Today we discuss the many adversaries of the United States. Today we review the various bogeyman which have haunted America over the years. Today, we note
THE FALSE ENEMIES OF THE UNITED STATES
From the very beginning, the United States had been a warrior nation. It had just defeated England to gain its independence. But at first, the original thirteen colonies had more out of common than in common
To unify such disparate viewpoints and future goals, the newly formed government knew that it needed as many uniting elements as possible. Fortunately, the then recent war of secession with England provided the necessary catalyst needed at that time. France also became an early enemy of the United States because of their involvement of sinking US merchant ships in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
But these enemies lived far away from US soil and both had been allies at some previous point. Therefore, the US needed another enemy, one that was closer to home and easily vilified The native Americans filled those promises and much more. Even though many of these same groups had often come to the aid of the first pioneers and European settlers to arrive in the new world, they were condemned at the same time by the ultra-religious groups who had first come over as heathens, people who did not believe in the God of these newcomers.
There was also a more useful and practical reason to fight the Natives in war after war Americans wanted to expand as far West as possible. To do this, they needed to take possession of the land the natives lived on, even though the concept of land possession did not exist among the tribes. This vilification of native American provided the right ingredients to unite the colonists against a common enemy and for a common purpose. What was later termed as Manifest Destiny started out as a series of wars against those who refused to leave their land and emigrate west past the Mississippi River.
Manifest Destiny was a phrase that expressed the belief that the United States was destined to expand from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean; it has also been used to advocate for or justify other territorial acquisitions. Advocates of Manifest Destiny believed that expansion was not only good, but that it was obvious (« manifest ») and certain (« destiny »). It was easy, therefore, for Americans to justify the slaughter of whole tribes and the deliberate infection of others with Smallpox and other diseases of which the American Indian had no immunity.
The only major country to stand in the way of America’s march to the Pacific Ocean was Mexico. It is not surprising, therefore, to find Mexicans vilified in the American media and the largest of these wars, the Mexican-American War which lasted from 1846 to 1848 was the first major conflict driven by the idea of « Manifest Destiny »; the belief that America had a God-given right, or destiny, to expand the country’s borders from ‘sea to shining sea’. This belief would eventually cause a great deal of suffering for many Mexicans, Native Americans and United States citizens. Following the earlier Texas War of Independence from Mexico, tensions between the two largest independent nations on the North American continent grew as Texas eventually became a U.S. state. Disputes over the border lines sparked military confrontation, helped by the fact that President Polk eagerly sought a war in order to seize large tracts of land from Mexico.
But having achieved the grand illusion of a United States whose borders went from sea to shining sea, the US found itself in a particular dilemma. After the great cessations of territory by the Mexican government allowed the United States to link both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, it became obvious that the necessary bogeyman, the longed-for major enemy of the US that could galvanize its people into one common cause, was no longer available.
Not having any external nemeses to speak of, the US decided to turn its bellicose desires inward. For years, northern states had professed a virtual slave-free social lifestyle much to the chagrin of the southern states. To be sure, the life of the African hostage who was dragged to the US through unspeakably horrible conditions did not lead a marvelous life in the northern states even though that person could no longer be bought and sold like a sack of potatoes or a bale of hay. The African-American employment opportunities were relegated to the lowest and hardest tasks of all, often with very little in the way of accommodations and wages. The existence of racism was just as bad in the northern states as it was in the southern states, but the outward manifestation of it was certainly not as readily available.
By 1861, there had been enough erosion of commonality between the two factions that a Civil War inevitably followed. Then, as is often the case now, Americans started off looking at the first battles as a sort of gigantic theatrical play in which the two sides were to enact an ad hoc combat scene for the amusement and pleasure of the crowd in attendance. People would gather on hilltops and sloping ravines in an effort to get as close up a view of the battle as was humanly possible.
Today we have continued this morbid curiosity of ours by demanding that news reporters be present where the military is in action and document and film the action as close to real time as possible. Of course, this same American population refuses to witness the blood, gore and mutilation which accompany war and the media has actively complied. The US media, while showing with great enthusiasm US soldiers firing machine guns, tank shells and smart bombs at its target, this same media will refuse to show the end result of such over-excessive use of force. Therefore, there is practically no footage on US TVs showing the wounded civilians screaming in pain and agony, the understaffed and overcrowded hospitals which lack even the most basic of care, or the morgues and cemeteries where daily hundreds of innocent and dead civilians are taken to. As the American Civil War progressed, more and more odium was heaped on the opposing faction by newspapers from both sides.
Throughout the rest of the 19th Century, the conquering of the Old West along with the continued vilification of the Native proceeded with abandon. Indians are considered complete idiots with little redeeming value and are often brutalized for no particular reason. In the South, a new “enemy” has arisen. Following the defeat of Confederate forces at Appomattox by General Ulysses S. Grant, the seething undercurrent of disgust shared by many Southerners is slowly transformed into organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. These racist groups actively pursue African-Americans across the South. Many innocent Blacks are beaten, mutilated and lynched as a result.
By the end of the 19th Century, however, the US found itself again without a major enemy with which the government could galvanize support from the American people and pursue their hidden agendas beneath the radar of public opinion. With the advent of yellow journalism by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst in the mid-1890s, the US and its media finally found a convenient source for its ire. Spain had once been the mother country of nearly every nation in the Americas excepting Canada and the United States and a few smaller nations. By the end of the 19th Century, Spain still held various small territories here, most notably Cuba.
