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Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Making Sense of Trump and His National Security State Critics

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Imagine that across the planet, back in the early months of 2003, millions of people marched in the streets of global cities and small towns, protesting, toting handmade signs, making their voices heard in every way they could to indicate that the prospective Bush administration invasion of Iraq would be an immoral disaster (and no matter what he says now, Donald Trump was not among them). And imagine that they were right in ways that perhaps even they couldn't have dreamed of. And what of the few like the late Jonathan Schell, who, even earlier, spoke out against the invasion of Afghanistan? Yes, we're talking about a world of right and yet here's the curious thing: ever since then, when the media focuses on our failed wars, still ongoing and spreading so many years later, or asks for comments on what went wrong, they regularly turn to those who were involved in launching them, sustaining them, or cheering them on. This has been a commonplace of the last 13 years. The very people who couldn't have been more off the mark remain the official "experts," the go-to guys, on the subject. Those who got it right at the time have essentially been disappeared. The uniquely vast antiwar movement that preceded the invasion of Iraq has essentially been obliterated from history.

It's not that I haven't offered this complaint before (more than once over the years), and yet the story always seems to remain the same. The latest example: 50 Republican national security figures have come out staunchly against Donald Trump and that has been a headline story -- all the Mr. Rights finally take out after Mr. Wrong -- even though many of them bear a responsibility for the very world of war and failure that helped produce the moment of The Donald. In frustration, I asked TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon who knows a thing or two about the criminal wars of these last years (and has written American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes) to make some sense of this latest round of expertise and Election 2016. Tom

What Does It Mean When War Hawks Say, "Never Trump"?
The Enemies of My Enemy May Be War Criminals
By Rebecca Gordon

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It's not every day that Republicans publish an open letter announcing that their presidential candidate is unfit for office. But lately this sort of thing has been happening more and more frequently. The most recent example: we just heard from 50 representatives of the national security apparatus, men -- and a few women -- who served under Republican presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. All of them are very worried about Donald Trump.

They think we should be alerted to the fact that the Republican standard-bearer "lacks the character, values, and experience to be president."

That's true of course, but it's also pretty rich, coming from this bunch. The letter's signers include, among others, the man who was Condoleezza Rice's legal advisor when she ran the National Security Council (John Bellinger III); one of George W. Bush's CIA directors who also ran the National Security Agency (Michael Hayden); a Bush administration ambassador to the United Nations and Iraq (John Negroponte); an architect of the neoconservative policy in the Middle East adopted by the Bush administration that led to the invasion of Iraq, who has since served as president of the World Bank (Robert Zoellick). In short, given the history of the "global war on terror," this is your basic list of potential American war criminals.

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Their letter continues, "He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world."

There's a sentence that could use some unpacking.

What Is The "Free World"?

Let's start with the last bit: "the leader of the free world." That's what journalists used to call the U.S. president, and occasionally the country as a whole, during the Cold War. Between the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the "free world" included all the English-speaking countries outside Africa, along with western Europe, North America, some South American dictatorships, and nations like the Philippines that had a neocolonial relationship with the United States.

The U.S.S.R. led what, by this logic, was the un-free world, including the Warsaw Pact countries in eastern Europe, the "captive" Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, the People's Republic of China (for part of the period), North Korea, and of course Cuba. Americans who grew up in these years knew that the people living behind the "Iron Curtain" were not free. We'd seen the bus ads and public service announcements on television requesting donations for Radio Free Europe, sometimes illustrated with footage of a pale adolescent man, his head crowned with chains.

I have absolutely no doubt that he and his eastern European countrymen were far from free. I do wonder, however, how free his counterparts in the American-backed Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean, and Philippine dictatorships felt.

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The two great adversaries, together with the countries in their spheres of influence, were often called the First and Second Worlds. Their rulers treated the rest of the planet -- the Third World -- as a chessboard across which they moved their proxy armies and onto which they sometimes targeted their missiles. Some countries in the Third World refused to be pawns in the superpower game, and created a non-aligned movement, which sought to thread a way between the Scylla and Charybdis of the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Among its founders were some of the great Third World nationalists: Sukarno of Indonesia, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, along with Yugoslavia's President Josip Broz Tito.

Other countries weren't so lucky. When the United States took over from France the (unsuccessful) project of defeating Vietnam's anti-colonial struggle, people in the U.S. were assured that the war that followed with its massive bombing, napalming, and Agent-Oranging of a peasant society represented the advance of freedom against the forces of communist enslavement. Central America also served as a Cold War battlefield, with Washington fighting proxy wars during the 1980s in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, where poor campesinos had insisted on being treated as human beings and were often brutally murdered for their trouble. In addition, the U.S. funded, trained, and armed a military dictatorship in Honduras, where John Negroponte -- one of the anti-Trump letter signers -- was the U.S. ambassador from 1981 to 1985.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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