Fighting for Democracy hasn’t been working nearly as well as many have been led to believe; therefore the time to start educating more for democracy is long overdue!
Noam Chomsky wrote Deterring Democracy where he claims that instead of defending democracy the USA is threatening or deterring democracy.
However before I talk about that I’d like to tell you about how I heroically saved the life of a police officer who was seriously wounded by a hit and run driver.
It was late at night on a road with very little traffic when I came around the bend and saw a police officer who apparently had just let someone go that he had pulled over and was heading back to his cruiser when a speeding car pulled ahead of me and hit him injuring him perhaps fatally for all I knew at the time. I considered just driving on and not getting involved; after all it wasn’t my responsibility, they might come to the conclusion that I had something to do with it and I had places to go. However I decided I could at least stop and see what was happening.
I pulled over and got out of the car to see how the officer was doing. I saw he was seriously injured but he was clearly still alive. In the cruiser there was a radio, a cell phone, a first aid kit and traffic cones all in clear sight. I quickly concluded that I could take at least one of three options; I could call for help on the radio or the cell phone; I could use the first aid kit to stop the bleeding and provide any other care to the officer that he needed; I could put the cones out on the street so that if there was more traffic they would be directed away from the accident to avoid making it worse; or I could do all three one right after another. If I couldn’t decide which one I would just pick the first move on quickly to the second until all three were done.
The answer seemed obvious; I reached down to his holster and pulled out his gun pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger putting a bullet through his head and quickly got back in my car and drove away.
Are you buying that? No, well forget about it that isn’t what I intended to write about anyway.
The point is to figure out whether the evidence supports the more widely accepted claim, at least within the USA, that America is fighting to defend democracy or Chomsky’s claim that America has been deterring democracy. Chomsky focuses mainly on Vietnam in the sixties and Central America in the eighties in his book “Deterring Democracy.” The most notable source for Vietnam that I know of is the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers which are for the most part undisputed overwhelmingly indicates that the USA did little or nothing to educate the public so that they could participate in a sincere democracy; instead what they did is prop up one government after another with little or no support from the people of Vietnam and fight those that opposed their policies. They relied on a steadily increasing amount of violence in order to convince the Vietnamese to accept their policies. There is a significant amount of evidence to indicate that this was largely done for economic reasons that are designed to protect the USA’s financial interests in that region. The war seems to be based largely on fiscal ideology as well; the ongoing conflict between communism and capitalism; or at least that is the way they’ve portrayed it. A closer look indicates that many of the people fighting for the other side were not communists or capitalists. Some of them wanted a neutralist government which the USA suppressed. However this isn’t the story that was presented to the American public for the most part even after it was exposed with the release of the Pentagon Papers. Those that took the time to read these papers may know this but the majority of the public probably didn’t; instead they often rely on what is told to them by their leaders and accept it without much question. This has been a consistent reason why we have gone to war on many occasions. Part of the reason for this is, as I indicated in a previous post, because many people are raised in an authoritarian manner and taught to believe what they’re told from their leaders starting with parents without question instead of being taught to check facts as they go along and confirm the truth. This also involves a patriotic desire to be on the right side especially when there is a threat or perceived threat to society.
Chomsky review similar incidents in Central America where the USA was supporting the rebels in Nicaragua who were fighting against the Sandinistas who had much more support from the local people. Presumably this was largely because they were infringing on the rights of the wealthy landowners who were suppressing wages for the working class. They attempted to initiate land reform so that the poor people could have their share of the property and they attempted to provide better education for their people. These attempts were suppressed by a terrorist war financed by the USA. In fact the USA was the only country condemned by the UN for supporting terrorism which occurred in Nicaragua. The USA also supported other governments in Central America that didn’t have the support of their own people and relied on death squads including El Salvador and Guatemala who are the most brutal. The USA first became involved in Guatemala no later than the fifties when they overthrew a somewhat democratically elected government and installed a dictatorship. If they were concerned about problems with the legitimacy of the democratic government they could have raised their objections without violence by discussing the issues and helping to educate the public of that country about how to hold their own government accountable. They did not do this nor do they even do this in the USA.
In order to know for certain whether or not the USA is fighting to defend democracy abroad it may help to see whether or not it is doing so at home. The core principle of democr5acy is supposed to be that it is by the people, for the people and of the people. In order for this to be sincere the people have to participate in the way their government is run and they have to know what they’re doing and why. This means that a successful democracy requires an educated public. The quality of democracy can never be better than the quality of the education system. A system that indoctrinates the public and calls it education isn’t democratic nor is a system that only educates one segment of society and allows them to manipulate and indoctrinate the rest of society. This is what the USA has been doing for decades if not since they first established the country.
The USA has also been interfering in the governments of many other countries around the world without the consent of the local people including the following examples:
Iran where they overthrew a government with popular support from the people and reinstalled the Shah who was willing to protect the oil rights of American corporations. They maintained this support while the Shah was torturing the people of Iraq. In the seventies there was growing protest against this regime including a lot of protest from both the more moderate Muslims often led by students and the more radical religious leaders. The More moderate ones were suppressed by the Shah with at least tacit approval from the US government. They overthrew the government anyway but then the radicals took over. If the USA wanted to support democracy they could have supported the more moderate students and they would have avoided allowing the radicals to gain power. Then in the eighties they wound up providing both sides of the Iran Iraq war with weapons. After the 9/11 attacks they asked for help from the Iranians and received it in the form of what they call intelligence assistance (as indicated before I refer to it as espionage since this isn’t intelligent). After receiving this assistance the Bush administration decided to go ahead and declare them part of the “access of evil” anyway and they wound up electing a more extreme president.
