The U.S. Military Presence & its Impact on the World
This is an extended version of the October 2010 speech by author Mike Nuess to regional high school students on behalf of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, WA.
I was asked to address the issue of U.S. military presence in various locations around the world, and I’m pleased to do so as I think it is a very important topic. Human survival may well depend on what we do or don’t do about it.
I come from a scientific perspective, trying to observe the position and course of humans in Universe with the detached openness of some neutral extraterrestrial observer, but at the same time I’m quite aware of my deep attachment to our humanity.
I realize that I must rely on evidence not dogma, if I am to responsibly discover any truth relevant to a survivable human future.
I learned a long time ago that I was capable of doing my own thinking. At first perhaps a little proud, even arrogant, about my self-discovered capability, I soon realized each of us is capable of doing one’s own thinking. Then I matured a little more, realizing I, as a conscious, self-organizing human being, had a responsibility to do my own thinking, to honestly share my experience with others, and to hopefully contribute to realizing our mutual longing for a survivable, sustainable, healthy and fun human future.
Humans on Earth
I have since learned that today’s great scientific story, known still only to few humans, is about abundance. Physical abundance: food, shelter, self-directed living and security. It’s about true wealth, which can be defined as the number of assured future days of safe, comfortable, self-directed living we can count on.
For the first time ever, we humans have the opportunity to realize a durable abundance for all humanity. This is a new capability, emerging in only the last few decades; co-emerging, if you will with the new nuclear capability to completely self-destruct. We have all viscerally felt the capability to completely self-destruct, have had disturbing dreams about the missiles of doom and we know with visceral certainty that the threat of human oblivion by human hands is now very real.
Today science also tells us, with engineering proof in place, that we can, instead, deploy a sustainable abundance for everyone, for all time. We can build a technological support system whose machines—driven by sustainable, inanimate, renewable energy—do the physical work to support us.
And if we don’t do it, if we don’t deploy this abundance, we’ll perish by fighting over a presumed inadequacy of resources, an inadequacy of resources that has been the predominant historical human experience of the last 3-10 million years of our existence. If we don’t see it’s suddenly changed, we’ll self-destruct by continuing to fight and scrabble—sheer impossibility given today’s weapons.
Both Einstein and Eisenhower saw this. Einstein said we must change how we think or perish. Eisenhower said we must end war or perish.
Let’s talk, then, about aggression.
We have a base of scientific knowledge built in part by the work of Konrad Lorenz, Julian Huxley and other scientists who studied both humans and animals and found similar, consistent, redemonstrable behavior patterns evident in birds, reptiles, mammals, insects and humans.
We’ve learned that aggression, particularly that against others of the same species—those who seek the same food sources and shelter—is at the very core of behavior. Lorenz observed, for example, that a male coral fish needs so many cubic yards of reef habitat to survive. It readily tolerates any other species that doesn’t directly threaten its food supply or shelter, even to the point of sharing its cave, but when it spots a fish with its own body markings of bright color, that telltale mark of a male member of its own species, it scrambles immediately into fast-mover, top-gun assault—swift and all-out aggression.
The first commandment is to survive, and intra-species aggression has had a positive value for the survival of the species; in part because it forces the species to disperse, to spread out and adapt to as many habitats as possible, thereby insuring greater resilience against climate change, greater resistance to changing predator tactics and other turbulence. From the viewpoint enabled by this knowledge, we can begin to understand the present ruthless human aggression for what it is, see its basis of foundation, and thereby open doors to the perception of a solution leading to peace.
Aggression is a survival tool drawn to face any threat to survival, including and especially the threat of a scarcity of food and shelter. We cannot change who we are, we cannot stop our blood from freezing at 32F°, we will die if the oxygen level in our blood drops below the allowed threshold, and we will behave with all-out aggression if our means of survival is threatened. An external environment of abundance removes the threat.
If we are willing to consider that our wisdom can only come from a clear understanding of our real nature, then the freedom of our will can only grow. The power of our choices will increase. We are a product of Universe. Our human-animal nature, both beautiful and terrible, is the best that nature has built—so far.
There is a certain species of Lizard whose members look so alike that males can only recognize females by smell. The instant one of these male lizards sees another of his own kind encroaching on his territory, he scrambles. Like the pilot of an F-15 fast mover who can scramble from lounging at his desk to 22,000 feet in 2.5 minutes, breathing pure oxygen, all weapons unlocked and primed, all bristles bristling, our lizard rushes his prey. At the last possible split-second he catches the scent of his target, and if it’s female the instinct of aggression is immediately redirected by another instinct, another one acquired slowly over millennia because of its positive survival value for the species. It’s the second commandment that says: destroying females is not good for the species…
His reaction is immediate. It’s way too late to stop, to break the full-powered, mach2 thrust of attack. So the lizard yanks his thumb from the trigger, pulls hard-back on the stick, and soars upward, sailing over her instead of slamming into her, and executes a complete somersault. Recovering, our lizard’s aggression is now entirely redirected. He’s literally fallen, we might be tempted to say, head over heels in love.
