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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/10/12

Lies, Damn Lies, and War Lies

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Prepared remarks for Veterans For Peace Convention 2012.
Prepared to follow remarks by Nicolas "Sandy" Davies
Convention theme: "Liberating the Americas: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean"
Remarks theme: "U.S. Military Expansion since the End of the Cold War"
Accompanying powerpoint:

my house I can see a hill out the window, and a house on it.  And if I
go to that house, I can see another house on the next hill.  The first
house is Thomas Jefferson's, and the second James Monroe's.  Jefferson's
record is quite mixed, not just as the slave owner for equality and
freedom, but also as a developer of the disastrous two-party system and
of an even more disastrous U.S. navy and a U.S. military with a
centuries' old tradition now of attacking Libya.  Jefferson's version of
that attack also introduced suicide-bombing to that region of the
globe, as a U.S. ship full of sailors intentionally blew itself up in

But it's hard to put that record of blood-drenched
hypocrisy up against the record of the doctrine that bears the name of
President Monroe.  In fact, there is already something terrifyingly
dishonest about calling a barbaric shout of dominance a doctrine, as
seems to happen with each president now.  Declaring a bunch of nations
independent of another bunch of nations can sound innocent only to those
making the declaration, and only if they've already begun to convince
themselves that the whole world is their territory, a notion made
explicit by Theodore Roosevelt's corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. 
Latin America was not to be attacked by bad attackers, only by good
attackers, meaning either the U.S. military or private U.S.
entrepreneurial imperialists seeking nations to rule.

looked beyond Latin America, of course, as the United States,
heartbroken at having reached the Pacific and run out of Native American
nations to destroy, had moved into the Pacific as well as the
Caribbean.  The nation of Japan had put an end to war, with others or
itself, in 1614, and remained peaceful for two centuries, developing the
sort of culture that flourishes in peace -- an action that has occurred
too many times in human history to take seriously the desperate moans
of those who like to pretend that war is in our biology.  (And if it
were, wouldn't we suffer PTSD from its absence, not its presence?)  In
1872, U.S. General Charles LeGendre had been trying unsuccessfully to
get China to attack and occupy Taiwan.  He made the same pitch to the
Japanese and found them far more interested.  LeGendre told the Japanese
that they needed a Monroe Doctrine for their area of the world, meaning
Japanese dominance at the expense of any competitors.  LeGendre pushed
the Japanese to attack Taiwan and Okinawa and Korea, actions that
shocked the people of Asia.  

U.S. policy became promotion of
U.S. imperialism as far as it could reach, and Japanese imperialism
beyond that.  Theodore Roosevelt pushed the Monroe Doctrine idea on the
Japanese, and by 1905 was openly advocating a Japanese Monroe Doctrine
in speeches.  But he expected the Japanese to both adopt the worldview
of conquering civilizers, and respect limits -- including by respecting
U.S. possessions such as the Philippines, and Hawaii.  Hawaii had been
grabbed by the United States as a function of the original Monroe
Doctrine, the argument being that the Monroe Doctrine required grabbing
Hawaii before the British did -- regardless of whether Hawaii was
actually part of the Americas.  President McKinley explained the need to
occupy the Philippines as the only means to keep Spain, Germany, or
France from taking over a barbaric people who obviously could not be
left to their own devices.  But Roosevelt managed, in the end, to
simultaneously give the Japanese Korea and turn the Japanese against the
United States.  Japanese imperialism became a rival to the United
States, up until World War II when another Roosevelt successfully
provoked a Japanese attack on U.S. pacific territories in order to
persuade the U.S. public to enter another war in Europe.

Not long
after that war, on December 1, 1948, President Josà Figueres Ferrer of
Costa Rica abolished the military of Costa Rica, declaring peace -- as
Japan had done in 1614.  The next year, the abolition of the military
was put into the Costa Rican Constitution.  In 1986, Costa Rica declared
December 1st Military Abolition Day.  But of course, the United States
had other things in mind than abolishing its military in 1948.  World
War II had revived the respectability of militarism, and the United
States had tasted power.

