The wages of sin plant and fertilize the grapes of wrath
Expanded from the 11-11-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Assume for a moment that Usama bin Laden and his boys (no girls allowed) may have some valid points about the Great Satan. Let's walk a mile in his self-righteous sandals.
Insight as to one's enemy is critical to the proper execution of the art of war. So let us look at matters from the other end of the telescope.
Last month, I checked off several long lists of shameless war profiteering which splattered a little mud on the white hats and tarnished the badges of the U.S. cowboys. Now, let's review a few moral questions a little closer to home.
First, imagine yourself a total stranger in the strangest of lands, a star-traveler from a distant galaxy. You are charged with examining the life forms on this small planet and reporting to your superiors back home.
Dear Boss: I recommend that we steer well clear of the major tribes of this world. They are constantly at war killing their own kind and other life forms.
The whole planet seems locked in a neverending orgy of consumption. The stronger eat the weaker as they do on many other primal orbs, but this place seems to suffer from inverse evolution. The higher the intelligence of the species, the more often I have witnessed killing for no reason at all.
The most numerous life forms, single-celled organisms and their close relatives, have learned to survive by inhabiting larger creatures either as parasites or symbionts. In sheer numbers, the dominant species, by far, are these viruses and bacteria. They are followed by various vegetable life forms and exoskeletal, multi-appendaged animals.
The most intelligent inhabitants have evolved in very divergent ways. Dolphins prefer the simple life of the sea. Although humans do not differ from each other to any appreciable degree, they nonetheless group together in primitive and illogical ways. They ostracize and exploit their own based on the superficial and the imagined.
They often abuse and kill each other in slavish devotion to this superficiality. Such concentration on the meaningless produces enormous pain and suffering.
They have invested great volumes of treasure and work in order to traverse this small globe faster and faster. Apparently, only speed matters.
They have become addicted to placing themselves into flimsy, portable canisters filled with high explosives. Then, in an ongoing orgy of bravado and arrogance, they hurtle the canisters toward each other at great speed by land, sea and air. Most usually miss by the narrowest of margins. Nonetheless, every year tens of thousands are killed and hundreds of thousands become seriously and painfully injured whenever these shells encounter a maloccurrence.
The crude fuel for these devices pollutes and endangers the entire planet when burned. As a semi-scarce and hard to extract natural resource, possession of the fuel has become the source of endless war.
Recommendation: avoid this planet until the currently dominant life forms evolve into more interesting species or have been replaced by others.
Lest you think such conclusions too far-fetched, please consider the following follies.
- Most Americans, when presented with the Bill of Rights without the label, say they would vote against it.
- Knowing this, Attorney General John Ashcroft has begun eavesdropping on conversations between lawyers and accused (not convicted, accused) criminals. He defends it as just a small erosion of individual rights. Can you be a just little bit pregnant?
- Last week, retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security advisor to President Bush the Elder, admitted why the U.S. did not take out Saddam Hussein when we had the chance. On the PBS program "Frontline," Scowcroft said that Bush the First feared Iraq being broken up into constituent parts. Iraq, like Kuwait and Jordan, is a classic buffer state, set up to dilute power to make the region easier for European interests to exploit. Scowcroft went on to use that "reason" to justify the U.S. betrayal of the northern Kurds, the southern Shi'ites and the expatriate militia, all of whom could have toppled Saddam ten years ago with a little promised help.
- Frontline was not without its own sins. The program reported two items about the bloodthirsty Saddam as fact when both have been seriously questioned.
- How many times have you heard that Saddam used nerve gas on the Kurds? In early 1991, in a long investigative report, the San Francisco Chronicle concluded that the dead in question were not killed by poison gas.
- How many times have you heard that Saddam plotted to assassinate Bush the First in 1993 when the former president journeyed to one of the Persian Gulf states? President Clinton immediately bombed Iraq as a result. About two years ago, most of the mainstream media carried a report that the assassination plot never existed.
However, both of these very questionable stories have been repeated so often that they now approach the immortality of urban legends.
Never forget that the Kuwaiti government paid the huge Hill & Knowlton public relations firm a very fancy fee in 1990 to produce perjured testimony about Iraqi atrocities in front of a congressional committee.* That campaign sold us the Gulf War, which has never ended.
The United States indeed stands greatly endangered today. The only long-term fix lies in taking a couple of steps back and looking at ourselves in a full length mirror. We don't have the time to wait for very advanced and objective extra-terrestrials to do it for us.
Stay of good heart.
Be well. Raise hell.
* Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif, held a hearing on purported atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein's soldiers against the citizens of Kuwait during the 1990 occupation. Lantos never bothered to check the background of a 15 year-old doe-eyed girl named only Nayirah. The story was disseminated that she feared for the lives of family members back home and thus did not want her last name used.
She told of witnessing Saddam's invaders enter Kuwait City's hospital and throw babies out of incubators onto the floor, then absconding with the equipment. A year or so later, a commentator in the New York times called that moment the point at which America got behind the Gulf War. Only a few hardasses, like me, questioned the veracity of her testimony. It seemed I had heard that story before, only with a slightly different cast of characters.
Back at dear old Fresno State in the 1960's, history Prof. Jose C. Canales told us how the U.S. was propagandized into entering WWI on the side of the British and French. A story was circulated in the press about German soldiers bayonetting babies in their cribs. The public was understandably outraged at the actions of the "undisciplined hordes of Huns."
Dr. Canales scoffed at that allegation. "The German army was so well disciplined that soldiers would await orders to relieve themselves on the side of the road during a forced march," he told us.
Prof. Canales noted that there was as much or more stateside pressure for the U.S. to get involved on the German side as opposed to the British and French. The heat came from America's large and influential community of German-Americans. Something was needed to turn the tide of public opinion and the bayonetted babies did the trick.
After the war, some social flutterbyes journeyed to Belgium to console the families of the aggrieved.
"You believed that? That was a war story," the incredulous locals told the American women.
Nayirah's last name was Al Sabah. She was a member of the Kuwaiti royal family of the same name. She told the Lantos committee that she had personally witnessed the babies being thrown from the incubators. In fact, she was nowhere near the country. The Kuwaiti royals had blown town long before Saddam's thugs arrived.
Hill & Knowlton merely recycled an updated version of the WWI story in 1990. It worked perfectly one more time.
The business of public relations was born out of the U.S. military's propaganda machine after WWI. Edward Bernays, nephew of Dr. Sigmund Freud, had worked in the war propaganda office and went into business selling what he had learned to American business. (I last got into these issues in the Barbwire of 9-4-94, before this column hit the web.) [[UPDATE ON THE IDES OF MARCH, 2007: Nowadays, a compendium on propaganda is appended to the bottom of almost every web edition of this column.]]
Bernays was directly involved in the CIA's second overthrow of a small government, Guatemala in 1954.
His client was Chiquita Banana herself, the brutal United Fruit Company, plantation overlords of banana republics which have been getting this country into wars for a hundred years. [[IDES OF MARCH 2007 UPDATE: Chiquita Brands just agreed to pay a $25 million fine for bribing Colombian terrorists to stay out of its banana fields. We don't need no stinking bananas!]]
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Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .
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