Saturday, June 11, 2011

Consistency in American Foreign Policy

The fact that Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s book is now 14 years old only serves to illustrate how accurate he was/is about US foreign policy in Latin America and elsewhere.  His details about long-standing US support for torture/terrorism were not surprising, but his information presents a couple of important perspectives that I haven’t heard in the discourse around our foreign policy concerning Latin America in particular, and the world at large generally.

The first is a bit of history on the origins of Liberation Theology, which has a negative connotation for many.  Nelson-Pallmeyer shows that Liberation Theology did not grow directly out of Marxism, but rather out of a concern on the part of the Catholic Church to get back to perhaps the most basic message of the New Testament Jesus:  Concern and love for the poor and dispossessed.  This kind of concern, in practice, always finds itself naturally opposed to oligarchs and the wealthy.  Reducing disparities in wealth is not good for business, and therefore not conducive to keeping a hold on power.  The School of the Americas served as a tool to make sure that this power of the elite was not lost to the "evil" Catholic priests and nuns who sought a better life for the poverty stricken in Latin America.  The fact that the beginnings of Liberation Theology coincided with increased interest in its secular counterpart, Marxism (seen exemplified in the Cuban Revolution) is no accident.  There was vast unrest throughout Latin America, much like we’re seeing today in the Arab world.  Liberation Theology and Capitalism don’t mix well, and the useful/timely association with Soviet influenced Communism created a convenient narrative, and a target for Latin America death squads, helped by the rhetoric of the establishment in the US (both political and religious as well as economic).  For US citizens who have paid attention, this should serve as a call to look at the ways the Western World will attempt to manipulate the economic/political outcomes of a restless Islamic Arab world freshly rejuvenated to take back control of their lives. 

The second perspective is that Western mind control often incorporates admitting to past atrocities or errors in foreign policy once the old practices are no longer useful.  In the case of The School of the Americas, Nelson-Pallmeyer showed several examples of major media outlet criticism of the horrific track record of its graduates.  His argument is that since America’s foreign policy uses for the School were becoming less important by the mid 1990’s, it fit into the American myth for the media to condemn past mistakes and illustrate the “changes” that were being made to ensure that these actions (i.e. the same foreign policy) didn’t occur again.  Never was it necessary to perhaps right those wrongs, but if it made Americans sleep better at night knowing that their government was correcting any wayward elements, then it was not only ok to print, but encouraged.  After all, our government couldn’t have a population too concerned about human rights.  Things could get out of hand.  Meanwhile, our foreign policy continues (with a slight face-lift) just as before.  Different look, maybe a different location, but the same old atrocities, and eventual "apologies" for those atrocities that "obviously came from a few misinterpretations".  

Throughout the book, Nelson-Pallmeyer calls the US to acknowledge its past in Latin America, and to not merely criticize events after the fact, but to work towards reparations and the reduction of blowback.   This sounds great, but is futile in our current system; one that is not transparent enough or even capable of being honest.  To tell the truth and attempt to make things right concerning American foreign policy would create more cognitive dissonance than what our national consciousness is capable of handling.  

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