Between the two world wars, war was
extremely unpopular in the United States.  The United States led the way
in creating the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928, an international treaty
abolishing war.  Fifteen nations signed.  Then 31 more.  And, later,
another 8.  This was and is primarily a treaty among the wealthy
war-making powers.  The first time it was violated, with World War II,
the losers were prosecuted with the brand-new crime of war-making, and
the rich countries haven't gone to war with each other since.  But war
and the threat of war against poorer nations remained acceptable.  Most
of Latin America never was and still is not a party to the Kellogg
Briand Pact, which Washington understood as not altering the holy Monroe
Doctrine.  And what could the Monroe Doctrine add to a ban on war? 
Nothing other than a license to make war, the same thing the U.N.
Charter would add after World War II.  I would actually love to see some
Latin American countries join the Kellogg Briand Pact now.  They need
merely offer to do so.  They cannot be turned away.  After joining, they
could demand that other parties to the treaty begin complying with it. 
That's a far easier path to legally banning U.S. aggression than one
could imagine putting on the books, beginning anew.

overthrow, aggression, and small-scale intervention under the Monroe
Doctrine have been imposed on Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Honduras,
Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, the Dominican
Republic, Bolivia, El Salvador, Haiti, and Colombia.  In no case have
people been made better off.  The notion that Syria will become the
first exception to that rule requires, I think, far more evidence than
has been presented.  The madness of the Monroe Doctrine led to a nuclear
missile standoff with Cuba and the Soviet Union - a crisis that saw our
great leaders nearly kill us all for their machismo.  Trusting them on
this type of question should not be our first instinct.

In 1954,
President Eisenhower, whom we credit with warning us about the military
industrial complex on the day when he safely left office in 1961, and
whom we honor for being a bit less of a warmonger than he might have
been, thanked the CIA for overthrowing the government of Guatemala to
protect the Western Hemisphere from communism and uphold the Monroe
Doctrine.  Sandy mentioned the brutality that was involved.  The U.S.
ambassador to Guatemala met with the new dictator, who requested more
jails for communists.  The U.S. state department's list included 72,000
communists in Guatemala.  Michelle Bachmann wasn't there, so we have no
record of how many members of the Muslim Brotherhood were in Guatemala. 
The ambassador proved very helpful and threw a party at the embassy at
which 400 Guatemalans sang the Star Spangled Banner to celebrate the
U.S. war machine's failed attempt in 1812 to take over Canada, something
we ourselves like to celebrate before every baseball game.  The next
year Vice President Nixon visited Guatemala to congratulate its
government on progress made.  Unions had been banned, and strikes made
punishable by death.  Political parties, too, had been banned.  And
books by communist writers like Fyodor Dostoievski had all been burned
or hidden -- Dostoievski, who had said, very communistically: "The
degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its

The United States, now the leading force in the world
in imposing its vision of the world on others by force, also leads the
world in imprisonment.  We don't lead it in much else.  Latin American
nations are approaching and surpassing the United States in many
desirable rankings.  We don't lead in education, green energy, health,
security, or happiness.  Costa Rica, that place with no military, leads
the world in happiness year after year.  Apart from militarism and
prisons, the United States leads in obesity and in the number of people
willing to believe that when Jesus visited George Washington's house he
rode a dinosaur.  We also have a tremendous number of people willing to
believe that the next war will be a good one, and that our elected
officials mean well when it comes to war -- the same officials whom
nobody trusts on any other topic.

