Bush/Kerry, Republican/Democrat: same Imperialist
Date: Thursday, March 17 @ 20:58:02 UTC
Topic: Trinidad & Tobago
By Corey Gilkes
I have read many posts, blogs and articles written by people opposed to President George W. Bush's policies and actions; I've listened to the comments made on numerous radio and TV talk shows both local and foreign. There are many who vilify the President and express righteous indignation and horror over his wild, illegal military actions. Ok, fine, I have no problem with that. What amazed me, however, was that so many of these people saw a saviour in John Kerry and the Democrat Party. That there were so many people in the last election trying to foist Kerry on us as if he was any different, shows that Americans still don't get it. They are still (innocently?) unaware of what have been the prime motivators of US foreign policy (regardless of party) for the last 100-odd years. They, therefore, may never understand why they are deeply resented in other parts of the world and told to get out when they offer "assistance" to poorer countries or countries racked by conflict.
Part of their innocence lies in the way they have been encouraged to see themselves as the world's parent or mentor. The average US citizen is imbued with the idea of a missionary ethic; that it is their country's duty to pacify (read civilise) a violent and hostile world and to help countries with unfortunate people governed by cruel, corrupt dictators. Listening to the average US citizen or to those who have bought into US propaganda, one gets the distinct impression that they honestly believe that the US is not only the epitome of "freedom and democracy", but that what Uncle Sam has been doing abroad is in relation to spreading those two ideals. They see their ideals, culture and values as the model from which the rest of the world must take pattern. This assumption is so deeply rooted in US ideology that it is a virtual article of faith and is accepted almost without a second thought. And I am not just talking about the hawkish Republicans; the "liberal" Democrats have the same mindset. The only thing that separates the two sides is the way in which they try to impose their way of life. Review the speeches made by Bush and Kerry or for that matter most US presidents since Woodrow Wilson and you are bound to come across the terms "freedom and democracy", often uttered together, and the United States as the one nation on earth dedicated to spreading these lofty ideals.
Now this writer will not argue that there are many countries in this world that have some of the worst elements of the human species in positions of power and influence who have brought untold suffering to their fellow countrymen. Many of us would indeed like to see these people removed from power either by their own people or by a third party (only in the interests of bringing about harmony and a better quality of living). So if the US happens to be doing just that, why bitch about it? Well for starters, the United States has never intervened in other conflicts out of benevolence or some romanticised notion of being a Good Samaritan. Most of those corrupt dictators were installed by the very same upholders of freedom and democracy in the most undemocratic ways thinkable. The best way to understand what drives the US operating like a global hall monitor is to think about a person who secretly creates a problem, then turns around and solves it to make himself look good and to reap whatever benefits. It would do well for those honest advocates of liberal US foreign policies to read what Ian McDonald wrote in the February 2003 issue of the Trinidad and Tobago Review
"The so-called aid from first world countries to those in the Third World is one of the major myths of our time, a lie presented in a hundred ways to disguise the truth of what is really happening: namely, that aid is flowing in the other direction; that wealthy nations are continuing to live off the poor and exploit them with impunity. One sometimes wonders if the aid-giving agencies and NGO's are anything other than a sop to the conscience of hard-bitten governments or corrupt elites whose sole concern is to milk the cow to the last drop".For serious students of European colonialism or Caribbean and African history, much of what the US claims to be doing is sure to sound very familiar since Europe went down that same road before and for the exact same expansionist reasons. The phrase "freedom and democracy" has been bandied about for some time now but to this day has remained vague and abstract. A closer examination of the way the term is used, however, reveals that it is an outgrowth of an older concept: that of a universal civilisation. In previous centuries colonising European powers advanced the idea of a universal civilisation to justify their enslaving and colonising the non-white world by force. At the end of the 20th century this new catch phrase has been made popular enough to replace the one popularised by the European powers since the 16th century - Christianity. Archival documents from the 16th through the late 19th century by European priests, explorers and politicians reveal interesting parallels with the United States of the 20th and early 21st centuries: then, the idea of a universal civilisation was disguised through the vehicle of Christianity, today it is through "democracy". In both cases the concept is in keeping with Eurocentric values, in both cases the Other (and there is always an "Other" in whom to define oneself in opposition to) is non-white, viewed as hostile, savage, corrupt, despotic and a threat to the security and way of life of Europe/Euro-American. In both cases the dominant powers were obsessed with expanding and solidifying their geo-political hegemony. In both cases the dominant powers claimed to be undertaking missions of mercy and empowerment of the common people but set up structures and institutions that kept the grassroots in a state of perpetual dependency and disempowerment.
