Selected Political Editorials
Glen T. Martin
17. Freedom of Speech and Offensive Public Displays (Dec. 11)
Dr. Glen T. Martin
THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY AND THE DEATH OF THE WORLD’S FUTURE
(Published in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, 22 January 2002)
In a memo not considered important enough to publicize in the mainstream press, Attorney General John Ashcroft recently commanded the Justice Department to resist all requests under the Freedom of Information Act. And George Bush has ordered the records of all recent US. Presidents sealed from the public. Our government must operate beyond the purview of the people entirely. It is already mostly there. During the last year of the Clinton Administration, the U.S. government labeled eight million items "secret."
Meanwhile revelations continue to surface about the US pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan over the past several years to allow an oil pipeline to be built through their country. The Taliban refused even under the US threat of bombing. Then September 11 gave them the perfect excuse to bomb that already suffering and poverty stricken country even further back into the stone age. Several sources cite 3600 civilian casualties and millions starving and displaced from their homes into hell-hole refugee camps. Now the US is busy installing a new government friendly to US interests, that is, to building an oil pipeline through their country.
Of course, the function of the mass media in the US is to provide a cheering section for US military destruction of other peoples, and to hide the truth. But just in case the propaganda system is not effective enough, government secrecy must be increased. Under the anti-terrorist act, the millions of non-citizens in the US can be detained on "secret evidence." The government is not required to operate in public. Whatever democracy we may have had is in shambles. But don’t think that the "watchdog" press will scream bloody murder at the destruction of democracy. That is not their job. Their job is to be cheerleaders for government policy and the big corporations who control our government.
In 1993, the press gave great hype to the US Marines landing in Somalia on a humanitarian mission to a starving country that was in political chaos. Headlines read "the US government with a heart!" There was no mention of the fact that the US government had for the previous two decades supported a brutal dictator in Somalia named Mohamed Siad Barre who destroyed his country through brutal repression while at the same time selling off the rights to nearly two thirds of the country to four giant US oil corporations: Chevron, Amoco, Phillips, and Amoco. Then after the people revolted and chaos ensued, the Marines were sent in as "saviors."
Similarly, the mainstream press has ignored the revelations of a whistle blower working for the giant military service corporation DynCorp in Bosnia. This corporation provides maintenance support for US military all over the world. In Bosnia, the whistle blower claimed to provide evidence of massive fleecing of military money through fraud (that is, of our tax money). But it is reported that what led him to finally speak out was DynCorp Executives buying 12 to 15 year old girls from neighboring countries as sex slaves and bragging to one another about the acts they were forced to perform for their middle aged owners. Researchers have documented that sex slavery and prostitution for the executives of US Corporations is a world wide multi-billion dollar business.
Money is power and that is why the US military (with half of our national budget to use in secret ways we will never know about) and US Corporations rule the world, devouring everything, raping the globe of its precious resources, destroying the environment for future generations, and paying off the mass media to be their cheerleaders and pimps. It is the same for poor countries around the world - from Somalia to Afghanistan to Yugoslavia (destroyed by the US military in 1998) to Iraq (destroyed by the US military in 1991) to East Timor (the invasion and destruction of which by Indonesia was approved by the US in 1975) to Nicaragua (whose revolution against a brutal US installed dictator was destroyed by a US created terrorist army during the 1980s).
I have some extensive personal experience with Nicaragua, having been there half a dozen times. After their revolution in 1979, there was great hope with a new economic order designed to benefit ordinary people: land reform, and a health care movement and literacy campaign for all the people. Any government that cares about its people (this is literally true), the US propaganda machine calls a "communist dictatorship." The US mass media systematically ignored the UN supervised elections of 1983 that overwhelmingly elected the government that cared for its people back into power. We hired and equipped a terrorist army to destroy their revolution, our CIA supervisors ordering them to hit only "soft targets" (i.e. civilians). Again, silence from the US media. The US destroyed their government by 1990 and instituted a new government that cared for our multinational corporations more than the people. We call this "free trade."
Recently, a friend sent me photos of the Managua Municipal Dump that we visited in 1996. The families, children, men and women combing the dump to survive that I saw in 1996 are today more numerous than ever. Today, sweatshops operate in "free trade zones" in Managua exploiting a starving people at misery level wages so that you and I can buy cheap clothing in our "superstores." The wealth and power of our military destroy all who resist us world-wide while the wealth and power of our corporations buy sex slaves in Bosnia or wage slaves in Nicaragua.
That is why there is no possibility that the cruel economic blockade around the Cuban people will ever be lifted unless the government that cares about its people (the Cuban revolutionary government) is destroyed. The drive to domination brooks no opposition and a flourishing socialism in Cuba would be a beacon of light to the world’s slaves that there are alternatives to their nightmare existence. I have visited Cuba five times, sometimes for extended stays during which I have spoken at length with government officials and civic leaders. It is a government that cares about its people - about ending racism, sexism, inequality, exploitation and injustice. For that reason the US government (with the backing of the big corporations) is absolutely intent on destroying Cuban socialism. The so called "war on terrorism" is a perfect excuse for the US military to attack any country that represents an alternative to its system of domination and exploitation. And Cuba, a country with only the highest integrity in international affairs, has now been listed as one of its possible victims.
I recently returned from India where I was given a tour of one of the many huge slums of Mumbai. Even I was shocked at the level of misery of the tens of thousands of people living there. Jammed into tiny rooms, entire families work day after day making the products that you and I buy so inexpensively in our "superstores." One family makes gloves, another shoes, another watch bands, another brooms, another luggage, another clothing. They get pennies per day for their endless work, sleep in the same tiny room, without water, without bathrooms or sewage, with passage ways between the sheds just wide enough for two persons to squeeze past. In Mumbai, they are not even herded into sweatshops. They sell to middle men who sell to the big corporations that are taking over India because of its cheap labor. They exist in a living hell of hunger, disease, and insecurity - hundreds of thousands of people.
This is the reason why democracy is being destroyed in the US and around the world. The goal of the US ruling class and its puppet US government is military and economic domination and exploitation of the entire world. It has nothing to do with terrorism or standing for justice or any such nonsense. But democracy could not be destroyed without out the help of their cheerleaders, the US mass media. That is why it is of utmost importance that none of the things I have mentioned here ever get reported. The people must be convinced to voluntarily give up democracy and the future of our planet.
THE RESURRECTION OF DEMOCRACY AND NEW HOPE FOR THE WORLD
The death of democracy is caused by fragmentation. Our planet is divided into absolute fragments. Democracy requires wholeness, a body politic participating in making the decisions that affect everyone. Democracy can only be universal – protecting universal human rights that belong to every citizen of our planet. There can be no wholeness in a world of international trade, communications, travel and intercourse unless it is wholeness of humankind under a single democratic constitution. Democracy cannot fully exist within nations since governments in a world of international insecurity and chaos must function in secret, which is the death of democracy. Democracy cannot exist within nations when global capital not only has the power to control governments but has the ability to travel elsewhere should any government attempt to control or limit its destructive practices. But the Earth already has its Magna Carta for wholeness and democratic integrity. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth has been ready since 1991 for ratification by the people and nations of the earth. It is publicly available on the world wide web.
The first dimension of our present fragmentation is a global economic system predicated on absolute winners and losers. This system t allows vast concentrations of wealth and power that, we have seen, have immense capacity to exploit and enslave people around the globe in the service of ever greater wealth and power. We have seen that money is power, under this system, to buy the votes of legislators, to buy high priced lawyers to evade the law, to buy lucrative military contracts, to buy human beings as sex slaves, to buy untold millions of poor and starving people as wage slaves. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is predicated on the wholeness of humanity and initiates a new economic order that replaces fragmentation with the rule of democratically legislated law protecting the most vulnerable from victimization by the rich and powerful and regulating economic life for the benefit of the planetary environment and the welfare of future generations.
`The second dimension of our fragmentation today is a planet divided into 189 "absolute" sovereign territorial nation-states. This makes people think of their national self-interest before the good of humanity. It makes people think of "them versus us," of developing military and intelligence secrecy, of low intensity and high intensity struggles against other nations conceived of as enemies or victims. It puts governments at odds with other governments and creates a world order where military power and not justice determines the outcome. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth binds all the nations into a whole, a federation under a duly elected Parliament comprised of a House of Peoples and a House of Nations. For the first time in history, a governmental authority can represent of interests of all peoples and nations fairly within the whole of a democratic world order. Nations’ rights are preserved to the extent that every nation may choose it own economic, political and social order consistent with the universal human rights guaranteed by the Constitution. But nations are now demilitarized and disputes are settled by the world court system under the equitable rule of law applied to all. Economic might and military power no longer dominate and destroy the weaker in pursuit of their fragmented self-interest.
The third dimension of fragmentation in today’s world involves the chaos of partial identities and group egoisms preventing people from recognizing others around the globe as fully human and deserving of equal treatment before the law. Racist, sexist, religious, ethnic, class and nationalistic hatreds and conflicts tear our world apart. It is easy for people who identify with one race or nation to bomb dark skinned people, to ignore the misery of yellow skinned people, to stereotype the religious faith of Moslem peoples, etc. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth not only makes all this illegal, it creates for the first time in human history the unity of all persons as citizens of the World Federation. For the first time, there is an enforceable legal and moral category of universal human economic and political rights, protected by law, police, the executive, the parliament and the world judiciary. People now have an incentive to identify with the diversity and rich multiplicity of all others on the planet, for those different from themselves no longer have to power to threaten or destroy them. Wholeness supercedes fragmentation and genuine democracy is made possible for the first time in human history.
The forth dimension of fragmentation in today’s world involves the mass media of the world who are inevitably loyal to those fragments that are the source of their livelihood (the corporations) and those nations in which they operate. It is only human (all too human) that the mass media in the United States are loyal to its government and economic system to the exclusion of universal human welfare and the future of the planet. It is only natural and all too human that they are complicit in the death of democracy and the destruction of the future of our planet which is inevitable under the current system of global fragmentation. A Constitution for the entire Earth would transform all that precisely because genuine democracy allows people to begin identifying with the good of the whole and not with some fragment. The divisive power of great wealth, of territorial governments and of group egoisms is vastly diminished within the framework of just, democratically legislated law over everybody. A great liberation could take place for the mass media. They could now really begin to fulfill their traditional theoretical role as watchdogs of democracy and the common good – precisely because for the first time in history there would really be a legally recognized wholeness and common good for humanity.
Under the present world system of irreconcilable fragments, there is indeed no hope either for democracy or the future of our precious planet. But a simple very logical step forward in our moral and intellectual lives could transform all that forever. It is a very small step to the next level of human existence on planet Earth, the level in which we recognize every person on the planet as fully human and act to legally protect their humanity within the framework of a democratic Constitution. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth is the Magna Carta of our day. It is a brilliant document, designed by some of the finest minds of our time, and directed explicitly to preserving diversity within a new framework of wholeness and addressing the global crises of the environment, militarism, the population explosion and global poverty and misery. It doing so it eliminates of root causes of hatred and terrorism as well as the fragmentation that induces national arrogance and militarism. For genuine democracy can only exist, as all thoughtful persons know, in a world that combines authentic peace with global justice. Only a democratic constitution for the entire earth can resurrect our dying democratic traditions and provide hope for the future of our endangered planet.
Glen T. Martin
People are becoming increasingly aware that the mass-media’s mission is that of molding, rather than informing, the popular mind in the service of Washington’s system of global domination and exploitation. True to this mission, the Roanoke Times in southwest Virginia had a front page article on March 21st, 2002, stating that "some scholars believe America now an empire, like Rome was." This admission is a sign that the realities of the U.S. world empire, the quest for which began as early as 1827 with the Monroe Doctrine, cannot be effectively hidden from the average citizen any longer. The traditional government rhetoric about "defending democracy, national sovereignty, and human rights worldwide" does not deceive people any more. A new propaganda strategy is needed to ensure the complicity of the average American in our world-wide system of domination, exploitation, torture and murder.
This new propaganda spin is supplied by the subtitle of the March 21st article: "Experts say the United States builds its worldwide dominance through economic, cultural and political means, not brute force." These "experts" must be either from the moon or some goon squad of the CIA. Adolph Hitler stated two profound truths that are directly relevant here. First, if you tell people a really big lie they are more likely to believe it because most people are ashamed to tell big lies. Second, if you tell people they are under attack they will believe and do almost anything you ask of them.
The systematic quest for empire and world domination that was formulated by the State Department in top secret "Policy Planning Study 23" in 1948 required both of these profound truths. That is why the formation of the Soviet Union was the perfect excuse: for 50 years we heard the constant drum beat that we were under attack by a world wide Communist conspiracy while the helpless giant of the U.S. attempted to defend democracy and human rights for all the world’s citizens. This big lie about a global attack by evil communists allowed the U.S. in 1953 to overthrow the popular government of Iran and install the brutal Shaw who tortured his people while selling oil freely to U.S. corporations. It allowed the U.S. to overthrow the elected government of Guatemala in 1954 leading to a U.S. supported nightmare state with 200,000 tortured, murdered and disappeared during the next 40 years, and it allowed dozens more horrific repressions down to the present moment.