The Guatemalan coup, and the
Iranian coup that immediately preceded it, were both the work of the
CIA, both motivated by -- among other disreputable motives -- opposition
to the nationalization of oil, and both marketed as campaigns against
communism.  Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew, was hired to develop
the profession of public relations, aka propaganda, to manipulate
people in the United States into supporting the overthrow of the
Guatemalan government.  Bernays was a veteran of Woodrow Wilson's
innovative marketing campaign for World War I, as well as having been
one of Joseph Goebbels' favorite authors.  Teddy Roosevelt's grandson
handled the coup in Iran, while the grandson and namesake of Henry Cabot
Lodge, the U.S. Senate's leading imperialist of the turn of the
century, helped out in Guatemala, preparing himself for the destruction
he would soon mobilize in Vietnam.  Arthur Hays Sulzburger, publisher of
the New York Times, whose son-in-law and son would do their share of
damage in the same position, oversaw the U.S. media marketing of
humanitarian regime change in Guatemala.

It wasn't as if nobody
had been told what was going on.  In 1935, Smedley Butler had famously
confessed to having spent 33 years in the U.S. military as a "gangster
for capitalism" who had made Mexico safe for U.S. oil, and Haiti and
Cuba decent for U.S. banks, while "raping half a dozen Central American
republics for the benefit of Wall Street."  But as George Orwell pointed
out, the nationalist will not only find excuses for anything his or her
nation does, but will also show incredible talent for never hearing
about it.

Thus it is that crimes are hidden in plain sight.  The
Carter Doctrine extended the Monroe Doctrine to western Asia, or what we
call the Middle East.  The Reagan doctrine took it global and behind
closed doors.  Robert Gates defended U.S. policy in Nicaragua in the
1980s as required by the Monroe Doctrine as then understood.  The
Clinton Doctrine put a humanitarian face on international crime.  The
Bush Doctrine escalated the crimes, and replaced communism with
terrorism.  The Obama Doctrine may be the most dangerous of all, because
the Obama Doctrine seems to be understood as peace, love, and
understanding, while the principles on which Obama's foreign policy is
actually based seem to draw the worst from all the previous doctrines.

United States is expanding its military presence globally.  Sixty-nine
nations have more U.S. troops than Olympic athletes, and that's counting
only troops openly admitted to by the Pentagon.  Never mind our
funding, training, and arming of the troops of others, our secret
troops, and our drones -- which are escalating violence in places where
we had no war before.  The bases that uphold the Monroe Doctrine are
expanding into Africa, multiplying like mushrooms in Asia, and advancing
in Latin America behind the war that is supposedly on drugs but, like
all wars, is actually on people.  Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's
response to U.S. bases is the model for the world.  You can keep your
base in Ecuador, he said, if the Ecuadorean military can put a base in

Correa, as we'll hear at this convention from Roy
Bourgeois, has joined a number of other Latin American countries in
refusing to any longer send troops to be trained in torture and
assassination at the School of the Americas in Georgia.  Activism,
including activism by U.S. citizens, is finding an ability to reach
governments not wholly owned by the Military Industrial Complex.  Those
governments are mostly outside the United States, but that's OK.  We
need a global movement to take on a global empire.  We can only succeed
by working together, and it is inevitable that we will succeed first on
the outskirts.

I mentioned Smedley Butler, the most highly
decorated Marine of his time, a man who had not just attacked Haiti but
ruled it.  Butler also had the honor of being locked up in Quantico,
Virginia.  His crime was to have publicly repeated a true story about
Benito Mussolini.  The story was that Mussolini had run over a girl with
his car and not looked back.  Mentioning this was bad for U.S.
relations with our good fascist friend.  Many years later, another hero
was locked up in Quantico, this time in a small bare cell, where he was
held naked and isolated  -- also for having made public true stories
that hurt U.S. relations with favored dictators.  There are 4.8 million
Americans with security clearances, but only one that we know of with
the basic decency and raw courage of Bradley Manning.  If you imagine
the U.S. government gets away with what it gets away with just because
the profiteers bribe the politicians, you're forgetting the epidemic of
hyper-obedience that has fatally gripped those 4.8 million people, and
so many others.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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