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The Great Leap Backward: America’s Illegal Wars on the World

by Luciana Bohne, Counterpunch, May 13, 2016

Can we face it in this election season? America is a weapons factory, the White House a war room, and the president the manager of the neoliberal conspiracy to recolonize the planet. It exports war and mass poverty. On the economic front, usurious neoliberalism; on the military front, illegal wars. These are the trenches of America’s battle for world domination in the 21st century.

If not stopped, it will be a short century.

Since 1945, America’s Manifest Destiny, posing as the Free World’s Crusade against the Red Menace, has claimed 20 to 30 million lives worldwide and bombed one-third of the earth’s people. In the 19th century, America exterminated another kind of “red menace,” writing and shredding treaties, stealing lands, massacring, and herding Native populations into concentration camps (“Indian reservations”), in the name of civilizing the “savages.” By 1890, with the massacre of Lakota at Wounded Knee, the frontier land grab—internal imperialism– was over. There was a world to conquer, and America trained its exceptionally covetous eye on Cuba and the Philippines.

American external imperialism was born.

Then, something utterly dreadful happened in 1917—a successful social revolution in Russia, the second major after the French in 1789, to try to redistribute the wealth of the few to the advantage of the many. The rulers of the world—US, Britain, France and sundry acolytes—put aside their differences and united to stem the awful threat of popular democracy rising and spreading. They invaded Russia, fomented a civil war, funding and arming the counter-revolutionary forces, failed, and tried again in 1939. But Hitler’s war of extermination on the USSR ended in a spectacular victory for Moscow.

For a while, after 1945, the US had to behave as a civilized country, formally. It claimed that the USSR had a barbarian, all-conquering ideology, rooted in terror, disappearances, murder, and torture. By contrast, the US was the shining city on the hill, the beacon of hope for a “the free world.” Its shrine was the United Nations; its holy writ was international law; its first principle was the inviolability of the sovereignty of nations.

All this was rubbish, of course. It was an apartheid society. It nuked Japan not once but twice, deliberately selecting civilian targets. It shielded from justice top Nazi criminals to absorb them as partners in intelligence structures. It conducted virtual “show trials” against dissidents during the hysteria of the McCarthy congressional hearings, seeding the country with a harvest of fear. It waged a genocidal war on Vietnam to prevent independence and unification. It assassinated African independence leaders and bestowed fascist dictators on Latin America. It softly occupied Western Europe, tied it to itself through military “cooperation” in NATO, and it waged psy-op war on its opposition parties. Behind the civilized façade was a ruthless effort to take out the Soviet Union and crush self-determination in the colonial world.

By hook and by crook, the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and America went berserk with triumphalism. Now, at last, the conquest of the world, interrupted in 1917, could resume. The global frontier reopened and America’s identity would be regenerated through violence, which had delivered the American West to the European invaders in the 19th century. The benign mask dropped. Behind it came a rider on a pale horse. According to the ideologically exulted, history had ended, ideologies had died, and the messianic mission of the US to become the steward of God’s property on earth could be fulfilled.

The “civilizing mission” was afoot.

A cabal of neo-conservative policy wonks first sketched what I call the Great Leap Backward into lawlessness as a revival of the myth of the frontier in the 1990s. “The Plan for a New American Century” (PNAC) envisaged the 21st century as a unilateralist drive to entrench American values globally—what the PNAC ideologues call “freedom and democracy”—through preemptive wars and regime change. This frenzied delirium of US military domination turned into official foreign policy with the Bush Doctrine after 9/11, but it was the Clinton administration’s Doctrine of Humanitarian Warfare before 9/11, that shut the door on the prohibition of aggressive wars by the UN Charter, remaking the map of the world into a borderless American hunting reserve by removing the principle of sovereignty and replacing it with “right to protect” (R2P)—or humanitarian pretext for use of force.

