Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The Mythology of National Interests: A Sufi's Perspective
Nations are arbitrary constructs. That is, nations come into being as the result of forms of governance that cannot be demonstrated, beyond a reasonable doubt, to give expression to the way things ‘ought’ to be in a certain geographic area.
Nations are always, and everywhere, parasitic upon the people who are encompassed by, if not enslaved within, the arbitrarily arranged boundaries and arbitrarily determined manner of organizing what goes on within those borders. Nations seek to induce their people – as if people were the possessions of nations -- to cede their moral and intellectual agency to the service of ‘leaders’ who are primarily self-serving ideological psychopaths (whether this is filtered through religious, economic, philosophical, racial, militaristic, and/or financial colors).
The history of nations is universally one of: oppression, exploitation, murder, conflict, war, discrimination, dishonesty, abuse, manipulation, vested interests, theft, injustice, callousness, enslavement, irresponsibility, impulsiveness, and destruction. However, in the best tradition of ideological psychopathy, those histories tend to be glorified through self-aggrandizing literary constructions which use misinformation, disinformation, and falsehoods to paint a historical portrait of a nation that tends to distort the truth of things.
Moreover, that kind of historical propaganda is used to shape the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, values, and behavior of people in order to persuade the latter individuals that they have a duty or obligation to service the needs of a nation. People are encouraged to believe that the interests of a nation are synonymous with their interests ... that what is ‘good’ for the ‘national interests’ is automatically and necessarily what is ‘good’ for the people living within the borders of that nation or good for the people living elsewhere.
‘National interests’ are code words for that which serves those who either have, or want to have, control of people and resources. ‘National interests’ are euphemistic code words for the ‘way of power.’
National interests are considered by some to be sacred. The way of power is the holy road for realizing those interests.
The role of individuals is to bow down in submission and utter gratitude before their ‘god’ – the state or nation. The role of individuals is to be ready to sacrifice themselves, their families, their resources, and their communities in order to appease their ‘god’ – the state or nation.
The state is a jealous god. It will not countenance worship of anything but itself and will treat as blasphemous the words of anyone who alludes to a ‘reality’ other than what has been revealed to the ‘prophets’ (founders) and ‘apostles’ (judicial interpreters) of the state.
Those who reject the revealed truths of the nation concerning the nature of duty are apostates. Those who do not wish to be oppressed, exploited, and manipulated by the nation-deity are infidels.
Apostates and infidels are allegedly guilty of treason against the so-called moral imperative of the nation/state. Those treasonous wretches surely deserve to become outcasts among civilized peoples.
There is an experiment conducted by Stanley Milgram that is relevant here. The experiment which I have in mind is different from the learning/memory-shock study explored in an earlier posting (A Critique of Two Experiments).
More specifically, Milgram instructed a number of his graduate students to venture forth into the subway system of New York City. Their task would be to ask subway patrons to give up their seats so that the graduate student could sit down even though there was no apparent reason – such as illness, disability, elderliness, or the like – why a person who was sitting down should give up her or his seat to a perfect stranger.
As was the case in the ‘learning/memory’ experiment conducted in the early 1960s, Milgram had no specific hypothesis about what subway patrons would do under those circumstances. He wanted to see what would happen and, then, try to figure out the social dynamics after the fact.
A number of graduate students came back to Milgram and indicated that they were having difficulty with their role in the experiment. They couldn’t bring themselves to ask sitting subway patrons to give up their seat so that the graduate students would be able to sit down.
Milgram was annoyed with their reports. Consequently, he descended into the bowels of the New York City subway system himself to show his graduate students how it was done.
Strangely, just as had been the case with some of his student assistants, Milgram found that he couldn’t voice the request. He would stand before a sitting subject and feel helpless as the required words became stuck in his throat.
In the process, Milgram discovered that there are social forces in existence which are so powerful -- even in relation to what appear to be very simple situations unrelated to issues of power and authority -- that can, among other things, impede a person’s ability to voice a seemingly simple request. Those forces tend to dominate even in circumstances when a person is strongly motivated – as Milgram was – to speak.
A person sitting in a subway seat is only likely to do so many things in relation to the foregoing request ... assuming, of course, that obvious gang members are eliminated from the subject pool. The sitting individual can give up the seat or refuse to do so.
In the latter case, the refusal can be polite or impolite. If impolite, one’s ego is likely to be the recipient of some sort of verbal abuse and, in addition, there could be a degree of belittling body language that might be offered up by the sitting subway patron as well.
Depending on how, where, or when the experimental request is made, there might, or might not be, other subway patrons who are observing what is taking place. If there are such witnesses, then the force of rejection – if not conflict/antagonism -- becomes intensified and, consequently, gives rise to a more unpleasant set of events with which the experimenters must deal.
Nations take advantage of the foregoing social phenomenon. Not only are people socialized into not asking strangers for their seats when there is no justifiable reason for doing so, but, as well, people are socialized into not asking people of power to give up their seats of authority even when there are justifiable reasons for doing so.
In fact, many people cannot bring themselves to say anything. Like Milgram, their words become stuck somewhere within themselves.
Of course, the situation with authority figures is different from the people sitting in a subway. The latter individuals are unlikely to react with physical violence, and, moreover, they have little capacity – except for a few words of sarcasm or criticism, along with accompanying body language and/or facial expressions – to punish someone who asks them to give up his or her seat, whereas the individuals sitting in power have an array of punishments that can be brought to bear on the individual who dares to request or suggest that the people in authority give up her or his seat in the governmental counterpart to the New York City subway system.
The template for nationalistic and commercial behavior in the Americas was set by, among others: Columbus in conjunction with the Arawaks of the Bahamas; Cortes in relation to the Aztecs in Mexico; Pizarro and his treatment of the Incas in Peru; the settlers of Jamestown with respect to the Powhatan-led Indian Confederacy in Virginia, and the Puritans interaction with the Pequot Indians in Rhode Island and Connecticut. Via the foregoing template, millions of Indians were slaughtered and millions of acres of land were confiscated so that the royalty and financial interests in Europe and America could earn profits and claim resources to which they had no right.
In an attempt to justify the foregoing slaughter and theft, Europeans and Americans sometimes made a distinction between ‘natural rights’ and ‘civil rights.’ While white Europeans/’Americans’ were sometimes willing to acknowledge that Indians had ‘natural rights’ with respect to the land and its resources, the visitors to the New World also said that those ‘natural rights’ did not have the legal standing that civil rights did.
