To help commemorate 20 years of publication, we are running a series featuring
memorable articles from the past, leading up to our official birthday in
January 2008. We are reprinting them in the original magazine format. In
this issue, we are featuring a portion of Noam Chomsky’s series on Year
501 from the March 1992 issue.   —Eds. 

HE YEAR 1992 poses a critical moral and cultural challenge for the more
privileged sectors of the world-dominant societies. The challenge is heightened
by the fact that within these societies, notably our own, popular struggle
over many centuries has won a measure of freedom with opportunities for
independent thought and committed action. How this challenge is addressed,
in fact whether it is perceived at all on a broad scale, may have fateful

As everyone knows, we are entering the 500th year of the Old World Order,
sometimes called the Colombian era of world history, or the Vasco da Gama
era, depending on which blood thirsty adventurer got there first. Or “the
500-year Reich,” to borrow the title of a recent book that compares the
methods and ideology of the Nazis with those of the European invaders who
subjugated most of the world. The major theme of the Old World Order has
been a confrontation between the conquerors and the conquered on a global
scale. It has taken various forms and been given different names: imperialism,
the North-South conflict, core versus periphery, G-7 (the 7 leading state
capitalist industrial societies) and their satellites versus the rest.
Or, more simply, Europe’s conquest of the world. 

By the term “Europe,” we include the European-settled colonies that now
lead the crusade; adopting South African conventions, the Japanese are
admitted as “honorary Whites,” rich enough to qualify. Japan was the one
part of the South that escaped conquest and, perhaps not coincidentally,
the one part that was able to join the core, with some of its former colonies
in its wake. The idea that there is more than coincidence in the correlation
of independence and development is reinforced by a look at Western Europe,
where parts that were colonized followed the Third World path of underdevelopment.
One notable example is Ireland, violently conquered, then barred from development
by the standard “free trade” doctrines selectively applied to ensure subordination
of the South—today called “structural adjustment,” “neo- liberalism,” or
“our noble ideals,” from which we, to be sure, are exempt. 

A Bit of History 

THE EARLY SPANISH-Portuguese conquests had their domestic counterpart.
In 1492, the Jewish community of Spain was expelled or forced to convert.
Millions of Moors suffered the same fate. The fall of Granada in 1492,
ending eight centuries of Moorish sovereignty, made it possible for the
Spanish Inquisition to extend its barbaric sway. The conquerors destroyed
priceless books and manuscripts with their rich record of classical learning,
and demolished the civilization that had flourished under the far more
tolerant and cultured Moorish rule. The stage was set for the decline of
Spain and also for the racism and savagery of the world conquest—“the curse
of Columbus,” in the words of Africa historian Basil Davidson. 

Spain and Portugal were soon displaced from their leading role as English
pirates, marauders, and slave traders swept the seas, perhaps the most
notorious, Sir Francis Drake. Later, the newly consolidated English state
took over the task of “wars for markets” from “the plunder raids of Elizabethan
sea-dogs.” State power also enabled England to subdue the Celtic periphery,
then to apply the newly-honed techniques with even greater destruction
to new victims across the seas. By 1651, England was powerful enough to
impose the Navigation Act, which established a closed trading area throughout
much of the world, monopolized by English merchants. They were thus able
to enrich themselves through the slave trade and their “plunder-trade with
America, Africa and Asia,” assisted by “state-sponsored colonial wars”

and the various devices of economic management by which state power has
forged the way to development (Hill, A Nation of Change & Novelty, Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1990). 

