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(by) Dean Velvel

Secrecy really “took off” after the Korean War “with the creation of the American national security state, and got us into trouble time and time again,” observes Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover in his new book “America 2008”(Doukathsan.)

“We had (President Lyndon) Johnson’s secret plans to escalate in Viet Nam, a secret (President) Nixon plan for peace whose actual nonexistence was hidden by its purported secrecy but which helped this disaster get elected, we had secret Nixonian wars in Laos and Cambodia, extensive secret CIA spying on Americans which finally was disclosed in the mid 1970s, secret torture, secret prisons, secret renditions, secret spying on Americans and the rest of the litany of secret horrors associated with (President) G.W. Bush and (Vice President Dick) Cheney,” Velvel writes.

Not confined to government, secrecy American-style exists everywhere, writes Velvel, an award-winning essayist. As examples, he cites pharmaceutical houses that keep undesirable results of pharmaceutical trials secret and the suppression by Congress of testimony whose disclosure could prevent the repetition of military blunders.

By allowing Gen. Douglas MacArthur to testify in secret, Velvel writes, the Congress failed to unmask his gross incompetence. “MacArthur was arrogant, racist, delusional (the word “madness” is often used with regard to him and his top commanders…), not infrequently a liar (like Bill Clinton, he believed the truth was whatever served his purpose at the moment), a demander of yes men and sycophants, and concerned obsessively with his own public relations and image, which were polished by a never ceasing P.R. machine,” Velvel writes.

As a result of his delusions, MacArthur insisted on pursuing the North Koreans across the peninsula to the Yalu River when he could have stopped at a defensible line midway; he also believed the Red Chinese would not invade Korea to oppose his troops and when they did the casualties on all sides were horrific. “The whole (Korean) war was an object lesson in the fact that war is not merely death and horrible injury, it is also death and horrible injury by stupidity,” Velvel writes.

Over and again, Velvel writes, it has been the right-wing of the American political spectrum that has failed to learn the lessons of history. Its advocates’ pushed for allowing MacArthur to march north in Korea into what turned out to be a trap set for his troops near the Yalu River; and it was the right-wing again which, years later, crusaded for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “We keep getting into wars where we will inevitably have to fight the other guy’s kind of war, as in the guerrilla war in Viet Nam and the insurgency in Iraq,” Velvel writes. “We keep playing the opponents’ game by getting into war after war where opponents can neutralize our cultural advantages (technological superiority) and employ theirs against us.”

The same kind of delusional thinking MacArthur exhibited was repeated by President George W. Bush in his attack on Iraq. “The WMD miscalculation was simply hoked up bovine defecation,” Velvel writes. What’s more, “The lack of planning for the war’s aftermath was not only stupid in itself, but apparently was based on the preposterous
miscalculations that we would be welcomed in Iraq and the Middle East---where many have long hated us as well as our predecessors, the British and French---and that (Ahmed) Chalabi (later deputy prime minister) and his gang would be effective. Our leaders never figured on a fantastic insurgency though there were a few people who warned of the possibility---including, obliquely but in retrospect unquestionably, Saddam (Hussein) himself.”

Velvel charges further U.S. leaders failed to learn from a time in their own history when Americans bridled at having European troops stationed in Mexico, yet today they appear surprised that Iran, once Iraq’s military opponent, switched to befriend the Iraq insurgency when U.S. troops invaded that country “because it does not want on its borders a far distant major power which could, and has even threatened to, attack it, just as we didn’t want England, France or Spain on our borders.”

Author Velvel is dean and cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, founded in 1988 for the express purpose of providing a quality, affordable legal education to minorities, immigrants, and students from low-income households who otherwise could not afford to attend law school. Velvel has been honored for his contributions to legal education and his books of essays have won several publishing industry awards.






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