Civil rights were those which were ritualistically recognized by arbitrary systems of laws that were generated by arbitrary systems of governance. The forms of governance, systems of laws, and instances of recognition were arbitrary because they couldn’t be justified in a way with which everyone could agree beyond a reasonable doubt.
Civil rights had legal standing while natural rights did not have legal standing because, by definition, this was the manner in which those legal systems were structured. Those sorts of legal systems only recognized the validity of the logic that was given expression through the ‘way of power’ that authorized those laws ... it was tautological in character.
Something was true or valid because a source of power said something was true or valid. Laws – and their derivative civil rights – acquired legitimacy through proclamation -- and those ‘rights’ could be proclaimed out of existence just as easily.
Civil rights depend on the network of arbitrary laws promulgated by a given system of arbitrary governance. For those who have been socialized into that sort of an arbitrary system, it seems commonsensical to consider those rights to be superior to natural rights even though civil rights are entirely arbitrary, while natural rights – properly understood -- can be shown, beyond a reasonable doubt, to constitute a way forward that is capable of being justified.
From the perspective of Europeans, the enjoyment of civil rights by the commercial and governmental agents of a nation entitled those people to kill, enslave, steal, rape, and oppress whomever and whatever they liked – especially those who were only protected by ‘natural rights’ – since, as indicated earlier, ‘civil rights’ had legal standing, whereas ‘natural rights’ had no legal standing.
The idea of ‘natural rights’ constitutes a threat to the idea of ‘civil rights.’ After all, if natural rights actually exist, then they have existential priority over civil rights since ‘natural rights’ existed prior to the formation of any form of governance, state, nation, or legal system.
‘Natural rights’ also constitute a threat to the legitimacy of governance, states, nations and legal systems because those rights are not derived from the activity of government but, instead, precede that activity. As a result, forms of governance that cannot be reconciled with those ‘natural rights’ are revealed to be arbitrarily constructed.
When the idea of ‘national interests’ is invoked, those invocations tend to be based on the premise that the interests of a nation have priority over civil rights, just as civil rights are considered by some to have priority over natural rights. In other words, those arguments suppose that national interests have a greater legal standing than do either civil or natural rights.
Those kinds of arguments cannot be justified. They only can be advanced through a way of power whose tactics of violence, exploitation, oppression, and manipulation serve to express their own brand of ‘logic’ ... a form of ‘logic’ which might be able to influence, but can never justify, what takes place through the exercise of power.
Whatever the public relations officers for a nation might say, the ‘state’ tends to be inherently opposed to the sovereignty of the individuals who fall within the borders of the geographical area associated with that state. National interests are very difficult to reconcile, if this can be done at all, with the principle of individual sovereignty, because, generally speaking, national interests – such as power and control -- require people to be willing to sacrifice their own sovereignty in order for the given goal(s) of national interests to be realized.
The Preamble to the Philadelphia Constitution indicates that the national interests of the United States should be a function of: forming a more perfect union, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing blessings of liberty. In practice, however, national interests in America – as elsewhere – have become a function of whatever the people in power decide will advance the agenda of the way of power, and, as a result, perfection, justice, tranquility, defense, welfare, and liberty – to the extent they are considered at all (and, frequently, they are not) -- are filtered through the colored lenses of various machinations of power.
For instance, according to some people, the Civil War was necessary because, in effect, that war was in the service of national interests – that is, among other reasons it was supposedly fought in order to hold the United States together as one nation. I’m not certain what the argument is that justifies the loss of nearly 600,000 lives, along with millions of others who were severely wounded, tortured in prisoner of war camps, lost their homes and families, as well as became economically, if not politically, oppressed – not to mention the bitterness that has been generated and lasted for more than a hundred years -- so that a bunch of states operating in accordance with vested interests could remain a nation.
What is the nature of the metric which enables one to demonstrate that national unity is worth the lives of so many people? How does one organize the liabilities and assets of such an existential ledger to demonstrate that preserving the nation constituted a net gain despite the tsunami of destruction that swept over the lives of millions of individuals during and after the Civil War?
At one point, Lincoln had argued – incorporating ideas from Daniel Webster – that because the Constitution had been ratified by the people, then, only the people – considered as a whole – had a right to dissolve the Union. However, Lincoln’s understanding of history is a little distorted since a considerable amount of evidence can be put forth (and some of that evidence has been explored in earlier postings to this blog) to indicate that the people, as a whole, did not ratify the Constitution, but, rather, only a very limited, select portion of the people got a chance to participate in the process ... a process that, in many ways, was both corrupt and corrupted.
The way of power had been used to forge the United States. Lincoln wanted to use the same way of power – this time manifested in the form of the Civil War -- to continue to force on people the sort of Union that really only served the interests of the few – both on the level of state and federal government.
Whatever the arguments are that seek to justify preserving national interests over human lives those arguments require one to devalue the sovereignty of individuals so that the idea of national interests might endure. One cannot set events in motion that which will lead to the death and destruction of the lives of hundreds of thousands of people without devaluing the sovereignty of those individuals whose lives are destroyed quite independently of their wishes.
Of course, someone might want to respond to the foregoing considerations by claiming that no one could have predicted how the war would unfold. No one intended that what happened would or should happen.
The same sort of principle holds in relation to war as holds in a courtroom. In other words, just as is true in the case of a lawyer who doesn’t know the answer to a question that such a question shouldn’t be asked, then, similarly, if people don’t know what the outcome of a war will be, then, perhaps it shouldn’t be waged.
Quite frankly, in stark contrast to the moving gravitas of, say, the Gettysburg Address, on the night that the Civil War began, Lincoln maneuvered the South into firing on Fort Sumter – which actually belonged to South Carolina – to prevent the North from further reinforcing a fort that the North had confiscated. The South was made to appear the aggressor when it was merely trying to reclaim a facility that was continuing to be occupied by Northern troops despite the South’s repeated attempts to peacefully resolve the problem.
Furthermore, despite the fact that no Northern troops were killed or injured by the South on that occasion, Lincoln used the events at Ft. Sumter to declare war on the South. As a result, several weeks later, Lincoln authorized, without Congressional approval, a naval blockade of Sothern ports.
