One of the best definitions of a true patriot today, I believe, is a person who defends his country against its own government. One of the best ways to defend our country against its government is through the search for historical truth, especially as it relates to war. This is the theme of my book A Century of War where I state:
“We must learn to avoid war and develop a general will to peace. I believe the key to this development is to learn the truth about the real causes and the effects of wars so that we can see through the false propaganda which is used by political leaders to convince us to go to war.
“It has been the wars of the 20th century which have been the primary destroyers of individual freedom even for the winners of those wars. As Ludwig von Mises stated in his book Socialism:
“’War is harmful not only to the conquered but to the conqueror. Society has arisen out of the works of peace; the essence of society is peacemaking. Peace and not war is the father of all things. Only economic action has created wealth around us; labor, not the profession of arms, brings happiness. Peace builds, war destroys.’”
In the recent book by Andrew Bacevich entitled Washington Rules he states:
“Prior to World War II, Americans by and large viewed military power and institutions with skepticism, if not outright hostility. In the wake of World War II, that changed. An affinity for military might emerge as central to the American identity.”
His book is a history of the huge shift in public opinion which tried to avoid wars into the acceptance of permanent war with the War on Terror.
The event of 9/11 was the perfect storm for the destruction of American freedom because we are now at war permanently with terrorism and there is no way to tell when the war is over or who could sign a peace treaty for the terrorists. One of the benefits to fascist government in a war is that it gives complete government control over the people and their property, and dissent is stifled.
There is a great book out now entitled It is Dangerous to Be Right When Our Government Is Wrong. I am sure that all of you know who the author of this very important book is – Judge Napolitano. It takes a courageous patriot to stand-up to his or her government and say the war is wrong but that needs to be done to protect freedom. You can be accused of being disloyal even if you question wars that have been over for some time such as World War I and World War II.
One of the best books of this year is entitled Mary’s Mosaic by Peter Janney. It is not only a courageous book but a personal challenge to Janney because he exposes his own father who was a high level CIA executive as at least of being in the know about the murder by the CIA of an American citizen in America who was a family friend. I will talk more about the book later, but I want to give you this quotation from the book about patriotism:
“Patriotism–real patriotism–has a most important venue, and it is not always about putting on a uniform to fight some senseless, insane war in order to sustain the meaningless myths about freedom or America’s greatness. There is a higher loyalty that real patriotism demands and encompasses, and that loyalty is the pursuit of truth, no matter how painful or uncomfortable the journey.”
Revisionism about war is about the search for historical truth to bring history into accord with the facts with the purpose of trying to promote peace and prevent war. This is a very large subject and so I will limit my remarks today to only two specific aspects of revisionism on war.
The Need for a New Paradigm for Political Labels
First, we need a new paradigm for political labels which needs to include the fact that the political philosophy of fascism is a political philosophy of the left and not the right. Collectivism includes communism, socialism, and fascism. Confucius is reported to have said that you can lose your liberty by corruption of language and the meaning of words. I think there needs to be a revision of the political labels “left and right” and “conservative and liberal” because they have become meaningless in the description of the political ideas which are involved today.
As you know the terms left and right as political labels arose out of the French Revolution about where certain parties were seated in the assembly based upon the ideas that were pertinent to the French Revolution. I would suggest a new designation of something like at the top end of a spectrum the words “individual freedom” or simply “individualism” and at the bottom end of the spectrum the word “collectivism.” Then you can place the ideas in a value system as they relate more to one than to the other. One specific reason I think this is important is because of the use of the word “fascism” being designated as a political system on the extreme right and also on the right are placed conservatism and libertarianism. Communism and socialism are placed on the left. I believe this is particularly important because I think that the so-called “Progressive Movement” in America which began with the Spanish American War, and met the peak of its influence through the reforms in 1913 and with World War I, is in reality fascism. I think that fascism should be lumped together with communism and socialism and described by the phrase “collectivism.”
There are many writers who agree that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was fascism and I think that the 20th century America has evolved into a political fascist system of war and welfare.
Benito Mussolini was the founder of European fascism in Milan in 1919 and he came to power in 1922 in Italy. He remained in total control for 21 years. I quote him in my book A Century of War for a statement he made in 1927 as follows:
“Fascism… believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace…War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it… It may be expected that this will be the century of authority, a century of the Left, a century of Fascism. For the 19th century was a century of individualism… (Liberalism always signifying individualism), it may be expected that this will be a century of collectivism and hence the century of the State…for Fascism, the growth of Empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation is the essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite is the sign of decay and death.”
