City Lights Books (2004) paper
What exactly does mean to love one's country?...
Maybe our superpatriots love this country for its history. One would doubt it, since so much of US history is evidently unknown to them: the struggle for free speech that has continued from early colonial times down to this day; the fierce fights for collective bargaining and decent work conditions; the long campaigns to extend the franchise to all citizens including propertyless workers and women; the struggles to abolish slavery, end racial segregation, and extend civil rights, to establish free public education, public health services, environmental and consumer protections, and occupational safety, and to impose a progressive income tax and end wars of aggression, and other such issues of peace and social justice.
Here certainly is a history that can make one feel proud of one's country and love the valiant people who battled for political and economic democracy. But many superpatriots are wretchedly ignorant of this history, especially since so little of it is taught in the school How unfortunate, for it would add more substance to their love of country.
Also largely untaught is the darker side of our history What is there to love about the extermination of Native American Indian nations, a bloodletting that extended over four centuries along with the grabbing of millions of acres of their lands? There is nothing lovable about the systemic kidnapping and enslavement of millions of Africans; the many lynchings and murders of the segregationist era; the latter-day assassinations of Black Panther Party members and other political dissidents; the stealing of half of Mexico (today's Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and a portion of Colorado); the grabbing of Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba; the blooddrenched conquest of the Philippines; and the military interventions and wars of aggression against scores of other countries.
Some superpatriots claim that they love America because of the freedom it gives us. Yet most of them seem to love freedom only in the abstract, for they cannot stand the dissidence and protests that are the actual practice of a free people. They have trouble tolerating criticisms directed against certain US policies and institutions. If anything, superpatriots show themselves ever ready to support greater political conformity and more repressive measures against heterodoxy.
We might question the quality of the freedom we are said to enjoy, for in truth we are not as free as we often suppose. To be out of step in one's political opinions is often to put one's career in jeopardy-even in a profession like teaching, which professes a dedication to academic freedom.' The journalists who work for big media conglomerates and who claim to be untrammeled in their reportage overlook the fact that they are free to say what they like because their bosses like what they say They rarely, if ever, stray beyond the respectable parameters of the dominant paradigm, and when they do so, it is at their own risk.
The major media in the United States are owned by giant corporations and influenced by rich corporate advertisers who seldom question the doings of the free-market profit system at home and abroad. The assumptions behind US foreign policy go largely unexamined in news analysis and commentary. Those who have critical views regarding corporate power and US global interventionism rarely get an opportunity to reach a mass audience.
US workers face one of the longest work years in the world. They average only about ten days a year paid vacation, compared to Western European workers who usually get thirty days. Even some Latin American countries mandate one month paid vacation.
The superpatriot's America is a simplified ideological abstraction, an emotive symbol represented by other abstract symbols like the flag. It is the object of a faithlike devotion, unencumbered by honest history. For the superpatriot, those who do not share in this uncritical Americanism ought to go live in some other country.
If the test of patriotism comes only by reflexively falling into lockstep behind the leader whenever the flag is waved, then what we have is a formula for dictatorship, - not democracy... But the American way is to criticize and debate openly, not to accept unthinkingly the doings of government officials of this or any other country.
... the American way is to criticize and debate openly, not to accept unthinkingly the doings of government officials of this or any other country.
Regarding cultural heritage, consider Iraq. That beleaguered country, attacked and occupied by US forces, is regularly depicted in the US press as in need of our guidance and uplift; we will teach the Iraqis how to govern and care for themselves. Perhaps we should recall that the Iraqis invented writing, founded the first school of astronomy, and developed modern mathematics, using a kind of Pythagorean theorem 1,700 years before Pythagoras. Beginning around A.D. 800, they founded universities that imported teachers from throughout the civilized world to teach medicine, mathematics, philosophy, theology, literature, and poetry (at a time when Christian Europe had long suppressed serious study of such subjects). For thousands of years, the Iraqis wrote some of the greatest poetry, history, and sagas in the world, and fashioned some of the most imposing stone, metal, and clay artworks. With the Code of Hammurabi, they brought forth the first legal system that protected the weak, the widowed, and the orphaned. Twelve thousand years ago, they invented irrigated farming, and became so proficient at it that in the 1990s, despite sanctions imposed by the West, they still managed to produce all the food they needed.
While political leaders boast about US military strength, they say nothing about its costs: the distorted technology, material waste, ecological devastation, enormous debt and high taxes, and the neglect of social needs and infrastructure-not to mention the terrible consequences that other countries must endure when finding themselves on the receiving end of this superpower's military might.
The United States is Number One in certain other things [besides military power and wealth] that are rarely if ever mentioned by our leaders. Compared to other industrial nations, we are Number One in homicides and death by firearms. The US murder rate among young males is twenty times higher than in Western Europe and forty times that of Japan. We are Number One in per capita prison population and in financial bailouts, trade imbalances, and budget deficits.