The naval blockade was about collecting tariffs, and, thereby, it helped to perpetuate the nearly forty-year tariff conflict which had been waged by Northern financial interests against the labor-intensive Southern states. Thus, the blockade – as was true of the rest of the war -- was primarily about control and money rather than being a matter of preserving the Union for ‘We the People.’
For most people – including Lincoln -- the idea of freeing the slaves via the Civil War did not arise until after that conflict had been underway for some time. In fact, for a long time Lincoln believed that the best solution to the problem of slavery – and Lincoln was very much a white-supremacist – would be to ship people of color to some country in Africa or the Caribbean. Moreover, at the beginning of the Civil War there were more northern states that supported slavery than there were southern states that did so.
Moreover, even if the idea of freeing the slaves had been part of the reason why it would be in the alleged national interests to fight the Civil War, the lives of people of color continued to be devalued both in the North and the South for more than another hundred years after the Civil War ended. Therefore, to whatever extent the sovereignty of people of color was part of the national interests at the time of the Civil War, that purpose was never served very well by the war.
The Civil War was primarily fought due to an array of economic and political considerations. Those considerations were largely a matter of which group of bankers, entrepreneurs, financial interests and politicians would be able to control the United States commercially, financially, and politically. Whether states-rights-oriented or federalist-rights-oriented financial interests get to call the shots makes little difference to the individuals whose sovereignty was not actually championed by any of the economic and political forces that led to the Civil War.
Many people seem to forget that Lincoln had been a top-tier lawyer and lobbyist for the railroads prior to becoming President. Railroads were part of the Northern power base that created the Republican Party and financed Lincoln’s election run.
After Lincoln became President, railroads were the recipients of a great deal of government subsidies and largesse. Moreover, as president, Lincoln also served the interests of northern manufacturers – who also financed his Presidential bid -- by instituting tariffs that would give Northern entrepreneurs a distinct advantage relative to their Southern counterparts.
Lincoln used the military to imprison tens of thousands of Northern critics of the war. In addition, he closed down more than 300 newspapers because they had the audacity to question his judgment.
On orders from Lincoln, Ohio congressman Clement L. Vallandigham was arrested by nearly 70 armed federal soldiers, imprisoned, tried by a military tribunal, and, then, forcibly deported to Canada. The congressman’s crime, apparently, was that he gave a speech in the House of Representatives which criticized Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus as well as the President’s tendency to violate the Philadelphia Constitution.
The federal government was confiscating firearms from people. Government officials in Maryland were being imprisoned. People were being incarcerated without due process.
A number of federal judges were detained for a period of time via Lincoln’s decisions. In addition, Lincoln arranged for an arrest warrant to be issued for the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Lincoln often considered anyone who disagreed with him or his policies to be guilty of treason. Such a perspective was not about the interests of ‘We the People,’ but, rather, that perspective gave expression to Lincoln’s belief that his paranoid delusions concerning the way things were or should be were more important than the sovereignty of people.
Many political prisoners during the Civil War were sent to Fort Lafayette in New York harbor. When members of Congress inquired about whether, or not, constituents of theirs had been incarcerated at the Fort, they were told by the Lincoln administration that providing such information was not in the national interests.
None of the foregoing events were about serving: ‘We the People.’ They were entirely an expression of the way in which power seeks to control or eliminate anyone who threatens what certain individuals (the so-called ‘leaders’) consider to be in the national interests ... that is, the interests of the way of power.
Lincoln had become – if he was not always this way – an ideological psychopath. All that was important to him was his own beliefs, interests, and goals, and, he didn’t care how many people had to die or how many lives had to be destroyed in the process ... moreover, like a lot of ideological psychopaths, he was facile with language and could use that skill set, without any sign of remorse on his part -- to manipulate, exploit, and abuse people.
More than a hundred years later, a number of presidential administrations used Lincoln’s behavior as justification for perpetrating many of the same kinds of abuses as were set in motion by Lincoln ... and with the same underlying argument – national interests. All those administrations have succeeded in doing is demonstrating their own forms of ideological psychopathy.
During the Second World War, Ho Chi Minh had fought against the Japanese forces that had invaded and occupied Indochina. After the war ended, Ho Chi Minh, together with others who had fought alongside him, issued a declaration of independence – patterned, somewhat, after the American document – with respect to the unjustifiable actions of another previous invader and occupier of Indochina – France.
France had perpetrated many crimes against the Vietnamese people. The French had confiscated lands and resources, taxed the people mercilessly, and either imprisoned or killed anyone who spoke out against those abuses and forms of exploitation.
The French – no doubt due to reasons of national interest – had decided that the Vietnamese should subsidize a variety of French vested interests. At one point, the French had disrupted the economy of Vietnam to such an extent that more than two million Vietnamese starved to death when the French confiscated – and let rot – all available rice.
In 1941, Churchill and Roosevelt had met off the coast of Newfoundland. They drew up what is referred to as the Atlantic Charter. Supposedly, the charter was an affirmation of the right of self-determination for all peoples ... that is, the right of all peoples to determine how they would govern themselves.
Shortly after the war ended, the United States was encouraging Britain – the ones occupying South Vietnam at the time -- to return control of southern Vietnam to the French. Britain, being a civilized country, complied with the request, and everyone ‘forgot’ all about the Atlantic Charter.
In October of 1946, the French began to bomb the port city of Haiphong in northern Vietnam. A war ensued that lasted approximately eight years.
Beginning in 1953, the United States supplied the French with arms. By 1954, America was underwriting nearly 80% of the French war effort in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese had not invaded the United States. The Vietnamese had not invaded France.
Yet, the national interests – i.e., control, power, theft, and profits -- of France and America apparently required that Vietnam be invaded, occupied and controlled by France. The Atlantic Charter meant nothing ... in fact, like the many treaty and agreements that were signed by the United States with respect to Indians in America, such agreements were just pieces of paper that were not to be taken seriously and, as a result, they could be broken – and were -- whenever the way of power decided that duplicitous behavior was ‘necessary and proper.’
In 1954, the French were militarily forced to withdraw from North Vietnam. An agreement was reached in Geneva to permit the French to temporarily occupy South Vietnam, while the Vietminh would continue to rule in North Vietnam.
A further facet of the foregoing agreement was that elections were to be held in two years. Supposedly, the Vietnamese were going to be given the opportunity to unify Vietnam through free elections in which the Vietnamese people would be able to determine their own form of governance.
