Author Stan Goff, a retired 26-year veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces, sounds a warning call that many of the historical precursors of fascism — white supremacy, militarization of culture, vigilantism, masculine fear of female power, xenophobia and economic destabilization — are ascendant in America today.
When I was 18, before student tracking in the public schools had been formalized, an informal tracking system was nevertheless in place: the university track, the craft track, the poultry worker track, and the prison track. I was somewhere between the last two. Both my parents were working in a defense contractor factory, and I was left adrift in the factory-worker ‘burbs to be trained by television and alcohol. Raised on a curriculum of McCarthyism, I did the most logical thing I could think of to avoid both the factory and eventual incarceration with the ne’er-do-wells with whom I was keeping company. I joined the Army, and volunteered to fight communists in Vietnam.
I tried to get out of the Army once, and it lasted for four years, whereupon I ended up doing piecework in a sweatshop outside Wilmar, Ark. Back on that public school track, I suppose, but given that the U.S. was no longer invading anyone’s country, and that I was responsible for an infant now, I went back into the Army. One thing led to another, and as it turned out I was good at something called special operations, and I ended up making a career of it. By the time I signed out on terminal leave in December 1995, I had worked in eight places designated “armed conflict areas,” where people who were brown and poor seemed to be the principle targets of these “special” operations. At some point toward the end, I had decided that plenty of people could look back and say they wished they’d lived differently; and I was just one of them; and that I might salvage something worthwhile from the whole experience by telling the people who had paid me — people who pay taxes — what their money was really being spent to do.Among other activities, I started writing books.
The Bad Apple
There was nothing more inflammatory in my first book, about the 1994 invasion and occupation of Haiti, than my assertion that Special Operations was a hotbed of racism and reaction. “Hideous Dream – A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti” (Soft Skull Press, 2000) was my personal account of that operation, and I was explicit not only about the significant number of white supremacists in Special Operations but how the attitudes of these extremists connected with the less explicit white male supremacy of white patriarchal American society and defined, in some respects, the attitude taken by U.S. occupation forces in Haiti toward the Haitian population.
The resistance to this allegation was particularly fierce, and not merely from those inside the Special Operations “community,” whose outrage was more public-relations stagecraft than anything else. There was outrage from people who hadn’t a moment of actual experience in the military at all. This is an affront to something sacred in the public imaginary of a thoroughly militarized United States: that we are an international beacon of civilized virtue, and that our military is the masculine epitome of that virtue standing between our suburban security and the dark chaos of the Outside. Questioning the mystique of the armed forces is tantamount to lunacy at best and treason at worst.
This is the reason bad-apple-ism has been the predominant meme of the media and the Pentagon when they are compelled to discuss the stories of torture, rape and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan. “A few bad apples” committed torture. “A few bad apples” raped prisoners, fellow female soldiers, and civilians in their homes. The massacre was not descriptive of the Marine Corps, but the work of “a few bad apples.” Anyone who wants to be the skunk at this prevarication party need only ask, “How do these bad apples all seem to aggregate into the same units?”
One bad apple was dispensed with on June 11, 2001. That’s when Timothy McVeigh was given a lethal injection at 7 a.m. in the death chamber of the U.S. federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind.
Frugivorous analogies aside, McVeigh was not the product of a tree or poor storage, but of a culture. Raised in western New York by a devoutly Catholic father — an autoworker — after his parents divorced when he was 10, Tim McVeigh, like many other white youths who are socially awkward and living in times of economic insecurity, was already reading survivalist and white nationalist literature in his teens. The mythic-patriarchal absolutism of racial ideology mapped perfectly onto the consciousness of someone raised by a religiously devout male, and the fact that this ideology responded directly to the insecurities of economic and gender destabilization secured McVeigh as an early devotee.
Gore Vidal said that McVeigh “needed a self-consuming cause to define him[self].” Vidal’s account, “The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh,” ominously printed in Vanity Fair just days before the 9/11 attacks expressed another “self-consuming cause,” noted that McVeigh took his cues from the very government he had worked for as a soldier. Before McVeigh’s attack in Oklahoma City, the most recent attack by Americans against Americans outside of warfare was the FBI-BATF massacre of an obscure religious commune that was demonized for destruction at Waco, Texas — which McVeigh memorialized by blowing up the Murrah Building on the Waco massacre’s second anniversary.
When McVeigh was interviewed about the “collateral damage” in Oklahoma, he was asked if he felt remorse. He replied that Truman had never apologized for Hiroshima or Nagasaki. And the formative moment in Iraq for Tim McVeigh was the order by Major General Barry McCaffrey — the sociopath appointed by Bill Clinton to be the nation’s “drug czar” — to slaughter a seven-mile line of retreating Iraqi soldiers and civilians after the cease-fire in Iraq … now called the Turkey Shoot.
As the old military motto says, “Trained by the best, kill like the rest.”
Much has been made of McVeigh’s affinity for “The Turner Diaries,” a neo-Nazi novel about a white nationalist guerrilla war in the U.S., written under pseudonym by the late William Pierce. Less often noted was another formative cultural product for McVey, “Red Dawn,” a silly film about American teenagers organizing an armed resistance to the Soviet occupation of the United States. While “silly” is a descriptive term for both these cultural products, we cannot assume they are irrelevant.