Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Good and the True

Democrat versus Republican and Other Fairy Tales

It is fascinating to see the extent of the mental contortions that some will go through to justify, ignore, and refute that the Democrats are no better and in fact likely worse than the Republicans in perpetuating a brutal foreign policy and an oppressive authoritarian domestic policy all aimed at enriching and maintaining the power of the ruling class. Today we are still embroiled in active imperialism whose roots can be traced back to 1901 with the U.S. invasion of the Philippines. It is actually a much older tale as the very inception of the U.S. was a brutal act of invasion, coercion, plunder, and murder that required the genocide of nearly an entire native population.

What I write about is not a Democrat versus Republican theme, something that I believe is misleading regarding the nature of our government and in fact it is merely a useful tool used to obscure reality. Aside from this political tribalism people have written reams on conspiracy theories with the emphasis on theories yet one need not indulge in complex theories when there is a plethora of established facts that one may consider to explain the behavior of our government.

It’s called history.

Obama himself, despite the vapid emotional hysterics that people shower him with, is actually not all that important in the scheme of things. I have noted many times that presidential elections represent nothing more than a changing of the guard. The system as it exists today is largely but not exclusively due to World War II which led to the so-called Cold War and the military-industrial-scientific-complex. It also exists because of the nature of power and money which is the logical and natural outcome of capitalism mixed in with the idealism that the ruling classes use to justify their own actions. There are many elements of this system that are self perpetuating including organizations like the Pentagon which is known for its use of propaganda or the CIA who are known for providing intelligence to presidents that is tailored to their needs in order to implement the presidential agenda and who mainly act for their own preservation and survival for obvious reasons much like living organisms. What these various organisms all share is that they are tools for the ruling class. This was clearly and undeniably demonstrated, in the case of the CIA, with the stove piping of questionable and unverified intelligence regarding Iraq’s supposed connection to terrorist groups and nuclear and biological weapons during the build-up to the Iraq War which was a perfect example of how the CIA was used to provide faulty information used by Bush and the neocons for their own disastrous dreams of conquest. Surely most can recall the fiasco of yellow cake and aluminum tubes as well as Powell’s performance before the UN with his little vial of snake oil. Presidents do not base their foreign policies on intelligence rather it would be more true to say that intelligence is invented to justify presidential foreign policy.

However all that may be the disastrous foreign policies of the Bush administration are nothing new, in fact Bush’s foreign policies resemble those of presidents past spanning a time period of more than one hundred years long before the existence of the Pentagon or the CIA.

The main reason I concentrate my criticism of government upon the Democratic Party is not because of Obama and his “historic” rise to power rather it is because of the prevalent belief among liberals that the Democrats are the true and the good or if you prefer the lesser of two evils. I submit that the Democratic Party is neither the good and the true nor the lesser of two evils. In fact there is really only one political party whose differences can be found in style rather than substance most especially when it comes to the universal belief in U.S. imperialism held by both the Democrats and Republicans.

Outer Marches of the Imperial Road

It could be argued that the beginnings for the main thrust of U.S imperialism began with the ending of the Spanish American War which was the beginning of America’s occupation of the Philippines for which there are some interesting parallels to the kind of thinking we heard so recently during the build up to war in Iraq. It was believed that the Filipinos would greet Americans as liberators, sound familiar?

Dewey's Pacific Squadron quickly defeated Spanish naval forces at Manila Bay, but the question remained, Kramer said, how U.S. forces should engage with a Philippine revolutionary movement that broke from Spain in June 1898 and declared the first republic in Asia. U.S. forces attempted to make use of Filipino revolutionaries - who were defeating Spanish land forces in the islands - without recognizing their government. Filipinos, they assumed, would greet U.S. forces as "liberators." When Spain surrendered, Filipino diplomats were not invited to treaty negotiations. U.S. negotiators pressed Spain to relinquish "sovereignty" over the Philippines - an archipelago Spain no longer controlled - for $20 million.

