These reflections are self-explanatory.
In that already famous Super Tuesday, a day of the week when a number of States of the Union were selecting the candidate of their choice for the presidency of the United States from among a group of contenders, one of the likely candidates to replace George W. Bush was John McCain. Due to of his pre-packaged hero image, and his alliance with strong contenders such as Rudy Giuliani, the former governor of the state of New York, other candidates had already gladly endorsed him. The intense propaganda of social, economic and political factors having great significance in his country, and his personal style had turned him into the frontrunner. Only the extreme Republican right represented by Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, in disagreement with some insignificant McCain concessions, was still offering some resistance on February 5th. Subsequently, Romney would also withdraw in favor of McCain. Huckabee is still in the contest.
On the other hand, the struggle for the Democratic Party candidate is much tougher. Even though we are dealing, as usual, with an active part of the enfranchised population that tends to be a minority, we are already hearing all kinds of opinions and speculations about the consequences of the final outcome of the electoral battle for the country and the world, if mankind escapes the warmongering adventures of Bush.
It is not up to me to talk about the history of a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. I have never done so, and perhaps I would never have. Why should I be doing it at this time?
McCain has said that some of his comrades were tortured by Cuban agents in Vietnam. His advocates and publicity experts tend to emphasize that McCain himself suffered such torture at the hands of the Cubans.
I hope that the U.S. people will understand that I consider it my obligation to enter into a detailed analysis of this Republican candidate and to respond to him. I shall do so on the basis of ethical considerations.
The McCain file shows that he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam from October 26, 1967.
As he tells it himself, he was 31 years old at the time and flying his 23rd bombing mission. His plane, an A-4E Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi by an anti-aircraft missile. Because of the hit, he lost control and ejected over Truc Bach Lake, in the middle of the city, suffering fractures in both arms and one knee. A patriotic crowd, seeing an aggressor come down, gave him a hostile reception. McCain himself says he was relieved at that moment to see the arrival of an army squad.
The bombing of Vietnam, begun in 1965, shocked international opinion, very sensitized to air attacks by the superpower against a small third world country which had been turned into a French colony, thousands of miles away from distant Europe. The Vietnamese people fought against Japanese occupation forces during World War II and, when that war ended, France once again took control. Ho Chi Minh, the modest leader who was much loved by all, and Nguyen Giap, his military commander, were internationally admired figures. The famous French Foreign Legion had been defeated. In trying to avoid that, the aggressor powers were at the point of using a nuclear weapon at Diên Biên Phu.
The noble “anamitas”, as José Martí affectionately called them, holders of millenary culture and values were portrayed, to U.S. public opinion, as a barbarian people unworthy of existence. In terms of suspense and commercial advertising, nobody can compete with the American specialists. The specialty was used unrestrictedly in the case of the POWs, and particularly in the case of McCain.
Going along with that, McCain later said that the fact that his father was an Admiral and commanded the U.S. forces in the Pacific led the Vietnamese Resistance to offer him early liberation if he would admit that he had committed war crimes; he refused, arguing that the Military Code provides that prisoners be liberated in the order they were captured, and that meant five years of prison, beatings and torture in a prison area the Americans called the “Hanoi Hilton.”
The final pull out from Vietnam was disastrous. An army which was half a million strong, trained and armed to the teeth, could not hold back the thrust of the Vietnamese patriots. Saigon, the colonial capital, today called Ho Chi Minh City, was embarrassingly abandoned by the occupation forces and their accomplices, some of them holding to helicopters. The United States lost more than 50 thousand of their precious sons and daughters, not counting those that were wounded. They had spent 500 billion dollars in that war without taxes, always distasteful in their own right. Nixon unilaterally revoked the commitments of Bretton Woods setting the foundations of today’s financial crisis. Their only achievement was a Republican Presidential candidate 41 years later.
McCain, one of the many U.S. pilots shot down and wounded in the declared, or undeclared, wars of their country, was decorated with the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.
A TV movie based on his memoirs of the experiences as a POW was broadcast on Memorial Day of 2005 and he became famous for videos and speeches on the subject.
The worst statement he made regarding our country was that Cuban interrogators had been regularly torturing American prisoners.
As a reaction to McCain’s incredible words, I became interested in the matter. I wanted to know where such a strange legend had come from. I asked that someone find information on the attribution. I was informed that there was a highly promoted book which was the basis for the movie. This was written by McCain and Mark Salter, his Senate administrative advisor, who continues to work and write with him. I asked for it to be translated. This was done, as on other occasions, very quickly by qualified staff. The title of the book: Faith of My Fathers, 349 pages, published in 1999.
His accusation against internationalist Cuban revolutionaries —using the nickname Fidel to identify one of them who was capable of “torturing a prisoner to death”— is totally lacking in any ethics.
Allow me to remind you, Mr. McCain: The commandments of your religion forbid you from lying. Your years in prison and the wounds you received as a result of your attacks on Hanoi do not excuse you from the moral duty of truth.
Some facts must be brought to your attention. In Cuba, we had a rebellion against a despot who was put into power by the United States on March 10, 1952, imposed on the Cuban people, when you were just about to turn 16 years old, and the Republican government of a celebrated soldier, Dwight D. Eisenhower –who indeed was the first one to speak of the industrial-military complex– immediately recognized and supported that government. I was a bit older than you; I would have my 26 birthday that August, the same month when you were born. Eisenhower had not yet completed his presidential term that had begun in the 1950’s, some years after he became famous for the allied landing in the north of France, with the support of 10 thousand planes and the most powerful naval force known up to that time.
It was a war, formally declared by the powers fighting Hitler. The Nazis had launched a pre-emptive attack, without warning and without any prior declaration of war. A new style of producing great slaughters was imposed on mankind.
In 1945, two bombs of roughly 20 kilotons each were used against the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I once visited the first of those cities.
In the 1950’s, the government of the United States came to build such nuclear attack weapons. One of them, the MR17, came to weigh 19.05 tons and measured 7.49 meters; it would be carried in their bombers and would unleash an explosion of 20 megatons, equivalent to a thousand bombs like the one that was dropped over the first of those two cities on August 6, 1945. It is a fact that would infuriate Einstein who, in the midst of his contradictions, would often express regret about the weapon that, without meaning to, he helped to manufacture, with his scientific theories and discoveries.
When the Revolution triumphs in Cuba on January 1st, 1959, almost 15 years after the explosion of the first nuclear weapons, and we proclaim an Agrarian Reform Act based on the principle of national sovereignty, consecrated by the blood of millions of combatants who died in that war, the United States response was a program of illegal deeds and terrorist attacks against the Cuban people, signed by the President of the United States himself, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The attack on the Bay of Pigs followed the exact instructions of the President of the United States and the invaders were escorted by U.S. naval units, including an aircraft carrier. The first air assault with U.S. B-26 planes flying out of secret bases was a pre-emptive attack using Cuban markings on the planes so that world opinion would see this as a revolt by our national air force.
