Clinton St. Quarterly Vol. 8 No. 1 Spring 1986


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VOL. 8, NO. 1 STAFF ^Zo-Editors David Milholland Lenny Dee Associate Editors Jim Blashfield, Peggy Lindquist Paul Loeb, Michael Helm Design David Milholland Guest Designers Candace Bieneman, Tim Braun Reed Darmon, Susan Gustavson Production Assistant Laura DiTrapani Cover Separations Sharon Niemczyk Ad Sales—Oregon Dru Duniway Sandy Wallsmith Ad Sales—Washington Judy Bevis Doug Milholland Washington State Coordinator Judy Bevis Washington State Development Marianne Jones Ad Production Coordinator Stacey Fletcher Ad Production Joyce Fletcher, Yalcin Erhan, Andrea Camerawork Tim Braun, Laura Di Trapani Typesetting Archetype, Harrison Typesetting, Inc ., Lee Emmett, Marmilmar, Sherry Swain Proofreading Steve Cackley Contributing Artists Tim Braun, Dennis Cunningham, Susan Gustavson, Katherine Kramer, Stephen Leflar, Musicmaster, Henk Pander, Jana Rekosh, Carl Smool, Joanna Yardley Contributing Photographers David Milholland Photo Services Craftsman Lithoplate, Photo Art Printing Tualatin-Yamhill Press Thanks Peggy Andrews, Linda Ballantine, John Bennett, Eileen Brady, Mary Cramer, Stephen Conover, Edward/Natalie Diener, Katherine Dunn, Jeannine Edelblut, Jean Pierre Fontentot, Gary Gunther, Miriam Hartline, Craig Karp, Tyra Lindquist, Theresa Marquez, Melissa Marsland, Laurie McClain, Enrico Martignoni, Alice/ Del Milholland, Kevin Mulligan, Chris Nickson, Larry Scwartz, Alex Specter, John Wanberg, The Clinton 500 Vo lun teers wanted for office tasks and telemarketing campaign for subscribers. Latter can work into paying position. EDITORIAL igging in the garden in the warm sun this morning, ever-renewing life— the overgrown herbs, unrepentant crabgrass, and soil that broke apart beautifully—made transient the events which dominate the news. The lilacs, azaleas, magnolias, even the tiny daphnes have once again shown themselves lovely, beyond our finest human creations. How easy it would be to let the seduction of the season blind us to the responsibilities we incur for the largely peaceful land we inhabit. The U n ited S ta tes has been amazingly successful at keeping the greatest violence the world has ever known under wraps (our nuclear arsenal) or at a distance. Yet this is the spring of our leaders’ discontent. Our lame-duck president is casting after demons wherever he can imagine them, and our military has grown cancerous, itching for a fight. From Central America to North Africa, U.S. forces are pressing the limits of nations not a bit our size. I t ’s as if they’re listening to the Marine anthem— “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”—and refighting the battles of our early days of gunboat diplomacy, the dawn of an empire which is now at its ebb. Since Reagan assumed office, the national deficit has burgeoned from $1 to $2 trillion, the overwhelming part to build a military apparatus as obsolete as it is obscene. The very architects of this “Peace through Strength” strategy now claim that “the Soviets now have military superiority over the United States on every military front- . . . and they still continue to outbuild us. ” This from the American Security Council, whose members include Senators Dole, Laxalt, Garn and Representative Kemp, people who have spent future generations’ money wantonly for weapons of every kind. The creators of this military juggernaut will never rest content. True strength always lies on a firm economic foundation, and ours is shaky where not collapsing. Unemployment remains high and stagnant. Our forests are overcut, our water is polluted, our soil is overfertilized and undernourished. The new jobs being created are more often than not in the low-wage service sector, while we’ve exported our industries and our capital. The U.S. has quietly yielded the world’s economic power, which it essentially controlled through much of the century, especially since WWII, to a resurgent Japan and its eastern allies. We’ve gone heavily into debt to maintain our imperial fantasies while Japan has remained content to huddle under our wings, investing its own earnings back into marketable production and non-military research. We certainly could learn much from them, but have ended up applying only the cosmetics. I ’ve just returned from Central America, where people live in daily fear of being killed by their own governments or invaded by ours. Here the calm and relative prosperity veil our true status in the world. We’re going to have to do far more than develop our tech ­ nological advantages to maintain our comfortable existence. We have to reSubscribe Now! A casual observer may notice a full plate in the picture above, but don’t be fooled by cheap graphic effects. Our talented but hungry art department is capable of (almost) anything. Imagine what they could do with spare change in their pockets. Save this artist. Subscriptions are $16 for two years. Attractive postcards will be sent to all those on your list. TO________________________________________________ ■____________________ . _________ A D D R E S S CITY_____________ - STATE____ ZIP FROM____________________________________________ ______ ____________________________________ Send the following person a subscription. I have enclosed $16 for 8 issues. 