Clinton’s doctrine was an act of supreme, even witty, exploitation of liberal principles and commitment to policies of human rights. It was how the liberal left was induced to embrace war and imperialism as the means of defending human rights. The Carnegie Endowment cooked up the doctrine in 1992. Its report, “Changing Our Ways: America’s Role in the New World,” urged “a new principle of international relations: the destruction or displacement of groups of people within states can justify international intervention.” The report recommended that the US use NATO as the enforcer. It must be noted, too, that the principle of “humanitarian war” has no authority in international law. The Charter of the United Nations sought to outlaw war by making it impossible for unilateral interventions in the business of sovereign states by self-appointed guardians of human rights. The reason behind the proscription was not heartlessness but the consciousness that WW II had been the result of serial violations of sovereignty by Germany, Italy, and Japan—by militarist imperialism, in other words.

The bell tolled for the UN and the old order in the 1999 Kosovo War. The bi-partisan effort to dismantle the architecture of the post war’s legal order played out there. With the Kosovo War, the Clinton administration launched the first humanitarian war and set the precedent for waging war without Security Council clearance of many to follow by both Republican and Democrat administrations. The Clintonites who used NATO to bomb Serbia to protect ethnic Albanians in Kosovo from non-existing Serbian genocide may or may not have appreciated the fact that Hitler had used the pretext of R2P—humanitarian intervention—to launch WW II by claiming to protect German minorities in Poland, but they certainly knew that the monopoly on use of force rested with the UN’s Security Council. This monopoly was secured after WW II precisely to prevent unilateral attacks on sovereign states through bogus claims of altruistic interventions, such as Hitler had championed and pursued. Ironically for critics of the Soviet leader, it was Stalin who insisted at the Yalta Conference that if the USSR were to join the United Nations a veto in the Security Council was a must to insure that any war would be a multilateral consensus and a multilateral action.

As the Clintonites understood, the postwar legal authority for peacekeeping and the prevention of war entrusted to the UN Security Council posed a colossal obstacle to the pursuit of American world domination. For the vision of PNAC and the Carnegie Endowment to become reality, the United Nations, the guarantor of sovereignty, had to go. In the run-up to the Kosovo War, the Clintonites fatally and deliberately destabilized the United Nations, substituting the uncooperative UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali with the subservient NATO shill, Kofi Annan. Annan obligingly opined that in the matter of war and peace, UN Security Council resolutions were not the only way to skin a country– especially one chosen by the US for remaking, partitioning, or regime changing, a cynic might add.

So now we live in a dangerous world. Once again, since the 1930s, the world is being stalked by an expansionist power answering to no law but its own unilateral, humanitarian vigilantism. The Kosovo precedent has spun out of control. Libya smolders in the ashes of NATO bombs, dropped to prevent “genocide”; Syria fights for survival under attack by genocidal terrorist groups, armed, trained and funded by genocide preventers grouped in the NATO alliance and the Gulf partners; Afghanistan languishes in a permanent state of war, present ten thousand American troops which bomb hospitals to promote human rights; in Iraq, the humanitarians are back, after twenty-five years of humanitarian failure. And in Ukraine, Nazi patriots are promoting American democratic and humanitarian values by shelling Donbass daily. I hesitate to mention Africa, where humanitarian Special Forces are watering the fields where terrorists sprout like mushrooms after rain—in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya.

Then there is Yemen, perhaps the most callous, vicious, and careless humanitarian crime of a litany of crimes against humanity in the Middle East. The US government has recently admitted deploying troops to Yemen. The Pentagon claims that the deployment will assist Saudi Arabia (“the Arab coalition”) to fight al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula. Can a sentient being meet such a grotesque claim with anything but infernal laughter? Help Saudi Arabia to fight its own creature? Are we stupid yet?

$4 trillion dollars later, spent on the War-on-Terror/Humanitarian-R2P, the pattern of military destabilization of sovereign states proceeds apace, one recalcitrant, independent country at a time in the Middle East and North Africa. For the rest of the world, the surrender of sovereignty is sought by means of economic globalization through trade pacts—TTP, TTIP, etc.—that virtually abolish the constitution of states, including our own. Spearheading the economic effort to control the periphery and the entire world is the so-called “Washington Consensus.”

It hugs the market-fundamentalist idea that global neoliberalism and core finance capital’s economic control of the planet by means of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the option to poverty and social chaos.

