Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Big Picture

The Civilized World

When discussing the problematic nature of government, or our government in particular, there are as many opinions as there are people, a result of our own experiences and perceptions which we have garnered as we travel the journey of life. One thing many agree on is that U.S. imperialism has become a huge problem not only for us as U.S. citizens but even more so for many nations around the globe. Some lay the blame on the military industrial complex, the CIA, the two different factions of the War Party (Republicans and Democrats), or the very nature of humanity itself. What is often neglected is the culture factor. Very few ever contemplate the influence of the culture that they exist in and the very real effect is has on how we think and how we view the world yet the influence of culture is all too real.

U.S. imperialism began when the first European colonists began to arrive in the new world. It began with the spreading of diseases that wiped out many of the Native Americans and continued with the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans as the white population spread across the continent displacing the original population and eventually herding what was left of them onto reservations where many still live in poverty. At the base of this expansion was the European world view which is that Western Civilizations are superior to all others the echoes of which we still see today in the form of what is often referred to as American Exceptionalism. Yet even American Exceptionalism itself was and is a form of self delusion used by politicians and citizens alike to belie the greed that drives imperialism in all of its myriad forms and is used as a justification for the horrors that imperialism inflicts on our fellow humans. So with that in mind I would say that the military industrial complex, the machinations of the CIA on the body politic, and the two political parties are not the root cause of our problems but symptoms of a more fundamental problem which is the very culture that we live in.

Today the Western world, not just the U.S., is convinced of its own superiority to the rest of the world. The West considers itself to be that world which is “civilized” and for proof we point to our systems of justice, our laws, our technology, science and arts. In regards to these aspects of Western culture most people assume we are tops. In the process of doing so older and more ancient cultures are seen as quaint and part of a primitive past with little or no value other than as interesting history. When we read about the Westernization of some of these older cultures such as China and India we take it for granted that their entrance into the industrial world is further proof that everyone wants to be like us because we have the superior culture. Most have heard the expression “the white man’s burden” which is the idea that it is our destiny and duty to bring the rest of the world up to our own lofty standards. The arrogance of such thinking is lost on most people because it is one of those givens which we are steeped in from the time of our birth. In the process of leading the rest of the world to the land of milk and honey the West has been invading, murdering, abusing, and stealing from what we call third world nations for over 600 years. This is a most peculiar type of enlightenment by any standard.

For Our Own Good

The following is a post I wrote over one year ago which I wrote to illustrate how our government deals with us in much the same way it dealt with the Native Americans.

While our noble national leaders enjoy chiding other nations on human rights as in the recent debate concerning the Armenian genocide we seem to have forgotten that this land belonged to someone else prior to the European invasion of the Americas. Any study of European history reveals itself to be primarily a tale of brutal violence amongst the Europeans themselves and against less technologically advanced nations around the world. America itself is a product of this violent nature of western civilization and the treatment of Native Americans by the invading Europeans is no exception.

It can be very instructive to look at the double dealings and broken promises regarding the Native Americans by the federal government because it is quite similar to the double dealing and lying that our present federal government is practicing today all for our benefit of course. For that reason let’s look at Andrew Jackson and his heartfelt love and respect he had for what he liked to call “savages” and how he dealt with them.

Here are some quotes of Jackson speeches where he expresses his benevolent love for the savages that were so near and dear to his heart.

March 4, 1829
"It will be my sincere and constant desire to observe toward the Indian tribes within our limits a just and liberal policy, and to give that humane and considerate attention to their rights and their wants which is consistent with the habits of our Government and the feelings of our people."

December 8, 1829
"Our conduct toward these people is deeply interesting to our national character. Their present condition, contrasted with what they once were, makes a most powerful appeal to our sympathies. Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors of these vast regions. By persuasion and force they have been made to retire from river to river and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes have become extinct and others have left but remnants to preserve for awhile their once terrible names. Surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization, which by destroying the resources of the savage doom him to weakness and decay, the fate of the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware is fast overtaking the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate surely awaits them if they remain within the limits of the states does not admit of a doubt. Humanity and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great a calamity."

December 6, 1830
"Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people."

Ah, can’t you just feel the love that wells up from the depths of Jackson’s soul? His tenderness is so touching as he refers to the humanity and national honor that is behind what is about happen to the Cherokee tribe.

In 1830 Andrew Jackson in lieu of his great love for the Native Americans pushed the Indian Removal Act through both houses of congress and while this was touted as being done for the good of the Native Americans it was actually a result of the desire by whites to have the land for themselves to raise cotton not to mention the gold that was reportedly sighted in the Cherokee territory in Georgia. This resulted in what is known as the Trail of Tears.

