(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
"It's important that I don't get too knowledgeable about the past." - Wallace Booth, on becoming president of United Brands in 1975
At first, the title will make one think that I’ve taken a dog-eared page out of Sarah Palin’s version of Hooked on Phonics. But I decided to coin a new word because “misadventurism” is essentially the only word that distills the perennial lunacy that ensues no matter which party controls the White House.
American foreign policy, whether guided by the White House, the State Department, the Council on Foreign Relations, US corporations or a hybrid of all, has always had a bifurcated, Jekyll and Hyde quality to it. The nation that gave the world the post-war Marshall Plan and Japan with an all-inclusive yet unique constitution courtesy of Gen. Douglas MacArthur has also given it the Bush Doctrine and Cheney’s scorched earth 1% Doctrine. The nation that has come to the aid of literally dozens of countries in their direst hours of need has also ignored the crippling poverty of nations such as Haiti, Afghanistan and others in the 3rd world while invading others for disingenuous or transparently pro-corporate purposes. For every Camp David Accord that brought peace to Israel and Egypt, there have surely been dozens of Bay of Pigs and Gulf of Tonkin resolutions.
Until now, the Reagan years were regarded by pacifists and liberals as the heyday of American adventurism. While shaking a rusty saber at Communists both real and imagined, Reagan got us involved where we didn’t belong, namely in Lebanon, El Salvador, Grenada and other nations including some that haven’t even made the official record. During his eight years in office, the Great Communicator snuggled up to more tyrants than gaudy sashes, one of the most notorious being the right wing dictator Augusto Pinochet who was aided on another September 11th by the Kissinger-hatched plot to overthrow the democratically-elected Salvador Allende.
And, to prove what a pathetically hopeless product he was of his own generation, when Islamic Jihad terrorists killed 242 Marines (and 57 French) in two suicide truck bombings, Reagan cut and ran. He was great at shaking his wrinkled, liver-spotted fist at Communists real or imagined but when it came to the more relevant and unconventional threat of Islamic terrorism, he was utterly clueless and worthless.
Reagan merely continued a long, proud tradition of making tacit alliances and enemies of onetime allies while helping to create monsters that we later couldn’t control. It’s a ruinous policy of imperial American adventurism that immediately turns into misadventurism and the only ones who benefit, it seems, are the corporations that invariably wait in the wings for the US military to finish mopping up for their grand but silent entrance.
And if Barack Obama is sincere about restoring America’s integrity and credibility in the Muslim world in the wake of the arrogant, unilateral and lawless Bush years, he couldn’t have chosen a worse way to do it.
After a hiatus of several months, Wikileaks, through its new mouthpiece, the Washington Post, tells us that the Obama administration has continued a Bush-era propaganda scheme of using the State Department to funnel millions into the funding of an anti-government TV station run by Syrian dissidents. Its signal is beamed into Damascus and beyond by satellite and, as with Bush and Rice State Department, this propaganda program is continuing with Obama and the Clinton State Department.
This cynical piggy-backing of popular sentiment in order to legitimize and make nobler our adventurism is something you’d expect from warhawk Republicans intent on regime change in nations whose own domestic policy isn’t in line with American corporate interests. Many of the 72,000,000 who’d voted for Obama two and a half years ago (if they cared enough about it to learn of this latest disclosure) wouldn’t have expected it of a man who’d promised us “hope and change” when all he’s done is continue one failed Bush policy after another while dreaming up new ones of his own.
Most, if not all, blowbacks are unintentional. For instance, when one remembers Charlie Wilson’s war, you rarely hear anyone include a footnote that a large part of the hundreds of millions he got in funding and training for the Afghan mujahedin to fight the occupying Soviets also gave rise to the terrorist network that would become an American household word after 9/11. Osama bin Laden, as we all know, used to be the good guy, a simple freedom fighter who shared with us a common enemy of the Reagan administration: The Soviet Union.
And, to be fair to those in power back then, the Soviets at the start of their own crusade into Afghanistan still looked pretty formidable and capable of taking on the United States and quite a few of its allies. Little did we know the USSR would only have about twelve years left before beginning a half-hearted slouch toward a pseudo-democracy.
But partly because of our blindly pro-Israel policies bin Laden had already been grinding an axe against his temporary benefactors and became the ultimate blowback. This was brought about by a persistent naïvete and ignorance of the Muslim world that persisted in 2003 when Bush didn't know soon-to-be-invaded Iraq was largely divided along Sunni and Shia lines, when Deputy Undersecretary of State Paul Wolfowitz insisted that all Muslims in Iraq were secular and when Cheney insisted we’d all be greeted as liberators.
And this willful ignorance and naïvete regarding Muslim matters continues throughout the administration of a man whom the far right wing has demonized as a Muslim himself. This errant stupidity is vividly delineated by Obama extra-Congressionally getting US forces involved in aiding Libyan insurgents who’d previously enjoyed an insurgent status in Iraq by attacking and killing American troops. (In light of the Obama administration’s risible insistence that we’re not at war with Libya, it’ll be interesting to say the least how the White House will spin it when the first US ground troops from Libya start arriving horizontally on the transports at Dover AFB.)