The United States induced Ngo Dinh Diem, who had been living in New Jersey, to: Return to Saigon, head up the government there, and resist any efforts which might be made with respect to fulfilling the conditions of the Geneva agreement involving free elections. The latter step was necessary because U.S. intelligence reports indicated that if elections were held, Diem, along with the network of landlords who had connections to the military and were running South Vietnam, would lose.
Diem was a Catholic in a largely Buddhist country. He was also a friend of the rich and powerful in South Vietnam who oppressed the largely peasant population of that area.
Diem ran a corrupt regime in which imprisonment, or worse, was used as the means to stifle criticisms of the corruption. The United States government fully supported Diem.
The agreement made in Geneva indicated that the United States would be permitted to have 685 advisors in South Vietnam. President Eisenhower secretly violated the agreement and ordered several thousand military personal to be sent into that country, and, subsequently, President Kennedy exacerbated things by not only deploying some 16,000 troops to South Vietnam, but, as well, he permitted those troops to take part in combat missions.
The foregoing escalations were deemed to be necessary because Diem’s position in South Vietnam was becoming increasingly unpopular and, therefore, untenable. With the assistance of a CIA agent, Lucien Conein, and the American Ambassador for South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, a coup was set in motion in November, 1963 and Diem was murdered ... three weeks later, Kennedy was also assassinated.
Publically, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy spoke about the value of freedom versus the totalitarian nature of Communism. Privately, they supported the French occupation of South Vietnam, subsidized war against North Vietnam, as well as actively violated or worked against the Geneva Accords and the Atlantic Charter which had called for the Vietnamese people, among others, to be able to determine their own political fortunes.
Ho Chi Minh was not a communist but a nationalist who fought for self-determination (against the French, the Japanese, the French again, and, finally, the Americans) and who also fought to enable peasants to be able to take economic control of their own lives. What was at stake in Southeast Asia was not the realization of the domino theory – a theory for which there was no substantiating evidence either before or after Vietnam – but, rather, the loss of American access to, and control of, a variety of resources including: rubber, teak, corn, rice, spices, oil, and tin ... not to mention all the money which was being made through war-profiteering.
In August 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin event was invented. President Johnson used a non-event to start a full-scale war with North Vietnam.
According to American officials, the U.S.S. Maddox, a destroyer, had been on a routine mission in international waters when it was attacked in an unprovoked manner. However, the ship was not in international waters but was operating in coastal waters controlled by North Vietnam, and the ship’s mission was anything but a routine one since it was using electronic surveillance to spy on the North Vietnamese, just as the United States had used a Gary Powers’/CIA operated U-2 plane to spy on the Soviet Union in 1960.
Violating territorial waters and engaging in spying activities is entirely a matter of provocative activity ... if the North Vietnamese actually had attacked, which they didn’t. However, official U.S. reports to the contrary, the North Vietnamese never fired torpedoes at the U.S.S. Maddox.
Just as the fictional slaughter of incubator babies in Kuwait by Iraqis (the story was tearfully sold by the 15-year old daughter of the Emir of Kuwait and was organized by the public relations giant Hill and Knowlton) was used to induce Congress to pass a resolution concerning war with respect to Iraq in the first Gulf War, so too, the alleged North Vietnamese attack was used as a pretext to induce Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to enable President Johnson to substantially escalate the war in Vietnam. The foregoing scenarios are similar in a number of ways to the manner in which President Lincoln used the non-event of Fort Sumter -- in which no Northern troops were killed or injured as a result of Southern activities – and which, in any event, had been maneuvered by President Lincoln as a pretext for labeling the South as an aggressor in order to be able ‘justify’ declaring war on the South.
More than 50,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands more were wounded and scarred for life ... and, in passing, one might note that one of the largest segments of the homeless population in America consist of Vietnam veterans, although that percentage is now being challenged by an increasing number of veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Millions of people in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos also lost their lives, families, and homes. Their countries were saturated with toxic Agent Orange, just as countries in the Middle East recently (over the last twenty-four years or so) have since been saturated with the toxicity of depleted uranium.
The International Red Cross reported that during the Vietnam War up to 70,000 Vietnamese were detained in prison camps in South Vietnam. Many of those individuals were, with U.S. assistance, beaten and tortured ... and, therefore, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are not really new and startling developments -- just more of the same.
The foregoing prison camps were augmented by ‘Operation Phoenix’ which was run by the CIA in Vietnam. More than 20,000 Vietnamese civilians were executed through that program which, surely, was serving ‘national interests.’
As President Lincoln did in the South during the Civil War, President Johnson also did in South Vietnam. A scorched-earth policy was pursued and whole towns, cities, and jungles were destroyed ... women, children, and old people were all considered to be targets of opportunity.
The manner in which war was conducted in Vietnam was a bright and shining expression of ideological psychopathy, just as had been the case in the Civil War. ‘National interests’ in both cases was not about: Perfecting the union; establishing justice; ensuring domestic tranquility; providing for the common defense; promoting the general welfare, or securing liberty, but, rather, such ‘national interests’ were about promoting the agenda of ideological psychopaths with respect to issues of control, power, war profiteering, and making the world free for corporations.
On March 19, 2003, the United States launched ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom.’ The mission was not only supposed to protect America from the weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical) which Saddam Hussein allegedly possessed and, supposedly, was ready to use, but, as well, Operation Iraqi Freedom was going to free Iraq from years of oppression, exploitation, and abuse by a vicious dictator.
The foregoing operation achieved neither of its stated objectives. The goal of protecting Americans against weapons of mass destruction was not realized because Saddam Hussein didn’t have any such weapons – something that United Nations weapons inspectors Scott Ritter and Hans Blix had been telling the West for quite some time.
The goal of freeing Iraqi people also was not realized. This is because, despite the appealing sounding name of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ the United States became a military and economic occupier of Iraq rather than its liberator.
On May 8, 2003 the United States sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council which outlined the alleged intentions of the Coalition Provisional Authority that, in the near future, would begin occupying Iraq. Two days earlier, Paul Bremer III had been appointed to head up the CPA, and he would, in effect, replace Jay Garner who, since January 20, 2003, had been running the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance at the Defense Department ... an agency that had been busily planning for a post-war Iraq.
