A Day in the Life of a Free Country
excerpted from the book
A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
by William Blum
Common Courage Press, 2000
The question is irresistibly upon us.
How do they get away with it?
How does the United States orchestrate economies, subvert
democracy, overthrow sovereign nations, torture them, chemicalize
them, biologize them, radiate them... often in the full glare
of the international media, with the most stunning contradictions
between word and deed...without being mercilessly condemned by
the world's masses, by anyone with a social conscience, without
being shunned like a leper? Without American leaders being brought
before international tribunals, charged with crimes against humanity?
It's no mystery about the silence and collusion, if not the
adoration, of other governments and their leaders. It takes buying
out only a few men with sleek jet fighters or tons of wheat, canceled
debts, the World Bank, the IMF; they've been intimidated, threatened,
extorted, bribed, had their egos massaged, their nationalism patronized
and had membership in the exclusive private clubs of NATO, the
World Trade Organization and the European Union dangled before
them. Only the occasional oddball Fidel Castro-type does not shy
away from being shunned by respectable international high society.
But what keeps the vast majority of humanity, including the
countless victims, from rising up in protest, spewing gross scorn
and , skepticism, if not bullets?
... Over the years, a number of Third-World leaders, under
imminent military and/or political threat by the United States,
have made appeals to Washington officials, even to the president
in person, under the apparently hopeful belief that it was all
a misunderstanding, that America was not really intent upon crushing
them and their movements for social change. Amongst others, the
Guatemalan foreign minister in 1954, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana
in 1961 and Maurice Bishop of Grenada in 1983 all made their appeals.
All were crushed. As recently as 1994, we have the case of the
leader of the Zapatista rebels in Mexico, Subcommander Marcos.
"Marcos said," it was reported, "he expects the
United States to support the Zapatistas once US intelligence agencies
are convinced the movement is not influenced by Cubans or Russians."
"Finally," Marcos said, "they are going to conclude
that this is a Mexican problem, with just and true causes. . .
With all due respect to the considerable courage of Senor
Marcos, one must seriously question his degree of contact with
history, reality and gringos. For many years, the United States
has been providing the Mexican military with all the training
and tools needed to kill Marcos' followers and, most likely, before
long, Marcos himself.
And these are the good new days
The Authorities can no longer claim as an excuse for their
behavior a threat from anti-Vietnam War radicals or a civil rights
movement. The Black Panther Party is history, as is the alleged
International Communist Conspiracy. The Central American struggles
are over. And J. Edgar Hoover, proving, after all, that he actually
had something in common with the rest of humanity, has died.
Yet, from 1991 to 1999, the number of people in US prisons
rose by more than 50 percent.
In place of finding a commie under every bed, they now find
a drug possessor, user, dealer, shipper or courier. Instead of
the Soviet Evil Empire, they now see Rogue Nations out there,
Outlaw Nations, Pariah States-enemies need catchy names-with their
regiments of terrorists, supporters of terrorists, acquaintances
of terrorists, nuclear smugglers, questionable asylum seekers
and other anti-American and un-American types. In place of civil
rights agitators, the Authority juggernaut now zooms in on youth
gangs, immigrants, environmentalists, welfare recipients, prisoners
and a host of other folks with a glaring deficit of political
What keeps most Americans from being shocked by the shredding
of the Bill of Rights is that they have yet to feel the consequences,
either personally or through someone close to them. It would appear,
however, that they only have to wait...