You accuse Cuban revolutionaries of being torturers. I seriously urge you to find a single one of the more than a thousand prisoners captured during the Bay of Pigs fighting who had been tortured. I was there, not in some protected position at a distant general command post. I personally captured a number of prisoners with the help of some assistants; I walked in front of armed squads who were still lying under cover of the forest’s vegetation, paralyzed by the presence of the Chief of the Revolution. I’m sorry that I have to mention this because it might appear to be boasting, and that is something I honestly detest.
The prisoners were citizens born in Cuba organized by a powerful foreign power to fight against their own people.
You have admitted that you are in favor of the death penalty for very serious crimes. What would have you done if faced by such acts? How many would you have sentenced for that treason? In Cuba, we tried several of the invaders who, under Batista’s orders, had previously committed horrendous crimes against Cuban revolutionaries.
I visited the mass of Bay of Pigs prisoners, —that is how you call the Girón Beach invasion— on more than one occasion, and I talked with them. I like to find out man’s motives. They showed surprise and expressed their acknowledgement of the personal respect with which they were treated.
You should know that while we were negotiating their liberation in exchange for compensation by food and medicines for children, the U.S. government was organizing plans to assassinate me. There is a record of this in what was written by people taking part in the negotiation process.
I shall not go into detail about the long list of hundreds of assassination attempts on me. None of this is made up. It has been stated in official documents circulated by the U.S. government.
What ethics underlie such deeds, vehemently defended by you as a matter of principles?
I shall attempt to delve deeper into those matters.
One of the most hostile U.S. newspapers when it comes to Cuba, headquartered in Florida, offers the following report:
“Taking advantage of the negotiations to free the Bay of Pigs’ prisoners, the CIA tried to use a key person in the talks, American lawyer James B. Donovan, to deliver a lethal gift to Fidel Castro: a wetsuit contaminated with a fungus that lacerates the skin and an underwater breathing device infected with tuberculosis...the gear in fact was given to the Cuban leader in November 1962.
“The revelation is one of many anecdotes in After the Bay of Pigs, a book on the negotiations held between the Committee of Relatives for the Liberation of Prisoners and Havana from April to December 1962.
“The 238-page book, published late last year, was written by Cuban exile Pablo Pérez-Cisneros with businessman John B. Donovan, son of the late negotiator, and Jeff Koenreich, a veteran member of the Red Cross who has promoted humanitarian missions between the United States and Cuba.
“Pérez-Cisneros is the son of Berta Barreto de los Heros, who was coordinator in Cuba of the Families Committee and interceded with Castro to trade off the 1,113 prisoners from the failed April 1961 invasion.
“Barreto de los Heros started the book but died in March of 1993. Her son, who spent eight years researching and finishing the book, was the person who bought the wetsuit and scuba gear at the end of 1962, not knowing that both were destined for Castro.
“In June 1962, Pérez-Cisneros visited James B. Donovan’s office in Brooklyn for the first time to request his intervention in the negotiations with Cuba. The meeting was arranged by Robert W. Kean, son of a former congressman and brother-in-law of Joaquín Silverio, a jailed member of Brigade 2506. Donovan agreed to work for the Families Committee at no charge.
“Two months later, Donovan made the first of 11 trips to Havana for mediation with the Cuban government.
’’When Donovan returns to Cuba in October 1962, Castro tells him he wants to have an aqualung (scuba gear) and wetsuit for diving,’’ Pérez-Cisneros told El Nuevo Herald in an interview to expand on the case. “So, Donovan tells me he wants to get quality equipment for a person, but without telling me they are for Castro.’’
“Pérez-Cisneros, who had been a champion underwater spearfisherman in Cuba, bought a $130 wetsuit and scuba equipment for $215 in a well-known store in Times Square, New York.
“Castro received them in November 1962, and some weeks later, on another one of Donovan’s trips, the Cuban President told the lawyer that he had used them.
“Only months after the negotiations had concluded did Pérez-Cisneros learn all the details about the real story.
“During World War II, James Donovan had worked for the Office of Strategic Services, which preceded the CIA. He was later named one of the prosecutors in the Nazi war-crimes trials in Nuremberg. In February 1962, he was the chief mediator in the most spectacular spy trade of the Cold War: the trade of Russian Col. Rudolf Abel for Americans Frederick Prior and captured U-2 pilot Gary F. Powers.
“When Donovan informed the CIA that Castro had requested diving equipment, the U.S. agency said it would take care of it. But the lawyer rejected any involvement in the proposal to contaminate the wetsuit and scuba equipment and preferred to give Castro the equipment bought in Times Square.
“In May of 1963, Castro invited Donovan and lawyer John E. Nolan, who represented then-Justice Secretary Robert Kennedy, to a day of diving in the Bay of Pigs area and again used the U.S. equipment.
“In late 1963, ’’Donovan told me that the idea of an attempt against Castro gave him goose bumps, and he refused to take the equipment from the CIA, thinking that if Cuba detected the operation, all the negotiations could be ruined and that he could be executed,’’ …
“The book, sprinkled with curious and unexpected events, is a tense story of how love, determination and cleverness made possible the exchange of the Brigade 2506 prisoners for $53 million in food, medicine and medical equipment.
“The efforts of Donovan and the Families Committee came at a moment of uncertainty over the prisoners’ fates…
“The committee’s first meeting with Castro took place in Barreto de los Heros’ house in Miramar on April 10, 1962. Four days later, 60 wounded Brigade members were flown to Miami.
“Donovan’s entry into the negotiations accelerated the release process.
“Knowing that Barreto de los Heros’ telephone was tapped, Donovan arranged a secret code for communications.
“In mid-December, Castro agreed to an exchange and handed over a 29-page list of food and medicine that was to be sent to Cuba by the American Red Cross. The last 10 days of negotiations were very intense because Donovan brought in a group of 60 lawyers in order to ensure all of the donations promised by 157 American companies.
“On Dec. 23, 1962, the first five planes left for Miami, carrying 484 members of the brigade. A day later, the 719 prisoners that remained flew in nine more flights.”
I have literally transcribed the article’s words. I wasn’t aware of some of the specific information. Nothing that I remember is far from the truth.
My relationship with the Cienaga de Zapata (Zapata Marsh) began very early. I learned about the place thanks to some American visitors who would talk to me about the “black fish", a very dark trout that was very abundant in the Laguna del Tesoro, at the heart of the marsh, at a maximum depth of 6 meters. In those days we were considering the development of tourism and possibly ‘polders’ like the land reclaimed from the sea by the Dutch.
The spot was famous from my days as a high school student, when the marsh was populated by tens of thousands of crocodiles. Indiscriminate catch had almost exterminated the species. It was necessary to protect it.
We were impelled above all by the desire to do something for the charcoal burners of the marsh. That was how my relationship with the Bay of Pigs began, a bay that is so deep it reaches almost a thousand meters. There I met old Finalé and his son Quique, who were my teachers in underwater fishing. I used to go all over those keys. I came to know that area like the back of my hand.
