Reflexive Patriotism, Last Refuge of a Scoundrel Nation
by Kirkpatrick Sale: The
Sesquicentennial Is Upon Us
Of course one
of the difficulties in putting across the benefits of, the need
for, secession is the very deep-seated fundamentalism of we’re-number-one
American patriotism. If there is no perception that the American
government is thoroughly malodorous, corrupt, and iniquitous, if
at the base of every brain is the belief in one-nation-indivisible
(a phrase, by the way, created in 1892 by a socialist ideologue
to brainwash young boys), and if there is no underlying sense that
what we do around the world as a imperial power ranges from maladroit
to evil, then there’s no way anyone could possibly comprehend, much
less support, secession.
this to mind is the reactions around the country this past May to
the announcement that U.S. Special Forces had assassinated Osama
bin Laden in Pakistan. At so-called Ground Zero, in front of the
White House, at stadiums across the country, on college campuses
and village greens coast to coast, those who happened to be up late
on a Sunday night, a number fortified by alcohol, burst out in wild
flag-waving celebrations and raucous yoo-ess-ay cheers.
It didn’t matter
that this was an achievement that for some reason took intelligence
agencies a full ten years to bring off, that its significance in
the actual putting down of Islamic terrorism would seem to be uncertain,
or that it had and would have no effect soever on the bogged-down
war in Afghanistan. It didn’t even matter that this kind of killing
– assassination of political leaders in foreign lands – is generally
regarded as contrary to an international law that in general discourages
people going around offing bad guys they don’t like, and contrary
indeed to an American regulation that operated for nearly three
decades until overturned in the heat of 9/11.
following recommendations of the Church Committee, in 1976 issued
Executive Order 11905 saying, "No employee of the United States
shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination,"
which was understood to mean the killing of foreign leaders, and
that was endorsed by every succeeding President because it just
seemed a sensible and intelligent – and perhaps moral – policy.
That was changed in September 2001 with a law that then allowed
the President to use "all necessary and appropriate force against
those nations, organization, or persons he determines planned, authorized,
committed, or aided" the 9/11 attacks. That apparently gives
Obama the legal cover he needed to go after Osama, but it still
carries a bad odor – which is why the word "assassination"
still has negative connotations the world over.
Yet none of
this seemed to operate in an American public that quickly adopted
the Wild West mentality of Wanted-Dead-or-Alive that George Bush
used to stir up. You don’t bother to capture and try the Devil –
you shoot him down in cold blood. And any sidekicks that go down
with him, that’s collateral damage, not killing.
I’m not saying
that bin Laden was anything but a dangerous enemy of this country’s,
even though it was clear his influence was waning and his army shrinking.
I’m saying that assassination of a political leader on foreign soil
is a reprehensible practice and a moral trangression, and that’s
why for three decades it was taken as a given in this country that
it was impermissible and is more or less outlawed in international
codes. And I’m saying that those who unblinkingly and reflexively
approve of it with wild public demonstrations are guilty of the
worst of patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel nation.
And that last
refuge is sought perhaps most desperately when that nation is entangled
in the morass of at least four foreign wars (including Libya and
Pakistan, leaving Somalia aside), that are not being won and are
not winnable, and are costing many trillions of dollars and hundreds
of thousands of casualties, military and civilian. Which is an indication
of the depth of that unthinking and unreasonable sickness of mind
that supports America unreflectively and stands in the way of any
sensible contemplation of the virtues of secession.
the hold of this sickness I began to reflect why it was that the
movement, though obviously getting stamped on the national consciousness
in the last few years and drawing enthusiasm in a number of quarters,
has not made more inroads than it has. Why, in particular, has it
not drawn more attention on college campuses, where fringe ideas
with good intellectual credentials are often picked up and supported,
at least by the politically-minded minority of students and the
more adventurous of the faculty. Why, for example, has there never
been a single faculty member of Middlebury College or (with one
exception) UVM to come forth to join the Second Vermont Republic
or any of its sister causes? Why haven’t there been academic studies
in Vermont supporting secession by showing how the state would be
better off economically if it were free of Federal taxes and regulations?
And it dawned
on me that actually the American academia would be the last place
in the world that would be critical of the American empire, much
less interested in breaking it up. It is a creature of that empire,
it gets funding in the billions from it, its research is heavily
directed toward its needs, its faculties are intertwined with Federal
agencies, and insofar as academia may be said to have a philosophy
it would follow more or less the liberal support for big government,
and the bigger the better.
So how could
I expect any enthusiasm for secession from that quarter?
university system is enormous and it plays an enormous role in making
the nation what it is – it is not too much to say, in fact, that
it is an equal partner in the military-industrial-academic
complex that essentially runs the country. And it continues to expand
its role and power every year, getting added money in tuition and
fees every year ($37,000 annually for Harvard) despite a tight economy,
and getting added Federal money every year (now about $60 billion,
including student grants).
I would argue
that this is a bubble that will eventually burst, because it is
more and more obvious that just having an expensive college education
doesn’t guarantee a job, even less a job that will pay enough to
pay off that expense. But while it lasts, there’s no sign that academia
is in danger of loosing its comfortable place in the national pantheon
of imperial power.
the kicker: while it lasts it will obviously continue its role of
conditioning and indoctrinating the young minds in its care to have
a deep and abiding belief in the singular virtues of the American
republic, indivisible even at 310 million people, and its legitimate
business of imperial domination, regardless of party or faction.
They wouldn’t call it patriotism, the liberal faculties, and they
wouldn’t call it knee-jerk reflective, but that is what it is. And
it ill becomes institutions that once were in the tradition of skeptical
Sale [send him mail], scholar
and prolific writer, heads the Middlebury
2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part
is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.