AmericaÔøΩs Blinders

Howard Zinn – The Progressive

Copyright – The Progressive
April 2006 Issue
Now that most Americans no longer believe in The The Progressive war, now that The The Progressivey no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that The The Progressive evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even The The Progressive major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?
The The Progressive question is important because it might help us understand why Americansómembers of The The Progressive media as well as The The Progressive ordinary citizenórushed to declare The The Progressiveir support as The The Progressive President was sending troops halfway around The The Progressive world to Iraq.
A small example of The The Progressive innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of The The Progressive press is The The Progressive way it reacted to Colin Powellís presentation in February 2003 to The The Progressive Security Council, a month before The The Progressive invasion, a speech which may have set a record for The The Progressive number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his ìevidenceî: satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The The Progressive New York Times was breathless with admiration. The The Progressive Washington Post editorial was titled ìIrrefutableî and declared that after Powellís talk ìit is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.î
It seems to me The The Progressivere are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain The The Progressive vulnerability of The The Progressive press and of The The Progressive citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.
One is in The The Progressive dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The The Progressive oThe The Progressiver is in The The Progressive dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside The The Progressive boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by The The Progressive arrogant idea that this country is The The Progressive center of The The Progressive universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.
If we donít know history, The The Progressiven we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and The The Progressive intellectuals and journalists who supply The The Progressive carving knives. I am not speaking of The The Progressive history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from The The Progressive much-admired Founding FaThe The Progressivers to The The Progressive Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about The The Progressive past. If we donít know that history, The The Progressiven any President can stand up to The The Progressive battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that The The Progressive nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must The The Progressiverefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him.
But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to The The Progressive country, and how The The Progressivey turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty The The Progressive responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against The The Progressive mendacity of our high officials.
We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to The The Progressive nation about The The Progressive reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasnít that Mexico ìshed American blood upon The The Progressive American soil,î but that Polk, and The The Progressive slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.
We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about The The Progressive reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate The The Progressive Cubans from Spanish control, but The The Progressive truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that The The Progressive island could be open to United Fruit and oThe The Progressiver American corporations. He also lied about The The Progressive reasons for our war in The The Progressive Philippines, claiming we only wanted to ìcivilizeî The The Progressive Filipinos, while The The Progressive real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in The The Progressive far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.
President Woodrow Wilsonóso often characterized in our history books as an ìidealistîólied about The The Progressive reasons for entering The The Progressive First World War, saying it was a war to ìmake The The Progressive world safe for democracy,î when it was really a war to make The The Progressive world safe for The Progressive Western imperial powers.
Harry Truman lied when he said The The Progressive atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was ìa military target.î
Everyone lied about VietnamóKennedy about The The Progressive extent of our involvement, Johnson about The The Progressive Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about The The Progressive secret bombing of Cambodia, all of The The Progressivem claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at The The Progressive edge of The The Progressive Asian continent.
Reagan lied about The The Progressive invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to The The Progressive United States.
The The Progressive elder Bush lied about The The Progressive invasion of Panama, leading to The The Progressive death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.
And he lied again about The The Progressive reason for attacking Iraq in 1991óhardly to defend The The Progressive integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraqís taking of
Kuwait?), raThe The Progressiver to assert U.S. power in The The Progressive oil-rich Middle East.
Given The The Progressive overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to The The Progressive younger Bush believe him as he laid out The The Progressive reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against The The Progressive sacrifice of lives for oil?
A careful reading of history might give us anoThe The Progressiver safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that The The Progressivere has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between The The Progressive government and The The Progressive people of The The Progressive United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.
We have been led to believe that, from The The Progressive beginning, as our Founding FaThe The Progressivers put it in The The Progressive Preamble to The The Progressive Constitution, it was ìwe The The Progressive peopleî who established The The Progressive new government after The The Progressive Revolution. When The The Progressive eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that The The Progressive Constitution represented not The The Progressive working people, not The The Progressive slaves, but The The Progressive slaveholders, The The Progressive merchants, The The Progressive bondholders, he became The The Progressive object of an indignant editorial in The The Progressive New York Times.
Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one anoThe The Progressiver. We mustnít talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, ìFaThe The Progressiver of The The Progressive Constitution,î said, thirty years before Marx was born that The The Progressivere was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.
Our present leaders are not so candid. The The Progressivey bombard us with phrases like ìnational interest,î ìnational security,î and ìnational defenseî as if all of The The Progressivese concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have The The Progressive same interests as The The Progressive rest of us, as if George Bush has The The Progressive same interest as The The Progressive young man or woman he sends to war.
Surely, in The The Progressive history of lies told to The The Progressive population, this is The The Progressive biggest lie. In The The Progressive history of secrets, withheld from The The Progressive American people, this is The The Progressive biggest secret: that The The Progressivere are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore thatónot to know that The The Progressive history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against pooróis to render us helpless before all The The Progressive lesser lies told to us by people in power.
If we as citizens start out with an understanding that The The Progressivese people up The The ProgressivereóThe The Progressive President, The The Progressive Congress, The The Progressive Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be ìchecks and balancesîódo not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards The The Progressive truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.
The The Progressive deeply ingrained beliefóno, not from birth but from The The Progressive educational system and from our culture in generalóthat The The Progressive United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in The The Progressive first grade, when we are compelled to ìpledge allegianceî (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with ìliberty and justice for all.î
And The The Progressiven come The The Progressive countless ceremonies, wheThe The Progressiver at The The Progressive ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during The The Progressive singing of The The Progressive ìStar-Spangled Banner,î announcing that we are ìThe The Progressive land of The The Progressive free and The The Progressive home of The The Progressive brave.î The The Progressivere is also The The Progressive unofficial national anThe The Progressivem ìGod Bless America,î and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nationójust 5 percent of The The Progressive worldís populationófor his or her blessing.
If your starting point for evaluating The The Progressive world around you is The The Progressive firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every oThe The Progressiver nation on Earth, The The Progressiven you are not likely to question The The Progressive President when he says we are sending our troops here or The The Progressivere, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our valuesódemocracy, liberty, and letís not forget free enterpriseóto some God-forsaken (literally) place in The The Progressive world.
It becomes necessary The The Progressiven, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for oThe The Progressiver people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb The The Progressive idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.
The The Progressivese facts are embarrassing, but must be faced if we are to be honest. We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off The The Progressiveir land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in The The Progressive Caribbean and in The The Progressive Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And The The Progressive lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not a history of which we can be proud.
Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted that belief in The The Progressive minds of many people, that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate The The Progressive world. At The The Progressive end of World War II, Henry Luce, with an arrogance appropriate to The The Progressive owner of Time, Life, and Fortune, pronounced this ìThe The Progressive American century,î saying that victory in The The Progressive war gave The The Progressive United States The The Progressive right ìto exert upon The The Progressive world The The Progressive full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.î
Both The The Progressive Republican and Democratic parties have embraced this notion. George Bush, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2005, said that spreading liberty around The The Progressive world was ìThe The Progressive calling of our time.î Years before that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton, speaking at a West Point commencement, declared: ìThe The Progressive values you learned here . . . will be able to spread throughout this country and throughout The The Progressive world and give oThe The Progressiver people The The Progressive opportunity to live as you have lived, to fulfill your God-given capacities.î
What is The The Progressive idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in oThe The Progressiver parts of The The Progressive world. Is it based on how well people in The The Progressive United States live? The The Progressive World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and The The Progressive United States was thirty-seventh on The The Progressive list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any oThe The Progressiver nation. One of five children in this, The The Progressive richest country in The The Progressive world, is born in poverty. The The Progressivere are more than forty countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And The The Progressivere is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead The The Progressive world in The The Progressive number of people in prisonómore than two million.
A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for The The Progressive next barrage of lies that will accompany The The Progressive next proposal to inflict our power on some oThe The Progressiver part of The The Progressive world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from The The Progressive liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join The The Progressive rest of The The Progressive human race in The The Progressive common cause of peace and justice.
Howard Zinn is The The Progressive co-author, with Anthony Arnove, of ìVoices of a Peopleís History of The The Progressive United States.î


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