When the invaders landed there, three roads crossed the marsh, some facilities had already been built and others were being built for tourism, even an airport in the vicinity of Giron Beach, the last stronghold of the enemy forces which our combatants took by assault on the evening of April 19, 1961. I have told that story before. We were at the point of recovering it in less than 30 hours. Diversion maneuvers by the U.S. Marines delayed our crushing tank attack in the early morning of the 18th.
In order to deal with the issue of captured prisoners, I met Donovan, who seemed to me –and I am pleased to confirm it with his son’s testimony– to be an honorable man; I indeed once invited him to go fishing, and without a doubt I talked to him about a wetsuit and diving equipment. I cannot remember the other details too clearly; I would have to make some inquiries. I was never concerned with writing my memoirs, and today I understand that was a mistake.
For example, I was not able to remember the exact number of wounded so precisely. What stayed in my mind was the memory of those hundreds of our wounded; quite a few died because of a shortage of equipment, medicines, specialists and the lack of suitable facilities in those days. The wounded men who were sent earlier surely required rehab or better care, but that was not available to us.
From our first victorious battle, on January 17, 1957, it became our tradition to look after the enemy’s wounded. The history of our Revolution records that fact.
In the book of memoirs called “Faith of my Fathers”, written by McCain with the omnipresent help of Mark Salter, technically very well written, the main author states:
“I was often accused of being an indifferent student, and given some of my grades, I can appreciate the charity in that remark. But I was not so much indifferent as selective. I liked English and history, and I usually did well in those classes. I was less interested and less successful in math and science.”
Further along, he assures us:
“A few months prior to graduation, I had taken the Naval Academy entrance exams…did surprisingly well, even on the math exam.
“My reputation as a rowdy and impetuous young man was not, I’m embarrassed to confess, confined to Academy circles. Many upstanding residents of lovely Annapolis, witnesses to some of our more extravagant acts of insubordination, disapproved of me as did many Academy officials.”
Earlier, upon describing some of the events of his childhood, he tells us that:
“At the smallest provocation, I would go off in a mad frenzy, and then, suddenly, crash to the floor unconscious.
“The doctor prescribed a treatment that seems a little severe by modern standards of child care. He instructed my parents to fill a bathtub with cold water whenever I commenced a tantrum, and when I appeared to be holding my breath to drop me, fully clothed, into it.
Upon reading this, one has the impression that the methods that were applied to us in those days –both in my case, living in that pre-war era, just as in his –were not exactly the most fitting to deal with children. In my case, there was no doctor advising the family; they were ordinary people, some were illiterate, and many of them only applied traditional treatments.
Other episodes narrated by McCain relate to his adventures as a cadet on training trips. I am not mentioning them because they stray from the contents of my analysis and they have nothing to do with personal matters.
Naturally, McCain was not in the Congress hall on the night of Bush’s speech last January 28th, because some things in this man’s policies are compromising to him. He was in Little Havana, at the Versailles Restaurant, where he received the tribute of the Cuban community. It is just as well that we don’t look too closely into the background of several people who were there.
McCain supports the war in Iraq. He believes that the threat of Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea and the growth of Russia and China oblige the United States to strengthen its attack force. He would work together with other countries to protect the nation from Islamic extremism and continue in Iraq until victory.
He recognizes the importance of keeping strong relations with Mexico and the other Latin American countries. He is in favor of continuing the current aggressive Cuba policy.
He would reinforce security on United States borders, not just for the entry and exit of people, but also for the products that enter the country. He thinks that immigrants ought to learn English and the history and culture of the United States.
He wants the Latino vote, unfortunately most of these don’t vote or do it exceptionally; they are always fearful of deportation, of their children being taken away or of losing their jobs. On the Texas wall, more than 500 continue to die each year. He is not promising an ‘adjustment act’ to those who go after the “American dream”.
He supports Bush’s “The No Child Left Behind Act”. He supports the allocation of more federal funding for low interest scholarships and university grants.
In Cuba we offer everyone solid knowledge, an artistic education and the right to graduate from university without paying any tuition. More than 50 thousand children with learning disabilities receive special education. Computer science is extensively taught. Hundreds of thousands of well qualified people are employed in these tasks. But Cuba must be blockaded to free it from such a terrible tyranny.
Like any other candidate, he has his little government platform. He promises to reduce dependence on foreign energy. It is easy to say, but these days it is difficult to do.
He opposes subsidized ethanol production. Fantastic: I suggested just that to Brazilian President Lula Da Silva, that he demand the United States to suspend the hefty agricultural subsidies for corn and other cereals destined for the production of ethanol from foods. But that is not what is being proposed, on the contrary, it’s to export U.S. ethanol to compete with Brazil. Only he and his advisors know it, because ethanol from corn can never compete in cost with that of Brazil which comes from sugarcane as the raw material, at the expense of the tremendous efforts of its workers who in any case improve their lot without the U.S. tariff barriers and subsidies.
Many other Latin American nations were set on the path of producing ethanol from sugarcane by the United States. What would they do with the new decisions coming down from the North?
And we can’t miss the promises ensuring quality of air and water, the suitable use of green areas, the protection of the national parks that would become just a memory of what once used to be the nation’s natural splendor, victim of the unrelenting dictates of the market laws. The Kyoto Protocol, nevertheless, would not be signed.
These sound like the dreams of a castaway in the middle of a storm.
He would reduce taxes for middle class families, keeping the Bush policy of cutting back the permanent taxes and leaving rates at their current level.
He wants greater control over the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. He thinks that families should be in charge of their healthcare dollars. He would carry out health and prevention campaigns. He supports the plan of the current President allowing workers to move money from social security taxes to private retirement funds.
Social security would suffer the same fate as the stock market.
He is in favor of the death penalty, the growth and build-up of the armed forces, and the expansion of the FTAs.
Some McCain maxims:
“Things are tough now, but we’re better off than in 2000.” (Jan 2008)
“I’m well-versed in economics; I was at the Reagan Revolution.” (Jan 2008)
“To avoid recession, stop unchecked spending.” (Jan 2008)
“Loss of economic strength leads to losing military strength.” (Dec 2007)
“Republicans have forgotten how to control spending.” (Nov 2007)
“Certify border is secure; only then allow guest workers.” (Jan 2008)
“2003 "amnesty" didn’t mean rewarding illegal behavior.” (Jan 2008)
“Round up and deport two million aliens who committed crimes.” (Jan 2008)
“Do everything I can to help all immigrants learn English.” (Dec 2007)
“No official English; Native Americans use own languages.” (Jan 2007)
“Immigration reform needed for national security.” (Jun 2007)
“Bipartisanship shows preparedness for presidency.” (May 2007)
“Maintain Cuban embargo; indict Castro.” (Dec 2007)
“Cuba: No diplomatic and trade relations.” (Jul 1998)
“Naive to exclude nukes; naive to exclude attacking Pakistan.” (Aug 2007)
“War in Iraq ‘we have diverted attention from our hemisphere and we have paid a price for that’.”(Mar 2007)
He promises to visit his properties on the continent. He said that after being elected to the White House in 2008, his first trip would be to Mexico, Canada and Latin America to “reaffirm my commitment to our hemisphere and the importance of relations within our hemisphere."