The term "Trails of Tears" was given to the period of ten years in which over 70,000 Indians had to give up their homes and move to certain areas assigned to tribes in Oklahoma. The tribes were given a right to all of Oklahoma except the Panhandle. The government promised this land to them "as long as grass shall grow and rivers run." Unfortunately, the land that they were given only lasted till about 1906 and then they were forced to move to other reservations.

The Trails of Tears were several trails that the Five civilized Tribes traveled on their way to their new lands. Many Indians died because of famine or disease. Sometimes a person would die because of the harsh living conditions. The tribes had to walk all day long and get very little rest. All this was in order to free more land for white settlers. The period of forcible removal started when Andrew Jackson became President in 1829. At that time there was reported to be sightings of gold in the Cherokee territory in Georgia which caused prospectors to rush in, tearing down fences and destroying crops. In Mississippi, the state laws were extended over Choctaw and Chickasaw lands, and in 1930 the Indians were made citizens which made it illegal to hold any tribal office. Also in Georgia, the Cherokee tribes were forbade to hold any type of tribal legislature except to ratify land cessions, and the citizens of Georgia were invited to rob and plunder the tribes in their area by making it illegal for an Indian to bring suit against a white man.

There are two points of interest here that relate to how our government deals with U.S. citizens in the present. Note how when the government is about to give us the shaft they always frame it in such a manner that makes it appear to be for own good as in the destruction of habeas corpus which was carried out to protect us from the boogey man of terrorists even though it deprives us of our most basic rights and freedom from arbitrary persecution by the state which is the first point of interest. The second point of interest is how it was made illegal for an Indian to bring a law suit against a white. This is eerily reminiscent of the tort reforms of today which prevents citizens from bringing law suits against major corporations.

Democrats to the Rescue

The so-called "Tort Reform Movement" started as an internal project of the Philip Morris (PM) tobacco company around 1992 and turned into a large-scale, corporate-funded effort to alter the American judicial system in favor of big business led primarily by Philip Morris. A privileged and confidential PM document titled Tort Reform Project Budget from 1995-96 shows how well-funded and ambitious PM's "Tort Reform" project was; it lists all the consultants, organizations, individuals and law firms the industry funded to promote alteration of the legal system in 1995-96.[1]

In 2002, the consumer advocacy organization Center for Justice & Democracy investigated the roots of the U.S. "tort reform" movement and found that the "movement" was actually a massive national PR effort initiated by the tobacco industry to reduce or eliminate exposure to liability law suits. The report was co-released by CJ&D and Public Citizen. [2] The tobacco industry enlisted the participation of other industries like chemical manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, automobile manufacturers, insurance companies and others to alter the U.S. system of laws ("tort") that give sick and injured consumers access the court system. The movement has been propelled ahead by massive tobacco industry funds; the same PM budget document reveals that the tobacco industry alone budgeted fully $21.8 million for the corporate tort reform effort in the single year of 1995.

But naturally, at least to Democratic leaders, Tort Reform is good for us citizens. John Kerry, John Edwards as well as Barack Obama thought it was good for us as well, naturally.

From the American Prospect:

Instead, Kerry simply said, “John Edwards and I support tort reform.” Kerry then referred Laurent to his Web site, where he said she could find a “tort-reform plan” outlining his proposals for reining in lawsuits.

It was a telling moment in the nation's conversation about the civil-justice system, and a sign of just how far the debate had swung. In putting himself and Edwards on record as tort-reform supporters, Kerry was explicitly endorsing the conventional wisdom put forth by George W. Bush and his business backers that Americans are too litigious, that too many frivolous lawsuits are driving doctors out of business, and that lawsuits are hindering America's economic progress. By embracing the term “tort reform,” Kerry was agreeing that Americans need to have their legal rights restricted, a view quite at odds with most of the core values traditionally expressed by Democrats, who like to campaign on their support of “the people, not the powerful.”

But it's not just Democratic values that Kerry betrayed in the fall campaign. It's also his party's financial viability. Along with unions, trial lawyers have long been the Democratic Party's most reliable and generous donors, and without them, the party, both at the state and federal level, would have few other funding options. Every time Kerry spoke up in favor of lawsuit restrictions, he risked cutting off what amounted to $36 million in contributions from lawyers to the national Democratic Party in 2004 and a whopping $123 million to individual Democratic candidates, $22 million of which went to Kerry's own presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Nor was Kerry's tort-reform embrace a renegade notion that put him at odds with the Democratic establishment. In February, 18 Democratic senators voted in favor of a sweeping bill to restrict consumer class actions against large corporations, including the party's new all-star, Barack Obama, and former presidential candidate Joe Lieberman. (Despite his declaration during the debate, Kerry voted against the bill.) Thirty-two Democrats in the House have also voted in favor of restricting class actions. Democratic governors in conservative states like West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama have all signed tort-reform legislation in recent years as well, primarily to restrict patients' rights to sue for medical malpractice.