Garner, who was a general, wanted to put Iraqis in charge of their own self-determination – both political and economic -- as quickly as possible. He arrived in Baghdad on April 23, 2003, several weeks after the fall of that city, and was told by Rumsfeld on the night of Garner’s arrival that Garner was going to be replaced in a month’s time by Paul Bremer III who, aside from a number of years in the State Department, also had been managing director of Kissinger Associates, as well as the CEO and chairman of Crisis Consulting Practice for the insurance company Marsh and McLennan.
In 2001, Bremer had written a paper that provided an overview of the sorts of problems that would be encountered by multinational corporations during the process of globalization. In the paper, he described the destructive ramifications which would accrue to local populations as multinational corporations undertook policies of globalization, but Bremer stipulated that those sorts of problems were a necessary by-product of a process that, in time, supposedly would bring benefits to that local population.
In 2003, Bremer was given the opportunity to put theory into practice. As a result, he began implementing the policies outlined in the 2001 paper – knowing that those policies would have a destructive impact on the Iraqi people.
According to the aforementioned U.S. letter to the United Nations Security Council, America was going to temporarily occupy and rule over Iraq. The Americans indicated that the administration of Iraq would employ power only as much as was necessary to successfully bridge the time needed to reach a point when the Iraqi people would begin to rule themselves. In the meantime, the United States would undertake to oversee the running of Iraq in a responsible fashion that would deliver humanitarian relief, provide for the re-construction of the Iraqi economy and infrastructure, as well as regulate its financial and resource sectors.
The U.N. Security Council approved the U.S. proposal for Iraq on May 22, 2003. However, the Security Council added a few provisions which were intended to guide the efforts of the CPA.
The Security Council wanted to ensure that the focus of the CPA would be on providing for the security, stability, and welfare of the Iraqi people. In addition, the Council emphasized the right of the Iraqi people with respect to self-determination.
Moreover, the resolution of the U.N. Security Council also stipulated that the CPA was bound by both Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Previously, the United States had ratified both documents.
Article 43 of the Hague Regulations – which is mirrored almost exactly in the U.S. Army’s laws concerning the conduct of land warfare – indicates that one of the responsibilities of an occupying force is to administer the life of an occupied country in such a way that the basic necessities of life for the people in the occupied country will be provided for – including electricity, drinking water, street safety. Article 43 of the Hague Regulations also indicates that an occupying force is not permitted to make any changes in the occupied country beyond what is needed to deliver the foregoing services.
During its occupation of Iraq, the United States repeatedly violated the conditions for being an occupying force. More specifically, not only did the United States violate the Security Council Resolution concerning the CPA, but as well, the United States violated the conditions of the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Regulations, and the provision of the U.S. Army’s own manual concerning the Law of Land Warfare.
The Bremer Rules (a list of one hundred edicts) that were put into effect in Iraq between May 6, 2003 and June 28, 2004 were in direct conflict with established international law – i.e., The Hague Regulations and The Geneva Conventions – as well as Security Council Resolution 1438 which had granted the CPA approval to serve as a temporary occupying force in Iraq. The Bremer Rules reflected, in considerable detail, the contents of a hundred-plus page document written by Bearing Point, Inc. that had been given an initial three-year contract – later renewed for an additional three years – by the United States to provide technical and consulting support to the U.S. Agency for International Development with respect to restructuring the Iraq economy.
The essence of the foregoing collaboration was intended to move Iraq away from an economy that was, in many respects, controlled by the state, and toward an economy dominated by privatization, free markets, and free trade. As I pointed out in an earlier posting, the term: “free” in the foregoing sort of context is intended to apply only to corporations and not necessarily to the people who will be impacted by that corporate freedom ... ‘free trade’ and ‘free markets’ refer to the ability of private businesses to do whatever they deem to be necessary to turn a profit irrespective of how those activities affect people beyond the horizons of that business.
According to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1438 as well as The Hague Regulations, an occupying force was not permitted to make any changes to the country being occupied that were not directly related to providing the people being occupied with the basic necessities of life. Bremer, Bearing Point, Inc. and the United States had other ideas concerning the provisions of Resolution 1438.
In effect, Bremer became the ‘emperor’ of Iraq. The Iraqi people had been relieved of one tyrant – i.e., Hussein – to become entangled with someone –i.e., Bremer -- who was, in many ways, far worse than Saddam.
Bremer proclaimed the laws. The U.S. military -- contrary to the U.S. Army’s own rules concerning land warfare -- enforced those laws.
For instance, one of the very first edicts of the Bremer Occupation was to fire all Iraqis workers who had an affiliation with the Ba’ath Party. Under Hussein, if one wanted to work in the civil service, then irrespective of one’s feelings about the Ba’athist perspective or Saddam Hussein, one had to be a member of the Ba’ath Party, and, therefore, many scientists, skilled laborers, doctors and engineers – the very people who were expects in keeping the lights on, the water running, sewage treated, the streets safe, transportation moving, money flowing, and the medical needs of people addressed – were dismissed.
In short, Bremer’s first proclamation undermined, if not completely thwarted, the requirements of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1438 and The Hague Regulations. He – and, therefore, the United States – was obligated to satisfy the basic needs of the occupied people and do this in a way that would not change the occupied country in any unnecessary way, and, yet, the first Bremer rule made both facets of the foregoing goal largely unrealizable.
During the first gulf War, the United States had concentrated on destroying many parts of the infrastructure of Iraq – including water and electricity facilities. Iraqis – that is, the very ones who were dismissed by Bremer -- had the foregoing systems up and running within three months of their destruction. Yet, the foreign contractors which Bremer unnecessarily forced on the Iraqi people could not get those systems running even after years of collecting fees for providing non-existent services.
Another promulgation of Bremer was aimed at liberalizing trade policy in Iraq. As a result, policies were eliminated (e.g., tariffs, licensing fees, and import taxes) which previously had protected the Iraq economy from foreign competition and, in the process, made Iraq entirely self-sufficient with respect to, among other things, its food production, and, consequently, as a result of one of Bremer’s rules, many aspects of the local network of producers and suppliers in Iraq were destroyed.
Iraqi people were put out of work, local supply lines were disrupted, and many people went hungry and without necessary services. However, international corporations benefitted from the new markets in Iraq that were opened up due to the trade liberalization policies of Bremer ... policies that were in direct conflict with the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1438 and The Hague Regulations by which the United States had agreed to be bound in the administration of Iraq during the period of occupation.
