America’s Founding Myths: Manifest Destiny, Exceptionalism and Other Nonsense

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Rajab 17, 1442 2021-03-01

Main Stories

by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 1, Rajab, 1442)

The inauguration of every new US president is greeted with much drum-beating about the ‘dawn of a new era’. Joe Biden’s inauguration was even more hyped-up because of the disastrous four years of Donald Trump. Would Biden be any different? More importantly, would America change its aggressive policies it has pursued for centuries?

Despite the hype about democracy, America’s real masters—the military-industrial-corporate-banking complex—have convinced the people that they can vote who they want into office. The reality is, people are treated like mice and given a choice between a white cat and a black cat. Meanwhile, every candidate is already bought by the billionaire class. Large companies in the US provided $10.8 billion in campaign funding in 2020. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Lee Drutman has explained “How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy.”

The example of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson who died on January 11 is illustrative. Over the course of the 2020 election cycle, Adelson gave more than $420 million to conservative candidates and political groups. The right-wing politicians he had virtually in his pocket included George W. Bush, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and the certified crook and compulsive liar, Rudy Giuliani.

America’s problem, however, runs much deeper than its current travails. It goes all the way to its founding nearly 250 years ago. There are three constants of US policy: rapacious greed for land and resources; wars to acquire them, and massive investment in armaments industry to prosecute wars. Martin Luther King referred to them as racism, materialism and militarism. While he warned that these would destroy America from within, they also affect people worldwide in many profoundly negative ways. A fourth factor has been added: protection of Israel politically, diplomatically and militarily through massive supply of weapons and money.

When European settlers first set foot in North America with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493, the Native Peoples welcomed and sheltered them. The Natives’ kindness was repaid with genocide, spread of disease and by driving them from their lands. Now they are confined to a few remote reservations. Even these are under threat today from the rapacious greed of multinational corporations that have no regard for treaties that were signed with the First Nations.

When the first settlers returned home to narrate their exploits, they enticed others to discover the ‘New World’. Escaping hunger and disease, the Europeans headed to the new ‘promised land’ across the Atlantic. In addition to Spain and Portugal, such other colonial powers as England, France and even tiny Netherlands joined the land grab campaign. They established colonies on the Atlantic Coast before pushing westward into the rest of the continent.

Large parts of Mexico were also occupied through war in the European colonial settlers’ drive for more land. Charged with the self-proclaimed notion of Manifest Destiny (the inevitability of European settlers, endowed with superior qualities, to triumph over adversaries and take over their lands), they pushed westward. This virulent ideology, endowed with mythical divine sanction, led of necessity, to wage wars and commit genocide. Native peoples were the first victims followed by Mexicans.

Following their triumph in the American-Mexican War (April 1846-February 1848), the European colonialists grabbed more territory from Mexico. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States acquired what are present-day Arizona, California, western Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

Collectively, these states expanded US territory by more than 525,000 square miles (1,360,000 square km). More importantly, California’s gold opened up vast opportunities for wealth acquisition and decades of impressive growth. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa enabled the United States to develop these lands. Through the blood and sweat of slaves, most of them Muslims, the plantations made the slave masters extremely rich.

In 1776, the US proclaimed its declaration of independence. Its preamble carried these stirring words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.”

There were, however, several anomalies. Men that did not own land were excluded from such rights. So were women and slaves. Women had to wait until 1920 to have the right to vote through the 19th amendment to the US constitution but black women were still denied this right. Black men were given equal protection under the law, at least theoretically, through the 14th Amendment to the constitution in 1868.

Two years later, the 15th Amendment granted Black American men the right to vote as well, much to the angst of white men, especially in the south, who refused to accept former slaves as their equals. End of segregation and real equal rights had to wait until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Only a highly sanitized version of this history is taught in schools. Instead, propaganda about the purity of American intentions, Manifest Destiny and as ‘a light unto other nations’ is drummed into their heads. Brainwashing is intense. Not surprisingly, most Americans continue to believe the myth that theirs is the greatest democracy in the world.

Television has merely added to the dumbing down of America. The Internet, far from educating people, has further reinforced American myths. That a billionaire con-man like Trump could convince tens of millions of ordinary Americans that he represents their interests is truly shocking.

By the end of the Second World War, the US had supplanted Britain, France and Germany as leader of the Western world. It launched vicious wars against other peoples—in Korea, Vietnam, South America, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen—slaughtering millions. Some of these wars are still raging. The US also maintains more than 800 military bases worldwide and its naval armadas prowl the seas terrorizing others.

All American wars were launched on false pretexts. The Chinese communists were about to ‘overrun’ Korea or Vietnam; ‘communist dictatorships’ could not be allowed to run governments in America’s backyard (South America) and Afghanistan was a ‘safe haven for terrorists’, were part of US propaganda. Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and where no terrorists existed, the US created them: in Iraq and Syria, for instance.

The US military and CIA did not even hesitate to kill American citizens in false flag operations to have a pretext to attack a target country. In 1962, Operation Northwood was conceived by the joint chiefs of staff to attack Cuba. It involved killing Americans and even attacking US troops and blame them on Cuba to launch a war. Then Defence Secretary Robert McNamara and President John F. Kennedy rejected this diabolical plot. It is believed that Kennedy’s rejection led to his assassination!

In addition to direct military attacks, the CIA also carried out coups (it still does) against leaders that are deemed not sufficiently subservient to American diktats. Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), South Vietnam (1963) and Indonesia (1966). Latin America has suffered waves of CIA-backed coups: Bolivia (1971, 1976 & 2019), Chile (1973), Argentina (1976) and Nicaragua (1984) immediately spring to mind. Cuba and Venezuela have also suffered numerous CIA attempts at regime change. Islamic Iran since 1979 has been a special target because it refuses to surrender to the US.

In all these cases, resources—mainly oil—but also other minerals, have been the main driver for American aggression. With a war budget of $720 billion annually, the US outstrips the next 10 countries’ combined defence budgets but it has a dismal record of success.

For US warmongers, victory is not the main objective. Wars are profitable business. Weapons have to be used and tested; wars facilitate their experimentation on other people. Wars also force other countries to buy weapons dishing out hundreds of billions of dollars to the US. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar etc., fall into this category.

Where no enemy exists, it has to be manufactured. Think China. In his first statement as Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan identified three countries of special concern to the US: Afghanistan, Iran and China. What threat do dirt-poor Afghans and an independent Islamic Iran pose to the US? True, Iran’s insistence on maintaining complete independence from hegemonic powers poses a challenge to the imperialist-imposed global order, but that is Iran’s right. American war mongers cannot tolerate an independent country anywhere.

As far as China is concerned, the US is terrified of its economic growth and rising military power. While the US will never take on China militarily—it will get a beating of its life—economically it is busy trying to sabotage China’s rise by using India. The US will fail because it is a failed state and already engulfed in a virtual civil war-type situation.

Old habits, however, die hard. Even as it sinks, like the Titanic, into the bottom of the ocean, it will take a lot of other people down with it. The world has not witnessed a more barbaric and anti-human entity as the US that has been responsible for the murder of hundreds of millions of people in the last 100 years alone.

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