Just as the procreative bond redirects aggression, just as the tribal bond of community redirects aggression to outsiders only, just as the bond of a shared culture, language or race redirects aggression to outsiders, a new human bond is required today—one that has no outsiders. For thanks to our own discoveries and inventions, the world has shrunk and we must become a single tribe, finding the way to accept, tolerate and nourish everyone.
So that’s a very quick snapshot of where humanity sits today. That’s the context we find ourselves in.
I’d like to make one more contexting remark. In 1967 Martin Luther King became the first (and still the only) mainstream figure of great influence in the U.S. to speak out and call the Vietnam war an immoral crime of criminal aggression, the kind of crime for which Nazis were executed at Nuremburg after WWII. He began his Beyond Vietnam speech by saying that
Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.
I personally understand how hard it was for him and so many other courageous citizens of the world to speak out, because when I was just a little older than high school, I struggled to find the courage to abandon a military officer’s commission and career, and resist the Vietnam War, because I, too, had learned it was a war of criminal aggression.
So know you know a little about where I am coming from both scientifically and personally. And perhaps from this context, we can begin to talk about the question of U.S. military presence in the world.
An Unprecedented Global Force
There can be no doubt that the Global U.S. military presence is greater than that of all other nations. [Chalmers Johnson, former naval officer, professor emeritus of the University of California San Diego, a foremost expert consulting to the CIA on China and Japan and a self-described former cold warrior, recently advocated dismantling our bases for the sake of both the U.S. and the world. His last book was, Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope. He said we have some 865 military facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. We deploy around 200,000 soldiers in these countries, with several bases in Japan, in the Philippines, Germany, Italy, Honduras, Columbia, etc. Yet we allow no nation a military presence on our own homeland.
Secondly, the U.S.
Military budget is nearly greater that
that of all other nations combined. The 2nd greatest
budget, that of China, is only 1/7 the U.S. budget.
The Imposed Blinders of Mainstream Media Dogma
The mainstream media in the U.S. is dominated by those who argue that our global military presence is good for the world. It cannot be otherwise because we are good. And so, despite a few mistakes here and there, we mean well, and we are the best, the superior force for freedom and democracy in the world. This is first order, Top Gun propaganda, and the obvious theme of every John Wayne, Rambo and Chuck Norris movie.
Another, perhaps less arrogant form of the mainstream media’s message, always presenting the government and corporate arguments in favor of this global presence, is that our military dominance is, unfortunately, a necessary defense against all those who would destroy us, and would do so quickly, even if we softened only a little. Hence, only preemptive, full spectrum dominance can protect us. So presidents who negotiate are portrayed as weak. And well paid mouthpieces for the media’s intended message, like Sean Hannity, can say, as he said on his show last April, that President Obama, “catering to the world’s dictators, is literally the Neville Chamberlain of our time.” (1) (Neville Chamberlain was the British Prime Minister who was portrayed as weak, and failing to prevent WWII by attempting to appease Hitler).
Another example was in 1988, when the Conservative Caucus attempted to smear then U.S. President Ronald Reagan for Negotiating the INF (intermediate nuclear forces) Treaty with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev (2), they, too, compared Reagan to Neville Chamberlain.
A third example is Sarah Palin saying, “In foreign policy now we’ve got the makings of the Obama doctrine, which is coddling enemies and alienating allies.” (3)
It’s critical to realize the mainstream media (like ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS…NYT, WA Post) are owned by a small handful of very large transnational corporations, mostly 9 giant firms including Time Warner, Disney and Rupert Murdoch. And the messages we get are the ones they want us to get. They want us to see the world in a certain way, and they fabricate and lie as necessary.
Walter Lippmann, an acclaimed mainstream intellectual and journalist of the 20th Century, called it Manufacturing Consent, and very much supported the fabrication. He thought, like James Madison, the primary framer of the U.S. Constitution, that the wealthy elite were “a better class of men,” and that they should run the nation. They should be protected, Madison argued, from the rest of us, the population, who he called "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders" whose role is to be "spectators," not "participants." (4)
Well, that requires Manufacturing Consent in our country. Because we think we should have a say in things. We want democracy. And through sacrifice and struggle, always from the bottom up, movements like anti-slavery, women’s’ suffrage, labor rights and civil rights have increased the population’s power to make economic choices, organize, vote and strike. So today we "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders" can have a say in things, and (so far) cannot be simply forced to obey at the point of a gun.
