Today is the 4th of July, a holiday celebrated all over the nation as the date of American Independence from the British crown. I was considering burning an American flag to protest US foreign policy, imperial aggression, indigenous holocaust, sponsorship of terrorism, slavery and discrimination of minorities, etc., and promptly began wondering if flag-burning on public property is considered to be a fire hazard. Today is a holiday that is spent trying to spread patriotic feelings among our people, and thus in effect to try and goad them into flag-waving, chauvinism, jingoism and xenophobia. Patriotism, the way the imperialists see it, means love for their government and love for their class of oppressors. It means love for the police, the prison complex, the courts, the army and the ruling class dictatorship. It means love for the exploitive system of capitalism and the settler-fascists that have run it from the start.
On this celebrated day of the creation of the American state, it is time to take a look back at our long, star-crossed history, and it is time to present a challenge to ourselves—what has American really been about all this time? As Frederick Douglass famously said about this particular holiday in 1852:
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”
There are those who might say that Douglass’s words no longer ring true because of the Obama presidency, and then there are those who know that a change in the ruler’s skin color does not abolish racism and oppression overnight. In addition, Major General Smedley Butler from the US Marines speaks about what real role the US military has been playing over the years:
“I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force – the Marine Corps… And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect money in. I helped in the raping of a half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street… I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped get Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.”
These revelations are by no means new, since they have been given by many anti-imperialist and anti-colonialists since the beginning of the domination of American imperialism, which started after World War II and strengthened itself through the selling-out of the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the collapse of socialist Albania.
To give a more detailed or complete account of American foreign policy, which has always been driven by nothing more and nothing less than the capitalist system’s desire for global hegemony under American leadership, would take many pages and several lifetimes of research into the history of the modern-day Roman Empire. But this 4th of July, and keeping with our challenge to ourselves, a few examples taken from the recent history of the United States alone should serve to give an idea of what this class dictatorship has really been about since the beginnings of its foundation.
In 1945, the US invades the Korean peninsula and declares a “temporary” partition of Korea. America installs an illegitimate American-friendly regime in the South, backed by a force of 50,000 troops. After 2,617 troop incursions in the Northern Pro-Soviet half, sometimes with as many as a few thousand troops, a war ensues when North Korea finally invades South Korea in response. A three-year war takes place and millions are killed. Thousands of American troops remain in South Korea to this day.
In 1966, a US-backed coup ousted President Sukarno of Indonesia and replaced him with the fascist butcher Suharto. Over a million people were hunted down and killed, including thousands of popular leftist leaders, whose names were given to the military by the American Embassy. Suharto would go on to rule Indonesia with an iron fist for decades. Newly-liberated East Timor was then invaded by Suharto’s Indonesia the day after President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (both butchers of the Vietnam War) gave them permission. By 1989, over one-third of East Timor’s 700,000 people had been killed. Indonesia had US backing, including armaments, throughout its 24-year occupation.
In 1967, a US-backed military coup took place to prevent Greek politician George Papandreou being elected Prime Minister. The colonels declared martial law, implemented torture, beatings, arrests, leaving 8,000 dead in the first month. The coup leaders were fiercely anti-communist and pro-American, working closely with the CIA. The colonels held power until 1974.
In 1970, Marxist reformist Salvador Allende was elected as President of Chile. He nationalized the giant US companies. Soon, the right-wing, backed by the CIA and US foreign policy, engineered a 1973 coup lead by the infamous General Augusto Pinochet. Allende was overthrown and replaced by a fascist military dictatorship that used mass executions and torture. Thousands were murdered and disappeared. Chile became an economic experiment that led to economic growth for the richest while leaving many homeless and greatly decreasing economic equality.
In 1978 in Nicaragua, the popular and progressive Sandinista movement overthrows the US-backed dictator Anastasio Samoza. The US then launches a military occupation in order to prevent “another Cuba.” A program of terrorism and economic sabotage is begun, which leads to the US support of the infamous Contra death squads. The Contras prove to be one of the most brutal fighting forces Latin America has ever seen, infamous for burning down schools, churches and hospitals as well as using mass murder, rape and torture. The Contras massacre whole villages though to be sympathetic to the Sandinistas. Over 60,000 die. President Reagan labels them as “freedom fighters.”
From these examples alone—Korea, Indonesia, East Timor, Greece, Chile and Nicaragua, which are merely the most prominent of many dozens more ready-made examples including the Vietnam War—we can see that United States foreign policy has never been driven by a devotion to any kind of morality, nor by any kind of longing for freedom or democracy. From the start, the United States has been driven by the necessity to make the world safe for investment by capitalism, to enrich US armaments who contribute generously to Congress members, to prevent the development of any society which becomes an example of an independent alternative to the capitalist model and to extend its political and economic control over as much of the globe as possible.
Everyone alive today remembers the media immediately after the events of 9/11. “Why Do They Hate Us So Much?” the newspapers asked. Gee, I don’t know. Perhaps dropping bombs really pisses some “less civilized” people off. This is a simple list of the nations bombed since World War II:
China 1945-46, Korea 1950-53, China 1950-53, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-60, Guatemala 1960, Congo 1964, Peru 1965, Laos 1965-73, Vietnam 1961-73. Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Grenada 1983, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1980s, Nicaragua 1980s, Panama 1989, Iraq 1991-2002, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, Yugoslavia 1999, Afghanistan 2001 and Iraq 2003 (1).
It is worth noting that violence and exploitation are also not limited to outside the US borders, either. Of all western nations, the US has the greatest income inequality. 40% of the wealth is controlled by 1% of the population. The US has the greatest discrepancy in the world between the wealthy and the poor when it comes to health care, and also when it comes to life expectancy.
Finally, the Land of the Free has the highest number of its population in prison than any other state in the world (2). And all this is without mentioning the minute details of the oppressive structure of the class society as it exists for us every day. These sorts of atrocities will continue until this capitalist system is done away with through struggle and revolution in the US.
On the day of American Independence, among all other days, this is a fact for all of us to remember.
(1) Taken from Australian Options Quarterly No. 31, Summer 2002.
(2) From Scientific American, Dec. 2005