In my travels in South Asia, Europe and Latin America, I have found that most people have no illusion about the brutal global empire run by the US. However, their opinion makes little difference since their countries are largely controlled through the rule of force and the vice-grip of economic domination. On the other hand, it is crucial that American citizens believe in the goodness of their country. For if they knew the truth, the entire undemocratic system in the US would be seen as illegitimate and our world-wide empire might soon begin to collapse.
From Korea and to Vietnam to the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the US wreaked unspeakable carnage, death and terror on helpless civilian populations who resisted the demand that they serve as client states supplying cheap labor and natural resources to its brutal corporations. It overthrew the elected government of Chile in 1973, installing a vicious dictator. During the 1980s, the US created and armed the Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan to resist the Soviets and prosecuted brutal wars against the people of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala who were struggling for freedom. In the light of this history, how can there be any doubt about the hidden meaning of the April 2003 invasion of Iraq?
Since World War II, the US has interfered in the following countries (and more) in the service of its global domination: China 1945-51, Marshall Islands 1946-58, Italy 1947-1970s, Greece 1947-49 and 1967-74, Philippines 1945-53, Korea 1945-53, Albania 1949-53, Iran 1953, Guatemala 1953-1990s, Costa Rica 1970-71, Middle East 1956-58, Indonesia 1957-58 and 1965, Haiti 1959 and 1987-94, Iraq 1958-63 and 1991-2002, Vietnam 1945-73, Cambodia 1955-73, Laos 1957-73, Thailand 1965-73, Ecuador 1960-63, The Congo/Zaire 1960-65 and 1977-78, Brazil 1961-64, Peru 1965 and 1990s, Dominican Republic 1963-65, Cuba 1959-2002, Ghana 1966, Uruguay 1969-72, Chile 1973, South Africa 1960s-1980s, Bolivia 1964-75, Portugal 1974-76, East Timor 1975-99, Angola 1975-1980s, Jamaica 1976, Honduras 1980s, Nicaragua 1978-1990, Philippines 1970s-1990s, South Yeman 1979-84, Chad 1981-82, Grenada 1979-83, Libya 1981-89, Panama 1989, Afghanistan 1979-2002, El Salvador 1980-92, Bulgaria 1990-91, Albania 1991-92, Somalia 1993, Yugoslavia 1995-99, Iraq 1991 to the present, Columbia 1990 to the present, Cuba 1959 to the present.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 the great double lie (that we defend democracy and human rights and that we were under attack from a global communist conspiracy) no longer had credibility. The American people expected a peace dividend. The murderous US interventions now had to be justified on a case by case basis. The destruction of Iraq and subsequent sanctions (killing to date 1.5 million people) were justified as stopping a brutal dictator with "weapons of mass destruction" from expanding around the world. The brutal bombing of civilians in Yugoslavia was justified as defending human rights. The real crimes of those countries was that their leadership was independent of US domination. Any real independence (such as Cuba since 1959 or Venezuela since 1998) must be crushed since its very existence serves as an inspiration to others longing for freedom.
That is why the horrible attacks of September 11 came as a god-send to the corporate and political rulers of the American empire. The great double lie that we learned from Hitler could be instantly reinstated in a new form. Now, although we admit to having an empire, our "experts" say that it that it is kept in place through cultural and political means, not brute force. We are no longer being attacked by a global communist conspiracy but by a "global terrorist network" located in more than 60 countries worldwide and full of hatred toward our freedoms and prosperity. Military interventions around the world again receive a cart blanche from the American people, and our huge military budget is expanded by 149 more billion. It is never mentioned that these countries "harboring terrorists" just happen to be the ones still somewhat independent of our global empire. The torture, murder, devastation and starvation caused by our attacks are never shown on mainstream TV. The starvation, misery and exploitation of those under the thumb of our empire are never mentioned in our mass media.
The new double lie is truly a grand lie. Rather than managing a beneficent and gentle empire, we are in reality the world’s ultimate terrorist state. Our consistent policy has been to stop at nothing to promote our global domination. Today, under the guise of the new big double lie, we continue with saturation bombing and military invasion (Afghanistan), forced mass starvation (Iraq before the April 2003 invasion), special forces military inventions (currently operating in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Panama, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Georgia, Uzbekistan and probably elsewhere), destabilization and attempts at military coup (Venezuela), and support for paramilitary massacres, torture and death squads (Columbia). It is truly the sort of lie that would make Hitler proud.
Glen T. Martin
(Published in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, 2 January 2003. Received the Press Action award as one of the best ten commentaries of 2003.)
In Nazi Germany at this time of year, people freely shopped in large department stores for gifts for family and friends. The streets were full of traffic. It was "business as usual" for most of the citizens. While in the colonial states conquered by the Nazis, and in the concentrations camps for Jews, Gays, and Communists, life was a living nightmare of dehumanization and human rights violations.
In the United States today, people freely shop in large department stores for gifts, and the streets are full of traffic. While in our most recent victim states of Afghanistan, Iraq under murderous sanctions, Argentina after engineering its economic collapse, and Columbia under U.S. military aid for repression, life is a living nightmare of dehumanization and human rights violations.
But what once separated the U.S. from Nazi Germany was the protection of civil liberties for American citizens. People of Germany had no rights and did not care. Those few that did care were so terrified of their government that they did not dare to speak out. Those that did speak out were declared "enemy agents" and sent to concentration camps. Today, people of the U.S. have given up their rights through the "Patriot Act," the "Homeland Security Act," and the Pentagon’s new system of "Total Information Awareness."
The astonishing thing about this "land of the free" is that most Americans now have no effective rights and do not care. As long as they are free to shop in department stores, and have traffic in the streets (with automobiles burning oil stolen from dying Iraqi children), they do not care. And to a greater degree every day, those few who do care about our liberties and rights are too terrified of our government to speak out.
The so-called "Patriot Act" expanded our government’s secret search and wiretapping powers enormously. It empowered racial profiling as a recognized police practice and allowed broad sweeps of people of Middle Eastern or Asian origin. It effectively abolished immigrants’ rights, allowing non-citizens to be held in secret locations on secret "evidence," without right to an attorney, for as long as the government wishes. The government now has the power to enter your home or your computer and secretly record whatever they find without ever having to notify you. They do not even have to obtain a warrant from a publicly accountable judge showing reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.
Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold spoke the following words from the Senate floor on October 11, 2001, when he was the only Senator to vote against Ashcroft's USA Patriot Act:
"There is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country where police were allowed to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country where the government is entitled to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your e-mail communications; if we lived in a country where people could be held in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, the government would probably discover more terrorists or would-be terrorists! But that wouldn't be a country in which we would want to live."
But today, it has gotten worse with the passage of the "Homeland Security Act." Notice that these titles, "Patriot" and "Homeland," sound very much like the language of the Nazis. A common slogan of the Nazi regime was "the highest freedom is a noble slavery of the heart." People are free, the slogan meant, when they have enslaved their hearts to the "homeland" in absolute obedience to their government. "Deuchland, Deuchland, ueber alles!" they shouted. Blind loyalty, patriotism, and emotion must triumph over liberty, reason and sound judgment.
Under the U.S. Homeland Security Act (our rights again given away freely by a bi-partisan Congress), twenty-two U.S. agencies are combined in order to achieve "total information awareness" on every American citizen. The government will soon be amassing a file on every American that includes every magazine subscription, credit card purchase, web site you visit, your medical records, library records, bank deposits or withdrawals, every airline purchase you make, as well as your judicial, divorce records, and so on. This will be recorded in a central data base, not by a publicly accountable authority, but by the Pentagon, which already operates in total secrecy from the American public.
Government intimidation for political reasons is real and it has begun. Our government is already using their secret databases to harass Americans. Political activists checking in at airports at the airline desk have had their names come up from a secret government list as "flight risks." They and their luggage have been super-searched to the point where they are made to miss their flights, and then released to fly. Obviously if they were really "flight risks," they would not be allowed to fly. Attorneys have found that their attorney-client privilege has all but disappeared. The government has even placed hidden cameras in prisons to record attorney discussions with their clients. The government has begun harassing people maintaining web sites they consider politically objectionable.
The Justice Department announced a plan to use its new found power to designate U.S. Citizens as "enemy combatants" to place such people in concentration camps. Declaring them "enemy combatants" would strip them of their constitutional rights, their access to the courts, and allow the government to indefinitely hold them without trial. This is identical in purpose to some of the Nazi concentration camps.
Do we citizens care at all about the future of our children or the plight of the millions of citizens in this country of Arab descent, or those who nonviolently oppose government policy? We have repeated for so long the slogan "it can’t happen here." But the darkness and terror of totalitarianism is coming rapidly. Do we have the courage and integrity to speak out now before it is too late? Or will we continue to freely shop in our large department stores for gifts for family and friends – like they did in Nazi Germany.
Glen T. Martin
(Published in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, 8 September 2002)
Images of those horrible events of September 11 still linger in our minds. But the tremendous concern about "Why?" and the focus on "terrorism" over the past year has placed us in a better position to understand ourselves and our world. All over our country commercial signs and bumper stickers still read "God bless America." But I believe that God is Truth and that God will not bless an attitude of "my country right or wrong" but only a country that stands for truth, freedom and justice for all of God’s children on this planet.
Since last year we have found out the details of how the US secretly created the Taliban, armed them and encouraged their fanaticism, in order to fight against the Russians who were controlling Afghanistan during the 1980s. We have also found out that after the Russians left the US was engaging in secret negotiations with the Taliban to build an oil pipeline through their country and that they refused. (Now that we have invaded their country and installed our own puppet government, with death and destruction of many innocent people, the development of the oil pipeline is proceeding as planned.)
We have found out that among the stated reasons for these terrible attacks were our support of the terrible repression of the Palestinian people by the Israelis and the unspeakable death of one and a half million Iraqi citizens since we destroyed the infrastructure of their country in 1991.
We have seen the guilty parties grow from an estimated 23 people to an estimated "hundreds" of co-conspirators to an entire nation (Afghanistan) to a network of terrorist nations to "a world-wide terror network" many of whom are living in the United States and are even US citizens. We have seen the US declare a global "war on terrorism" that was eagerly joined by brutal and repressive nations all over the world who began labeling their dissidents and freedom fighters "terrorists" and increasing the level of repression. At the same time, the US has vigorously opposed the establishment of a UN International Criminal Court and has been pressuring nations all over the world where US military personnel are operating to grant exemptions for our military personnel. Thoughtful people naturally ask why American military should not be subject to international laws against murder, torture and human rights violations.
At home, we have seen from the Bush Administration the attempt to establish an overt propaganda system in the US. We have seen the arrest and secret detention of thousands of peaceful non-citizens living in the US and the attempt to create a network of informers where Americans spy on one another. We have seen the attempt to create detention camps for suspected American citizens with a complete suspension of their constitutional rights as well as a tremendous increase in the level of government spying and monitoring of US citizens. The "war on "terrorism" has become even more destructive of American freedom than the "war on communism" of the 1950s and 60s with its terrible, benighted McCarthy period in American history. For like all wars, it requires the destruction of democracy and freedom both at home and abroad.
Six months after these terrible attacks, the Roanoke Times had a March 21st front page article stating that "some scholars believe America now an empire, like Rome was." This admission is a sign that the realities of the U.S. world empire, the quest for which began as early as 1827 with the Monroe Doctrine, cannot be effectively hidden from the average citizen any longer.
The systematic quest for empire and world domination that was formulated by the State Department in top secret "Policy Planning Study 23" in 1948 required that Americans be misled by the rhetoric that our government stands for human rights and democracy world-wide while in reality we were using "straight power concepts" to crush opposition to our global empire. That is why the existence of the Soviet Union was the perfect excuse. For 50 years we heard the constant drum beat that we were under attack by a world wide Communist conspiracy while the helpless giant of the U.S. attempted to defend democracy and human rights for all the world’s citizens. This big lie about this planetary attack by evil communists allowed the U.S. in 1953 to overthrow the popular government of Iran and install the brutal Shaw who tortured his people while selling oil freely to U.S. corporations. It allowed the U.S. to overthrow the elected government of Guatemala in 1954 leading to a U.S. supported nightmare state with 200,000 tortured, murdered and disappeared during the next 40 years, and it allowed dozens more horrific repressions down to the present moment.
From Korea and to Vietnam to the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the US wreaked unspeakable carnage, death and terror on helpless civilian populations who resisted the demand that they serve as client states supplying cheap labor and natural resources to its greedy corporations. It overthrew the elected government of Chile in 1973, installing a vicious dictator. During the 1980s, the US prosecuted horrific wars against the people of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala who were struggling for freedom. In 1991 we destroyed Iraq, in 1998 Yugoslavia, in the past year Afghanistan. During the last decade we have waged a terrible war against the people of Columbia, our Congress having appropriated 3.2 billion dollars for military aid to this most repressive government in our hemisphere.
What has become clear to thoughtful Americans in the past year is that these terrible terrorist attacks were the reaction of desperate and impotent people to our world-wide system of repression and domination. But like all violence, they had the opposite effect from what may have been intended. For the corporate and political rulers of the American empire have used these attacks to solidify and strengthen the empire and the world-wide destruction of freedom and democracy that this entails. We are no longer being attacked by a global communist conspiracy but by a "global terrorist network" located in more than 60 countries worldwide and full of hatred toward our freedoms and prosperity.