And that’s quite dangerous to the interests of the “better class of men” who claim the right to own the world, unless, our view of the world can be shaped so that we act as they want us to act. So they Manufacture Consent, which when translated from Newspeak to plain English means, they lie.
Well before you and I were born, Albert Einstein advised us that ”those in economic and political power posses the means of molding public opinion to serve their own class interests,” and he warned us that the “ruling class has the schools and press under its thumb. This enables it to sway the emotions of the masses.”
And Buckminster Fuller, one of the most informed and compassionate humans of the 20th Century, who amazed Einstein with his own work, warned us, too, way back in 1938:
Unless people can speak clearly to each other they cannot ascertain that they think alike or act in…mutual accord…. So long as the press and radio impose on the public a 95% blanket of utterly meaningless chatter…. just so long will Fincap (the wealthy elite) be able to delay the moment of the mutual revelation of the peoples’ understanding. (5)
And way back, in 1776, as the U.S. was born and Madison was writing the constitution to protect the “minority the opulent,” economist Adam Smith observed in England that the “principal architects of policy” were the "merchants and manufacturers," (the minority the opulent) who made certain that their own interests were, "most peculiarly attended to" regardless of the effects on the people of England, and particularly with no regard to how grievous the impacts on those outside of England, those subject to what he called “the savage injustice of the Europeans,” particularly the people of what is now India and Bangladesh.” (6)
Corporate Architects of Policy
Well, these warnings by great minds apply most relevantly to the U.S. today. Our principal architects of policy, the global corporations, have a very specific agenda for what we are to be told and not told, in order to make sure their interests are, "most peculiarly attended to" regardless of the effects on the people of the U.S. or anyone else.
They deliberately present us the myth that our dominant military presence is good, and that despite its occasional errors of judgment it really does well by the people of the world. They work very hard to persuade us so, because in reality that presence serves to bring great profits to these most powerful corporations of the world, regardless of the effects on people, the environment and even the survival of future generations.
There have now been more U.S. military interventions in the world than there are countries in the world. I have studied many of these interventions and can tell you I have not seen one instance where personal freedom and popular self-rule were enhanced. Instead, in every instance, powerful U.S. corporate and business interests gained access to more resources such as oil, diamonds, gold, cobalt, coltan, prime agricultural land, etc. while the indigenous population sank deeper into poverty and economic despair.
The Really Big Mafia Don
Eric Hoffer tells us that when Gandhi was asked what most worried him, he said it was “the hardness of heart of the educated.” Gandhi no doubt knew the intellectual culture of a nation is so readily capable of believing and defending whatever butters its bread. Today he would certainly include the mainstream media’s portrayal of these military interventions as “noble efforts to do good” to be among the hardest of heartless services to “the principal architects of policy.”
So we need to look outside the mainstream media to find the truth. We’re getting dogma not science.
Once you do look outside the mainstream media, it becomes clear that many if not most of the people of both the U.S. and the world think the global U.S. military presence is far from good, and in fact constitutes perhaps today’s gravest threat to the very survival of the human species. We at the Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane see it this way, too.
So do some very credentialed, careful, peer-reviewed scientists, like John Steinbrenner and Nancy Gallagher, writing in 2004 in the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, (not exactly your everyday fringe magazine) and warning that the aggressive military stance of the U.S. carries the "appreciable risk of ultimate doom." (7)
And so does MIT professor emeritus Noam Chomsky: it’s worse now Chomsky warns, quite correctly, because our government is the sole superpower in a nuclear age, still secretly serving the short term interests of the few economically powerful for whom people and the environment are either tools of production or mere externalities to be simply “discarded to the trash heap.”
Most people in the world have come to understand the role the U.S. government has played because they’ve seen it from the barrel of a gun.
For example, the CIA destroyed a democratically elected parliamentary government in Iran and installed a brutal dictatorship in 1953. Iranians understand the U.S. and British did it to forcefully reinstate the Anglo Persian oil company (now British Petroleum, or BP) to the position of once again giving less than 5% of the oil take to Iran.
In the past BP had paid $.50/day, no benefits. Iran had enjoyed no development of hospitals, schools, highways and other infrastructure.
So Iran sought to negotiate a 50-50 deal with BP, who refused to even listen. Iran then nationalized BP’s facilities in Iran, including the world’s largest oil refinery. Britain then took the issue before the World Court, but the Court determined Iran was within its sovereign rights. The U.S. and Britain then proceeded to violently destroy a very popular democratic government, replacing it with the brutal dictatorship of the Shah. (8)
The CIA understood there would be repercussions, and at that time they coined the term “Blowback” to represent the potential backlash.
