ita etman’s I In the run-up to Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the neoconservative punditry spent energy rehabilitating the concept “empire,” insisting that the world needed an imperial power to impose stability, and the only candidate available for the job was the United States. And while they evoked the Roman and British empires to make their case, they consistently ignored the one place where the U.S. had its most prolonged and intimate imperial experience: Latin America. So if you really wanted to know what the world would look like under a Pax Americana, you shouldn’t look at Roman Gaul or Australia, but violence-ridden, impoverished Central America. This of course is exactly what Dick Cheney, of all people, did in the 2004 vice-presidential debate when he held up El Salvadornot post-WWII Germany or Japanas a model for what he hoped to achieve in Iraq. But this comparison struck too close to the bone, for shortly after Cheney made his remarks, the press started comparing the rise of death squads in Iraq to what took place in El Salvador. Too close a look at Latin America, it turns out, would raise some inconvenient questions, one of which should be: If Washington can’t bring stability and meaningful democracy to Latin America, a region that falls squarely within its own sphere of influence and whose population shares many of the values of the United States, then what are the chances that it will do so for the world? TO: Why is raising awareness of the historical roots of the War on Terror your chosen strategy? GG: “History” is abused in all sorts of ways by those who want to reduce every issue or conflict to its barest emotional simplicity in order to justify American power in the world. Hugo Chavez stands in a long line of Third World nationalists whom U.S. officials inevitably compare to Hitler. So I suppose it is a bit nave, but hopefully raising awareness can draw the poison out of disingenuous metaphors. Obviously the use of history to rally the nation to a cause is not in any way new, but as I try to show in my book, it did reach a new stage of public manipulation with the domestic propaganda psychological warfare, reallyassociated with Iran-Contra. Public relations firms contracted by the White House polled the American people for lists of emotive keywords, which were then transformed into talking points and distributed to government officials, scholars, media outlets, and NGOs. Yet it was Ronald Reagan, listed by the PR boys as an “asset” due to his communication skills, who best embodied the triumph of emotion over substance. With little respect for history or fact, Reagan played on popular fears and selfperceptions, presenting support for the Contras as keeping faith with America’s “revolutionary heritage.” After all, polling data revealed that the White House’s two most “exploitable themes” were the idea that the Contras were “Freedom Fighters” fighting for “freedom in the American tradition” and the idea that American “history requires support to freedom fighters.” Who could argue with that? Patrick Timmons is an assistant professor of Justice Studies at San Jose State University in California. Perfect laugh-out-loud beach read! “Alternately steamy and hilarious.” The Sunday Republican Texas politics in the 60’s -where men were men and women were girls -where sexual harassment was merely conversation -where swinging singles apartment complexes were all the rage -and where the Women’s Movement was about to challenge all that Available at amazon.com JULY 14, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27
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