It should be stressed that the economic doctrines preached by the powerful
are intended for others, so that they can be more efficiently robbed and
exploited. No wealthy developed society accepts these conditions for itself,
unless they happen to confer temporary advantage; and their history reveals
that sharp departure from these doctrines was a prerequisite for development.
At least since the work of Alexander Gerschenkronin the 1950s, it has been
widely recognized by economic historians that “late development” has been
critically dependent on state intervention; Japan and the Newly Industrializing
Countries (NICs) on its periphery are standard contemporary examples. The
same is true of the “early development” of England and the United States.
High tariffs and other forms of state intervention may have raised costs
to American consumers, but they allowed domestic industry to develop, from
textiles to steel to computers, barring cheaper British products in earlier
years, providing a state-guaranteed market and public subsidy for research
and development in advanced sectors, creating and maintaining capital-intensive
agribusiness, and so on. “Import substitution [through state intervention]
is about the only way anybody’s ever figured out to industrialize,” development
economist Lance Taylor observes, adding that “In the long run, there are
no laissez-faire transitions to modern economic growth. The state has always
intervened to create a capitalist class, and then it has to regulate the
capitalist class, and then the state has to worry about being taken over
by the capitalist class, but the state has always been there.” Furthermore,
state power has regularly been invoked by the capitalist class to protect
it from the destructive effects of an unregulated market, to secure resources,
markets, and opportunities for investment, and in general to safeguard
and extend their profits and power; the Pentagon system of public subsidy
for high tech industry is the most glaring example, close to home (Taylor,
Dollars & Sense
, Nov. 1991; see also my Deterring Democracy, Verso, 1991). 

It is hardly surprising that the government is seeking new ways to maintain
the Pentagon-based industries now that the conventional pretext has disappeared.
One method is increased foreign arms sales, which also help alleviate the
balance of payments crisis. The Bush administration has created a Center
for Defense Trade to stimulate arms sales, and has directed U.S. embassies
to participate actively while proposing U.S. government guarantees for
up to $1 billion in loans for purchase of U.S. arms. The Defense Security
Assistance Agency is reported to have sent more than 900 officers to some
50 countries to promote U.S. weapons sales. The Gulf war was prominently
featured as a sales promotion device. Larry Korb of the Brookings Institution,
formerly Assistant Secretary of Defense in charge of logistics, observes
that the promise of arms sales has kept stocks of military producers high
despite the end of the Cold War, with arms sales skyrocketing from $12
billion in 1989 to almost $40 billion in 1991. Moderate declines in purchases
by the U.S. military have been more than offset by other arms sales by
U.S. companies. Since “President Bush called last May [1991] for restraint
in weapons sales to the Middle East,” AP correspondent Barry Schweid reports,
“the United States has transferred roughly $6 billion in arms to the region,”
part of the $19 billion in U.S. weapons sent to the Middle East since Iraq’s
invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Since 1989, U.S. arms exports to the
Third World have increased by 138 percent, making the U.S. far and away
the leading arms exporter. The sales since May are described as “fully
consistent with the president’s initiative and the guidelines” in his call
for restraint, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher explained—quite
accurately, given the actual intent. 

Such considerations, however, should not obscure the more fundamental role
of the Pentagon system (including NASA and DOE) in maintaining high tech
industry generally, just as state intervention plays a crucial role in
supporting biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, agribusiness, and most competitive
segments of the economy. 

By IMF standards, the United States, after a decade of what George Bush
accurately called “voodoo economics” before he joined the team, is a prime
candidate for severe austerity measures. But it is far too powerful to
submit to the rules, intended for the weak. No one espoused liberal doctrine
more fervently than the British, after they had employed state power to
rob and destroy, establishing the basis for the first industrial revolution
and their domination of world manufacture and trade. But the passionate
rhetoric subsided when it no longer served the needs of the rulers. Unable
to compete with Japan in the 1920s, Britain effectively barred Japan from
trade with the Commonwealth, including India; the Americans followed suit
in their lesser empire, as did the Dutch. These were significant factors
leading to the Pacific war as Japan set forth to emulate its powerful predecessors,
having naively adopted their liberal dictates only to discover that they
were a fraud, imposed on the weak, accepted by the strong only when they
are useful. So it has always been. Today, the World Bank estimates that
the protectionist measures of the industrial countries—keeping pace with
free market bombast—reduce the national income of the “developing societies”

by about twice the amount provided by official “development assistance”;
the term “developing societies” is the standard euphemism for those that
are not developing, with a little help from their friends. (On the backgrounds
for the Pacific war, see my American Power and the New Mandarins, Pantheon,