Winston Churchill understood Blowback, too. He advised his parliament before WW1 that
“We are not a young people with an innocent record and a scanty inheritance. We have engrossed to ourselves…an altogether disproportionate share of the wealth and traffic of the world. We have got all we want in territory and our claim to be left in the unmolested enjoyment of vast and splendid possessions, mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force, often seems less reasonable to others than to us.” (9)
In 1954, one year after the CIA coup in Iran, the CIA destroyed the first popularly elected government of Guatemala, one that sought to model its own government after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in the U.S. But United Fruit (ancestor of today’s Chiquita Banana), which practically owned Guatemala, made sure that its own interests were “most peculiarly attended to” regardless of the effects on the people of Guatemala, who were then subjected to a series of brutal U.S. installed dictators, like Rios Mont, who managed to dispatch over 200,000 “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” to the “trash heap.” In some areas the killing reached genocidal levels. (10)
Meanwhile, United Fruit’s chief PR officers congratulated themselves for successfully fabricating a Bolshevik conspiracy, complete with a faked communist riot and atrocity photos, which were then eagerly presented as factual by the New York Times. (11)
This is the consistent pattern in country after country. Brazil, Iraq, Greece, Palestine, Chile, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and so on.
Bangladesh and Haiti, once one of the richest lands on earth, are now virtually destroyed—Bangladesh by Britain and Haiti by France the U.S.—and the rest of the planet, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Nigerian Delta, is headed in the same direction.
So the truth is that the gradual and natural development of popular self-determination has been forestalled by wealthy economic interests that were “most peculiarly attended to” regardless of the impact on the people of the world. As Winston Churchill said, the “splendid” resources “acquired by violence” are exported to profit corporate coffers and cannot be “wasted” on food, education or health care for the people who live there, now doomed to sink deeper into the trash heap.
This is the root cause of terrorism, and the blowback (minor, so far) visited upon the U.S. on September 11, 2001.
Popularly supported governments would prioritize the production and distribution of physical wealth to benefit their own people, and be naturally motivated to seek enduring, ecologically stable methods; but the corporations want to extract the wealth with cheap labor, negligible taxation and export it to other parts of the world. According to U.S. Medal of Freedom recipient Buckminster Fuller:
On February 1, 1982, the United States ambassador to the United Nations stated to the media that all the ‘United Nations now hate the U.S.A.’ What they hate is Grunch [global corporations], but Grunch is able to deceive the world into blaming the very innocent people of the United States….the U.S.A. peoples’ legal ownership and control of their economic assets [has] been altogether exploited, usurped, or stolen from them by the invisibly integrated supranational corporate giants. The Grunch has conducted its ruthlessly selfish activity always in the name of the U.S.A. people. (12)
We have killed roughly 8,000,000 people since WWII. We (not you and I but those who have acted in our name) have been on the wrong side of a worldwide evolution toward democracy. Our fear-based vision of scarcity runs deep indeed in our human brainstems.
Martin Luther King told us clearly, too. In his Beyond Vietnam speech in 1967, when he said it’s time to break the silence and say America has been wrong about Vietnam from the beginning, detrimental to the people of Vietnam, and on the wrong side of a world revolution. Martin described a “pattern of repression” to “maintain…stability of our investments.” He was killed exactly one year, to the day, after breaking this silence (perhaps a message to other mainstream leaders of influence who might consider breaking the imposed silence). Even to this day he remains the only mainstream American leader who told the truth about Vietnam.
If we as a culture can come to understand so much of the world hates us because they are very seriously threatened by our attempt to drive them from the reef, (though we lack even the coral fish’s legitimacy), then we can see “terrorism” as the natural and inevitable response to that aggression. Then we can see the misinformed behaviors of the Bushes and the Bin Ladens, not as good vs. evil, but as scarcity-driven, brain-stem deep aggression and threat response.
A Crisis of Ignorance
The obvious question begs to be asked. Can we simply remove the threat? Eliminate scarcity? Just because humanity has endured 3-10 million years of scarcity must it continue?
And as I said in the beginning… our ability to end scarcity and create a sustainable planetary abundance is today’s great scientific story. Once we viscerally realize it, we will spontaneously cooperate to make it so.
But some might still ask. Well, where is the truth? Does our global military presence serve to protect us or does it hasten our destruction? How do we find out?
I suggest you accept no dogma. Become a scientist accepting only redemonstrable evidence. Become an artist carefully doing your homework. There is no better approach than doing your own sincere and honest thinking as you emerge from high school and college and consider your personal choices about possible directions and careers.
Because, if the world that is presented to us by the supra-national corporations who now control mainstream media and government is very different from the world that really is, then we are in grave danger. For then we are ignorant, and we cannot find the right choice at a time in history when our very survival depends on it—not someday but right now.