Military interventions around the world again receive a cart blanche from the American people, and our huge military budget is expanded by 149 more billion. It is never mentioned that these countries "harboring terrorists" just happen to be the ones still somewhat independent of our global empire. The torture, murder, devastation and starvation caused by our attacks are never shown on mainstream TV. The starvation, misery and exploitation of those under the thumb of our empire are never mentioned in our mass media. And voices of reason and freedom from informed people within America are squelched with the new tool of political fear and conformity: "Are you, or have you ever been, associated with Communists or terrorists?"
I believe very much in God. I believe that God is the God of truth, justice, freedom and democracy for all citizens on our planet. I believe that Jesus gave us the mission and the hope of bringing "the kingdom of God to Earth" a kingdom of justice, peace, non-violence and love. In the past year of agony and reflection, many Americans have understood that there can be no blessing for America unless we courageously and honestly face the truth about ourselves and do something to change it.
It is not too late yet, although the destruction of our freedom is proceeding rapidly. Currently, the Pentagon is working around the clock on military control of the world from space, and the United States has proposed to the UN that it be the "police force" for the oceans of the world. If these things happen, there may be little hope. To a certain extent, freedom still exists at home and in some places abroad. But unless we Americans courageously face the truth about ourselves and act to create freedom, justice and democracy for our entire precious planet, our children may well inherit a nightmare world of totalitarianism and death. We can redeem those horrible deaths that occurred on September 11, 2001 only by clinging to the truth, and creating a world where the roots of terrorism (injustice, poverty and repression) have been transformed into freedom and prosperity for all.
Glen T. Martin
(Published in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, 16 May 2000)
The U.S. Senate is currently considering a massive 1.3 billion dollar package of primarily military aid to Columbia, requested by the Clinton Administration under the guise of the "war on drugs." The package includes advanced weaponry, including jet fighters and helicopter gun ships, as well as increased U.S. training of Columbia’s military forces. This consistently fits the pattern of the U.S. system of global domination and repression.
Columbia is already the largest recipient of U.S. weapons and training in Latin America, and has been throughout the 1990s. It also has had the worst record of human rights abuses in Latin America during this period, with rampant death squads, disappearances, widespread torture, massacres of entire villages, and internal refugees. Columbia also has severe, widespread poverty that has led its people to rebel against the U.S. supported oligarchy of landowners, narco-traders, and wealthy capitalists who are making vast profits through selling off Columbia’s rich resources to U.S. Corporations.
Columbia therefore follows the classic pattern of countries under U.S. domination. The exploitation by a tiny ruling class, selling off resources and the cheap labor of the starving poor to U.S. transnational corporations, becomes so severe that the people finally pick up arms and rebel. Then comes a vast increase in human rights abuses, torture, disappearances and massacres, along with a vast increase in U.S. military training and direct shipments of U.S. weapons to the repressive regime. With U.S. military support, atrocities continue to mount until the exhausted people give up and accept their hunger and misery passively. Our government calls this process "restoring democracy."
This is exactly what happened in the nightmare regimes of El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980s, both military oligarchies trained and supplied by the U.S. There were massive government atrocities against those populations, and a large, semi-secret paramilitary apparatus of terror and death in which military personal would remove uniforms to go out at night and simply eliminate any opposition who spoke out against the regime, just as in Columbia today. In El Salvador, a tiny country of four million people, the U.S. provided four and a half billion dollars in military aid to this brutal oligarchy during the 1980s. The repression in El Salvador and Guatemala has diminished since these terrified, brutalized populations exhausted their spirit of resistance and signed "peace accords" in the early 1990s. Although the massive poverty that was the cause of their resistance has only increased since that time due to IMF "structural adjustment" programs being forced upon those peoples. This has been the pattern throughout Latin America since the Second World War.
This U.S. "foreign policy" of repression is not an accident. It has been the ruling idea since the end of the Second World War when the U.S. emerged as the world’s richest and most powerful nation. At that time, the U.S. secret policy planners understood that we had emerged from the war at the top of a global system of economic exploitation, since the poverty of most of the world’s population forces them to accept our conditions and to allow our corporations to freely exploit their resources and cheap labor.
U.S. planners made this policy explicit in then top-secret documents that have only since been declassified. Just as today the National Security Council, State Department and Pentagon all operate in secret, and we will not be able to know what they are thinking now until their documents are declassified in 25 years. But we can examine the ugly history of their actions: their bombing of country after country, their subversion of democracy around the world, and their support for military repression globally during every decade since the Second World War.
In 1948, one such top-secret document was State Department "Policy Planning Study 23," written by George Kennan (later U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union). The study says that "we have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population.... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit U.S. to maintain this pattern of disparity.... To do so...we should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better."
This is a quotation, not a paraphrase. Already U.S. leaders were repudiating a foreign policy based on promoting human rights or democracy and planning one based on "straight power concepts." "Straight power concepts" can mean nothing else but military repression, and this explains why the U.S. never demilitarized after the Second World War, nor after the Cold War. We need military might, along with the training of foreign militaries, and the capacity for massive military aid, to enforce our global system of domination and repression.
This system was refined and made official in 1962 during the Kennedy Administration as they developed the doctrine of training foreign militaries for "internal security." "Internal security doctrine" means we train them to make war on their own populations. A massive system was put in place where the U.S. trains repressive regimes around the world (such as Turkey and Indonesia during the 1990s to the present) to repress their own populations and create our version of "stability" so the transnational corporations can rape these countries with impunity. Since 1962, the U.S. has trained the military of nearly every Latin American country in such training centers as the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Graduates of the School of Americas are infamous for torture, repression, and massacre of their own populations.
American citizens will not see the truth about Columbia and the lie of "the war on drugs" unless we are willing to look at history and the facts. Since our government operates in secret, its public rhetoric can only be seen as lies if we examine its actual behavior - its repeated invasions, bombings, economic blockades, and support for vicious, repressive military regimes worldwide. The passage of this Senate bill for yet another massive increase in military aid to Columbia can be stopped. But only if we are willing to act as responsible citizens. Democracy and decent government cannot happen without the active involvement of citizens. A decent and moral foreign policy will only happen if we are willing to demand it.
Glen T. Martin
(Published in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, 9 July 1999)
This summer I traveled once again to Cuba and Nicaragua. It was my third trip to Cuba over the past three years. There were no restrictions on where I traveled, what questions I asked, nor with whom I spoke. Over these years I have spent time not only in Havana but in Matanzas, Camaguey, and Guantanamo, and have talked not only with university professors but with people from all walks of life, including many ordinary working people. I am trying to find out the real truth about life in Cuba as well as about their political system.
But traveling abroad also helps me understand my own country, and its real truth. I want to understand why the United States, with the complicity of citizens like you and me, is willing to strangle these people economically to the point where they suffer and die. I want to understand why we are willing to destroy so many countries, such as Iraq, North Korea, North Vietnam, Sudan, Cuba and Libya, through the viciousness of economic warfare designed to hurt an entire population, including innocent children.
Before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba was an economic satellite of the US, with big corporations exploiting cheap Cuban labor (cheap because they were so poor) and exporting cheap Cuban natural resources back to the US. Before the revolution, the US supported a brutal dictator named Batista who tortured and murdered his own people to stay in power. Before the revolution poor and unemployed Cuban women by the thousands sold their bodies on the streets of Havana to earn enough money to feed their children, and many of those same children crowded the streets begging for survival, instead of going to school.
Today in Cuba all this has changed. All children attend school, which is free through the university level. There is little or no prostitution. Employment is close to 100%. And there is free, universal health care for the entire population. Cuba has more doctors per capita than most countries in the world. And Cuba has a constitution, adopted in 1976, which guarantees all citizens the right to these things as well as to effective political participation in their society. It is not a dictatorship of Fidel Castro as the lies coming from Washington, DC would have it. Cubans elect representatives to municipal assemblies, to provincial assemblies, and to the National Assembly, the highest governing body in their country.
To understand why the US wants to destroy Cuba let us look at Nicaragua, to which I have also traveled several times. In 1979 the Nicaraguan people had a revolution which threw out a brutal US supported dictator named Somoza whose grandfather had been installed by the US in 1934. Conditions in Nicaragua were very much like those in Cuba before the 1959 revolution. The new government immediately instituted universal health care, a universal education program, a mass literacy program, a land reform program to give land to the starving masses, and economic reform to bring the masses out of horrible poverty and misery. But the US was not going to allow another successful Cuba type revolution, so our government (with the complicity of you and me) immediately organized the Contra Army, housed in another country (Honduras), and an economic blockade to kill and starve the people until they gave up their revolutionary idea. You and I (and our government) were successful in this bloody plan and the revolutionary government was thrown out in 1990. What Washington calls "democracy" was restored to Nicaragua.
Today (1999) thousands of women again sell their bodies on street corners in the capital city of Managua to try to feed their children. Today thousands of children, not in school, spend all day on other street corners begging for pennies from passing motorists in order to survive. Today there is 60-70% unemployment. Land reform has been destroyed and the rich have returned to claim their estates while the poor are losing their few acres on which to grow food. Bill Clinton said recently that "democracy" has been restored to Nicaragua and to all Latin American countries except Cuba. And the congressional act that tightened the economic strangulation of Cuba was called the "Cuba Democracy Act." This is what is in store for Cuba if their revolutionary society is destroyed by the US (with the complicity of you and me). What Washington means by "democracy" is really "private property and free enterprise" -- the freedom of the rich to exploit, dominate, and dehumanize the poor.
Glen T. Martin
(Published in Counterpunch, weekend edition October 3/5, 2003)
The United States administers a global empire. This used to be a secret. Through the 1990s, our government told us that we stood for democracy, freedom, and independence of nations worldwide (lying to us). But the majority of U.S. citizens refused to critically examine their government out of patriotism. Sheeplike, we acted in defiance of the founding fathers of our nation who distrusted the power of government, who realized that small acts of terrorism (which existed then as now) were nothing compared to the potential for tyranny from those who wield governmental powers.
From the late 1940s to the 1990s, most citizens of the U.S. thought that patriotism meant blind faith in the pronouncements of our leaders, even when the public statements of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson, Ford, Carter, Regan, Bush, and Clinton were shown by a few decent and honest critics in this country to be one lie after another. They told us we stood for "democracy" against the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union and people (like children) wanted to be patriotic and believe the lies from Washington.
Meanwhile the U.S. government secretly overthrew the democratic governments in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, carpet bombed Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1960s and 70s, helped install a dictator in Indonesia in 1965 (at the cost of half a million lives), overthrew the democratic government of Chile in 1973 and destroyed the democratic government of Nicaragua with a terrorist army based in Honduras in the 1980s. The list goes on and on, and any informed, honest citizen will be well aware of it.
But such blind patriotism destroys democracy and corrupts the people who blindly follow their corrupt and deceitful leaders. Today, we reap the whirlwind, the judgment of God, so to speak, the consequences of our trashing the vision of the founding fathers. For today, our leaders no longer keep it a secret. They openly admit and act on the truth that the United States runs a brutal, world-wide empire based on the immense military might of the Pentagon and the immense domination of U.S. multinational corporations over the global economy.
The Bush government does not even try to cover up its lies. It simply makes all public records that world expose its lies "top secret." It openly censors and suppresses the truth, and we do not care because our patriotism has corrupted us to this sorry extent. They know they can count on the loyality of the majority of the U.S. who are willingly coopted by the thinnest and most transparent tissue of lies.
We openly invade sovereign nations, ignoring the United Nations and world opinion. We led NATO to do this to Yugoslavia in 1998 (killing many more innocent civilians than were killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center). We bombed the towns and villages of Afghanistan, destroying more homes and lives or poor, innocent peasants (men, women, and children) in that bleeding country than were killed during 9/11. And we openly invaded, conquered, and established a military dictatorship in Iraq in defiance of world opinion and the United Nations, again killing thousands more innocent civilians than were killed in 9/11.
Democracy has its moral basis in truth, tolerance, freedom, and respect for human dignity. These are all universal values. If we are loyal to these universal values, then we cannot at the same time be blindly loyal to one government or nation. We corrupted ourselves with our blind patriotism of the late 1940s to 1990s to the point where patriotism today most often means openly supporting the empire (under self-serving lies like "liberating Iraq"), the oppression of freedom worldwide, global economic exploitation and domination, and even the suppression of freedom at home.
Those honest people who believe in universal values should not attempt to redefine "patriotism" so that it looks as if holding universal values is what is "really" patriotic. We need to repudiate that term. Decent and honest people resist the empire out of universal moral values, out of justice, not out of patriotism. It is universal values like justice and compassion that make us human. Patriotism only divides us from our suffering brothers and sisters worldwide.
Our war against the poor majority in Columbia who are struggling for a decent society used to be covered up under the lie of a "war on drugs." Today, in Columbia, we send ever more billions of dollars in weapons and training to the country with the worst human rights record of the past three decades while openly declaring that we are trying to crush its revolution. We no longer hide our global lust for world-wide domination. Patriotism corrupts, and absolute patriotism corrupts absolutely.
Recently, our unelected, dictatorial President George W. Bush visited Africa, beginning with the country of Senegal in West Africa. According to one Senegal witness, just before his visit 1500 people were arbitrarily arrested and jailed for the duration of his visit. U.S. military planes flew over the capital city of Dakar night and day so the people could not even sleep for the noise. About 700 U.S. security personnel arrived with their dogs, their own cars, and high tech equipment. They would not even let Senegal security personnel near the U.S. President.
