times Bureau Chief Stephen Kinzer chronicles
America’s exploits as an empire and imperialist nation.
is it that they are spreading?
Bush Regime’s launch of the Project for the New American Century
with the invasion of Iraq was not really out of character for the
United States. While it was certainly executed with more blatant
disregard for international law than America’s previous imperial
endeavors, it typifies the American sanctimonious belief that it can
do no wrong.
Bush was simply reiterating America’s long-standing mendacious
rationale for its exploitative behavior when he stated:
I'm trying to suggest to you that this program is a part of a
strategic goal, and that is to protect this country in the
short-term and protect it in the long-term by spreading freedom.”
some of the freedoms the United States is spreading:
Freedom to work under miserable conditions for a pittance.
Freedom to exist in an environment permeated with depleted uranium.
Freedom to sell precious resources to soulless multinational
corporations at garage sale prices.
Freedom to experience a Kafkaesque nightmare including arrest with
no charges, no trial to determine guilt or innocence, the endurance
of torture, and indefinite detention.
Freedom to realize the inherent inferiority of one’s culture,
religion, and language, and to cast them aside like sacks of
Freedom to be maimed or killed if one dares to reject the
“gifts” of these freedoms.
corporate media propaganda machine has managed to maintain a
fastidiously manicured façade for many years. Despite appearing to
exist as a champion of democracy, equality, freedom, and human
rights, the reality of the United States was, and is, that its
socioeconomic and governmental systems are racist, bigoted, ruthless
and plutocratic in nature.
has never existed in the United States. A de facto
aristocracy has dominated our constitutional republic dating back to
the Continental Congress. Capitalism is a brutal, pitiless economic
system that encourages and rewards greed, selfishness, exploitation,
and annihilation of the competition.
with materialism, conspicuous consumption, convenience, physical
appearance, and winning, many Americans gorge themselves on the
abundant fruits of Capitalism, oblivious to the fact that billions
of human beings live in abject poverty and misery to make their
is a nation of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy. Its
ruling elite class is buttressed by the poor and working people who
have been rendered politically impotent by the allure of conspicuous
consumption (which further enriches the elite), the illusion of
democracy, and the extremely remote possibility that one of them
could be the next Bill Gates.
its cloak of benevolence, America is an abstract embodiment of the
proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Governed by avaricious
profiteers produced and enabled by a ruthless system that brings out
the worst in humanity, the United States is a predacious nation
innocently posing as a bastion of human rights and democracy.
out of real estate (and victims)
captures the essence of the zeitgeist in America in the late
Nineteenth Century with an apt quote from American historian
Frederick Jackson Turner:
nearly three centuries the dominant fact in American life has been
expansion. With the settlement of the Pacific Coast and the
occupation of the free lands, this movement has come to a check.
That these energies of expansion will no longer operate would be a
rash prediction; and the demands for a vigorous foreign policy, for
an inter-oceanic canal, for a revival of our power upon the seas,
and for the extension of American influence to outlying islands and
adjoining countries, are indications that the movement will
to Kinzer’s historical analysis, the United States cut its
imperial fangs on Mexico in the 1840’s, but Hawaii marked
America’s initial push beyond the North American continent. Two
American missionaries, Amos Starr Cooke and Samuel Castle zealously
worked to convert native Hawaiian “savages” into “civilized”
Christians, but eventually abandoned their missionary work for the
profits of the sugar trade. Cooke and Castle were the fathers of the
White American aristocracy in Hawaii. This group eventually came to
wield powerful economic and political influence on the islands by
virtue of the huge sugar plantations they owned. Manipulation of a
pliable Hawaiian monarch whom they had educated enabled them to
engineer land reform which stripped indigenous people of their
traditional communal form of land ownership.