The problem with (mis)adventurism abroad is we wind up alienating more hearts and minds than we win. It’s a long-since proven truism that home invasions, wanton slaughter of civilians and cowardly, unmanned drone air strikes controlled by joystick jockeys on military bases in Nevada wind up radicalizing and nationalizing a civilian population that previously was more concerned with simple day to day survival. Yet right wingers, especially, still audaciously say time and again on Fox “News” that the indigenous peoples whose nations we’ve invaded and occupied, the people whom we’ve detained, beaten, tortured, impoverished, raped and maimed ought to show some gratitude!
To cite just Afghanistan, the American military has done more to destroy homes, families and entire villages than the regional terrorist network known as the Taliban. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Afghanistan, nearly a decade after the US invasion of 2001, is still allowing the opium crops to flourish at the insistence of our puppet Hamid Karzai and his drug-dealing brother while ignoring Afghanistan’s eternal poverty (as of 2006, they were still the 6th-poorest country in the world, according to the CIA Factbook.). Under American involvement, women’s rights have taken a large step or two backward as the Taliban has taken back key cities and provinces.
The ironic thing is that Afghanistan is, in theory, one of the richest nations on earth in terms of undeveloped oil and natural gas fields. Their undeveloped mineral resources are alone valued at roughly a trillion dollars.
But Afghanistan will never have the leisure of developing its natural resources and assuming its rightful place in the global economy as long as there’s a state of perpetual war any more than Iraq will achieve a stable, democratic government and free and fair elections as long as they’re in a state of perpetual war. If Afghanis are beginning to view our unending involvement and propping up of an obviously corrupt regime with circumspection, can anyone really blame them? On a rare quiet night in Kabul, an Afghani farmer will be able to hear Halliburton and Bechtel licking their chops and rubbing their cloven hooves.
Our entry into World War II forever ended America’s policy of isolationism. From the time of Truman on down, every single US president without exception has funded or otherwise gotten involved with civil wars, revolutions, coups, vest pocket wars and every class of incursion. But in Latin America and the Middle East during the early 50’s, we saw a disturbing element in the mix: The protection and enrichment of Anglo-American corporate interests. In Latin America it was United Fruit (eventually renamed Chiquita Brand). In Iran, it was BP.
From time to time it’s convenient and even incumbent on the incumbent President or Secretary of State to denounce certain tyrants for human rights abuses and while technically these denunciations are often unassailably true, what you’ll never hear is any American administration making similar denunciations of human rights abuses at the hands of American corporations. Whether it be Chiquita or Coca Cola or Halliburton or Chevron, there has never been a single recorded instance of the United States government stepping in to end, curb or even criticize a corporation that hires mercenary thugs to kill the indigenous people for simply protesting their collective rape.
We all know the reason for this. It’s the most open secret in the world. After his homeowner relief bill was defeated, Sen. Dick Durbin alluded to it when he said of the banksters, “they frankly own the place.” Corporations have bankrolled candidates for countless decades and the minute a candidate grows a spine and opposes his contributors’ agenda is the second their grip on incumbency begins to slip. As freelance journalist Michael Collins says time and again, there’s no Republican or Democratic party but one: The Money Party.
But corporations began bankrolling candidates then entering political activism decades before Citizen’s United vs the FEC was ruled on by the SCOTUS January last year. And while the Supreme Court insisted on using the false and dangerous argument that corporations are people, too, they seemingly forgot to invest ordinary biological entities with the same rights they gave to corporations: Namely the power to contribute unlimited sums of money to candidates without disclosing how much and, in doing so, even keeping their name from being publicly mentioned.
If you think corporations are twisting and subverting American foreign policy now, just wait and see what they do to this planet of ours when Citizen’s United gets fully entrenched in the electoral process if it hasn’t already. We’ve already proved time and again we’ll go to war and overturn democracies over oil and fruit and to keep the military industrial complex well-fed. What will it be tomorrow? Will we go to war with Canada at the behest of Johnson & Johnson over prescription drugs? Will Google send us into Red China so they can take over the last great frontier of internet access? Don’t stay tuned. Coming up next, another thrilling episode of American Idol.
And reckless, deadly pro-corporate adventurism and diplomatic hugger mugger only helps to create contradictory, tacit alliances that fall apart the moment these entities realize they no longer need American financing, training and political and diplomatic support.
One has to wonder what opportunistic Osama bin Laden of the future currently receiving US aid is waiting in the wings, what other monsters with which we’ll have to contend when they seize the moment to come screaming out of the closet and into America on a bright, sunny Tuesday morning. And what monsters will we have to create or cultivate in order to combat them?
And one is also permitted to wonder when we’ll at last return to the isolationism that served us well between the beginning of the 20th century and World War I.