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SPRING 1986 TABLE OF CONTENTS ^ Z o v e r ..............................Rita Chavez Nuclear Culture Paul Loeb..................................... 4 Requiem for the American Empire Gore V id a l ...................................8 The View from Honduras David Milholland.......................14 The Two Viruses of AIDS James Winchell......................... 21 Two Stories Michael Daley ................. 26 To the Syntax of Things Carol Orlock.............................. 29 Gypsy Scholars Jack C a d y ................................ 33 Czeslaw Milosz Doug Marx ................................ 36 Triptych Sallie T isda le .......................... 39 The Tale of Happiton Douglas R. Ho fs tader...........44 Legless in Soho J. Michael Kearsey ................. 48 Richard Tyler Penny A l le n ..............................50 Ad In d e x............................................. 51 Musicmaster Returns.........................52 The Clinton St. Quarterly is published in both Oregon and Washington editions by CSO—A Project of Out of the Ashes Press. Oregon address: P.O. Box 3588, Portland, OR 97208, (503) 222 6039; Washington Address: 1520 Western Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101, (206) 682 2404. Unless otherwise noted, all contents copyright ®1985, Clinton St. Quarterly. invest in ourselves, in education and a revitalized, far less militarized economy. And we must bolster the economies of our dependents in the third world, rather than their police and military. I t ’s a time of renewal and hope, if we can find it in ourselves. DM Clinton St. Quarterly 3

Clinton St. Quarterly

Va iFuts ide o f the Pacific Northwest, few Americans have heard of Hanford. Los Alamos and Oak Ridge are hallowed as birth sites o f the bomb: their scientists viewed as Godlike figures, their laboratories cauldrons distilling the brew of Armageddon, their historical role both terrible and alluring. But although Hanford produced the plutonium for Nagasaki, for Trinity, and for half the atomic weapons in America's arsenals, it has remained hidden and obscure. For the most part, this is because star scientists like Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller worked almost entirely at the other atomic sites. Hanford—a complex half the size of Rhode Island, located on a bend of the Columbia River in the Southeastern Washington desert—was less the domain of grand experimental frontiers than an industrial environment, where unprecedented atomic technologies became incorporated into production routines. The experience of its workers were more those of other ordinary citizens than of the Los Alamos physicists figuring whether or not the first H-bomb might explode the atmosphere of the earth. The rationalizations they soon developed paralleled those by which other Americans co n fron te d the new a tom ic jeopardy. A Culture o f Silence I o understand these mechanisms, one must first understand what could be called a culture of silence—one where the most important questions are neither talked about, addressed, nor even recognized. When the new workers arrived in 1943, they settled an environment devoted solely to production of the raw material for the first atomic weapons, one isolated 200 miles from Seattle and Portland, and one where wartime urgency reigned unquestioned. Yet aside from a few higher ups, they did not know what they were creati ng.Toldonlythatthis was a secret facility, that their job was crucial to the military effort, and that they could not talk about it—even to family, friends or co-workers with identical security clearances on other shifts—they lacked context to either question or judge the implications of their work. Instead they sought their challenges in the nuts and bolts effort of production. In thirteen months they completed the world’s first full working reactor, to be followed closely by processing facilities, a fuel fabrication plant, and underground tanks to store radioactive wastes. They designed monitoring instruments, safety systems, and the fuel claddings which would let the uranium rods burn at the hottest possible temperature and produce the greatest quantity of the weap- ons-grade plutonium the and still call simply “ product, lighted in what Oppenheimer term, years later, the “ technically challenge of invention. Because the work was seducttveand the men of Hanford’s founding .generation loved their craft, they wgnt from work at the reactors and plants in Clinton St. Quarterly 5

