Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Myth of American Moral Authority

Pulitzer Prize winner, Ron Suskind, has come out with a book entitled ‘The Way of the World’ that asserts convincingly that the Bush administration ordered the CIA to forge a letter covering their collective derriere about WMDs in Iraq and Saddam’s taking delivery of yellow cake uranium from Niger.

As despicable as this recounted action is (one of so many the Bushites have perpetrated that a whole new lexicon is presently being developed by the Oxford Dictionary) and as dismally unsurprising as this latest criminal subterfuge is (the Bushies, after all, have been preparing for the ‘End Time’; with ‘Owl-mighty Gawwd’ on your side, you can do whatever the Hell you want, apparently) there is, regrettably, one ‘Revelation’ that Mr Suskind has not experienced; that regarding the prevailing myth of American moral authority. At least, not as evidenced by his interviews on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! there isn’t.

Mr Suskind ended his pitch on the Daily Show by reiterating his ‘book-tour blurb’, which Stewart had stifled half-way through the interview with a jibe about how crassly Suskind was touting his book. Suskind, in summation, stated melodramatically that “The book’s all about how America’s moral authority has bled away and we need to restore it to fight the battles that we need to fight and, y’know, the way to do it’s with truth!”

Can I get an ‘Ay-man’ for the rapturous delusion of American moral authority?

The vain, prideful fantasy that America possesses intrinsic moral authority is both a ludicrous and harmful one. It has been used to white-wash the ruinous, foul effects of American foreign and domestic policy for centuries. The American people, from the cradle to the grave, are inculcated with the precept that America can do no moral wrong; that America has a ‘lock’ on righteousness and so, ipso facto, any apparent wrong-doing is done by ‘loose cannons’ and renegades. The promulgation of this appealing, though unsubstantiated testament has resulted in its being piously accepted as a basic tenet of the secular pseudo-religion of ‘Americanism’.

Supporting examples which demonstrate this claim of moral authority are rarely if ever offered. Why should they be? Like any belief system, ‘Americanism’ requires no proof. Notwithstanding ‘faith’ in Americanism, the maxim has little relationship to fact and so creates a cognitive dissonance amongst the citizens of the United States. The specious myth of American moral authority is worn by American leaders (and the American people) as a precious, reverential vestment to cover up the numerous, depraved, heinous acts of murderous violence and dehumanizing social injustice that comprise the history of the American Republic. Given America’s contemptible history, Americans cannot rightly lay claim to moral authority or the moral high ground yet, they do. For to reject the tenet of American moral authority is to renounce one’s faith in Americanism, declare oneself ‘unpatriotic’ and so suffer derision and ostracism from the body politic.

Although doctrines of faith, by definition, are held to be unassailable by logic, even so, examples of America’s moral failures might serve to contravene the indiscriminant, unthinking acceptance of the sacrosanct belief in America’s inherent moral ascendency.

Let’s start with the unconscionable exclusion of indigenous Americans, African-Americans and women of all races from those who were granted ‘Liberty’ at the signing of America’s most hallowed documents and the effective denial of the rights of full citizenship to those citizens for the greater part of the life of the Republic. Not exactly brimming with righteousness and moral rectitude, one might say. Then again, such injustice was part and parcel of early, less civilized times and one might facilely shoo away guilt over these shameful inequities, if one were a true believer in the dogma of Americanism.

Moving on from social injustice to the atrocities of war, perhaps the ‘True Believe’ will consider the slaughter and subjugation of (fill-in-the-blank) by America the righteous as permissible evidence of moral turpitude.

  1. The indigenous people of the American continent, the Native Americans
  2. The indigenous people and citizens of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War
  3. The indigenous people of the Hawaiian archipelago
  4. The civilian population of Viet Nam
  5. The people of Haiti
  6. The people of Guatemala
  7. The people of El Salvador
  8. The people of Nicaragua
  9. The people of Panama
  10. The people of Iraq
  11. All of the above and more

If could be argued that war is a monstrous aberration in which atrocities are an unfortunate, yet integral part. (Collateral damage is the modern, accepted terminology for the slaughter of civilians and while euphemisms such as this and ‘non-combatant’ are wide spread, they do not negate or excuse criminal, immoral acts.) Notwithstanding the parenthetical proviso, as General William Tecumseh Sherman correctly observed, “War is Hell!”. Thus one might be disposed to dismiss the aberrant behavior of men on the field of battle fighting for their lives as admissible to this argument.

