excerpts from the book
The Broken Promises of America
at home and abroad, past and present
by Douglas F. Dowd
Common Courage Press, 2005, paper
In the Congo's first election ever, the charismatic Patrice I
Lumumba was appointed Prime Minister by a governmental coalition.
From the beginning he argued that political independence in itself
was insufficient for true independence, that the Congo could not
go it alone economically. So he called for all of Africa to free
itself from outside political control and economic dependence
and to work together as a regional economy: Only then could the
Congo use its vast resources of cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold,
manganese, tin, and zinc for its own rather than foreigners' well-being.
HOCHSCHILD tells what came next:
Anathema to American and European capital,
he became a leader whose days were numbered. Less than two months
after being named the Congo's first democratically chosen prime
minister, a U.S. National Security Council subcommittee on covert
operations, which included CIA chief Allen Dulles, authorized
his assassination. Richard Bissell, CIA Operations Chief... later
said, "The President /Eisenhower/ would have vastly preferred
to have him taken care of some way other than assassination, but
he regarded Lumumba as I did and a lot of other people did: as
a mad dog... and he wanted the problem dealt with.
The problem was "dealt with"
in early 1961. After being kidnapped and badly beaten and tortured,
Lumumba was "secretly shot .... A CIA agent ended up driving
around the city wit a body in his car's trunk, trying to find
a place to dispose of it."
The man who then became the Congo's bloody
dictator for over 35 years, Joseph D. Mobutu, "had been spotted
as someone who would look out for /outside/ interests. He had
received cash payments from the local CIA man... while Lumumba's
murder was being planned." (Enough) Mobutu carried out Leopold's
tradition, exploiting and murdering his own people. When Bush
I (former head of the CIA) .< was U.S. President, Mobutu was
greeted by him as "one of our most valued friends."
Earlier he had been welcomed by President Reagan as "a voice
of good sense and good will."
When Mobutu died in 1997 (at one of his
numerous villas on the Riviera), his personal fortune was estimated
at $4 billion
Dwayne Andreas founder of ADM now CEO Emeritus. In 1995 he said
"There isn't one grain of anything
in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one The only place
you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians."
Union Carbide / Bhopal, India
The U.S. company Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical) had
a pesticide producing plant in Bhopal, India; its gas tank in
effect exploded (1984), spewing 40,000 tons of lethal gas. Bhopal
had 900,000 residents. Immediately after the explosion 8,000 died;
soon after the number of dead rose to 20,000 and more than half
of the other residents of Bhopal were seriously poisoned.
... Union Carbide has never denied its
culpability; it has rewarded the paltry, indeed insulting, sum
of $300-580 to the victims of the catastrophe ($480 million cost
to the company which, however, may be compared with the $26.5
billions paid by EXXON to Alaska for its oil spill-where nobody
That's bad enough. But not bad enough
for its owner Dow Chemical (which gave us Agent Orange during
the Vietnam war): 1) the then CEO of Union Carbide has managed
to avoid extradition and trial in India; 2) and now Dow Chemical
is suing survivors of the Bhopal tragedy for their recent demonstration
against the company in Bhopal. Why? Because of "the loss
of labor time" it caused.
Roman historian Tacitus - toward the end of the 1st century A.D.
It is no use trying to escape their arrogance by submission or
good behavior. They have pillaged the world. When the land has
nothing left for men who ravage everything, they scour the sea.
If an enemy is rich, they are greedy; if he is poor, they crave
glory. Neither East nor West can sate their appetite. They are
the only people on earth to covet wealth and poverty with equal
craving. They plunder, they butcher, they ravish, and call it
by the lying name of "empire." They make a desert and
call it "peace."
Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to then President
Carter, persuaded him to sign the first of several directives
allowing the CIA to provide weaponry to what became the Taliban.
How do we know? "Zbig" (as he liked to be known) told
us, through a boastful interview given to Le Nouvel Observateur
(1-15-98): realpolitik's finest hour.
