7/09/2009

Defining Treason

Back in the late 40's well into the late 50's, a collection of characters mostly from the Republican Party decided to define "treason" in their own terms. Many of these good ole' boys were often characterized as "the senators from Taiwan" or by some equally obvious terms that defined their true sponsors. Some congressmen like Joe McCarthy from Wisconsin, Styles Bridges of New Hampshire, Missouri's James Kem, and Nebraska's Kenneth Wherry barely seemed to realize that they had been elected by US citizens and were not personal representatives and lobbyists of Chiang Kai-shek and his band of corrupt gold diggers. The similarity between the China Lobby of the 1940's and 50's and today's Israel Lobby is beyond striking.

The Chinese Nationalists were particularly effective at handing out favors, money (syphoned from US taxpayer funds sent to prop up that pitiful "resistance"), and all sorts of under-the-table benefits to those who would chant their party line in Washington. The rightwing press (the overwhelming majority of the press) was equally over-the-wall about Chinese affairs. Publishers like Henry Luce of Time were children of that period's evangelism and believed that their lives would have been in vain if China were allowed to fall to communism. On one hand, Nationalist China was being represented by our own corrupt, bought-and-paid-for elected officials and on the other China's propaganda was marketed by the major newspapers and magazines. That, however, was never considered "treason."

Every on-site military advisor in China knew that Chiang (the "generalissimo") was incompetent, cowardly, and corrupt. One US general after another was sent to China to prop up Chang's conscripted and kidnapped military and found it to be so useless that the effort was a career killer, even for the best and most competent of our military leadership. Part of the reason that MacArthur managed to stay on top of the military dogpile in the Far East was that he was the most remote of leaders, hiding out in Japan and only sticking his toe into China and Korea for photo-ops. He managed to mismanage every step of China and Korea while shifting the blame for his failures to subordinates, mostly, through his political links to the Republican China delegation. To Republicans, that wasn't even considered incompetence, let alone treason.

There is a question whether "history repeats itself" or "history precedes itself." Humans make the same mistakes so often, misjudge current events so predictably, and follow the wrong leaders so consistently that it almost makes one fatalistic. The marching morons line up so quickly behind "conservative" goofballs that you'd have to suspect there is a human herding instinct that resembles a similar characteristic of lemmings.

Reading the history of our involvement in the Philippines at the turn of the last century, China in the 1920's, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq is almost boring in its repetition. First, there is a business interest to protect, often not even a US business interest, followed by war drum beaters from the so-called "conservative" crowd. Often reluctantly, the military is drawn into what is typically a civil war and our side is picked by whatever special interest has the ear and its hand in the pocketbook of, usually, the Republican Party. Often "our side" was either our opponent or a non-involved party in whatever major issue began the civil war. Once we're tangled in the invasion, the "conservatives" fake positive reports of how well our "allies" are doing. The allies, of course, are packing their pockets with US funding instead of spending it on the actual war. Every major reporting agency is in the pocket of the powers that be because that is the easiest, most profitable position. Eventually, the other side begins to completely overwhelm our "good guys" and occasional reports of corruption, incompetence, and cowardice begins to filter into the media reports. Those reporters are always criticised as "traitors" and accused of "aiding the enemy" by the representatives of foreign governments in Washington. Finally, the house of cards falls, we're routed from the battlefield, the folks in power come up with some fake settlement that allows them to save face, and everyone who was right at the beginning of the catastrophe is banished from public view, labelled "traitor," and the people who were most wrong are promoted to the next level of incompetence.

The occasional rare story that doesn't resemble this sequence of events, like the UN action in Bosnia, is often heavily discredited because there wasn't enough corruption and profit-taking from the event. You'd think that would raise some sort of red flag in the public consciousness, but the real lesson to take from that is that "public consciousness" is an oxymoron. The one thing that we appear to learn from history is how to make money from repeating it.

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