Here again we see another trend toward the one party system that we now enjoy today as Kerry, Edwards, and Obama blew off the unions who I mentioned before as being traditionally affiliated with the Democratic Party in favor of the giant corporations and all for our own good! Obviously Americans have been spending way too much of our time in practicing frivolous acts, in fact too much for our own good. Aren’t we the silly ones? Thank God for the new Democrats who are saving us from certain doom. Note the main drive has been to remove our rights but just keep in mind it is for your own good just like the Cherokee Indians.

Manifest Destiny and the Jacksonian Democrats

This is another post I wrote over a year ago on one of my favorite topics manifest destiny and how this world view has shaped our own perceptions to this very day.

Most have heard the term “Manifest Destiny” and its usage to delineate America’s God given right to conquer the universe and beyond since there was really no other reason that could be given by reasoning people for the ruthless expansion of American territories during the nineteenth century.

The painting above (courtesy of Wikipedia) is intended as the personification of Manifest Destiny with the Indians and wild beasts scurrying out the way of a gigantic Columbia which is actually quite appropriate for the consequences of Manifest Destiny. American exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny go hand in hand with American imperialism which began with the expansion westward. It was our Manifest Destiny and it may also prove to be our undoing.

The phrase itself was coined by John L. O’Sullivan in 1845 in an essay entitled Annexation. However he was writing about America’s exceptionalism as early as 1839.

the following is an excerpt.

The American people having derived their origin from many other nations, and the Declaration of National Independence being entirely based on the great principle of human equality, these facts demonstrate at once our disconnected position as regards any other nation; that we have, in reality, but little connection with the past history of any of them, and still less with all antiquity, its glories, or its crimes. On the contrary, our national birth was the beginning of a new history, the formation and progress of an untried political system, which separates us from the past and connects us with the future only; and so far as regards the entire development of the natural rights of man, in moral, political, and national life, we may confidently assume that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity.

It is so destined, because the principle upon which a nation is organized fixes its destiny, and that of equality is perfect, is universal. It presides in all the operations of the physical world, and it is also the conscious law of the soul -- the self-evident dictates of morality, which accurately defines the duty of man to man, and consequently man's rights as man. Besides, the truthful annals of any nation furnish abundant evidence, that its happiness, its greatness, its duration, were always proportionate to the democratic equality in its system of government. . . .

What friend of human liberty, civilization, and refinement, can cast his view over the past history of the monarchies and aristocracies of antiquity, and not deplore that they ever existed? What philanthropist can contemplate the oppressions, the cruelties, and injustice inflicted by them on the masses of mankind, and not turn with moral horror from the retrospect?

America is destined for better deeds. It is our unparalleled glory that we have no reminiscences of battle fields, but in defence of humanity, of the oppressed of all nations, of the rights of conscience, the rights of personal enfranchisement. Our annals describe no scenes of horrid carnage, where men were led on by hundreds of thousands to slay one another, dupes and victims to emperors, kings, nobles, demons in the human form called heroes. We have had patriots to defend our homes, our liberties, but no aspirants to crowns or thrones; nor have the American people ever suffered themselves to be led on by wicked ambition to depopulate the land, to spread desolation far and wide, that a human being might be placed on a seat of supremacy.

We have no interest in the scenes of antiquity, only as lessons of avoidance of nearly all their examples. The expansive future is our arena, and for our history. We are entering on its untrodden space, with the truths of God in our minds, beneficent objects in our hearts, and with a clear conscience unsullied by the past. We are the nation of human progress, and who will, what can, set limits to our onward march? Providence is with us, and no earthly power can. We point to the everlasting truth on the first page of our national declaration, and we proclaim to the millions of other lands, that "the gates of hell" -- the powers of aristocracy and monarchy -- "shall not prevail against it."

The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High -- the Sacred and the True. Its floor shall be a hemisphere -- its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens, and its congregation an Union of many Republics, comprising hundreds of happy millions, calling, owning no man master, but governed by God's natural and moral law of equality, the law of brotherhood -- of "peace and good will amongst men.". . .