Another of Bremer’s Rules protected all military forces, foreign contractors, and private security firms (such as Blackwater, which, after a number of scandals, later changed its name to Xe) against being held accountable by the Iraqi legal system for whatever violations of Iraqi law that might be committed by those individuals (for example, think Abu Ghraib). In addition, the same Bremer proclamation stipulated that Iraqis who were not provided with the promised, basic necessities of life – such as water, electricity, sewage treatment, and so on -- by foreign contractors responsible for those services, were excluded from having any legal standing in those matters, and, therefore, could not sue the incompetent contractors.
Bremer also issued several edicts concerning the banking system in Iraq. The first of those rules opened up Iraqi banks to 50% ownership by foreign, financial interests, while a follow up rule expanded the percentage of an Iraqi bank that could be owned by foreign interests to 100%.
A further proclamation by Bremer opened up all Iraqi businesses to foreign ownership. Furthermore, a great many of the services that previously – i.e., before the war – had been run by the government were privatized under Bremer’s loving care.
Due to the foregoing provisions concerning the occupation of Iraq, scores of American companies received contracts that were worth multiples of the previous GNP for Iraq. Commercial activity that should have been directed to Iraqis and controlled by them was usurped by foreign businesses ... businesses that not only had been enabled by the Bremer Rules, but, as well, were handed the advantage of playing in an unfair economic game that was being rigged by American referees.
No one can plausibly argue that any of the foregoing arrangements – or the scores of other rules introduced by Bremer to transform Iraq into an economic fiefdom of Western corporations and financial interests -- were integral elements in a fair plan that would provide the Iraqi people with the basic necessities of life and, in the process, not unnecessarily change the way in which an occupied country had been operated prior to becoming occupied. Consequently, all of Bremer’s Rules were in direct violation of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1438, as well as The Hague Regulations.
Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 – which most everyone now acknowledges was entirely unwarranted, if not illegal – Iraq, despite years of economic and military sanctions by the West, had one of the most advanced societies in the Middle East. Furthermore, despite the sanctions, Iraq had a functioning system of: Health care, food production, commerce, education, and public service, and, yet, under the Bremer Rules all of that changed.
Iraq never attacked the United States with military forces, nor did it ever have any intentions of doing so. Iraq was not a threat to the American people.
Nonetheless, ‘national interests’ dictated that Iraq needed to be destroyed and made safe for various foreign financial and economic corporate agendas. Once again, the way of power that controls the United States government provided evidence which demonstrates, in fairly clear terms, that ‘national interests’ is just a code phrase for the developmental plans of ideological psychopaths who do not really care about what happens to Iraqis as long as the former individuals make a profit and get to control Iraqi society and resources, and, consequently, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was oxymoronic.
The Office of Legal Counsel is part of the Department of Justice. The function of the OLC is to provide legal advice concerning the lawfulness of various possibilities being considered by the President or by other departments within the Executive Branch of government.
The legal advice that is generated through the Office of Legal Counsel is binding upon all members of the Executive Branch. The authority underlying such an obligatory dimension comes from a statute passed by Congress.
In effect, the foregoing statute serves as something of a ‘necessary and proper’ clause for the Executive Branch. As a result, the Office of Legal Counsel was enabled to determine what qualifies as being ‘necessary’ and ‘proper’ with respect to the Executive Branch being able to carry out its perceived duties.
However, there is a black-hole of ambiguity at the heart of both the statute that allegedly invests the legal advice of the OLC with binding authority, as well as Congress’s presumed ‘right’ to bestow that sort of authority on the Office of Legal Counsel. More specifically, what meaning is to be given to the idea that something is ‘necessary and proper’ and what justifies that kind of an assignment?
Article IV, Section 4, of the Constitution guarantees that: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this union a republican form of government...” One of the principles of republicanism requires that a person should not to be a judge in his or her own cause, and, yet, the statute which enables the Office of Legal Standing to issue binding legal advice does just that ... it requires members of the OLC to be judges in their own cause, and, as well, by passing the statute that gives the OLC such authority, Congress also is serving as a judge in its own cause – namely, determining what constitutes being ‘necessary and proper.’
Well, if the OLC and Congress should not be judges in their own cause, then who can inform either body what constitutes ‘necessary and proper’ activity? If one assigns that task to the Supreme Court, then, those nine individuals also become judges in their own cause since their ‘cause’ is claiming to understand the Philadelphia Constitution, when, in fact, their judicial perspectives are nothing more than their own arbitrary theories of legal hermeneutics concerning the nature and meaning of the Constitution, and by making a ruling in any given case, those justices are only imposing their own ideas about things onto that document ... that is, they are serving as judges in their own cause.
There is an additional dimension to the problem of determining the meaning of whether, or not, something is ‘necessary and proper. The Ninth Amendment indicates: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” while the Tenth Amendment indicates that: “The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, or to the people.”
The Constitution did not give Congress explicit authority to determine what constitutes being “necessary and proper” – that is, interpreting the meaning of the “necessary and proper” clause is not an enumerated power. In fact, that sort of a process is not even an implied power but, rather, it is an inferred power, and the question is whether, or not, such an inference is justifiable.
Under the Ninth and Tenth Amendment, whatever is not delegated to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution to the states, are retained by, and reserved for, the people. Consequently, the business of determining what is meant by the idea of something being “necessary and proper” belongs to the people.
The role of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the meaning of the Philadelphia Constitution is not an enumerated power that is clearly indicated in the foregoing document. It is an inferred power – an inference that began to be articulated by John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, but Marshall’s inference is problematic in a variety of ways and on a number of levels.
There is a further problem surrounding the issue of determining the meaning of “necessary and proper” in the context of the Philadelphia Constitution. The entire purpose of the Constitution is to serve the purposes and principles set forth in the Preamble to that document.
Given the foregoing – and how else can construe the nature of the relationship between the Preamble and the articles and sections which follow the words contained in the Preamble -- whatever meaning might be assigned to the idea of being “necessary and proper” must be capable of being fully reconcilable with: forming a more perfect union; establishing justice; insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty. However, the problem that arises at this point is that no one has fully articulated a non-arbitrary perspective (that is, one which can be demonstrated as being true beyond a reasonable doubt) concerning what is meant by perfection, justice, tranquility, defense, welfare, or liberty.