This wealthiest of all nations has a public debt that is the largest in the world. We also have schools that are falling apart, public hospitals that are closing down, and all sorts of essential public services that are being cut back for lack of funds. So alongside the highly concentrated private wealth there exists a growing public poverty. We are tops among the Western industrial nations in the number of preschoolers living in poverty and the number of people lacking medical insurance. The USA is also Number One in family farms that are going broke, genetically modified foods, the factory-farm use of pesticides and herbicides, and the amounts of antibiotics and hormones injected into livestock.
The United States is Number One in managers per employees. A country like Japan, supposedly encumbered with traditional hierarchy, has less than one-third the number of managers per employees. In other words, while the leaders of US industry complain about bloated government bureaucracies, they themselves populate top-heavy bloated corporate bureaucracies.
The USA is also Number One among industrial nations in income inequality and executive salaries. The number of multimillionaires has increased by over 80 percent in the last two decades. We also have the largest number of newly minted billionaires. Average remuneration for chief executive officers (CEOs) of corporations is anywhere from two to six times higher than CEOs abroad. A Fortune magazine survey of a hundred of the nation's largest corporations found that the typical CEO enjoyed a 14 percent rise in income in 2002, bringing his or her total yearly pay to an average of more than $13 million, irrespective of whatever scandals or slumps the company underwent. Meanwhile, stock options for these top tycoons continued to expand, in some instances to astronomical levels. Thus the former chairman of Tenet Healthcare, the nation's second largest hospital chain, pulled in stock options worth $111 million in 2002.7 At the same time, in many of these companies, employees were laid off or endured wage freezes, cutbacks in benefits, or disappearing pension funds.
Patriotic ceremonies are more likely to commemorate the nation's military history than its history of struggle for politico-economic equality, peace, and social justice.
The message is clear: patriotism and militarism go together. A flag in one hand, a weapon in the other, that is what makes America great ...
The marriage of militarism to patriotism makes it difficult to criticize the enormously bloated military budgets yearly allocated by the US Congress, reaching well beyond $500 billion by 2003 (including the sums spent on the war in Iraq). According to a General Accounting Office investigation, the Pentagon somehow lost track of the enormous sum of $1.1 trillion over the last several decades! As noted in one newspaper, "waste has become ingrained in the Defense budget because opposition to defense spending is portrayed as unpatriotic."
Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) charged, the Pentagon has failed to address financial problems that dwarf those of anyone else. "While vast sums of money are being siphoned off into hidden coffers, Americas schools, hospitals and public services are facing cutbacks and closures."
With the link between militarism and patriotism so firmly fixed, any criticism of the military runs the risk of being condemned as unpatriotic... Thus, critical issues about the mistreatment of enemy prisoners and killing of unarmed civilians, massive budgetary corruption and Pentagon mismanagement, and drug problems in the ranks are ignored or downplayed.
The Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, summed it up when he said a man must be "a husband, a father and a soldier." ... In one phrase Mussolini makes clear that patriarchy and militarism are essential components of reactionary patriotism.
One US Air Force captain, reminiscing about his bombing attacks against the peasant population of Vietnam, made an explicit connection between high-tech war, machismo, mindless patriotism, and nation-state moral supremacy: "Flying a fighter plane is ... a macho thing, maybe-an extension of your manhood. You do it, concentrate on it, and under the circumstances it was damn hard for me to get worried about the political implications of the war. It was a chance for us to show our military power. We're basically patriotic, conservative people. And ... we're blameless."
In 2003, on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, a lieutenant colonel in the US Marines told his troops, "We are going to slaughter the 51st Mechanized Division," an Iraqi unit, It would not be a fair fight, he said. "My idea of a fair fight is clubbing baby harp seals. We will hit them with everything we have."
Many superpatriots were exhilarated by the US aggressions perpetrated against Grenada, Panama, and Iraq. Ronald Reagan, the Conqueror of Grenada (a tiny island nation of 102,000 inhabitants), reflecting upon his great military victory, hailed the venture as an example of how the USA brings democracy and prosperity to other lands. In fact, after Grenada was "liberated" by Reagan, its unemployment rate skyrocketed. The new enterprises and development projects and health and educational programs initiated by the revolutionary New jewel movement were wiped out. Public services were privatized or abolished outright. Farm collectives were driven off the land to make way for privately owned golf courses to accommodate North American tourists. Grenada was again made safe for neoliberal capital penetration.'° The Reagan invasion served notice to the Caribbean nations that they had better not try to develop a collectivist social order that goes against the corporate free-market way of doing things.
