Mark Twain’s Rants Against American Imperialism

Are we finally waking up? Rip van Winkle
Are we finally waking up?
Rip van Winkle

Mark Twain and his hilarious, essentially American stories are well-known. Less known is his powerful stance against American imperialism. Wait, what American imperialism?

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn knew nothing of false flags and WMDs.

What is imperialism anyway? Twain puts it like this:

There must be two Americas: one that sets the captives free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land…

He wrote this in 1909, referencing the Spanish American war that “liberated” Cuba and the war that “liberated” the Philippines, accompanied by horrifying American atrocities. He wrote it in 1909, but it applies to Iraq in 2003 quite nicely. Of course, we have become much more subtle. Instead of taking land, we just take the resources, with a particular fondness for oil pipelines. Then we build bases and toss the country’s people aside to sink or swim under the direction of their new puppet-leader.

Every single raid since Twain’s time has been preceded by lies; as the heroic General Smedley Butler said, “War is a racket.” Mark Twain, however, was no fool and he saw through the lies over one hundred years ago. Here he describes his awakening:

I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific. It seemed tiresome and tame for it to content itself with the Rockies

I said to myself, here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American constitution afloat in the Pacific…it seemed to me a great task…

But I have thought some more since then…and I see that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Phillipines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.

It should, it seems to me, to be our pleasure and duty to make these people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.

As influential as Twain was and although the members of the Anti-Imperialist League were well-know and respected, the eagle has continued to hunt unabated.

So is there no hope? Will the public be fooled over and over again by the barrage of media sob stories urging military interventions? We just passed through such a barrage in relation to the Ukraine, with the result that Americans hate Russia all over again and many are eager to go shoot some nebulous enemy in a country they can’t find on a map.

But wait. The eagle did not fly over Syria, dropping its democracy love bombs-and this in spite of years of propaganda build-up. “Real men go to Tehran,” affirmed the manicured, swaggering chicken-hawks during the last Bush administration. But the U.S. is talking to Iran-and this in spite of tens of millions of words of propaganda demonizing them.

Is this a new American story? Are we finally waking up after a long sleep, like Rip van Winkle?




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