January 17, 1893 the Marines landed in Hawaii with a small
contingency. In a bloodless coup, the 6220 Whites (on an archipelago
populated by 41,000 native Hawaiians and 28,000 Asian laborers)
seized control of the government and appointed none other than
Sanford Dole (cousin to pineapple magnate James Dole) to lead. By
1897 the United States had formally annexed Hawaii.
the Maine….And a few hundred thousand Filipinos
by the mainstream media lie that Spain had caused an explosion
aboard the USS Maine, a battleship President McKinley had dispatched
to Cuba in 1898, the United States declared war on Spain, won, and
quickly acquired Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines in the
process. Despite the Teller Amendment in which Americans had
promised Cuban sovereignty, President McKinley justified American
rule of Cuba through the “law of belligerent right over conquered
territory.” The Platt Amendment eventually became the US tool to
give outward appearances of Cuban autonomy without actually ceding
defeated Spain in the Philippines, Americans encountered another
enemy. It seems the indigenous people were prepared to forcefully
resist their new masters. Viewing the Philippines as crucial to its
business interests in Asia, the United States fought vigorously to
retain its new colony. Sending an occupation force of 126,000
(eerily similar to the number of troops in Iraq), America suffered
fewer than 5,000 casualties. At least 16,000 Filipino troops and
250,000 civilians were slaughtered by the United States military.
Rampant and blatant atrocities committed by American soldiers were
white-washed by a compliant mainstream media and farcical Senate
hearings in which Henry Cabot Lodge justified American torture,
cruelty and murder by characterizing Filipinos as “semi-civilized
people with all the tendencies and characteristics of Asiatics.”
dead than red? Not necessarily….
its history as an imperial power, the perpetuation of United States
corporate interests abroad has been its primary motivation. However,
no analysis of America’s malignant impact on the world would be
complete without addressing its fixation with crushing movements and
governments showing even a hint of Socialist or Communist
of American Capitalism triumphantly proclaim that the totalitarian
and barbaric regimes of Stalin and Mao are “absolute proof” that
any socioeconomic system based on “leftist” ideologies dooms its
people to torture, despotism, and mass murder. Stalin and Mao were
indeed murderous dictators, but the evolution of their regimes do
not negate the possibility of a socioeconomic system placing a
reasonable degree of power in the hands of the working class and
affording a more equitable distribution of wealth.
fact, critical analysis reveals that the manifestation of Capitalism
in the United States has been as morally repugnant and vicious as
the regimes the champions of our system love to cite as evil. Those
believing otherwise are in deep denial.
Americans enslaved millions (3.9 million according to the 1860
census) and committed genocide against the millions of indigenous
inhabitants whose land they stole. Aside from the egregious crimes
committed against non-Anglos at home, America’s system of
Capitalism exists as the virtual antithesis of the “Communist”
systems of Mao and Stalin in terms of inhumanity. Instead of
pointing its malevolence inward on its “own”, the United States
has committed its wholesale slaughter abroad (i.e. 3 million in
Vietnam, hundreds of thousands in Central America, and at least a
million Iraqis, including the victims of the Gulf War and the brutal
economic sanctions). Anglo exemption from slavery, genocide, and
slaughter explains why American Capitalism has outlasted the
“Communism” of Russia and China.
of a truly ugly American
devotes a chapter of Overthrow to former Secretary
of State John Foster Dulles, who could easily have been the
poster-child for American Capitalism and its inherent hypocrisy and
malevolence. Dulles easily warrants his own chapter. He exerted
tremendous influence on US foreign policy throughout the Cold War
and orchestrated a number of the interventions detailed in
writes of Dulles (who in private life had been a highly successful
attorney representing multinational corporations for the firm of
Sullivan & Cromwell):
had been shaped by three powerful influences: a uniquely privileged
upbringing, a long career advising the world’s richest
corporations, and a profound religious father. His deepest values,
beliefs, and instincts were those for the international elite in
which he had spent his life….”
to the most exhaustive book about Sullivan & Cromwell, the firm
thrived on its cartels and collusion with the new Nazi regime, and
Dulles spent much of 1934 publicly supporting Hitler….Soon after
World War II ended, Dulles found in Communism the evil he had been
so slow to find in Nazism.”
of the frying pan….
Overthrow, Kinzer does more than simply detail the
horrific consequences to the victims of America’s imperial
interventions. He also reminds us of the self-destructive nature of
America’s foreign policy. Perhaps the most timely and poignant
example is that of Iran.
