A good salesman can sell water by telling prospective customers that the tap water that’s relatively free isn’t safe to drink. An even more successful salesman makes sure that the claim is verified, whether true or not. To boost sales even further, one can put a fancy label on the water and convince people that their friends and family will think more of them if they drink this water rather than “lesser” brands.
America (meaning the United States of America) has an unpaid debt that has been rising alarmingly since the day Ronald Reagan took office with the sole exception of Bill Clinton’s eight years in office. We’re spending (both government and ordinary citizens) like drunken sailors. With interest rates at all-time lows, there’s a great deal of incentive to go into debt: bonus miles, cash back, 2-for-1 sales and ubiquitous advertisements. Reagan eviscerated the agencies that regulated labor practices and financial services, installing Cabinet members who were antagonistic to them, leading to the death of the labor movement, the ENRON fiasco, the bankruptcy of California and, later, the too-big-to-fail bailout of banks and investments wiped out by grossly mislabeled financial derivatives and other financial atrocities. It seems that Trump has doubled down on that strategy, even though it failed miserably in making things better for workers in America, though it did make quite a few wealthy people wealthier and sent one or two of the most blatant abusers to a country club prison.
We’ve been divided by our own nationalism into “red” and “blue” camps and, while we bicker among ourselves, we’re being conned by a small cartel of billionaires and their multi-million-dollar-salary lackeys. And, what’s worse, we seem to be willing participants in this charade, in pretending that the brutal, undemocratic governments we’re propping up in Iraq and Afghanistan are, in some unknown way, significantly different from the brutal, undemocratic forces they oppose. We willingly support military intervention in foreign civil wars and foreign border disputes which must necessarily promote prolonged misery on both sides of the conflict. What’s worse, it’s clear (now!) that we started this by our ill-informed, dishonest and brutal invasion of Iraq. The WMDs and religious intolerance were ours, not theirs. We accused them of our crimes and believed our lies. And yet, by invading, we created those things we feared were already there.
We fail to recognize that it was us and our allies (some of whom are now our erstwhile “enemies”) a century ago that empowered the dictatorships we now oppose. We planted the seeds of these wars and are reaping the very rich economic rewards (for the already excessively wealthy) as well as the ongoing sorrow and strife of survivors and their families that come with constant, prolonged urban warfare waged far from our own shores.
So we’re selling America as the “good guy” while doing consistent harm to ourselves and both sides of the conflicts overseas and making the world less safe for democracy — or any other type of government. We originally supplied al Quida (including Osama bin Laden) with arms and diplomatic encouragement when they were fighting the puppet government which gave the Soviet Union its OK to invade and occupy Afghanistan. Now, we are in a worse position than the Soviets were in when they had to withdraw. By supporting an unpopular government, we’ve turned Afghanistan into rubble and house-to-house fighting. And we are NOT winning any “rights” for anyone, despite stated intentions and patently false declarations. Many of my contemporaries believe that this is caused by us anti-war protesters that weaken our resolve, whereas past history shows clearly that these regional conflicts can no longer be won and held by an occupier in today’s high-tech, interconnected world. The last time any US invasion was entirely successful was before I was born! And we’ve been invading lots of other countries unsuccessfully since. When you calculate the costs to our citizens of these frequent “defensive” activities, you realize what a racket these wars have been!
By idealism and simplified thinking, we have managed to toss reason and rationality into the waste basket and cheer on troops that are blowing up tax dollars and foreign real estate at an alarming rate while doing nothing positive for America or Iraq or Afghanistan and calling this “fighting for our freedom,” a sales pitch which is completely and utterly without any connection to reality.
Furthermore, if we happened to “win” any of these foreign conflicts, we would be enmeshed in reconstruction, buying off of remaining opposition and purchasing good will among the survivors. Once we sign on as Big Brother, obligations will last long beyond military conflict. Almost half our armed forces overseas are stationed in Germany, Japan and South Korea and have been there almost my entire life without any benefit to us taxpayers footing the enormous bill. Our presence in newly conquered territories and our interference there will still be opposed, as it has been in this part of the world for millennia and counting. Resentment and rebellion will smolder beneath the surface for generations. No matter how benevolent we pretend to be or are, we will seen as an oppressive occupier.
“Defense” spending is now more than a quarter of our national budget which is, again, in gross imbalance. The lie that our troops overseas are “fighting for democracy” persists every day. We repeat this slogan at an alarming rate among ourselves. The first thing said to me after identifying myself as a veteran is almost always, “thank you for your service,” presuming that I did something beneficial to my country or for Vietnam.
I served during the Vietnam War with men permanently altered by it. We started out fighting for wealthy Catholics who cooperated with a succession of foreign occupiers against the rights and best interests of the Buddhist majority. In our mind-numbing foolishness, we clung to the label “anti-Communist.” A more appropriate label might have been “colonialist.” The pro-independence, anti-colonial communist government reclaimed the last areas of their ancient country in 1973 and immediately opposed communism in Cambodia, Laos, and China!! Like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria today, the beef wasn’t about ideology but foreign occupation!