The only perspective which can be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to the issues and principles inherent in the Preamble involves the basic right of sovereignty – the right of everyone to have a fair opportunity to push back the horizons of ignorance concerning the nature of existence .. including one’s relationship to Being. Thus, the meaning of “necessary and proper” needs to be worked out by the people – not the government -- in the context of how the principles and purposes of: perfection, justice, tranquility, defense, welfare and liberty are to be manifested in terms of the basic right of sovereignty to which everyone is entitled.
Supposedly, the statutory provisions that enable the Office of Legal Counsel to issue binding opinions to members of the Executive Branch, also prohibits anyone from being able to prosecute those who follow that counsel. Again, this is a violation of Article IV, Section 4, since the provisions of the statute being alluded to not only empower: Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judiciary to be judges in their own causes but, as well, seemingly prevents anyone from doing anything about those matters.
As far as the way of power is concerned, the foregoing arrangement works out quite nicely and insulates those in power from being held accountable for their deeds. As far as the way of sovereignty is concerned, the foregoing arrangement is entirely arbitrary, and, therefore, cannot be justified in a manner that can be demonstrated to be beyond all reasonable doubt concerning the ‘necessity’ and ‘propriety’ of that kind of an arrangement.
Moreover, once again, the reader should be reminded that the standard of something having to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt is an appropriate principle to employ in the matter of determining what is ‘necessary’ and ‘proper’ for all three branches of government to be able to do. As is the case in criminal trial where the one who is being prosecuted stands to suffer substantial losses with respect to issues of justice, tranquility, defense, welfare, and liberty, so too, when it comes to giving expression to the Philadelphia Constitution, the same high stakes are present, and, therefore, the same high standards of proof – that is, beyond a reasonable doubt -- are applicable ... or should be – in relation to that document.
In the light of the foregoing considerations, let’s take a look at the issue of “national interests” in the context of the Office of Legal Counsel. The question which needs to be asked, of course, is whether, or not, making the legal opinions of that agency binding upon the members of the Executive Branch is really in the “national interests.”
The Office of Legal Counsel falls under the authority of the assistant attorney general for the United States. Such an individual has to be nominated by the President, and, then, with the advice and consent of the Senate, confirmed.
The head of OLC oversees the work of 4-5 deputies who are appointed by the President. None of these deputies goes through a process of Senate confirmation.
There are a further group of lawyers – usually consisting of between 15 and 20 individuals – which also work in the OLC. This group of lawyers lends assistance to the head of the OLC, along with his or her deputies, and like the deputies, the additional lawyers do not go through a Congressional vetting process.
Due to a variety of considerations – including in-fighting among members of Bush’s administration – the Office of Legal Counsel was without an acting head on September 11, 2001. Although Jay Bybee was confirmed, approximately a month after the events of 9/11, to become the next head of the OLC, Bybee did not actually show up for work until near the end of November of 2001 so that he would be able to finish up dealing with a prior commitment to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
Why arrangements were not made to get someone else to fulfill those obligations at UNLV once 9/11 occurred is something of a mystery. Then, again, maybe there is a ‘rhyme and reason’ to that sort of a decision.
The vacuum in leadership at the OLC was filled by John Yoo, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General. Yoo began to write legal opinions for the Executive Branch that, by statute, were supposedly considered to be binding upon the administration with respect to the matter of what was, and wasn’t permissible, with respect to the so-called war on terror.
John Yoo had not been elected to his office, nor had he been confirmed by the Senate. Nonetheless, without appropriate oversight, he was, in effect, telling the President and the rest of the Executive Branch – including the Pentagon and the CIA – what was, and was not, appropriate to do in relation to, among other things, the ‘war on terror.’
John Yoo’s journey to becoming Deputy Assistant Attorney General was a tale of two interests. On the one hand, John Yoo was asked to join the OLC by John Manning who, initially, accepted the Bush administration appointment to be head of the OLC, but, subsequently, withdrew his name from consideration. However, despite Manning’s departure, the Bush administration asked Yoo to remain with the Office of Legal Counsel.
Yoo was placed in charge of offering counsel with respect to legal questions concerning presidential powers involving matters of national security. The reason why Yoo was asked to stay on at the Office of Legal Counsel by the Bush administration and the reason why Yoo was assigned the foregoing role of providing legal counsel about the scope of presidential powers might very well be related to the reason why Jay Bybee was permitted to continue teaching at UNLV while the country was trying to deal with the aftermath of 9/11.
John Yoo was a proponent of giving the Office of President an expansive set of powers to do what the President might consider to be ‘necessary’ and ‘proper’ with respect to fulfilling the duties of office. Yoo’s perspective was deeply colored and shaped by his family’s experiences in Korea.
Yoo was born in South Korea in 1967, but his family had survived the Korean War and, as a result, held staunchly anti-Communist views. His parents believed that President Truman’s intervention – although it was done without Congressional authority – had saved the Yoo family, along with all of South Korea.
The foregoing attitudes were absorbed by Yoo, the younger. Therefore, among other things, he believed that leaders should have the power to enact certain policies even if they weren’t necessarily overtly authorized to take those actions.
After graduating from Harvard and, then, getting a law degree from Yale, Yoo made a further splash in the academic pond by writing an article in 1996 – ‘The Continuation of Politics by Other Means: The Original Understanding of War Powers’ -- that was published in the California Law Review. The foregoing article maintained that the Founding Fathers championed the English way of doing things with respect to the issue of initiating war – namely, the king was the person who had the right to declare war.
While there might have been some individuals among the Founders who liked the English model of governance – for example, Alexander Hamilton, and, to some extent, John Adams – there certainly was no established consensus among the Founders which suggested they believed that the President should have the power to not only be Commander in Chief with respect to the manner in which a war was conducted, but, as well, should have the power to initiate war. Moreover, even if there were such a consensus – which there wasn’t -- the Philadelphia Constitution is not worded in a way that reflects that kind of a perspective ... so, go figure.
Yoo’s views concerning the ‘real’ beliefs and values of the Founders with respect to the powers of the Presidency in relation to declaring war were rejected by anyone who knew anything about either the views of the Founders and/or the wording of the Constitution. More importantly, Yoo’s views – even if true (which they weren’t) -- were actually irrelevant to what the people considered to be ‘necessary’ and ‘proper’ concerning such matters, for, supposedly, America belonged to ‘We the People,’ and not to the Founders, or to the Framers, or to any of the branches of federal or state government.