Yes, we are the nation of progress, of individual freedom, of universal enfranchisement. Equality of rights is the cynosure of our union of States, the grand exemplar of the correlative equality of individuals; and while truth sheds its effulgence, we cannot retrograde, without dissolving the one and subverting the other. We must onward to the fulfilment of our mission -- to the entire development of the principle of our organization -- freedom of conscience, freedom of person, freedom of trade and business pursuits, universality of freedom and equality. This is our high destiny, and in nature's eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it. All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man -- the immutable truth and beneficence of God. For this blessed mission to the nations of the world, which are shut out from the life-giving light of truth, has America been chosen; and her high example shall smite unto death the tyranny of kings, hierarchs, and oligarchs, and carry the glad tidings of peace and good will where myriads now endure an existence scarcely more enviable than that of beasts of the field. Who, then, can doubt that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity?

And thus O’Sullivan sets America as above all other nations that exist or have existed as it was our “high destiny” where America is divine with the truth of God in our minds and all the rest of this putrid dribble whose arrogance and conceit is breathtaking. It is this philosophy that has imbedded itself in the American mind and has been passed on to this very day for most Americans would never question our superiority to all other peoples of the planet Earth. Today we see the echoes of this world view that has reverberated into ideas such as bringing democracy to the Middle East. We are superior, we are the agents of God and good, it is our destiny to spread our mindset and world view, our style of governance, our slavish obedience to the capitalist way to all other lands that inhabit this world. We must be sick in the head.

The belief in America’s Manifest Destiny was one of the cornerstones of the Jacksonian Democrat philosophy. And it was this belief in American exceptionalism that drove the imperialistic expansion of America from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific. Manifest Destiny despite whatever O’Sullivan believed was merely the cosmetic overlay that hid the true non-idealistic motives of greed and avarice that was actually driving the disenfranchisement of the native peoples of an entire continent which included genocide on a grand and brutal scale.

One of the last Jacksonian presidents was James Polk. And like our present President Bush the Mexican American war that was provoked by Polk was done under not only the auspices of Manifest Destiny but in the guise of a defense against invasion.

Two months into the war,U.S. representative George Ashmun, from Massachusetts, rebuked the president. "It is no longer pretended that our purpose is to repel invasion," he protested, "The mask is off; the veil is lifted; and we see. . . invasion, conquest, and colonization, emblazoned upon our banners."

Ashmun and other Whigs could not reconcile Polk's course with ideals of innocence and exceptionalism. Democrats, however, replied that Polk was beyond reproach. When the war ended, Sen. Sidney Breese of Illinois argued that his country's historic commitment to peace and national honor had been maintained. "We have never, sir, since the birth of our nation, given occasion for war, not even with the barbarous tribes upon our borders," he insisted. "It is our pride. . . that our whole history may be explored, and no single act of national injustice can be found upon its page-no blot of that kind upon our national escutcheon."

Politicians, editors, soldiers, and citizens, wanted new terrirory for various reasons. In the case of Texas, the Tyler administration sought to prevent the abolition of slavery there, control a potential rival in cotton production, provide a haven for masters and their slaves, thwart Great Britain from keeping Texas independent, and comply with the wishes of most Texians to join the United States. In the Oregon dispute, Democrats hoped to dominate Asian commerce, provide land for future pioneers, and safeguard citizens already settled there. The war with Mexico and the strategy of conquest revealed a desire to secure a border at the Rio Grande, satisfy claims against Mexico, and acquire California to monopolize trade with Asia. Democrats wanted to supply abundant land to the nation's poor and to future immigrants. To attain this laudable goal, however, they relied on bribery, bullying, and warfare to wrest land from Native Americans and Mexicans. Often idealistic, they were also racist and materialistic.

Then as today many Americans are blind to the suffering, destruction, and death we have dealt the people of Iraq driving them from their homes as we drove the Native Americans from theirs, murdering them on a wholesale basis as we have been murdering the Iraqi people and indeed we hear less and less about the brutal inhuman occupation of Iraq in the papers and in liberal blogs rather it has been supplanted by the dog and pony show of a presidential election that is of little consequence since the major players are all owned and paid for by the giant corporations that run and own this nation we call the United States of America a nation that despite its pretense at holier than thou has long been bereft of any sense of decency with all of our double standards and double dealings. Our government has been lying to us and indeed to the rest of the world and it is no wonder that most people will not even discuss the atrocities that we are causing at this very minute and second and all the days and nights of our existence because it is not polite to speak of such matters. Oh no, we are good, we are of a mind with God, we are the saviors of the planet just don’t look too closely at the dead and dying, the bodies rotting in the noonday sun. It is much better to speak of more pleasant things or pass the time discussing the intricacies of our national elections and who is more suitable to be our next Murderer in Chief.

"It is our pride. . . that our whole history may be explored, and no single act of national injustice can be found upon its page-no blot of that kind upon our national escutcheon."

