Making of the Permanent Ugly American

The American people have often lauded in recent times those leaders who extol American virtues of self-reliance, the economic development of their country, their inventiveness and resourcefulness, the heroism of its fighting men and women and implying but seldom stating the overwhelming military prowess and the burden of its huge financial costs. The television networks where most people get their news rarely report the history of massive civilian deaths and injuries in our optional and deceitful wars from Vietnam to Iraq. The millions of Iraqi refugees who have fled to neighboring countries are invisible to our mainstream television media.

There has been a blight upon the political and economic landscape that is draining the nation and causing chronic foreign interventions by the government with a vast military and national security arsenal providing the power to intimidate or undermine foreign governments, it includes both our foreign policy and military expenditures. Presidents often ignore reality and lace their rhetoric with national praise, which is only part of their job, the easy part.

Our Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex was first highlighted as a major problem by five star general and President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower. Yet, despite his warnings as well as many other Americans the Complex has grown uncontrollable with the assent of the United States Congress creating what some have called our permanent war economy. Trillions of dollars have been poured into the Complex since President Eisenhower made his enduring speech and the Complex and its adjunct national security apparatus has had dubious and often adverse results for the economy as well as for our foreign policy. It has skewed the American economy and foreign policy into unproductive and wasteful military spending with negative consequences for the infrastructure of the United States by deflecting needed domestic spending into enormous military spending.

Our interventionist policies have accumulated many adversaries as well as many client states that essentially have been bribed with millions of dollars of foreign aid, much of it ending up in private bank accounts. The dictators supported by the United States throughout the world have direct access to monies provided to them without any accountability. According to the Oxford Atlas of World History the United States government since World War II has been “supporting manifestly corrupt and oppressive right-wing regimes considered friendly to the USA. Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama all had their governments either supported or besieged according to whether they were perceived by the US government as loyal or threatening.”

Our own country will not tolerate foreign intervention in our hemisphere, yet we march soldiers and billions upon billions of dollars into countries all over the world for military bases and compliance in our foreign policies. The United States government’s intervention in Iran destroyed its fledgling democracy in 1953 for oil and created substantial anti-American blowback in the Middle East. The book Overthrow by Stephen Kinser documents that governments around the world have been overthrown with U.S. financial and military backing with adverse repercussions for our nation.

Americans are often oblivious or uncaring about the effects of their wars or foreign policy leading to what appears to be the makings of a permanent ugly American. On the jacket of the book The Ugly American published in 1958 by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick it says, “Authentic, infuriating, and explosively candid, this is the daring, classic best seller that unmasked the blundering hypocrisy of some of our top-level diplomats. It exposes the opportunism, incompetence and cynical deceit that have become embedded in the fabric of our public relations, not only in Asia but all over the world.”

Fifty years later there appears to be not only no change in our government’s behavior, except that it has become decidedly worse. Our Congress, which holds the purse strings of the nation and the real pilot and captain behind the executive branch, has become a banker draining the treasury of the American people for the presidency in a constant and continuous stream of ill-advised foreign and military blunders.

Now, more than ever, the focus ought to be on the two party system which together have wrought the current multi-trillion dollar bailout, the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s, the fiasco of the Vietnam and Iraq wars and the utter waste of tens of billions of dollars in government programs on an annual basis for several generations. Often, the two party system prevents accountability in government because it will have adverse effects on future elections. The two parties have embarked on a foreign policy that is skewed by constantly playing favorites with foreign and military aid that is harming the interests of the American people by unnecessarily creating adversaries in our interventionist policies.

Think tanks, lobbyists and military contractors have had tremendous influence in the making of the military-industrial-congressional complex with the players often moving from government appointments to industry or lobbying in an almost seamless manner that now it is not uncommon for former elected officials to join the ranks of think tanks, lobbyists and military contractors (or through holding companies that have military contractors in their portfolio). It is a vast web that helps funnel government money into their causes and profitable coffers perpetuating the military-industrial-congressional complex.

Meanwhile, the American public remains in the dark either deliberately or is uninformed by these momentous developments in their country by the television networks and other mainstream media. The greatest threats to democracies are often from within. The struggle for a healthy balance in utilizing government resources is constant. Is our nation addicted to violence and war? Has our nation tried as hard to avoid war as we have in making war?

A great nation was founded by a revolution for freedom and augmented and strengthened by tens of millions of immigrants working in a free and prosperous country. The two political parties have twisted America’s heritage unrecognizably with overspending by government to promote an empire for special interests.

President Eisenhower warned the nation fifty years ago about the grave pitfalls of an unwarranted military-industrial-congressional complex. The making of the permanent ugly American has descended upon a nation founded on freedom.

Henry Pilfian lived overseas for many years, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and in the U.S. Peace Corps in Thailand. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Henry, or visit Henry's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Deadbeat said on May 31st, 2009 at 3:24pm #

    A great nation was founded by a revolution for freedom and augmented and strengthened by tens of millions of immigrants working in a free and prosperous country

    The big mistake is believe in the myth of America rather than the TRUTH of America. Why should people be inspired to struggle for what the author claims was never the case. In his myth, there are no natives who were murdered and land and cultured confiscated and no slaves and no oppression of women and workers, etc.

    The fact is that the U.S. has always been a militaristic, oppressive and exploitative nation. That has to be the starting point so that one can envision something completely better altogether. In other words being “anti-American” and rejecting nationalism is a good thing.

  2. kalidas said on May 31st, 2009 at 7:15pm #

    Eisenhower? The “terrible Swedish Jew,” as he was known at West Point?
    Now there’s a permanently ugly American, if you happen to be a German.

  3. Russell Olausen said on May 31st, 2009 at 10:50pm #

    You boys and girls, men and women, have to give yourselves a name that attempts to describe you.Otherwise your like a drunk cussing booze or a gambler who bets with the state, bemoaning indebtedness.signed the gabler.

  4. mebosa ritchie said on June 1st, 2009 at 3:28am #

    well done kalidas

    brought in the anti-jewish jibe by the 2nd post after an article that doesn’t mention jews,zionists or israel

  5. kalidas said on June 2nd, 2009 at 10:35am #

    Oh, sorry ritchie. I forgot to mention “Ike” was from Texas.

  6. Brett Cross said on June 5th, 2009 at 1:41am #

    Deadbeat is correct. It seems to me the defining characteristics of humanity are exceptionalism and arrogance.