People who honestly clamour for global peace and saw Kerry as the answer to Bush don't understand that the US political system was founded, to use the words of Prof Lennard Jeffries, by rich white men with property and power for rich white men with property and power. It does not really matter who is in the White House; US policies are profoundly influenced by capitalist multi-national corporations. This has been the case since the late 19th century and has been at the root of almost every war, coup and assassination engineered by the US and its various agencies. The evidence is right there and well documented: the Spanish-American war; the inciting of rebels to overthrow President Carlos Herrera of Guatemala for not extending the concessions to the United Fruit Co in 1922; the overthrow of the President of Guatemala in 1954 - again, for attempting to initiate agrarian reforms that threatened the profits of United Fruit; the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran in 1953; the ousting of President Allende of Chile; the attempted removal of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and I could go on and on. In most of these cases the coup was preceded by a systematic character assassination of the individual in power ('X' is a Communist/Marxist; has ties with terrorist organisations, etc). In every case they have left a trail of blood and suffering. But the average US citizen does not know this because the history they were taught in high school - and for that matter in the universities - does not tell them this. What little they are taught is distorted to suggest that Washington's actions were in the interests of national security. So it comes as no surprise that the honest do-gooders who hailed Kerry did not catch on to the many times in his campaign speeches he announced his intention to put pressure on such leaders as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Castro of Cuba and to combat terrorism by hunting down those who in his opinion, represent threats to the security of the US - which happens to be the same ones Bush claims to be fighting now. Was any mention made of righting the atrocities committed by past US administrations that created these radical extremists in the first place? Was there any talk about trying to undo the legacy of hate caused by years upon years of destabilising countries, ousting often democratically elected governments and installing some of the worse human rights abusers known? Was there any acknowledgement of the millions of lives that have been destroyed because of Washington and Wall Street undermining and sabotaging economic policies of various countries struggling to break free of Western imperialism? Nothing of the kind.
Samuel Huntington, wrote in "The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order":
"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilisations were converted) but rather by its superiority in applying organised violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do". It is this amnesia, this selective understanding and teaching of history that has Americans and the "unthinkers" of other countries ignorant of the world around them; that has them unable to properly understand the reasons for hate directed towards them in some parts of the world. This distorted and decontextualised view of the world has brought about an air of arrogance and conceit that to this day has most Americans referring to the events of Sept 11, 2001 as an "attack" which it was not. May I call to mind Malcolm X's infamous comment about chickens coming home to roost?
Let me stress, however, the problem is not George W Bush anymore than the problem in pre-WWII Germany was Adolph Hitler (yes, I am placing both names in the same sentence; there is not that much difference actually). The problem is not John Kerry or H Ross Perot or Bill Clinton. It is not so much that they are or were bad men but they're products of bad societies; bigoted, xenophobic, militaristic societies. The US and 1930's Germany - like England before them - both were and are guided by a strong sense of the rightness and superiority of their culture, their cause and ultimately the belief that their actions were sanctioned by the will of "God". Hitler said on more than one occasion that what he was undertaking was guided by his religious principles and it is no secret that there was very strong anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany going back to the 19th century. This anti-Jewishness was profoundly influenced and perpetuated by the Church and went hand-in-hand with strong nationalistic and racial beliefs.
This outlook, common to virtually all nationalistic societies, almost always served as a mask for racial superiority and racial purity. Often that outlook is so deeply ingrained into the fabric of the society that, especially in the case of the United States, people who do not even belong to the dominant ethnic group (in this context, a European Protestant or Catholic ancestry), quickly adopt and help project the values touted by that society (freedom and democracy) regardless of the treatment they may have received by the dominant group. Note how many people of African, Mexican/Hispanophone and Native American descent have traditionally fought in the wars waged by the US and Britain in an attempt to be recognised and accepted as loyal citizens. Many of them become some of the most ardent and zealous supporters of the US government. Vladimir Lenin, who overthrew Tsar Nicholas II of Russia in 1917 and ushered in a new age in the history of Russia, spoke about manipulating "useful fools"; well-intentioned people who could be seduced by the propaganda you feed them and in so doing play right into your hands. He may well have been referring to the common people of the US; (don't get me wrong, I'm not painting the whole population with a brush of stupidity, it's just that they are constantly manipulated into a state of mindlessness so as to better permit their governments to engage in illegal military actions across the globe).
The world is indeed a more dangerous and unstable place, but it is not chiefly because of the simple-minded religious zealot with a father and god-complex. All he has done was to do openly and brazenly what all previous administrations have been doing since the end of the 19th century - Kerry most certainly would have done it too but in more subtle ways. The only difference now is that countries and peoples who in times gone by did not have the means or the power to stand up to the giant can do so now and are bringing to bear generations of justifiable resentment and hatred to bear on the West. If US citizens really know what a democracy is then they had better become more vociferous as their parents were in the turbulent 1960's in order to rein in the excesses of their governments' attempts at creating a "New Europe" (which, given the nature and the language uttered over the past few months, may one day end up in military conflict with the "Old" Europe). To do this there must be a significant change in political consciousness at ground level and a serious examination and dispensing with the biblical fairy tales that today guides the minds of the criminals of the White House. But then, it appears that their arrogance coves their ears and we say in Trinidad, "who can't hear, does feel".