Presidents Then and Now

Today President Junior along with his partners in crime, the Democratic Party, has effectively made our Constitution a thing of the past, a joke. From the destruction of Habeas Corpus to illegal spying on U.S. citizens we are becoming a police state. At this point it might be helpful to compare today’s war president with another war president Woodrow Wilson who entered us into WW I. I think it is significant that it was two Democratic presidents that embroiled the U.S. in the two largest and most destructive conflicts of all history but let’s continue with our comparison.

George Junior despite his rhetoric about protecting the Constitution has destroyed it. Woodrow Wilson believed that the Constitution was pre-modern, cumbersome, and open to corruption. Wilson believed that a parliamentary system would be a better form of government. And in fact our government today is much closer to being a parliamentary style than before the Republican revolution. Though today we lament the demise of our checks and balances in government Wilson believed that these checks and balances were the cause of problems not the solution.

Domestic Affairs

Woodrow Wilson's presidency fulfilled the progressive reform agenda and laid the foundations of the modern activist presidency. Although he built upon the example of Theodore Roosevelt, and while his immediate successors would return to the caretaker model of the presidency, Wilson's administration fundamentally altered the nature and character of the presidency. He changed it from an equal or lesser partner with Congress to its superior -- the dominant branch of government. This is exactly what Wilson had in mind upon his assumption of office. He intended to lead his party and the nation much as the prime minister of England leads Parliament. Before setting forth his program, Wilson consulted extensively with congressional leaders to ensure that his programs would be dealt with sympathetically when Congress considered them. In April 1913, at the opening of a special session of Congress called by the President to consider tariff reform, Wilson appeared personally before a joint session of the House and Senate to explain his program. His speech made headlines because no President had addressed Congress personally since John Adams, and it demonstrated that Wilson intended to play a dominant role in policy making.

Today we have the results of Wilson’s precedent setting parliamentary style of governance with a president who has grabbed enormous amounts of power with the full aid of a Democratic Congress. Those results are endless war and slaughter. With permanent military bases in Iraq America is set to wage war in the Middle East for years to come. Iran is the next target and is likely to ignite a third world war by dragging China and Russia into open confrontation with the U.S. as they seek to secure their own “national interests” in Middle East oil.

At the onset of WWI it is true that Woodrow Wilson adopted an isolationist posture. Bush has made the same ridiculous claims of trying diplomacy before we attacked and invaded Iraq yet despite this “diplomacy” our national leaders always find a way to wage war in the end. While national interests are always the excuse for entering into warfare it is highly questionable as to exactly whose interest’s wars are fought over. Is it the interest of the common people or is it in the interests of the rich and powerful and I believe the answer is fairly obvious.

Both Bush and Wilson talked about spreading democracy to other nations both at the point of a gun.

The United States invaded Haiti in July 1915 and subsequently held the second oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere under military occupation for nineteen years. While in Haiti, marines installed a puppet president, dissolved the legislature at gunpoint, denied freedom of speech, and forced a new constitution on the Caribbean nation -- one more favorable to foreign investment. With the help of the marines, U.S. officials seized the customshouses, took control of Haitian finances, and imposed their own standards of efficiency on the administration of Haitian debt.[1] Meanwhile, marines waged war against insurgents (called Cacos) who for several years maintained an armed resistance in the countryside, and imposed a brutal system of forced labor that engendered even more fierce Haitian resistance. By official U.S. estimates, more than 3,000 Haitians were killed during this period; a more thorough accounting reveals that the death toll may have reached 11,500.[2] The occupation also reorganized and strengthened the Haitian military. Now called the Gendarmerie, the new military organization was officered by marines and molded in the image of the Marine Corps.[3]

An occupation is, in one sense, a temporary arm of the state created to carry out a series of specific tasks. In this case, those tasks were to bring about political stability in Haiti, to secure U.S. control over Haiti with regard to U.S. strategic interests in the Caribbean, and to integrate Haiti more effectively into the international capitalist economy. Of course, supporters of the occupation, and those responsible for it, proposed that these goals would also bring about specific gains for Haiti. They pointed, for example, to the work of the Navy Medical Corps and to the construction of roads, bridges, buildings, and telephone systems under the marines' supervision.[4] With these changes, U.S. policy makers indeed sought to create an infrastructure to serve as the foundation for economic development and modernization. They also professed the hope that on this basis a new Haitian democracy would flourish.

This then is the big picture of what is wrong, it is our world view, and it is our culture. The problems with our nation began long before the making of the military industrial complex and the establishment of the CIA. It has nothing to do with party politics and has everything to do with party politics because there is really only one party when it comes to waging war.


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