1951, Mohammad Mossadegh became Iran’s democratically elected
prime minister. To alleviate the abject poverty of many of his
people, he quickly moved to nationalize the oil industry to utilize
the profits to benefit Iranians. The British, who had significant
oil interests in Iran, raised serious objections to Mossadegh’s
actions despite the obscene oil profits they had made over the years
in Iran, his offer to compensate them for the oil infrastructure
they had built, and the British government’s recent
nationalization of its own coal and steel industries.
the existence of the Soviet Union as a rival world power precluded
the use of direct military intervention by the United States, John
Foster Dulles contrived a plan to crush the Socialist
“ambitions” of Mossadegh. Disseminating propaganda through
America’s mainstream media (including the New York Times
and Time Magazine) which portrayed Mossadegh as a
Communist while simultaneously utilizing the CIA to create a
subversive environment in Iran, the United States succeeded in
toppling Mossadegh and replacing him with the Shah of Iran.
Representing US and Western business interests with great enthusiasm
until he was deposed by radical Islamic elements in 1979, the Shah
ruled Iran autocratically. SAVAK, his intelligence agency, tortured
and murdered thousands of Iranian dissidents.
Hugo Chavez is in Venezuela, Mossadegh was anathema to American
Capitalism. Leaders of developing countries who threaten the flow of
capital to the Empire by diverting it to their own people quickly
become enemies of the United States. The irony is that the
replacement rulers America installs to preserve its economic
interests are almost always corrupt and murderous dictators who
foster deep hatred of the United States. Ultimately, Washington
finds itself grappling with reactionary regimes which are overtly
hostile to the United States, like the current leadership in Iran.
a good neighbor…
devotes several chapters of Overthrow to
America’s numerous interventions in Central and South America over
the last century. Virtually all were launched to protect American
corporate interests by crushing Leftist governments and installing
business friendly despots like Pinochet in Chile. Corporations like
the United Fruit Company and presidents like Ronald Reagan were
responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Hispanics
throughout Central America.
also provides an enlightening analysis of the Vietnam debacle. In
contrast to the tissues of lies propagated by America’s media and
textbook authors, Ho Chi Minh was not a threat to US interests. He
was too busy striving for independence from Japan while facing
recolonization by France. Neither China nor the Soviet Union (the
“Communist” powers the ruling elite of the United States
professed to fear so greatly because of their “conspiracy to
spread Communism”), was interested in aligning themselves with
Minh because of his nationalism.
Ho Chi Minh spoke to a large group of supporters in Hanoi in 1945,
he stated these subversive “Communist principles”:
men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with
certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness.”
greatly admired the United States and even appealed to the American
government for help.
ignored Minh’s pleas for help. Instead, the United States chose to
take up where France left off and go to war with him. It also chose
to support Ngo Dinh Diem as the leader of South Vietnam. Diem was a
rotten human being and surrounded himself with family members whose
corruption and inhumanity exceeded his own.
Buddhist leaders led popular protests against the aristocratic and
authoritarian rule of Diem and his family, Thich Quang Duc, a
revered bodhisattva, burned himself to death at a busy Saigon
intersection on June 11, 1963.
York Times reporter David Halberstam witnessed the event
was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming
from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up,
his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of
burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind
me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now
gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or
ask questions, too bewildered to even think.... As he burned he
never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure
in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him."
Nhu, a member of the Diem ruling family responded to the protest by
them burn. We shall clap our hands.”
was one of America’s proxies in Vietnam. What does that say about
the United States?
and Iraq are not aberrations in United States foreign policy. Bush
and his Neocons are not “a few bad apples”. They may be more
malevolent than their predecessors, but they are not the first to
advance American corporate and plutocratic interests through lies,
propaganda, invasion, and flagrant crimes against humanity.
America’s socioeconomic system has engendered and reinforced such
pathological behavior for years.
Cannery Row, Steinbeck’s Doc concluded:
things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty,
understanding, and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our
system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed,
acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest, are the
traits of success.”
America, the inmates truly run the asylum.Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow,
rife with well-researched examples of America’s imperial conquests
from Mexico to Iraq, further validates the assertion many other
writers and I have been making for some time now. While
manifestations of the dark side of human nature are inevitable
aspects of human civilization, the American Way requires its
dedicated adherents to commit their lives to cruelty and inhumanity.
If human civilization is to survive, we need to collectively reject
this abominable mandate.
To get your copy of Overthrow,
Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist
with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive self-education
(derived from an insatiable appetite for reading). He is a member of
Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International
and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org
or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.