Daniel N. White
The best ever analysis of the United States’ strategic position comes from a speech Abraham Lincoln made in Springfield, Illinois, in 1858 if my memory serves me rightly, at the annual Springfield Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. Lincoln got to talking about the United States and its position in the world, and said:
“All the armies of Europe, each led by a Napoleon, could not, if we chose to dispute the issue, take a drink of water from the Ohio River.”
Absolutely true then, when the population of the US was roughly 32 million and the US ended for all practical purposes at the Mississippi River. And it is equally true today.
Alone among the world’s powers, we are secure from invasion by our continental position, shielded by two oceans. Nobody of course sees that nowadays; we are drinking the foul waters of militarism from a poisoned chalice, and we seem to be doing so enthusiastically and willingly. I don’t myself hold out much hope; we must be taught a hard lesson and perhaps then we will learn. But there is no certainty that we will learn, and that will make the future all that much harder for everyone.
In this country we remain fixated still on the Second World War, and that fixation is doing us grave wrong in our world today. The Second World War was the rarest of events in history, one where one side was clearly and grossly in the wrong. Winston Churchill’s description of Nazism, from one of his speeches during the Blitz, said that the victory of Nazism would bring forth a new dark ages made worse by the application of perverted modern science. Churchill was absolutely right–the Nazi experiments on the Jews in the camps with sterilization–the Poles and the Russians were the targets there, as the Jews were already targeted for immediate extirpation–and they would in all their tens of millions have been wiped from the face of the earth within a generation by a Nazi victory. The Japanese killed, according to some current estimates, 50 million Chinese during their wars there from the 1930s to 1945, and would have continued to kill however many tens of millions more to fulfill their goal of enslaving China, had they not been stopped.
The Nazis and Imperial Japan had to be stopped. But since then America’s numerous wars have been ones of choice, fought in the farthest and most distant corners of the globe, fought for puerile and shallow reasons that often enough our own leadership do not privately themselves believe. Increasingly they are mismanaged wars at that, criminally so in our present ones.
Whatever our crimes are now, we aren’t as bad as the Nazis. That being said, that doesn’t make us inherently good. The key question is whether or not we, and not the Nazis, by our embrace of militarism and perpetual war, are in fact bringing forth a new dark ages–paved with our allegedly good intentions–a new dark ages made worse by the application of perverted modern science–the so-called information technology revolution.
That is my fear, one we should all think about this Memorial Day 2014.
Daniel N. White has lived in Austin, Texas, for a lot longer than he originally planned to. He reads a lot more than we are supposed to, particularly about topics that we really aren’t supposed to worry about. He works blue-collar for a living–you can be honest doing that–but is somewhat fed up with it right now. He will gladly respond to all comments that aren’t too insulting or dumb. He can be reached at Louis_14_le_roi_soleil@hotmail.com.
8 thoughts on “Memorial Day 2014: Drinking Foul Waters from a Poisoned Chalice”
As usual, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. White’s views, but I must make one observation that would be considered rather controversial in “the real America”…but of course, those folks don’t follow The Contrary Perspective! (I may still manage to rile up some folks who DO read this, however, though I never post comments with that explicit purpose. I merely speak my mind and heart.) If we examine the conduct of some US personnel in the Southeast Asia theater of war, 1962-1973, I believe we will be hard-pressed to distinguish their conduct from that of Gestapo troops on missions of extermination during World War II. That, as I see it–from the perspective of a member of US Army who refused to participate in that war of choice–is the cold, hard, ugly truth. But Americans aren’t real good at “handling the truth,” are they?
Regarding WWII as I see it: Our fascists beat their fascists. Certainly, after WWII, the United States had no trouble at all hopping into bed with Franco’s fascist regime in Spain and, without batting an eyelash, any number of other fascist dictatorships throughout the world down to the present day in Egypt and Ukraine. The United States defeated three fascist regimes in WWII but Fascism itself won handily in the United States. As no less an authority on Fascism than Benito Mussolini said: “Fascism is Corporatism.” No meaningful politics left of right exists in the United States today, only superficial quibbles over matters of style between the two right-wing factions of the single corporate Property Party.
“All the armies of Europe, each led by a Napoleon, could not, if we chose to dispute the issue, take a drink of water from the Ohio River.” — Abraham Lincoln
Who today seriously thinks that Americans would dispute the issue?