The “development assistance” may help or harm the recipients, but that
is incidental. Typically, it is a form of export promotion. One familiar
example is the Food for Peace program, designed to subsidize U.S. agribusiness
and induce others to “become dependent on us for food” (Senator Hubert
Humphrey), and to promote the global security network that keeps order
in the Third World by requiring that local governments use counterpart
funds for armaments (thus also subsidizing U.S. military producers). Another
familiar example of export promotion was the Marshall Plan and other devices
of the period, motivated in large part by the “dollar gap” that deprived
U.S. industry of an export market, threatening a return to the depression
of the 1930s. More generally, its goal was “to avert ‘economic, social
and political’ chaos in Europe, contain Communism (meaning not Soviet intervention
but the success of the indigenous Communist parties), prevent the collapse
of America’s export trade, and achieve the goal of multilateralism,” and
provide a crucial economic stimulus for “individual initiative and private
enterprise both on the Continent and in the United States,” undercutting
the fear of “experiments with socialist enterprise and government controls,”

which would “jeopardize private enterprise” in the United States as well
(Michael Hogan, in the major scholarly study). The Marshall Plan also “set
the stage for large amounts of private U.S. direct investment in Europe.
“Reagan’s Commerce Department observed in 1984, establishing the basis
for the modern multinational corporations, which “prospered and expanded
on overseas orders…fueled initially by the dollars of the Marshall Plan”
and protected from “negative developments” by “the umbrella of American
power,” Business Week observed in 1975, lamenting that this golden age
of state intervention might be fading away. Aid to Israel, Egypt, and Turkey,
the leading recipients in recent years, is motivated by their role in maintaining
U.S. dominance of the Middle East, with its enormous oil energy reserves.
(On Food for Peace, see my Necessary Illusions, South End, 1989.) 

So it goes case by case. “Our idealism” and “American moral leadership”
(Henry Kissinger) are the tools of trade of the commissar class in state
and ideological institutions. The real world proceeds along a different

THE UTILITY OF FREE TRADE as a weapon against the poor is well-illustrated
by a World Bank study on global warming, designed to “forge a consensus
among economists” (meaning, the expert advisers of the rulers) in advance
of the Rio conference on global warming in June, New York Times business
correspondent Silvia Nasar reports under the headline “Can Capitalism Save
the Ozone?” (the implication being: “Yes”). Harvard economist Lawrence
Summers, chief economist of the World Bank, explains that the world’s environmental
problems are largely “the consequence of policies that are misguided on
narrow economic grounds,” particularly the policies of the poor countries
that “have been practically giving away oil, coal and natural gas to domestic
buyers in hopes of fostering industry and keeping living costs low for
urban workers” (Nasar). If the poor countries would only have the courage
to resist the “extreme pressure to improve the performance of their economies”

by fostering development while protecting their population from starvation,
then environmental problems would abate. “Creating free markets in Russia
and other poor countries may do more to slow global warming than any measures
that rich countries are likely to adopt in the 1990s,” the World Bank concludes—correctly,
since the rich are hardly likely to pursue policies detrimental to their
interests, and they do have many weapons to wield against the poor, including
selective use of “free trade” (in the small print, the consensus economists
also recognize that “more effective government regulation” reduces pollution,
but crushing the poor has obvious advantages). 

The same page of the New York Times business section carries an item referring
a confidential memo of the World Bank, published by the London Economist.
The author of the memo is the same Lawrence Summers. He writes: “Just between
you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the
dirty industries to the [Third World]?” This is reasonable on economic
grounds, Summers explains. For example, a cancer-producing agent will have
larger effects “in a country where people survive to get prostate cancer
than in a country where under-5 mortality is 200 per thousand.” Poor countries
are “under-polluted,” and it is only reasonable, on grounds of economic
rationality, to encourage “dirty industries” to move to them: “The economic
logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is
impeccable and we should face up to that.” Summers recognizes that there
are “arguments against all of these proposals” for exporting pollution
to the Third World: “intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons,
social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.” But the problem is that
these arguments “could be turned around and used more or less effectively
against every Bank proposal for liberalization.” “Mr. Summers is asking
questions that the World Bank would rather ignore,” the Economist observes,
but “on the economics, his points are hard to answer.” Quite true. We have
the choice of accepting the conclusions or regarding them as a eductio
ad absurdum argument against the “free market” ideology. 