Bush even brought his own armchair and furniture and would not use Senegal furnishings. All trees in places where Bush passed were cut down, some of them over 100 years old. All roads going downtown (where schools, hospitals, and businesses are located) were closed down during his visit. People were not allowed to go to school, the hospital, or work. The list of indignities continues. One Senegal economist estimated that this poor country lost an immense amount of money by being shut down in this way by the visit of the American President.
The message, of course, was that the United States is the world dominator and that these poor and weak countries are in effect ours to do what we want with. The arrogance and lack of respect for the people of Senegal are astonishing. These arrangements remind one distinctly of Caesar, Napoleon, the Czar, Hitler, or Stalin. They are the actions of world dominators surveying the empire with utter disdain for the people whose lives and economies they crush.
Any informed person knows that Bush and his junta are utterly corrupt. They openly assign multi-billion dollar contracts to their former business partners without any competitive bidding. They openly represent the big oil companies in Alaska, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They openly oppose environmental regulations for their friends in big business. They openly lie. They openly defy world opinion and invade any country they please.
The really sad part is that our absolute patriotism has corrupted us: we, the people in the United States. We are no longer outraged by anything our government does. We are blindly obedient and, therefore, have thrown away the moral basis of our existence as human beings and as a country. That moral basis rested on loyalty to the universal values of truth, tolerance, freedom, and respect for human dignity. Blind patriotism, loyalty, and obedience to one nation or government are not legitimate moral values. As a nation, we have corrupted ourselves absolutely.
Glen T. Martin
(Roanoke Times Newspaper, 2 January 2004. Also posted on web sites for Counterpunch and Nonviolence.org)
Recently I have been reading the gospels of Jesus Christ once again (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The teachings of Jesus about how to live our lives are astonishing.. Essentially Jesus says that all our worldly values must be turned upside down, for God’s judgement is on the rich, on "the nations," and on the powerful of the world. God’s love and mercy are for the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed (Matt. 25: 31-40)
In this spirit, Jesus condemns the Pharisees, the respectable religious people of his day, for they perform the empty rituals of worship but do not live authentic lives of service to the kingdom of God. Jesus says he has come to bring the kingdom of God to Earth. But the respectable religious and civil leaders of his day do not care for the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed. They prefer to be seen as respectable, as upholders of the established social, economic, and religious order.
As a professor who teaches "philosophy of religion" at my university, I have read extensively in the theology of Latin American Christians who have produced much wonderful Christian thought since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. One theme that emerges again and again in this literature is the deceptive nature of the great beast of the apocalypse (the Anti-Christ), symbolically described in the book of Revelation. For evil in our world does not present itself as evil.
Evil presents itself as "respectability," as the established way of doing things, as the accepted social morality of a society. Evil hides, they say, in everydayness, in business as usual, in what is given honors and the highest praise. Evil poses as its opposite, for the goal of the Anti-Christ is to prevent the realization of God’s kingdom on Earth, to destroy the possibility of human beings living together in love and peace upon the precious planet granted to us as our home by God.
If one thinks about it, this is fairly obvious. Evil could not be successful in preventing people from living together in peace and harmony on the Earth if it appeared to us as a hideous monster (the traditional image of the devil). We would see it for what it is and turn away in horror. But if evil can cloak itself in the image of good – if it can appear as its opposite, then the destruction of God’s kingdom on Earth can proceed unhindered.
This cloaking of evil is all the more necessary given the simplicity and clarity of Jesus’ teachings. He sums up his teaching with astonishing focus in the "great commandment" of Matthew 22. All of the law and the prophets (including the 10 commandments), he says, are summed up in the most fundamental command from God: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind....And like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
When his critics asked him "And who is my neighbor?" he again answers with great clarity through the story of the "good Samaritan" (Luke 10: 29-37). A man is beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite pass by the man on the other side for they don’t want to take risks and this might be a trap laid by the thieves. These are the respectable religious and civic leaders of Jesus’ day.
But Jesus says a "Samaritan" stops and helps the wounded man. To the respectable ears of Jesus’ day, this was outrageous. The Samaritans were foreigners from a different nation. They were not Jews (who considered themselves the true disciples of God in Jesus’ day). They were considered dirty, ignorant, and deluded foreigners not worthy of mention. They were "heathens," not followers of the true religion. Yet Jesus says a Samaritan loved his neighbor as himself. And he says that all people, like Samaritans, are our neighbors who must be loved as we love ourselves.
One wonders where the followers of Jesus are today? Saint Paul tells us that the early Christian communities were persecuted by the respectable established system of their day (the Roman Empire), for they refused to serve in the military and refused to recognize the established religious orthodoxy and social morality of their society. The early Christian communities were not about to send their children into the military to destroy the lives and countries of Samaritans and others who were their neighbors on this precious Earth.
Who are the Samaritans of today that we should love as ourselves? I’ll bet they are the good people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea. I’ll bet they are people of the Moslem faith, or people of no faith at all. Who are the followers of Jesus today that are persecuted in his name by the dominant system of evil that cloaks itself in the appearance of goodness and respectability?
I’ll bet they include the founder of the Christian group Voices in the Wilderness who was recently brutalized by U.S. military personal at Fort Benning, Georgia for doing non-violent civil disobedience against the U.S. Army School of the Americas. This top secret "school" trains foreign military in methods of torture and repression. Like economic exploitation, training in repression is another gift that our country gives to our "neighbors" in Latin America.
I see among the followers of Jesus today the three Catholic nuns in their 70s recently sentenced to federal prison for painting Christian symbols on the tip of a nuclear warhead in the midwest. They are resisting the respectable building of more and more hideous weapons of mass destruction by the great beast of our day. I’ll bet there were also many Christians among those brutally attacked by police recently in Miami. They were shot with rubber bullets, sprayed with cruel pepper spray, and beaten with clubs for non-violent witness to the evil system of economic exploitation being pushed on Latin American countries by the United States. This system is called "free trade," for evil presents itself with the appearance of respectability.
I see among the followers of Jesus the priest in New Mexico who has been preaching in his church against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He is author of many books on Jesus’ teaching of non-violent resistance to evil and injustice. This priest recently had a platoon of military recruits jog to the street in front of his house and stand there shouting at him, chanting "kill, kill, kill."
If we want to find the followers of Jesus in our day we need to look in the prisons, to those in shackles, to those being beaten and brutalized. We don’t have far to look. They are from all sects and churches within Christianity, but they have one thing in common – they are non-violently resisting the system of respectability and evil. If one has any doubts about who is who, just read the gospels. Read the teachings of Jesus about how his followers are to lead their lives.
If we want to discern the great beast hiding under the cloak of social morality and respectability, look to a country that spends nearly 400 billion dollars a year on weapons, bombs, and mechanisms of destruction. If we want to discern the evil built into business as usual, look at the U.S. corporations exploiting the labor of starving people in horrible sweatshops to produce the clothing that you and I purchase as "Christmas gifts" in our local superstores. Look at the corporations firing millions from their jobs in the United States so they can move overseas to increase their profit margins.
If we want to see the Apocalypse in action, look at the invasion and destruction of the Iraqi people, or the nightmare of chaos and suffering our government has forced upon the good people of Afghanistan. Evil is a system, not a person. As the Christians of Latin America say, it is a "system of sin." It is a system of people wearing suits and ties, driving fine cars, and giving the appearance of the highest respectability.
In reality it is a global system of economic and military domination and exploitation, just like the Roman Empire. Evil is a system designed to prevent us from loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Our neighbors include every person on this Earth. The purpose of evil is to prevent the realization of the kingdom of God on Earth. For the simple command of Jesus was to "love one another as I have loved you" and to live together in peace and harmony on our common home. There is a fitting bumper sticker that reads "God bless the whole world. No exceptions." If we are to follow the teachings of Jesus, we need to change the system that prevents this from happening.
Glen T. Martin
(A version of this was published in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, 26 May, 2004)
The furor about the U.S. use of torture arising from the revelations at Abu Ghraib prison has resulted in continuing revelations of similar forms of abuse in United States prisons, in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and elsewhere. It has also resulted in excellent articles about "Foolish dreams of American empire" from the Roanoke Times on May 14, 2004 and the May 15 New Yorker article by Seymour M. Hersh tracing the prison torture abuses to the very top of the U.S. power structure. The Times commentary points out that "empires require cruelty to subdue restive foreign populations." This is exactly to the point – the lust for empire and torture are inseparable. They go together.
What has been slow in emerging from the furor about torture is recognition that the United States has been an intentionally constructed global empire at least since World War Two. The U.S. has acted to place itself at the center of a global empire directed toward controlling the wealth-producing process worldwide and guiding wealth and cheap raw materials into the hands of the world’s dominant corporations. It has acted to crush popular movements around the world in which people have attempted to take control of their own destinies through unionizing, land reform, defending political rights, or attempting to control the wealth-producing process in their own interests.
The United States emerged from the war as the world’s superpower, since all its contender industrial powers (Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Japan) had been devastated by the war. Postwar planners in their then top secret documents sketched out a postwar strategy that included U.S. control of a "grand area" (that included most of the world) that was to be a service area for U.S. investments, resources, and cheap labor. Noam Chomsky (in books like What Uncle Sam Really Wants) and others have documented this at great length.
Formerly top-secret government papers such as State Department Policy Planning Study number 23 (1948) announced that in order to "maintain the disparity" in wealth in relation to the rest of the world, the U.S. government would have to "cease to talk about vague and...unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization." From now on it would have to "deal in straight power concepts." The planners understood that "straight power concepts" meant torture, military destruction of peoples who resisted, overthrow of democratic governments, and police repression throughout the "grand area."
This plan is unquestionably borne out in the factual record. Already, when the U.S. military entered Korea in 1945, before the Korean war, they forcibly removed the local government and instituted a puppet dictatorship at the cost of murdering about 100,000 people. Soon the United States CIA and military were engaged in brutally securing the "grand area" of the empire. They overthrew the democratic government of Iran in 1953 and placed the Shah of Iran in power who was infamous for his use of torture. They overthrew the democratic government of Guatemala in 1954 and installed a military junta that tortured and murdered about 200,000 Guatemalans during the next 40 years.
The U.S. installed a merciless dictatorship in South Vietnam and bombed Cambodia and Laos to ribbons during the 1960s and 70s, the U.S. military using torture, massacre, and extermination bombings of defenseless villages routinely in Southeast Asia through its withdrawal in 1975. Then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stated in a famous speech on U.S. television that "Asian people do not respect human life the way we do." This sounds very much like Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush who recently stated that a few bad soldiers do not reflect "the goodness of the American people."
The U.S. helped engineer a coup in Indonesia in 1965 that brought the brutal dictator Suharto to power at the cost of half a million lives and routine torture of dissidents. In the U.S. backed coup in Chile in 1973 (that destroyed Chilean democracy), they immediately turned the sports stadium in Santiago de Chile into a torture center with horrible sexual and gruesome forms of torture routinely applied to all prisoners. Very similar to Abu Ghraib prison. Amnesty International reports on the systematic use of torture in all these places remain available.
This pattern continues to the present with the horrendous atrocities of the U.S. directed Contras against the Nicaraguan people in the 1980s and the U.S. military "advisors" and CIA agents supporting the El Salvadorean torturers of their own population during the 1980s that left 80,000 dead, disappeared, or tortured to death. The U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 was a military invasion of a highly populated urban area to arrest one person: Manuel Noreiga. It left the neighborhood destroyed and close to 1000 innocent Panamanians dead. The message in this kind of routine disregard of the lives of innocent third world people (from Panama to Yugoslavia in 1998 to Afghanistan and Iraq today) is not lost on the subjugated peoples of the empire.
The U.S. army training of Latin American military at what was called the "School of the Americas" in Fort Benning, Georgia, has produced dozens of horrible torturers and mass murders, while the Army claims it teaches them "human rights." In 1992, a training manual was smuggled out of the school which taught people torture and assassination as political tools. The policy is not simply reflected at this school, however. Explicit U.S. foreign policy is built in part on the training of foreign military personnel worldwide in techniques of "counter-insurgency warfare." This means, in covert foreign policy terms, techniques of terrorizing and brutalizing their own populations.
It is important to realize that use of torture is not just for just for information. Its use is integral to the primary necessity of empire – to create terror in subject populations. The official line of the U.S. military is that torture does not work because the victim will say anything and the information is not "righteous." However, the torturers are experts in discerning what is "righteous" from what is not.
But that is not the main point. When the tortured just names the names of everyone he or she knows, this is valuable as well. The U.S. supported dominators – in El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Indonesia, East Timor, South Vietnam, and elsewhere – have routinely arrested, murdered, or brutalized everyone named. Similarly, human rights organizations have estimated that 70 to 90 percent of the brutalized inmates at Abu Ghraib prison are innocent of resisting the U.S. invasion of their country. The target is not just "subversives." It never has been. It is necessarily the general population – who are required to live in terror.
Edward S. Herman in The Real Terror Network describes the "institutionalization" of torture as U.S. foreign policy in the 1960s and 70s. It became a systematic feature of covert foreign policy. When tortured and maimed bodies were regularly found by relatives in garbage dumps in El Salvador or Guatemala, when tortured people were released in East Timor to tell their story, when photographs of extreme humiliations were taken in Abu Ghraib prison, this has real political effectiveness in the service of covert foreign policy. Empires, indeed, require cruelty "to subdue restive foreign populations."
