Bob Dylan, Ugly Americans
and Usama bin Laden
Expanded from the 9-30-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Usama bin Laden has returned Nostradamus to the top of the bestseller lists. I'm not smart enough to comprehend the impenetrable predictions of the 16th Century prophet. But you don't need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows, as Robert Zimmerman Dylan advised almost five centuries later.
We ignored the weather at our peril and a hard rain fell on the nation last Sept. 11.
For more than 50 years, the storm has been brewing and the warnings have been coming. Ho Chi Minh so admired our Constitution that he modeled his proposed legal system on it. By the time World War II ended in 1945, Ho had won his first civil war of independence and was preparing to enter WWII on our side by attacking the Japanese in southeast Asia.
Alas, a pompous ass named Charles de Gaulle wanted his former colony of Indo-China back and President Harry Truman agreed. So, Ho went to war against the French, ousting them by 1954, then prepared for battle against the country he had so admired.
We were warned. In 1958, William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick published a bestseller called "The Ugly American." It pointed out how we were screwing over brown people all over the world and how it would come back to bite us someday. The book accurately foreshadowed the Vietnam War.
By then, the D-Squares had long been at work. President Dwight D. Eisenhower made John Foster Dulles his secretary of state and appointed Allen Dulles director of the Central Intelligence Agency. (See the June 14, 1998, Barbwire entitled "The mountainous hands of a killer dressed in black.")
The Dastardly Dulles Brothers put the U.S. into the business of overthrowing the governments of small nations. In 1954, in the name of national security (Chiquita Bananas were crucial in fighting communism), they ousted President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. It plunged the tiny central American nation into 44 years of civil war.
We ousted the popular and democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran a year earlier and installed the bloody shah for his promise to roll over and play dead for U.S. and European oil companies. That came back to haunt us many times over. The shah's greed caused the Arab oil embargo and the energy crises of 1973 and everafter.
We assassinated Dr. Salvadore Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile, on Sept. 11, 1973, 28 years to the day before the new terrorist trauma imposed upon the U.S. Henry Kissinger, who with President Nixon directed the CIA's coup against the second oldest democracy in the Americas, was confirmed as secretary of state 10 days later on Sept. 21, 1973.
Exactly three years later, operatives working for the man we installed to replace Allende, the Hitler-admiring Gen. Augusto Pinochet, detonated a car bomb in Washington, DC. It killed expatriate Chilean opposition leader Orlando Letelier and his American aide, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Her widowed husband still grieves and sends letters to newspapers calling for justice for his wife. [UPDATE: John Walsh, host of the FOX Network television program "America's Most Wanted," announced on his 13 Oct. 2001 show that a suspect in the bombing has been identified "at a Florida flower shop."]
The list of countries upon which we have imposed brutal dictators is sickening: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Indonesia, East Timor, the Sudan, Kosovo, Iraq, to name just a few.
Even Kuwait counts. The regime we reinstalled via the 1991 Gulf War was merely replacement of the new dictator with the old one. Worse, we gave Saddam Hussein permission to invade Kuwait in the first place. When he asked if we'd mind, President George Bush Sr.'s ambassador, April Glaspie, replied that the U.S. doesn't get involved in local border disputes.
For the past few nightmarish weeks, we have grunted and groaned that we cannot understand what motivates otherwise intelligent young men to commit mass murder.
Like all the terrorism warnings we ignored, we have also refused to use insight into the mind of the terrorist which has long been on the public record. Maybe it's easier to cope if we can rationalize that we had no idea human beings could stoop to such tactics.
"At present, the modernization of a backward country is still largely a process of Westernization the transplantation of practices, methods and attitudes indigenous to Western Europe and America," union longshoreman and philosopher Erif Hoffer wrote almost 50 years ago in "The Ordeal of Change."
"The backward and the weak see in imitation an act of submission and a proof of their inadequacy," Hoffer added.
"Seen as a process of imitation, it becomes understandable why the Westernization of a backward country so often breeds a violent antagonism toward the West," Hoffer stated.
That, I submit, accurately foreshadows Usama bin Laden's oft-stated rationale for action.
"People who become like us do not necessarily love us," Hoffer said.
"The impulse of the imitators is to overcome the model they imitate to surpass it, leave it behind, or, better still, eliminate it completely...The paradox is then that rapid modernization requires a primitivization of the social structure," Hoffer noted.
Which is why Usama found a perfect home with the retro Taliban of Afghanistan.
In his seminal 1951 work "The True Believer Thoughts on the nature of mass movements," Hoffer wrote that "however different the holy causes people die for, they perhaps die for the same thing."
Hoffer called the true believer "a man of fanatical faith who is ready to sacrifice his life for a holy cause...In order to liberate the present, (the true believer) must be willing to give up enthusiastically any chance of ever tasting or inheriting the present...To lose one's life is but to lose the present; and clearly, to lose a defiled, worthless present is not to lose much," Hoffer wrote 50 years ago.
"The True Believer" is still in print and paints a chillingly accurate portrait of the zealots who've been blowing themselves up for the last couple of decades.
But Nostradamus is the bestselling author. Hoffer is not. We have once again ignored the weatherman and the wind has blown us over.
Stay of good heart.
Be well. Raise hell.
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Copyright © 2001, 2005 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .
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