The doctrines, then, are very clear. On grounds of economic rationality,
the Third World should cut back on its “misguided” efforts to promote economic
development while protecting the population from disaster, while the rich
countries, observing the same principles of economic rationality, should
export pollution to the Third World. That way, capitalism can overcome
the environmental crisis. Free market capitalism is, indeed, a wondrous
implement. Surely there should be two Nobel prizes awarded annually, not
just one. 

Confronted with the memo, Summers said that it was only “intended to provoke
debate”—elsewhere, that it was a “sarcastic response” to another World
Bank draft, in the style of Jonathan Swift. Perhaps the same is true of
the World Bank “consensus” study reported on the same page of the Times
business section. In fact, it is often hard to determine when the intellectual
productions of the World Bank and other experts are intended seriously,
or are a perverse form of sarcasm. Unfortunately, huge numbers of people,
subjected to these doctrines, do not have the luxury of pondering this
intriguing question. 

Though not intended for us, “free trade does, however, have its uses,”
Arthur MacEwan observes in a review of the uniform record of industrial
and agricultural development through protectionism and other measures of
state interference, notably in the United States: “Highly developed nations
can use free trade to extend their power and their control of the world’s
wealth, and businesses can use it as a weapon against labor. Most important,
free trade can limit efforts to redistribute income more equally, undermine
progressive social programs, and keep people from democratically controlling
their economic lives.” Small wonder, then, that neoliberal doctrine has
won such a grand victory within the ideological system. The evidence about
successful development and the actual consequences of neoliberal doctrine
is dismissed with the contempt that irrelevant nuisance so richly deserves. 

All of this is a crucial part of the doctrinal and policy framework of
the New World Order, as of the old. 

THE ENGLISH COLONISTS in North America pursued the course laid out by their
forerunners in the home country. From the earliest days of colonization,
Virginia was a center of piracy and pillage, raiding Spanish commerce and
plundering French settlements as far as the coast of Maine. By the beginning
of the 17th century, “New York had become a thieve’s market where pirates
disposed of loot taken on the high seas,” historian Nathan Miller observes,
while as in England, “corruption…was the lubricant that greased the wheels
of the nation’s administrative machinery”; “graft and corruption played
a vital role in the development of modern American society and in the creation
of the complex, interlocking machinery of government and business that
presently determines the course of our affairs,” Miller writes, ridiculing
the ideologists who expressed great shock at Watergate. 

As state power consolidated, piracy became less acceptable than graft and
corruption, though the U.S. would not permit American citizens apprehended
for slave trading or other crimes to be judged by international tribunals.
The U.S. would not accept the reasonable standards proposed by Libya’s
Qaddafi, who has urged that charges concerning its alleged terrorism be
brought to the World Court. That proposal is naturally dismissed with disdain
by the U.S., which has little use for such instruments—perhaps, the noted
specialist on international law Alfred Rubin suggests, because “the U.S.
and its two European friends are seeking a legal basis for some military
strike at Libya that might help an incumbent president or prime minister
nearing election time.” The U.S. refusal to permit punishment of American
criminals was no small matter; the U.S. refused to allow the British navy
to search any American slaver, “and American naval vessels were almost
never there to search her, with the result that most of the slave ships,
in the 1850s, not only flew the American flag but were owned by American
citizens” (Alexander Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republics,
Verso, 1990). 

With American independence, state power was used to protect domestic industry,
foster agricultural production, manipulate trade, monopolize raw materials,
and take the land from its inhabitants. Americans “concentrated on the
task of felling trees and Indians and of rounding out their natural boundaries,”
as diplomatic historian Thomas Bailey describes the project. 