The same story can be told about Panama. The 1989 US invasion brought a sharp increase in unemployment, homelessness, economic misery, crime, drugs, and government corruption." Nothing was gained except the deaths of several thousand Panamanians, a US occupation, political repression of reformist groups, and a boost in the opinion polls for President George H. W. Bush. So with Iraq, which once had the best standard of living in the Middle East. The 1991 attack on the country and the subsequent dozen years of sanctions left that country with a shattered technological infrastructure, a destroyed agriculture base, cholera and typhoid epidemics, a spectacular rise in cancer rates in the areas contaminated with depleted uranium, and over 200,000 deaths. So too with the younger Bush's invasions of Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003, bringing more death, destruction, and deeper poverty for the people of those countries, and a sharp-if temporary hike in popularity for his presidency.
James Madison "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect."
Every US president who goes to war enlists God as his ally. In an appearance at the Southern Baptist Convention in 1991, the elder Bush grew visibly tearful as he spoke about praying to God before ordering the attacks that massacred tens of thousands of Iraqi conscripts and civilians in the first Gulf War. During the subsequent presidential campaign, he cited Jesus Christ himself as the moral force another." And the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs announced, "We begin with the proposition that God is neither Democrat nor Republican nor, for that matter, American. God transcends all national and political affiliations."
On June 27, 2003, President Bush announced: "God told me to strike at a! Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East." God told me? He instructed me? Does it not become a cause for concern that the US president, sounding like an Old Testament prophet, is justifying his war policy by claiming to be in direct communication with the Almighty? It is a worrisome chain of command.
... the Pentagon's Undersecretary for intelligence Lt William G Boykin. In 2003, appearing in uniform before fundamentalist Christian groups, Boykin announced that Bush "was not elected by a majority of the voters... he was appointed by God." ... Explaining how he prevailed against a Muslim militia leader in the 1993 Us invasion of Somalia, Boykin proclaimed, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."
right-wing fundamentalist Randall Terry, founder of "Operation Rescue' the terroristic campaign against abortion clinics, announced that Christ worshipers have "a biblical duty to conquer this nation." He told an audience of like-minded faithful: "I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you .... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty; we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism."
chief justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist announced  "The 'wall of separation between church and state' . . . should be frankly and explicitly abandoned."
Senator William Fulbright in 1966 "We are not God's chosen savior of mankind but only one of mankind's more successful and fortunate branches, endowed by our Creator with about the same capacity for good and evil, no more or less, than the rest of humanity"
news columnist, Jon [James?] Carroll:
"We are not the only democracy in the world; we are not the only country that exhibits courage in the face of adversity. We lie and cheat and steal and murder. Any assumption that God conferred on us a special blessing is not backed up by the facts. We fail to sign international treaties, and we reserve the right to violate such treaties whenever we feel like it. Is that because God speaks to our leaders as he speaks to no others?"
New York Times correspondents around the world in 2003 found a widespread opinion of the United States as "an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force."
At the heart of the secular religion of nationalism rests the belief that the messianic nation's existence and its action are so endowed with virtue as to place it beyond the commonplace rules that govern individual morality. As a kind of supreme entity, the nation knows no restraint other than what is imposed by the limitations of its own desires and power. The most ruthless violence-insupportable in civil society-is applauded as heroism when performed in the name of the nation. 15 "Thou shalt not" becomes "Thou shalt do anything by whatever means necessary if it can be said to be in the national interest." Ergo, the willingness to kill other human beings in combat is treated not only as morally acceptable but as a heroic measure of one's patriotism. Instead of going to jail, the perpetrators are honored with medals and ceremonial acclaim.
The state's irreducible essence rests in its capacity to wield legally defined violence against its own citizens. In many instances, the target is not just the criminal element but also political dissenters who challenge the existing distribution of privilege, wealth, institutional authority, and ideological orthodoxy.
In late 1990, while the legislators debated whether the United States should engage in hostilities against Iraq, President Bush pere went on record as saying, "I don't care if I get one vote in Congress. We're going in." Bush understood that during times of crisis and national peril-real or fabricated Congress would not dare impeach the commander-in-chief for such a trifle as an undeclared war, especially since so many of the lawmakers were themselves fervent superpatriotic militarists.
Presidential usurpation of the warmaking power took a final giant step in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and a wing of the Pentagon, with the loss of some 3,000 lives. Congress voted outright to give the president the power to decide when the nation should go to war. This surrender of congressional power to the executive was itself an unconstitutional forfeiture. In effect, Bush fils could now unilaterally declare war whenever he wanted, a one-man decisionmaking power usually enjoyed only by absolute monarchs and dictators.
And when Bush exercised that unconstitutional power by going to war against Iraq in March 2003, in the face of worldwide protests, the great majority of congressional lawmakers, out of fear of seeming unpatriotic, fell into line, including many who had initially opposed the war as ill-conceived and illicit.
Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaking as if she were in the US Army rather than in the US Congress, announced that now that our troops were committed to action, we had to support our commander-in-chief. "I support the president .... ...We are one team in one fight, and we stand together," she proclaimed.
... citizens display an almost childlike trust and kneejerk faith when politicians trumpet a need to defend our national security.
We should remind ourselves of what happened in Germany in the 1930s when Hitler and his Nazi thugs took power (financed by the big moneyed cartels). The Nazis insisted that unquestioning obedience and adulation be accorded the leader. It was governance by der Feuhrerprinzip, the leader principle, the notion that the head of state is the living embodiment of the state itself, the supreme repository of the nation's virtues. It is a short step from the cult of the nation (superpatriotism) to the cult of the leader. In the case of Nazi Germany, the world reaped bitter fruit.
Democracy is not about trust; it is about distrust. It is about accountability, exposure, open debate, critical challenge, and popular input and feedback from the citizenry. It is about responsible government. We have to get our fellow Americans to trust their leaders less and themselves more, trust their own questions and suspicions, and their own desire to know what is going on.
There is nothing like a war or a major crisis to reduce adult citizens to mindless conformity, ready to play "follow the leader" out of a perceived need for national unity and a hope that our Reichfuhrer, the president, will see us through the danger.
... the poliltico-economic rulers ... are the major progenitors of superpatriotic ideology. (They play a crucial role in what Cecilia O'Leary calls "managing rituals of mass allegiance.") They promote flag reverence, loyalty oaths, and nationalistic anniversaries. They urge the teaching of a sanitized version of US history in public schools, and establish national shrines and monuments. And they inaugurate the intensive propaganda campaigns that depict one or another foreign leader, nation, or movement as a threat to our national security. Patriotic pride is not enough. They know that a surer way to rally support for their ventures abroad is by inciting alarm at home. Behind all the Patriotic cheer there lurks a heavy dose of patriotic fear.
John Foster Dulles was a wealthy corporate lawyer, conservative Republican, and secretary of state in the Eisenhower administration.
"In order to bring a nation to support the burdens of maintaining great military establishments, it is necessary to create an emotional state akin to war psychology. There must be the portrayal of external menace." [emphasis added]
With each newly minted crisis, US leaders roll out the same time-tested scenario. They start demonizing a foreign leader (or leadership group'), charging them with being communistic or otherwise dictatorial, dangerously aggressive, power hungry, genocidal, given to terrorism or drug trafficking, ready to deny us access to vital resources, harboring weapons of mass destruction, or just inexplicably "anti-American" and "anti-West." Lacking any information to the contrary, the frightened public ... are swept along. [emphasis added]
There is nothing particularly original in this interventionist scenario. It has been used for generations, most recently against Allende in Chile, Qaddafi in Libya, the New jewel movement in Grenada, Noriega in Panama, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Milosevic in Yugoslavia, the FARC guerrillas in Colombia, the Soviet-support revolutionary government in Afghanistan, Chavez in Venezuela, Aristide in Haiti, and Saddam in Iraq ...
Once fear takes hold, evidence becomes largely irrelevant. [emphasis added]
Throughout much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the business-owned press stoked an antiradical hysteria among the general public by targeting the "dangerous classes" within the USA itself, specifically the poor, the underemployed, and anyone who organized for decent paying jobs and better work conditions. Labor agitation was stigmatized as a menace to the American Way of Life.
True Americanism was equated with an uncritical acceptance of the corporate business system. "Industrialists joined publishers in branding labor activists as communist, anarchist and un-American' writes O'Leary. "Graphics regularly pictured Uncle Sam guiding American workmen away from the influence of swarthy agitators. The term un-American first came into significant usage as a political epithet during this period when 'true Americans' used it against striking immigrant workers and later against any militant opponents of the economic order, immigrant or native-born."
In 1886, during a time of substantial labor unrest, Theodore Roosevelt, himself a rich employer, talked of setting worker against worker in the name of patriotism: "My men are hard-working laboring men, who work longer hours for no greater wages than most of the strikers; but they are Americans through and through. I believe nothing would give them greater pleasure than a chance with rifles at one of the mobs." The Ford Motor Company sponsored Americanization programs for its employees: patriotism was equated with labor discipline and compliant worker attitudes. Other business firms fashioned programs modeled after Ford's.
War often brings out the worst aspects of superpatriotism [emphasis added]. In 1917, as the nation plunged into hostilities with Germany, domestic labor disputes were treated as acts of outright disloyalty. President Woodrow Wilson warned that the "masters of Germany" were using American liberals, socialists, and "the leaders of labor" to "carry out their designs." Federal and state authorities suppressed radical publications, issued injunctions against strikes, harassed and jailed labor organizers, and launched legislative hearings, mass arrests, deportations, and political trials against labor militants. About a thousand people were sentenced to prison for denouncing the war as a "rich man's venture," some for as much as thirty years.
