American Imperialism Leads the World Into Dante's Vision of Hell
Editor’s note: This article is the first part of a four-part series on Truthdig called “Universal Empire” — an examination of the current stage of the neocon takeover of American policy that began after World War II. Read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.
“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. (Abandon all hope ye who enter here.)”
–Dante, “The Divine Comedy,” Inferno (Part 1), Canto 3, Line 9
Before the Tomahawk missiles start flying between Moscow and New York, Americans had better educate themselves fast about the forces and the people who claim that Russia covered up a Syrian government gas attack on Syrians. Proof no longer seems to matter in the rush to further transform the world into Dante’s vision of Hell. Accusations made by anonymous sources, spurious sources and outright frauds have become enough. Washington’s paranoia and confusion bear an uncanny resemblance to the final days of the Third Reich, when the leadership in Berlin became completely unglued.
Tensions have been building since fall with accusations that Russian media interfered with our presidential election and is a growing threat to America’s national security. The latest WikiLeaks release revealed the tools the CIA uses for hacking. One theory is that the CIA’s own contract hackers were behind Hillary Clinton’s email leaks and not Russians. The U.S. has a long reputation of accusing others of things they didn’t do and planting fake news stories to back it up in order to provide a cause for war. The work of secret counterintelligence services is to misinform the public in order to shape opinion, and that’s what this is.
The current U.S. government campaign to slander Russia over anything and everything it does bears all the earmarks of a classic disinformation campaign, but this time is even crazier. Considering that Washington has put Russia, China and Iran on its anti-globalist hit list from which no one is allowed to escape, drummed-up charges against them shouldn’t come as a surprise. But accusing the Russians of undermining American democracy and interfering in an election is tantamount to an act of war, and that simply is not going to wash.
This time, the United States is not demonizing an ideological enemy (USSR) or a religious one (al-Qaida, ISIS, etc.). It’s making this latest venture into the blackest of propaganda a race war, the way the Nazis made their invasion of Russia a race war in 1941, and that is not a war the United States can justify or win.
The level and shrillness of the latest disinformation campaign has been growing for some time. But the American public has lived in a culture of fake news (formerly known as propaganda) for so long many have grown to accept fake news as real news. George Orwell saw this coming, and here it is. As a big supporter of U.S. military intervention in Cuba and an avowed practitioner of “yellow journalism,” in 1897, William Randolph Hearst admonished the illustrator he’d sent to Cuba who’d found no war to illustrate: “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.” Hearst eventually got his war, and America’s experiment in imperialism was off and running.
Americans should know by now that their country’s wars are fertile ground for biased, one-sided, xenophobic, fake news, and the United States has been in a permanent state of war since 1941. Although the targets have shifted over the years, the purpose of the propaganda hasn’t. Most cultures are coerced, cajoled or simply threatened into accepting known falsehoods demonizing their enemies during wartime. But no matter how frequently repeated or cleverly told, no lie can hold if the war never ends. The legendary cold warrior, Time and Life magazines’ Henry Luce, considered his personal fight against Communism to be “a declaration of private war.” He’d even asked one of his executives whether or not the idea was probably “unlawful and probably mad.” Nonetheless, despite his doubts about his own sanity, Luce allowed the CIA to use his Time/Life magazines as a cover for the agency’s operations and to provide credentials to CIA personnel.
Luce was not alone in his service to the CIA’s propaganda wars. Recently declassified documents reveal the CIA’s propaganda extended to all the mainstream media outlets. Dozens of the most respected journalists and opinion makers during the Cold War considered it a privilege to keep American public opinion from straying away from CIA control.
Now that the new Cold War has turned hot, we are led to believe that the Russians have breached this wall of not-so-truthful journalists and rattled the foundation of everything we are supposed to hold dear about the purity of the U.S. election process and “freedom of the press” in America.
Black propaganda is all about lying. Authoritarian governments lie regularly. Totalitarian governments do it so often nobody believes them. A government based on democratic principles like the United States is supposed to speak the truth, but when the U.S. government’s own documents reveal it has been lying over and over again for decades, the jig is up.
Empires have been down this road before, and it doesn’t end well. Americans are now being told they should consider all Russian opinion as fake and ignore any information that challenges the mainstream media and U.S. government on what is truth and what is the lie. But for the first time in memory, Americans have become aware that the people Secretary of State Colin Powell once called “the crazies” have taken the country over the cliff.
The neoconservative hitmen and hit-ladies of Washington have a long list of targets that pass from generation to generation. Their influence on American government has been catastrophic, yet it never seems to end. Sen. J. William Fulbright identified their irrational system for making endless war in Vietnam 45 years ago in a New Yorker article titled “Reflections in Thrall to Fear.”