In February 1899, U.S. forces outside of Manila fired on soldiers of the declared Philippine Republic and the Philippine-American War began. It would in no sense be either "splendid" or "little," Kramer said. It lasted more than three years, in some places as long as 10. It involved 126,000 U.S. troops and resulted in nearly 5,000 U.S. casualties, an estimated 12,000 Filipino military casualties, and the death by violence, dislocation and disease of an estimated 250,000 Filipino civilians. It began as a conventional struggle, but facing early defeats, Filipino leader Emilio Aguinaldo opted for guerrilla tactics in November 1899.

There are also interesting parallels between recent current events and the American military involvement in the Boxer Rebellion which began in 1899. President Mckinley ordered American troops to enter China without even asking Congress setting a precedent that still haunts us today as in the recent American naval shelling of Somalia done without consent of Congress.

In the summer of 1900, as the Boxers are besieging the foreign ligation in Beijing and threatening to kill all of the foreigners they can get their hands on, McKinley has to make a historic decision. And the decision is whether or not to send US troops out of Manila and onto the mainland of Asia. Obviously, American troops had never fought in this theater before and what McKinley does is not only order the troops onto the Asian mainland to fight in China, but he does it without consulting anyone. He essentially goes to war without asking Congress anything about it. He uses his commander-in-chief powers and it becomes a very important point historic precedent, the kind of precedent that later American Presidents will use to order American troops around the world.

Note how it was McKinley that first goes to war without the consent of Congress as did Bill Clinton in the case of Bosnia. In fact one might argue that George W. Bush, at least in the case of the Iraq War, stuck closer to the spirit of the U.S constitution by getting a green light for invasion from Congress who were only too eager and willing to give Bush the proverbial blank check which was then summarily cashed and the rest is history albeit an ongoing history much to the dismay of many.

Jumping over to the Vietnam War era recall that it was President Kennedy who embroiled us in that disaster, part of the communist hysteria that gripped the nation in those bygone days. Later it was President Johnson who fabricated the Gulf of Tonkin incident in order to escalate that ill-fated military adventure which cost so many lives both Vietnamese and American and pitted American against American here in the States the echoes of which still reverberate in the U.S. psyche. President Johnson himself later admitted that he created the incident for his own political gain, a sad comment on the nature of government. In a way I suspect that the failure of the Vietnam War is what gave rise to the neocon movement of today as most neocons had their origins as former liberals and who for the most part declined to participate in that bloody war which in their own twisted minds eviscerated their manhood which they overcompensated for by embroiling the U.S. in the Iraq War to prove their worth by transforming into warmongers of the worst sort. Sadly this has led to further destruction of human life and set the stage for another protracted war in Afghanistan now championed by Obama. This also illustrates the continuity of presidential regimes. In the case of the Vietnam War that was escalated by Johnson it was President Nixon who provided the continuity of that war to its savage ending and in the case of the Iraq and Afghanistan it is now Obama who is providing the continuity. If nothing else these examples should illustrate how little difference there is between the two main political parties and how useless it is to argue which party is better.

History Revisited

One example that liberals tend to fall back on to give credence to the trueness and goodness of the Democrats is the case of Jimmy Carter. Yet upon closer examination of Carter’s history reveals once again how mistaken this liberal belief really is.

I turn your attention to this article written in 1994 by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon.

Jimmy Carter And Human Rights: Behind The Media Myth

Jimmy Carter's reputation has soared lately.

Typical of the media spin was a Sept. 20 report on CBS Evening News, lauding Carter's "remarkable resurgence" as a freelance diplomat. The network reported that "nobody doubts his credibility, or his contacts."

For Jimmy Carter, the pact he negotiated in Haiti is the latest achievement of his long career on the global stage.

During his presidency, Carter proclaimed human rights to be "the soul of our foreign policy." Although many journalists promoted that image, the reality was quite different.

Inaugurated 13 months after Indonesia's December 1975 invasion of East Timor, Carter stepped up U.S. military aid to the Jakarta regime as it continued to murder Timorese civilians. By the time Carter left office, about 200,000 people had been slaughtered.