they would soon call “ The Area” to spare time tinkering in basement and garage workshops. One engineer, an amateur smith, received 18 patents for his official Hanford work. And as he said in describing the Area’s shift from the Manhattan Project to the succeeding Cold War era, “ I could have just as easily have been working in a coal plant or somewhere else. . . . They presented us with what they needed and we went out and built it.” Because what was salient was the work of building, the nature of the product was secondary. When the bombs fell on Hiroshima.and Nagasaki, Hanford’s workers learned, along with the rest of the world, what it was that they had been creating. They believed we had no other options but to use the weapons on these civilian populations. They took pride in having ended the brutal war. The silence crystalized in a faith that there existed a group of men so wise they could be delegated the burden of the human future. So with exuberant innocence, the town of Richland, where the workers lived, proudly named streets Proton Lane and Neutron Lane. When Richland High School seniors graduated, embossed on their commencement programs was a gold leaf mushroom cloud. Like most citizens in what we’ve fairly casually termed “ the atomic age,” Hanford’s workers dealt with the implications of the new weapons by trivializing them. Consideration of any threat was banished initially by the legal prohibitions and later by far more subtle informa l mechanisms. When a Hanford wife in her bridge circle mentioned something unsettling—perhaps a vague fear that her husband might be exposed to harmful radiation— her peers would respond, “Oh, let’s not talk about the bad things,” and move on to safe topics of children, cooking, or deve lopments at the garden c lub or Orthopedic Guild. The men retreated to pride in their work. Community institutions had more urgent topics to discuss. The silence crystalized in a faith that there existed a group of men so wise they could be delegated the burden of the human future. It was enough that the cho ices wh ich crea ted Am e r ica ’s Hanfords should be discussed in the halls of RAND, the Hudson Institute, and the Pentagon. Ordinary citizens could only assume that these terrible matters were being taken care of as best they could. If Hanford’s workers surrendered, from the very beginning of their tenure, a fundamen ta l re s p o n s ib i l ity rega rd ing choices of unprecedented potential magnitude, this' surrender merely echoed that of other Americans of their era. They accepted it in part because of economic and psychological dependence on the atomic environment they inhabited. Their community offered ample camaraderie, support and friendship, yet also became a bar to vision and spur to complacency. As a veteran chemical engineer stressed, he couldn’t imagine his friends, and neighbors participating in anything unethical. In 1969 the Atomic Energy Commission was going to shut down Hanford’s original plutonium reactors; it had eight still operating. Because the community had no base but the atomic economy, school teachers had their kids write letters to then-President Richard Nixon. “ Dear Mr. Nixon,” or “ Dear Mr. President,” the letters would begin, accompanied by drawings of houses, trees, stick figure families and Oldsmobiles outside. “ I live here. I’ve always lived here. I like it here. Please don’t make us move. The country needs what my daddy produces.” "W h a t the Hell" w W a r here the men and women of Hanford’s founding generation acc limated themselves to their work through immersion in fragmented tasks, belief in government wisdom, and dismissal of awkward questions, the 1970s initiated a new era of cynical fatalism. Instead of trusting “ the men who know best,” this sensibility acknowledges and even celebrates the fallibility of expert prescriptions. Yet it also denies the possibility of worthwh ile human action, b lusters through a dependency no less dangerous than that of the wartime generation, and denigrates even the attempt to link moral vision with human choices. The cynicism appeared at its extreme in the attitudes of the young Hanford workers who for nearly ten years were building three commercial reactors for the Washington State Public Supply System (WPPSS). Mushrooming costs cancelled one plant, mothballed another and left a third barely limping to completion. The majority of the more mobile workers have left. But their attitude of flip resignation is no different from that of their generational peers still working at PUREX, a reprocessing facility recently renovated to generate plutonium for the new warheads, or at the reconverted N reactor. It is the same as that of those working far from the direct weapons facilities, both geographically and occupationally, but casually accepting their fruits. While the older workers continue to embrace atomic production with passion and skill, those younger deny identity with what they create. "W h a t the hell. By the time these suckers get on line—if they ever get on line—I'll be someplace else. I'll be long gone." The young workers took refuge in Trans-Ams, Porsches, high test grass and cocaine. One saw this exemplified in the constant stories of shoddy welds, forged blueprints, and pipes leading into the ground going nowhere. Though the stories checked out true , the ir te lle rs laughed them off, shrugging their shoulders and saying, “What the hell. By the time these suckers get on line—if they ever get on line—I’ ll be someplace else. I’ ll be long gone.” They took refuge in Trans-Ams, Porsches, high test grass and cocaine. They explain, “ Look, the reactors are here whatever I do. If they were someplace where people didn ’t want them I’d probably be protesting, climbing fences, and throwing rocks. But this is a nuclear town and it always will be.” Shortly after Three Mile Island, Saturday Night Live did a sketch called “ The Pepsi Syndrome.” An accident began when someone