For a revealing description of the economic side of the empire read David Korton’s When Corporations Rule the World, Michael Chossodovsky’s The Globalization of Poverty, or J.W. Smith's Economic Democracy. The several billion people living in the "grand area" must be forced into a condition of political apathy and hopelessness in which they do not attempt to make change. Their constant awareness of the incredible brutality to which they will be subjected if there is even a hint of political activity on their part is essential to keeping them in this condition.
The purpose of empires is always economic. The purpose of the U.S. empire is that the poor and wretched of the world should accept U.S. owned sweatshops paying starvation wages, and U.S. corporations extracting the resources and wealth from their pliant countries while they remain in poverty and misery. Without terror, people would never accept the brutal conditions of death deprivation, misery, hunger, and disease that most of the people in the "grand area" endure for their entire lives. Today, the top 20 percent of the world’s population owns 83 percent of the world’s wealth. Each year untold billions of dollars in wealth are transferred from the poorest 50 percent of humanity to the wealthy imperial centers of capital.
If the rights of the poor were respected – political rights and human rights – then they would organize and defeat the empire at will. They would take steps to use the resources of their countries to benefit their own people. This is exactly what empire cannot allow. Formerly secret Washington documents give this as the explicit reason for overthrowing the governments in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, and elsewhere. Only terror keeps subjugated peoples accepting the horror of their present lives. Terror and its corollary torture are absolute essential to U.S. foreign policy.
Economic domination and exploitation by imperial nation-states can only be ended through effective democratic world government granting enforceable economic and political rights to all people on Earth, and making economic exploitation illegal. Empires cannot be abolished from the Earth without creating a new world order that makes their existence impossible. The underlying assumptions of the United Nations and the current world order are two: the system of so-called sovereign nation-states and globalized monopoly-capitalism. A world order based on these premises makes empires inevitable.
The systematic use of terror and torture by the imperial nation states in their defense of empires can only be ended through enforceable democratic world law under non-military world government. Mere political resistance to the empire from within has been going on for as long as the empire has been going on. In nearly every case, the empire has won and millions (literally) have lost their lives resisting it. It won in Vietnam as well: destroying two million lives and creating an economic basket-case of a nation, riddled by chemical poisons, birth defects, and high cancer rates.
Resistance and criticism alone are not enough. The empire’s propaganda machine is immense and will always be able to convince the majority in the imperial center that "these abuses do not reflect the true goodness of the American people." We must have a positive vision of a transformed world order. The Eighth Provisional World Parliament – on behalf of emerging enforceable world law – will be held in Lucknow, India, August 10-14, 2004. Only together can we can build a decent future for humanity.
Glen T. Martin
It is important to consider what kind of Christianity can be attributed to George W. Bush and some of the Neo-conservative junta who have taken over the Executive Branch of our government. To say the least, their record of destruction illustrates a very strange version of the Gospels. To support this cabal is to support putting an end to democracy in our country as well as perpetual aggression and war against people in other countries. It is to support crushing the life out of thousands of men, women, and children in Iraq and Afghanistan who have never done us the slightest harm.
Supporting the "Christian" Bush means to support Pentagon training of brutal torturers and murderers at the Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Georgia and other facilities devoted to repression of popular movements worldwide. It is to support the destruction of environmental laws and protections that U.S. citizens worked so hard to develop over the past 40 years. It is to support the gutting of programs for the poor and elderly and seriously diminishing the legal protections for working people. How can all this be derived from the Gospels of Jesus Christ? The answer is, it cannot.
It appears that Christians such as George W. Bush orient their faith through the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. They do not follow the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. The teachings of Jesus are very clearly about love of God and other human beings, about forgiveness, compassion, nonviolence, and a transformed life of gentleness and mercy. One sometimes sees a bumper sticker reading "My boss is a Jewish carpenter." But one suspects the real boss of many, including George W. Bush, is the Book of Revelation.
At the Council of Carthage in 397, when the books of the present Bible were selected from a wide range of alternatives, the Book of Revelation was one of the most controversial and was nearly voted down by a significant minority of the early Christians present. It was nearly excluded from the Bible. And no wonder. Its unknown author spews forth a lurid and ugly symbology depicting a final war between the forces of good and evil in which good ultimately destroys evil and sends her (she is depicted as a woman) to hell forever. As many commentators have pointed out, the book is full of hatred for "the evil ones." It is full of the desire for revenge on one’s enemies, and violence. This symbolism is very much the opposite of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.
Here is where many Republo-Christians like George W. Bush focus. They think they are fighting a righteous battle on the side of a very ill-tempered and vengeful Old Testament God. They want the destruction and domination of all they conceive to be enemies. And they repeatedly imply, with frightening dogmatism, that anyone who does not see the world in their simplistic black and white categories has sided with "the enemy."
As the recent Presidential debate between John Kerry and George W. Bush underlined, Bush thinks that vague, dogmatic slogans can substitute for careful analysis and mastery of the facts. As the debate also made clear, he has no qualms about lying to the American people. Both traits are characteristics of those who believe they are at war and that, in war, "anything goes."
Bush appears to see himself fighting the final battles luridly depicted in the Book of Revelation. The symbology of this book is notoriously vague. The book has been interpreted in the service of people’s fears and lust for revenge ever since it was written. The first obvious target was the Roman Empire that persecuted the early Christians. There is clear hatred of the Romans expressed, for example, in the constant repetition of the number 7, representing, everyone knew, the 7 hills upon which Roman had been built.
But in every age, some Christians thought they were living in "the end of days" and turned to war and violence in the service of this book and its symbolism. The great 19th century novelist Fydor Dostoyevski wrote a novel called The Brothers Karamozov. This novel contains a story about Jesus returning to Earth during the Inquisition of 16th century Spain when the Church was burning "heretics" and "witches" to death by the thousands. Jesus is arrested by "the Grand Inquisitor," a prominent Christian leader of the Inquisition. The Inquisitor visits Jesus in prison and realizes who he is, since Jesus responds with only love and compassion to everything the Inquisitor says to him.
Finally, the Inquisitor says, "No one can live according to your teachings. They are much too difficult. That is why we Christians have gone over to the other side. We have accepted all three of the temptations offered to you by Satan. We have accepted earthly power and wealth, false faith, and miracles. And that is why tomorrow I will burn you at the stake."
Let us recall that in one of the three temptations, Satan brings Jesus to the top of a mountain overlooking all the kingdoms of the Earth and says "All this I will give to you if you will bow down and worship me." Today, through worship of the Book of Revelation rather than the living Gospels of Jesus, Republo-Chrsitians like George W. Bush have accepted their nation’s position as military and economic dominator of the globe. And they do not think in terms of justice, equality, and decency for all persons on that globe. Rather, they think they are soldiers in a war of good against evil. They follow a lurid, simplistic, and frightening symbology glorifying "holy-war," violence, and the desire for revenge. They are the mirror image of Islamic fundamentalists who fight the same "holy war" with the sides reversed.
In every age, including 21st century America, we again and again reenact the crucifixion of Christ. With every innocent Iraqi or Afghanistani child murdered, Jesus is again crucified. This, to me, characterizes the "Christianity" of George W. Bush.
Glen T. Martin
November 10, 2004
This is the first opportunity that I know of when you have asked for input from the people on your mailing lists. Thank-you. Perhaps this is the proper time for input, since you would not have listened to me prior to the election. I have put serious thought into my reply. I hope you are willing to seriously consider my thoughts.
The Democratic Party has failed this country consistently since at least the end of the Second World War, most clearly in the past 40 years during which I have been a registered Democrat. The party leaders have done their best to move closer and closer to the Republicans ideologically and to corrupt leadership in general for three main reasons:
(1) Those who control the party believe that the average American is a closet Republican who is too stupid to want real progressive leadership for peace, justice, healthcare, civil liberties, honest government, and decency in foreign policy. They are wrong about this.
What keeps the average American "stupid" is the vast propaganda machine run by our militarized government in concert with the big corporations (including those that own the mass media) that dominate most politicians and the government itself. There are ways to neutralize this propaganda machine through removing the media from corporate control, removing the influence of private money in politics, and reforming the "national-security state" based on secrecy and deception.
But the Democratic Party is unwilling to stand for these facets of real democracy. Rather than educate for democracy, and develop an informed and vibrant electorate who would then most certainly vote "democratic," it is easier to move ever closer to the propagandized and brainwashed electorate as we find them. That way the Democratic Party does not have to change the system itself that is washing any semblance of real democracy down the toilet in this country.
(2) Those who control the party have ever-more placed themselves in the big-corporate bed and believe they need to cater to corporate interests to be successful. Some of them are themselves corporate executives or members of the wealthy elite who are concerned most basically at maintaining the system of profits for the rich at the expense of everyone else.
Again, the deeper question is not how the Democratic Party can win in 2008. The real question is whether we have, or can have, a decent democracy based on real freedom of speech, information, constitutional rights, civil liberties, and an informed electorate. Corporate interests in general, and the interests of the wealthy elite, are not the interests of democracy. Where does the Democratic Party stand on these issues? How can you claim to be the "party of the people" when you cannot find real, democratic values that inspire ordinary people to follow you?
(3) Those who control the party agree with the rest of the ruling class (Republican and Democrat) that global empire, foreign imperialist wars, and economic exploitation of the rest of the world (so-called global free trade protected by a world-wide network of military bases, economic blockades, and systems of financial control of the poor countries by the rich) are the proper foreign policy of the United States. President Bill Clinton, for example, was one of the greatest promoters of this global economic empire.
You may disagree on tactics (Kerry said he would conduct the invasion of Iraq more intelligently and bring in other imperial nations to a larger "coalition"), but the issue of maintaining a global empire of exploitation and domination is not on the agenda for discussion. President Lyndon Johnson (another Democrat) escalated the genocidal massacre of the people of Vietnam. President Bill Clinton led the horrific bombing of the civilian population of the former Yugoslavia. On this point of a strategy of global domination and exploitation you agree fully with the Republicans. You only disagree on minor tactics.
Hence, even though I worked for Kerry’s campaign and voted for Kerry, I see you for what you are: nearly equally as corrupt as the Republicans. You care only for power, not democracy. You care only for promoting the present system, not justice. You care only for global domination, not peace. You ultimately care only for the rich, not general prosperity and equity.
You have asked my advice about how to move forward. My advice is to examine your pitiful, corrupt party machine and try to come up with some real values to stand by. I don’t mean a "party platform" that gives lip service to justice, equity, or freedom. I mean real values that inform your lives and become the source of inspiration for millions who will see clearly that you are not hypocrites and are willing to support genuine work for a new and decent world order.
On these grounds you can honestly expose the Republicans for what they are – which you cannot now do because you are now nearly as hypocritical as they are. Instead of Kerry voting for the Invasion of Iraq and campaigning that he would do a better job of this monstrous, immoral destruction of another people, a decent Democrat would speak the truth about such war crimes and work to set up tribunals to prosecute the criminals (Democrat or Republican) who have committed these crimes against humanity.
Is politics so corrupt, and the Democratic party so corrupt, that you cannot find any decent values upon which to authentically operate? In the last election, many Americans said they voted for Bush because of "moral values." They want moral leadership, and it is a tragedy that their need to vote on moral grounds has led to this need being perverted by the criminal Republican agenda in the name of morals. Surely, the democrats could do better at articulating a set of real moral values (issues of peace, justice, freedom, civic responsibility, equity, civil liberties, healthcare, death penalty, etc. are all based on moral values).
Surely, people’s need for moral leadership does not need to lead them (as the Republicans have just done) to vote for genocide in Iraq, bombing of other countries at will, destroying freedom at home, torturing suspected terrorists, cutting social services for the poor, bankrupting the national budget, destroying worker protections, and destroying the environment?
If you were not such hypocrites yourselves, you surely could find real values that could provide leadership for the majority in this nation. Stop being corporate lackeys, and stop pretending you are Republicans. Get a backbone! Stand for real democracy, and lead a moral revolution in this country based upon real values. That is my advice.
Glen T. Martin
December 10, 2005
Secretary of State Condolisa Rice began her recent European tour with the assertion "We do not torture" and the desired propaganda effect began to happen. People began to debate the extent to which this statement is true or false. After the Abu Ghraib torture revelations, George Bush asserted that "A few bad apples do not affect the essential goodness of the American people" and the desired propaganda effect began to happen. People began to debate "how high up" in the chain of command the decision to torture extended.
The propaganda is effective because we refuse to face the truth about ourselves. We lack context within which to see the statements of political leaders as systematic lying and deceit. It is not that political leaders as individuals are corrupt. George Bush is no more corrupt than was Bill Clinton. It is that the imperial system itself generates systematic lying and deceit. Because people refuse to recognize the system, they are deceived into debating details as if they were real issues: "To what extent does the U.S. condone torture?" and other misleading issues.
As Harold Pinter said in his recent Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them....You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good." The immensely powerful propaganda system distracts people into debating particular issues as if the crimes of the country were aberrations from an essentially democratic, well-intentioned system. This is not the case.