Elsewhere, despotic allies — from Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines to the Shah of Iran — received support from President Carter.

In El Salvador, the Carter administration provided key military aid to a brutal regime. In Nicaragua, contrary to myth, Carter backed dictator Anastasio Somoza almost until the end of his reign. In Guatemala — again contrary to enduring myth — major U.S. military shipments to bloody tyrants never ended.

After moving out of the White House in early 1981, Carter developed a reputation as an ex-president with a conscience. He set about building homes for the poor. And when he traveled to hot spots abroad, news media often depicted Carter as a skillful negotiator on behalf of human rights.

But a decade after Carter left the Oval Office, scholar James Petras assessed the ex-president's actions overseas — and found that Carter's image as "a peace mediator, impartial electoral observer and promoter of democratic values...clashes with the experiences of several democratic Third World leaders struggling against dictatorships and pro-U.S. clients."

From Latin America to East Africa, Petras wrote, Carter functioned as "a hard-nosed defender of repressive state apparatuses, a willing consort to electoral frauds, an accomplice to U.S. Embassy efforts to abort popular democratic outcomes and a one-sided mediator."

Observing the 1990 election in the Dominican Republic, Carter ignored fraud that resulted in the paper-thin victory margin of incumbent president Joaquin Balaguer. Announcing that Balaguer's bogus win was valid, Carter used his prestige to give international legitimacy to the stolen election — and set the stage for a rerun this past spring, when Balaguer again used fraud to win re-election.

In December 1990, Carter traveled to Haiti, where he labored to undercut Jean-Bertrand Aristide during the final days of the presidential race. According to a top Aristide aide, Carter predicted that Aristide would lose, and urged him to concede defeat. (He ended up winning 67 percent of the vote.)

Since then, Carter has developed a warm regard for Haiti's bloodthirsty armed forces. Returning from his recent mission to Port-au-Prince, Carter actually expressed doubt that the Haitian military was guilty of human rights violations.

Read the rest.

I find Jimmy Carter’s history to be somewhat less than a shining example of the good and the true. I would suggest that liberals will have to look elsewhere for an exemplary Democratic president.

In the end there is only the ruling class and the rest of us. If people wish to indulge in their fantasies that is their own business and none of mine, accept or reject, manufacture straw men arguments, invent your own reality, but don’t expect me to go along with it.

Or as Groucho Marx said…

"Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know."


At February 14, 2009 9:26 AM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

The U.S. was propping up the French in Indochina after the Japanese were driven out at the end of WWII. After Dien Bien Phu, in the mid-fifties, America took a more active role, cancelling Vietnamese elections in order to prevent a Communist takeover.

To say that JFK embroiled us in Vietnam requires one to ignore the fifteen previous years of history.

And after two years JFK was ready to bail on Vietnam. His NSAM 263 called for withdrawal from Vietnam. Unfortunately, he was murdered and LBJ's NSAM 273 reversed the policy (while claiming to continue JFK's policy), and constructed the pretext for the Gulf of Tonkin and the eventual buildup of American forces.

While there is a homogeneity of policy between the two major political parties, it does no good to presume a sameness when there is a difference, or assign blame inaccurately.

At February 14, 2009 12:30 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment but here is my thinking on this…

In 1961 Kennedy sent 500 American advisers to Vietnam, bringing American forces to 1,400 men. The military wanted more, as many as 13,000 troops. By the end of 1962, the military had received the troops they requested. The US had 11,300 officers operating in South Vietnam. Kennedy was told in early 1963 that the war was fast being won and that he could begin withdrawing troops by the end of the year. Vietnam was seen by Kennedy as a test of American resolve and Kennedy didn’t want to fail. Over the next year, Kennedy escalated American involvement in the war.

Kennedy agreed for the CIA to assist in a South Vietnamese army coup against Diem. On November 2, 1963, Diem was assassinated. The Diem regime was stealing American aid and military supplies, refused to implement land reforms, and was attacking the Buddhist community and was thus considered a roadblock to winning the war in Vietnam.

