I was recently leafing through a pristine copy of Life magazine from Oct. 4, 1963. The cover featured the twisting double helix of the newly discovered organic molecule, DNA. However, it wasn't the lead article from America's once-beloved middlebrow journal that caught my attention. It was a political editorial with the headline "Let's Move on Sukarno Now."
"If there was any doubt about it before, Indonesia's President Sukarno has now clinched his claim to being just about the biggest fool on the world scene. Yet the U.S. has been shovelling in economic aid to Sukarno, $876 million of it since 1946, and until last week much more was on the way. The rationale has been that Sukarno might have his faults but he is Indonesia's buffer against Communism and ought to be bolstered up. Some buffer."
With the perspective of time, historians have identified the true crime of Sukarno: the attempt to develop his nation independently of the U.S.-dominated global order. He was not alone.
"Although Sukarno is currently the most brattish of them_ he is not the only AfroAsian leader whose folly puts the future of world freedom in doubt," the Life article fulminated, rhyming off a select group of swarthy nationalists.
A military coup in 1965 resulted in the installation of Sukarno's brutal successor, Gen. Suharto, who presided over the massacre of over a million Indonesians, according to Amnesty International figures. Suharto opened his country up for business, and ruled free from democratic disturbance for the next 31 years as a reliable ally of western interests.
The threat of international communism - the same one-size-fits-all spectre U.S. media conjured up against Sukarno's predecessor - was used to justify a growing war in Southeast Asia. Millions of deaths resulted in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, before the U.S. was defeated by the Vietcong guerilla insurgency and the mass refusal of noncommissioned officers to continue fighting in jungles and peasant hamlets.
For decades the mainstream media has offered up a rogue's gallery of evildoers threatening world peace and freedom. Many of them, like Manuel Noriega of Panama and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, were thugs who somehow went rogue after being groomed for power by U.S. interests. Others, like Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran, were secular nationalists who cited the American Declaration of Independence as a template for their own nation-building. A few, like Kim Jong-Il of North Korea, were hardcore totalitarians. All of them had to be dealt with, and most of them were. And the consumers of infotainment at the deceiving end of Empire are generally told only what they are supposed to know.
Castro, Chavez, Ghaddafi, Assad, Ahmedinejad _ international enemies are like an infinitely renewable resource, always on tap.
In December of 2011 I was flipping through a local paper and a photo of commandos rappelling off a military helicopter caught my eye. The caption noted that Canada's Joint Strike Task Force was supplying training to Mali's military. "WTF are we doing in Africa?" I thought. A year later and France is conducting air strikes against Islamacist fighters in Mali while Canadian forces plunge deeper into the mess.
Generals are forever telling us that we must go to war to protect peace, but as comic George Carlin laboured to remind us, this is like screwing to protect virginity. Why do so many small nations continue to churn out so many asymmetric threats to international order?
Perhaps a clue was supplied by the recent news that Europe's biggest bank, HSBC, was charged $1.92 billion - a small fine in terms of their profits - for laundering money from Mexican drug cartels and defying sanction laws by conducting business with Iran, Libya, Sudan and Cuba.
Strange how narcotraffickers and supposed enemies of international order can suddenly become investment friends of convenience. Strange, too, how the Grim Reaper is always at the teller's booth. In Canada, we've heard lots of debate in the media about the $45 billion cost of 65 F-35 fighter jets to the Canadian taxpayer, a deal unlikely after the Harper government's "reset." Yet hardly anyone ever mentioned one unsightly, in-your face fact: these treasury-sapping arms platforms are designed to kill people.
Scientists discovered the molecular structure of DNA a half century ago, yet the developed world can't, or won't, figure out a global economy built on lasting peace rather than permanent war. Because that would mean killing profit instead.