An empire is a system of domination directed, like all empires, to the economic exploitation of victims by dominators. Empires torture, destroy, and repress people who are in the way of the system of exploitation and domination. Empires systematically generate a myth of superiority, goodness, and higher civilization for the consumption both of the dominating population and control of the dominated. The Roman Empire, aspiring to dominate the known world, created the fable of "Roman law, Roman citizenship, and Roman civilization" to cover up its torture, murder, and slaughter of dominated peoples.
The United States began with the mythology of "manifest destiny" and a corresponding doctrine of "superior sovereignty." Manifest destiny was a mythology justifying the rape and pillage of the North American continent and extermination of its indigenous population by the expanding United States. Superior sovereignty was the Machiavellian ideological device by which this atrocity was accomplished. In the 1820s and 30s Supreme Court Justice John Marshall and others developed the "Marshall Doctrine" which asserted that, while Indian nations were "sovereign," the U.S. possessed "superior sovereignty." Superior sovereignty meant that the Indians had to abide by their treaty agreements with the U.S. but the U.S. was not bound by its treaty agreements. It could break its agreements as its self-interest dictated.
Armed with the doctrine of "superior sovereignty" the ascending empire pillaged the lands of the indigenous peoples of America and effected a genocide in which, by the turn of the century, only an estimated two percent of the original indigenous population of America were still living. Superior sovereignty continues to be the doctrine of U.S. foreign policy as it invades or overthrows countries at will but denies any other nation the right to interfere within the "sovereign integrity" of the United States itself. In the case of U.S. versus Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. in 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the U.S. president "total power over foreign policy, including the right to ignore the Constitution." The protections that applied to U.S. citizens prior to the implementation of the recent Patriot Act did not apply to U.S. foreign policy actions. In its foreign policy, the U.S. can violate the rights of others with impunity, as can any other sovereign nation-state.
Such a doctrine was in fact necessary, for no empire can dominate and exploit its victim populations without the use of military repression, torture, and indiscriminate slaughter. In the 19th and early 20th century the United States used its military power routinely to dominate its empire in Latin America with dozens of "interventions" in the service of U.S. economic interests, including the invasion and occupation of Nicaragua by the marines for thirteen years between 1912 and 1925. In the Philippines, the Philippine people had fought bitterly to successfully defeat the Spanish by 1898 when the U.S. Navy arrived. The U.S. proceeded to brutally slaughter hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in its consolidation of their country as a U.S. colony.
U.S. foreign policy in general, however, focused not on conquest of foreign nations but on solidifying its domination through supporting brutal client dictators who opened their nations to the exploitation of cheap resources and semi-slave labor by U.S. multi-national corporations. Hence, the U.S. supported neo-fascist dictatorships throughout the world from Marcos in the Philippines, Diem in South Vietnam, Somoza in Nicaragua, to Batista in Cuba. U.S. military aid and training to regimes that routinely practiced torture and slaughter through counter-insurgency warfare circled the world from Indonesia to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
U.S. support for counter-insurgency warfare (war by a government against its own population) in Greece in the late 1940s resulted in tens of thousands killed and 60,000 sent to "reeducation camps" to be tortured or executed. The U.S. arranged the overthrow of the democratic government of President Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 and instituted a series of military dictatorships that tortured and wiped out 200,000 people in the next few decades. The U.S. helped the psychopathic General Suharto to power in Indonesia in 1965 in which he wiped out a half a million of his own countrymen in the process. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta gave Suharto a list of 5000 names of political enemies to help him consolidate his power who were rounded up, tortured, and executed. The U.S. helped the brutal General Pinochet to overthrow the democratic government of Chile in 1973 in which the sports stadium in Santiago was turned into a massive torture center where political dissidents (defenders of the former democracy) were tortured and executed in mass.
The massive bombing of the civilian infrastructure of essentially defenseless North Vietnam during the last years of that war was the moral equivalent of torture. Two to four million people died in southeast Asia, the vast majority of them civilians. Torture surely ranks as an ultimate violation of human rights, but so does civilian death. Article 3 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of human rights states that every person has the right to life, liberty, and security of person. The U.S. policy of bombing its victims in order to minimize casualties for its ground forces constitutes the systematic use of atrocity by state terrorist forces. The same method of systematic atrocity was used in the massive1991 Gulf War bombing of the civilian infrastructure of Iraq. Nevertheless, U.S. foreign policy in the service of empire is multi-dimensional and the preference is to delegate atrocity and torture to the empire= s foreign lapdogs.
This is why the training of foreign military forces and the supplying of weapons to repressive regimes worldwide is so vital to the system of empire. Invasions such as that in Iraq are only the last resort. The empire also militarily backs up its worldwide system of economic exploitation through building military bases throughout the globe. According to the Sorrows of Empire by scholar Chalmers Johnson, the U.S. has 725 known military bases worldwide and many additional secret bases. After it led NATO in the military attack and overthrow of the former Yugoslavia in 1998, the U.S. constructed an immense military base in Kosovo. It is building several permanent military bases in Afghanistan and has built four permanent military bases since its invasion of Iraq. Even if "sovereignty" is turned over to a puppet Afghan or Iraqi government, and the army of occupation withdraws, the military control of the regions will remain assured.
U.S. foreign policy is based on a combination of military bases strategically placed worldwide to assure "full spectrum dominance" and the supply of weapons and training to client states for torture and murder of those within their countries struggling for freedom and justice. Empires require brutality to subdue their restive populations. This has been true from the time of Rome through the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, German, and British empires.
U.S. leaders are simply the ideological mouthpieces chosen by the Empire to convey to the American people the myth of "the goodness of the American people," the myth of being "the bastion of democracy" and the "defender of human rights." None of these slogans has the slightest basis in reality. The reality is domination and economic exploitation. The reality is the torture and murder necessary to keep these in place. The ideological aspect of this reality are the lies we insist on telling ourselves so that we may continue to believe in our own innocence. The population of the United States will go to almost any length to protect its illusions. We have a deep need to convince ourselves that we are not complicit in the systematic torture and murder of dominated peoples everywhere on Earth.
(Article invited by the Columbian journal
Translated into Spanish and published at
www.semana2.terra.com.co. May issue, 2005. )
Glen T. Martin
Profesor de Filosofía y Estudios Religiosos, Universidad de Radford en Virginia. Presidente de la organización International Philosophers for Peace. Secretario General de World Constitution and Parliament Association.
George W. Bush y la junta de neoconservadores que actualmente gobierna Estados Unidos sintetizan las fuerzas ideológicas que han controlado los destinos de este país desde sus orígenes en el siglo XVIII. Los fundamentos de esta ideología incluyen ideas que pueden ayudar a explicar el curioso y contradictorio comportamiento del país a lo largo de su historia de más de 200 años. Estos fundamentos, defendidos en variadas combinaciones por muchos de los miembros de la clase dirigente de Estados Unidos, pueden resumirse de la siguiente manera:
(1) Una concepción única de la Cristiandad Protestante según la cual ellos (y Estados Unidos) no solamente son los abanderados de la civilización sino que, además, son un instrumento clave en el Plan divino para mover hacia delante la historia hasta llevarla a su meta final
(2) Un papel único para Estados Unidos como la nación que en la historia del mundo se relaciona con el Plan de Dios (tradicionalmente se habla de este punto refiriéndose al “destino manifiesto”)
(3) El derecho de la clase dominante de Estados Unidos a acumular inmensas riquezas y poder que los colocan por encima del resto de la humanidad, para lo cual ha sido marcada por el destino (nuevamente, porque dicho destino se basa en la grandeza de su país y en la existencia de un Plan divino que exalta a esa nación) y
(4) Un sentimiento racista y etnocéntrico de ser superiores al resto de la humanidad en términos de características raciales, en términos de la posesión de una forma única (y excelsa) de Cristiandad, de su destino manifiesto y de su derecho y capacidad de acumular las inmensas riquezas y poder que los colocan por encima del resto de la humanidad.
George W. Bush y los Neoconservadores representan una condensación de los peores elementos de esa ideología. La Cristiandad de Bush se basa fundamentalmente en el Libro del Apocalipsis (la Revelación) de la Biblia en el cual se plantea una lucha final histórica entre las fuerzas de Satanás (el Mal) y las fuerzas de Cristo (el Bien) la cual concluye la historia tal como la conocemos. En la política exterior de Bush existen implicaciones que vinculan la religión musulmana con esa lucha.
Anteriores juntas de gobierno de Estados Unidos vieron el Mal en las luchas que los pobres libraron con el fin de organizar una vida decente para sí mismos a través de la reorganización de la economía y de las instituciones políticas. Para la clase dominante norteamericana eso era el “comunismo ateo” que destruía la “democracia”. En este discurso la palabra “democracia” se entiende como el derecho que tienen los ricos (que por ser ricos son superiores) de robar, explotar a los pobres del mundo y utilizarlos del modo que juzguen más conveniente.
El sentimiento de “destino manifiesto” en el seno de la clase dominante de Estados Unidos la condujo a formular una doctrina particular de “soberanía” nacional. El sistema político de nuestro mundo ha sido durante siglos el sistema de estados nacionales soberanos en el cual cada estado-nación tiene igual derecho que los demás de controlar sus asuntos internos, así como el derecho de tener una política exterior independiente. Debido a ese sistema, los Estados Unidos nacientes (en su expansión a través del continente norteamericano) se vieron obligados a tratar a las tribus indígenas como “naciones soberanas” con las cuales se podía establecer tratados en materia de comercio, política exterior, etc.
No obstante, el destino manifiesto de Estados Unidos consistía en conquistar el continente (como parte del proceso de barrer los pueblos indígenas y paganos que allí habitaban). A la luz de este destino, el magistrado de la Corte Suprema John Marshall y otros en 1831 formularon la doctrina de la “soberanía superior”. Según dicha doctrina todas las naciones son igualmente soberanas; pero Estados Unidos goza de una “soberanía superior” que le permite romper tratados, invadir otros países a voluntad e interferir en sus asuntos internos a la vez que les prohíbe a los demás países portarse del mismo modo hacia Estados Unidos.
En la actualidad el destino manifiesto proyecta esta doctrina de la “soberanía superior” sobre todo el mundo. Estados Unidos tiene el derecho de interferir en los asuntos internos de todos los gobiernos del mundo, otorgándoles una inmensa ayuda militar a gobiernos que violan los derechos fundamentales de sus ciudadanos (como en el caso de Colombia, Chile bajo Pinochet, Egipto, El Salvador, Guatemala e Indonesia), o de interferir en elecciones (como en Italia después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, en Cuba antes de 1959, en Nicaragua y en Venezuela actualmente). Estados Unidos tiene el derecho de bombardear o invadir países en todo el mundo a su voluntad (como en Nicaragua en los años 80, Vietnam, Camboya y Laos en los años 60 y 70, Yugoslavia en 1998, Afganistán e Irak en la actualidad).
El capitalismo monopolista mundial trabaja de la mano con el sistema imperial de estado nación. El destino manifiesto de Estados Unidos no solamente involucra una concepción del papel de Estados Unidos en la lucha contra el “Mal”, sino que también consiste en el destino manifiesto de Estados Unidos de dominar al mundo. El gobierno imperial de Estados Unidos también tiene que promover la riqueza y el poder de su clase dominante a expensas del resto del mundo.
En la actualidad esto se denomina “libre comercio” globalizado que está desarrollando un conjunto de instituciones económicas globales (a través de la Organización Mundial del Comercio, el Banco Mundial, el Fondo Monetario Internacional y los acuerdos regionales de libre comercio) gracias a las cuales las empresas multinacionales norteamericanas colonizan el mundo, controlando a la vez el proceso de producción de riqueza y los recursos naturales del mundo al servicio del incremento ilimitado de su propia riqueza y su poder.
En la actualidad, y a lo largo de la historia de Estados Unidos, ha habido luchas internas en las cuales ha habido oposición contra esta ideología y sus trágicas consecuencias humanas para el resto del mundo. Sin embargo George W. Bush y los Neoconservadores son despiadados y no se detendrán ante nada en su impulso por promover la absoluta dominación del mundo por parte de Estados Unidos.
En la opinión de este escritor, ellos mismos tramaron los terribles acontecimientos del 11 de septiembre con el fin de justificar su toma del poder en Estados Unidos y promover su plan de dominación global. La única fuerza que podría oponérseles y detenerlos sería un movimiento mundial que reuniera a la gente y a las naciones de la Tierra que son partidarias de un gobierno mundial democrático que no se basara en la fuerza militar.
G-20 Meetings, September 2009
Glen T. Martin
Roanoke Times, 4 October 2009
September 27th was the final day of important meetings, with global implications, that the Roanoke Times has failed to report to the people of Southwest Virginia. For the past several days Pittsburg, PA, has hosted meetings of representatives of the world’s 20 largest economies. Leaders of the G-20 nations (formerly G-8) meet every year or two in consultation with banking and corporate elites to determine the economic fate of the world, including the fate of other 173 nations who have no voice in these deliberations.
These nations, whose ruling classes have all prospered from the world system of capitalist exploitation, have formulated economic policies each year that have increased the immense gulf between the rich and poor, vastly increased the number of suffering people in the world who are without healthcare, sanitation, or clean water, and continued the destruction of our planetary biosphere. Billionaire Warren Buffet has reportedly commented that there is, indeed, a class war going on. But that it is a war of the ruling class against the rest of humanity, and they are winning.
