During the White House Press Briefing on July 11, 2005, which I discuss in a previous piece, Scott McClellan said something which I instinctively regarded with suspicion and doubt. In the middle of the barrage of questions about Karl Rove's possible misdeeds, he was asked a question about the London bombings and he was able to take a deep breath and deliver a speech he knows so well about the War on Terror. In an effort to draw a contrast between "them" (the terrorists) and 'us" (America), he said: "Free societies are peaceful societies."
As I said, my immediate reaction was: "Huh?" I also wondered if any of the reporters present had their doubts, too.
While it sounds good, the idea that "free" societies (in this case, he is defining America as free) are "peaceful" societies is, in historical actuality, utter nonsense. America-the-free is and has been the image we want to project, especially in the aftermath of World War II. While we have promoted the idea of freedom (and democracy) in diplomatic posturing, and while we have touted freedoms of the press, and religion, and speech, and the like, we have also, in every year since 1945, projected American military power, hegemony, threat, menace, and outright violence, direct interference and war, both secret and not so secret.
In Italy, Greece, Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile and Cuba we used the CIA to intervene, disrupt and manipulate, always supporting autocratic regimes against their own people, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. In Vietnam, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, and now Iraq we have used the military power of our "free" society to create to impose our will and dominion.
For a full list of the dozens and dozens of instances when our governments have projected anything but peace, see the Table of Contents of William Blum's book Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII . You can read more from William Blum at his website.
Blum paints a stark portrait of the recent nature of our peaceful society quite succinctly when he says:
Following its bombing of Iraq in 1991, the United States wound up with military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Following its bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the United States wound up with military bases in Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia.
Following its bombing of Afghanistan in 2001-2, the United States wound up with military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Yemen and Djibouti.
Following its bombing and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States wound up with Iraq.
This is not very subtle foreign policy. Certainly not covert. The men who run the American Empire are not easily embarrassed.
Perception and reality are different in Scott McClellan's wishful thinking. So many of us grew up with ideas about America that are far different from the reality. Learning the reality is going to be a bitter pill for many Americans, but one that is painfully necessary if we are going to make this country into a truly free, political and economic democracy.
Right now, we aren't even close.
And, of course, none of this includes the fact that America has the highest gun violence rate in the world. The rate of firearm deaths among kids under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) .
Peaceful society, indeed.