In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, corporations like Ford took matters into their own hands, hiring mobsters and company thugs to beat union organizers and terrorize strikers. Corporate-sponsored ultranationalist violence occurred in other capitalist countries as well. During the rise of fascism in Italy, Lithuania, Germany, Hungary, and Japan, "patriotic" goon squads were hired by business owners to smash labor unions and leftist political parties and publications.
Today America is a nation feeling itself under siege from its criminal element. It is a land of gated communities, heavily guarded apartment towers, and millions of households armed with guns ready to dispatch unidentified trespassers. Fear of crime is supplemented with fear of ethnic minorities, terrorists, immigrants, foreigners, gays, feminists, rampaging teenagers, and outspoken peace protesters-in what amounts to a generalized culture of fear. [emphasis added]
Frightened people in want of protection do not desire rulers who are overly scrupulous about the methods they use. They prefer ones who are unfettered by the niceties of international law and justice. They want leaders who will stop at nothing when dealing with enemies who themselves purportedly will stop at nothing. They believe we need to fight fire with fire; we need to be ruthless and unsparing in order to prevent the evildoers from messing with us; we must maintain our credibility as a great power by demonstrating our willingness to act forcefully anywhere in the world. Just as many Americans cheer the tough rogue cop who protects them from sinister perpetrators at home, so do they rally around the tough national leader who protects them from one or another perceived global menace. [emphasis added]
In his New York Times column, that tireless and tiresome apologist for US empire, Thomas Friedman, declared, "France is becoming our enemy" and "This French mischief" is misleading the European Union. For Friedman, the war against Iraq was the "most important liberal, revolutionary US democracy-building project" in decades, "one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad."
Plutocratic rulers are among the major purveyors of superpatriotic enthusiasm but they rarely practice what they preach [emphasis added]. They hail the idea of a "healthy America," yet they resist universal health-care programs, defund public health services, and work closely with the giant pharmaceutical and insurance industries to make health care highly profitable for a few corporations and painfully expensive for the rest of us.
They urge us on to ever greater feats of economic sacrifice and self-reliance, and tell us not to expect "government handouts," while they and their giant firms annually pocket hundreds of billions of dollars in government loan guarantees, bailouts, risk capital, equity capital, export subsidies, and enormously lucrative government contracts. They insist that everyone should shoulder the burdens of public debt and public expenditure, but they repeatedly push through tax cuts for their wealthy class.
In addition, they regularly enjoy billions in tax credits and tax write-offs, and often are outright tax evaders. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that offshore subsidiaries and tax havens cost the US Treasury $70 billion a year and billions more in unpaid state and local taxes.'
Superpatriotic plutocrats also manifest little interest in conserving America's environmental treasure. Instead, they allow timber and mining interests and agribusiness to plunder our natural terrain. They pursue fossil fuel and nuclear energy policies that wreak havoc on our land, waters, and atmosphere. They treat the natural resources of the country as so much disposable material for fastbuck profits. They say they love America even as they inflict gashing wounds upon its landscape.
After Adolph Hitler took state power in Germany in 1933, he set about establishing a repressive reactionary government that abolished labor unions, drastically reduced wages, eliminated worker benefits, ignored occupational safety standards, privatized various state enterprises, heavily subsidized big business, and drastically cut taxes for the very rich . Hitler also pursued an aggressive foreign policy that sent tremors across Europe. He annexed Austria, the Czech Sudetenland and eventually all of Czechoslovakia, and launched a massive arms buildup that augured a major war in Europe.[emphasis added]
It was not long before numerous US corporate giants>, including Du Pont, Ford, General Motors, Texaco, General Electric, Union Carbide, Westinghouse, Goodrich, Standard Oil of New Jersey, J. P. Morgan, IBM, and ITT were doing a booming business in the Third Reich, unable to resist the low wages, low business taxes, and high profits. Henry Ford, Irénée Du Pont, Tom Watson of IBM, Torkild Rieber of Texaco, and other plutocrats became great admirers of Hitler. "American corporations made a lot of money in Hitler's Germany; this, and not the Führer's alleged charisma, is the reason the owners and managers of these corporations adored him." [emphasis added] There were other reasons why they adored him. Some, like Henry Ford, openly shared Hitler's anti-Semitism, and all of them welcomed his anticommunism, seeing Hitler as a savior who would vanquish the Soviet Union and rescue Europe from Red revolution. If the acts of political terror and mass murder perpetrated by the Führer disturbed the US plutocrats, they gave little sign of it.
When Hitler launched his war of conquest in 1939, the US plutocrats willingly collaborated-and continued to do so even after Germany and the United States became belligerents in December 1941! Throughout occupied Europe, they made eager use of the slave labor provided by Nazi authorities. According to declassified documents from Dutch intelligence and US government archives, Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of the two Bush presidents, made lush profits off Auschwitz slave labor. His Union Banking Corporation helped Thyssen make the Nazi steel that killed Allied solders, and helped finance Thyssen's coal mines which regularly worked Jewish prisoners to death. The Bush family is heir to these Holocaust profits.