We are being sold these wars with dishonest misdirection by both political parties who are beholden to the people who finance their political campaigns, a dependency which looks and operates much like our foreign policy.
“Divide and conquer” was the British philosophy which gave rise to this small island having political and economic influence over a disproportionate number of the world’s population. Until being bankrupted by two World Wars, they were the world’s superpower, holding control of India, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the Suez Canal as well as many other countries.
When they arrived, the Hindus and the Moslems were living together in India. When they left and since, to this day, the Hindus and the Moslems have been at war with each other.
When the Allies took over several areas of the Middle East at the end of World War I, they again sowed the seeds of conflict. They created borders for Iraq that included dissident Kurds and excluded the deep-water port of the oil-rich province (not yet a country) of Kuwait, which Britain took as a colony.
After taking Palestine as a colony as well, they immediately and resolutely implemented an unfair and unpopular change in laws for both taxation and immigration which was grossly unpopular with the local Arabs. At the time, the population was living harmoniously: 80% Moslem, 11% Jewish and 9% Coptic Christians. This dastardly deed satisfied both divide-and-conquer and their major creditor, Baron Walter Rothchild, who kept the British government from bankruptcy during World War I and was a major player in the British Zionist movement.
It is widely believed that the conflict between Arab and Jew has been going on for millenia, whereas the Crusades found few allies when they invaded despite the area being only 80% Muslim.
So, it isn’t a stretch for me to claim that we, the American people, are being colonized; not by a foreign government, but by the same faction that has been behind colonization for millennia.
I believe that Constantine legalized and then legitimized an intolerant form of Christianity for the same purposes. Henry VIII created the Anglican Church, which, whether or not he intended it, helped create a 600-year barrier between privileged Protestants and impoverished Catholics in Northern Ireland.
Religious extremism, political extremism and dogmatic loyalty create an “us” and a “them” which are turned into simplistic, often misused labels such as “savages” or “communists” or , more recently, “radical Islamic terrorists,” a mislabel insisted on by the Republican Presidential Campaign.
Muhammad Atta is no longer alive to tell us about his religious beliefs, but we know he was from Egypt, drank beer, got a Master’s Degree in Architecture in Germany, and spoke at least three languages fluently. I’m not saying he was right in flying a passenger liner into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, but his fight wasn’t religious. It was political and economic. Had it been religious, Saint Paul’s Basilica in Rome would have been a more appropriate target and he would not have been consuming alcohol.
Osama bin Laden first left the wealthy comforts of Saudi Arabia to fight Soviet Communist aggression in Afghanistan. And, again, it wasn’t religion that motivated him. He was fighting the ongoing colonization of the Middle East by the World War I and II allies that were fighting each other in proxy wars in the Third World. Our government first supported him and his fellow “freedom fighters.”
We didn’t defend the defenseless Hungarians in 1956 as the Soviet Union suppressed a spontaneous uprising against their puppet government. Instead, we gradually enmeshed ourselves with the government selected by NATO when they partitioned the 4-millennia-old country of Vietnam and appointed a Catholic dictator in the southern half.
And we were angry for 50 years that we didn’t have time to get into a proxy war in Cuba; the popular sentiment against our surrogate, Fulgencio Batista, was far too strong.
It is time to look past simplistic labels. It is time to stop bickering among ourselves. It is time to think hard about what is happening and whether we want a civil war in this country or not. The people who got us where we are constitute a small minority of the people but have a disproportionate voice in what we think and how we vote. We can let them fill our minds with anger and outrage at each other or we can tighten our belts and ride out this new “crisis.”
If we wait, if we sit on our hands and refuse to react, if we can somehow calm ourselves, we will eventually find common ground, mutual benefit, and win-win solutions. But if we rise to the bait, if they can get us angry enough, we will be sending them money to flood the red and blue media with enough propaganda to start a war between us. At that point, both sides of this conflict will be fighting against freedom, against democratic government and against civil rights, just like much of the Third World.
The Chinese have recently implemented a new and better strategy to combat “divide and conquer.” They are patient. They are buying American dollars and American companies. They are taking our innovations and improving upon them. They are investing heavily in infrastructure, science and newer technologies. Even though their capitalism is controlled from the top; even though the bureaucracy is widespread and sometimes unfair and oppressive, they are working together rather than fighting each other to a standstill as in Washington D.C.
Their armies still occupy Tibet and other conquered territories. They occupy disputed areas in many neighboring countries. There is no question about their imperialist intentions. On the other hand, the United States is equally aggressive, bullying smaller, less industrialized countries all over the world. The difference is one of strategy rather than good-versus-bad. The Chinese haven’t let us drag them into a proxy war in North Korea. They are far more patient than we are. They are willing to wait; to defer gratification, to take their profits to Africa and America and take over without any violence whatsoever.
If we don’t wise up, we’ll find ourselves part of the empire of China in fact if not in name.
©David N. Dodson, February 2018