Quite independently of what the Founders might have believed concerning the issue of presidential powers in relation to the declaration of war, there was no enumerated power entitling the president to declare war. Furthermore, even Congress’ stated power to declare war must be capable of being reconciled with Article IV, Section 4, of the Philadelphia Constitution, and as well, the Preamble to that document.
Yoo, of course, didn’t care about any of the foregoing considerations. Based on a scholarly-challenged understanding of both history and the Philadelphia Constitution, Yoo believed that the President had certain powers which few other individuals were willing to acknowledge. Therefore, Yoo was, by the authority of a congressional statute, in a position to enable a president to do what the Philadelphia Constitution didn’t entitle a president to do ... no wonder the Bush administration asked him to stay on at the Office of Legal Counsel and assigned him the legal responsibilities it did.
On September 25, 2001, John Yoo – an ideologically driven 34-year old unelected official, who had not been confirmed by the Senate and who was operating without oversight from the Assistant Attorney General (i.e., the absent head of the OLC) – issued an opinion that, by statute, was not only legally binding upon the Executive Branch of the United States Government, but as well, exonerated officials from any questions of culpability that might arise in relation to what they were legally being obligated to do. In his legal memorandum, Yoo repeatedly cited his own paper in the California Law Review – and like most law review journals, the articles in such periodicals tend to be reviewed and edited by students, not professors – as an authority for what he was claiming in the Office of Legal Counsel document that was counseling the Executive Branch.
Yoo’s legal memorandum informed the President, and the rest of the Executive Branch, that the war powers of the President were unassailable. In other words, nothing that the President, as Commander in Chief, wanted to do or decided to do with respect to waging war could be overridden by congressional statute ... according to Yoo, the President was a law unto himself in such circumstances.
By the time that Jay Bybee showed up – which was in late November of 2001 -- to assume his responsibilities as head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the Executive Branch already was deeply ensconced in its preparations for war with Afghanistan and Iraq. To the best of my knowledge, Yoo never thought to – and/or was never asked to -- send his legal memorandum to Jay Bybee to be reviewed or critiqued.
Yoo worked in the Office of Legal Counsel until the summer of 2003, well after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had started, and in the case of Iraq, supposedly stopped. Throughout this period, his legally binding counsel to the Executive Branch was always the same: The President, as Commander in Chief, could do whatever he liked and no one had the legal authority to say otherwise ... and Yoo (in the form of his 1996 article for the California Law Review) was the authority for what Yoo was saying in this regard.
Was it in the national interests to have an ideologically driven, unelected official (with no accountability to an oversight process) tell the Executive Branch what it could, and couldn’t do, in the area of presidential powers and national security? No, it wasn’t, but the Bush Administration wanted someone like Yoo to be present so that it would be enabled to do what it already wanted to do without being held legally responsible for doing so.
In the case of the Yoo legal memorandum of September 2001 which told the President, and the rest of the Executive Branch that the power of the presidency was unlimited when it came to war, ‘national interests’ had been reduced down to, on the one hand, the mind-set generated through the Korean war-values inculcated into a youngster by his Korean parents, and, on the other hand, the imperious inclinations of a President who wanted to impose his ideas about national security and national interests on everyone else quite independently of whether any of those ideas were tenable or warranted ... which, it turns out, they weren’t.
Was it in the national interests to take authority away from ‘We the People’ with respect to deciding what was ‘necessary’ and ‘proper’ for the Executive Branch to do in relation to the matter of war powers? No, it wasn’t, but this is what happened.
Yoo was the unelected catalytic ideologue who enabled the Executive Branch to push for, and engage in totally unnecessary wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq (although the United States promised to do so, it was never able to produce the necessary evidence to the United Nations, NATO, or the people of the United States that could justify either of the foregoing wars). Some 7,000 American soldiers, and counting, have lost their lives in those two wars and four times that number have been seriously injured, and many more have suffered some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their experiences in those two countries. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis lost their lives, and many more were seriously injured, and/or have fallen victim to the extensive use of depleted uranium in those countries by the U.S. military, and, finally, a great deal of the infrastructure and economy of those countries has been destroyed (unless, of course, one wishes to place the heroin trade that has flourished as a result of the wars on the asset side of the ledger). Moreover, trillions of dollars have been, and will continue to be, wasted in waging such unnecessary wars... where are the national interests in all of this?
The moral of the foregoing story is not that people and circumstances sometimes come together in ways that serve personal rather than national interests of ‘We the People.’ Rather, the foregoing account is intended to illustrate the point that people cannot be trusted with power because the nature of that catalytic agent both temps, as well as enables, people to serve their own interests and claim that what is being done is in the ‘national interests.’
The way of sovereignty is not about national interests. The way of sovereignty is a function of whatever helps establish, preserve, and enhance basic sovereignty for individuals, and this is, rarely, if ever a matter of national interests since national interests tend to be about what helps establish, preserve and enhance the way of power as filtered through the ideology of arbitrary belief systems.
Two-time medal-of-honor winner, Smedley Butler was familiar with the Janus-like duplicity of America’s use of power. He knew that one face – the public face, the one which was promulgated through most of the media and the one which was taught to unsuspecting children in thousands of classrooms across America -- claimed that its use of force was entirely defensive in nature and/or for the good of humanity and/or was used to facilitate the advancement of democracy throughout the world. However, Butler also knew that the other face – the business-end of the American Janus-mask as it were – conducted wars wherever and whenever it could in order to benefit, in one capacity or another, the ‘way of power,’ and Butler’s observations and conclusions in this regard have been confirmed repeatedly by a vast array of independent observers/researchers.
The Janus-like character of America existed before Smedley Butler arrived on the scene in the late 1800s and early-to-mid 1900s. The Janus-like character of America existed when, after a lifetime of military service, Butler explicated, in considerable detail, why ‘war is a racket’. The Janus-like character of America’s presence in the world has continued on since Butler passed away from this world.
This essay has considered just a few examples from American history to illustrate that the idea of “national interests” is very rarely, if ever, about what is actually in the best interests of the people in the United States. Rather, “national interests” are a function of what serves certain narrow financial and political interests which seek to control the lives of other people – whether American or non-American.