spilled a Pepsi on a reactor control panel and the buzzers started sounding, lights started flashing and radioactive water spilled into an adjacent room. The operators called in Garrett Morris as a black cleaning woman and, assuring her it was just a routine job, asked if she’d do them a favor by mopping up. The show ended with her a mutant giant and Jimmy Carter, having gone into the room and himself grown to fifteen feet, announcing, from the window high in the wall, that they were eloping. While the sketch wasn’t technically accurate, it worked, and no one enjoyed it more than the young WPPSS workers who watched, drinking beer and smoking dope, in front of a large TV set built into the brown Dodge van one had bought out of his $30,000 yearly earnings. They joked about whose weld caused the problem and why the managers were, as usual, nowhere to be found. They went in the next day to build their reactors. What is this separation where one can maintain, in the words of a Hanford computer specialist, that, “ Maybe the human race is just like a company gone on past its time?” The cynics may work hard at demanding tasks, or even follow political events as if they were the daily baseball standings. But their resignation forms a generational bond, crossing class lines from Hanford’s welders to Detroit autoworkers, Los Angeles lawyers, New York journalists, and young insurance salesmen from Seattle, Kansas City or Dallas. Readily incorporating images of contra terror, napalmed peasants, shoddy atomic welds, or a president’s banality, it makes them bitter proof that nothing can be done. And by denying or trivializing consequences, it destroys links between individuals and the sense of historical continuity which might sustain their risk and dissent. Neither cynicism nor sentimental optimism will ameliorate the implications of Am e r ica ’s Han fo rds . The nuc lea r culture’s sway extends with each increased weapons budget. Yet for all that the silence of the ordinary men and women who build the bombs exemplifies a far point of the logic E.P. Thompson terms “ exterminism,” it is a trap to use its lessons to validate despair. Six years back, when I first visited a Hanford complex whose threats seemed highlighted most by the near catastrophe of Three Mile Island, the area’s economy rested to a large degree on commercial nuclear operations. Now, as the WPPSS project has turned belly up, and as orders for nuclear power plants continue to be cancelled nationwide, the so-called p e a c e fu l a tom is s u b s t a n t ia l ly beleagered. Nuclear waste, of course, remains, still a growth sector, and despite its legacy of “ questionable integrity,” Hanford’s compliant culture has helped make the facility a leading Candidate for Ame rica ’s permanent high-level repository. But mostly, the Area has returned to its original military mission th rough the N-reactor conversion, PUREX restart, and a new facility developing those Laser Isotope technologies which will allow extraction of weapons grade plutonium from spent commercial fuel. Reason for Hope H a n f o r d ’s nuc lea r dependence makes it still a costly effort for its resi-. dents to dissent. It was and is far easier for individuals to leave here than to remain and create a public dialogue. Yet Hanford is also a model in a more optimistic context. However scarce were the men and women who broke from its institutions to challenge them, their critiques did catalyze other resistance. And as a resurgent peace movement has begun to weave its tendrils into all corners of a still resisting society—has created a presO u r fates are now linked with those of inhabitants of Vladivostok and Kiev, of Perth and Dar Es Salaam, of all the nations of the earth. Perhaps this offers both the necessity and possibility of creating a less predatory world. ence, even if a minority one, which would have been unimaginable just a few years back—so it has been echoed even here. On August 9th, 1982, over 100 local residents of various ages and occupations commemorated the anniversary of Nagasaki with a vigil in front of the Richland Federal Building—the community’s first public acknowledgment that the date might demand more than just civic pride. Since then, a new local peace group has picketed to protest PUREX renovation, held forums and put together leaflets on Hanford’s militarization—encouraged whistle-blowing and discussion where people had previously kept their silence. Because we may get no second chances, our current situation gives us a r e s p o n s ib i l i ty in many ways un ­ paralleled. If one considers only the deployment or pending deployment of first strike systems like MX and Trident, Cruise and Pershing II, the growing array of high-tech, immensely destructive “ conventional weapons,” of the plans for Star Wars space battlefields—then we’re clearly inhabiting a more precarious world than we did even a few years back. And yet there is also reason for hope. In part this hope lies in a new possibility of community. Visions of a universal human family have always existed— the religious notion of God’s children, the solidarity of the labor and Marxist traditions, the French Revolution with its cry of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. They have been