The 1% Corporate Oligarchs who own and operate the U.S. government would gladly shower any invading Napoleon with tax cuts and huge government subsidies if he would only agree to not inconvenience them at play with their money in the Bahamas. And as for the American proles who actually live near the Ohio River, what difference would a conquering foreign dictator make when compared with their own corrupt owners?
Mike and Greg: Why do you hate America? Seriously, dissent is democracy. Too many Americans refuse to entertain serious criticism of their country. Perhaps they reify the country as themselves, cheering unthinkingly for America to win as if foreign affairs were the world cup or world series. They subscribe to that old Vince Lombardi saw, “Winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” They want to win, irrespective of the price to others, even though those others may be in the right, and America in the wrong.
But if we seek victory at any price, how does that make us any different from all other conquerors of the past?
Too many of us are manipulated by symbols and taught to forget our common humanity. Americans used to be more independent, less tractable, less gullible, more willing to fight for what was right, even while remaining hesitant to fight. But today we are more dependent, more tractable, more gullible, less willing to stand up for what’s right, and all-too-willing to march off to war as soon as we’re told there’s another Hitler (e.g. Saddam) to be vanquished.
Bill… I do not think that comments by Michael and Greg show “hate” for our country. I think that it shows the depth of their disappointed love for what this country has claimed to stand for. It is a sense of betrayal of that affection and respect for democracy that we all were raised with. I feel that sense of betrayal as deeply as they do and I think that you feel it also otherwise you would not be the editor of this site. It is a testimonial to the depth of your feelings that you, who rose to high rank in the military, have dedicated unflinching critical commentary to this same betrayal by the ruling class.
Greg and Mike’s feelings stem from their feelings of being pawns who were damaged in an unnecessary war of choice in Vietnam.
I feel as they do having given my impoverished youth to the only war (WW II) of necessity that we fought and seeing that being used to justify the fascistic imperialist military adventures of the last four political administrations. I feel betrayed!
Yes. My query, “Why do you hate America,” was meant facetiously. It’s a common phrase leveled at those who criticize the government and the powers-that-be. Of course, criticism can stem from love of country, not hate of it. Put more precisely, criticism comes from those seeking to recall America to its initial promise, to its Constitutional values, however imperfectly they were initially implemented, e.g. the persistence of slavery, the lack of a vote for women, etc.
I did not reply to Col. Astore’s original post because I did understand it to be in jest, but thanks for the defense, b. traven! “Dissent is democracy.” Well, one can still dissent in USA, for the most part, and live to tell about it. But let us not be lulled into a false sense of security. Dissenters have been made to pay with their very lives in my own lifetime, and the future looks grim indeed. Every utterance of dissent you (the “editorial ‘you'”) or I post here or elsewhere is subject to scrutiny by the National Security State, and inclusion in files in Washington D.C. or wherever such material is stored now, in the Computer Age. The more potentially effective one’s public dissent becomes, the more of a potential target of repressive government we become. Remember, it is now mandated by “law” (i.e. by declaration of POTUS) that a US citizen may be assassinated by drone or other means for the offense of making propaganda against the US; once upon a time this offense was known as freedom of speech! To paraphrase some observations on Nazi Germany, “All it took for Evil to triumph was enough good people looking the other way.” When public dissent is totally stifled I won’t hesitate to become an ex-patriate, if I’m still alive, because there won’t be anything left of this nation worth fighting to preserve. In the meantime I will not be silent in the face of gross misconduct by the United States.
Edward Snowden’s appearance on NBC primetime for an “exclusive” interview made me have doubts about him because any serious whistleblower would never be given “primetime” publicity. So, because of Snowden’s “revelations”, has the result been a pullback by men and women now in fear that their communications will “flag” them, and who can measure the extent of that decrease of internet communications? Snowden’s interview revealed zero “bombshell” stories, he mentioned nothing about the inside job that was September 11 when given the opportunity, his examination of Williams’ phone furthered an effort to scare people away from communication, etc. His speech during the interview displayed zero passion; he never mentioned anything about Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iran, Israel or Ukraine. He lacked specificity. He played it safe. The question is whether Snowden is a false prophet or not; to repeat any real “whistleblower” would never end up on primetime corporate media in America. Daniel White’s writing here is more controversial than Snowden, and his points blow the whistle on a much larger scale. Thanks.