The United States of Everywhere
Until the collapse of communism, there was no fiercer defender of America and her values than yours truly. In 1975, I was given a 15-month prison sentence by a Greek kangaroo court for having exposed Yannis Horn, then publisher of the Athens Daily News, for receiving KGB gold and Judas-like exposing Richard Welch as a CIA operative in Athens. As a result, Welch was murdered by the Nov. 17 terrorists just before Christmas, and I left for London until an appeals court threw out the decision. Horn is now in that sauna-like place below, the Nov. 17 murderers have been rounded up (it took the Greeks 25 years to manage it), and I seem to be making a habit of receiving threats of prison time for writing the truth.
The article exposing Yannis Horn appeared both in National Review and on the op-ed page of the New York Times. That cooked my goose in the birthplace of selective democracy. The New York Times was revered in Greece because of its anti-American stance during the Vietnam War as well as for its virulent anti-Nixon-Agnew posturing during Watergate. To expose the infiltration of the Greek press by the KGB in the sacrosanct pages of the Times was worse than a crime. It was treason.
The Greeks are the most anti-American folk in Europe, and I’m sad to say we were the only ones to boo the victims of 9/11 when asked to stand for a minute of silence before a football game. Be that as it may, Greek-Americans are among the most patriotic, law-abiding, and hard-working U.S. citizens, sending lotsa moolah back home and spending generously when they visit the mother country. But like me, they are at a loss when faced with the anti-Americanism of the locals. On a recent visit, sitting in a taverna, sipping ouzo, and discussing politics, I brought up the subject. “What about the Marshall Plan, the years of military and economic help, and the hundreds of social programs financed by Uncle Sam?” I asked. My friends did not want to know. It is all part of a master plan to run the world was the answer.
Greeks being Greeks, we almost came to blows, then forgot all about it after the second bottle of ouzo. But the problem did not go away. And from what I gathered, it is a problem because of the excessive economic and political power exercised by Uncle Sam. This, needless to say, is nothing new. Everyone wants to shoot down the Super Bowl winner, and America has been winning the Super Bowl rather regularly. Then I asked myself what, if anything, I had against Uncle Sam. He had, after all, given my father the opportunity to rebuild his fortune which was lost during the war, had treated my foreign family like long-lost sons, and had stood firm against the evil empire that threatened to swallow us up à la the rest of Eastern Europe.
The answer was simple: what rubbed me the wrong way was America’s evident contempt for other people’s traditions, its air of self-righteousness, its know-it-all-ism.
U.S. efforts to open markets for genetically modified food products give foreigners yet another platform to yell bully. The French lead the way. There is, to be sure, a certain snobbishness involved. American culture is identified with hamburgers, blue jeans, and fast food, while France is known for luxury items—haute couture and champagne. When Rome’s Café de Paris, made famous in the film “La Dolce Vita,” became a fast-food joint, Romans were outraged. Instead of blaming market forces, they blamed the philistine Yankees. A running joke in Athens is the American tourist in the Acropolis who yells in wonder, “Look, Ma, from here I can see the Hilton.”
Then there are movies and music. By controlling the pipelines of communication with one another, as well as shaping the cultural content contained within those channels, American companies affect people everywhere. It is unprecedented. Traditional music and dance are a no-no with the young; Hollywood garbage and rap are God. Mind you, it is not Uncle Sam’s fault, but good old capitalism’s. Still the good uncle takes the fall. The once colorful locals—Greek fishermen, Italian Lotharios, French folk singers—now stay home and watch Friends and Jerry Springer on TV. It’s called the “American century.”
I bring all this up because the recent antiwar demonstrations all over Europe were heartbreaking, at least for me. Basically the demonstrations were anti-American, no ifs or buts about it. I am very much against the war for the obvious reasons. Establishing a new world order of supranational government is Hitlerian in concept and will need to be Stalinist in execution. America is a republic, not an empire, as Pat Buchanan never ceases to remind us. But neocon warmongers formulated their plans long ago, ignoring history. Deterrence is expensive and irritating, but it kept the peace for 50 years between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and finally saw the end of the Soviet threat. As long as there is an alternative, there is no just war.
The idea, however, that I’m on the same side with American-haters like the egregious Bianca Jagger makes my blood boil. This third-rate tart should stick to nightclubs and rich pop stars and leave politics to those who can at least spell the word. Worse was seeing the gruesome Jesse Jackson, an extrortionist par-excellence, using toe-curling clichés to fire up the crowd. A crowd, alas, (I am speaking of London and Paris) that was not the usual rent-a-crowd anti-American scum (only a small part), but hundreds of thousands of sane, sensible, and responsible people who have now changed sides and are subscribing to the notion that Uncle Sam is a worse threat than Saddam.
This is very serious indeed. Here’s a British commentator, a pro-war one: “Demonstrably absurd views that were once confined to a few radicals have now become the norm. The center of the country’s moral and intellectual gravity has shifted.” Another pundit, a friend of mine, Barbara Amiel, writing in the pro-war Daily Telegraph: “ The real purpose of the weekend’s massive protest was to attack Israel, America and free enterprise, not to promote peace over war.” Which brings me to exactly the point I wish to make. For those of us who love America and have benefited from her largesse and fairness, it is unbearable to see her turned into a villain because of the Bush administration’s Middle East policies. The millions who demonstrated were not anti-Semites, as the neocons will surely claim, but fair-minded people who wish to see Uncle Sam play fair. The government’s claim of military intervention in the name of democracy is a sham. The government’s claim that Iraq was involved with al-Qaeda has not been proved. American values are not universal. Israel may be a loyal ally, but the brutal occupation of Palestinian lands cannot in any way or shape be excused or defended.
Here’s Pat Buchanan: “The way to keep America free and secure is to stay out of wars that do not affect our vital interests, and let alien societies work out their own destinies. As time was our ally against communism, which did not work, so time is our ally against Islamism, which also does not work.”
The United States of Everywhere is bound to turn into a United States of Nowhere. The neocons who have bewitched a decent President Bush are not interested in the future. They want to play big man, now, just like they want to push the Palestinians off their ancient lands, now, while Sharon and the settlers are hot. It’s up to the rest of us who love America to try to persuade those who govern us that this is a mug’s game.