Excepts from the book, 'Win-Win or Lose' by Bill Bonner:
Pages 53 - 58
Moses, bringing the law down from Mount Sinai, announced 10 things Jews needed to do to keep themselves in God’s good graces. But Pompeo demanded 12 changes of the Iranians. We don’t recall Iran ordering the U.S. to make even one change, let alone 12 of them. Is that because the U.S. is already perfect… or because the Pentagon spent an amount equal to the entire Iranian defense budget every eight days?
Power has rules of its own. Win-win reciprocity isn’t one of them. When you can throw your weight around without worrying about someone else’s weight being thrown at you, what’s to stop you?
Nature, like civilization, needs balance. Harmony. “Too much” upsets it. Instead, it thrives on limits, restraints, and corrections. When there is “too much,” something has to give. Otherwise, nature tips over into chaos and claptrap. And when a nation has too much power, like a child who has had too many desserts, it becomes insufferable.
After the Cold War ended, the U.S. was master of the field… unopposed… on top of the heap. It could have brought its troops home and cut its military spending in half… or more… restoring some measure of balance with the rest of the world. It could have taken up the America First slogan, minding its own business and being a good neighbor to other countries. It could have balanced its budget, paid off its debt, and devoted its time, money, and energy to building a great country. Instead, with no debate in Congress, it took another path. And now, all over the world, it bombs, sanctions, and assassinates… bullying, bossing, and bamboozling small countries that can’t protect themselves. But who drones America’s “extremists” in Kentucky? Who assassinates “insurgent” leaders in California? Who imposes sanctions on America?
The U.S. has invaded 84 countries since its founding. Modern Iran: zero. The U.S. has weapons of mass destruction… and has proven that it is ready to use them; it dropped an atomic bomb twice – both times on civilians. No other country has used atomic weapons in an act of war. Iran has no atomic weapons. The U.S. has troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, within easy striking distance of Iran. Iran has no troops in Mexico or Canada. So who’s the bad guy?
The whole idea of “bad guys” as a focus of U.S. foreign policy came after the fall of Baghdad to U.S. troops and George W. Bush’s famous “Mission Accomplished” speech on a U.S. aircraft carrier in 2003. The war was won. But it went on. And on the shifting sands of the Middle East, amid the shifting focus from one religious, tribal, sectarian, or political group to another, military spokesmen couldn’t keep up. They began referring to the enemy du jour as simply “the bad guys.”
But who, really, were the bad guys? Our myths tell us that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. But the gods know better. If the goose is big enough, and powerful enough, the gander can just watch out.
People come to think what they need to think when they need to think it. And when people have a vastly disproportionate amount of military power, they soon find reasons to use it. They begin to see bad guys everywhere. Readers of our own daily blog – Bill Bonner’s Diary – illustrated the point. They thought they knew not only what happened in Gaza that day, but why it happened. They thought they could look into black hearts and see corrupted souls – even from thousands of miles away. The Palestinians were fiends from Hell, said one reader:
When faced with a screaming horde of fanatics who want to exterminate your existence, do what it takes. Be glad that Mexico is not dominated by Islamists. They had blood dripping from their hands, said another:
A significant number of Palestinians killed were unquestionably identified by independent sources as terrorists.
They were mass murderers, said a third:
They intend to kill indiscriminately and create a 5th column within Israel to destroy it.
In other words, they all deserved to die. They, not the Israeli gunmen who shot them down, were the evil ones. No charges were ever filed. No evidence presented. No verdict rendered. And no sentence pronounced. But the protesters got the firing squad anyway. That’s the advantage of power – you don’t need to hold a trial. And you never need to say you’re sorry.
Looking into their own hearts and minds, Americans see saints in the mirror and angels dancing on the White House lawn. Foreigners probably see something else. Some might look back, for example, to America’s bloody campaigns against the Cherokee or the Sioux… to its invasions of Mexico or Nicaragua… or to its conquest of the Philippines. U.S. troops took over the Philippines after a fake battle with Spanish forces (the two armies agreed to a mock battle in Manila to justify the handover to Americans rather than to the natives).
