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“Talking Your Book” and One of Its More Dangerous and Immoral Fallacies (Part 1)

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We can sugar coat it, or face the truth.  We can learn from history, or not.  The course we choose will determine our future in ways we can hardly imagine.  And, yet, as I write this, our nation persists in a version of Fantasyland, unencumbered by history.  The current American Prospect contains an article taking on what Wall Streeters call “talking your book.”  According to the article here, talking your book means: “trying to get events to match up with the bets on your balance sheet.” We’re very familiar with the tactic in Washington, where we call it “spinning.”

Our lives are saturated with such spin. Outside of Wall Street, some of the most egregious examples include the military contractor speak which embraces terms such as “spreading freedom” (though war); “democracy in a box,” and “grand strategy,” (as if all the variables in the world could be captured in one model).  Today, in Part 1, I address the hazards of the first of these.  I contend that we in the US cannot spread democracy by bombing another country, especially when that country did not attack us. Many of us have argued this point till we are “blue” in the face. But hegemonic-, military-, and military contractor- speak try to persuade otherwise.  And, despite the evidence, many still buy what the talking-your-book spinners tell us.

To amplify this discussion, let’s look at a list I adapted (added to) from historian William Blum. I will follow the list with a “one-item quiz.”  

China 1945-56

Korea 1950-53

China 1950-53

Guatemala 1954

Indonesia 1958

Cuba: 1959-60

Guatemala (again) 1969

Congo 1964

Peru 1965

Laos 1964-73

Vietnam 1961-1973

Cambodia

Guatemala 1967-69

Grenada 1983

Libya 1986

El Salvador 1980s

Nicaragua 1980s

Panama 1989

Iraq 1991-99

Sudan 1998

Afghanistan 1998

Yugoslavia 1999

Afghanistan 2001-present

Iraq 2003-present

Pakistan ?-present

The above is a list of countries the US has bombed since WWII. I did not include CIA covert operations and government over-throws, which would considerably lengthen the list.  Did I leave anything out? Now, here is the quiz question: How many democracies resulted from these bombing wars?  

If you answered none, you would be correct.  Our nation continues to sell the pitch that we are “bringing democracy and freedom, but there is no “freedom” resulting from our interventions. On the other hand, the human, environmental and financial consequences have long been with us and today threaten our very viability as a nation. The current course cannot go on.  

This very day, NPR told the story of the vastly increasing deaths by suicide of soldiers. Nearly as many are dying from suicide as in the wars themselves.  Even more civilians are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I have yet to see realistic estimates of the physical destruction caused by the current wars, or any of the others on the list.  And some questions arise:    

1) How can we continue to argue (or believe) the empty sloganeering of political-speak and contractor-speak pervading our media and even everyday conversation?

2) Do we not owe it to ourselves and our country to be less gullible?

3) How do we continue to justify bombing the current target countries, especially when they have not directly attacked us and no real democracy will result in the foreseeable future?

4) When will we stop kidding ourselves about why we are where we are? (If it’s not for real freedom, then is it only for corporate freedom?

5) And, given the above, when will we get our priorities straight?

I keep waiting for Democrats, even Blue Dogs, to begin being honest about the sinkhole that is our defense budget.  Instead, we load the so-called “deficit commission” with those who’ll perpetuate the travesty that is our lopsided, destructive  and self-destructive course.  We are not making ourselves safer, bringing democracy, defending  our country or anything else constructive.  And given that, how do we live with ourselves if we’re just “keeping on keeping on.”

  • Dan Sullivan

    IF democracy was indeed the objective.