World War II and American Empire

“The formulation of a statement of war aims for propaganda purposes is very different from formulation of one defining the true national interest… If war aims are stated, which seem to be concerned solely with Anglo-American imperialism, they will offer little to people in the rest of the world, and will be vulnerable to Nazi counter-promises. Such aims would also strengthen the most reactionary elements in the United States and the British Empire. The interests of other peoples should be stressed, not only those of Europe, but also of Asia, Africa and Latin America. This would have a better propaganda effect.” — US Council on Foreign Relations report, April 1941.

This policy recommendation directly affected the Atlantic Charter, an agreement between the US and Britain in August 1941, the public war aims statement of the US-UK alliance, months before the US would enter the war.

We were not “drawn in” to the war by Pearl Harbor, it provided the impetus for beginning to implement what had already been planned . And the April 1941 CFR report should mitigate against the ridiculous notion that we entered WWII for some altruistic purpose, that of “saving the world” from Nazi aggression (indeed, it’s been argued by some historians that, public school history class propaganda to the contrary, the real US interest in WWII was the defeat of Japan and taking over the Far East sphere of influence). As post-war events would show, particularly in our relations with Latin American countries (support of military dictators and the training of and turning a blind eye to the operation of government-sponsored death squads in the region being just a couple of examples), the idea of supporting the right of peoples’ self-determination was at best only a propaganda statement, and at worst just an outright lie.

Only 3 years after WWII, in 1948, George Kennan wrote the following advice for US policy in the Far East:

. . . we have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population . . . In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction. . . We should cease to talk about vague and… unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better. — George Kennan, head of Dept. of State Policy Planning Staff, excerpted from PPS23. Declassified in 1974.

Years later, here we are still, in the words of Livy, trying to conquer the world for our own defense – we call it a War on Terror.


comments from Friedman and Abizaid at Stanford Forum

Stanford’s annual roundtable this year was on “Courting Disaster: The Fight for Oil, Water and a Healthy Planet.” Here are some comments from neoliberal economic architect Thomas Friedman and Gen. John Abizaid, US Army (Ret.) from the Stanford News Service.

Concerning the Middle East, Friedman blamed the United States for treating the region as a collection of cheap “gas stations” for the last 50 years. In exchange for low oil prices and a hands-off policy toward Israel, he said, the United States turned a blind eye to the entrenchment of ideological, authoritarian regimes. “It is my opinion that Osama bin Laden and 9/11 represented the distilled essence of everything that was going on out ‘back there,'” he said, referring to Western acquiescence to policies that preached intolerance and rejected equal opportunity for all citizens.

Abizaid said the dynamics in the Middle East, particularly the war in Iraq, are closely tied to oil. “We can’t really deny that,” he said. Furthermore, the rise of Sunni and Shiite extremists, the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict and global dependence on Middle Eastern oil have created problems with global implications.

“It is this dependency that can’t just be dealt with by military means,” Abizaid said. “We must adapt, as a matter of national security, a way to reduce our dependency on Middle Eastern oil.” Following enthusiastic applause from the audience, he said these problems are further complicated by the question of whether Pakistan can maintain control of its nuclear weapons and by the expansion of the terrorist group al-Qaida into a global phenomenon. “The problem for us is that we can’t deal with just military” solutions, he said. “We need to have economic, diplomatic and political components in a solution. The military is only 20 percent of the solution in the Middle East.”

The forum also covered issues related to climate change and renewable fuels.


Orwell Rolls in His Grave

A documentary exploration into how the Media is anti-democratic.

Jesus Manifesto to relaunch 10/22 as collaborative effort

Mark van Steenwyk’s blog, The Jesus Manifesto, exploring how to follow Jesus in the context of American Empire is on a short hiatus while he gears up for its new collaborative future. He will continue to write as much as he has before, but now instead of a solo voice it’s going to be more of a chorus, I guess you could say. I’ve been a longtime admirer of the blog, and now I will be one of the contributors, having committed to posting at least biweekly. I’ll have to sort out a bit what’s going to be the difference between my posting there, my posting here, and my posting at the Submergent site, a conversation for emerging church-influenced Anabaptists (or Anabaptist-influenced Emergents), but it should be good. I highly recommend adding both sites to your feed reader.

The War on Democracy

I’m sorry for the recent lack of content, things have been pretty busy lately (surprise, surprise). I’ve been meaning to make a theological post and it just hasn’t happened yet. I have some thoughts on dominion and Genesis 1 I’d really like to flesh out.

In the meantime, enjoy filmmaker John Pilger’s masterful documentary showing how, despite rhetoric about spreading democracy around the world, the US is actually doing its best to stifle democratic progress.

Talking exclusively to American government officials, including agents who reveal for the first time on film how the CIA ran its war in Latin America in the 80s, Pilger argues that true popular democracy is more likely to be found among the poorest in Latin America, whose movements are often ignored in the West.

Since YouTube has a 10-minute limit on videos, the film is broken up into 10 segments, each of which is below because I couldn’t figure out how to embed the playlist that would allow it to play all 10 segments in a row.


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