The truly remarkable thing about this Cold War psychology is the totally illogical transfer of the burden of proof from those who make charges to those who question them. … The Cold Warriors, instead of having to say how they knew that Vietnam was part of a plan for the Communization of the world, so manipulated the terms of the public discussion as to be able to demand that the skeptics prove that it was not. If the skeptics could not then the war must go on—to end it would be recklessly risking the national security.
Fulbright realized that Washington’s resident crazies had turned the world inside out and concluded, “We come to the ultimate illogic: war is the course of prudence and sobriety until the case for peace is proved under impossible rules of evidence [or never]–or until the enemy surrenders. Rational men cannot deal with each other on this basis.” But these were not rational men, and their need to further their irrational quest only increased with the loss of the Vietnam War. Having long forgotten the lessons of Vietnam and after a tragic repeat in Iraq that the highly respected Gen. William Odom considered “equivalent to the Germans at Stalingrad,” the crazies are at it again. With no one to stop them, they have kicked off an updated version of the Cold War against Russia as if nothing had changed since the last one ended in 1992. The original Cold War was immensely expensive to the United States and was conducted at the height of America’s military and financial power. The United States is no longer that country. Since the Cold War was supposedly about the ideological “threat” of Communism, Americans need to ask before it’s too late exactly what kind of threat does a capitalist/Christian Russia pose to the leader of the “Free World” this time?
Muddying the waters in a way not seen since Sen. Joe McCarthy and the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s, the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” signed into law without fanfare by President Obama in December 2016 officially authorizes a government censorship bureaucracy comparable only to George Orwell’s fictional Ministry of Truth in his novel “1984.” Referred to as the Global Engagement Center, the official purpose of the new bureaucracy will be to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.”
But the real purpose of this totally Orwellian center will be to manage, eliminate or censor any dissenting views that challenge Washington’s newly manufactured version of the truth and to intimidate, harass or jail anyone who tries. Criminalizing dissent is nothing new in time of war, but after 16 years of ceaseless warfare in Afghanistan, a Stalingrad–like defeat in Iraq and with Henry Kissinger advising President Trump on foreign policy, the Global Engagement Center has already assumed the characteristics of a dangerous farce.
The brilliant American satirical songwriter of the 1950s and ’60s Tom Lehrer once attributed his early retirement to Henry Kissinger, saying, “Political satire became obsolete [in 1973] when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” Kissinger’s duplicitous attempts at securing an “honorable peace” in America’s war in Vietnam deserved at least ridicule. His long, drawn-out negotiations extended the war for four years at the cost of 22,000 American lives and countless Vietnamese. According to University of California researcher Larry Berman, author of 2001’s “No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam,” the Paris Peace Accords negotiated by Kissinger were never even expected to work, but were only to serve as a justification for a brutal and permanent air war once they were violated. Berman writes, “Nixon recognized that winning the peace, like the war, would be impossible to achieve, but he planned for indefinite stalemate by using the B-52s to prop up the government of South Vietnam until the end of his presidency. … [But] Watergate derailed the plan.”
The Vietnam War had broken the Eastern establishment’s hold over foreign policy long before Nixon and Kissinger’s entry onto the scene. Détente with the Soviet Union had come about during the Johnson administration in an effort to bring some order out of the chaos, and Kissinger had carried it through Nixon and Ford. But while dampening one crisis, détente created an even worse one by breaking open the longstanding internal-deep-state-struggle for control of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. Vietnam represented more than just a strategic defeat; it represented a conceptual failure in the half-century battle to contain Soviet-style Communism. The Pentagon Papers revealed the extent of the U.S. government’s deceit and incompetence, but rather than concede that defeat and chart a new course, its proponents fought back with a Machiavellian ideological campaign known as the “experiment in competitive analysis” or, for short, Team B.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times in August 2004 in an article titled “It’s Time to Bench ‘Team B,’ ” Lawrence J. Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and assistant secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985, came forward on what he knew to be the real tragedy represented by 9/11. “The reports of the Sept. 11 commission and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence missed the real problem facing the intelligence community, which is not organization or culture but something known as the ‘Team B’ concept. And the real villains are the hard-liners who created the concept out of an unwillingness to accept the unbiased and balanced judgments of intelligence professionals.”
Part 2, to be published on Truthdig on Tuesday, traces Team B’s hard-liners back to their roots in the Fourth International, the Trotskyist branch of the Communist International and the Machiavellian culture of American philosopher and political theorist James Burnham, whose present-day disciples threaten to ignite a third world war.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story,” “Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire” and “The Voice.” Visit their websites at invisiblehistory.com and grailwerk.com.