Monday, July 23, 2018

What Stale Hell Is This?

"He felt constantly unappreciated and harassed by others, was frequently suspicious of many of those around him... vindictive, seething with unfocused hostility. (He had) a permanent sense of insecurity and frustration... leading to frequently bungling attempts at compensation... and a need to show the world who was boss."

(He filled his White House with) "big-bellied good-natured guys who saw Washington as a chance to make useful contacts and were anxious to get what they could for themselves out of the experience. (It was) the era of the moocher. The place was full of Wimpys who could be had for a hamburger." 

Those are pretty standard critiques of Donald J. Trump, right?  They are repeated so often that most people with a pulse can recite them like a litany. 

The only problem is that those observations were written about Harry S Truman. The first snippet is by Truman biographer Alonzo Hamby, and the second one was written by legendary journalist I.F. Stone.

You might not know it from all the historical whitewashing of Truman, particularly after the one-man Broadway hit show based on the "Plain Speaking" bestseller by Merle Miller. But this guy was a pretty dangerous human being.

If you think that the recent Democratic Party and Deep State-instigated RussiaGate campaign is over the top hysterical, if you likewise think that Trump is a paranoid nut case for the ages, relax. Because "Give Em Hell Harry" actually makes The Donald look like a wimp. It was Harry Truman who, upon first arriving in the Oval Office after FDR's death, beat Trump to the punch by about 70 years when he boasted: "I'll be as tough as the toughest!"

But in an ironic twist in light of today's politics, the people with whom Truman wanted to get tough were not the "fake news" media, Muslims, and Latino immigrants. It was those damned Russians.

So, exhibiting some pretty amazing party solidarity despite the alleged intra-party "divisiveness," Democrats have taken a tip straight out of Crazy Harry's playbook and repurposed Russophobia in their own desperate Hail Mary pass of an electoral tactic. It's really the only thing their billionaire handlers on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and the deep thinkers within the "defense" industry-controlled Deep State will allow them to do. Even "socialist" Bernie Sanders is fully on board the RussiaGate Express.

Trump, bad as he surely is, has nothing on Truman. Harry was so crazy that he dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even after the United States has already as much as defeated Japan -- because he wanted to "send a message" to Stalin that the United States was going to be in charge of the world from thereon in! For sheer psychopathy, this act of mass murder certainly surpasses Trump's apocalyptic canoodling with Putin, or, in his most recent brazen display of toughness, his threatening all-caps tweet to Iran.

 Trump contemptuously, yet weakly, threw rolls of paper towels at Puerto Ricans. The US under Truman actually threw lethal bombs at them, when they started making demands for independence and were thus in violation of his edict criminalizing dissent. It seemed that the Russians were meddling and "sowing discord" even in Puerto Rico in the late 40s and early 50s. According to media reports, they continue doing so to this very day!

The Truman Doctrine divided the world neatly into the realms of good (USA! USA!USA! ) and evil (RussiaRussiaRussia!) in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Truman combined the worst aspects of modern-day Trumpian paranoid authoritarianism with scare-mongering over a crisis, manufactured explicitly to sell a war-weary public on the Cold War, and later, on the hot proxy war (er, "police action") against the Chinese/Russian coalition in Korea.

Truman was so crazy, he not only publicly threatened North Korea with nukes, he dispatched atom bomb-bearing B-29s to the US base at Guam to prepare for an imminent attack. It turned out to be a bluff, obviously. Conventional weapons were successfully killing millions of North Korean civilians anyway.

  And back at home in the Land of the Free, one of the new President Truman's first orders of business in the sales pitch for American global hegemony was signing an executive order called the Employees Loyalty Program, which authorized investigations into the beliefs and associations of all federal employees. If a worker was accused of disloyalty, he or she did not have the opportunity to defend him or herself. And in some Kafkaesque cases, they were not even made aware of the charges. The Truman administration ultimately compiled a list of 197 "subversive organizations" - left-wing political groups, peace groups, relief organizations and labor unions, membership in any of which was grounds for immediate investigations, and usually, firings.

Not willing to be co-opted or usurped by a Democrat, though, the Republican reactionaries in Congress quickly dubbed Truman a weakling and upped the ante, calling for even more purges and investigations. More than 300 new laws against "subversive activities" were passed at the federal, state and local levels, with some states declaring membership in the Communist Party to be a felony. The State Department issued a Trump-like travel ban in 1952, both for suspects entering the US and citizens leaving the Western Hemisphere. Even Supreme Court Justice William O.Douglas was denied a passport because of his own criticism of American foreign policy. (It wasn't until 1964 that the travel ban against people whom the New York Times derided as "Reds" in its headline was finally overturned and declared unconstitutional.)

 Joe McCarthy, aided by future Trump mentor Roy Cohn, saw his own opening and pounced when his off-the-cuff remark at a GOP women's luncheon about a list of 200-odd government spies got some unexpected press. He has since become the all-powerful lone bad guy in the historical revisionism of that era, not least because he was not only crazy, he was an alcoholic right-winger right out of central casting who made the mistake of going after the Pentagon and the State Department. If Chuck Schumer had been around, he could have told Joe that the Intelligence Community has six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.