Neither military nor economic war on the sovereignty of nations has yielded anything close to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful world. It had delivered death, destruction, debt, market crises, tidal waves of refugees and displaced persons, and concentrated masses of wealth in a few but powerful hands. What the poet W.H. Auden called “the international wrong,” which he named “imperialism” in his poem “September 1939,” is the crisis that stares out of the mirror of the past into our faces, and it bodes war, war, and more war, for that is where imperialism drives.

In this scenario, no potential presidential candidate—even establishment-party dissenter—who does not call for both the end of the bi-partisan “Washington Consensus” and the end of bipartisan militarist aggression can reverse the totality of the “international wrong” or stem the domestic descent into social brutalization. If none calls this foreign policy debacle “imperialism,” elections will be a sleepwalker’s exercise. Nothing will change. Except, almost certainly, for the worse.


Luciana Bohneis co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at: lbohne@edinboro.edu

 

20 Comments

  1. Oz Perch says

    This article has it about half-right. There are a number of historical inaccuracies: for example, Hitler claimed to be protecting ethic Germans in the Sudetenland, which was in Czechoslovakia, not Poland. But the greatest error of this article is that it covers up the role Great Britain. The Cold War was launched by Churchill, with his “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri — Harry Truman was simply a malleable fool. The “Doctrine of Humanitarian Warfare” was not Clinton’s, it was Tony Blair’s — Blair’s speech in Chicago, in 1999, enunciated the scheme for the first time, and it is in fact generally called the “Blair Doctrine” (google it.) Although the US has done most of the dirty work, this is the resurgent British Empire, and at this stage of the game it simply looks like the American Revolution fizzled out sometime following the assassination of McKinley. The “Special Relationship” represents the US returning to the fold.

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  2. Boo Radley says

    A couple of additions to this commentary:

    The 1917 Bolshevik revolution overthrew the Kerensky government with essential financial assistance from Wall Street especially from banker Jacob Schiff (a subject exhaustively covered by Anthony Sutton in ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’. Without this American aid (which also included Woodrow Wilson personally intervening to get Trotsky residing in New York an American passport in order to return to the revolution – and co-opting the American Red Cross mission to Moscow in 1917 with more bankers and JP Morgan staff than doctors or nurses) Kerensky’s much more moderate socialism may well have succeeded in providing an alternative to Capitalism not based on Terror.

    Financial assistance continued quietly throughout the cold war including massive technology transfers to the Russians not least during the WW2 Lend Lease program (see ‘from Major Jordan’s Diaries’ and Antony Sutton’s ‘the best enemy money can buy’ and ‘National Suicide’). The Soviet Union was only able to fight the cold war because of American tax payers.

    As to this:
    “It conducted virtual “show trials” against dissidents during the hysteria of the McCarthy congressional hearings, seeding the country with a harvest of fear”.

    The VBI’s Venona intercepts (kept secret from the American public for 40 years) and The Mitrokhin Archive (revealed after the collapse of the Soviet Union) show clearly that McCarthyism has been mis-characterized since the beginning as an unjustified witch-hunt, and that FDR’s administration was riddled with hundreds of Soviet Agents, the most senior being Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White & Alger Hiss.

    The CFR has been instrumental in covering up for these agents and as a network for getting many into their positions in the first place.

    What this shows is that elements in the American deep state were working from the early part of the last century to cultivate scary enemies first as Communism and now as Islam.

    One final point, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali may have been uncooperative as a NATO shill, but he was certainly a useful shill of Maurice Strong / Rockerfeller / Trilateral Commission in implementing UN Agenga 21.

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    • Even if FDR’s administration was indeed “riddled with hundreds of Soviet agents” does this rationalise or justify McCarthy’s effective and unconstitutional outlawry of Communism as a belief system or the Establishment’s persecution of private citizens purely on the basis of their political adherence?

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      • Boo Radley says

        There were certainly excesses. But I don’t think working towards bringing communism to the US by stealth is protected by the constitution. Many of the people he was harassing had sworn an oath to uphold the constitution (in their capacity of working in government) which if i’m not mistaken means upholding the system of Republican democracy. Working on the direct (or indirect) orders of Stalin was an act of treason. McCarthy was definitely not from the Establishment, the Establishment is what brought him down and wrote the history most people ‘remember’ of that period.

        The impression that he was nuts, alcoholic and ‘looking for a communist under every bed’ without cause was carefully crafted by the Establishment that was trying to shut down the HUAC since Martin Dies was leading it.

