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July 19, 2008

America First


by Charley Reese

Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to leave the continental U.S. It's too bad he wasn't also the last.

Politicians and celebrities with an urge to see poverty only need to visit the Mississippi Delta or some of the neighborhoods in American cities. If they yearn for more exotic poverty, all they have to do is visit the Indian reservations that do not have casinos. Any disease they are hot to trot to cure can be found right here in the good old U.S.A.

Depressed economic conditions? We have them. Crumbling infrastructure? We have that, too. Hunger? Yes, that too. Inflation and weak currency? Present right here. Corruption? Our politicians can hold their own in that dubious category. Orphans? There are plenty of those, too. There is simply no need to travel. Any bad or sad thing you wish to see you can see here in the U.S.

We live in strange times when politicians expect to get a pat on the back for returning to Americans $300 or so of their own dollars while giving Israelis $3 billion and Egyptians $2 billion. In retrospect, the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe after World War II, was a bad idea, because it planted the seed in our politicians' minds that they could substitute money for a sound foreign policy.

I've never forgotten the words of a Salvadoran friend during their guerrilla war. "We can't afford to kill the guerrillas," he said. "There are only 7,000 of them, and your government is paying my government a million dollars a day to fight them."

Some of those held at Guantanamo Bay are there because the U.S. offered cash for members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Some of the more enterprising gunmen would just grab some poor jerk off the street and turn him over to the Americans. Why not? The Americans wouldn't know the difference. The CIA has always had more money than brains.

Much of the so-called success of the surge in Iraq is because some al-Qaeda people killed the wrong tribal leader and the Sunnis turned against them. After the Sunnis started killing al-Qaeda people, the U.S. came rushing in and started paying the Sunnis to kill al-Qaeda instead of Americans. What do you think will happen when we stop paying them? What do you think will happen when it becomes clear that the Shiites are not going to allow the Sunnis any meaningful role in government? The trouble with buying allies is that they are always for sale. You can't really buy loyalty. You can only buy services.

I wish I could collect a bunch of cowboys so we could round up all of the Washington politicians, hogtie them and brand their foreheads with the words "America First." They are, after all, American politicians, elected to serve the American people. There is nothing, not a word, in the Constitution that authorizes them to help any foreign nation in any way whatsoever. Foreign aid, in all its many forms, is clearly unconstitutional. For the first 200 years, the only things we gave foreigners were hot lead and cold steel.

Don't get me wrong – I have nothing against foreigners. We can't blame them for milking us out of every dollar they can as long as we continue to elect stupid or corrupt politicians. You needn't pay any attention to all this global baloney you hear. The world has always had a global economy. Why the heck do you think Columbus sailed over here and Marco Polo walked to China? Global trade does not require treaties, alliances or military forces stationed overseas. It does not require our muck-brained Congress to turn over its constitutional duty to regulate foreign trade to the executive branch. It does not require our Supreme Court to even know what foreign laws say, much less apply them to Americans.

 

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  • Glenn Greenwald is the author of Great American Hypocrites, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Visit his blog.

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