In Iraq they supported the Baath party when it suited their purposes first in 1963 during an attempted coup against the pro Soviet government then again during a successful one. They wound up supporting the Soviets anyway so the USA put them on the terrorist list until they needed them to fight against the Iranians. They provided extensive support to help Saddam Hussein commit many of the atrocities that he was eventually executed for. When citing this as crimes against humanity during his trial they carefully omitted the fact that he couldn’t have done this without the help of the US government. Then they remained silent while he prepared to invade Kuwait and passed up an opportunity to speak up and warn him off which could have avoided a war. And of course during the second war they invaded based on a bunch of lies.
The USA supported the Mujahideen which eventually became the Taliban and al Qaeda and abandoned them when it no longer suited their purposes.
The USA supported the coup in Chile which suppressed a popular government.
The USA supported Noriega while he was implicated in drug dealing initially but then invaded later. They also supported many other governments involved in drug dealers as well as the Nicaragua Contras. This doesn’t seem to be an issue until the government needs an excuse to take military action.
There are many other examples where the USA has conducted activities to suppress democracy or to instigate wars based on false premises. More important is the fact that there are few if any cases where they have taken sincere efforts to educate the public and try to institute sincere democracy.
In the opening story I indicated three possible courses of action that I could take when “I heroically saved the life of a police officer.” They could generally speaking be described the following way:
- Do nothing which would be neutral or perhaps negligent if there was an obligation to do something.
- Conduct positive activity that would help solve the problem although it might not be a guarantee
- Pursue a course of action that was clearly counterproductive and accomplished the opposite goal that I was claiming to accomplish.
I could have considered one other possibility.
- Pretend to do B. while actually doing C. by using a complex argument designed to confuse the public.
This might have made sense for the sake of argument if the first hit and run driver was actually working for the mafia and my job was to make sure that the cop was dead. If there was a witness I could have instructed him to go get help while I attempted to apply first aid but then did it in an incompetent way that did more harm than good.
The point is that if they truly wanted to defend democracy as they claim they would pursue a course of action that would advance that cause not the opposite. There is even a bible quote that comes close to saying this, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” This isn’t as clear, and in my opinion as it should be; which is why some people have reinterpreted it as “Ye shall know them by their deeds.” Which essentially means that when someone pursues a course of action that is clearly designed to accomplish a certain goal, and they have the intelligence to understand that this is the inevitable results of their action, then that goal is their implied objective even if it contradicts the goal they claim they’re trying to accomplish. If the leaders of the USA were truly interested in defending democracy they could start by creating the best democracy they could at home and then perhaps teach those abroad to do the same first by example, then if they ask representatives of the USA could help them set up a better education system and teach their people more about how to run a successful democracy.
Instead the USA keeps fighting one war after another abroad based on lies that benefit mainly the wealthy corporations without taking much if any consideration of the best interest of the people in the countries they are fighting in. This is part of the reason a large portion of the rest of the world is angry at the USA. The USA rarely takes into consideration how much damage is done by what they call “collateral damage” to the rest of the world when they fight their wars. If this happens in the USA they act as if it is intolerable and rightfully so. A couple examples of that include the Oklahoma City bombing when Timothy McVeigh referred to the children killed as collateral damage and 9/11 when some Muslims referred to innocents killed as collateral damage. If this is outrageous when they call our dead collateral damage why isn’t it so outrageous when the representatives of the US government call their dead collateral damage?
This is a blatant double standard that is usually addressed by being ignored.
The Pentagon Papers and other sources made it clear that the US government had little or no interest in the will of the Vietnamese when they fought that war. Henry
Kissinger also made his feelings about Chile clear when he said “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”
The conflict about Communism verses Capitalism has been one of the biggest excuses to start wars and interfere with the affairs of other countries; but the USA hasn’t been defining Communism the way many of the people from these countries have been defining it nor are they all Communist in many cases. If they wanted a truly democratic solution to this dispute they would discuss the details without trying to use propaganda to manipulate people. The USA isn’t even implementing a sincere democracy at home where most votes are based on campaign ads controlled by the corporations and the public for the most part doesn’t know what their government is doing.
A close look at the activity of the USA government seems to indicate that when no one is watching they often pursue course of action C but when there is an audience they pursue course of action D. This is often done with the assistance of the Mass Media which feeds the public an enormous amount of patriotic or War Propaganda. They are also helped by the authoritarian way in which many people are raised from birth. This is very insidious since it involves the way children are treated by many of those who love them the most including their parents and teachers who often use corporal punishment to keep them in line and this leads to escalating violence. These are some of the root causes that many people have a hard time looking into in a serious way but they have a lot to do with why people tolerate authoritarian leaders that use manipulation tactics to keep the public under their control.
What we need is election reform that is done in a way that allows the public to control the interview process; this would also have to involve some form of media reform that is designed to eliminate censorship. The current Mass Media is ignoring many of the most important fundamental basics that the public needs to know about society and is reluctant to investigate the corporations that own or by advertising time from the media. In order to do this we have to have an educated public so it would help if we had a nonviolent educational revolution that accompanies election and media reform.
Chomsky didn’t cover all this in his book but he did cover some of the most important aspects of how the US government covers foreign policy. Other books written by Chomsky including Manufacturing Consent, coauthored with Edward Herman, and Necessary Illusions cover more detail about how the Mass Media uses propaganda. Some of these books are available free on line. For a free copy of Deterring Democracy click here; or for a free copy of Necessary Illusions and some more of my comments on this click here.