In his entire book, an obligatory reference in my Reflections, he states that he was good in history. There is not one single reference to any political philosopher, not even to one of those who inspired the Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies on July 4, 1776; in 4 months and 23 days it will celebrate its 232nd birthday.
More than 2400 years ago, Socrates, the famous Athenian wise man, celebrated for his method and martyr to his ideas, conscious of human limitations, said: “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Today, McCain, the Republican candidate, proclaims before his fellow citizens: “One thing only I know, and that is that I know everything.”
Yesterday, I said that while Bush was speaking to Congress, McCain was being honored at the Versailles Restaurant of Little Havana.
It was there that most of the fiercest enemies of the Cuban Revolution and their families took up residence, Batista’s followers, the big landowners, owners of apartment buildings and millionaires who tyrannized and plundered our people. The United States government has used them at will, to organize invaders and terrorists who have shed our people’s blood through almost 50 years. Later, illegal emigrants joined that stream, along with the Cuban Adjustment Act and the brutal blockade imposed on the people of Cuba.
It is incredible that, in this day and age, the Republican candidate, honored as a hero, is turned into an instrument of that Mafia. Nobody having an ounce of self-esteem would commit such a serious lapse in ethics.
Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario and Lincoln Díaz-Balart, Senator Mel Martínez, also of Cuban descent, Governor Charles Christ and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman have become the candidate’s linchpins in the attempt to win Florida and his main advisors for Latin America policy.
What can Latin Americans possibly hope for with such advisors?
Ros-Lehtinen described McCain as being “strong on national defense” and “also understanding the threat posed by the Castro regime”.
McCain shone in his participation at a hearing on Cuba which he held on May 21, 2002, at the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Foreign Trade and Tourism of the Science and Transportation Committee; there he reiterated that our country poses a threat to the United States because of its capacity to produce biological weapons, something James Carter demonstrated to be ridiculous.
As for the proposals to relax the travel to Cuba policy, in October of 2003 McCain introduced a motion to interrupt the debate on these topics.
Particularly interesting was the introduction in March 2005 of a bill entitled “Advance Democracy Act of 2005”, authorizing funds, reinforcing subversion, establishing new structures and proposing additional mechanisms to exert pressure on Cuba.
Alluding to the light pirate planes downed on February 24, 1996, he declared: “If I were President of the United States, I would order an investigation on the downing of those brave men who were murdered under orders of Fidel and Raúl Castro, and I would indict them.”
In another one of his capricious declarations he stated that “when freedom comes to Cuba, he would like to meet the Cubans who tortured some of his comrades during the Vietnam War”. The nerve of that obsessive candidate!
Let’s move on to the crux of his thinking.
What kind of political education did he get? None. He was trained as a war pilot based on his physical attributes for flying an attack plane. What was his predominant trait? Family traditions and his strong political motivation.
In his memoirs, he writes: "My father rose to high command when communism had replaced fascism as the dominant threat to American security. He hated it fiercely and dedicated himself to its annihilation. He believed that we were locked on inescapably in a life-and-death struggle with the Soviets. One side or the other would ultimately win total victory, and sea power would prove critical to the outcome. He was outspoken on the subject.”
“In 1965, violent clashes between warring factions, one of which was believed to be a Communist front, had brought the Dominican Republic to the verge of civil war. President Johnson ordered my father to command the amphibious assault on Operation Steel Pike 1, the invasion and military occupation of the Caribbean nation. The operation was controversial. Critics judged it, with good reason, to be an unlawful intervention in the affairs of a sovereign nation. My father, typically, was undeterred by domestic opposition.
“’Some people condemned this as an unwarranted intervention,’ he observed, ‘but the Communist were all set to move in and take over. People may not love you for being strong when you have to be, but they respect you for it and learn to behave themselves when you are.’
“His subsequent assignment at the United Nations, however, was regarded by the Navy as a dead end and was expected to be his last. He was a three-star admiral, and the prospects for a fourth star were remote. But two years later he was ordered to London to assume command of all U.S. naval forces in Europe. A fourth star came with the job... Within a year, he was given command of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, the largest operational military command in the world.”
When McCain was returning from his training flight as a cadet, he passed through the occupied territory of Guantánamo.
“Guantánamo in those pre-Castro days was a wild place. Everyone went ashore and headed immediately for huge tents that had been set up on the base as temporary bars, where great quantities of strong Cuban beer and an even more potent rum punch were served to anyone who professed a thirst and could afford a nickel a drink.”
“I was proud to graduate from the Naval Academy. But at that moment, relief was the emotion I felt most keenly. I had already been accepted for flight training in Pensacola. In those days, all you had to do was pass the physical to qualify for flight training, and I was eager to embark on the life of a carefree naval aviator.”
“In October 1962, I was just returning to home port at Norfolk after completing a Mediterranean deployment aboard the Enterprise. My squadron had flown off the Enterprise and returned to Oceana Naval Air Station while the ship put in at Norfolk”.
“A few days after our return, we unexpectedly received orders to fly our planes back to the carrier. Our superiors explained the unusual order by informing us that a hurricane was headed our way.”
“We flew all our planes back to the carrier within twenty four- hours and headed out to sea. In addition to our A-1s, the Enterprise carried long-range attack planes, which typically had a hard time managing carrier takeoffs and landings. We embarked on our mysterious deployment without them.”
“Our air boss turned to a representative of the Marine squadron and said we didn’t have time to wait for all their planes to land; some of them would have to return to their base.
“I was quite puzzled by the apparent urgency of our mission, we’d been hustled back in one day, leaving some of our planes behind; the Marine squadron has been ordered to join us with only enough fuel to land or ditch. The mystery was solved a short while later when all pilots were assembled in the Enterprise’s ready room to listen to a broadcast of President Kennedy informing the nation that the Soviets were basing nuclear missiles in Cuba.”
This time he was referring to the well-known October Missile Crisis of 1962, more than 45 years ago; it left him with the underlying desire to attack our country.
“The Enterprise, sailing at full speed under nuclear power, was the first U.S. carrier to reach waters off Cuba. For about five days, the pilots on the Enterprise believed we were going into action. We have never been in combat before, and despite the global confrontation a strike on Cuba portended, we were prepared and anxious to fly our first mission. The atmosphere aboard ship was fairly tense, but not overly so. Pilots and crew men alike adopted a cool-headed business-as-usual attitude toward the mission. Inwardly, of course, we were excited as hell, but we kept our composure and aped the standard image of a laconic, reserved and fearless American at war.”