        Recent films such as ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ by CFR lifetime member George Clooney help preserve the false establishment position on McCarthy. Many of the traitors were in the CFR, and the CFR journal ‘Foreign Affairs’ has advocated for collectivism / communism in many articles since it began in 1922. Some members of the Establishment saw communism the ideal bridge to one world government.

        The true story of this period has been written about by authors such as William F. Buckley & L. Brent Bozell in ‘McCarthy and His Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning’ which painstakingly works through McCarthy’s claims and finds for the most part he was in fact correct.

        The massive communist infiltration was known to Truman (Venona Intercepts), but he buried it rather than expose the fact that the democrat party had been massively compromised and FDR was either implicated or too stupid to see what was happening on his watch. One of many elements of our history distorted beyond recognition by the powers that shouldn’t be.

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        • I’ve come across this analysis before, but it never sounds particularly plausible – as presented anyway. I don’t really buy that the financial barons wanted to turn the US into a Communist state. Why would they? The system as it was developing and continues to develop in the West suits them very well. What benefit is there in actual or pseudo-egalitarian state ownership of the means of production?

          The idea that McCarthy was somehow working outside the system and was a victim of the Establishment’s drive to deny Communist infiltration also seems implausible. The Red Menace was a mainstream narrative in the 1950s, after all.

          I suggest as an alternative analysis that – just as now – the Establishment thought divisions, fear-mongering and the demonising of sections of their population might be a very effective method of control, and as usual was playing both sides, backing the witch hunts with one sock puppet and and deploring them with another.

          One result has been that many well-meaning Americans now fear the concept of socialism as if it equates with Stalinism and campaign fiercely against anything they think represents it – including a National Health Service free at the point of delivery. They are effectively disenfranchising themselves and their class and doing so voluntarily. Not a bad result for the PTB is it?

          BTW – the Constitution includes freedom of belief; and adherence to Communist or socialist principles does not per se equate with being anti-democratic.

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          • Boo Radley says

            As you say, they always back both sides to control the debate and ‘divide and rule’, that said I would strongly recommend reading the findings of the Reece Committee, written in 1958 by it’s chief council Rene Wormser. It details the part played by the tax exempt Foundations since their formation 50 years before by the robber baron families (as a way of avoiding paying their share of tax, but also to engage in social engineering). The findings were truly shocking, yet as ever mostly unreported in the media of the time and eventually killed off by the Establishment under Eisenhower, leading to no reform of what had clearly become subversive agents within the US.

            https://ia600207.us.archive.org/26/items/FoundationsTheirPowerAndInfluenceReneAWormser1958/Foundations,%20America%20-%20Foundations;%20Their%20Power%20and%20Influence%20-%20Rene%20A%20Wormser%20(1958).pdf

            Also, I agree with you that the campaign against a real form of socialism influencing America for the better was why the Wall street elite funded Lenin over Kerensky, leading to Government by Terror rather than consent.

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    • Richard Le Sarcophage says

      Kerensky an ‘alternative to capitalism’??!! It is to laugh. A Russian proto-Blairite more like. Capitalism CANNOT be ‘reformed’ or ameliorated in any manner. It always returns to its true, omnicidal, nature.

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  3. rtj1211 says

    All this nonsense will continue until America understands what bombing its mainland means.

    Americans are the biggest bunch of wussy crybabies on the planet.

    9/11, a piffling irrelevance in the history of American carpet bombing since 1945, brought America to its knees, boo-hoohing to the world about its unique tragedy.

    It is the apotheosis of racist inhumanity to pass off the deaths of 100,000+ foreigners as ‘acceptable collateral damage’, whilst claiming that ‘the whole world has changed’ when a few piffling thousand living in New York City are sacrificed by the warlords.

    Appeals to decency don’t work with Americans.

    They need tough love……..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I rend to agree. Since this would now entail a nuclear war, however, I’d prefer to let America de-fang itself economically, as it may be the least costly way of taming the beast for the rest of the world.

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    • Richard Le Sarcophage says

      When the real death-toll in Iraq after 2003 is well over one million (not forgeting the millions killed in 1991 and the subsequent Satanic ‘sanctions of mass destruction’)to talk of ‘100,000+ deaths’ is most regretable.

