The weapons of mass destruction came later, but mutually assured destruction was always on the table. What more could humanity want than mass suicide with complete erasure of our entire history? Only the political elite could come up with such existential idiocy.
Planet of the Pigs
In the spring of 1975, as America’s war in Vietnam drew to its grim conclusion, a new magazine targeted readers who did not want it to end. Soldier of Fortune was founded by Robert K. Brown, a former Green Beret based in Boulder, Colorado, who made the profitable discovery that his publication could double as an employment agency for mercenaries and a weaponry catalogue.
The magazine’s classified ads offered an eclectic menu of ‘professional adventure’. You could enlist in Portugal’s war against anti-colonial guerrillas in Mozambique or sign up for the sultan of Oman’s counterinsurgency against the communist Dhofar rebellion. More sedentary readers could buy a ‘Free Cambodia’ T-shirt, donate to an anti-Sandinista relief fund, support the search for POWs, stock up on Confederate paraphernalia, get a TEC-9 assault pistol, hire a hitman or order dynamite by the truckload.
Cam wrote to Theo: I’m not sure they specifically didn’t want Vietnam to end. It was no longer new, already rapaciously spent. They just wanted more battlefields, to keep their skills sharp in perpetual “professional adventure.” If by adventure, you mean going against everything America was supposed to stand for, you know, freedom, send me your tired and weak, the asylum seekers, the meek for they shall inherit the scorched earth.
Then, a decade later, Cam signed up for Honduras when he met some Vietnam vets in Kalalau.
After two mercenary tours, he was done. After the kids head ended up splattered all over his fatigues and shrapnel lodged in his shoulder, forever reminding him of that look on his face right before that bullet hit, the moment his gun was pointed at Cam, who had, in that slow motion instant, somehow accepted the inevitable.
To not be killed in an instance like this was impossible to discuss with non-combatants so he kept his secret close although the nightmares never let him forget the futility of spheres of influence.
The popularity of a magazine like this, which at the height of its circulation in the early 1980s had 190,000 subscribers, testifies to the global reach of the paramilitary American right…
There wasn’t the right and the left so much as now. There were largely generational differences with the older generation supporting Republican policies of supposed “fiscal conservatism and wise use of our advantage coming out of WWII. The Democrats were shot and in wheelchairs, governing as martyrs, or spending too much on the “war on poverty.”
After Nixon‘s tapes left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, Tricky Dicky was out and the shah of Iran was in. Jimmy Carter learned the hard way when the biggest hawk we’d ever had swaggered in with hostage rescues, giant shields in space meant to protect our silos from the Ruskies and a new war – the war on drugs – to resume the profiteering from banana republics that America assumed was hers for the taking. (See CIA & Pinochet).
Soldier of Fortune featured ‘participant’ despatches from unofficial war zones, interviews with European colonial rogues, and a sense of drama that cast the US as the last bulwark against the communist tide. Confederate ‘lost cause’ pathos alternated with a buoyant sense of America’s chosenness.
A Lost Cause Pathos
Are we there yet? Can we finally declare the cause got lost? Who gets to determine such a declaration?
Manifest destiny is an overwhelming burden to bear, so we could only shoot ourselves in the foot to get out of being drafted for that deployment.
By the late 1970s, American mercenaries were advertising their services in Rhodesian phonebooks. Twenty years later, a handful were serving in Croatian nationalist battalions in the Yugoslav wars, with underground American white power organisations promoting wider recruitment – and seeking out and funding East German neo-Nazis. More recently, some 15 American freelancers have joined gonzo-fascist Ukrainian units in the Donbass to fight ‘Putin’s communists’, though others see the Russian president as a knight for the white power cause.
The sheer stupidity of “a knight for the white power cause” is mind-boggling. We have reached the stage where beliefs not only no longer add up to any cohesive principles that formulate a cognizant strategy to build a better country, but basic logic was gleefully thrown out the window by the self-proclaimed defenders of some nefarious looking honor.
Power. A lot has been said on the subject, in speeches and books. But it’s mostly demonstrated by the bully with the bigger weapons.
For more than a century, anti-communism was a reliable binding agent on the American right. Disparate factions, from tax protesters and libertarians to fundamentalist Christians, from anti-abortion activists to the Ku Klux Klan and white power terror cells, could share a common enemy.
