Geoff Simons, author of many books on geopolitics, describes George Bush as a semi dictator who ignored the constitution and pretended that he was a war leader so as to rule by diktat. But before Bush there were plenty of lies, torture and invasions. This legacy has left Barack Obama trapped in a culture that regards military aggression and subversive operations as normal tactics. This is the deep seated, enduring and global militaristic culture with which Obama has to contend.
Before Barack Obama became president, US military strategists briefed him on the war in Afghanistan. He asked them what was their exit strategy from Kabul. Silence! Whatever Obama thought about this, the US are still deeply involved in killing Afghans approaching the anniversary of his election. Obama is surrounded by people in the US intelligence and military who don’t want themselves or their policies subjected to too much scrutiny.
After eight years of fighting in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden remains free, despite the technology of the mightiest power on earth, and the liberal intervention to democratize the country is stuck in the mire of corruption. Al Karzai, the supposed leader of the country, is a US puppet, who was for long a CIA agent. So it is hardly surprising that any aid sent to Afghanistan simply disappears long before it gets to its targets. The UN suggest that barely 10% of outside aid gets through. It still proves US benevolence, or so the average Yankee seems to think, scared as shit that if they do not keep the front line 6 to 12 thousand miles away, they will have to defend their own back yard. The trouble is their own back yard has continued to expand since the Monroe Doctrine, and for a long time now has covered the whole world.
The Afghan war is what the Vietnam war was, and dozens of other US wars have been in the last 100 years since the Spanish American war, aggression against a foreign state started with whatever excuse and for whatever real reason the US deemed appropriate in its role of world bully. The initial excuse here was the handing over of Osama bin Laden and the al Qaida perpetrators of 9/11. Then it became the noble neocon desire to bring democracy to a backward country—whether they wanted it or not—a banner eagerly waved by Blair, then Brown, as philanthropic imperialism.
On 2 December 1823, president James Monroe outlined the points that defined the Monroe Doctrine—the “American continents” were not subjects for European colonisation and any such attempt would be seen as “dangerous to our peace and safety”. This doctrine yielded the idea of “manifest destiny”, supposedly giving divine sanction to any expansionist policy. The New York journalist, John L O’Sullivan, wrote in 1845 that it was “the fulfilment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly expanding millions”. This meant that the racist genocide of indigenous people would rightly contribute to the enlargement of a Christian nation. In 1822-5, US forces repeatedly invaded Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Since then, the US has been an imperial junkie, unable to break the habit of killing foreigners in their own lands as a route to expansionism and resource exploitation. They had begun by breaking treaties with the native Americans and slaughtering them.
The Spanish-American war began in 1898, bringing further opportunities for US expansion across the world. The Cuban war of liberation was converted into a US war of conquest. Cuba had a liberation movement heroically fighting against Spanish colonialism and the US would have to intervene. On December 24 1897, US undersecretary of war, JC Breckenridge, commented that the inhabitants of Cuba…
…are generally indolent and apathetic. Its people are indifferent to religion and the majority are therefore immoral. They only possess a vague notion of what is right and wrong. As a logical consequence of this lack of morality, there is a great disregard for life.
It would of course be “sheer madness” to annex such a dissolute and depraved people into the virtuous US. Cuba was invaded and occupied in what US secretary of state John Hay dubbed “a splendid little war”, which crippled the Cuban economy and reduced the people to destitution. Havana stank, and sick and starving people roamed the city or lay in the gutters. Streets were lined with the corpses of horses, dogs and human beings. All efforts to bury the dead had been abandoned. Breckenridge observed:
We must clean up the country, even if this means using the methods Divine Providence used on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. We must destroy everything within our cannons’ range of fire. We must impose a harsh blockade so that hunger and disease undermine the peaceful population and decimate the Cuban army.
