Patriotic fairy tales are an American tradition, where lies and half-truths are readily accepted as fact.
Americans are hero-worshippers, according to Irish author Oscar Wilde, “and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.”
In times of war, governments use national myths to gain moral and financial support from their subjects. With these narratives, heroes and villains are invented to mobilize the masses in fighting what is perceived to be a common enemy. Patriotic fairy tales are an American tradition, where lies and half-truths are readily accepted as fact. News organizations, especially those owned by large corporations, repeat these lies in their capacity as guardians of the American Empire.
The US does not challenge the assertions of The Pentagon and its policies due to what some journalists have called the “Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” where the media serves as an unofficial public relations branch of The Pentagon. Spin doctors have been known to transform military leaders into heroes to garner support from the American people and advance military objectives. The late Michael Hastings, a journalist for Rolling Stone, noticed this process while researching the lives of generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus and their misadventures in Afghanistan, “America’s Longest War” which “formally ended” late last year.
Americans are told many legends about their leaders. General George Washington, who later became the nation’s first president, was said to have chopped down his father’s favorite cherry tree when he was a child and admitted to the deed because “he couldn’t tell a lie.” This anecdote, penned by biographer Parson Weems, has been debunked by other historians as a fictional account to serve as propaganda for schoolchildren in the years following the Revolutionary War. That was only the beginning of an important pastime that would lead to catastrophic foreign policy.
Villains are easy to develop when pursuing military action. The US government often portrays other world leaders, particularly those of nations it plans to invade, as power-mad dictators dressed in military regalia backed by large armies that pose a “direct threat” to the US and its allies. This has proven to be effective against the likes of Fidel Castro (Cuba), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Muammar Gaddafi (Libya) and others. Often these leaders are targets for lies and exaggeration. This also applies to those who are “All-American Heroes” in the public eye. Examining some of these heroes more closely, it becomes apparent that many of them behaved more like villains.
General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964; United States Army). Aside from being one of America’s most famous military commanders, Five-Star General MacArthur is certainly one of the most revered. Born on an Army base and raised in a family with an extensive military background, he seemed destined to continue the family tradition. He spent his entire adult life in the US Army and has been praised and damned for his contributions in expanding the American Empire.
In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, over 20,000 World War One veterans marched in Washington D.C., demanding monetary bonuses they were promised for their service. President Herbert Hoover ordered the US army to evict the marchers from the capitol. As the Army’s Chief of Staff, it was MacArthur’s duty to “keep the peace.” According to historian Howard Zinn, MacArthur had four companies of infantry, four troops of cavalry, six tanks and a machine gun squadron at his disposal. He ordered his troops to storm down Pennsylvania Avenue to dispense tear gas and burn down camp sites belonging to the protesters. By the time it was all over, hundreds were injured. Two veterans and an eleven-week-old baby were killed.
MacArthur gained notoriety and national prominence for being relieved of his command by President Harry Truman in April 1951 for disrespecting his authority regarding the Korean War (1950-1953). Like LeMay, MacArthur preferred indiscriminate bombing to achieve results with statements like, “I would’ve dropped 30 and 50 atomic bombs…strung across the neck of Manchuria…My plan was a cinch.” He wanted to obliterate the border of China and Korea with these weapons in order to create a belt of land that would be impossible to cross or inhabit.
MacArthur’s persona was an inspiration to George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party and former US Navy Commander. Rockwell supported MacArthur’s potential presidential bid and even started smoking a corncob pipe, a trademark associated with MacArthur, to pay homage to the general he admired so deeply. His iconic status endures with those who yearn for a return to the old days where the people blindly submitted to the worship of jingoism and militarism.
General Curtis LeMay (1906-1990; United States Air Force) Four-Star General LeMay was nicknamed “Bombs Away” LeMay by critics and supporters alike. During the Second World War, he supervised the “strategic bombing” campaign against Japan, which in the last seven months killed as many as 500,000 people in 67 cities, according to author F.J. Bradley. Under the command of President Harry Truman, LeMay relayed the orders to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, resulting in upwards of 300,000 deaths, according to historians who dispute the more conservative estimate of 150,000-200,000 casualties.
“Killing Japanese didn’t bother me very much at that time,” LeMay later said. “I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.”
Evidence now shows that surrender was already imminent and that the nuclear devastation was merely to demonstrate to other nations America’s dominance as a world power.