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  4. bevin says

    Luciana Bohne is one of sharpest observers of the USA’s tragi-comic, lumbering and unprecedentedly bloody campaigns to impose its hegemony upon humanity.
    This is a superb summary of both the current situation and its long historical background.
    Unlike previous insane regimes, though, the US is playing with a casual disregard for caution and consequences, with an array of weapons which could snuff out all human life in a relatively short period.
    This means that the priorities of all decent politics are heavily weighted towards anti-imperialism and the empowerment of its victims.

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    • Richard Le Sarcophage says

      The US ruling elites represent the quintessence of human Evil. That’s all there is to it.

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  5. One country that was not mentioned was Korea. The Korean communist party had won the election in 1948 and again later on. This did not bode well with the washington consensus. Other historical events missing would be the failed coup d’etat in the US during the Rosevelt regime of the thirties good old granddad Bush and thier fellow anglo-zi0nist had conspired on the US but failed. The Us has been and will always be a fascist state . Corporate sectors and high end finance has always ruled and dictated US foreign and internal affairs. . Post second world war the Third Reich was replaced with the Washington consensus. Anglo-american politics has always been about empire and corporate gain which basically sealed their political paradigm which was and is fascism. Hence labelling Trump a fascist only whitewashes what UK and US have been all along. Fascist supremacist/exceptionalist: what ever adjective one uses its plain and simple fascism. I suggest that most MSM journos should do a basic course in political science and also look in the mirror when they go and label other countries dictatorships or fascist or totalitarian. All western countries r corporatocrocies hence fascist and all their foreign policies r all about colonial takeover. IE: Africa ME and South America.

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  6. COL (ret) Thomas B. Murphree says

    I really enjoyed your skewed and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ view of the U.S. from the perspective of the Red Queen of Hearts!

    Please feel free to explore and enjoy life without the aid and support of the United States. the United States began as colonies of Great Britian specifically England, please provide a discourse on Imperialism? Please provide a discourse on Stalin or even Lenin, oh wait maybe MAO regarding Imperialism and the Tens of Millions of deaths.

    Yes, we dropped a nuclear bomb on Japan not once but twice and that act serve as the catalyst to end WWII, that was started by Germany and Japan. I do remember we did not get involved until Pearl Harbor.

    Next time you pen a discourse regarding Imperialism, please use all of the fact and context for true accurate historical reflection

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    • Seamus Padraig says

      The Soviet Union disbanded 25 years ago. When do we get to pull out of the eastern hemisphere and come home, colonel?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Richard Le Sarcophage says

      US evil in the world is unmatched by any other nation in history. 200 plus years of genocide of the Indigenous, of millions of black slaves, of Filipinos, Latin Americans, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laos, Iraqis, Afghans etc, directly, and tens of millions more slaughtered by a devil’s gallery of stooge butchers. Do the names Batista, Duarte, Rios Montt, d’Abuisson, Banzer, Uribe, Pinochet, Videla, Noriega, Mobutu, Savimbi, Kagame, Zenawi, Park, Mubbarak, al-Sisi, Saddam, the Shah, Zia, Thieu, Ky, Suharto etc remind you of anything? And let’s not forget the wars of aggression, the subversions, the sanctions, and the genocidal Washington Consensus of global economic exploitation and inequality that stills kills thirty thousand children, needlessly, every single day. A true historical reflection of US blood-lust reveals a joy in killing particularly of civilians, unprecedented anywhere, at any time, and just growing ever more crazed.

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  7. In deed the Empire´s gone wild!
    “US Power Elite Declared Bio Warfare on the Southern Hemisphere, East Asia and all Non-Western Countries in September 2000”: https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/us-power-elite-declared-war-on-the-southern-hemisphere-east-asia-and-all-non-western-countries-in-september-2000/
    And it is ready to eat its vassals as well:
    „Paul Craig Roberts and the Brexit Vote: Something Might Have Slipped the Real Great Analyst!“ https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/paul-craig-roberts-and-the-brexit-vote-something-might-have-slipped-the-real-great-analyst/
    Andreas Schlüter
    Sociologist
    Berlin, Germany

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