Fuller said that humanity’s crisis is not one of pollution, nuclear war, over population or scarcity of resources. Because now, and only as of the last century, humanity has gradually accumulated enough know-how about how the world works to design and achieve a sustainable abundance of physical resources. It is solely a crisis of ignorance.
Dogma vs. Science
I’d like to offer an example by telling you a story from a less crucial time in human history. In the early 15th century, there were great debates about whether the earth went around the sun. People were burned at the stake for suggesting the earth might not be the center of it all. Then our ancestor Tycho Brahe proposed that all the deep, intense, powerfully proclaimed and eloquently articulated theological arguments could never really resolve anything. He chose instead a path of careful observation of what is, and proceeded to chart the positions of the planets.
After Tycho’s death his voluminous charts were studied by Kepler, who discovered simple, elegant and consistent mathematical patterns in all the planetary orbits. Now we know the planets orbit the sun in precise elliptical paths, each planet sweeping out a constant pie-shaped area for any given unit of time, and all the orbital periods and sizes defined by the same rule. We even eventually learned the reasons for small aberrations from a true ellipse in each planet’s path: they are explained exactly by gravitational influences of other celestial bodies. We know this gravitational influence is always directly proportional to the masses and varies inversely with the square of the distances. With this accumulating knowledge, shared honestly across lifetimes, we’ve sent machines from earth to other planets and even beyond our solar system.
Thousands, like Tycho, have taken the path of careful observation of what our physical senses tell us. They courageously set aside any imposed “truth” of the religious and political powers. Never relying on a credo, they always-and-only relied on the redemonstrable physical experience of their senses, sharing their observations, so others could test, verify, and contribute more to the collective pool of knowledge.
The result of this agreement—to stick to redemonstrable physical experience—has been a growing understanding of the physical universe, the real world. Ghosts and deities have given way before measurement and experimentation. We have discovered a phenomenal universe entirely consistent and honest, without exception. (13)
So this is the story of how we crawled out of the Dark Ages, through the Renaissance and on to today. It is the story of dogma vs. science.
Here’s a modern example of dangerous dogma, which I’ll just quote from a February 2007 article.
“An Exxon Mobil-funded group is offering cash payments of $10,000 to scientists and economists who are willing to become "critics for hire" in an effort to cast doubt on a comprehensive and authoritative climate change report that was published on Friday, February 2, 2007. The offer was made in letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a think tank and lobbying organization funded by Exxon Mobil. The letters offered scientists in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere $10,000, plus travel expenses and additional payments, in exchange for articles that would attack the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations organization. The new IPCC report combines the work of more than 2,000 international scientists and has undergone extensive peer review. It is expected to virtually end the debate on the causes and consequences of global warming. Obviously this is "a desperate attempt by an organization who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK. (14)
Dogma imposes. Science discovers what really is.
Another modern example is the Bush Administration imposing the dogma that Iraq was stockpiling chemical weapons, feverishly developing germ warfare devices and racing to build a nuclear bomb. They frightened us with the imminent threat of a smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud, “on any given day,” Bush said. They also tried to pin 9/11 on Saddam Hussein. Bush said “We know he’s got ties with Al Qaeda.” (15).
But the evidence wasn’t there. And we later learned that Bush knew—from an earlier 2002 National Intelligence Estimate—that Iraq was not a threat to the U.S. Bush also knew the UN inspectors had not found WMD, had stated to the world that Iraq was cooperating fully with their inspection regime and that full verification was a matter of a few more months. But Bush responded by drawing a new line in the sand, saying in a speech to the nation “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict.”
And so Bush went ahead with the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, causing to date over 4,000 U.S. soldier deaths and over one million Iraqi deaths. (16)
We decry, and rightly so, the terrible attack on 9/11 that killed 3,000 people in the U.S. But look how that pales in comparison to the 5,000 Iraqi children who died each month for an entire decade in Iraq as a result of our imposed sanctions beginning in 1991. Or look how that pales in comparison to the roughly 4 million killed in Southeast Asia by our military machine during the Vietnam War. What kind of blowback does that portend?
Then, after all the additional death from the subsequent 2003 Iraq invasion, the real smoking gun came out two years later in May, 2005, not in the form of a mushroom cloud but in the form of a short but undeniable top secret memo. The now notorious Downing Street Memo was published in the UK by The Sunday Times. The memo is the leaked minutes of a meeting, transcribed during a gathering of Prime Minister Tony Blair and many of his senior ministers on July 23, 2002, well before the invasion, in which it was made clear that the U.S. intended to invade and occupy Iraq and was planning to justify it by establishing a WMD threat by “fixing the facts around the policy.” The U.S. was going to attack Iraq and Manufacture Consent by lying about why. (17)
Why the U.S. was going in was not stated in the memo, it was just a given. The reality of the memo could not be (and was not) denied. Science discovers what is. And a courageous whistleblower brought the evidence to the world. A majority of the American people now realizes that the president intentionally misled our nation into war, and many more believe the sacrifice made in Iraq has not been worthwhile.