“Hooray,” said the Filipinos. “America is a beacon of independence. Now, we will be independent, too.”
It was still very early in the 20th century. But the U.S. was already woozy; the imperial juice was going to its head. Instead of handing over the Philippines to the “brown people,” the white people back in North America chose to hold onto their colonial prize.
Alas, the ungrateful inhabitants resisted. As many as 1.5 million of them – mostly civilians – died as a result of fighting, massacres, concentration camps, and disease. American soldiers told the tale in their letters home:
The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger.
Back home, Americans had little doubt who the bad guys were. They backed their boys in the field, as they always do. But a few had second thoughts. In his diary, Mark Twain referred to American soldiers as “our uniformed assassins.” He described the war as:
…a long and happy picnic with nothing to do but sit in comfort and fire the Golden Rule into those people down there and imagine letters to write home to the admiring families, and pile glory upon glory.
After a week or so of this kind of thinking in our daily blog, we were set to heave it over the side, like a fish too small to meet the legal limit. Readers didn’t appreciate it. But reading our mail… followed by a restless night… we decided to look further. And then, we saw it more clearly – slimy and hideous. Bad Guy Theory (BGT) is the updated version of tribe-based morality. It maintains that there are some people who are good, and others who are bad. The good ones think they can spot the bad ones… and that they have the right and duty to kill them, because… well… they’re up to no good.
Many of our readers believed BGT was essentially correct; they knew damn well who the bad guys were… and thought your author was an SOB for suggesting otherwise. Wrote one, referring to Muslims, Persians, or Palestinians (we’re not sure which):
If they could, they’d kill you, me and our families.
We have some personal experience. We lived in Paris for many years and knew, casually, some Iranians. We had dinner with them once or twice in their apartment in the 16th arrondissement. Never once did they go for our throats with a butcher knife.
Another reader thought our suggestion that even good people sometimes do bad things was out of line:
You owe all of your subscribers an apology.
This reader was particularly annoyed by our suggestion that dropping an atomic bomb on civilians was perhaps not a civilized thing to do. (We’ll come back to that in a minute.)
BGT is as ancient as the Old Testament. Each generation, each culture, each tribe has had its bad guys. The neighboring village. The nation over the mountains. Spartans. Yids. Queers. Reds. Bourgeois reactionaries. Mensheviks. Kulaks. Intellectuals. Gypsies. Heretics. Papists. Prods. Huns. Gooks. Kafirs. Cathars. Sorcerers. Insurgent Filipinos. Rebel slaves. And bog-trotting, mouth-breathing Paddies. They all deserved to die… and all got the death sentence. Not that they necessarily did anything wrong. But their thoughts… their beliefs… their intentions and motivations marked them as bad guys.
But how could you know what was really in people’s hearts and minds? Use the rack and thumbscrews to find out! Or don’t worry about it. “Kill them all,” said the Count of Citeaux before the massacre at Béziers in 1209. “God will sort them out.”
As already noted, the God of the Old Testament seemed ready for any sort of mayhem. But Jesus had another idea. He didn’t care what group you were part of. He didn’t seem to care what you had done in the past either; it was what you did now and in the future that counted. “Go forth and sin no more,” said He to the bad gal who was about to e stoned to death.
Common law also emerged gradually and organically from the swamp and blood of prehistoric life. It, too, turned away from BGT. Justice was blind. Were you a Jew? Were you a Muslim? Were you a believer… or a sinner? It hardly mattered. Instead, the judge wanted to know where you were on the night of the 23rd… that is, he wanted to know what you had gotten up to, not who you were. You were judged on the basis of your actions.
So let us look at the action that brought our readers to grab a rail, feathers, and pitch and come looking for us.