honored in periodic surges, those moments when humans believe their shared dreams just might be realized. But in a manner not true in any other era, our fates are now linked with those of inhabitants of Vladivostok and Kiev, of Perth and Dar Es Salaam, of Istanbul, of Santiago, of all the nations of the earth. Perhaps this offers both the necessity and possibility of creating a less predatory world. The commonality embodied in a global jeopardy has also sparked another current—that producing the unparalleled breaching of the atomic silence began to develop at precisely the point that Reagan first took office six years back. This movement recognizes that private sanctuary no longer exists and that optimism must be actively reclaimed. And that the atomic threat may become a window for understanding both the nature of our peril and our choices in confronting it. If the current situation is ultimately the product of deep-rooted strains in our society, then recognizing their bleakest implications may allow us the chance not only to avert immediate danger but also to examine who we are, how we live and how we might live. So in the midst of our jeopardy we see a nascent renewal. Three years back, a handful of teachers talked in a Massachusetts classroom about discussing the atomic threat with their kids; now nuclear curriculums are taught in practically every state in the nation. The Catholics’ Pastoral Letter steadily brings discussion into additional parishes, yet was itself fruit of a process initiated by a small group of activists within the church hierarchy, and by those unheralded dissenters who moved the initial bishops to question and to speak. That even some Hanford workers ngw challenge a surrounding complacency is the result of those who first risked and resisted. We have the option of sectoring off and insisting we’re neither strong enough nor wise enough to deal with the horror. We can maintain that no vision is worth fighting for, that the effort's too difficult, and that we’re only a small shabby species which, as the Hanford computer scientist said, goes on, like a company everyone knows is dead, past its time. We can hope that those already speaking and acting will take care of it. But we also have the choice of addressing the situation in its full implications. Of reaching beyond our individual lives for broader purposes and broader visions. And of raising a dialogue not only on the grand stage of national politics, but within the same day to day institutions which up till now have harbored only the prevailing silence. Whether citizens can successfully raise this dialogue, to convey not only the reasons for fear but those for hope—to draw the most root and most rigorous lessons from our peril—may well determine whether the nuclear culture is successfully confronted or continues to cow, wound, and perhaps even extinguish the interesting and complex experiment known as the human species. And this is a task which cannot be delegated. Nuclear Culture is back in print, in paperback from New Society Publishers. Writer Paul Loeb lives in Seattle and works with CSQ as an Associate Editor. Artist Henk Pander lives in Portland. 6 Clinton St. Quarterly

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WWWTWWWWWIWWWW im ii) mi Ui mi du uu uu uu uii uu uu Uli LW Uli mi UU hl, uli Illi TTP ID TH rm rm fTTli7FTF n iffnnn im iTnm im rn iin irn i>m<n "» i REQUIEM FORTHE AMERICAN EMPIRE By Gore Vidal Illustration By Carl Smool On September 16, 1985, when the Commerce Department announced tha t the United States had become a debtor nation, the American Empire died. The empire was seventy-one years old and had been in ill health since 19.68. Like most modern empires, ours rested not so much on military prowess as on economic primacy. After the French Revolution, the world money power sh ifted from Paris to London. For three generations, the British maintained an old-fashioned colonial empire, as well as a modern empire based on London’s primacy in the money markets. Then in 1914, New York replaced London as the world’s financial capital. Before 1914, the United States had been a developing country, dependent on outside investment. But with the shift of the money power from Old World to New, what had been a debtor nation became a creditor nation and central motor to the world’s economy. All in all, the English were well pleased to have us take their place. They were too few in number for so big a task. As early as the turn of the century, they were eager for us not only to help them out financially but to continue, in their behalf, the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race: to bear with courage the white man’s burden, as Rudyard Kipling not so tactfully put it. Were we not—English and Americans—all Anglo- Saxons, united by common blood, laws, languages? Well, no, we were not. But our differences were not so apparent then. In any case, we took on the job. We would supervise and civilize the lesser breeds. We would make money. By the end of World War II, we were the most powerful and least damaged of the great nations. We also had most of the money. America’s hegemony lasted exactly five years. Then the cold and hot wars began. Our masters would have us believe that all our problems are