The stated intention in July, he said,
"To draw the Russians into the Afghan trap .... We didn't
push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the
probability that they would." Three months later, on the
day the Soviet army entered Afghanistan, he wrote to Carter "Now,
we can give the USSR its Vietnam War."
In doing that we also birthed the Taliban,
the main force resisting the USSR. When the interviewer asked
Zbig if he regretted "having supported Islamic fundamentalism...,
and given arms and advice to future terrorists," the reply
"What is most important to the history of the world? The
Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up
Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the
(Interview in "The Making of Afghanistan,"
by Pankaj Mishra, NYRB, 1-15-01). On a day later that year in
Manhattan there was an event called "9/11" at a spot
now memorialized as Ground Zero.
The [US] bombing of Cambodia began on March 18, 1969; by the time
it ended 14 months later 3,630 air raids had been carried out
by flights of 50 or so eight-engined B-52s flying from either
Okinawa or Guam, each carrying dozens of 750 lb. bombs. And dropping
them from 30,000 feet, from which nobody can distinguish a hill
from a valley, a person from a tree. Lots of collateral damage,
you can be sure; and that was the intent.
All of this was illegal, so it had to
be done within a pattern of secrecy from relevant congressional
committees and cabinet members and, as well, from the air crews
and their superior officers. (They were given a "legal"
target in Vietnam and then, at the last moment, by radio, told
to switch the coordinates.) (SHAW CROSS) Everything we did in
or at Cambodia broke long-standing international law.
... The following long quote from Cambodian
Prince Sihanouk (from an interview in New York in 1979) is worthy
What separated me from Lon Nol in 1970
was that he wanted to make war against the Communists and invite
the United States into Cambodia. I knew that if we did so we would
be completely involved in the Vietnamese war, we would lose our
peace, and everything in Cambodia would be destroyed. If the United
States had refused to help Lon Nol after the coup, he would have
collapsed. I would have returned and stopped the war. It didn't
happen because Nixon and Kissinger didn't want Sihanouk back ....
There are only two men responsible for the tragedy in Cambodia
today, Mr. Nixon and Dr. Kissinger. Lon "-' Nol was nothing
without them and the Khmer Rouge were nothing without Lon Nol.
/But/ the results were the opposite of what they wanted. They
demoralized America, they lost all of Indochina to the Communists,
and they created the Khmer Rouge. (Quoted in SHAWCROSS)
In 1955, [General] Sukarno organized a conference of non-aligned
countries-calling themselves "Third World" (the first
usage of that term). From then on, Sukarno-much like Lumumba in
the Congo-was a thorn in the side of the USA. His government was
overthrown by Suharto in 1965, and at least 1,000,000 were killed,
a large percentage of them from the large Chinese population of
the area. There ensued a rightwing dictatorship distinctly friendly
to the USA in terms of investment and trade (and votes in the
As the USA saw things, the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu
in 1954 left a dangerous power vacuum in Southeast Asia; the war
that had defeated France had been fought out almost entirely in
Vietnam, and had been won almost entirely by the Viet Minh. Thus,
when the USA called the Geneva Convention and dominated its agreements-most
importantly that Vietnam would be split in two at the 17th parallel-there
was nothing comparable affecting either Cambodia or Laos; until
later, that is.
Anti-French movements had been stirring
in both of those countries before 1954; by 1958, in both of those
small countries (67 million in Cambodia, 2-3 million in Laos)
elections were held for their own national governments. The ongoing
political chaos involving center, left, and right factions prompted
the USA once more to call a Geneva Convention (1961-62).
The principal factions in Laos by that
time were the Pathet Lao (the rough but independent equivalent
of the Viet Minh), and the right-centrist Kong Le/Prince Souvanna
Phouma faction. The USA supported Souvanna Phouma, Kong Le (a
mercenary soldier) departed for Paris and never returned, and
the Prince became the de facto ruler of Laos; the de facto ruler
was the USA.
