My Turn: With trillions spent and millions dead

  • jacoblund

Published: 7/25/2021 8:36:20 AM

The Bush-Cheney administration responded to
9/11, not with an internationally supported manhunt for perpetrators but by invading two Muslim countries. Their response was based on right-wing research into how the U.S. could dominate the world, detailed in their 2000 document “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” Page 51 concludes the plan’s realization likely to be difficult “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor” (or 9/11).

Told about that attack, President Bush continued reading to Florida schoolchildren. Cheney fashioned two wars that followed. Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer were in charge. The former allowed looters to sack Baghdad; the latter dismantled the Iraqi army, fueling the 2003 insurgency. The Mideast was destabilized. These invasions are regarded as the worst foreign policy decisions in U.S. history.

Afghanistan’s circumstances conjure images of another policy mistake — helicopters rescuing persons from the embassy roof in Kabul, as they were from Saigon. Our history textbooks are patriotically designed to deceive. Wrong choices have been legion.

Historically, our government’s policies have been anchored in a white supremacy mindset brought from Europe, allowing murder of native people, slavery, brutal efforts to force Indians to conform to the newcomer’s norms, exploitation of Chinese labor to build railroads, immigrant exclusion acts, and the imprisonment of Japanese American citizens.

Exploitation of labor has also been the basis of policy choices. Historically, farmers and workers have struggled for fair prices and wages against controllers of the markets. The powerful have resisted and dominated government. Russia’s Marxist revolution threatened capitalist exploitation. But it provided the label “socialism,” the powerful could use to defend capitalist practices. Any effort to equitably share wealth or provide for human needs was called socialism; politicians who focused on human needs were termed socialists. Worst still, any country governed by Marxist beliefs was automatically considered a grave threat to the U.S.

This survey of some foreign policy decisions is limited to our own time — the past 80 years.

In contrast with his other wartime partner, Winston Churchill, President Roosevelt developed warm relations with Joseph Stalin. Roosevelt regarded Churchill as a colonist and racist.

He had no illusions about the ruthless Russian dictator and knew he would insist on political control of Eastern Europe. After all, Russia had been invaded by Napoleon and twice by Germans.

Stalin had renounced international revolution. Roosevelt was initiating a diplomacy in which the political systems of other countries are accepted as they are, that it is not our business to insist others conform to our own.

His successor, President Truman, used possession of atomic weapons as threat to the Soviet Union and directed financial aid Roosevelt intended for rebuilding devastated Russia, instead to rebuilding Germany. Truman followed historic anti-socialist policy in both Europe and Southeast Asia, in so doing, created the Cold War. He supported French efforts to restore their colonial empire, leading to the Vietnam War.

Eisenhower Administration foreign policy was largely directed by the Dulles brothers, Allen at CIA and John Foster as Secretary of State. In the Far East, Cuba, and Central America, overdue and legitimate revolutions against dictators connected with U.S. business — so-called “inevitable revolutions” — were opposed. U.S. military advisors began decades-long interventions; counterinsurgency soldiers were trained at the School of the Americas in Georgia.

When Fidel Castro’s revolution ended dictatorship, Mafia presence, and U.S. business exploitation in Cuba, Castro was denounced as a Marxist and driven, for survival, to seek support from the Russians.

Obliged to deal with consequences in both Cuba and Vietnam, President Kennedy refused to support the Dulles invasion of Cuba and turned the subsequent Missile Crisis into a correspondence with Khrushchev on ending the Cold War. A month before he was assassinated, he acted to withdraw troops from Vietnam.

Israel’s repeated success in fighting Arab-Muslim defenders in Palestine brought massive U.S. financial support. President Nixon’s support of Pinochet’s overthrow of Allende’s leftist government in Chile began a horrible repression—- the disappearance of 30,000 leftists — in South America.

Along with opposition to socialism, white supremacy continued to prompt foreign policy choice. Our “enemies” were Arab, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Hispanic.

President Carter protected the villainous Shah of Iran, ending historic peaceful relations with that country. Before attacking Iraq, the U.S. supplied Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran. This circles us back to the beginning of this essay.

The deeper problem of wicked, undemocratic choices — by both Democratic and Republican Party leaders — is that outcomes are either omitted from our textbooks, or refashioned and justified as noble causes.

Charlemont resident Carl Doerner is an author and historian currently at work on a re-examination of and challenge to the “American narrative.”

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