However, the struggle that has been engaged in the name of humanity and justice since the time of Marx continues in remarkable and creative ways. All over the world thoughtful, politically aware people have taken up the cause of resisting and abolishing this system of domination and exploitation and establishing an equitable, just, and democratic world order. We citizens of the United States should be proud that there are so many among us who are aware, committed, and engaged in the struggle for a decent world.
Part of the news story that makes Pittsburg unique – and the reason that those media who represent the ruling class are loath to report on Pittsburg – is that the entire center of that city has been such down by some 6000 militarized police, Homeland Security forces, and FBI, brought in from as far away as Florida, to repress the protests of the unions, environmentalists, human rights advocates, and social justice organizations that have descended upon Pittsburg. This astonishing scene represents our world order graphically: those who rule must be protected by armies of militarized police from the people over whom they rule. However, in the last ten years, the people of Earth have hounded and pursued their exploiters relentlessly everywhere they have tried to meet.
At the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999, authorities were taken by surprise and some 90,000 citizens actually controlled the streets of Seattle for a few days, making headlines worldwide to the effect that the people of Earth will no longer tolerate the economic horrors of unrestrained capitalism. At the time of the G-8 meetings in Okinawa, Japan, in 2000, hundreds of thousands of Japanese protested, including massive demonstrations in Tokyo. In Genoa, Italy, in 2001, huge numbers of Italian citizens interrupted the meetings while some protestors scaled smokestacks with giant signs condemning elite domination of the planet. In 2002, in Calgary, Canada, the G-8 meetings attempted to hide in a protected remote resort, only to find that Canadian citizens hounded and harassed their ability to do business as usual.
At the FTAA meetings in Miami in 2003, tens of thousands protested. But the ruling class had learned its lessons from Seattle, and the Miami police gave up all pretense that the police are there to protect our rights or freedoms. They bashed heads, used rubber bullets, and did mass arrests of law abiding citizens, establishing the role of the police as suppressors of freedom on behalf of the ruling class. It was similar in Los Angeles in 2004, in Edinburgh, England, in 2005, in St. Petersburg, Russia, 2006, in Rostock, Germany, 2007, and at Lake Toga in Hokkaido, Japan, in 2008. Thoughtful and politically aware people no longer allow the exploiters to meet in privacy, peace and security.
That is the significance of the 10,000 workers, students, and activists who marched through the intimidating gauntlets of hostile police that day in Pittsburg. For the last few days, the 6000 militarized police had made repeated illegal arrests, used violence, gas, and terror against the people. They disrupted legally protesting citizens at every opportunity. In spite of this massive assault on our freedoms, 10,000 marched with great courage to protest a world disorder in which the top 2 % own 47% of the world’s wealth, while the bottom 60% live on less than two U.S. dollars per day in poverty, misery, and despair.
The Ambiguous Role of Radford University
Glen T. Martin
How are we to develop personal moral vision and the courage to speak out – to speak truly, justly, and honestly even in the face of power? The great philosopher Immanuel Kant said the basic principle of morality is to treat every person as an end in themselves, never merely as a means. This means that every person has dignity, basic human rights, that must not be violated or degraded, protecting what psychologist Evelyn Lindner calls the "equal dignity" of all. The difficulty is how to universalize this, to apply this to all human beings, not only those of one’s church, race, class, country, or cultural group. In my book Millennium Dawn, I argued that there are three key factors necessary to make this universal respect for human beings a reality: compassion, nonviolence, and effective critical thinking.
Compassion, or what sociologist Kathleen Barry calls "empathy," involves the ever-increasing ability to feel as others feel. It draws upon our universal human condition, the fundamental humanity and sameness of every person on the planet, and requires continual and intentional cultivation. Our lives must grow into ever-greater levels of compassion and empathy for others. I believe that this is what Jesus Christ meant when he declared, in Matthew 22, that the great commandment was to love God and love other human beings as oneself. Agapē or compassion is the first requirement of an authentic moral vision.
Second, the realization that every human being is an end in his or herself, and our growing ability to identify with other human beings through compassion, leads to the personal decision to act in the world only with nonviolence. All violence destroys the dignity of others, denying their end in themselves status, and can only be executed through a lack of compassion, through dehumanizing them as an "enemy" or somehow unworthy of respect. Respect for the humanity of others is actualized in action through a life committed to nonviolence in word and deed.
Third, personal moral vision requires effective critical thinking. The dominant forces in any and every society in today’s world colonize the media to project a false picture of society and the world. These dominant forces attempt to cover up and legitimize what is deeply immoral: what is really going on and how things really work economically, politically, and militarily. The moral imperative to treat every person as an end in his or herself is deflected and distorted when we hold a false view of reality. One cannot have a valid moral vision if one remains duped, deluded, and unaware of the real facts and their context.
Nevertheless, these basic elements of personal moral vision that I have enumerated are among the most difficult things for people to achieve within most societies, including that of the United States. Since the Second World War, the United States has been the undisputed center of global capitalism and its correlative imperialism. It has presided over a world disorder that has reached the culmination and reaped the whirlwind of four centuries of capitalism. Today, more than 3 billion people (nearly half of humankind) live on less than $2.50 per day, in a condition of utter misery, hunger, and deprivation. In contrast, the richest 1% of the world’s population owns 50% of the world’s wealth.
Capitalism has devastated the planet. Its repeated collapses caused by the criminal greed institutionalized by law destroys the lives of billions of persons. It also devours the biosphere, our precious planetary environment, in its lust for profits. Yet American society is awash with the ideology and propaganda of capitalism. While 3.2 million Americans have lost their homes in the past three years, the U.S. government has bailed out the criminal banks with billions of dollars in tax-payer money. Some economists estimate that 22% of able bodied Americans are unemployed. Young people who wish to develop moral vision and courage must struggle with the pervasive power and systematic brainwashing of a society immoral to its very roots.
But the creation of massive poverty in the face of obscene wealth is not the only corruption of capitalism, for it could not throw the majority of humankind into misery without the backing of a gigantic regime of military force, systematic violence enforcing the institutionalized exploitation of the poor by the rich worldwide. Since World War II, U.S. forces have worked to overthrow democratically elected governments in dozens of countries and have directly invaded or launched aerial attacks against dozens of others, sowing immense levels of death and destruction.
You cannot have global capitalism without the corruption of military domination and destruction because ordinary people worldwide do not willingly work in horrendous sweatshops for starvation wages, nor do they willingly dismantle their social infrastructure through World Bank and IMF "structural adjustment programs." They must be terrified and tortured into acquiescence. U.S. society is sunk up to its eyeballs in moral corruption and support for worldwide state-terrorist criminal activity.
Radford University, like most universities, is thoroughly integrated into the structure of American society. For this reason there is an inherent contradiction between the mission of Radford University – to promote the lifelong intellectual and moral development of students so that they become active citizens with integrity, vision, skill, and knowledge – and the integration of the university into the deeply immoral fabric of American society.
It is no accident that RU accepted a $750,000 grant from BB&T Bank to host a series of lectures on capitalism, which the university proudly announces as "RU’s Global Capitalism Distinguished Speaker Series." It is also no accident that ROTC is thoroughly integrated into the university’s educational system. In the 26 years that I have been working at Radford University, I have never heard one faculty member or administrator, not one, ever question the educational legitimacy of training people to kill and destroy the lives, homes, and infrastructures of our fellow human beings around the world.
Just as the university quietly accepts brainwashing its students in the propaganda of capitalism so it passively accepts educating students into the system of murder and violence necessary to protect and promote capitalism worldwide. The educational mission of RU is hopelessly awash in such contradictions.
Instead of an institutional structure that promotes the student autonomy necessary for moral vision and courage, RU exhibits a paternalism that inhibits this development. In recent years, the United States government has embarked on a quest for totalitarian military domination of the entire planet under a veneer of lies called the global “war on terrorism.” It has also embarked on a quest to effectively destroy freedom and democracy within our own country through so-called anti-terror laws, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, Homeland Security regulations, and massive espionage. If education really promoted moral vision and courage in students, it would be promoting revolutionaries, nonviolent revolutionaries, in struggle against this system. Radford University, by contrast, socializes its students into active complicity with the deeply immoral framework of the larger society.
Nevertheless, despite these impediments, students, like all human beings, are tasked to become persons of moral integrity with the courage to express this integrity publicly. The institutional structure of RU, like the culture of the U.S. in general, is designed to inhibit this development. But we cannot entirely blame these institutions for our personal lack of moral autonomy. The resources to become critically thinking, compassionate, nonviolent persons are all around us, on the internet, in libraries (including the RU library), and in the streets. That is the imperative laid upon us all as human beings: to activate our deepest humanity. Such development will not only bring incredible fullness and meaning to our personal lives, it will ultimately determine the future of humanity on this planet. Either we transform the world order with a deep moral vision developed from critical thinking, compassion, and nonviolence, or we will fail on this planet, and of our legacy will become nothing but death and ashes.
 Lindner, Evelin, Making Enemies: Humiliation and International Conflict, London: Praeger International, 2006.
 Martin, Glen T. Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation, Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005, Chapter Three.
 Barry, Kathleen, Unmaking War, Remaking Men, Santa Rosa, CA: Phoenix Rising Press of Santa Rosa, 2011.
 Parenti, Michael, Against Empire, San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1995, p. 38 Klein, Naomi, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Metropolitan Books, 2007.
Black Friday, Black Institutions, and a Black Future?
This morning is Black Friday, the day that the profits of the retail community are said to run in the black, where some retailers open at 4 AM with droves of customers already waiting in line to take advantage of the sale prices. However, if the word "black" also connotes darkness, obscurity, loss of transparency (as in "blackout") or absolute secrecy (as in "black budget" or "black-ops") or loss of a future (as in "the future looks black"), then it may be that our entire season should be labeled "black" and that the sun tomorrow morning will not bring light, translucency, and a new day.
The three most pervasive dimensions of our society operate in the dark, outside of the light of transparency and the integrity that might be thrown upon them by democratic awareness and oversight. The first is government, which is no longer of the people, by the people, and for the people. The lion’s share of government today is secret from the people, and much of it secret from the people’s elected representatives in Congress. The spurious idea of a "war on terror" with elusive, indefinable enemies everywhere and no possible date of victory and restoration of peace, has led us into the darkness of governmental tyranny and secrecy, with corresponding corruption our democratic traditions.
The Pentagon’s "black budget" for 2010 tops 56 billion dollars, and funds "black-ops," in other words, secret wars, secret surveillance, secret assassinations, secret alliances (often with criminal elements), secret bases, and secret torture centers. Secrecy breeds corruption. It brings out the worst in human nature: torture, assassination, murder, greed, lawlessness, and lust. What operates in secret from the people destroys democracy and the rights and freedoms of the people, what we see all about us today in the loss of our personal dignity (as in our airports), loss of our right to security of person, loss of habeas corpus, and loss of our rights to freedom of association.
Yet the "black budget" is only the tip of the secrecy iceberg. A recent two year investigation by the Washington Post found that since 911 our government has created an immense secret government inside itself that includes "some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States" (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articles/). Democracy cannot survive darkness. Citizens cannot effectively participate in their civic duties of voting, governance, and democratic control of their society when they lack the necessary information and understanding of what is going on. Darkness breeds tyranny, and, as Chalmers Johnson maintained in his book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. He states there that it may be too late, that we may already have passed the point of no return from republic to tyranny.
The darkness of our times, however, is compounded by the economic secrecy of big business and corporate domination of government, employment, insurance, and commerce – essentially the entire framework of our modern lives. Since corporations are legally considered "private persons," what goes on in their executive meetings is hidden from view – both from citizens and from the government that supposedly is there to protect citizens and the common good. Like the secret government of the U.S., they command virtually unlimited control over vast sums of money to be used at their discretion for creating even more vast sums of money in the form of profits. Human beings cannot but be victims of this system of vast unaccountable wealth and secrecy: from destruction of the environment into which they externalize their costs to the third world victims whom they exploit in horrible sweatshops to the shoddy products designed to break with days after expiration of the warranty.
The 2010 Supreme Court decision known as "Citizens United" has now overthrown all restraints on corporate interference in the political process: the buying of political influence, elections, candidates, and putting our government effectively for sale to the highest bidder. Elected representatives no longer even hide the fact that big money determines their policies. According to news sources, Pennsylvania governor-elect Tom Corbett has openly composed his transition team of individuals who made contributions of more than $1.5 million to his campaign.
(http://www.lehighvalleyindependent.com/2010/11/tom-corbetts-government-for-sale-to.html) Corporate contributions to campaigns can even remain secret, so that the voters do not even know the sources of the campaign funds of the candidates whose qualifications they are supposed to evaluate.
Darkness descends over the political process just as it has descended over government operations. Black Friday is black indeed, since any control we the people might want to assert over our future appears to have been effectively blacked out. But what of our universities, the third major institution of our society, and traditionally thought of as bastions of independent thought, investigation, pursuit of truth, and therefore light? But a university is first a foremost a product of the society within which it is embedded. Embedded in a free society, a university can be a beacon of light. Embedded in a totalitarian society, a university’s mission is to transmit the darkness.
Today, the economics, political science, and business colleges of universities sing the praises of unfettered capitalism to new generations of students. Today, nearly every university gratefully prostitutes itself to corporate money and to the largess of military recruiting, ROTC programs on campus, complicity with secret "homeland security" programs, and Patriot Act enforcement. The darkness of the Pentagon and the hidden deceits of corporate strategies today inform the very structure of university campuses. The classroom becomes a vehicle for brainwashing future generations into the dogmatic ideologies of the dominant forces in society. As little light emanates from today’s classrooms as from today’s boardrooms or today’s "strategic operations" rooms.