As in Cambodia, the USA had for some years
deployed thousands of armed and non-armed covert agents in Laos
under various names; by 1962 they had been reorganized under one
heading, USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development); its
mission was to suppress the Pathet Lao.
It was a mission with many dimensions,
the most destructive of which was the continuous and heavy bombing
of real or suspected Pathet Lao hideouts. What were called "hideouts"
were peasant villages and fields; thus ordinary Laotians-like
ordinary Vietnamese and Cambodians-became targets for U.S. bombers,
at ground level or from above 30,000 feet.
The main "city" of Laos is Vientiane
... USAID had been functioning there for many years, as had the
... The French had been there for almost
a century; the US for more than a decade. The progress their combined
efforts provided for the Lao were: no railways, two doctors (one
for each million inhabitants), three engineers, and 700 telephones,
little education, none of it in the Lao's language. There was,
however, a certain income from the lively heroin trade of the
"golden triangle," a product of the CIA ...
President William McKinley:
When I received the cable from Admiral Dewey of the taking of
the Philippines, I looked up their location on the globe. I could
not have told where those darned islands were within 2,000 miles!
And later, in speaking to a group of ministers about his decision
to "take" the islands: The truth is I didn't want the
Philippines, and when they came to us as a gift from the gods,
I didn't know what to do with them .... I thought first we would
only take Manila; then Luzon, then other islands, perhaps, also.
I walked the floor of the White House night after night until
midnight, and I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I
went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance
more than one night. And then one night it came to me this way...:
1) We could not give them back to Spain-that would be cowardly
and dishonorable, 2) We could not turn them over to France or
Germany, our commercial rivals in the Orient-that would be bad
business and discreditable. 3) We could not leave them to themselves-they
were unfit for self-government-and they would soon have anarchy
and misrule over there worse than Spain's was. So there was nothing
left for us to do but to take them all and to educate the Filipinos,
and uplift and civilize and Christianize them .... And then I
went to bed and went to sleep and slept soundly. (quoted in ZINN,
It took us four years and the killing
of over 300,000 Filipinos to quell the opposition led by Emilio
Aguinaldo. In 1934, some decades later, Congress legislated that
the islands should have their independence within 10 years; it
was granted after World War II.
Just as that war ended, the Philippine
Constabulary-which had worked with the Japanese during the war-was
newly armed by the USA. It set out for four years to eliminate
the "Hukbalahap" the group that had worked with us and
against the Japanese during the war.
All things considered, after independence
the Philippines might well have gone their own way. The main movement
to kill off the "Huks" and, as well, the islands' economy
and foreign policy were directed by the USA and the long-standing
local elite (called "caciques"). All too soon, our work
came to be done by the Philippines' first dictator, Frederic Marcos.
a 1965 Defense Department document, as revealed in the Pentagon
Papers (published by the NYT in 1971), quote:
US aims: 70%-To avoid humiliating US defeat (to our reputation
as guarantor). 20%-To keep SVN "-South Vietnam-" (and
then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands. 10%-To permit the
people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life.
... Vietnam began to serve as a laboratory
for counter-insurgency techniques and weapons. In the spring of
1961, a joint U.S,-Vietnamese testing center was established whose
first project was an evaluation of herbicidal warfare: the use
of chemicals to poison food crops and strip the foliage in areas
in which guerrillas were known to operate.