US-owned factories in Nazi occupied Europe supplied the tanks, trucks, fighter planes, bombers, oil imports, synthetic fuels, synthetic rubber, and advanced communication systems that greatly enhanced the Nazis' capability to wage war. Without these crucial materials, it would have been impossible for German forces to kill American and other Allied troops, sink American ships, and bomb British cities. Likewise, IBM prospered in Germany and the occupied territories by supplying the technology needed to identify, enslave, and exterminate millions of European Jews and other victims."
Throughout the war, US corporate chiefs were able to maintain direct ownership and control over their German subsidiaries with minimal interference from the Nazis, who were primarily interested in keeping war production going. US authorities did nothing to stop the big companies from servicing the Nazi war machine. President Roosevelt even gave an order not to bomb US corporate properties in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. Thus, while the German city of Cologne was leveled, its Ford factory-providing armed vehicles used to kill American troops-was untouched; after a while it was used by German civilians as an air-raid shelter.
There was much propaganda at home praising Big Business for building America's defenses and winning "the war of production." US leaders needed Corporate America's technology and oil resources as much as did the Nazis, so they looked the other way and did nothing about the cozy relationship between Hitler and US business. Trials and imprisonment would have made it difficult for the corporate collaborators to assist the US war effort, Charles Higham notes. Furthermore, the US government feared that a scandalous exposure would have damaged public morale, caused strikes, and perhaps incited mutiny in the military ranks. With the advent of the Cold War which US leaders did so much to provoke-it was considered all the more imperative to disregard the Nazi collaborationist role played by Corporate America.
The story gets worse. After the war, rather than being prosecuted for aiding and abetting the enemy, ITT collected $27 million from the US government for damages inflicted on its German plants by Allied bombings. And General Motors received over $33 million for damages. Ford and other companies collected considerable sums. Faced with class-action lawsuits in 1999-2000, growing numbers of corporations admitted having used and profited greatly from unpaid slave labor supplied from Nazi concentration camps. But no US corporate manager has ever been prosecuted for complicity in these war crimes. If this is patriotism, then what is treason?
... superpatriotic members of the Bush Administration who avoided the draft included [George W. Bush, Dick Cheney] Karl Rove, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, John Ashcroft, Elliott Abrams John Bolton, Douglas Feith, and Andrew Card; so too Republican congressional leaders Trent Lott, Dennis Hastert, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay; and we must not forget right-wing media hawks like George Will, William Kristol, and Rush Limbaugh.
If patriotism means supporting our troops, then no one is more lacking in patriotism than the ruling plutocracy. In 2003-2004, hundreds of US troops who had been wounded in Iraq were warehoused for months at places like Fort Stewart, Georgia, in hot, dirty, overcrowded cement barracks waiting for medical treatment. They had to hobble across the sand to use the bathroom, and had to pay for their toilet paper. And only after protests from the US Senate did the White House stop charging wounded soldiers $8.10 per day for their hospital meals.
Many of the badly wounded said that they were seeing their pay and health benefits severely reduced now that they were no longer fit for active duty. More than 200,000 veterans of earlier wars have had to wait six months or longer for their first appointment with the Veterans' Administration. Thousands have waited years to get into overcrowded and understaffed VA hospitals to receive disability assistance, often being unable to pay their own living expenses in civilian life. Not surprisingly, a large portion of the homeless are veterans of past wars, some with untreated mental and physical ailments.
In February 2002, at the very time he was sending thousands of troops to fight in Afghanistan, Bush junior proposed tripling the cost of medications to needy veterans. In 2003 his administration announced it was cutting off access to its health-care system for approximately 164,000 veterans, and slicing out $1.5 billion in military housing and medical facility funding. Also in 2003, while heaping praise on the men and women doing military service, Bush refused a congressional request for a relatively modest $275 million to cover veterans' health-care needs. In his 2004 budget, he slashed $2 billion from the VA's already insufficient funds.
... are our plutocratic rulers patriotic? Well, yes, they are, but only when it serves their purposes and only when it does not cost them anything. They are patriotic in that hollow abstract way, a patriotism empty of content, a patriotism of showy flurries and words, words, words. They may love their country but not the people in it, not the taxpayers, not the voters, and certainly not the poor souls who are sent off to fight their wars. [emphasis added]
US leaders have long professed a dedication to democracy, yet over the last half century they have devoted themselves to overthrowing democratic governments in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece (twice), Argentina (twice), Haiti (twice), Bolivia, Jamaica, Yugoslavia, and other countries. These governments were all guilty of pursuing policies that occasionally favored the poorer elements and infringed upon the more affluent. In most instances, the US-sponsored coups were accompanied by widespread killings of democratic activists.' [emphasis added]
US leaders have supported covert actions, sanctions, or proxy mercenary wars against revolutionary governments in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Iraq (with the CIA ushering in Saddam Hussein's reign of repression), Portugal, South Yemen, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, and elsewhere. US interventions and destabilization campaigns have been directed against other populist nationalist governments, including Egypt, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Syria, Zaire, Venezuela, the Fiji Islands, and Afghanistan (before the Soviets ever went into the country).
