Balls, Brains and History
[Listen to John Grant discuss this piece with Dave Lindorff on the new Progressive Radio Network program "ThisCantBeHappening!" archived here.]
Making political sense out of the events in Ukraine and Crimea has become great sport. Does it mean a new Cold War? Is Vladimir Putin a better, more “potent” man than Barack Obama? Who has bigger balls?
We're naturally reminded of those twisted times when the post-World War Two imperial United States stood toe-to-toe with the imperial Soviet Union. It was Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev fighting for the souls of smaller, peripheral nations like Vietnam, where, in lieu of direct confrontation, Indochinese peasants were slaughtered in the millions and 58,000 Americans died.
Today is different. The Cold War is over. The Soviet Socialist Empire is gone. The American Capitalist Empire remains. We’re told ad nauseum it’s all because of Ronald Reagan. Most Americans have internalized the imperial reality as The Myth of American Exceptionalism and accept the nation’s natural right to intervene anywhere on the globe. Though the weaponry has significantly advanced, the rhetoric hasn’t changed much from the days of Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote in 1910 in his little book called American Problems about “The Management of Small States Which Are Unable to Manage Themselves.”
He emphasized that the United States had no interest in “interfering” with poor countries. “The needs of civilization and humanity are sufficiently met by protecting them from outside aggression.” We need to protect them from others.
That, of course, is the reason we interfered in the lives of the Vietnamese for 30 years once Truman betrayed our Vietnamese ally and handed their country back to the French in 1945. Of course, Truman did it to “protect” the Vietnamese from communists. If you watched Rachel Maddow’s recent MSNBC documentary on why the Bush regime, lies aside, really invaded and occupied Iraq, it’s the same theme. We invaded Iraq for oil. But not for ourselves. No. So "he" wouldn't control the oil. He being Saddam Hussein. We did it for the Iraqi people. Two oilmen who somehow got into the White House sent American soldiers to kill and die to gain control of Iraqi oil. There's no argument on that score anymore. Like the peace movement said from the beginning, it was War For Oil. Of course, while Bush overthrew the Saddam government, he also empowered the seventy percent Shiite element aligned with his bitterest enemy, Iran.