So if not WMD on “any
given day,” why? Well, oil. Or more
precisely the strategic control of it, and not just in Iraq but also in
entire region and world.
In 1945, the chief of
the State Department’s Division of
Near Eastern Affairs described the oil resources of Saudi Arabia as a
“stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material
in world history.” (18) Oil was regarded in Washington as probably the
economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment.
Eisenhower described the Middle East as the
area in the world."
The power of oil is indeed stupendous. The energy released by a gallon of gas from oil does about as much work as the average human body can do in a year. (19) And by this time oil’s unique, superior power as the most available, affordable and highly concentrated source of energy was well understood. Let’s review.
In 1588 the British defeated the Spanish armada at sea and established a 300-year empire “upon which the sun never set.” They had understood the sea best, dominating its roaring 40’s freeway current with key bases in defendable harbors: Cape Horn at the tip of Africa, the Falkland Islands at the tip of South America, and Australia. Most of the world’s growing physical wealth was being acquired by European plunder and traded by sea, first by ships of sail, then coal, then oil. The British Empire and its East India Trading Company controlled the flow of raw materials and set the terms of trade. And as Adam Smith observed, their interests were "most peculiarly attended to" by the British government, regardless of the effects on the people of England and any “savage injustice” visited upon the colonies.
Coal was king to the world’s trade-controlling navies until the end of the 19th Century when it became clear that smokeless, oil-powered naval ships could patrol a fourfold greater radius of action with one-third the engine weight, one-quarter the fuel tonnage and less than one one-hundredth the fuel provision labor. (20)
In 1882 the British began to see the value of securing and controlling oil supplies and by 1911 Winston Churchill was implementing an oil-fired navy.
In his book, A Century of War, economist William Engdahl describes well the secret partnership between private finance and government force, so well honed by decades of British Empire balance-of-power maneuverings. We learn of the notorious British ‘ace-of-spies’ Sidney Reilly deceptively securing exclusive rights to vast petroleum deposits in what is now Iran on behalf of a supposedly privately financed, “good Christian enterprise, the Anglo Persian Oil Company.” And so BP was born a secret government front, securing oil for the British fleet, in which the government’s eventual role of major shareholder by WWII was kept entirely secret.
England ignited WWI in a desperate attempt to prevent Germany from completing its Berlin to Baghdad Railroad, which would allow it to acquire Mesopotamian oil and achieve independence from the British-dominated trade system.
Controlling oil access was the key to military success in WWI. The British left the French stuck in the trenches against the Germans and moved 1.5 million soldiers to the Middle East. British officer T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) later bitterly criticized his own role in deceiving the Arabs into believing the British false promise of self-governance in return for their indispensable role in cutting off German access to oil. The war ended when German access to Oil in both the Middle East and the rich oil fields of Baku on the Caspian Sea was prevented.
WWII was again precipitated over the control of oil access and won by controlling access to this “stupendous source of strategic power.”
So the U.S. well understood the power of oil by WWII and moved to consolidate its control of this “stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in history.”
Hence Roosevelt’s accord with King Said of Saudi Arabia and U.S. support of his ruthless family dictatorship for decades, as well as the 1953 coup in Iran that destroyed democracy there and installed the murderous torture state of the Shah, the CIA’s 1963 installation of Saddam Hussein’s Party in Iraq, and so on.
It has been a long and difficult road for humanity. There has always been a fundamental scarcity of physical resources. Perhaps there have been periods of respite here and there, but cyclical changes of climate patterns, pestilence and disease, and ignorance of how things work have kept us in the general condition of a fundamental uncertainty of assured future survival for all of us…SCARCITY.
It’s not just the U.S., the British and other European powers. Today’s great engines of economic power, the global corporations, and their agents of muscle, the governments of some 150 nations, clearly behave according to this presumption of shortage—the scarcity model—as do many of us.
But something else is afoot: know how, science. Remember Tyco and Kepler, Einstein and Fuller? Though this condition of scarcity is not yet abolished, our ability to swiftly remove it emerged in the middle of the 20th Century and now lays within our grasp—our ignorance the only barrier.
A Sustainable General Plenty – Path to Justice & Peace
Fuller told us roughly 80 years ago, that humanity now has for the first time ever in our 3-10 million years of existence an extraordinary opportunity to realize a physically comfortable life and a just, durable, permanent peace for all of us, for all the forward days of our remaining time on this planet. A truly viable option does exist.