In any event, the propaganda and fear-mongering during the early Cold War years were highly effective. Seventy-seven percent of polled Americans wanted suspected Communists to be stripped of their citizenship and 51 percent favored imprisoning them.

"Nevertheless," writes Griffin Fariello, "these statistics may well reflect the shallow roots of the Red Scare, measuring only the uncritical ease of which many Americans take on the attitudes evinced by politicians and the media. For when asked, 'What kind of things do you worry about most?,' 80 percent responded in terms of personal or family problems, with the largest bloc expressing concern over business and economic problems." 

Millions of people have suffered and died in the interests of one or both US war parties and the capitalistic predators who own them. Millions of Americans have been displaying their susceptibility to relentless war propaganda for generations.

No matter that when the truth about the lies finally comes out, people have long since moved on to believing in the next Big Lie. Fool them once, fool them a hundred times.

It wasn't until 1978 that Truman adviser Clark Clifford admitted to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein that the administration had always been fully aware that there was never any "loyalty problem" at all, or even a Communist threat. "He (Truman) thought it was a lot of baloney.... It was a political problem.... He'd gotten a terrible clobbering in 1946 in the congressional elections. We gave a good deal of thought of how to respond. We had a presidential campaign ahead of us, and here was a great issue, so he set up this whole kind of machinery."

When Truman was exposed as a manipulative liar nearly 40 years after the fact, he was already five years dead. Nobody really cared. The old crimes of the nation's leaders had been sucked down the memory hole and effectively erased from "the narrative."

Fast-forward to 2018. The recently clobbered corporate Democrats in thrall to wealthy donors and hellishly aligned with the grotesquely named "Intelligence Community" are locked in an oligarchic power struggle with a blustery paranoid president and a party which has long relied on racism and economic resentment and voter suppression and gerrymandering to win elections. But instead of countering this ugliness and mass suffering with a campaign for a new New Deal, the inheritors of Harry Truman's own expedient paranoid style are embracing Hellish Harry with a vengeance and throwing FDR right under the bus. Because to Third Way neoliberal Democrats, the New Deal can never be dead enough to suit them.

A new generation of Russophobes were either not alive when Harry Truman was pulling the same kinds of destructive political stunts that both the Trump administration and the Duopoly are playing at today, or they don't bother reading any actual history of that truly scary time. Or maybe they do know, and they just don't care, because it's their party right or wrong. Everything they need to know is right there in the Times, the Post, on CNN and MSNBC.

The media-political complex is having a ridiculously easy time ginning up Russophobia in the masses, making it the central, deflective campaign platform for the 2018 midterms, and probably even for the 2020 presidential race. Maybe they're envisioning their Truman zombie of a presidential nominee gleefully holding up a newspaper with the headline "Trump Beats----------."

And then, at long last, they can finally purge their long national nightmarish memory of this: 

 The CIA, born as a rogue presidential army in the Truman years, is now a virtual fourth branch of government, to which all good Americans, true men and true women, are expected to pledge allegiance or risk being branded as at best, useful Kremlin idiots, or at worst, traitors.

If you want to know the truth, look no further than the history section of your local library. It is simply chock full of facts and valuable clues and historical precedents and dots to connect. But best be quick about it, because Godzillionaire Jeff Bezos might be hatching a fresh hell of a plan to render your friendly neighborhood libraries obsolete, replacing them with the Book Emporium of Amazonia - in order to "save taxpayers money". Or so Forbes reported, before a Twitter outcry deflated the trial balloon, and the whole article simply disappeared without explanation. You still can read the cached version here, because despite the legacy of Truman, the lords of capital still haven't quite gotten their purging skills in total order.

Give 'em Purgatory, Harry!


Sources and Recommended Reading:

Bernstein, Carl: Loyalties: A Son's Memoir. 

Fariello, Griffin: Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition.

Hamby, Alonzo: A Man of the People: A Life of Harry S Truman.

Stone, I.F.: The Hidden History of the Korean War.


Karl Kolchak said...

Thank you for that grim reminder about history not necessarily repeating, but indeed rhyming. Truman was, of course, a mob puppet before he won national acclaim for combating war profiteering during WW2. To manage that balancing act, he no doubt had to be a true SOB. Kinda like being a real estate developer in NYC in the 1970s and 1980s before the FBI finally paused the persecution of leftists just long enough to take down the mafia.

Cee Cee said...

Give 'em Hell, Karen!

Jay–Ottawa said...

We live in scary times. But if we read a little history we find it has always been so, now just about as bad as then, and then just about as bad as now, although the numbers seem to be escalating.

The only difference between one period of misery and another is the extent of coverage. We lose track of the numbers affected over there. The numbers of the unlucky are usually lower than true because, as the Pentagon tells us, it isn't expected that we do body counts of the other side.

Some of us around the globe, by no means all, made it through hot points of the First Cold War. Who knows if the lucky people from the lucky zones last time will survive this later period, just begun, which is shortly to be called The Second Cold War. Its hot spots––and they will ignite––portend to be much wider, consuming more and likely coming sooner, according to the Doomsday Clock of our own sober scientists.

Erik Roth said...

Excellent exposition of the responsibility for the hell we're experiencing, from Korea to Israel to the CIA -- thanks, Karen.
Heckuva job, Harry.