April 8, 2011
It was 1984 and President Ronald Reagan had provided amazing examples of Orwellian style doublespeak, and of life imitating art, by referring to ballistic missiles as peacekeepers. At the same time Reagan’s former Secretary of State, Alexander Haig was consulting with MGM on the military propaganda film, Red Dawn. Also the US was in the midst of the largest peacetime military buildup in history. Factories were cranking out major weapons orders. Some were redundant, and there was little oversight as to need. Reagan had slashed taxes as well, and since there was no way to pay for this defense extravaganza, budget deficits soared.
During the Reagan years Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and his mujahidin were our friends and allies, and we armed and supported both. It didn’t matter that Saddam had a tendency to use weapons of mass destruction. He was an enemy of Iran, our sworn enemy. Yes Iran was our enemy, but that didn’t stop Reagan’s people from selling even them weapons. The proceeds from this transaction were then funneled to the Contras, a terrorist Nicaraguan group, whose only redeeming quality was that they were not socialist. The Reagan administration came off as at best children playing at war, and at worst criminal. Any hope of justice in this matter vanished with George H.W. Bush’s pardons of those responsible. All this set the stage for the emergence of America as the world’s policeman, and the most awesome military juggernaut ever seen. Everything was, of course, paid for with borrowed money.
Fast forward to 1991. Saddam had been our friend and ally right up to the moment that he invaded Kuwait and threatened our oil supply. President George H.W. Bush then declared him a monster and “worse than Hitler.” He was bad, he had always been bad, and he had to be stopped. We went to war, spent a lot more borrowed money, and people at home felt good about themselves and raised American flags in front of their homes.
In 2001 Osama bin Laden and his cohorts carried out the worst attack ever on American soil. Bin Laden, like Hussein had once been our friend and ally. The American right wing said he attacked because he hated our freedom. Bin Laden himself said it was because US armed forces maintained a presence in Saudi Arabia, a country he considered holy.
Predictably, George W. Bush told us that bin Laden and his Afghanistan allies, who had once been our friends and beneficiaries were evil and had always been evil. We invaded Afghanistan, and then for no good reason, we invaded Iraq, a country led by our old friend Saddam. Saddam was a bad man, but he was secular and had no use for Islamic extremists. That didn’t stop the Bush administration from falsely tying him to the 9/11 attacks.
Bush’s propaganda machine then staged the infamous Mission Accomplished photo op on the aircraft carrier. Meanwhile he sent incompetent political hacks to deal with the war’s aftermath. Disaster ensued. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed and hundreds of thousands more were displaced. Al Qaida entered Iraq for the first time and found thousands of willing martyrs outraged by the occupation of their country. They then seized what they saw as opportunity. They honed their guerilla skills and learned to make deadly IEDs. Extremist Muslims in other countries joined their ranks as well.
Now our president, Barack Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient is presiding over three wars. The action in Libya has shown that doublespeak is alive and well. We are not at war but are engaged in a “kinetic military action”. Gadhafi must go, but it is not our mission to remove him, even though we bombed his compound. We are engaged only in a no fly operation but are still allowed to bomb non aviation targets if we so desire. We don’t know who the rebels we’re helping are, but they must be good because they’re opposed to our enemy. It also doesn’t matter that we’ve been cozying up to Gadhafi in recent years, since now we can see that he’s bad and has always been bad.
Middle Eastern countries also notice the hypocrisy of continued US support for repressive regimes in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Bahrain which are still regarded as vital to our interests. They notice as well that we continue to support Israel despite its violations of UN resolutions on building in Palestinian territories.
Our years of endless war have made us less safe, not more. We are afraid of extremists who only hate us for our military intrusions into their lives. We continue to spend huge sums on weapons systems that are of no use against the ragtag groups that oppose us. Intelligence, not military action has stopped most recent attacks against us. Another kind of intelligence is called for now. We are close to outspending all other countries in the world combined on armed forces. We have more than 800 military bases in 150 countries around the world. And we are broke. Maybe at long last it’s time to redefine ourselves. Instead of the greatest military juggernaut the world has seen, we could become a good neighbor and world citizen. I’d put a flag in front of my house for that.