The academic Brian Linn graphically described the response of the US army to the Filipino liberation struggle. Suspects were hung by their thumbs to make them talk. Water was forced down the victim’s throat—“the water cure”—Americans seem fond of water torturing, and euphemisms for it! Villages were burned. US Colonel Benjamin F Cheatham urged his troops to “burn freely and kill every man who runs”. Villagers were forced into concentration camps with food shortages and appalling sanitation. A report said that “malnutrition, poor sanitary conditions, disease and demoralisation”, had cost 11,000 Filipino lives.
The twentieth century gave many more opportunities for US imperial expansion. In the first decade of the century, troops were active in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Syria, Panama, Abyssinia, Korea, Cuba, Honduras and Nicaragua. Just before World War I, the US found reasons to send troops to Cuba, Haiti, China and Turkey. In 1915, president Woodrow Wilson ordered General John J Pershing to invade Mexico with 10,000 troops to crush the insurrection led by Francisco Villa—Pancho Villa. China was again invaded in 1916, while in the same year US troops began an eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic to combat a popular uprising.
The US invasions continued in China, Guatemala and Russia (all in 1920), China and Turkey (1922), China and Honduras (both invaded in 1924 and 1925), China again (1926 and 1927). In the prelude to World War II, US forces again invaded Cuba and China. In 1940, the US acquired from Britain the lend-lease bases of Newfoundland, Bermuda, St Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad and British Guiana, and in April 1941, Greenland and Iceland were taken under US protection. In October 1945, 50,000 US marines were sent to north China to aid the nationalist battle against the communists. World War II and the Korean war resulted in permanent US occupations of parts of Germany, Japan, South Korea and Britain and of many island bases taken over from the Japanese.
On 7 August 1964, the US Congress, responding to president Lyndon B Johnson’s deliberate lie that US ships had been attacked by North Vietnamese vessels in international waters, approved the Gulf of Tonkin resolution affirming “all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States… to prevent further aggression”. The blatant lie had produced a presidential authorization that led to almost 60,000 US fatalities. Vietnamese dead, like the earlier Korean dead, numbered in the millions. The Vietnamese war included the Phoenix programme, which involved the systematic torture of tens of thousands of Vietnamese peasants.
William Blum, in his book Rogue State, has profiled US interventions since the end of the Vietnam war. Washington launched military or subversive actions in the Dominican Republic, Zaire, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, Grenada, Honduras, Chad, Bolivia, Iraq, Panama, Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, Liberia, Turkey, Kuwait, Somalia, Yugoslavia, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Afghanistan, East Timor, Serbia, Yemen, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Pakistan, South Ossetia, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Uruguay, Ghana, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, Portugal, Angola, Jamaica, Seychelles, Diego Garcia, Marshall Islands, Albania, Costa Rica, Georgia and other countries.
In Afghanistan, back in the present, bombing by pilotless airplanes continues, and is extended into Pakistan. Neither Obama nor General David Petraeus seem able to stop rogue officers from doing just as they like. They are undisciplined and irresponsible, but determined to have fun soldiering, just as the captain of the USS Vincennes had fun in 1988 shooting down an aeroplane with 290 passengers and crew on board, in a similar utterly undisciplined act. Many say the Lockerbie bombing, later the same year, was a reprisal for that US atrocity—an eye for an eye, so to speak—but the US did not want any such conclusion to be drawn, so the CIA set up Abdulbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan, whom most of the British relatives of the dead now consider to be innocent. Yet the US, with the same evidence before them refuse to accept that the conviction of al-Megrahi is, to say the least, unsafe, and the rage is fomented by Obama, Hillary Clinton, and one of the men responsible, CIA chief Robert Mueller.
So the Yankees continue their policy of invasion, utterly unable to accept that it is a long time failure. Or is it a failure? The US military industrial complex have their own economic reasons. It gets huge government appropriations, and these make for vast profits in the military linked armaments and supply industries. For Cheney and the like of his puppy, Bush, these overseas adventures are ways of siphoning tax dollars into personal profit. And who allegedly pays most tax dollars? Cheney’s own Republican voters! They do not seem to notice they are the ones being conned the most.