These tasks were eminently reasonable by the approved standards of political
correctness; the challenge to them in the past few years has, predictably,
elicited much hysteria among those who regard anything less than total
control over the ideological system as an unspeakable catastrophe. Hugo
Grotius, a leading 17th century humanist and the founder of modern international
law, determined that the “most just war is against savage beasts, the next
against men who are like beasts.” George Washington wrote in 1783 that
“the gradual extension of our settlements will as certainly cause the savage,
as the wolf, to retire; both being beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in
shape”; what is called in PC language “a pragmatist,” Washington regarded
purchase of Indian lands (typically, by fraud and threat) as a more cost-effective
tactic than violence. Consciences were eased further by the legal doctrine
developed by Chief Justice John Marshall: “discovery gave an exclusive
right to extinguish the Indian right of occupancy, either by purchase or
by conquest”; “that law, which regulates, and ought to regulate in general,
the relations between the conqueror and conquered was incapable of application
to…the tribes of Indians…fierce savages whose occupation was war, and
whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest.” 

The colonists, to be sure, knew better. Their survival depended on the
agricultural sophistication of the “fierce savages. “Observing the Narragansett-Pequot
wars, Roger Williams could see that their fighting was “farre less bloudy
and devouring than the cruell Warres of Europe.” John Underhill sneered
at the “feeble Manner” of the Indian warriors, which “did hardly deserve
the Name of fighting,” and their laughable protests against the “furious”

style of the English that “slays too many men”—not to speak of women and
children in undefended villages, a European tactic that had to be taught
to the backward natives. The useful doctrines of John Marshall and others
remained in place through modern scholarship; thus the highly regarded
anthropological authority A. L. Kroeber attributed to the East Coast Indians
a kind of “warfare that was insane, unending,” inexplicable “from our point
of view” and so “dominantly emphasized within [their culture] that escape
was well-nigh impossible,” for any group that would depart from these hideous
norms “was almost certainly doomed to early extinction”—a “harsh indictment
[that] would carry more weight,” Francis Jennings observes, “if its rhetoric
were supported by either example or reference,” in an influential scholarly
study. The Indians were hardly pacifists, but they had to learn the techniques
of “total war” and true savagery from the European conquerors, with their
ample experience in Ireland and elsewhere. 

Respected statespeople have upheld the same values. To Theodore Roosevelt,
the hero of George Bush and of the liberal commentators who gushed over
his sense of “righteous mission” during the Gulf slaughter, “the most ultimately
righteous of all wars is a war with savages,” establishing the rule of
“the dominant world races.” This “noble minded missionary,” as contemporary
ideologues term him, did not limit his vision to the “beasts of prey” who
were being swept from their lairs within the “natural boundaries” of the
American nation. The ranks of savages included as well the “dagos” to the
south, and the “Malay bandits” and “Chinese half breeds” who were resisting
the American conquest of the Philippines, all “savages, barbarians, a wild
and ignorant people, Apaches, Sioux, Chinese boxers,” as their stubborn
recalcitrance amply demonstrated. Winston Churchill felt that poison gas
was just right for use against “uncivilized tribes” (Kurds and Afghans,
particularly). Noting approvingly that British diplomacy had prevented
the 1932 disarmament convention from banning bombardment of civilians,
the equally respected statesperson Lloyd George observed that “we insisted
on reserving the right to bomb niggers,” capturing the basic point succinctly.
The metaphors of “Indian fighting” were carried right through the Indochina
wars. The conventions have not lapsed into the 1990s, as we saw in early
1991 and quite possibly will again, before too long. 

