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Living in “The Greatest Nation on Earth”

I hope you know that, on the 11th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, you live in a country so exceptional it’s blessed by God; that, in fact, it’s -- no point in pulling punches -- “the greatest nation on earth.”  If you don’t believe me, just listen to President Obama, who used the last words of his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention to say exactly that.  And depending on your political druthers, you don’t have to believe him either.  After all, the stages of the Republican and Democratic conventions were filled with politicos insisting on the same thing.  (Who says there’s no bipartisanship in America?) 

At the Republican convention, Mitt Romney, speaking in his acceptance speech of Neil Armstrong’s first footfall on the moon, said: “Like all Americans we went to bed that night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world.” Chris Christie in his keynote speech drove home this point: “Standing strong for freedom will make the next century as great an American century as the last one.” Michelle Obama praising her husband as a great dad wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to say: “Every day [the people I meet] remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth”; and Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and secretary of state (she of double-hulled oil tanker fame) gave the Republicans a primer on foreign policy for the Romney era, and this was her version of it: “Because it just has to be -- that the most compassionate and freest country on the face of the earth -- will continue to be the most powerful!” 

And that’s just to name a few among a bevy of American exceptionalists from whom you certainly wouldn’t want to exclude Vice President Joe Biden.  After all, leaving Mongol horsemen, Apache warriors, Roman legionnaires, Napoleon’s Army, and every other war-fighter twitching in the dust, he claimed President Obama was well aware that our special forces are “the finest warriors the world has ever known.”

Think of all this as a kind of exceptional post-9/11 fever.  The more ordinary Americans worry about their country being on the “wrong track” or “in decline,” the more loudly, emphatically, aggressively (and yet defensively) politicians seem to insist, against all evidence, that we are and always will be (unless my opponent gets into office) the greatest, finest, freest etc. around.

By the way, tell that to Peter Van Buren or John Kiriakou.  Both were government officials who told the truth about bad things happening inside the government of the greatest country the universe has ever seen.  One wrote the book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People about just what a laughable mess the State Department’s “reconstruction of Iraq” turned out to be and, for doing that with remarkable honesty and wit, he is being forced into early retirement by the bureaucrats of the greatest State Department in the history of the world.  The other, a CIA agent, told reporters the truth about some of the practices of the greatest spy agency in the history of the galaxy, including acts of torture by operatives in his own agency.  As Van Buren notes in his latest post, “The Persecution of John Kiriakou,” as a result he’s going to celebrate the 9/11 anniversary with a court date the following day.

These are indications of the real state of affairs in this country 11 years after they attacked us because they “hated our freedoms.”  Now, on September 11, 2012, the national security complex is, as Van Buren indicates, beyond accountability for any crimes it may commit.  It exists in a post-legal America not available to 99% of us. 

As for our freedoms, a lack of the slightest urge to prosecute anyone who committed a crime on Washington time means that our governmental officials now have extraordinary new freedoms -- more license than 007 ever did -- to kidnap, torture, abuse, murder, surveil, and assassinate (including American citizens).  That’s a record to ponder as another September 11th rolls around and, living in the greatest nation on earth, you ask yourself: Who really won, them or us?

Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt

nation_unmade_by_war.jpgTom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's His sixth and latest book, just published, is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).Previous books include: Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (with an introduction by Glenn Greenwald). Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (co-authored with Nick Turse), The United States of Fear, The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's, The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from here.

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