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We all have prejudices, but we should think a second time when these prejudices involve us in blanket negative statements. This is especially true when our blanket negative statements apply to American institutions — to the police and to America’s armed forces.
Those of us who can remember the 1960s know there was a time when police were called “pigs.” It was also a time when U.S. servicemen were disrespected as “baby killers.” Not surprisingly, the attitudes reflected by 1960s protesters have origins in communist thinking and propaganda. The fact is, in the late 1960s communist influences were twisting America’s collective psyche into knots, seemingly at will — turning an activist minority of the nation’s youth into protesters and agitators.
A leading Russian military intelligence (GRU) defector, Col. Stanislav Lunev, wrote about the youthful agitators of the 1960s in his book, “Through the Eyes of the Enemy.” According to Lunev the “GRU and KGB helped to fund just about every antiwar movement and organization in America and abroad.” Lunev also noted that “the GRU and KGB had a larger budget for antiwar propaganda in the United States than it did for economic and military support of the Vietnamese.”
Without realizing it, those in America who called the police “pigs,” who evaded the draft, who rioted and protested, were subtly being prompted by a gigantic clandestine propaganda machine organized by agents of Moscow and funded to the tune of a billion dollars by the Soviet General Staff and KGB. As Col. Lunev says in his book, “it was a hugely successful campaign and well worth the cost. The antiwar sentiment created an incredible momentum that greatly weakened the U.S. military.”
Quite naturally, knowing about the history of communist subversion and propaganda in America, I tend to react negatively to accusations against America’s police and armed forces. Whenever someone calls America an “empire” or a “fascist state,” I listen closely to the entire diatribe and consider who really benefits from this kind of talk. I listen for certain code words borrowed from Soviet or Chinese propaganda. I listen for concepts lifted from Marx and Lenin. It doesn’t matter whether the anti-police or anti-military sentiment is expressed from the left or the right. The question always remains: Does this sort of talk hurt America and help its enemies?
However corrupt or inept our police and military might prove to be, such institutions nonetheless exist for our defense. And we need defense because — believe it or not — we have enemies. Nothing is served by a blanket condemnation of America’s defensive structures. Constructive criticism is one thing, and a necessary thing, but there is also destructive criticism which might eventually lead to our country’s demise.
Which brings me to the conversation that triggered today’s column.
A friend of mine recently characterized the FBI as America’s “secret police.” Quite naturally, I had a knee-jerk reaction against this assessment, not because I’m a defender of the FBI or its record, but because I know a thing or two about real secret police organizations — the ones you normally think about when the word “secret police” comes to mind. These organizations include the Gestapo and the KGB, or the Chinese secret police — led by figures like Heinrich Himmler, Lavrenti Beria and Kang Sheng. Such organizations were instrumental in the liquidation of millions of people, and in the incarceration of millions of human beings whose only crime was to disagree with the state.
I’m offended whenever somebody compares American institutions with real totalitarian institutions. I’m offended because American institutions are not totalitarian. We do not have a secret police as they do in Russia or China or Cuba. Oh yes, we have police abuses, we have a bad man in the White House, we have imperfect institutions — because human institutions are not infinitely perfectible. Government is a necessary evil, as the founders taught. And the key word here is “necessary,” despite the claims of Libertarian anarchists.
I repeat: we do not have a dicatorship, we do not have mass executions or death camps, and any comparison of America with regimes of this type is flat wrong. The U.S. Senate may be corrupt and the judiciary may have lost sight of the Constitution, but we are not murdering Jews in ovens. We are not arresting poets and journalists for writing against the government. Thousands are not undergoing torture in our jails. But torture is routine in Russian and Chinese and North Korean jails.
It is shameful, even vile to compare the sins of the United States with those of Nazi Germany or Russia or China. Even to hint at a comparison, in my view, is an error which cries out for correction. It is an error because it underestimates the evil that exists in places like China and Cuba and Iraq. It is an error because it slanders American institutions, making them out to be much worse than they really are.
The FBI is indeed capable of criminal errors and cover-ups, like at Ruby Ridge and Waco. These were shameful events, and they must never be repeated. And make no mistake, there are corrupt FBI special agents, because corruption exists in every human heart. After all, it is human nature to go astray. But there is a difference between the systematic evil of totalitarianism and the ordinary corruption we find in all institutions, at all times. Totalitarianism is a system of highly organized murder and oppression, driven by ideology. American institutions, in comparison, were not created to facilitate mass murder and dictatorship.
The personnel of the FBI in general — as the FBI exists today — could not be used to incarcerate millions of political prisoners or to liquidate millions of human beings. In the first place, the FBI is much too small. In the second place, the personnel in question are sworn to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It would be a political impossibility to use the FBI, as it exists today, to uphold a dictatorship.
But there are anti-government ideologists today, as there were in the 1960s, who believe that our government is the enemy of the people. No doubt the government is a “fearful master,” as George Washington warned, and we must be vigilant against usurpations. But in our vigilance we must avoid exaggeration.
Related to this, as America has become “the world’s policeman,” we also have to be wary of the claim that America is an “imperialist” bully. Let me remind everyone that the communist Chinese routinely refer to America as an “imperialist” aggressor. This is one of those propaganda words lifted from Lenin. It is a form of calumny and abuse meant to discredit the good name of America. Such propaganda has been used by those who have killed Americans — in the Korean War and in Vietnam. It is even used in Russian military texts to justify a future nuclear attack on America.
Propaganda is very serious business. When you participate in enemy propaganda against your own country, when you unthinkingly pick up certain code words, you indirectly give aid and comfort to the enemies of your country. This is not the right thing to do, and Americans should think twice before doing it.
Rather than being a true imperialist nation, I believe that the United States is routinely manipulated and swindled by hosts of foreign countries. In fact, if you take Pat Buchanan’s book on U.S. trade policy seriously, then we are the ones being ripped off, year after year. Lobbyists from foreign countries (that we allegedly dominate) swarm the halls of Congress and buy our legislators. Trade barriers fall and whole American industries are wiped out or shipped overseas.
By definition an empire seeks to accumulate territory and loot other nations. What happens in our military policy is the exact opposite. We typically hand territory back once we’ve liberated it (for example, Cuba, the Philippines, Japan, Germany, Italy, etc.) and we lose lots of money in the process (which is called “foreign aid”). If America really was this evil monster country, do you think Castro would still exist in Cuba, thumbing his nose at us for over 40 years?
Do you think Castro is shaking in his boots, expecting the genocidal imperialists from America to arrive on his shores at any moment?
So before we jump to the conclusion that there is an “American empire,” we ought to consider first what communist propaganda says on this theme, and what the underlying reality actually is. If Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam make us an empire, then maybe we are imperialists after all. But as I recall we’ve freed every territory other than those that we’ve taken outside of the 50 states. And if the world hates us for that, then the world is an unfair judge.
America is not a perfect country. But anyone who says we are an evil empire needs to do a more careful comparison between U.S. history and the history of other large countries. Those who revile the United States should read about the British in Ireland or the Nazis in Europe. Let them compare U.S. institutions with communist Chinese institutions. In an honest comparison of this kind the greater evil on the one side becomes readily apparent.
If we attempt a balanced perspective we find that America is not such a bad country. Our police are not “pigs” and our soldiers are not baby killers — though enemy propaganda wants us all to think so.