THE TASK OF FELLING TREES and Indians and of rounding out their natural
boundaries” also required that some way be found to rid the continent of
European interlopers. The main enemy was England, a powerful deterrent,
and the target of frenzied hatred in broad circles. It was, incidentally,
reciprocated, interlaced with considerable contempt. Thus in 1865, a progressive
English gentleman offered to endow a lectureship at Cambridge University
for American studies, a subject then considered too insignificant to merit
attention. Cambridge dons protested with outrage against what one called,
with admirable literary flair, “a biennial flash of Transatlantic darkness.”
They feared that the lectures would spread “discontent and dangerous ideas”
among uneducated undergraduates, “over whom they would naturally exercise
some considerable influence.” Some thought “that the Harvard credentials
of the lecturers would guarantee that the lectures be inoffensive,” historian
Joyce Appleby notes, quoting one don who recognized that the lecturers
would be drawn from the class that felt itself “increasingly in danger
of being swamped by the lower elements of a vast democracy.” Most feared
the subversive influence of these lower elements. The threat was beaten
back in an impressive show of the kind of political correctness that continues
to reign in most of the academic world, as fearful as ever of the lower
elements and their strange ideas. 

Recognizing that England’s military force was too powerful to confront,
Jacksonian Democrats called for annexation of Texas to ensure a U.S. world
monopoly of cotton. The U.S. would then be able to paralyze England and
intimidate Europe. “By securing the virtual monopoly of the cotton plant”
the U.S. had acquired “a greater influence over the affairs of the world
than would be found in armies however strong, or navies however numerous,
“President Tyler observed after the annexation and the conquest of a third
of Mexico. “That monopoly, now secured, places all other nations at our
feet,” he wrote. “An embargo of a single year would produce in Europe a
greater amount of suffering than a fifty years’ war. I doubt whether Great
Britain could avoid convulsions.” The same monopoly power neutralized British
opposition to the conquest of the Oregon territory. 

The editor of New York’s leading newspaper exulted that Britain was “completely
bound and manacled with the cotton cords” of the United States, “a lever
with which we can successfully control” this dangerous rival. Thanks to
the conquests that ensured monopoly of the most important commodity in
world trade, the Polk Administration boasted, the U.S. could now “control
the commerce of the world and secure thereby to the American Union inappreciable
political and commercial advantages.” “Fifty years will note lapse ere
the destinies of the human race will be in our hands,” a Louisiana congressperson
proclaimed, as he and others looked to ”mastery of the Pacific” and control
over the resources on which European rivals were dependent. Polk’s Secretary
of Treasury reported to Congress that the conquests of the Democrats would
guarantee “the command of the trade of the world.” 

The national poet, Walt Whitman, wrote that our conquests “takeoff the
shackles that prevent men the even chance of being happy and good.” Mexico’s
lands were taken over for the good of mankind: “What has miserable, inefficient
Mexico…to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with a
noble race?” Others recognized the difficulty of taking Mexico’s resources
without burdening ourselves with its “imbecile” population, “degraded”

by “the amalgamation of races,” though the New York press was hopeful that
their fate would be “similar to that of the Indians of this country—the
race, before a century rolls over us, will become extinct.” 

The concerns of the expansionists went beyond their fear that an independent
Texas would break the U.S. resource monopoly and expand to become a rival
empire; it might also abolish slavery, igniting dangerous sparks of egalitarianism.
Andrew Jackson thought that an independent Texas, with a mixture of Indians
and fleeing slaves, might be manipulated by Britain to “throw the whole
west into flames.” His earlier conquest of Florida had been justified by
John Quincy Adams, with Thomas Jefferson’s enthusiastic approbation, by
the need to thwart British efforts to launch “mingled hordes of lawless
Indians and negroes” in a “savage war” against the “peaceful inhabitants”

of the United States. 

It is evident without further comment that the logic of the Jacksonian
Democrats was essentially that attributed to Saddam Hussein by U.S. propaganda
after his conquest of Kuwait. But the comparisons should not be pressed
too far. Unlike his Jacksonian precursors, Saddam Hussein is not known
to have feared that slavery in Iraq would be threatened by independent
states nearby, or to have publicly called for their “imbecile” inhabitants
to “become extinct” so that the “great mission of peopling the Middle East
with a noble race” of Iraqis can be carried forward, placing “the destinies
of the human race in the hands” of the conquerors. And even the wildest
fantasies did not accord Saddam potential control over the major resource
of the day of the kind enjoyed by the American expansionists of the 1840s.
Like Qaddafi, Saddam still has a few things to learn from our history,
so extolled by enraptured intellectuals. 

