US President George W. Bush’s inaugural speech last January 20 offered no surprises. The threat implicit in the sentence “The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world,” and the assertion that the US goal is “advancing [the ideals of] self-government…with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world” was only a reiteration of the policy Bush had followed during his first term, of which the attack on and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq are only the initial examples.

George Bush isn’t the first US President to use God and freedom to justify the foulest deeds either. The US has a history of invading, destabilizing or subverting other countries, and of killing and destruction that goes back a hundred years.

Nearly a million non-combatant Filipinos were killed at the turn of the 20th century, and thousands tortured for the sake of “Christianity and civilization”. It’s for the sake of “liberty” and “democracy” that a hundred thousand civilians have so far died in Iraq, and for their sake as well that prisoners are tortured and deprived of their most basic rights in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Not all American presidents are the same, and Bush is different from his predecessors if only for his breath-taking arrogance and incredible ignorance. He doesn’t only make the Christian God a partisan in the US drive for total world domination; he’s also far less subtle about his preference for the use of force in achieving that goal. If much of the world except Filipinos, Poles and Indians (according to BBC poll of 21,000 people world-wide) believe that Bush’s reelection is a danger to the world, that’s because, unlike previous US presidents, he’s actually brought out into the open what has been US policy for over a century, and what’s more, has no compunctions about threatening and attacking anyone.

Within hours of his inauguration, his Vice President, Dick Cheney, formerly and still of Haliburton, was threatening an Israeli attack on Iran, which Bush had lumped together with Iraq and North Korea in the “axis of evil” in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Although Iran may be even less easy a target as Iraq, there is no doubt that the United States has it in its rifle sights. The official reason for any invasion or bombing, whether by the US or by its surrogate, Israel, would be the same as that used in the invasion of Iraq: that Iran is a threat to the US and the world because it has weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs.

Iran is at least five years away from developing nuclear weapons, according to US intelligence, and has shown a willingness to negotiate over the issue. But the United States has refused to engage in any negotiations. Cheney’s remarks were followed last Monday, January 17 (January 18 in Manila) by a Bush statement that he “could not rule out” the use of force against Iran.

The Cheney threat was preceded by Secretary of State-designate and former Chevron executive Condoleeza Rice’s condemnation, during her confirmation hearings at the US Senate, of Iran for supposedly supporting terrorism and for its hostility to Israel. In what sounded like a prescription for military action, Rice included Iran among six “outposts of tyranny” the US State Department would target. These countries, she said, are Cuba, Burma (Myanmar), North Korea, Iran, Belarus, and Zimbabwe.

If the US does launch any military offensive against these countries starting with Iran, it would be in keeping with the assumption that it knows best and has the right to impose its own version of the ideal government on other countries.

But in what can only be described as an outright lie, Bush declared in his speech that “America will not impose (its) own style of government on the unwilling”–which is precisely what it has been trying to do since the end of World War II, though not for the sake of freedom and democracy, but for the sake of its corporate interests.

In 1945 the United States intervened on the side of the brutal government of Chiang Kai-shek in the civil war in China. Two years later, the US threatened to withhold aid from then war-ravaged France unless the French government dismissed its communist ministers, despite the crucial role of the Communist Party in the struggle against Nazi occupation.

Between 1946 and 1958, the US used the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands for nuclear testing, forcing its inhabitants to abandon the island, and subjecting the inhabitants of surrounding islands to radiation, which has resulted in, among others birth deformities.

From 1945 to the early 1950s, the US was the prime mover in the war against the Huks in the Philippines, where, among other means, it sanctioned the use of torture and murder against suspected Huk sympathizers.

In Iran itself, in 1953, the US overthrew the government of the reformist, freely-elected Prime Minister, Mossadegh, to give way to restoration of the Shah.

In Indonesia, CIA support for a generals’ coup led to the bloodbath of 1965, in which at least a million Indonesians were slaughtered by the military on the basis of a US-provided list of alleged communists and communist sympathizers.

In Vietnam, from 1953 to 1975, the US first supported the French against the Vietnamese struggle for independence, then divided the country into North and South when the French were driven out, and put up its own puppet government, which it ended up supporting with half a million troops and billions of dollars in aid and war materiel until US forces and their Vietnamese puppets were defeated in 1975–at the cost of some 1.5 million Vietnamese dead.

In Chile in 1973, the US-backed coup forces of the arch-torturer and murderer General Augusto Pinochet assassinated democratically-elected President Salvador Allende and began a reign of terror, murder and torture that lasted for over a decade.

In the Philippines from 1972 to 1986, four US presidents supported the Marcos dictatorship with economic and military aid as it imprisoned a hundred thousand Filipinos, and tortured and murdered thousands more.

In Yugoslavia in 1999, the US bombed an industrialized country back to third world status, destroying most of its cities and infrastructure, as well as its cultural life. (No respecter of other cultures, the US has also destroyed much of Iraqi cultural heritage.)

In Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Cambodia, Laos, Ecuador; in the Congo, Ghana, the Dominican Republic; in Colombia, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, Bulgaria…

In all these countries the goal of US intervention was to impose the US’ version of “democracy” upon the people, regardless of whether democracy was already in place (as was the case in Chile and the Philippines in the 1970s and in Iran in 1953), or not. What mattered was whether the government or groups or individuals targeted were willing to obey the United States in furtherance of the latter’s strategic and economic interests. The same goals, based on the same arrogant presumption that it knows best for the entire planet, drove the US invasion of Iraq.

The consequence is there for the world–except Filipinos, Indians and Poles–to see.

Three hundred million people go to bed hungry daily under the auspices of the New World Order over which the lone superpower presides. Sixty percent of the world’s resources are controlled by some five percent of its population. Diseases that could be eradicated overnight rampage across the poor countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Millions of children cannot go to school, in most instances because there are no schools in countries whose resources have been ravaged by US corporations. And entire countries have been laid waste by US bombing, including the former Yugoslavia and much of Vietnam and Cambodia, Iraq being only the most recent casualty of the US expertise in destruction.

Why this situation has come about doesn’t require a rocket scientist to understand. Nearly every effort of the world’s peoples to gain control of their own resources and destiny has been frustrated by the United States in the last 100, but specially in the past 50 years, while those that have succeeded are under constant US economic pressure and the threat of US violence.

Every attempt to advance human progress, to end mass misery and hunger, and to achieve the freedom the US so loudly trumpets but is in truth opposed to, has met with US subversion, threats, intimidation and actual force. The frustration of the Philippine Revolution is just one example.

The tyranny of the lone superpower is the real tyranny that afflicts the world, which makes Bush’s pledge to end tyranny actually a pledge to perpetuate it.

Bush did say that “There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.”

He is completely correct about the reign of hatred and resentment. It is a reign of hatred and resentment that regards other peoples as inferior and inconsequential to the grand design of the United States. But Bush of course failed to mention that most primary impulse that drives that reign: good, old fashioned capitalist greed.

The world is no doubt under constant threat from tyrants and their pretensions. But among those tyrannies is the biggest, loudest, most pretentious of all, which claims it is for democracy and liberty, and that it supports “democratic movements and institutions in every culture” even as it supposedly “help(s) others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way”.

Before this pretense, and the armed might of the Empire, the force of human freedom, as powerful as it is, cannot stand. The “decent and tolerant” haven’t a chance, which leaves the field wide open to the indecent and intolerant.


Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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