LeMay feared a “missile gap” between the US and the Soviet Union. In 1961, LeMay urged President John Kennedy to launch 5,000 missiles into the Soviet Union in a preemptive attack to destroy their stockpile of 350 nuclear warheads, which Kennedy rejected. LeMay’s rabid anti-communist obsession later led to a thinly-veiled parody of himself in the satirical 1964 film Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb as the character of General Turgidson.
After his retirement from the armed forces in 1965, LeMay entered the political arena as the running mate for the 1968 American Independent Party presidential campaign of George Wallace, a racist and pro-segregation candidate who attempted to undermine the rights of non-white citizens on a national level, as he had done in the state of Alabama when he served a governor. Like Wallace, LeMay was adored by the Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society and other Far-Right elements.
Lt. Colonel Oliver North (Born 1943; United States Marine Corps). North is best remembered for facilitating what would become known as the “Iran-Contra” scandal during the Ronald Reagan administration. As part of a series of clandestine operations in the 1980s that occurred without the oversight of Congress, he helped coordinate illegal arms sales to the Iranian government and used the profits to arm the fascistic Contra guerillas to overthrow the leftist government headed by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The Contras were known for torturing and murdering countless civilians in their efforts, facts that were known to the Reagan White House. Such actions were prohibited by the Borland Amendment passed by the US House of Representatives in the early 80s.
In addition to the criminal charges stemming from Iran-Contra, North strengthened his reputation as a foe of democracy when he worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from 1982-1984 to suspend the US Constitution in favor of Martial Law during a “National Emergency” in the future. According to the proposal, this plan would be activated in the event of “violent” and “widespread dissent,” including public demonstrations opposing US military invasions. This would wage war against protesters, proving that North loves democracy so much that he will suppress it at every turn in order to protect it.
During North’s 1987 testimony before the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran and the Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition, he admitted he lied under oath. He was indicted for a number of charges, including perjury and the illegal shredding of government documents, but his charges were dismissed in 1991. In 1994, he was free to run for a US Senate seat representing Virginia, which he lost to incumbent Democrat Charles Robb despite enormous support from Reverend Jerry Falwell and members of the Christian Right. From 2001-2010, he hosted War Stories with Oliver North on the Fox News channel, spinning more tales that support the party-line that the US engages in warfare in the name of “humanitarian aid.”
General Wesley Clark (Born 1944; United States Army). The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe turned 2004 presidential candidate was praised by many liberals when he criticized the Bush administration’s handling of the 2003 Iraq War. To Clark’s supporters he was a dove, as opposed to a military hawk, due to his alleged support for progressive causes. This, however, is a carefully-crafted illusion. His subordinates at NATO referred to him as “the Supreme Being” due to his arrogant personality and ruthless personal conduct. His disregard for human life during the Kosovo War (1997-2000) is what truly marks his legacy.
In 1999, Clark oversaw the non-stop 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. The Washington Post reported that during the bombing, Clark would rise out of his seat, slap the table and exclaim, “I’ve got to get the maximum violence out of this campaign-now!” It would seem Clark’s wish was granted within the first month of the war, when NATO planes and cruise missile made over 10,000 attacks and nearly 7,000 tons of explosives were dropped from the sky. Serbian authorities say that by the end of the bombing campaign, roughly 2,500 people, about half civilian, were killed, while most estimates place the number of civilian deaths at about 500, though this has been disputed by some critics.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, one of the “progressives” who endorsed Clark’s presidential bid, said in a 2003 interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, “[Clark’s] the butcher of Kosovo. Maybe that’s what we need right now is a butcher.” This is certainly a chilling statement from someone like Moore, who considers himself an anti-war activist.
In 2000, The Independent Commission of Inquiry into NATO War Crimes Against Yugoslavia, led by former US Attorney General Ramsay Clark (no relation), concluded that NATO officials were guilty of 19 counts of war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. The panel comprised of 16 judges from 11 countries, who convened with over 500 people in New York City, calling for the abolishment of NATO. To this day, neither Clark nor anyone in NATO’s command has been tried on these charges.
President Barack Obama and the hawks in his administration have been gearing up for military conflict against numerous countries in spite of a war-weary populace. They have imposed sanctions on Russia and North Korea, plotted for military escalation in Iraq and Syria and dragged their feet while “negotiating” with Iran. Over 100 years of endless warfare and territorial expansion later, more myths are being established in order to preserve what is left of a decaying empire. New lies are told to cover up the old ones. To quote a Lebanese proverb, “A dressed up lie is worth more than a badly told truth.”