And since World War II, direct US military invasions or aerial attacks or both have been perpetrated against Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, North Korea, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Somalia, and Iraq (twice). There is no "rogue state' "axis of evil' or communist country that has a comparable record of such criminal aggression against other nations.
Be it a social democratic coalition government as with Allende in Chile or Arbenz in Guatemala, a populist nationalist one like Iran under Mossadegh, a MarxistLeninist government as in Cuba and Vietnam, even a right-wing nationalist government as Iraq under Saddam Hussein-all had one thing in common, a desire to reclaim some portion of the land, natural resources, capital, labor, and markets that had been preempted by local plutocrats and giant foreign corporations.
In contrast, US leaders have been markedly supportive of dictatorial capitalist client-states like Chile (under Pinochet), the Philippines (under Marcos), Iran (under the Shah), Zaire (under Mobutu), Peru (under Fujimoro), apartheid South Africa, autocratic Turkey, feudal Saudi Arabia and feudal Kuwait, and other autocracies like Turkey, Pakistan, and Nigeria. In short, Washington policymakers are less critical of democracy's real enemies than of capitalism's democratic opponents.
Washington has given arms and military training to fifty African countries (out of a total of fifty-three), helping Africa to become the most war-torn region in the world. During the 1990s alone, thirty-two African countries experienced violent conflict.
All this well-fueled strife has enabled the United States and other Western interests to attain control of Africa's abundant resources. The more war-ravaged and poverty-stricken are the African nations, the more ready they are to sell their labor and natural resources at rock-bottom prices ... reminds us that almost 80 percent of the strategic minerals that the USA requires are extracted from Africa, including cobalt, platinum, gold, chromium, manganese, and uranium, ingredients needed to make jet engines, automotive vehicles, missiles, electronic components, iron, and steel.
Africa also accounts for 18 percent of US oil imports as compared to 25 percent from the Middle East...
... across the entire world, US policymakers have militarized nation after nation to fuel the military capacities of cooperative capitalist nations. In 2004, worldwide arms sales by the United States to other countries was about $40 billion, much of it going to nations like Saudi Arabia that do not even remotely maintain a democratic facade. Since World War II the US government has given some $240 billion in military aid to train, equip, and subsidize some 2.3 million troops and internal-security forces in more than eighty countries, not to defend these nations from outside invasion-since few have ever been threatened by attack from neighboring countries-but to protect ruling oligarchs and multinational corporate investors from the dangers of domestic insurgency.
US policymakers have been pursuing total world domination. This policy has been explicitly enunciated by a right-wing think tank called Project for the New American Century (PNAC). A lengthy report of September 2000 titled Rebuilding America's Defenses lays out PNAC's vision for US global control, including a huge boost in military spending, an unwillingness to be bound by the restraints of international law, and a dramatic expansion of a US military presence and use of force around the world.
Not only did the PNAC report serve as a blueprint for the Bush administration, but many of PNAC's members became White House policymakers, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of State John Bolton. Numerous other PNAC members came to occupy important posts in the Bush administration, mostly in the Defense and State Departments.
The goal of the PNAC plan is to take full advantage of America's unparalleled ability to maintain the United States "as the world's preeminent power." The intent is anything but defensive. Every means of coercion and domination is to be assiduously pursued. Rebuilding America's Defenses even hints that the United States might develop biological weapons "that can target specific genotypes" in order to "transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool." "The goal," concludes Gregory Elich, "is nothing less than to expose the entire globe to the threat of US aggression while depriving relatively well-armed nations of the means of defense
The PNAC report bemoaned the fact that US public opinion might not go along with a totalistic global policy unless it felt compelled to do so in response to "some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor." In another of those seemingly fortuitous happenings that work so well for the plutocracy, the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon served as just such a catastrophic catalyst.
The disaster of 11 September 2001 ... Like another Pearl Harbor ... it mobilized public opinion behind US global objectives. After 9/11, and in keeping with the PNAC plan, Bush took a number of momentous steps.
First, he announced a "war on terrorism," inviting all the nations and organizations of the world to get in lockstep behind his administration, declaring: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Henceforth all other countries were to be categorized as either cooperative (accepting US hegemony) or adversarial (not letting US leaders have their way in all things). Any recalcitrant nation ran the risk of being targeted for US attack.