The heat of battle, however, would not mitigate the murderous result of aerial bombardment, as the orders and the executions for such ruthless assaults are done at a cool, calculated distance. Since the Second World War, the people of China, Korea, Indonesia, Cuba, Peru, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Libya, Iran, Kuwait, Somalia, Sudan, Bosnia, and Yugoslavia have all suffered ‘death from above’ delivered by the United States in undeclared wars. These horrific, cold-blooded incidences of mayhem might register as contravening evidence with those whose faith in American’s moral strength is less certain.

Furthermore, if the many adherents of Americanism would stop even for a moment to meditate on the documented assassinations committed by CIA operatives as part of numerous coup d’états when the brutal and corrupt dictatorships of Mobuto, Trujillo, Somoza, Marcos, the Duvaliers (pere et fil), Suharto, Noriega and Saddam Hussein were installed and maintained to suit American interests, they would start to sense that not even the US State Department could be so naïvely bumbling in the matters of statecraft as to fail to recognize the glaring lack of moral fiber displayed, not only by these despots - certainly not by the murderers in the service to these men - but also by the US administration officials who befriended them and ordered and carried out extra-legal executions.

(Visit the site of ‘Friendly Dictator Trading Cards’ for more fun facts about America’s propensity to support fascist autocrats when the money is right.)

Possibly, borderline apostates should more closely examine and consider the presidentially ordered, CIA directed and financed coups in Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, etc. that violently and bloodily over-threw the democratically elected governments of those nations because their policies, which strove to place the needs of their own people above the greed of US-based multi-nationals in defiance of the long-standing dictum for subservience to American interests, were perceived and propagandized as committing the odious ‘crime’ of promoting ‘leftist/Marxist’ policies.

Conceivably, the Faithful might note America’s determined, decades-long obstruction by veto of repeated UN resolutions calling for a Palestinian State and fair and equitable distribution of vital resources – resolutions supported by near world-wide unanimity which in all likelihood would end most of the animus and violence in the region - while at the same time successive American administrations have been politically, materially and financially supporting the continued dehumanization of the Palestinian people in gruesome, slow-motion genocide by the State of Israel. How might 30 years of America stone-walling the basic human rights of the people of Palestine be viewed as just and righteous?

Should the adherents to the creed think the above examples reference events too remote in the past to be conveniently pondered, how ‘bout the recent spate of bi-partisan windging and grousing over the astronomical costs of rebuilding Iraq and the accompanying morally bankrupt proposal that the Iraqis pony up and pay for reparations themselves for the diabolical mess the Bush administrations have made of their country? Such a base, execrable retreat from accountability can hardly be seen as a manifestation of charity, fair-mindedness or moral superiority.

Indeed, if the Faithful were simply to focus on the holy ‘War on Terror’ as decreed by Bush the Second in his infamous State of the Union speech in January, 2002, there is a virtually endless list of atrociously immoral actions committed, codified and condoned that coldly testify to a deplorable absence of virtuousness, moral strength, honor and honesty.

To Wit:

  • The suspension of habeas corpus, the keystone of the British and American legal systems
  • The denial of due process,
  • The kidnapping and extraordinary rendition of suspects,
  • The torture and dehumanizing abuse of those illegally detained,
  • The lying, dissembling and prevaricating about torture, kidnapping, extraordinary rendition, etc.
  • The murder of thousands upon thousands of Afghani men, women and children,
  • The slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children,
  • The criminal, forced displacement of 5 millions Iraqis,
  • The slaughterous assaults on the people inhabiting the tribal areas of Pakistan,
  • The effective revocation of the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of:
    • freedom of speech
    • freedom of assembly
    • redress of grievances
    • freedom from self-incrimination
    • freedom of privacy
  • The forging of documents indemnifying and exonerating Bush apparatchiks of wrong-doing
  • The perjurious and evasive testimonies given before Congress by Bush operatives
  • The blatant, contemptuous refusal to answer Congressional subpoena to give testimony regarding the aforementioned points
  • Etc
  • Etc

In light of the extremely long check list of recent atrocities, war crimes and institutionalized injustice, coupled with those committed over the course of the history of the American Republic and presented with rigorous brevity herein, what justification does anyone have to profess America’s moral authority?