“After five days the tension eased, as it became apparent the crisis would be resolved peacefully. We weren’t disappointed to be denied our first combat experience, but our appetites were whetted and our imaginations fueled. We eagerly anticipated the occasion when we would have the chance to do what we were trained to do, and discover, at last, if we were brave enough for the job.”
Further on, he describes the accident on the nuclear aircraft carrier, the Forrestal, in the Gulf of Tonkin. One hundred and thirty-four young Americans, many of them 18 and 19 years old, died in a huge effort to save the vessel. The carrier, peppered with perforations from the exploded bombs, had to sail to the United States to be reconstructed. It would be necessary to check what was published at the time and the approach taken on the subject.
McCain is then moved on to another conventional type of aircraft carrier in the same waters, with the same objective. Each one of the author’s self-definitions warrants close observation.
“On September 30, 1967, I reported for duty to the Oriskany and joined VA-163 –an A-4 attack squadron nicknamed ‘the Saints’. During the three years of Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign of North Vietnam begun in 1965, no carrier’s pilots saw more action or suffered more losses than those on the Oriskany. When the Johnson administration halted Rolling Thunder in 1968, thirty-eight pilots on the Oriskany had been either killed or captured. Sixty planes had been lost, including twenty-nine A-4s. The Saints suffered the highest casualty rate. In 1967, one-third of the squadron’s pilots were killed or captured. Every single one of the Saints’ original fifteen A-4s had been destroyed. We had a reputation for aggressiveness, and for success. In the months before I joined the squadron, the Saints had destroyed all the bridges to the port city of Haiphong.”
“Like all combat pilots, we had a studied, almost macabre indifference to death that masked a great sadness in the squadron, a sadness that grew more pervasive as our casualty list lengthened.
“We flew the next raid with greater determination to do as much damage as we could.
“I was just about to release my bombs when the tone sounded.
“I knew I was hit. My A-4, traveling at about 550 miles an hour, was violently spiraling to earth”
“I reacted automatically the moment I took the hit and saw that my wing was gone. I radioed, “I’m hit,” reached up, and pulled the ejection seat handle.”
“I struck part of the airplane, breaking my left arm, my right arm in three places, and my right knee, and I was briefly knocked unconscious by the force of the ejection. Witnesses said my chute had barely opened before I plunged into the shallow water of Truc Back Lake. I landed in the middle of the lake, in the middle of the city, in the middle of the day.”
“My father wasn’t much of a believer in fighting wars by half measures. He regarded self-restraint as an admirable human quality, but when fighting wars he believed in taking all necessary measures to bring the conflict to a swift and successful conclusion. The Vietnam War was fought neither swiftly nor successfully, and I know this frustrated him greatly.”
“In a speech he gave after he retired, he argued that “two deplorable decisions” had doomed the United States to failure in Vietnam: “The first was the public decision to forbid U.S. troops to enter North Vietnam and beat the enemy on his home ground...The second was...to forbid the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong until the last two weeks of the conflict...”
“These two decisions combined to allow Hanoi to adopt whatever strategy they wished, knowing that there would be virtually no reprisal, no counterattack.”
“When the North Vietnamese launched a major offensive in December 1971, at a time when U.S. forces in Vietnam had been reduced to 69,000 men, President Nixon finally directed my father to mine Haiphong and other northern ports immediately. The Nixon administration had dispensed with much of the micromanaging of the war that had so ill served the Johnson administration, particularly the absurd target restrictions imposed on American bomber pilots.”
“Relations between military commanders and their civilian superiors improved when President Nixon and Defense Secretary Melvin Laird entered office. The new administration was clearly more interested in and supportive of the views of the generals and admirals who were prosecuting the war. My father had a good relationship with both Nixon and Laird, as well as with the President’s National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger.”
He does not hide his feelings when speaking of the bombing victims. His words ooze intense hatred.
“Our situation improved even more in April 1972, when President Nixon resumed the bombing of North Vietnam and, on my father’s orders, the first bombs since March 1968 began falling on Hanoi. Operation Linebacker, as the campaign was called, brought B-52s, with their huge payload of bombs.”
“The misery we had endured prior to 1972 was made all the worse by our fear that the United States was unprepared to do what was necessary to bring the war to a reasonably swift conclusion. We could never see over the horizon to the day when the war would end. Whether you supported the war or opposed it –and I met a few POWs who argued the latter position –no one believed the war should be prosecuted in the manner in which the Johnson administration had fought it.”
“The B-52s terrorized Hanoi for eleven nights. Wave after wave they came. During the days, while the strategic bombers were refueled and rearmed, other aircraft took up the assault. The Vietnamese got the point.”
“Our senior officers, knowing that this moment was imminent, had warned us not to demonstrate our emotions when the agreement was announced.”
He oozes hatred of the Vietnamese. He was ready to exterminate them all.
“By the time the end did come, with the signing in Paris of the peace accords, my father had retired from active duty. No longer restrained by his role as a subordinate to civilian superiors, he dismissed the agreement. ‘In our anxiety to get out of the war, we signed a very bad deal.’”
These paragraphs reflect McCain’s most intimate thoughts. The worst comes when he yields to the idea of making a declaration against the war being waged by his country. He cannot help but mention that in his book. How does he do this?
“He (his father) had received a report that a heavily edited propaganda broadcast, purported to have been made by me, had been analyzed, and the voice compared to my taped interview with the French journalist. The two voices were judged to be the same. In the anguished days right after my confession, I had dreaded just such a discovery by my father.
“After I came home, he never mentioned to me that he had learned about my confession, and, although I told him about it, I never discussed it at length. I only recently learned that the tape I dreamed I heard playing over the loudspeaker in my cell had been real; it had been broadcast outside the prison and had come to the attention of my father.
“If I had known at the time my father had heard about my confession, I would have been distressed beyond imagination, and might not have recovered from the experience as quickly as I did. But in the years that have passed since the event, my regard for my father and for myself has matured. I understand better the nature of strong character.
“My father was a strong enough man not to judge too harshly the character of a son who had reached his limits and found that they were well short of the standards of the idealized heroes who had inspired us as boys.”
I don’t criticize him for this. It would be heartless and inhuman. That’s not my aim. What we need to do now is to unmask a policy which is not an individual one, but one that is shared by many, since the objective truth will always be difficult to understand.
Has McCain ever thought about the anti-terrorist Five Cuban Heroes who were imprisoned in solitary cells just like the ones he says he hates, forced to appear before a jury from Little Havana for crimes they never committed, with three of them sentenced to one and even two life sentences, and the others to 19 and 15 years in prison?
Does he know that the United States authorities received information that could prevent death by terrorism of U.S. citizens?
Is he aware of the activities of Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, the men responsible for blowing up a Cuban airliner in mid-flight, killing its 73 occupants?
Why doesn’t he talk about that to the cadets at Annapolis?
The Cuban heroes are about to complete 10 years in prison. They have never murdered or tortured anyone. Don’t accuse them now of being in Vietnam torturing American pilots.
I know about your declarations at the school where you graduated as a cadet. I appreciate your noble wish to not answer me so as not to dignify me. The only sad mix-up –and it was not the intent of some news agencies that ran my first reflection on the subject– is that I asked for proof. You can’t prove something that didn’t happen. I asked for ethics.
When in the previous reflection I asked McCain what he thought of the Five antiterrorist Cuban Heroes, I did so because I remembered what he had published on page 206 of his book Faith of My Fathers, co-written with his assistant Mark Salter:
“It’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment. Having no one else to rely on, to share confidences with, to seek counsel from, you begin to doubt your judgment and your courage. But you eventually adjust to solitary, as you can to almost any hardship, by devising various methods to keep your mind off your troubles and greedily grasping any opportunity for human contact.”
“When in 1970 my period of solitary confinement was finally ended, I was overwhelmed by the compulsion to talk nonstop..."
If this is a subject of interest to you, in the United States today there are five Cuban prisoners, separated one from the other by thousands of miles. They have no area that can be sarcastically called the “Hanoi Hilton”. Their suffering and the injustice of which they are victims will be known the world over; don’t doubt it for a minute. I decided to revisit the subject remembering that, in one of your many declarations, you were trying to locate the spot turned into a prison for the pilots of the bombers brought down as they were attacking Vietnam.
I was housed in the former residence of the French Governor of all Indochina when I visited Vietnam in 1973, a country where I arrived on September 12 after the agreement between the United States and Vietnam, to which you referred. There I was visited by Pham Van Dong, the Prime Minister at the time, who wept as he remembered the human and material sacrifices imposed on his country; from there I left to visit the South –not yet totally liberated– up to the McNamara Line, where the steel bunkers had been taken by the Vietnamese combatants, despite the bombings and the continued U.S. air attacks.
All the bridges along the road, without exception, between Hanoi and the South visible from the air, were destroyed; the villages razed, and every day the cluster bomb grenades dropped for that purpose, were blowing up in the rice paddies where children, women and even very old people were working to produce food.
A great number of craters could be seen in each one of the entrances to the bridges. At that time there were no laser guided bombs, much more precise. I had to insist on making that trip. The Vietnamese were afraid that I would be the victim of some Yankee plot if they learned of my presence in that area. Pham Van Dong accompanied me at all times.
We flew over Nghe-An Province where Ho Chi Minh was born. In that province, as well as in Ha Tinh, two million Vietnamese starved to death in 1945, the last year of World War II. We landed in Dong Hoi. A million bombs were dropped over the province where that destroyed city lies. We crossed the Nhat Le on a raft. We visited an assistance center for the wounded of Quang Tri. We saw numerous captured M-48 tanks. We took wooden roads over what was once the National Highway that had been destroyed by bombs. We got together with young Vietnamese soldiers who covered themselves with glory at the Battle of Quang Tri. Calm, resolute, seasoned by the sun and the war, a slight tic quivered the eyelid of the battalion captain. No one knows how they could have stood up to so much bombing. They were worthy of praise. On that same afternoon on September 15, returning by a different route, we picked up three wounded children, two of which were in very serious condition; a 14 year old girl was in a state of shock with a metal fragment in her abdomen. The children were working in the fields when one of their tools accidentally touched a grenade. The Cuban doctors accompanying the delegation cared for them directly for hours and saved their lives. I was a witness, Mr. McCain, to the heroic deeds of the bombing raids on North Vietnam, the same ones you are so proud of.
During those days in September, Allende had been overthrown; the Presidential palace was attacked and many Chileans were tortured and murdered. The coup was promoted and organized from Washington.
All that unfortunately happened.
The basic problem at this time is to know whether the Republican candidate McCain is aware of the economic crisis which, shortly or immediately, will beset the United States. Only from that point of view will it be possible to evaluate any candidate with the possibility of assuming the leadership of that powerful country.
Two days ago on February 12, the international news agency IAR published an article signed by Manuel Freytas, a journalist, researcher and analyst, entitled “Why a recession in the United States can turn into a global crisis.”
There is no need for many proofs to argue the case.
“In the current bleak forecast of the U.S. economy –he writes– key institutions of today’s economic-financial system come together, such as the Federal Reserve and the United States Treasury, the World Bank, the WMF, the G-7 (the 7 wealthiest nations) and the central banks of Europe and Asia, seeing in the confluence of credit crisis-collapsing dollar-escalating oil prices, a potential central detonator in a recessive process in capitalism on a world scale.
“The fear of a U.S. recession and its impact on the world economy…has negatively impacted on the confidence of the system’s economic and political elite.
“The Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, said that his country could fall into a recessive process and that it faces the double challenge of a falling real estate market, and at the same time the necessity of making sure that inflation does not push up the prices of oil and foods.
“In January, the United Nations Organization warned of the existence of an elevated risk of falling into a global economic recession…”
“At the Davos Forum held in January in the Swiss Alps, the leaders of the richest and most powerful world powers have just warned of a recession in the United States with worldwide implications, predicting a bleak forecast for this year.
“The Finance Ministers and the central banks of the seven wealthiest countries in the world (G-7) considered last Saturday that their economies are going to shortly suffer deceleration, according to the final communiqué at a meeting in Tokyo…”
“There are two key elements that explain why a recessive crisis in the United States would be immediately projected upon the entire world economy, both in the central countries as well as in the ‘emerging’ and ‘peripheral’ countries.
“a) In the current world economy globalized model, the United States is the principal buyer and consumer of products and energy resources, and represents 22.5 percent of the world economy, according to the latest calculations of the World Bank.
“b) The capitalist world economy is ‘dollarized’. The dollar is the standard currency for all commercial and financial transactions on a world scale.
“These two central factors explain why any economic-financial oscillation or imbalance having the United States as its protagonist impacts and immediately spreads throughout the ‘system’.
“A recessive crisis in the United States…would immediately impact on the stock exchanges and the globalized money markets…completing the cycle of the collapse of today’s model of capitalist economy on a world scale.
“The collapse of the model would break the equilibrium of political ‘governability’ and would unleash a wave of social and trade union conflicts that would equally affect the United States and the central powers as well as the ’emerging’ countries."
Yesterday, February 13, various articles by well-known American journalists were pointing in the same direction, even though they took up different arguments. I shall quote only two; of these I have selected paragraphs that reflect the topicality and importance of their contents, using concepts that are completely accessible for the educational levels of our people.
Under the title of “The American Model is an Idea whose Time has Come”, Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, an international daily news show broadcast by 650 radio and television stations in the U.S. and the world, wrote:
“Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., made it personal: “Would waterboarding be torture if it was done to you?” “I would feel that it was,” Mukasey responded. Though he deflected questions, before and after Kennedy’s, his personal answer rang true.
“Our attorney general should not have to be waterboarded to know that it is torture.
“Suharto ruled Indonesia for more than 30 years, shored up by the most powerful country on Earth, the United States.
“Throughout Suharto’s reign, U.S. administrations—Democratic and Republican—armed, trained and financed the Indonesian military. In addition to the million Indonesians killed, hundreds of thousands were also killed during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, a small country 300 miles above Australia.
“On Nov. 12, 1991, when I was covering a peaceful Timorese procession in Timor’s capital, Dili, Suharto’s occupying army opened fired on the crowd, killing 270 Timorese.
“The soldiers beat me with their boots and the butts of their U.S. M-16s. They fractured the skull of my colleague Allan Nairn, who was writing for The New Yorker magazine at the time.
“Transparency International estimated Suharto’s fortune to be between $15 billion and $35 billion. The current U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Cameron Hume, praised Suharto’s memory this week, saying, “President Suharto led Indonesia for over 30 years, a period during which Indonesia achieved remarkable economic and social development.
“Whether it’s waterboarding, waging an illegal war or holding hundreds of prisoners without charge for years at Guantanamo Bay or at CIA black sites around the world, I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the world’s greatest nonviolent leaders. “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless,” he asked, “whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
“When asked what he thought of Western civilization, Gandhi responded, “I think it would be a good idea.”
That same day, in CounterPunch, Robert Weissman wrote another article titled “The Shameful State of the Union”, translated for Rebelión by S. Seguí, where among other things he stated:
“The United States is spending more than $700 billion a year on the military. The 2008 appropriations bills include $506.9 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy, plus an additional $189.4 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Congress has approved nearly $700 billion to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the appropriated amount. It doesn’t include costs to society — loss of life, injuries, etc.
“Depending on how you count, more than half of all discretionary federal spending is now directed to the military.
“Wealth is concentrating in the United States at a startling rate.
“In 1976, the top 1 percent of the population received 8.83 percent of national income. In 2005, they grabbed 21.93 percent.
“In the hyper-financialized economy, it’s the finance guys who are getting truly rich…despite the huge losses being wracked up on Wall Street.
“But even the traditional investment banks can’t match the outrageous compensation captured by private equity and hedge fund managers, a few of whom manage to pull in more than $1 billion in a single year. Thanks to a tax loophole, these characters pay income tax at a rate less than half of what a dentist making $200,000 a year pays.
“Corporations are capturing more of the nation’s wealth.
“The housing bubble and the subprime mortgage meltdown are driving millions of families from their homes.
“The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that 2.2 million subprime home loans made in recent years have already failed or will end in foreclosure. Homeowners will lose $164 billion from these foreclosures, the Center projects. Overall losses from deflated housing values may top $2 trillion.
“The racial wealth divide remains a chasm with little prospect of being bridged — and is likely growing worse.
“It would take 594 more years for African Americans to achieve parity with whites, according to United for a Fair Economy. But the subprime debacle is hitting minority communities disproportionately hard causing what United for a Fair Economy believes may be the worst deprivation of people of color’s wealth in modern U.S. history.
“More than one in six children lives in poverty.
“More than 45 million people in the United States do not have health insurance.
“The 2006 U.S. trade deficit totaled $763.6 billion. The trade deficit will eventually have to be balanced — sooner than later, it now seems. As the dollar continues to swoon, expect to see inflation and higher interest rates over the medium term. The real standard of living, in economic terms, will decline as a result.
“U.S. fuel efficiency is worse now than it was two decades ago.
“The nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed over a five-year period to bring the nation’s infrastructure to good condition.
“Most of these conditions are worse now than at the start of the Bush administration, many dramatically worse. But they have their roots in a bipartisan policy approach over the last three decades, favoring deregulation, handover of government assets to corporations (privatization), corporate globalization, hyper-financialization, lunatic military expenditures, tax cuts for the rich and a slashed social safety net.”
Robert Weissman, author of the article, is editor of the Washington D.C.-based Multinational Monitor and director of Essential Action.
So as not to impose on my readers, all that remains is Part Five.
The articles introduced in yesterday’s reflection, on February 14th, were written in the last two or three days.
More than two weeks ago, on January 27, 2008, the digital publication Tom Dispatch reproduced an article translated for Rebelión by Germán Leyens: Why The Debt Crisis is Now the Greatest Threat to the American Republic, by Chalmers Johnson. This American author has not been awarded the Nobel Prize, as has Joseph Stiglitz, the famous and well-known economist and writer, or even Milton Friedman himself, who inspired neoliberalism and led many countries down that disastrous path, including the United States.
Friedman was the most intensive advocate of economic liberalism opposed to any government regulations. His ideas nurtured Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. An active member of the Republican Party, he advised Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Augusto Pinochet, that man with a sinister story. He died in November of 2006 at the age of 94. He wrote numerous works, among them Capitalism and Liberty.
When I refer to Chalmers Johnson’s article, I am strictly abiding by the irrefutable arguments he used. I use the method of selecting essential paragraphs textually.
“Going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries. Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay –or repudiate.
“This utter fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (such as causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching.
“There are three broad aspects to our debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on “defense” projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. Simultaneously, we are keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the American population at strikingly low levels."
“Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our manufacturing base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures…”
“Third, in our devotion to militarism, we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country..."
“Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world’s number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs –an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing…”
“It is virtually impossible to overstate the profligacy of what our government spends on the military. The Department of Defense’s planned expenditures for fiscal year 2008 are larger than all other nation’s military budgets combined. The supplementary budget to pay for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is in itself larger than the combined military budgets of Russia and China. Defense-related spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. The United States has become the largest single salesman of arms and munitions to other nations on Earth…”
“The numbers released by the Congressional Reference Service and the Congressional Budget Office do not agree with each other…”
“There are many reasons for this budgetary sleight-of-hand—including a desire for secrecy on the part of the president, the secretary of defense, and the military-industrial complex—but the chief one is that members of Congress, who profit enormously from defense jobs and pork-barrel projects in their districts, have a political interest in supporting the Department of Defense…”
“For example, $23.4 billion for the Department of Energy goes toward developing and maintaining nuclear warheads; and $25.3 billion in the Department of State budget is spent on foreign military assistance…”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs currently gets at least $75.7 billion, 50% of which goes for the long-term care of the grievously injured among the at least 28,870 soldiers so far wounded in Iraq and another 1,708 in Afghanistan.
“Another $46.4 billion goes to the Department of Homeland Security; $1.9 billion to the Department of Justice for the paramilitary activities of the FBI; $38.5 billion to the Department of the Treasury for the Military Retirement Fund; $7.6 billion for the military-related activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and well over $200 billion in interest for past debt-financed defense outlays. This brings U.S. spending for its military establishment during the current fiscal year (2008), conservatively calculated, to at least $1.1 trillion.
