'We Are a Peaceful People'

“There is at the head of this great continent a very powerful country, very rich, very warlike, and capable of anything… the United States seems destined to plague and torment the continent in the name of freedom.”

~ Simn Bolvar, “the George Washington of South America”

“…we have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population… In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction… We should cease to talk about vague and – for the Far East – unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

~ leading liberal geopolitical theoretician George Kennan, Policy Planning Study 23, U.S. State Department, 1948

Kennan, who will turn 100 this year, would mend his ways somewhat later in life. He eventually advocated the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Western Europe if the Soviets would leave their satellites. He became an opponent of the Vietnam War fairly early for an establishment figure, along with Senator J. William Fulbright. Most recently, he bitterly attacked the Baby Bush’s invasion of Iraq–one of the few liberal foreign policy mandarins, along with Arthur Schlessinger Jr., to have learned something from history.

The same cannot be said of the Necons. Think twice when George W. Bush and his cohorts jabber on about stuff like their “idealism.” We the people can safely be as contemptuous of such rhetorical claims as was Kennan.

We can similarly dismiss statements like this one, delivered by George W. Bush 48 hours before the phony deadline for Saddam to leave Iraq expired on March 17, 2003. Whether it was a matter of coincidence or some of Wolfowitz’s sick humor, the president made these remarks on the Ides of March.

“Should enemies strike our country, they would be attempting to shift our attention with panic and weaken our morale with fear. In this, they would fail. No act of theirs can alter the course or shake the resolve of this country. We are a peaceful people [emphasis mine] – yet we’re not a fragile people, and we will not be intimidated by thugs and killers. If our enemies dare to strike us, they and all who have aided them, will face fearful consequences.”

In relation to the receptivity of good-hearted Americans to such gross lies, it is a complicated matter. When many Americans hear such brave and resolute things, they see such determination reflected in their own lives. There is a disconnect however between the state and the individual.

Let’s not kid ourselves, there is also the matter of American chauvinism and jingoism. When you’ve been on top for so long, you can’t help but get light headed, especially if you take your cues from The Leader’s televised utterances.

If you’re somehow brave enough to face the fact that you’re just one being on a planet of nearly seven billion others – yes, fundamentalist, I’m addressing you – the individual gazes into the abyss. So, comfort comes from the embrace of the ersatz, state-sanctioned “American family.”

Americans, perhaps more than any other rich people on earth, desperately want to belong to something. Most often, it means signing up with the corporate state’s media fantasia.

And yet, there is a way to recognize the horrific legacy of elements in Western “civilization” while still extracting the plentiful enough good; even as this becomes more and more like the threading of a needle.

Iraqis too, like humans pretty much everywhere, probably also think of themselves as “a peaceful people.” I imagine this sort of self-understanding might also be inflamed if we were ever invaded by some theoretical power. I reckon we wouldn’t see it as “liberation” – we sure didn’t in 1814 when the Brits burned the White House – regardless of whatever noble intentions might be proffered. [Two intrepid lewrockell.com readers pointed out that the British burned the White House in retaliation for the Americans burning the city of York–today’s Toronto–in the previous year. Interesting stuff.]

So, while the rest of the world doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when they hear such Bushian pronouncements, below please find some comparisons which might explain the disconnect between too many Americans and the rest of the world.

  • # of times Panama invaded the United States: 0
  • # of times the United States invaded Panama: 6 (1895, 1901, 1908, 1912, 1925, 1989)
  • # of times the United States sent troops occupy Beirut: 2 (1958, 1983)
  • # of times Lebanon sent troops to occupy Washington: 0
  • # of South East Asians annihilated in their own lands by the United States: 3,000,000
  • # of Americans annihilated in their own country by South East Asians: 0
  • # of times the United Kingdom has invaded the U. S. and burned Washington: 1
  • # of times the U. S. has invaded the United Kingdom and burned down London: 0
  • The United Kingdom is the only state which has done unto us more than we have done to them. That’s one reason they’re so helpful now – they’re even older hands at this sort of thing than we are.
  • # of Nicaraguans killed by American-backed terrorists in the 1980s: 40,000
  • # of Americans killed by Nicaraguan-backed terrorists in the 1980s or any other time: 0

    “I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force – the Marine Corps – and during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups… I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interest in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Bros. in 1909–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested… Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.”

~ Major General Smedley Butler, (USMC) a two-time winner of the Medal of Honor and the most highly decorated soldier of his day, 1933

  • # of times the U.S. has bombed Serbia: 1
  • # of times Serbia has bombed the U.S.: 0
  • # of times the U.S. has invaded the Dominican Republic: 2 (1916, 1965)
  • # of times the Dominican Republic has invaded the U.S.: 0
  • # of human beings massacred by U.S.-backed death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980s: 180,000
  • # of human beings massacred by Salvadoran and Guatemalan-backed death squads in the United States: 0
  • # of human beings murdered by U.S.-backed fascist governments in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina in the 1970s as part of “Operation Condor”: 32,000
  • # of human beings murdered by the states of Uruguay, Chile and Argentina in the United States in the 1970s as part of “Operation Condor:” 2

Pinochet’s perpetrators of this act of international terrorism – exploding a car bomb in downtown Washington D.C. – were never particularly pursued, much less caught

  • # of human beings killed by U.S.-client Suharto in Indonesia in 1965: 600,000
  • # of human beings killed by Suharto in the United States: 0
  • # of times the United States has invaded Iraq: 2
  • # of times Iraq has invaded the United States: 0
  • # of children who died as a consequence of American bombing of civilian targets – chiefly the water purification and sanitation system – and sanctions from the Gulf War to Operation Iraqi Liberation: 500,000
  • # of children who died at the hand of Saddam Hussein in the United States: 0
  • # of Americans killed in the horror of 9/11: 2,800
  • # of Afghan civilians killed after Operation Enduring Freedom began: over 4,000
  • # of Iraqis killed as a consequence of Operation Iraqi Freedom: anywhere from 100,000 and counting.
  • # of Americans killed as a consequence of Operation Iraqi Freedom: 1,400 and counting.
  • # of Iraqis killed from the start of the first Gulf War, through the sanctions and the liberation: 750,000.
  • # of Americans killed from the start of the first Gulf War, through the sanctions and the liberation: 1,700.

Of course, I’m not counting the over 200,000 young Americans suffering – and dying – from Gulf War Syndrome in the above number.

“[Our] people are not a warlike nation. It is a soldierly one, which means it does not want war but does not fear it. It loves peace, but also its honor and freedom.”

~ Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

The point is, we are a peaceful people.

February 15, 2005

Stephen Bender [send him mail] is a writer based in San Francisco. You can find more of his work at his website.