As you will recall from history, both Germany and Italy respectively became unified nations in the latter part of the 19th century. The ideas of Marx and communism constituted an international movement advocating violence and force to eliminate private property and capitalism. Another international movement was socialism which also attacked property and individualism yet many socialists stated that socialism could be established through democracy rather than force by expanding the number of eligible voters. After World War I, communism became a severe threat to take over Italy. Mussolini was a dedicated socialist and journalist who supported fascism as a national rather than an international movement to fight international communism and socialism. He advocated force and war as the method to combat the violence of communism. There was no racism connected to fascism in Italy.
In Germany after World War I, where the violence of communism was also about to take over Germany as part of the international movement, it was Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party which advocated force and violence to overcome communism. Hitler saw communism as a Jewish political movement and almost always referred to communism as “Judaic Bolshevism.” It was Hitler who introduced racism to the fascist movement. Today if someone wants to smear another political person they will say that they are part of the extreme right or a fascist and naturally people think of the Nazis. People on the left are often characterized as moderates and people on the right are often characterized as extremists and fascists.
Another excellent book published in 2007 which supports my argument is entitled Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. He states the main idea of his book:
“In this book I have argued that modern liberalism is the offspring of twentieth-century progressivism, which in turn shares intellectual roots with European fascism.”
Jonah Goldberg points out in this book that Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Crowly and his colleagues glorified war because it “…was the midwife of progress. Indeed, Crowly believed that the Spanish-American War’s greatest significance lay in the fact that it gave birth to Progressivism.” Goldberg points out that the Progressives believed that militarization of society and politics was considered to be the best available means towards the centralization of power. You could use patriotism of the people to cause them to give up their liberty in the name of security. Goldberg states “Wilson fully abandoned his faith in congressional government when he witnessed Teddy Roosevelt’s success in turning the oval office into a bully pulpit.” Goldberg further pointed out that the Progressives were openly and proudly hostile to individualism and viewed the traditional system of constitutional checks and balances as an outdated impediment to progress because such horse and buggy institutions were a barrier to their own ambitions. Goldberg thinks that Wilson may have been the twentieth century’s first fascist political leader instead of Mussolini.
One of the 20th century’s most astute intellectuals in political theory was Erik von Kuehenelt-Leddihn who agrees completely with me and Jonah Goldberg on placing fascism on the left. He covers this in his book entitled Leftism Revisited. In chapter four of that book entitled “Right and Left”, he points out that in Germany after World War I the National Socialist (or Nazis) were, seated on the far right of the Reichstag or Assembly because on the left side of the assembly were the internationalists who were the communists and the socialists. The conservatives and monarchists were national movements and were seated on the right. Since Nazism or fascism was a national movement in Germany rather than international, they were seated on the right with the conservatives. He explains this is how fascism became to be placed on the right rather than the left in political dialogue.
I think it is an important part of revisionism to get the language correct, and to reveal to the Americans especially, that the philosophy of progressivism, modern liberalism and neo-conservatism are really part of the fascist movement and are all collectivists along with socialism and communism.
Today the dominant intellectual movement known as neo-conservatism fits the definition of fascism. They gained control of the George W. Bush administration and have continued to dominate American foreign policy with the tragic war in Iraq and the other wars now spreading throughout the Middle East, which was their original intent.
Reining in the CIA
This brings me to my second point on revisionism and war and that is the problem of the CIA and its secret activities which often lead to war. If you want to see when America first became known in the Middle East as the “Great Satan” you can start with the book by Stephen Kinzer entitled All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. The book explains how the British Colonial Policy caused them to rape Iran by taking its oil and placing a British oil company in Iran along with a refinery and extracting the oil without any real benefit to Iran. Iran’s greatest statesman, who was democratically elected, genuinely popular and well educated in Europe was Mossadegh who came to power and terminated this British Imperialism by nationalizing the oil company. Churchill and the British appealed to President Truman to use the American CIA to overthrow Mossadegh, but Truman refused on the grounds that the CIA was simply an information gathering agency and not an agency used to overthrow governments.