After the successful mid-19th century conquests, New York editors proudly
observed that the U.S. was “the only power which has never sought and never
seeks to acquire a foot of territory by force of arms”; “Of all the vast
domains of our great confederacy over which the star spangled banner waves,
not one foot of it is the acquirement of force or bloodshed.” The remnants
of the native population, among others, were not asked to confirm this
judgment. The U.S. is unique among nations in that “By its own merits it
extends itself.” That is only natural, since “all other races…must bow
and fade” before “the great work of subjugation and conquest to be achieved
by the Anglo-Saxon race,” conquest without force. Leading contemporary
historians accept this flattering self-image. Samuel Flagg Bemis wrote
in 1965 that “American expansion across a practically empty continent despoiled
no nation unjustly.” Arthur M. Schlesinger had earlier described Polk as
“undeservedly one of the forgotten men of American history”: “By carrying
the flag to the Pacific he gave America her continental breadth and ensured
her future significance in the world,” a realistic assessment, if not exactly
in the intended sense. 

Such doctrinal fantasies could not easily survive the Vietnam war, at least
outside the intellectual class, where we are regularly regaled by orations
on how “for 200 years the United States has preserved almost unsullied
the original ideals of the Enlightenment…and, above all, the universality
of these values” (Yale professor Michael Howard). Writing today on “the
self-image of Americans,” New York Times correspondent Richard Bernstein
observes that “many who came of age during the 1960’s protest years have
never regained the confidence in the essential goodness of America and
the American government that prevailed in earlier periods,” a matter of
much concern to ideologists and a factor in the appeal of dreams of Camelot,
an interesting topic that merits separate discussion. 

THE CONQUEST OF THE NEW WORLD set off two vast demographic catastrophes,
unparalleled in history: the virtual destruction of the indigenous population
of the Western hemisphere, and the devastation of Africa as the slave trade
rapidly expanded to serve the needs of the conquerors. The basic patterns
persist to the current era. As the slaughter of the indigenous population
by the Guatemalan military approached virtual genocide, Ronald Reagan and
his officials, while lauding the democracy-loving assassins, informed Congress
that the U.S. would provide arms “to reinforce the improvement in the human
rights situation following the 1982 coup” that installed Ros Montt, perhaps
the greatest murderer of them all; although “the primary means” by which
Guatemala obtained U.S. military equipment, the General Accounting Office
of Congress observed, was commercial sales licensed by the Department of
Commerce (putting aside the network of allies and clients that are always
ready to contribute to genocide if there are profits to be made). The U.S.
was also instrumental in maintaining a high level of slaughter and terror
from Mozambique to Angola, while “quiet diplomacy” helped the Administration’s
South African friends to cause over $60 billion in damage and 1.5 million
deaths from 1980 to 1988 in the neighboring states. The most devastating
effects of the general catastrophe of capitalism through the 1980s were
in the same two continents: Africa and Latin America. 

One of the grandest of the Guatemalan killers, General Hector Gramajo,
was rewarded for his contributions to genocide in the highlands with a
Mason Fellowship to Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government—not
unreasonably, given Kennedy’s decisive contributions to the vocation of
counterinsurgency (the technical term for international terrorism conducted
by the powerful). Cambridge dons will be relieved to learn that Harvard
is no longer a dangerous center of subversion. 

While earning his degree at Harvard, Gramajo gave an interview to the Harvard
International Review
in which he offered a more nuanced view of his own
role. He said that he was personally in charge of the commission that drafted
the “70 percent-30 percent civil affairs program, used by the Guatemalan
government during the 1980s to control people or organizations who disagreed
with the government.” He outlined with some pride the doctrinal innovations
he had introduced: “We have created a more humanitarian, less costly strategy,
to be more compatible with the democratic system. We instituted civil affairs
[in 1982] which provides development for 70 percent of the population,
while we kill 30 percent. Before, the strategy was to kill 100 percent.”