While I find that analysis reprehensibly snide and lacking in nuance of any kind (you see “the left” will bludgeon you with sanctimonious words, as “the right” sharpens its knives made in China), it’s somewhat true that for a few generations of us, that “fight a commie for mommy” mentality was instilled in the hearts and minds of young Americans.
The dozens of American right-wing paramilitary groups that started appearing in the 1970s and 1980s – from the Aryan Nations and White Aryan Resistance to the Brüder Schweigen and the Phineas Priesthood – have been treated as aberrant outgrowths by Republican lawmakers: it helps that the hardcore white power movement in America has no more than 25,000 active members.
Is there census data for this smug assertion? I say there’s 25,001. What then?
The Canadian historian Quinn Slobodian has recently labelled this apparent ideological mongrel ‘xenophobic libertarianism’, pointing to the fact that the American right has consistently paired the demand for an absolute right to free movement of capital with ever more biologised criteria for the exclusion of people.
Thanks Canada, with your perfectly manageable population, for giving us another label for the tragic malaise eating through the plains like a plague, raging down the Mississippi like the great flood, infecting the soul of the greatest country on earth.
I was never sure why on earth was necessary but now with Mars vacations and Pluto coming and going, it should suffice. It’s an awful lot of responsibility to carry, and we just got tired of the Lie.
The Vietnam War fused white power and anti-communism together. Shared wartime experience during World War Two seems to have reduced racism in the ranks – Truman went on to desegregate the military in 1948 – but Vietnam did the opposite.
How do such things occur? Like tides flowing, carrying schools of fish directly into the shark’s belly.
At Cam Ranh Bay naval base, black servicemen revolted when white soldiers celebrated the death of Martin Luther King by raising the Confederate flag.
It happens. Right in front of us.
“Bring the war home’: what began as an anti-war slogan on the American left was appropriated by the extreme right as a proclamation of intent. Louis Beam – one of the major strategists of the paramilitary right and a central figure in Belew’s book – was a decorated veteran who had logged more than a thousand hours as a door-gunner on Huey choppers..
What an odd sentiment after world wars that ravaged, well, the world.
Bring the war home
And boy did they. Dumping crack on the streets then incarcerating the population. The war on drugs filled the gap between fighting for humanity and destroying what’s left of it.
Allowing a deadly virus to take hold because it seemingly only went after “the undesirable” intravenous drug users, prostitutes and homosexual populations. That was until it didn’t. The first child with hemophilia to die from AIDS horrified the judges, who now had to deal with a leak in the spent rods.
Crucially, as Belew shows, most American paramilitary groups in the years after Vietnam considered themselves vigilantes. They were taking up the fight themselves because they believed the state was too cowardly or too paralysed to defend itself against Judeo-communist usurpers: the liberal establishment was infiltrated, or naive, or merely weak, unable to contend with a communist agenda that sought to destroy white nativist values and identity.
I never understood why communism was a word employed to describe something good. The evidence was overwhelming. Gulag Archipelago. Bread lines. Boxer rebellions. Destroying everything that got you there. It never made sense as a mobilizing force in the states.
But here we are.
‘A leaderless resistance’, [that] model of guerrilla warfare, borrowed from communist and anti-colonial partisans, in which small cells operate in concert but without knowing the leaders of the other cells, removing any chance of their informing on one another.
Resistance is futile
The left of today coopted the language of the right who–
wanted to redirect the energies of white power against those elements of the federal government which he believed had betrayed its original constitutional mandate to protect the white race.
Supreme, extreme & mean source of all quotations.
Then there’s Timothy McVeigh.
But McVeigh should interest us perhaps more for the person he became in prison. By the time of his execution, in 2001, he had begun to sound like a contributor to Counterpunch. Here he was, cogently, in 1998:
If Saddam is such a demon, and people are calling for war crimes charges and trials against him and his nation, why do we not hear the same cry for blood directed at those responsible for even greater amounts of ‘mass destruction’ – like those responsible and involved in dropping bombs on [Iraqi] cities. The truth is, the US has set the standard when it comes to the stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction.
The connections between American violence abroad and American violence at home seemed self-evident to McVeigh, but for the majority of Americans even to hint at such connections remains taboo.
Perhaps that’s what staggers the most. All possible logical connections are simply lost and we end up with a crowd of blithering babbling “sides” and “positions” with insults hurled so predictably the conversation simply stopped.