“Such expenditures are not only morally obscene, they are fiscally unsustainable. Many neoconservatives and poorly informed patriotic Americans believe that, even though our defense budget is huge, we can afford it because we are the richest country on Earth… That statement is no longer true. The world’s richest political entity, according to the CIA’s “World Fact book”, is the European Union. The EU’s 2006 GDP was estimated to be slightly larger than that of the U.S. However, China’s 2006 GDP was only slightly smaller that that of the U.S., and Japan was the world’s fourth richest nation.
“A more telling comparison that reveals just how much worse we’re doing can be found among the "current accounts" of various nations. The current account measures the net trade surplus or deficit of a country plus cross-border payments of interest, royalties, dividends, capital gains, foreign aid, and other income. In order for Japan to manufacture anything, it must import all required raw materials. Even after this incredible expense is met, it still has an $88 billion per year trade surplus with the United States and enjoys the world’s second highest current account balance. China is number one. The United States, by contrast, is number 163 — dead last on the list, worse than countries like Australia and the United Kingdom that also have large trade deficits. Its 2006 current account deficit was $811.5 billion; second worst was Spain at $106.4 billion. This is what is unsustainable. .. "
“Our excessive military expenditures did not occur over just a few short years. They have been going on for a very long time in accordance with a superficially plausible ideology and have now become entrenched. This ideology I call "military Keynesianism" — the determination to maintain a permanent war economy and to treat military output as an ordinary economic product, even though it makes no contribution to either production or consumption...
“The Great Depression of the 1930s had been overcome only by the war production boom of World War II…”
“With this understanding, American strategists began to build up a massive munitions industry, both to counter the military might of the Soviet Union (which they consistently overstated) and also to maintain full employment as well as ward off a possible return of the Depression. The result was that, under Pentagon leadership, entire new industries were created to manufacture large aircraft, nuclear-powered submarines, nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and surveillance and communications satellites. This led to what President Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address of February 6, 1961: "The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience" — that is, the military-industrial complex.
“By 1990, the value of the weapons, equipment, and factories devoted to the Department of Defense was 83% of the value of all plants and equipment in American manufacturing…”
“Even though the Soviet Union no longer exists, U.S. reliance on military Keynesianism has, if anything, ratcheted up…
“Devotion to military Keynesianism is, in fact, a form of slow economic suicide…”
“The historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr., observes that, during the 1950s and 1960s, between one-third and two-thirds of all American research talent was siphoned off into the military sector…”
“Between the 1940s and 1996, the United States spent at least $5.8 trillion on the development, testing, and construction of nuclear bombs. By 1967, the peak year of its nuclear stockpile, the United States possessed some 32,500 deliverable atomic and hydrogen bombs…”
“Nuclear weapons were not just America’s secret weapon, but also its secret economic weapon. As of 2006, we still had 9,960 of them (of the most modern ones). There is today no sane use for them, while the trillions spent on them could have been used to solve the problems of social security and health care, quality education and access to education for all, not to speak of the retention of highly skilled jobs within the American economy. ..”
“Our short tenure as the world’s “lone superpower” has come to an end.
“Today we are no longer the world’s leading lending country. In fact we are now the world’s biggest debtor country, and we are continuing to wield influence on the basis of military prowess alone."
“Some of the damage done can never be rectified.”
“There are some steps that this country urgently needs to take. These include reversing Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy, beginning to liquidate our global empire of over 800 military bases, cutting from the defense budget all projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States, and ceasing to use the defense budget as a Keynesian jobs program. If we do these things we have a chance of squeaking by. If we don’t, we face probable national insolvency and a long depression. “
In an Internet conference about Johnson’s work, the answer is already designed by him. What does he say? Something which I shall explain in a very brief summary:
“Johnson is arguing that the United States is its own worst enemy. ‘Sooner rather than later, he assures us, the arrogance of the United States will result in its downfall’. Johnson’s book is largely made up by independent chapters on a number of vaguely related subjects.”
“’The time to avoid financial and moral bankruptcy is short’. Later, he arrives at the following conclusion: ‘We are on the edge of losing democracy in the name of holding on to our empire’. Johnson’s work is described as ‘polemical’…While many of us have become insensitive to the White House’s atrocities, Johnson’s indignation with the Administration –its torture memoranda, its disdain for free public information, its mockery of established treaties– is vivid. This could be due to his conservative background: Marine lieutenant in the 50’s, CIA adviser from 1967 to 1973 and a long-time advocate of the Vietnam War. Johnson became horrified by militarism and American interventionism late in the game. Now he is writing as if he would like to make up for lost time. The most outstanding of Johnson’s contributions to the debate about the American empire is his documentation of the vast network of U.S. military bases overseas…
“’Many years ago we were able to trace the expansion of imperialism by tallying up the colonies’, writes Chalmers Johnson in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. ‘The American version of the colony is the military base…’”
“Nemesis is a book about hard power. By comparing the far-flung U.S. bases with Roman garrisons, Johnson hypothesizes that things haven’t changed much since the days of Caesar and Octavius. But with nuclear weapons scattered among the great and the lesser powers, military might can only achieve mutual destruction…Our troops are besieged.”
“Each one of Johnson’s erudite chapters teaches as much as it disturbs. But his underlying moaning about the death of democracy lacks analytic strength. Johnson looks incredulously at ‘those who believe that Washington’s governmental structure today is in any way similar to that which was sketched out by the Constitution of 1787’.”
“Such pessimism seems exaggerated. The Republic has survived Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, and democracy, despite the blows it has received, will also survive Bush.”
The arguments for concretely answering the article signed by Johnson on January 27th require more than a declaration of faith in democracy and freedom. Johnson did not invent the arithmetic that even a sixth grade student knows; nor was it invented by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, also a Nobel Prize Laureate. He was very close to not getting his university degree: his biographer tells us that he was constantly asking how much 8 times 5 were; he could never remember that it was 40.
Several months ago, while carefully analyzing more than 400 pages of the translation of the memoirs of Alan Greenspan who for 16 years was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States, The Age of Turbulence –about which I promised to write some reflections and it is already water under the bridge– I learned about the secret of his enormous worries: what is beginning to happen today. In essence, I clearly understood the consequences, so terrible for the system, of printing paper bills and spending with no limits.
I deliberately did not confront any of the candidates from both parties on the very delicate subject of climate change to avoid disturbing illusions and dreams. Publicity does not affect the laws of physics and biology. These are less understandable and more complicated.
I expressed a few months ago the certainty that the most knowledgeable person on the subject of climate change and the most popular would not be running for president. He had already been a candidate and victory was snatched from him as the result of a scandalous fraud. He understood the risks of nature and politics. Obviously, I refer to Albert Gore. He is a good barometer. We have to ask him every day how he slept. His answers would doubtlessly be useful to the desperate scientific community which desires the survival of the species.
In my next reflection I will deal with a subject of interest to many compatriots, but I won’t give any hints.
I apologize to the readers for the time and the space that I took for five days with The Republican Candidate.
Cuban Agency News
La Agencia Cubana de Noticias (ACN) es una división de la Agencia de Información Nacional (AIN) de Cuba fundada el 21 de mayo de 1974.