This is a “more sophisticated means” than the previous crude assumption
that you must “kill everyone to complete the job” of controlling dissent. 

It is unfair, then, for journalist Alan Nairn, who exposed the U.S. origins
of the Central American death squads, to describe Gramajo as “one of the
most significant mass-murderers in the Western Hemisphere,” as Gramajo
was sued by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York for damages
for murders, disappearances, torture, and forced exile of Guatemalan citizens.
We can also understand now why former CIA director William Colby sent Gramajo
a copy of his memoirs with the inscription: “To a colleague in the effort
to find a strategy of counterinsurgency with decency and democracy,” Kennedy-style.
We can be assured that Gramajo, like Colby, correctly understands what
is “compatible with the democratic system,” as envisioned by the masters. 

Given his understanding of humanitarianism, decency, and democracy, it
is not surprising that Gramajo appears to be the State Department’s choice
for the 1995 elections, according to Central America Report, citing Americas
Watch on the Harvard fellowship as “the State Department’s way of grooming
Gramajo” for the job, and quoting a U.S. Senate staffer who says: “He’s
definitely their boy down there.” Gramajo’s image is also being prettified.
He offered the Post a sanitized version of his interview on the 70 percent
to 30 percent program: “The effort of the government was to be 70 percent
in development and 30 percent in the war effort. I was not referring to
the people, just the effort.” Too bad he expressed himself so badly—or
better, so honestly—before the Harvard grooming had taken effect. 

It is not at all unlikely that the rulers of the world, meeting in G-7
conferences, have written off large parts of Africa and much of the population
of Latin America, superfluous people who have no place in the New World
Order, to be joined by many others, in the home societies as well. 

Diplomacy has perceived Latin America and Africa in a similar light. Planning
documents stress that the role of Latin America is to provide resources,
markets, investment opportunities with ample repatriation of capital, and,
in general, a favorable climate for business. If that can be achieved with
formal elections under conditions that safeguard business interests, well
and good. If it requires death squads “to destroy permanently a perceived
threat to the existing structure of socioeconomic privilege by eliminating
the political participation of the numerical majority…” that’s too bad,
but preferable to the alternative of independence (the words are those
of Lars Schoultz, the leading U.S. academic specialist on human rights
in Latin America, describing the National Security States that had their
roots in Kennedy Administration policies). 

As for Africa, State Department Policy Planning chief George Kennan, assigning
to each part of the South its special function in the New World Order of
the post-World War II era, recommended that it be “exploited” for the reconstruction
of Europe, adding that the opportunity to exploit Africa should afford
the Europeans “that tangible objective for which everyone has been rather
unsuccessfully groping…” a badly needed psychological lift, in their
difficult postwar straits. Such recommendations are too uncontroversial
to elicit comment, or even notice. 

The genocidal episodes of the Colombian-Vasco da Gama era are by no means
limited to the conquered countries of the South, as is sufficiently attested
by the achievements of the leading center of Western civilization 50 years
ago. Throughout the era, there have also been regular savage conflicts
among the core societies of the North, sometimes spreading far beyond,
particularly in this terrible century. From the point of view of most of
the world’s population, these have been much like shoot-outs between rival
drug gangs or mafia dons. The only question is who will gain the right
to rob and kill. In the post-World War II era, the U.S. has been the global
enforcer, guaranteeing the interests of the club of rich men. It has, therefore,
compiled an impressive record of aggression, international terrorism, slaughter,
torture, chemical and bacteriological warfare, and human rights abuses
of every imaginable variety. This is not surprising; it goes with the turf.
Nor is it surprising that the occasional documentation of these facts,
far from the mainstream, elicits tantrums among the commissars, as it regularly

This horrifying record, if noticed at all, is considered insignificant,
even a proof of our nobility. Again, that goes with the turf. The most
powerful mafia don is also likely to dominate the doctrinal system. One
of the great advantages of being rich and powerful is that you never have
to say “I’m sorry.” It is precisely here that the moral and cultural challenge
arises, as we approach the end of the first 500 years.