January 24, 2008

The Danse Macabre of US-Style Democracy

Nothing has changed. Barack Obama . . . would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain's one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country. They all believe the US is not subject to the rules of human behavior.

by John Pilger

What struck me, living and working in the United States, was that presidential campaigns were a parody, entertaining and often grotesque. They are a ritual danse macabre of flags, balloons and bullsh*t, designed to camouflage a venal system based on money power, human division and a culture of permanent war.

Traveling with Robert Kennedy in 1968 was eye-opening for me. To audiences of the poor, Kennedy would present himself as a savior. The words "change" and "hope" were used relentlessly and cynically. For audiences of fearful whites, he would use racist codes, such as "law and order." With those opposed to the invasion of Vietnam, he would attack "putting American boys in the line of fire," but never say when he would withdraw them. That year (after Kennedy was assassinated), Richard Nixon used a version of the same, malleable speech to win the presidency. Thereafter, it was used successfully by Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes. Carter promised a foreign policy based on "human rights" - and practiced the very opposite. Reagan's "freedom agenda" was a bloodbath in Central America. Clinton "solemnly pledged" universal health care and tore down the last safety net of the Depression.

Nothing has changed. Barack Obama . . . would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain's one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country. They all believe the US is not subject to the rules of human behavior, because it is "a city upon a hill," regardless that most of humanity sees it as a monumental bully which, since 1945, has overthrown 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed 30 nations, destroying millions of lives.

If you wonder why this holocaust is not an "issue" in the current campaign, you might ask the BBC, which is responsible for reporting the campaign to much of the world, or better still Justin Webb, the BBC's North America editor. In a Radio 4 series last year, Webb displayed the kind of sycophancy that evokes the 1930s appeaser Geoffrey Dawson, then editor of the London Times. Condoleezza Rice cannot be too mendacious for Webb. According to Rice, the US is "supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." For Webb, who believes American patriotism "creates a feeling of happiness and solidity," the crimes committed in the name of this patriotism, such as support for war and injustice in the Middle East for the past 25 years, and in Latin America, are irrelevant. Indeed, those who resist such an epic assault on democracy are guilty of "anti-Americanism," says Webb, apparently unaware of the totalitarian origins of this term of abuse. Journalists in Nazi Berlin would damn critics of the Reich as "anti-German."

Moreover, his treacle about the "ideals" and "core values" that make up America's sanctified "set of ideas about human conduct" denies us a true sense of the destruction of American democracy: the dismantling of the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus and separation of powers. . . .


John Pilger is a world-renowned journalist, author and documentary filmmaker.

Enver Masud, "U.S. Elections All About Money", The Wisdom Fund, September 4, 2000

[Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned "Titanic". I'll give you a sound bite: "Throw all the bums out!"--Lee Iacocca, "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?", Scribner, April 17, 2007]

Katrina Vanden Heuvel, "The Enormous Cost of War," Nation, August 17, 2007

[It is precisely because the security threats of the 21st century are so different from those of the last century that the next president must be free of tendentious simplifications such as Islamofascism. . . . And there is a subtext to those terms, an implication that the West faces an inevitable worldwide clash of religions and civilizations.--Editorial: "Danger lurks in use of term 'Islamofascism'," Boston Globe, November 8, 2007]

[Some portion of the damage done by the Bush administration could be rectified quickly. A large portion will take decades to fix - and that's assuming the political will to do so exists both in the White House and in Congress.--Joseph E. Stiglitz, "The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush," Vanity Fair, December, 2007]

[The code word "Islamofascism" has become a staple of rhetoric. It braces the talk not only of pundits, but of all the major Republican candidates - from the tough guy at one end, Rudy Giuliani, who lambastes Democrats for not using the word or its equivalent, to the "nice" candidate at the other end, Mike Huckabee, who defines Islamofascism as "the greatest threat this country [has] ever faced."--James Carroll, "Islamofascism's ill political wind," Boston Globe, January 21, 2008]

[Right up to his twenties, he remained a strikingly violent man, "ready to fight at the drop of a hat", according to his biographer Robert Timberg.--Johann Hari, "Don't be fooled by the myth of John McCain," Independent, January 24, 2008]

[Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as "jihadists" or "mujahedeen," according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Lingo like "Islamo-fascism" is out, too.--Matthew Lee, "'Jihadist' booted from government lexicon," Associatied Press, April 24, 2008]

back button