Dogma imposes. Science discovers what is. Now I’d like to complete my earlier quote of Buckminster Fuller from way back in 1938, about how the media works to delay our mutual understanding of what really is. He went on to say that
This is what terrifies the governments and the elite economic interests they serve: democratic perversity. That we the people, the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,” will figure out there is no longer a need for resource scarcity on earth.
But it remains to be seen if the critical moment of mutual revelation will come in time to prevent disastrous effects of magnitudes far greater than the recent BP oil debacle in the Gulf of Mexico—and perhaps even the end of the species, which is no longer the once trivial concern of frightened doomsayers, as in previous centuries, but the scientifically informed, peer reviewed analysis of scientists like Carl Sagan, Paul Elrich, John Steinbrenner, Nancy Gallagher and so many others.
Ours is a time in history when our very survival depends on the making the right choice. While we all might disagree on many issues of the day, some trivial like the color or length of your hair, or where you wear the earrings you wear; some issues closer to the heart, like a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion; there are four issues that MIT professor emeritus Chomsky suggests we can all agree are urgently critical to the survival of our species. They are nuclear war, environmental destruction, the rogue behavior of the U.S. government, and the democratic deficit in the U.S.—which is the very large gap between what most U.S. citizens want (evident via scientific polling) and the actual U.S. government domestic and foreign policies, well shielded by dogma and delusion.
We at the Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane find ourselves in complete agreement with what Martin Luther King said in his 1967 speech, Beyond Vietnam, probably his most powerful and courageous speech. And I think it can be somewhat enlightening to realize, that though we have granted him secular sainthood complete with a national holiday, we are always presented his I Have a Dream speech about how someday we’ll all be equal as one (kind of like someday we’ll go to heaven, folks). But Martin was about so much more than someday, and from his Montgomery bus boycott to his courageous calling out of the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” in his Beyond Vietnam speech, he brought it all back home to NOW.
MLK remains the only mainstream figure in the U.S. to speak the whole truth about Vietnam. I’ll quote a few parts:
Vietnam was a French
Colony prior to WWII when it was taken
by Japan. After WWII the French attempted to recolonize:
defeated, it looked as if
independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva
instead there came the United States, determined that Ho [Chi Minh]
unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as
supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man,
Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out
opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to
reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all of this was
over by United States influence and then by increasing numbers of
troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had
When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of
military dictators [that followed] seemed to offer no real change,
in terms of their need for land and peace.
from America as we increased our troop
commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt,
without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and
received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform.
languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese,
enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land
fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely
They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs. ….
Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression [against it] as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.
1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that
it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world
During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression
has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela.
need to maintain social stability for our investment accounts for the
counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells
American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and
American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against
is with such activity in mind that the words of the late
John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those
make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution
inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role
nation has taken: the role of those who make peaceful revolution
refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the
am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world
we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must
begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are
more important than people, the giant triplets of racism,
materialism and militarism are
I personally consider likely that it was no mere coincidence that MLK was assassinated exactly one year later on the exact same day of this speech. Perhaps the killer was merely leaving his calling card as a warning to all others who might consider telling the truth.
Those who have spoken out have been less influential in society, so less drastic means have successfully marginalized them from the public conversation, all with the goal of protecting the “interests” of today’s "merchants and manufacturers," the “principal architects of policy.”
The subsequently leaked Pentagon Papers revealed that every U.S. President since WWII had lied to the U.S. people about Vietnam and that the Vietnam War was none other than a criminal war of U.S. aggression, subjecting Kissinger and other U.S. leaders to possible execution under international law.
The U.S. wars of the 1980’s in Central America were of the same nature. In 1986 the World Court condemned U.S. aggression during the decade-long Contra war, clearly an assault against the promising new self-sufficient economy of Nicaragua. The International Court of Justice ordered the U.S. pay $17 billion in reparations, nearly three times Nicaragua's current foreign debt. But this went either unreported or scoffed at by the “manufacturers of consent” within the U.S. and of course the reparations have not been paid. Violations of both U.S and international law again subjected then president Reagan and other U.S. leaders to possible execution under international law.
The Bush II administration lied in order to manufacture popular, fear-based consent for the invasion of Iraq, to supposedly eliminate the immediate threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction which they knew did not exist, thus subjecting Bush, Cheney and other U.S. leaders to possible execution under international law.