A chorus of indignation at the effrontery of the charge laid here that America’s traditional claim to the cherished tenet of its ‘moral authority’ is naught but vapid propaganda must surely have reached a fevered pitch of apoplexy, sending some to grope for needed cardiovascular medication and compelling others to furiously bang out flaming blogs of condemnation and setting still other devotees to shrieking vile epithets and accusations of un-Americanism.

Heaven, forefend!

“At least, Americans don’t strap C4 to the backs of women and children to blow up shopping malls.” one can hear the patriots piously clamor. “At least, Americans don’t suicidally fly airliners into buildings killing thousands of innocent people!”

The response to this straw man’s retort should be obvious: When America has cruise missiles, smart bombs, cluster bombs, bunker busters approaching the destructive power of small nuclear devices, unmanned aircraft armed with laser-guided Hellfire missiles, F-16’s and satellite surveillance, where is the need for such primitive methods of assault as suicide bombers or kamikaze flight plans?

The disparity in the result of an attack by a flight of B-52s or B-2s or A-10s or AC-130s or even a single MQ-1 Predator ‘drone’ when compared to that of a young extremist liveried in a bandoleer of high explosives or that of the 9-11 hijackers need not be examined in detail except by those irredeemably blinded by their faith in Americanism or those simply depraved. All of the aforementioned methods of attack are horrific but, to belabor the obvious for the sake of completing the argument, coordinated attacks by the most formidable military force in human history leave tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties in their wake. Even the horrendous loss of life on September 11, 2001 pales in comparison to the probably casualties wrought during the opening night of Operation Enduring Freedom. Though the comparison in no way decriminalizes the malevolent acts perpetrated on that bright, sunny day it may provide a fresh perspective from which to view the murderous immoral acts of the American government.

Granted, the American people and American administrations have undertaken many noble, humanitarian projects. The premise being argued here is not that Americans are wholly without merit or virtue. The contention is that Americans, demonstratively, do not have the right to claim intrinsic moral authority. There is no denying that the Marshall Plan was of true benefit to the people of Europe, for instance. (Never mind that the lion’s share of the funds went directly into the pockets of American corporations.) Charitable, humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, C.A.R.E. and others depend on the contributions of generous, compassionate Americans. Moreover, slavery was eventually abolished though its abolition in the USA took place long after all other industrialized nations had made slavery illegal and anathema. Suffrage was eventually won by American women after a prolonged struggle though glass ceilings and inequality in the work-place persist to this day.

Therefore, no doubt, there are a few bright lights in American history which play a counterpoint to the many harsh, immoral discordances outlined previously. These contrapuntal incidences only obscure, as through a distorted lens, the sanguine, savage landscapes which have been the result of American foreign and domestic policy and serve as rationale for the reprehensible, megalomaniacal, holier-than-thou conceit expressed by the aphorism in question.

We, as Americans, must ask ourselves if there has ever been any other nation on earth that has so brazenly used such a hypocritical, self-serving, self-deluding, propagandistic platitude to gloss over inveterate wrong-doing. Indeed, there are and there have been, but none of the possible comparisons are in the least bit complimentary.

That this polemic has not made effort to differentiate the citizens of the United States from the policies of the government is not an oversight nor a tactful omission. As a republic, we, the people, are ultimately responsible for the actions of our elected representatives and their appointees. Claiming that the White House, the Houses of Congress, the State Department, the CIA or any other branch or agency of our government have taken actions for which the American electorate shares no responsibility or culpability is an untenable assertion if America is a truly functioning democracy. To excuse American citizens from the sins of its government is to confess that the United States is a ‘failed state’, one having only hollow, insubstantial rituals of democracy rather than viable democratic processes. Much more can and will be said on this matter at another time.

America’s supposed ‘moral authority’ is a sham; a fantasy that any bright adolescent could perceive as a charade if only the straight, unspun facts were presented honestly. It is regrettable that a journalist of Mr Suskind’s stature has not seen beneath the reverential cloak that disguises the bitter, sorry truth of America’s political character and as an apostate, publically renounced the false creed of America’s moral authority. By so doing, his investigative journalism would be under-scored and elevated to loftier heights and his service to Truth and the American public would have greater, lasting effect than does merely exposing the political iniquities, however heinous, of specific culprits.

No comments: