Apologia


‘Death to US’: Anti-Americanism examined
Anti-Americanism in Venezuela

Earlier today I happened upon (through the agency of my good friend Dave) the two articles above. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. The author asserts that anti-Americanism is an index of something else completely. In his opinion it is most usually a front for self-loathing, or failure, as if the righteous indignation of the enslaved, or colonised, peoples was merely an expression of the enslaved, or colonised, people’s failures.

You’ve got to wonder if there is any end to the capacity of the rest of the world to blame the United States for its problems.

Why wonder? If the cap fits…

Nowhere is that more the case than in Latin America, where out of roughly 500 million people, 200 million live on less than $2 a day. Why? Is it all the fault of the imperialists from the north? Or is just a little of it the result of local attitudes to poverty, local attitudes to honesty in government, and local attitudes to the rule of law?

In answer to the question I would say the imperialists from the north. We have seen numerous examples of their attempts at bringing democracy to resource-rich countries (that is to say countries rich in resources that the imperialists from the north covet), of the puppet governments that they have supported, or put in place, after a coup d’état orchestrated by themselves, of their lack of respect for democratically elected governments, of their lack of interests in the human rights records of the governments they support and have put in place, to know that they are, of course, a malign influence in the world.

As Otto Reich, a former Bush administration ambassador to Venezuela and public enemy number one (or two?) among many anti-Americans, told us: “The United States is the scapegoat. It provides an easy excuse for the failures: if something isn’t working, blame the Americans. Scratch the surface of some of these anti-Americans and you find self-loathing.”

So it’s the poor ol’ US of A, and not the victims of the East Timor Massacre, not the victims of the Chilean Coup, not all the countless other peoples who have suffered at the hands of this vile nation, who we should sympathise with.

A pattern was emerging and has never seriously been altered. A pattern of willingness to condemn America for the tiniest indiscretion – or to magnify those indiscretions – while leaving the murderers, dictators, and thieves who run other nations oddly untouched.

Tiniest Indiscretions? Like that time America left the toilet seat up, or when it chewed gum in the presence of the Queen, or when it stole the loaf of bread to feed it’s children… Who are you kidding! America doesn’t commit tiny indiscretions. Is Iraq a tiny indiscretion? Is extraordinary rendition a tiny indiscretion?

For Mr Chavez and his backers, Latin anti-Americanism is rooted in what the US has done – not in French-style metaphysical hoity-toityness. Latin Americans say – with some justification – that their neighbour to the north has behaved badly in the past.

And that’s putting it mildly. Organising coups, assassinating democratically elected heads of state, training and arming death squads, schooling despots in the art repression and torture, the list is endless. If anyone has a right to be suspicious of these imperialists, Latin Americans do.

Yes Washington has been concerned first and foremost with US self interest, but much of South America’s infrastructure – its social services such as they are – is in place because the Yankees put it there.

All the better to export their forcefully-secured booty…

Trade between north and south is huge: Venezuela alone sells $39bn worth of oil a year to the United States. And millions and millions of Latin Americans benefit every day from the powerhouse US economy – from relatives cleaning cars in Los Angeles, making beds in Las Vegas and picking fruit in rural Georgia. They send money home to places where economic development is stymied by corruption and government interference.

Once again, that most disgusting of tendencies, the reprehensible view that these people should be grateful that they have a job cleaning our toilets, or disposing of our rubbish, or even debasing themselves in our sex industries for the sake of our perverse pleasures. The imperialist project successfully creates the conditions for exploitation at home and abroad. Be proud America.

Which leads me to wonder: if American behaviour changes now, or if free trade turns out to make everyone wealthier, will Latin Americans change their minds about the modern US?

But is that not the strategy of all forms of modern Capitalism? Keep the slaves in sufficient luxury so they become indolent, content with what little they have, so that they become more interested in American Idol, or some such excrementious bile, and cease to question their conditions. Wouldn’t anyone, mistreated for a lifetime, should their conditions change for the better, take some time out to rest?

I felt quite ill just reading these articles. They are wonderful examples of disingenuous journalism, and that they were published on the bbc’s website is most disappointing, but no longer surprising. The bbc once again a voice in defence of an empire.

J.K.

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