Many of those who "shop till they drop" on Black Friday are shopping for Christmas gifts for family and friends. Many of them bemoan the fact that Christmas has lost its true meaning within the darkness of commercial culture. The original revelation, as the Gospel of John reports, came to humanity "to bear witness to the light. . . .The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world." Could it be that the darkness and corruption we have allowed to descend upon us have a Satanic dimension?
Could it be that the darkness of our government and the corporations that dominate our lives operate in deep violation of the "light that enlightens every man"? Could it be that truth itself is dying – in the way we govern ourselves, in the way we satisfy our economic needs, and even in the ways that we gather and transmit knowledge to future generations? Could it be that Black Friday, black government, black corporate domination, and black institutions of higher learning translate into a very possible black future for us all – a future of evil, corruption, and the perversion of our true human destiny?
Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Radford University and Chairperson of the RU Program in Peace Studies.
17. Freedom of Speech and
Outrageous Public Displays
Glen T. Martin
2 December 2011
The problems of free speech within a free, civil, and democratic society are immense. When does free speech become offensive and destructive of the framework of the common good? Clearly, the common good is not reducible to mere majority wishes, nor to majority ideas of what is appropriate. For vocal groups, or even some majority, may wish to limit speech in ways that endanger the framework conditions of civil liberty itself. The common good represents an (often constitutional) framework that protects both freedom and the opportunity for flourishing for the entire society, including minorities.
Article three of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that everyone has the right to "life, liberty, and security of person." This certainly includes the right to personal privacy in our homes and apartments. But does the right to security of person in public spaces go beyond physical security to the right not to encounter disturbing ideas and images? I do not think so.
Some segments within civil society may find certain forms of speech offensive or disturbing (for example, a recent anti-abortion display at Radford University here in southwest Virginia that included scenes from the Nazi holocaust), but the a priori framework of a free civil society can only be, and must be, the principle of maximizing freedom. Authorities of all sorts (from university administrations to city councils) must protect both liberty and security of persons – a difficult balance that may require resisting public pressure. Citizens clearly have the right to protest, or counter-protest, things they find offensive, but the responsibility of authorities is to protect the framework that makes all such expression possible.
Over the past 27 years, I have been involved with many protests and displays at Radford University. In the 1980s, my campus groups sponsored public displays of the maimed and tortured bodies of the victims of repressive US policies in Central America. Some on campus were outraged by the photos of these holocausts (some 200,000 tortured, maimed, or murdered by the US supported military in Guatemala alone). In the 1990s, my campus groups repeatedly set up displays of the atrocities committed by the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some on campus found these very offensive with their photos of horribly deformed people with massive radiation burns and their skin drooping from their bodies.
In the first years of this century, my campus groups set up a mock graveyard in front of the main university library, with many miniature coffins surrounded by large photos of dying, maimed, and starving children caused by the genocidal sanctions imposed by the US against Iraq. Some on campus were shocked by this and did not want these photos publicly displayed where they had to see them when walking in and out of the library. Should the university administration have made some statement that these displays were tasteless and offensive, or forced us to move to some remote part of campus where few would see? I do not think so. It is their business only to provide the framework for both our freedom and the physical security of persons.
There is now an emerging student and faculty movement called "Occupy RU." Should their speech be tasteful and unoffensive? What is the Occupy Wall Street movement about anyway? At its root, it appears to be about an obscene society, a society of homeless and unemployed people without healthcare, security, or hope ruled by an immensely wealthy elite who are both above the law and out of control. It is about a society that spends trillions of its citizen’s dollars destroying the lives and hopes of other peoples around the world in direct violation of both the wishes and the interests of the citizens at home. It is about a national security state that spies on citizens, arrests them arbitrarily, uses violence against unarmed protestors, and is itself an obscene travesty of democracy.
The fact is that we do not live in a free, civil, and democratic society – and this complicates the problem of freedom of speech even more. We live in a class society in which the 1% by and large own and control the means of communication. They use this control and their great wealth to blanket the citizens with slanted news and propaganda aimed at justifying the status quo and protecting their destruction of democracy. They do this, in part, through promoting patriotic jingoism – ideological illusions such as "democracy and free trade," "God and country," "free enterprise," "fighting terrorism," and "national security."
Our society is also clearly a war-society, in which the lion’s share of our public wealth becomes devoted to domination, surveillance, and destruction of those perceived as "enemies" at home and abroad. In war, anything goes, and that is why a war-society is the opposite of a free, civil, democratic society. Our militarized government lies to us continuously about their motives, and actions, and plans, and they actively attempt to prevent us from seeing the atrocities they regularly commit around the world. A war society, like a class society, is inherently destructive of speech in a wide variety of ways. It is an obscenity, and those who speak publicly are fully justified in making this obscenity public – even if this offends some sensibilities.
Under such conditions, tremendous pressure is placed on the authorities (from university administrations to city councils) to limit speech that protests these atrocities and to protect the institutionalized speech of the wealthy and the military that is designed to cover- up and hide the dark underbelly of a corrupt and undemocratic society. The one realistic option that citizens have if they wish to struggle for a just and democratic society is their speech, and their ability to raise public protest to truly disturbing and attention-getting heights. It is not a matter of having only the conditions for polite, civilized, and informed dialogue and debate (although this should be promoted whenever possible). It is a matter of the people using the last remnants of their freedom (formal free speech) to raise holy hell, to be offensive to the common sensibility, and especially to disturb those who are comfortable with class society and a war system and who wish not to be confronted with their complicity.
And that is why, if the authorities do not freely provide the conditions for both maximum liberty of speech and our security of person, the people are justified in nonviolent civil disobedience. They are justified in taking back their democracy, taking back their human rights, and throwing both their bodies and their speech against the repressive machinery of the authorities. Speech and action may well have to publicly display the obscenity – the holocaust – of a class-system linked to a war-system, totally out of control, that is everywhere raping and pillaging our planet and its citizens.
Corporate Colonization of the Curriculum
Glen T. Martin
(A version of this article was published in the Radford University Tartan 24 October 2012)
In universities around the country, corporate money is colonizing the curriculum, the research agenda, the infrastructure, and the thinking of administrators. The situation at Radford University is just one example.
Radford University has accepted the colonization of its curriculum by accepting ¾ million dollars from BT&T Bank to organize a course and a series of speakers on capitalism linked to the thought of neoliberal economic ideologist, Ayn Rand, who promoted a raw laissez faire capitalism independent of government regulation. The first question to ask, of course, is what interest BT&T bank has in doing this? Why did they not specify a course, for example, in the economics of Karl Marx? Or, if they want to support education, why not leave the subject open to RU’s experienced professors in the College of Business and Economics? The answer is plain: they want to promote a certain ideology at our university.
Students have a right to expect their classes to reflect the honest and best thought of their professors who are experts in their fields. Their education and their dignity are assaulted when they receive paid-for ideology and propaganda instead. The big corporations are working in our era to colonize the academic and educational process in the service of the interests of the 1% who own 37% of the wealth in this country. In the US, the top 20% of the population owns an astonishing 87% of the wealth. The ideology of Ayn Rand and Neoliberal economics constitutes the set of ideological lies justifying and covering up this system of domination and exploitation.
Under nationally accepted principles formulated by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), university faculty (as experts in their fields) are the ones to properly control curriculum. Under AAUP principles, faculty (as experts in their fields) have the academic freedom to investigate and pursue truth impartially, without administrative interference. Administrators have absolutely no place promoting a certain ideology to the university community in exchange for money. If the subject of capitalism and study of Ayn Rand are part of RU’s scholarly offerings, these must be critically examined and introduced by competent faculty experts. No university administration has a moral right to accept money to manipulate its curriculum in the interest of certain ideas. This strikes at the very heart of university integrity and at the pursuit of truth which is at the heart of a free society.
Background. For most of its history the U.S. has been characterized by a struggle between ordinary working people (the vast majority) and the corporate owners of industry, banking, transportation, and communications. The key to corporate domination in a society lies in the realm of ideas (ideology). If the population can be convinced of certain ideas they will accept conditions that are against their own interests and needs. During each of the great depressions in the U.S., the population expressed greater interest in “democratic socialist” ideas that included unemployment insurance, labor rights, social security, worker safety, employer health insurance plans, pension plans, etc. The corporations naturally resisted all of these initiatives because they would cut into the margin of corporate profits.
During the terrible depression of 1895 when workers were demanding these kinds of reforms, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) was formed to promote capitalism free from government regulation or restrictions. During the great depression that began in 1929, when President Roosevelt was struggling to formulate the New Deal reconciliation between labor and capital that gave labor a share in the profits through pension plans and other worker’s rights, the National Association of Manufacturers mounted a systematic nationwide campaign to oppose this. They were afraid of this “creeping socialism” that was eroding the profit margins of industry and capital.
The New Deal was quite successful for the average American worker for several decades, with wages and benefits steadily improving. The high point for wages and benefits in relation to inflation was in 1973. However, by then capital was big enough, and globalized enough, to begin a counter attack designed to roll back the New Deal and return American workers to a dependent, contingent status as a commodity to be used for the maximization of profit only. This was already the condition of workers in the third world where global capital was freely exploiting them without decent wages, benefits, or any form of job security. Capital was determined to return U.S. workers to a similar condition.
Beginning in the 1970s, NAM began colonizing faculty economists in various universities. It promoted a conversion from the dominant Keynesian economics (based on the work of John Maynard Keynes) which argued that government should regulate business to promote the common good, to Neoliberal economics that argued against all government regulation and for the freedom of capital to operate according to “free market” principles alone. Its big success in the universities was at the University of Chicago with the famous “Chicago School” of economics led by Milton Friedman which advocated this Neoliberal ideology.
Big business also began using its money to buy politicians and influence the making of laws. (Not that it did not always do this in one form or another.) Its first really big triumph was the election of President Ronald Reagan who began a systematic attack on the New Deal in favor of a globalized, raw “free market.” You can read the history of the suffering caused by the collusion between the Chicago School and the U.S. government in imposing “economic shock therapy” on many victim countries around the world in The Shock Doctrine. The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (2007). Another big victory for corporate domination of all aspects of life in the US was the “Citizens United” decision of the US Supreme Court in 2010 that gave corporations nearly unlimited right to use their immense wealth to influence the political process in this country.
Since the 1970s big capital also began developing international trade regulations to its own benefit in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and later in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the new right wing U.S. federal government led the way in this development (under both Democrat and Republican presidents). According to recent WTO regulations, corporations can sue governments if government labor, environmental, or other regulations cut into their profit margins while doing business in any WTO country. During this period, as well, the ideology of Ayn Rand, who taught a gospel of pure egoistic selfishness and survival of the fittest, became a key component in the development of Neoliberal economic ideology. Professor Emeritus of Finance, Edward Herman, describes Ayn Rand as follows:
“The novelist Ayn Rand, most famously the author of Atlas Shrugged, was an extreme proponent of individualist, free enterprise, anti-government ideology, and it is no coincidence that one of her cult admirers and associates, Alan Greenspan, became a leading member of the policy-making elite in the 1980s and into 2006. Greenspan contributed three chapters to Rand's 1966 book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, all of them reflecting her—and Greenspan's—ultra laissez-faire ideology. In one, Greenspan castigates antitrust law and practice as not merely harmful, but with the "hidden intent" of injuring the "productive and efficient members of our society." In another, he claims that all government regulation represented "force and fraud" as the means of consumer protection, whereas it is "profit-seeking which is the unexcelled protector of the consumer." http://www.zcommunications.org/neoliberalism-and-bottom-line-morality-by-edward-herman)
The grant from BT&T for a course in capitalism that includes the work of Ayn Rand, therefore, is consistent with this background in which big capital is using its immense resources to colonize the political and educational institutions within the U.S. to promote its Neoliberal ideology of pure greed and selfishness free of democratic governmental controls at home and worldwide. It is part of a larger effort mounted by big capital since the 1970s to roll back the New Deal and any sense of entitlement that ordinary working people (who produce the wealth through their labor) might have to share in the profits of business, banking, and industry.
That is why the arrangement at Radford University must be taken seriously, because it is part of this larger, devastating attack on the rights of ordinary people at home and abroad to a share of the world’s wealth and to live lives of dignity. Not only does the ideology of Ayn Rand attack this dignity at its heart but the fact of a university accepting this arrangement for the promotion of an ideology violates the academic freedom and pedagogical autonomy of the university, its faculty, and its educational mission.
Students deserve an education that empowers them to become productive and successful citizens in a viable democracy. That is what RU’s “citizen-scholar” program is supposed to be about. The colonization of the curriculum by the ideology of big business, at the expense of Radford University’s students and their future, strikes at the free pursuit of truth that is the student’s right to expect as the foundation of their education. Instead of the pursuit of truth guided by faculty experts trained in this process, which is the most democratic and empowering aspect of a higher education, we are given propaganda and ideology designed to colonize our minds and our future in the service of domination by the 1%. We need to resist, protest, and fight back in order to reclaim our university on behalf of its faculty and students.
Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy and Chairperson of the RU Interdisciplinary Program in Peace Studies