This all changed with the election of Eisenhower in 1952 who brought to power the aggressive Dulles brothers, with John Foster as Secretary of State and Allen as head of the CIA. The Dulles brothers convinced Eisenhower that the CIA should in fact be used to overthrow Mossadegh using the argument that communism was going to take over Iran if they didn’t. Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, Kermit Roosevelt, led the CIA’s secret and successful plan to overthrow Mossadegh and then installed the Shah to head the government. The CIA trained the Shah’s secret police who continued to terrorize the people of Iran until the Shah was overthrown later by the people. America, which had a good reputation in the Middle East before this, then became known as the Great Satan because it became well known that it was America that removed Mossadegh. Stephen Kinzer, who wrote All The Shah’s Men, continued his study of the disastrous activity of the CIA in his excellent book entitled Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq.
When Eisenhower left office in 1960 he described the CIA as “A Legacy of Ashes” which became the title of an excellent and critical history of the CIA by Tim Weiner published in 2007.
The CIA is now recognized worldwide as the great threat to many countries and many political leaders. Back in 1971, the British historian Arnold Toynbee wrote in The New York Times on May 7, 1971 as follows:
“To most Europeans, I guess, America now looks like the most dangerous country in the world. Since America is unquestionably the most powerful country, the transformation of America’s image within the last 30 years is very frightening for Europeans. It is probably still more frightening for the great majority of the human race who are neither Europeans nor North Americans…They, I imagine, feel even more insecure than we feel. They feel at any moment America may intervene in their internal affairs, with the same appalling consequences as have followed from the American intervention in Southeast Asia.
In today’s climate, wherever there is trouble, violence, suffering, tragedy, the rest of us are now quick to suspect the CIA….in fact the roles of the United States and Russia have been reversed in the eyes of much of the world. Today, America has become the nightmare.”
Of course this was written before the disastrous war in Iraq and the other wars of the Middle East.
I do not think the timing is merely a coincidence that one month after the assassination of President John Kennedy, former President Harry Truman, who had created the CIA in 1947, wrote an editorial in The Washington Post dated December 22, 1963 entitled “U.S. Should Hold CIA to Intelligence.” In this editorial he stated:
“There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel we need to correct it….For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy – making arm of the government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas….I therefore would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President and whatever else it can properly perform in that special field – and that is its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.” [emphasis supplied]
This brings me back to the fantastic book Mary’s Mosaic by Peter Janney who condemns the CIA for what he believes was the murder of Mary Meyer 11months after John Kennedy’s murder because the CIA felt that she knew too much about the assassination of John Kennedy and the involvement of the CIA. Mary Meyer was a beautiful, independently wealthy, well-educated and influential person. The CIA apparently feared that her diary contained much incriminating evidence against the CIA. There are several accounts of the search for Mary Meyer’s diary. One is that on the day after Mary’s murder her sister and her husband Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post, went to Mary’s house to search for the diary. When they entered her house they found James Angleton, the Chief of Counterintelligence of the CIA already there without any permission or authority searching for the diary.
Mary had known John Kennedy since college days and was suspected of being his mistress after her divorce from Cord Meyer. She was strongly opposed to American intervention into Vietnam and war in general.
As I stated, Peter Janney’s father was a high ranking CIA executive and Mary Meyer’s former husband, Cord Meyer, was also a high ranking CIA executive. For some time at CIA gatherings, Mary Meyer, while still married to Cord Meyer, had been very vocal in her criticism of the CIA activities. At the time of her murder she was divorced from Cord Meyer. In this book, Mary’s Mosaic, Peter Janney states:
“The CIA’s inception and entrance into the American landscape fundamentally altered not only the functions of our government, but the entire character of American life. The CIA reign during the Cold War era has contaminated the pursuit of historical truth. While the dismantling of America’s Republic didn’t begin in Dallas in 1963, that day surely marked an unprecedented acceleration of the erosion of constitutional democracy. America has never recovered. Today in 2012 the ongoing disintegration of our country is ultimately about the corruption of our government, a government that has consistently misrepresented and lied about what really took place in Dallas in 1963, as it did about the escalation of the Vietnam War that followed, and which it presently continues to do so in many things.”
One solution to the CIA issue was stated by President John Kennedy after the failed invasion of Cuba organized by the CIA. President Kennedy said “I am going to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”
In conclusion, I believe the true patriot is the individual who will speak truth to power and try to bring history into accord with the facts especially as to war.
This talk was delivered at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Mises Institute in 2012.