Post-modernists talk about “discourses,” “narratives,” “tropes,” and verbal “deconstructions.” They should be commended for suggesting how words are used to mobilize, inspire, deceive, promote self-interest, and, too often, justify killing everywhere. Former Arkansas Senator, J. William Fulbright in describing how he was tricked by his old friend President Lyndon Baines Johnson to support a resolution authorizing escalating war in Vietnam said: “A lie is a lie. There is no other way to put it.”
The story can begin any time. As World War Two was ending, the Greek government constructed by Great Britain after the Nazis were defeated was engaged in an effort to crush a rebellion by activists who objected to their newly imposed rulers. The Greek rebels included former anti-fascists freedom fighters, some of whom were Communists or Socialists. The British, no longer able to support the repression of the Greek Left in what was a civil war, called on the Americans for help.
In February, 1947, Truman foreign policy advisers met to discuss what to do about the Greek civil war and the threat of “Communism” spreading along the Mediterranean. The Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Arthur Vandenberg, attending the meeting. said he would support U.S. military and economic aid for the unpopular Greek government. But, he said, tell the President he better “scare hell out of the American people.”
One month later, President Truman gave his famous Truman Doctrine speech to the Congress and the American people. He warned the American people, who until that time still had positive feelings toward the Soviet people, that the United States and the “free world” were going to be engaged in a long-term struggle against the forces of “international communism.” The Truman Doctrine was not about nations and movements with different interests and ideologies but rather a global struggle between the forces of good threatened by the forces of evil.
United States administrations ever since have justified aggressive foreign policies by lying and distorting the realities behind complex international relationships. In addition, when a politician, a journalist, a scholar, or a whole peace movement criticizes targeting nations and movements as diabolical and security threats, these critics are charged with being weak, indecisive, cowardly, or, even worse, stalking horses for the vile enemy or enemies.
Campaigns of propaganda masquerading as truth have been a constant feature of international relations, particularly since World War Two. The reality of U.S. struggles against demonized enemies tells a sobering story. Deaths in wars and interventions in which the United States participated from 1945 until 1995 totaled about ten million people. These figures, extracted from the valuable research of Ruth Sivard, (World Military and Social Expenditures, 1996) do not include injuries and forced migrations of millions of people fleeing combat zones. Nor do these figures include the wasteful trillions of dollars of military expenditures and environmental damage resulting from a war system.
And since the dawn of the new century, the United States and its allies in NATO make arguments justifying war based upon a new round of lies and distortions. The Persian Gulf is a region where whole nations were constructed by colonial powers after World War One. After the next World War, the United States agreed to provide arms and protection to the Saudi monarchs in exchange for oil. The U.S. also identified client regimes and movements to support its interests in the region. They included the former Shah of Iran, the state of Israel, various so-called Islamic Fundamentalist groups including those fighting in Afghanistan, to leaders the U.S. once supported such as Saddam Hussein and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. In the twenty-first century, the stability of whole countries, Iraq and Libya for example, was destroyed by United States interventions costing many thousands of deaths and injuries and many more people fleeing violence.
As The Real News analysis below suggests, the American people have been lied to concerning Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, and as history suggests, virtually every case of United States military intervention, covert operations and/or economic sanctions.
Getting back to Senator Vandenberg’s advice to President Truman (“scare hell out of the American people”) about how to gain support for moral/military crusades, leaders and media are warning about a new global terrorist threat and renewed threats from Russia, China, and Iran. The intensity of the selling jobs, the perpetual lies, are testament to the good sense of the American people who continue to say “no more wars.”