Chief among those chemicals were Agents
Orange, Green, White, and Blue. Orange and Green contained dioxin
now admitted by the government to be a cancer-causing agent; what
today is called a "weapon of mass destruction." Its
widespread and increasing use in Vietnam began in 1961-four years
before we "entered the conflict"-and continued for an
entire decade, until 1971. Some of the details are horrifying:
planes sprayed the herbicides directly
over at least 3,181 villages. At least 2.1 million inhabitants-and
perhaps as many as 4.8 million-would have been in the villages
during the spraying operations.., in South Vietnam, whose total
population at the time was less than 17 million... Almost 80 disorders
have been associated with exposure, including cancers of the lung
and prostate and more than a dozen other malignancies..., (SFC,
"Seeing red over Agent Orange: U.S. understated use of dioxin
during Vietnam..." (4-21-03)
... Already as such operations began in
1961, it had become the "mode" for the USA to give spin
names to our military activities, even to the point of being repulsively
cute about them. This one was , ' called Operation RANCH HAND,
its motto "Only We Can Prevent Forests." In the first
eight years of that operation one hundred million rounds of herbicides
were dropped on over four million acres of South Vietnam, its
intent stated as the intimidation of peasants-men, women, children-from
cooperating with the Viet Cong. (YOUNG)
The foregoing was occurring five years
before the USA had an official military presence in Indochina.
From then on, it expanded both qualitatively and quantitatively,
with the years before and after our official entry overlapping.
A major element of that overlapping was
the general "pacification" program. The "strategic
hamlets" were among its main elements. The practice was to
bulldoze innumerable villages suspected to be guerrilla strongholds,
and to herd all their former inhabitants into a spot where new
"houses" surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers
were constructed most of this to be paid for by the villagers
... the numbers of Vietnamese, Laotian,
and Cambodian dead added up to more than three million dead (to
say nothing of many more than that wounded, displaced, their lives
... it was and is in the very nature of the industrialization
process to obliterate the tiny firms constituting the "invisible
hand": Half a century or so after the first factory (1815),
the galloping technological advances unleashed by industrialization
and mass production had begun to make it both possible and necessity
for firms to enlarge and become gigantic. This they did in order
to defend themselves from otherwise "destructive competition"
and/or simultaneously to increase their profits by their ability
to control their markets. The best defense is a strong offence.
The USA, given its rich resources and
vast spaces, its large population and broad markets, took the
lead in that race (closely followed by Germany). In the decades
after 1860, when the mergers of formerly competing companies sped
up-in railroads, then iron and steel, then oil, then ... the resulting
process was called "the combination movement." By the
first years of the 20th century, the "invisible hand"
had become a well-concealed fist.
Thus, what had been 5,300 industrial firms
in 1897 had become 318 corporations by 1905. Most spectacular
were the mergers in iron and steel which in 1901 created U.S.
Steel-the first billion dollar company in the world-one company
composed of what once had been 750 different companies.
... while a pilot in the Pacific war, had bailed out when his
plane caught fire. Nothing necessarily wrong with that-unless,
that is, you are leaving your crew behind. Bush I did just that.
All pilots (and I was one) learn that the "captain of the
ship" is never the first to bail out. Bush I broke that rule,
and his crew went to a flaming death.
How do we know? Because other aircrews
on his wing that day provided the story to the press. Confirmed
though the story was and damaging though it should have been to
one who had gained repute for heroism, the news dwindled away
and was not heard from again.
Quite simply because he is President of the USA and, as such,
the most powerful person in the world, it is worrisomely difficult
for most of us to see him for what else he is: a rich, ignorant,
and feckless boy who got through private K-12 prep schools and
Yale University and Harvard Business School because of wealth
and family status; a dolt who has never done an honest day's work;
who was handed a governorship and then the Oval Office with no
meaningful political experience or knowledge. All he needed to
become governor Texas was the Bush name, the gift of a large pile
of oil stock and the ownership of a Texas baseball team (bought
with easily borrowed funds from an oil company), its stadium paid
for by $150 million of taxpayers' money. A newspaper summary of
his rise to riches and power: (from SFC, 7-5-02.)
1. Breezed and drank his way through prep
school at Yale and an MBA at Harvard,
2. Made head of Arbusto Energy (Tex.), funded by family friends,
who lost $5 million.
3. After changing its name to Bush Exploration in 1982 (Dad then
in White House as VP.) and continuing to lose money, it was bought
out in 1984 by Spectrum 7 Energy (Tex.), owned by two men who
were major backers of Bush I's 1988 presidential campaign. Bush
II was CEO of Spectrum 7, which had steady losses until bought
out by Harken Energy (still Tex.) in 1986, when Bush II was made
a Harken director, which paid him $250,000 in consulting fees
and stock options.