Second, the White House declared that it would not be bound by any previous treaties or accords. International law was now nothing but an irksome restraint that the world's only superpower would brush aside whenever it wanted.
Third, Bush announced the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The nuclear arms race was to resume, and the USA would win it handily by establishing total domination of land, air, sea, and outer space.
Fourth, Bush removed the US signature from the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. The court was a wonderful step taken by many nations to prosecute leaders and operatives of any nation who violated the human rights of others. Instead, US leaders pressured various countries to grant immunity from prosecution for all US governmental and military personnel.
Fifth, the White House announced its right to wage preemptive war against any nation it disliked. Various countries were fingered as being on Uncle Sam's hit list some of the same ones as listed in the PNAC plan: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Syria for starters.
Sixth, war was pursued in Afghanistan, and major military bases were established in several other Central Asian states.
Seventh, a war of conquest was launched against Iraq. The PNAC plan, published a full year before the September 2001 attacks, shows that the Bush administration had intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was still in power.
Eighth, the White House embarked upon a massive escalation in military spending, with $176 billion allocated in just the first six months of the war against Iraq. Given the enormous deficit that resulted from this kind of spending and tax breaks, Republicans called for cuts in the domestic budget, specifically such frivolous luxuries as health care for the elderly, disability assistance, environmental regulations and protections, old-age pensions, and public education. So the Empire feeds off the Republic. [emphasis added]
The PNAC plan envisions a strategic confrontation with China, and a still greater permanent military presence in every corner of the world. The objective is not just power for its own sake but power to control the world's natural resources and markets, power to privatize and deregulate the economies of every nation in the world, and power to hoist upon the backs of peoples everywhere-including North America-the blessings of an untrammeled global "free market." The end goal is to ensure not merely the supremacy of global capitalism as such, but the supremacy of American global capitalism by preventing the emergence of any other potentially competing superpower ... [emphasis added]
... the truth is US leaders are not dedicated to advancing social justice and democracy in the world. Their real dedication ... is to create a US-dominated free-market globalism. Such a patriotism is better recognized by its real name: imperialism.
A 1997 Defense Department study concludes: "Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States."
[The US] global force consists of about half a million troops stationed at over 395 major bases and hundreds of minor installations in some 120 nations, with large-scale deployment in 25 countries; 8,000 strategic nuclear weapons and 22,000 tactical ones; and a navy greater in total tonnage and firepower than all the other navies of the world combined, consisting of missile cruisers, nuclear submarines, nuclear aircraft carriers, and destroyers that patrol every ocean.
US bomber squadrons and long-range missiles can reach any target, delivering enough explosive force to mangle the infrastructures of entire countries-as demonstrated against Iraq in 1990-1991 and Yugoslavia in 1999. US satellites and spy planes survey the entire planet. In addition, the United States is developing a capacity to conduct war from outer space. With only 5 percent of the earth's population, the United States expends more military funds than all the other major powers combined.
Real patriots educate themselves about the real history of their country and are not satisfied with the flag-waving promotional fluff that passes for history. They find different things in our past to be proud of than do superpatriots, such as the struggle for enfranchisement, the abolitionist movement, the peace movement, the elimination of child labor, and the struggle for collective bargaining, the eight-hour day, occupational safety, and racial justice and gender equality. In the real patriot's pantheon can be found Tom Paine, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood, John Reed, Eugene Victor Debs, Elizabeth Gurly Flynn, Jeanette Rankin, Rosa Parks, Paul Robeson, A. J. Muste, Harry Bridges, Walter Reuther, Martin Luther King-and the millions in the ranks who championed social justice. [emphasis added]
Mark Twain "all political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit; and that they have at all times an undeniable and indefeasible right to alter their form of government in such a manner as they may think expedient"
A twelve-year-old named Charlotte Aldebron reminds us that we ought to give less attention to patriotism's icons and more to its human content.
The American flag stands for the fact that cloth ca be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or to leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain. School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth. [emphasis added]
... real patriots are internationalists. They feel a special attachment to their own country but not in some competitive way that pits the United States against other powers. They regard the people of all nations as different members of the same human family.
Sooner or later Americans rediscover that they cannot live on flag-waving alone. They begin to drift off into reality, confronted by the economic irrationalities and injustices of a system that provides them with the endless circuses and extravaganzas of superpatriotism, heavy tax burdens, a crushing national debt and military budget, repeated bloodletting in foreign lands, and sad neglect of domestic needs, denying them the bread of prosperity and their birthright as democratic citizens. We need a return to reality. We need to unveil the lies and subterfuges that so advantage the wealthy plutocracy. We need to pursue policies at home and abroad that serve the real needs of humanity. Then can we love our country-and peace and justice too. [emphasis added]