May 20, 2009

Obama and Trust

Update: What Are We Fighting For? (Rick Reyes)

It really would not take much for President Obama to renounce and halt torture and two American wars of aggression while he's at it.

That's actually why a lot of people put him into office.

Obama is breaking a trust right now for what he stands for, for what we stand for. Will he continue?

From Noam Chomsky, Unexceptional Americans:

Occasionally the conflict between ‘what we stand for’ and ‘what we do’ has been forthrightly addressed. One distinguished scholar who undertook the task at hand was Hans Morgenthau, a founder of realist international relations theory. In a classic study published in 1964 in the glow of Camelot, Morgenthau developed the standard view that the U.S. has a ‘transcendent purpose’: establishing peace and freedom at home and indeed everywhere, since ‘the arena within which the United States must defend and promote its purpose has become world-wide.’ But as a scrupulous scholar, he also recognized that the historical record was radically inconsistent with that ‘transcendent purpose.’

We should not be misled by that discrepancy, advised Morgenthau; we should not ‘confound the abuse of reality with reality itself.’ Reality is the unachieved ‘national purpose’ revealed by ‘the evidence of history as our minds reflect it.’ What actually happened was merely the ‘abuse of reality.’

The release of the torture memos led others to recognize the problem. In the New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen reviewed a new book, The Myth of American Exceptionalism, by British journalist Geoffrey Hodgson, who concludes that the U.S. is ‘just one great, but imperfect, country among others.’ Cohen agrees that the evidence supports Hodgson's judgment, but nonetheless regards as fundamentally mistaken Hodgson's failure to understand that ‘America was born as an idea, and so it has to carry that idea forward.’ The American idea is revealed in the country's birth as a ‘city on a hill,’ an ‘inspirational notion’ that resides ‘deep in the American psyche,’ and by ‘the distinctive spirit of American individualism and enterprise’ demonstrated in the Western expansion. Hodgson's error, it seems, is that he is keeping to ‘the distortions of the American idea,’ ‘the abuse of reality.’ ...

‘Come Over and Help Us’

The inspirational phrase ‘city on a hill’ was coined by John Winthrop in 1630, borrowing from the Gospels, and outlining the glorious future of a new nation ‘ordained by God.’ One year earlier his Massachusetts Bay Colony created its
Great Seal. It depicted an Indian with a scroll coming out of his mouth. On that scroll are the words ‘Come over and help us.’ The British colonists were thus pictured as benevolent humanists, responding to the pleas of the miserable natives to be rescued from their bitter pagan fate.

The Great Seal is, in fact, a graphic representation of ‘the idea of America,’ from its birth. It should be exhumed from the depths of the psyche and displayed on the walls of every classroom. It should certainly appear in the background of all of the Kim Il-Sung-style worship of that savage murderer and torturer Ronald Reagan, who blissfully described himself as the leader of a ‘shining city on the hill,’ while orchestrating some of the more ghastly crimes of his years in office, notoriously in Central America but elsewhere as well.

The Great Seal was an early proclamation of ‘humanitarian intervention,’ to use the currently fashionable phrase. As has commonly been the case since, the ‘humanitarian intervention’ led to a catastrophe for the alleged beneficiaries. The first Secretary of War, General Henry Knox, described ‘the utter extirpation of all the Indians in most populous parts of the Union’ by means ‘more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct of the conquerors of Mexico and Peru.’

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