4. Bush II spent much of the next two years working for Dad's
political campaigns. After Dad won, Harken was awarded a big contract
by Bahrain for offshore drilling-for which it had no prior experience.
5. In 1989, with Bush II a director and "consultant,"
the S.E.C. ruled that Harken had hidden $10 million in losses
through the sale of a subsidiary to company insiders who had borrowed
the money from Harken to make the deal.
6. Soon after, in 1990, Bush II (who sat on the board's audit
committee) sold $848,000 of his Harken stock-8 days before the
price fell by more than half, when the public was informed that
Harken had recently lost $23 million. (SFC)
And oh yes, Bush II waited 8 months to file the document insiders
are required to submit when they sell. (NYT 7-4-02)
When the latter information hit the news
in July of 2002 Ari Fleischer had the unenviable job of reconciling
at least two contradictory versions of Bush's asserted innocence
reported earlier. In its story on this matter-"The Know Nothing
Defense... "-the SFC quoted Acting Dean Hermalin of UC Berkeley's
School of Business: "The know-nothing defense is a public
statement of incompetence,"
Bush II says it must all be OK, because
the SEC looked into it and "vetted" him. Paul Krugman
had this to say about that:
In fact, the agency's investigation was
peculiarly perfunctory. It somehow decided that Mr. Bush's peculiarly
timed stock sale did not reflect inside information without interviewing
him or any other members of Harken's hoard. Maybe top officials
at S.E.C. felt they already knew enough about Mr. Bush: his father,
the president, had appointed a good friend as S.E.C. chairman.
And the general counsel, who normally would make decisions about
legal action, had previously been George W. Bush's personal lawyer-he
negotiated the purchase of the Texas Rangers. I am not making
this up." (NYT, op-ed, 7-12-02)
Bush II, like his Dad, is a pilot; unlike
him, he's never heard a shot fired in anger: Other than landing
on the deck of that carrier in 2003 (after a 30-mile flight) he
confined his derring-do to whizzing over Texas for its National
Guard, thus exempting him from having to display his heroism in
Vietnam. And even then, he managed to take a never-explained leave
of an entire year. As the 2004 election approached and this became
a public matter, a process of intricate razor-thin qualifications
and denials filled the news. However one managed or did not manage
to cut through all that fog, however, what remained is that a)
he got into the Texas National Guard through being a Bush, b)
that he didn't serve all his time, and c) that he got an honorable
discharge under dubious conditions. (IVINS/DUBOSE)
Molly Ivins writes,
I have known George W. Bush slightly since we were both in high
school, and I studied him closely as governor. He is neither mean
nor stupid. What we have here is a man shaped by three intervening
strands of Texas culture, combined with huge blinkers of class.
The three Texas themes are religiosity, antiintellectualism, and
machismo. ("The Uncompassionate Conservative," Mother
Jones, November/December, 2003)
That the lines between advertising, propaganda, and public relations
are increasingly difficult to find was sickeningly revealed in
the week before the first "anniversary" of 9/11. In
"Bush Aides Set Strategy to Sell Policy on Iraq," the
NYT (9-7-02), we read that
"White House officials said today
that the administration - was following a meticulous strategy
to persuade the public, Congress and the allies of the need to
confront the threat from Saddam Hussein .... The White House decided
that even with the appearance of disarray it was still more advantageous
to wait until after Labor Day to launch their plan. "From
a marketing point of view," said Andrew H. Card Jr., the
White House chief of staff who is coordinating the effort, "You
don't introduce new products in August." A centerpiece of
this strategy, White House officials said, is to use Mr. Bush's
speech on Sept. 11 /2002/ to help move Americans toward support
of action against Iraq .... Toward that end, in June the White
House picked Ellis Island in New York Harbor, not Governor's Island,
as the place where President Bush is to deliver his Sept. 11 address
to the nation. Both spots were considered /they said!, but the
television camera angles were more spectacular from Ellis Island,
where the Statue of Liberty will be seen behind Mr. Bush..,. /His/
remarks, about 10 minutes in length, are to serve as the emotional
precursor for a tougher speech about Iraq that the president is
to deliver to the UN General Assembly the following day..., written
by a team that included Mr. Bush's principal speech writer (Michael
Gerson), Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Cohn Powell."
