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May 17, 2004

The United States of Colin Powell

One of my favorite subjects -- the human tendency to believe that because you and your friends believe something, everyone does -- was previously examined here. But that doesn't mean it can't be obsessively examined again! This New York Times article, from March 10, 2003, illustrates an interesting example of this:

Appearing on Fox television today, Mr. Powell was asked whether it was true, as former President Jimmy Carter had asserted, that the United States' world stature had plunged and that most countries in the world no longer trusted Washington.

Denying the charge, Mr. Powell listed Spain, Britain, Bulgaria, Portugal, Australia and several nations once in the orbit of the Soviet Union as supportive.

"We need to knock down this idea that nobody is on our side," he said. "So many nations recognize this danger. And they do it in the face of public opposition."

You see? This is why Colin Powell is Secretary of State and you're not. You're not smart like he is. You probably thought "nations" were made up of the "public"; ie, the citizens of that country. But Powell understands that "the nation of Spain" is not made up of the citizens of Spain. And thank goodness, because the citizens of Spain -- sometimes referred to as "Spaniards" -- were overwhelmingly against the war. No, Powell knew that "Spain" is the government of Spain. "Spain" is the seven Spanish officials who agree with Colin Powell. The same holds true for Britain, Bulgaria, Poland, etc. By the same logic, we can see George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell are the United States of America, while the other 290 million of us hanging around here are merely a distracting irrelevance.

And this has always been true. For instance, just after the collapse of the South Vietnamese government on April 29, 1975, Cambodia seized a US cargo ship called the Mayaguez. The crewmen were released, and the Chinese government talked to the Cambodian government and told the Nixon administration the ship itself would be released soon. But Colin Powell's predecessor Henry Kissinger saw this was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that, despite Vietnam, we were still feelin' feisty. So the Marines and Air Force launched an assault on Cambodia that resulted in the deaths of forty-one Americans and an unknown number of Cambodians. In A People's History of the United States, Kissinger is quoted explaining this "ought to make clear there are limits beyond which the United States cannot be pushed, that the United States is prepared to defend those interests, and that it can get public support and Congressional support for these actions."

Once again, we see there are smart people and dumb people. Dumb people think "the public" and "Congress" are the United States. It takes a really smart person like Henry Kissinger to understand that the United States is Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately, the United States (ie, Henry Kissinger) sometimes had to try to get support from people who aren't part of the United States, like American citizens and the US Congress.

Fortunately, with every day that goes by, these outsiders have less and less influence over our beloved country.

Posted at May 17, 2004 02:36 AM | TrackBack
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