The war in Afghanistan is also a criminal war of aggression. The U.S. claimed it knew Bin Laden was responsible for 911 and demanded the Taliban leadership of Afghanistan turn him over. The Taliban, in accord with standard extradition procedure, asked the U.S. to first supply evidence. The U.S. refused and just invaded. Eight months later, FBI director Robert Mueller told the Washington Post that we really don’t know who was responsible, that we “believe” it was hatched in Afghanistan but implemented in the United Arab Emirates and Germany. In other words the greatest FBI investigation in history still did not know if Bin Laden did it, and the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan was a major war crime, violating international law, again subjecting U.S. leaders to possible lawful execution. An even deeper level of moral depravity was demonstrated in this case because the U.S. bombed after having being repeatedly warned by Aid Agencies that the bombing would risk 2.5 million additional starvation deaths among the population. (21)
These and other events make it clear, as Chomsky reminds us, "international law cannot be enforced against powerful states, except by their own populations." (22)
It follows, then, that an adequately informed U.S. citizenry is critical to a decent human future, and that anything you or I can do to expand and deepen our own and others' understanding of the real world serves as a tiny lever moving us in the right direction.
If we choose to do our own thinking and pursue the truth of today's world, any career path we travel may present us challenging moments when our conscience calls for courageous action. If it's corporate or government, we may face the choice to become a critical whistle blower. If it's a military career we may find ourselves having to make the courageous choice Dan Ellsberg once made: to disobey wrongful orders and oaths, abandon promotions, a sure career, and risk even one's life, to apply one's own lever of truth in service of the peoples' awareness. But if we do, we'll accomplish so much more than walking onto a battlefield in blind obedience, and we’ll live with greater self-respect knowing we contribute to the coming democratic perversity.
An Army Captain recently came home from Iraq and was quoted in his alma mater university’s quarterly magazine. He said he’s “proud of the work we’re doing and the work we’ve done” there in Iraq. (23)
Perhaps he’s sincere about his motives. Perhaps he genuinely believes he fights to protect his family, community and homeland. It’s what he’s been taught at home, in school and community, by a long parade of television shows, movies, newspaper articles and alumni magazines.
But hopefully he will decide to do his own thinking, to question authority and seek the truth. He would not be alone. There are many military men who’ve found the courage to dig for the truth and then speak out, at great personal risk in some cases, men like Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, Marine Intelligence officer Dan Ellsberg, Marine Corps Commandant Bill Shoup, Marine Intelligence officer Scott Ritter, Marine Col. William R. Corson, Air Force pilot Charles Clements, CIA agents John Stockwell and Ralph McGehee, and many others—all carefully shunted aside by the mainstream media intelligentsia, the ones who so worried Gandhi.
I highly recommend you read some of the books these men wrote as you conduct your own investigation into the relevance of U.S. Military Presence in the World. They have a lot more to say than the vacuous Top Guns and Rambos.
Thank you. I wish you well in your human journey.
September 3, 2010. http://nsarchive.wordpress.com/
8. Kinzer, Stephen, All The shah’s men – an American coup and the roots of Middle East terrorism. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.
9. Chomsky, Pirates and Emperors, p. 14.
10. Chomsky, The Culture of Terrorism, p. 28.
11. Chomsky, Turning The Tide, p. 165.
12. Buckminster Fuller, Grunch of Giants, p. 39
Vincent Bugliosi The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder
For more information visit www.prosecutionofbush.com
Bugliosi presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting in Iraq.
16. The Lancet, one of the oldest scientific medical journals in the world, published two peer-reviewed studies on the effect of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation on the Iraqi mortality rate. The first was published in 2004; the second (by many of the same authors) in 2006. The studies estimate the number of excess deaths caused by the occupation, both direct (combatants plus non-combatants) and indirect (due to increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure, poor healthcare, etc.).
Over one million Iraqis have met violent deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion, according to a study conducted by the prestigious British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB). These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass killings of the last century—the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia’s infamous “Killing Fields” during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.
18. Chomsky, U.S. Middle East Policy, http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Middle_East_Policy_(Chomsky)
19. For further discussion see Mike Nuess, General Plenty—Always and Only the Path to Peace, Perfcon, Spokane, 2001; especially the chapter beginning on p. 256: Energy is the Keystone. http://www.teleologics.org
20. William Engdahl, A Century of War—Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press, London, revised 2004.
22. Chomsky, hopes and prospects, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2010, p.156
23. Gonzaga University Magazine, Fall 2010, p. 39.
Photos in order of appearance
CIA Director Colby addressing National Security Council about Vietnam, April 1978. Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library. Photograph No. NLF-WHPO-A-A4234(11A).
Long Khanh Province, Republic of Vietnam, 1966. Photograph No. NWDNS-111-SC-635974, Still Picture Records LICON, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD.
Marines in Haiti, circa 1919. Photograph No. NWDNS-127-N-519898, Still Picture Branch (NWDNS), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD.
Oil Fields Battlefield Scene, oilfieldsinfoshop.org.