Bush II, it surely would be agreed, is not his own man-except
when the occasion arises to be warlike. He speaks for those in
his administration who have continued and sped up the shift to
the right engineered in the Reagan years-with the help of continuous
pressures from industry and finance, from the military, and militant
The arts of public relations and "mind management" have
been honed to a fine point since World War II, whether as regards
the sale of commodities or of socio/economic/military policies.
That is so even without any deliberate attempts to interfere with
dissent; but, such attempts are now well under way,
Ronald Reagan quotation - Iran-Contra
"I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages.
My heart and my best intention still tell me that is true, but
the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." (WILLS, 1988)
Income from Halliburton, 2000: $36 million. Increase in government
contracts while CEO: 91 percent (= $2.3 billion). Pages of Energy
Plan he has refused to provide congressional investigators: 13,500.
Cheney was CEO of Halliburton 1995-2000.
Halliburton is a giant: #1 for oil-field services, 5th largest
military contractor, and the biggest non.-union employer in the
Robert Mcchesney (1999)
Capitalism benefits from having a formally democratic system,
but capitalism works best when elites make most fundamental decisions
and the bulk of the population is depoliticized.
... the vital decisions affecting and directing the life of the
USA in its cultural, economic, military, and political realms
are made by a maximum of 10-20,000 people; and ... their composition
is more from business than from any other sector, followed closely
by entrenched political individuals and groups (themselves usually
harmonious in ideas with the business world), the military, and
social groups ...
Tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians are killed
by the carpet bombing of cluster bombs; they are aimed at an area,
not a target. Such bombs contain as many as 900 separate "bomblets"
designed to be indiscriminate In Iraq, 1 to 1.5 million were dropped.
(WSJ, "Pentagon Rethinks Use of Cluster Bombs," 8-23-03.
from the 1996 book by Zepezauer &
o Military waste and fraud
o Social Security Tax Inequities
o Accelerated Depreciation
o Lower Taxes on Capital Gains
o The S&L Bailout
o Homeowners' Tax Breaks
o Agribusiness Subsidies
o Tax Avoidance by Transnationals
o Tax-Free Muni Bonds
o Media Handouts
o Excessive Government Pensions
o Insurance Loopholes
o Nuclear Subsidies
o Aviation Subsidies
o Business Meals and Entertainment
o Mining Subsidies
o Oil and Gas Tax Breaks
o Export Subsidies
o Synfuel Tax Credits
o Timber Subsidies
o Ozone Tax Exemptions
Total of the money handed out to wealthy
individuals and corporations: $448 billion a year, at least 3
1/2 times that spent on welfare for the poor
VEBLEN (in his Theory of Business Enterprise):
It seldom happens, if at all, that the
government of a civilized nation will persist in a course of action
detrimental to or not ostensibly subservient to the interests
of the more conspicuous body of the community's businessmen ....
There is a naive, unquestioning persuasion abroad among the body
of the people to the effect that, in some occult way, the material
interests of the populace coincide with the pecuniary interests
of those businessmen who live within the scope of the same set
of governmental contrivances...
Compare the number of prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants:
The USA has 702/100,000. The only country
that comes close is Russia, with 664; then, Portugal, 131; Britain,
126; Italy, 93; Ireland, 78; France, 75; Sweden, 64; and the winner
(loser, we in the USA might say), is Finland, 52. (NYT, 1-3-03)
Except for Russia and China, the USA stands alone among the world's
major and most of its minor nations in having a death penalty
Broken Promises of America
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