Americans love to brag about their country. Pride in the flag is universal and ubiquitous. Along with pride in the country and the flag is the incessant praising of “American values”, as though America has a superior value system to what one would find among humanity in general. “God, mom and apple pie” are often used as symbols or focus points of this sort of pride.
In order to promote this feeling of pride, a lot of facts must be overlooked, forgotten, or denied. A lot of history has transpired since the early settlement of the continent now occupied by the American people and their neighbors, and much of that history, when examined closely, reveals a sort of value system that is not typically worthy of the typical American braggadocio.
For instance, the occupation of an occupied continent by subjugation and warfare over indigenous peoples does not fit in well with the current American set of “values”. Yet, the relentless march of “manifest destiny” was quite deliberate at the time, and the subjugation of the indigenous was often accompanied by genocidal techniques, such as the deliberate introduction of germs, such as smallpox, to which the native had no natural resistance.
The kidnapping from Africa of millions of innocent men, women and children, the holding of these people as slave labor, and the market in human beings in the slave markets of the day provided the basis for wealth building in colonial America. Again, hardly the sort of “values” that Americans would brag about today.
But are America’s atrocities and faults only a matter of the distant past? Did the Twentieth and the current Twenty-first Centuries reveal an America of superior moral values?
An interesting book called “The New Rulers of the World”, by Australian journalist John Pilger , devotes a chapter to the U.S. role in the setting up of “free markets” and “globalization” in Indonesia. Under the pretext of fighting communism, Pilger reveals that the U.S. set up Suharto in power so as to allow U.S. and European corporations to lucrative Indonesian raw materials, labor pools, and markets. First, though, thousands of Indonesian citizens who were not in favor of this arrangement had to go; that is, they had to be killed. So, the book reveals, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency provided lists of names of thousands of Indonesian citizens to be murdered by the Indonesian government and military under Suharto, in the guise of a war on communism and insurgency. In all, over the course of the Suharto U.S. backed regime, between half a million and one million Indonesian citizens were killed. U.S. and foreign corporations met to subdivide Indonesia and its society into discrete units for corporate exploitation, such as petroleum, labor markets, bauxite, etc.
The end result for Indonesia, a nation blessed with abundant natural resources of great economic value, is that U.S. corporations have made enormous profits, a few Indonesian wealthy officials and captains of industry have become fabulously wealthy, while the nation itself has been saddled with hundreds of billions of dollars in debt (that in all probability can never be repaid), and most Indonesian citizens are thus forced to live and work at very low subsistence wages in living conditions that are grossly substandard.
This is what the American “value system” has wrought to a number of nations around the world, whose natural resources have been coveted by American corporations. A puppet regime is installed under U.S. military or covert pressures, a few locals become fabulously wealthy by cooperating with U.S. corporate plunderers, and the masses are held as a source of cheap labor and are brutally punished if they try to rebel against the fruits of the American “value system”.
Another interesting case history is found in a book called “The Falcon and the Snowman”, by Robert Lindsey . A young, idealistic California man, who practiced the art of falconry, went to work for TRW, an American company which maintained technical monitoring systems for covert purposes of the U.S. government. This young man, named Christopher Boyce, was given security clearances in the performance of his data monitoring duties, and soon began to learn of American covert operations around the world. Boyce became increasingly agitated at what he was seeing and learning in the performance of his job. Boyce became outraged when he saw direct evidence of CIA covert operations in the homeland of an American ally, Australia. Boyce saw the clear and incontrovertible evidence that the CIA was manipulating labor politics in Australia with the successful outcome of manipulating the results of an Australian national election. So much for democracy at work! Boyce decided to fight against America by spying and selling secret information to the Russians; a crime for which he was eventually convicted and sentenced to many years in prison. The question remains: Is interference in the electoral politics of a friendly, democratic ally such as Australia a manifestation of American values at work, or is it evidence of a split personality?
American values seem distorted in so many ways that it can be difficult to ascertain if they are values at all. For instance, value of human life is obviously a question mark, unless the human life is an American one. For instance, when 3000 Americans perished on September 11, 2001 at the hands of “terrorists”, American pain was real and retribution was guaranteed. But Americans have shown amazing indifference to the loss of lives in other nations, particularly related to “collateral damage” from U.S. war making. In Afghanistan and Iraq, far more civilians have died in collateral damage from errant bombs than were killed in the U.S. And the U.S. public hardly blinks an eye or sheds a tear. Apparently, American values regarding human life place a differential on innocent American life lost compared to innocent lives lost of other nations and particularly of the non-white races.
Americans seem to value “democracy”, at least in name. But when nations, including our allies, disagree on major policies because of response to the democratically-expressed wills of their peoples, America feels obligated to “punish” those peoples. France, because of its democratically-expressed desire to allow United Nations weapons inspections to work instead of war on Iraq, has become publicly listed as an object, not only of American ire, but American punishment.
Americans are said to value the “free market”. Regulation and government interference in private affairs, including commerce, are regarded as anathema to American values. However, when strategic access to the property of other nations is involved, such as access to petroleum lying under foreign borders, the free market fantasy is quickly disposed of, as American troops are sent to take control of the property of others. One bumper sticker took the new American value system to an extreme, when it said, “Nuke their ass and take the gas!”
In the case of America’s relationship with the people and government of Iraq, even in the current post-war period, the “split personality” aspect of American values is as perplexing as ever. Democracy is supposed to be the goal, but American Secretary of Defense has already clarified some things that are “not going to happen.” Rumsfeld has said that an Islamic State will not occur in Iraq (no matter what the will of the people is). Rumsfeld has said that Iraq will become a democracy (no matter what the people want).
In one aspect, there is a clear parallel between American values as interpreted by the Bush Administration — Iraq will have a “democracy” installed, just as the U.S. did, as opposed to the traditional method of free elections.
Clearly, the American value system is a source of pride for many Americans. But should it be? Perhaps the American people have their own form of split personality syndrome. There is no doubt that an informed public throughout the world, including an increasingly informed public in the U.S., finds much to be dismayed at regarding American policies and American behaviors. Many feel that the substance is far different, and inferior to the professing of American values.
The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.
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