Confronting Our Own Demons:

America’s Wars Are Often Against Enemies We Create

By Michael I. Niman , ArtVoice 11/7/02

American consumers are drowning in debt for various reasons – a big one being our own “got to have it now” hedonistic consumerism.  Buy now, pay later.  The problem is that unless we drop dead immediately after our lavish forays into the world of conspicuous consumption, later will always eventually arrive.  And so will the bill collectors.  On an individual level, we term this “irresponsible behavior,” even though the overriding message in our consumerist society encourages such irresponsibility.  Currently, according to Harper’s, Americans now owe $1.713 trillion, which amounts to almost three time the value of the American currency now in circulation around the world.

“Voodoo” Economics" 

It’s not just individuals trying to fill their empty lives with products who are suddenly finding themselves buried in debt.  During the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush era, this has become the model for government fiscal policy.  Originally labeled, “Voodoo Economics,” but later embraced by George Bush Senior, Reganomics was nothing more than a drunken spending spree.  The spending here, however, was not on constructive social, environmental or economic programs. Instead, the government issued large tax cuts to the richest Americans (who, ironically, needed them the least) so that they could purchase large ticket consumer goods, with the idea that poor folks would get jobs making stuff for rich folks.  As we now know, this looting of the national treasury only produced more poverty and debt. 

On a local level, tax cuts skewed toward the wealthy produced budget shortfalls, eventually resulting in increased taxes for poor and middle class Americans in the form of new user fees, increases in property taxes, increases in public college tuition, etc.  Giving our leaders the benefit of the doubt, we just have to assume that they are idiots, lacking the ability to understand the consequences of their actions or to conduct long-range strategic planning.  Of course, if they are not idiots, then we can only assume they had intentionally planned on bankrupting government in order to force otherwise untenable fees and cuts in essential services on the American people.

Our Stupid Wars

This brings us to the current situation in Iraq as well as recent and ongoing wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Panama, to name a few.  Just as our perpetual budget shortfalls are the result of our government’s own shortsighted economic plans, so too is the situation in Iraq the result of our government’s short sighted foreign policy.  We’ve created our own economic problems (how else do you explain why the world’s wealthiest nation is perpetually suffering from budget crisises?) and we also have created most, if not all, of our global “enemies.”

George Bush Senior’s 1989 Panama invasion was ostensibly a sloppy forced extradition of Manuel Noriega.  The war, however, leveled a densely populated Panama City neighborhood, killing, by conservative estimates, over 1,000 people.  Noriega, it turns out, was a former CIA “asset,” whose ascendancy to power was supported by the U.S. intelligence community during the United States’ Contra War against Nicaragua’s democratically elected government. Noriega changed his position on Nicaragua, started thumbing his nose at his Bush administration handlers, and we went to war.  

The xenophobic movements that turned Yugoslavia into hell on earth were all originally backed by successive Democratic and Republican regimes during the cold war.  Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian nationalist movement, like Franjo Tudjmen’s Croatian butchers, were both supported by the U.S. since they promised to undermine “socialist” Yugoslavia.  The movements eventually triumphed, destroying the multicultural Yugoslavian state, and throwing a big chunk of Eastern Europe into primitive tribal warfare.  The U.S. eventually went to war against the Serbs in both Bosnia and Kosovo, trying to crush an “out of control” movement that we ourselves created.  The end result of our meddling was not only the destruction of one of Europe’s strongest multicultural states and mixed economies, but also the return of “ethnic cleansing” and genocidal violence to the European continent.  The Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Yugoslavian-Albanian diasporas now scattered around the Western World bear witness to these U.S. sponsored atrocities.

The Real American Taliban

In Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence agents along with their Saudi and Pakistani allies, actually helped organize bickering Mujahadeen factions into a united “Taliban” front, so that they could effectively combat the Soviet puppet government in that country.  The CIA also helped organize and fund al-Qaida, as an international movement to fight against the Soviets not only in Afghanistan, but also throughout Central Asia.  The Mujahadeen succeeded in unseating Afghanistan’s secular “socialist” government, throwing the nation into violent chaos. 

In 1996, the Clinton administration supported the Taliban rise to power, claiming they would bring “stability,” and presumably, a safe environment for an oil pipeline, to Afghanistan.  The stability came in the form of a misogynist gendercidal xenophobic ethnic regime, which set new lows for wholesale human rights abuses against women as well as oppressing minorities.  Women and minorities, ironically, were well represented in the Soviet supported Afghani puppet government, which we helped to unseat.  Under Clinton’s watch, Afghjanistan turned into the newest hell on earth, while America, for the most part, turned a blind eye.

This brings us to Iraq.  For most of his tenure in politics, Saddam Hussein was our man in Iraq.  His regime, for all of it’s obvious and glaring faults, is one the most powerful secular governments in the Persian Gulf, and as such, stands in the way of the fundementalist tide that is passing for anti-imperialism in the region.  When fundamentalists took over Iran, the U.S. moved closer to Iraq. 

We Armed Iraq

According to documents released by a host of U.S. government agencies, the first Bush administration supplied Saddam Hussein’s regime with conventional, chemical and biological weapons components starting in 1983, and continuing until Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Included in the 80 shipments of biological and chemical components were six strains of  botulinum toxin, three strains of anthrax, three stains of gas gangrene bacteria, West Nile fever virus and Dengue fever virus. In December of 1983, shortly after the first shipments of biological components arrived in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld, the current U.S. Secretary of Defense, traveled to Baghdad as an envoy representing then-president, Ronald Reagan.  Once there, he met with Saddam Hussein, ostensibly to discuss U.S. aid for Iraq’s war against Iran.  Shortly thereafter, in 1984, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran.  In 1988 they used them against one of their own oppressed ethnic minorities, the Iraqi Kurds.    

In 1986 the United Nations Security Council condemned Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, with the U.S. standing alone as the only nation to vote against censuring Iraq.  The American media at the time all but ignored the U.N. action as well as Iraq’s use of Chemical weapons.  Iraq was, after all, our ally.  After Iraq became our enemy in an Orwellian switcheroo that is becoming quite common lately, the information about their chemical and biological program was still downplayed by the U.S. media.  In 1994, when information about the U.S. origins of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons became public during an investigation of Gulf War Syndrome, a mysterious group of ailments affecting Gulf War Veterans, the mainstream press still choose to ignore what was becoming an increasingly embarrassing story for the U.S. government.

More recently, however, news organizations such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have decided to revisit the story they originally ignored back when Iraq was a U.S. ally.  With Iraq now on the enemies list, old news has a new purpose and is suddenly in vogue.  The U.S. origin of the very weapons we are rightfully condemning Iraq for having had, however, is still mostly missing from the mainstream news story, and would be ignored altogether if it were not for an 84-year-old senator (Robert Byrd D-WV) blowing the whistle on the former Bush administration.

Our Monster in Iraq  

The reality is that the Iraqi dictator is just one more monster created by the U.S.  Likewise, his feared chemical and biological weapons program is an out of control bastard child fathered by a shortsighted U.S. foreign policy. 

Our hatred of the Soviets led us to create genocidal xenophobic movements that ultimately proved far more threatening than the supposed enemy they were created to combat.  Likewise, our support of Manuel Noreiga led to a war to depose him.  Our support of the Mujahadeen led to the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, but in fact replaced a rather benign regime with the Taliban.  Our support for fundamentalist religious movements, who we hoped would harass the Soviets, has mushroomed into a global movement of homicidal zealots slaughtering innocent people around the world. 

Ultimately we were successful.  Our monsters did lead to the collapse of the Soviet empire.  But we neglected to think things out fully. We just went ahead and destroyed the caretaker in control of the world’s second deadliest arsenal without imagining the consequences.  Hence, we now fear black market nukes, smallpox and other nightmares that fester from the rotting Soviet corpse.  George Bush Senior’s New World Order unleashed the biggest external threat our nation has faced: angry starving impoverished people with pitchforks, rocks, nuclear bombs and biological weapons 

Had we just skipped all of this stupidity, we could have also skipped the last 40 years worth of wars.  The World Trade Center would probably still be standing and we’d be far more secure.  Without our bloated military budget, we’d also probably be a healthier, better educated, fed and housed population. 

But we need to look forward.  What enemies are we creating today who will come back to bite us 10 or 20 years down the line?   Where are our bombs creating generations of America-hating martyrs whose lives are so miserable and empty that they will throw them away as weapons in a hateful war? This cycle of stupidity has lasted for two generations of Bushes, kept alive in the interim by the Clinton White House.  It needs to end now if our children will ever have a hope to live free of fear.  We need to ditch this shortsighted “enemy of our enemies is our friend” mentality and stop supporting homicidal maniacs who inevitably will spread their disease across the globe.  We need to join the world community and act thoughtfully, working for a more secure future for everyone on earth. We can’t let our hatred run our foreign policy.  It’s stupid.  Or worse yet, it’s insidious in a way I’m afraid to even try to comprehend.

copyright 2002 Michael I. Niman.

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