When a boiler room aboard the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, Cuba, on February 15, 1898, Hearst quickly launched his New York newspaper to declare that Spain had deliberately attacked the Maine while it was anchored there. Pulitzer’s New York newspaper quickly followed suit and soon the battle cry, “Remember the Maine,” was being evoked in all areas of the United States. By April 21, 1898, the US was at war with Spain. It is interesting to note that while Spain was being vilified as an imperial nation that enslaved poor countries around the world, most people forgot to acknowledge that the US was also in possession of various territories, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. By the end of the Spanish – American War, the US would add Cuba and the Philippines to its growing list of overseas territories.
Up to this point the US had stayed out of the many conflicts that had engulfed the European continent over the centuries. While Europe set about destroying itself in countless battles of territorial possession and retribution, the US immersed itself in its Manifest Destiny genocidal attacks on Native Americans and brutal conflicts with Mexico. With the defeat of former world power Spain, the US made its debut on the world stage. But it obviously meant that the sacred bogeyman needed to rise in stature as well. During its formative years the US contented itself with small and local enemies, ones that could be easily spotted, singled out and acted upon. The American Indians and later the Mexicans easily filled this role. When the US became a world power, these fear tactics needed to be revised.
There needed to be a new enemy to bring the American people together. They were to get it in an unusual place and an unusual way. Karl Marx had written about a more equitable political solution to the industrial era more than three decades prior, but when Russia was finally taken over by the Bolsheviks in October, 1917, the US government found its golden bogeyman goose. Even though Lenin was far from incorporating most of Marx’s suggested reforms, the American government found an “anti-American” bogeyman that they could lay their hat on and which would allow them a virtual carte blanche in any of their global affairs. As long as the US government could state that another country has Communist leanings, the American public gave them a virtual blank check to carry out whatever the government felt was necessary to thwart the “menace du jour.”
Thus, in the guise of stopping the spread of Communism, the coming 75 years saw the US overthrowing country after country and across the globe. In 1954 the US overthrew the Guatemalan government. The American public was told that this was to curb the growth of Communism, but in reality, it was at the behest of the United Fruit Company, an American company located there. This scene was to be repeated time and again in, Nicaragua, China, Cuba, Panama, Iran and elsewhere.
Even with the advent of WWI and WWII, the US did not end its portrayal of the Soviet Union as the evil empire. Certainly, this thought was put on the back burner as another enemy took over the spotlight. In 1917, the US had allowed the cruise ship the USS Lusitania to embark on its voyage to England. On board were hundreds of passengers, and with them, thousands of tons of armament destined for the British government to be used against Germany. The German government did everything it could to warn people that the ship would be seen as a warship due to its cargo, and that it would be attacked if it left. They even took out a one-page ad in the New York newspapers. Nevertheless, when the U-boats sank her, the US government pointed the finger at Germany and rallied Americans against this new enemy.
In WWII the US did the same. In February, 1941, the US sent its Pacific fleet to a small island territory half-way to a warlike country that had recently been the recipient of an embargo that threatened it very existence. Japan realized right away that the West Coast of the US would be left defenseless if it took out the overreached fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. Ten months later, Japan had achieved its goal and had destroyed nearly every boat on Oahu. At the same time, the US achieved its goal of fighting a new enemy with the full consent of the US population.
After WWII the US continued to use the Soviet Union and the threat of the spread of Communism to fight wars in Korea and Vietnam. The military industrial complex was in full force and money flowed as it never had before. But even the greatest of blank checks have to end sometime, and with the end of the Soviet Union, the US suddenly found itself without its bogeyman.
Enter the terrorist. It was imperative that the US find an enemy that would allow it to continue its hegemonic foreign policy. Unfortunately, the US had grown into a superpower of extreme stature, and there was nary a country out there that could claim to be a legitimate rival. This would not do. Without an outside threat to the “American way of life,” the population would start wondering why its government was so aggressive against other nations. After all, if a country can’t be a threat to America, then what reason is there to topple the country’s regime??
Fortunately for the US, it had a new enemy in the wings before the Soviet Union became nothing more than a chapter in the history of mankind. In the early 1980s the US formed and funded a group of terrorists known as the mujahideen. These were well-financed terrorists who battle the Soviet Union for nearly ten years throughout the 80s. With the end of the Afghan War against the Soviet Union, many of these mujahideen disbanded and went home.
However, a select few stayed on with continuing funding from the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency, as well as the US. Some of these groups would later form the terrorist organization known as al Qaeda. Throughout the 1990s the US could rely on al Qaeda to perform random terrorist attacks on US installations around the world, and even inside the United States. The US had traded a carte blanche in the name of the Soviet Union, for one equally as blank in the name of Al Qaeda. With the 9/11 attacks al Qaeda rose to the same illogical level of hatred as the Soviet Union in the 20th Century.
Ever since 9/11 the American government has been able to continue perhaps the most bellicose and hegemonic foreign policies in its existence. Today the US is engaged in a lost war in Afghanistan and another lost cause in Iraq. Eventually the US will have to leave both countries with its tail between its legs, but the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on them will have already been paid out to the same military industrial complex. As the new millennium continues, the American government can be rest assured that its current bogeyman will be able to carry on as our chosen enemy for decades to come. It would be foolhardy to stamp out terrorism as it currently exists in the world. That would bring an end to the current American enemy, and the US would be floundering once again in search of a new enemy to hate.
It’s unfortunate that the American people seem to relish being in constant fear, but such is the case. Knowing this, the American government never ceases to find those bogeymen who best fill the hatred bill. For the foreseeable future, it shall remain the faceless and nameless al Qaeda. Until Americans realize that no other group nor nation can destroy it, and that destruction will obviously only come from within, the American government will continue to supply them with false enemies which they will use to promote their horrible and bellicose foreign policy beneath the public radar.