Kennedy did say he would be pulling 1,000 troops out by the end of 1963 as he believed the war was being won but at the same time was committed to seeing the war through until reelection time in 1964 but as you say he was assassinated before that could happen and of course the war was far from being won. Also what presidents say they will do and what actually follows are often two very different things. For example Obama beat Clinton for the nomination with his promise to pull combat troops out of Iraq but is already reneging on that. In fact he always qualified that statement with the idea of leaving up to 50,000 troops there which he laughingly refers too as residual. Well I suppose it comes down to how you define residual.

The historical facts are clear. It was Kennedy who by escalating our presence in Vietnam set the stage for our involvement in that bloody war. So I do not agree with your claim that I am assigning blame incorrectly. It was Kennedy’s choice, he could escalate or not escalate and he chose the latter, it was his decision. Propping up the French is one thing, sending troops and assassinating leaders is an entirely different matter. But I certainly do agree with you that we were involved before Kennedy came to office.

I see you agree that there is homogeneity between the two parties and I would also agree that there are some slight differences yet I consider them to be insignificant. There are two key issues that are wreaking destruction on this nation and they are the continuation of the bogus war on terror and the continued bailouts of the bankers rather than addressing the problem properly which would be to nationalize the banks. Everything else hinges on these two issues and in that regard there is only one party since they are in complete agreement on these two major issues. Unfortunately.

Perhaps you are correct that what I write does no good. I don’t think blogging does much good anyway as I question that it has any real efficacy as an engine of change. I only write because it helps me to sort things out in my own mind which also helps me to keep informed on what is happening and why.

At February 16, 2009 12:43 PM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

I'm not saying that writing does no good. I am saying that inaccuracies, in this case laying the Vietnam War primarily at Kennedy's feet, is misleading. If the point of the post is to prove that all politicians are the same, I guess that it served its purpose.

Your response misses much of the internal argument within the JFK administration about the war prior to his assassination, or even to JFK's public statements about how the South Vietnamese would have to win the war, not the U.S.

Our permanent government, and our permanent military, was fighting this war in various degrees prior to Kennedy ever running for office, much less becoming President.

A better understanding would be how, despite JFK's order to withdraw Americans from Vietnam, within a few years the U.S. was in a massive war in Southeast Asia. That is, the military and its allies in the permanent government got their war and JFK ended up dead.

Off the top of my head (an admittedly bad phrase when discussing the Kennedys) I'd recommend David Talbot's recent book BROTHERS which goes into the discussion within the Kennedy Administration over Vietnam, but certainly John Newman has written on this too.

I'd also suggest a reread of "Past Is Prologue Again" to see that beyond the statement of Democrats and Republicans are the same is the question of why there is that sameness, and why "why" is the more important question.

At February 16, 2009 5:18 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Hi Bob,

It was not my intention to lay the blame for the Vietnam War entirely on Kennedy. In fact I mentioned that it was Johnson who escalated the war with his fabrication of the Tonkin Gulf incident and I do blame Johnson and Nixon much more than I do Kennedy. Perhaps I should have been clearer in my writing. But I think you would agree that Kennedy did play a role in the Vietnam War by escalating the number of troops. Perhaps Kennedy would eventually have pulled the troops out but what he would have eventually done remains conjecture.

I’ll reread your excellent post on Kennedy and the CIA which I found to be very interesting indeed. However, though I do believe the “why” which I do agree is the most salient point regarding foreign policy, goes beyond the CIA by the very fact that it has been consistently imperialistic before the CIA came into being. I believe the why has its roots in our very culture which was molded by our European origins, as well as the concept of manifest destiny and the creation of the corporate industrial-military-scientific-complex. In fact before I started posting here at Dead Horse I went into some detail regarding why there is so much sameness by delving into U.S. history. You may find some of them of interest.

Here are some links where I try to illustrate the whys.


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