the fault of the Evil Empire of the East, with its Satanic and atheistic religion, ever ready to destroy us in the night. This nonsense began at a time when we had atomic weapons and the Russians did not. They had lost 20 million of their people in the war, and 8 million of them before the war, th a n k s to th e i r n e o c o n s e rv a t iv e Mongolian political system. Most important, there was never any chance, then or now, of the money power (all that matters) shifting from New York to Moscow. What was—and is—the reason for the big scare? Well, World War II made prosperous the United States, which had been undergoing a depression for a dozen years; and made very rich those magnates and the ir managers who govern the republic, with many a wink, in the people’s name. In order to maintain a general prosperity (and enormous wealth for the few) they decided that we would become the world’s policeman, perennial shield against the Mongol hordes. We shall have an arms race, said one of the high priests, John Foster Dulles, and we The British used to say tha t their empire was obtained in a f i t of absent- mindedness. They exaggerate, of course. On the other hand, our modern empire was carefully thought out by four men. shall win it because the Russians will go broke first. We were then put on a permanent wartime economy, which is why a third or so of the government’s revenues is constantly being siphoned off to pay fo r what is euphem is t ica lly ca lled defense. As early as 1950, Albert Einstein understood the nature of the rip-off. He said, “The men who possess real power in this country have no intention of ending the cold war.” Thirty-five years later, they are still at it, making money while the nation itself declines to eleventh place in world per capita income, to forty-sixth in literacy and so on, until last summer (not suddenly, I fear) we found ourselves close to $2 trillion in debt. Then, in the fall, the money power shifted from New York to Tokyo, and that was the end of our empire. Now the long-feared Asiatic colossus takes its turn as world leader, and we—the white race— have become the yellow man’s burden. Let us hope that he will treat us more kindly than we treated him. In any case, if the foreseeable future is not nuclear, it will be Asiatic, some combination of Japan’s advanced technology with China’s resourceful lan d - ' mass. Europe and the United States will then be, simply, irrelevant to the world that matters, and so we come full circle. Europe began as the relatively empty uncivilized Wild West of Asia; then the Western Hemisphere became the Wild West of Europe. Now the sun has set in our West and risen once more in the East. The British used to say that their empire was obtained in a fit of absent-mindedness. They exaggerate, of course. On the other hand, our modern empire was carefully thought out by four men. In 1890 a U.S. Navy captain, Alfred Thayer Mahan, wrote the blueprint for the American imperium, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783. Then Mahan’s friend, the historian-geopoliti- cian Brooks Adams, younger brother of Henry, came up with the following formula: “All civilization is centralization. All centralization is economy.” He applied the formula in the following syllogism: “ Under economical centralization, Asia is cheaper than Europe. The world tends to economic centralization. Therefore, Asia tends to survive and Europe to perish.” Ultimately, that is why we were in Vietnam. The amateur historian and professional politician Theodore Roosevelt was much under the influence of Adams and Mahan; he was also their political instrument, most active not so much during his Presidency as during the crucial war with Spain, where he can take a good deal of credit for our seizure of the Philippines, which made us a world empire. Finally, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Roosevelt’s closest friend, kept in line a Congress that had a tendency to forget our holy mission—our manifest destiny—and ask, rather wistfully, for internal improvements. From the beginning of our republic we have had imperial tendencies. We took care—as we continue to take care—of the indigenous population. We maintained slavery a bit too long even by a cynical world’s tolerant standards. Then, in 1847, we produced our first conquistador, President James K. Polk. After a cqu ir ing Texas, Polk de libe ra te ly started a war with Mexico because, as he later told the historian George Bancroft, we had to acquire California. Thanks to Polk, we did. And that is why to this day the Mexicans refer to our Southwestern states as “ the occupied lands,” which Hispanics are now, quite sensibly, filling up. The case against empire began as early as 1847. Representative Abraham Lincoln did not think much of Polk’s war, while Lieut. Ulysses S. Grant, who fought at Vera Cruz, said in his memoirs, “ The war was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.” He went on to make a causal link, something not usual in our politics then and completely unknown now: “ The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican War. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.” 8 Clinton St. Quarterly

But the empire has always had more supporters than opponents. By 1895 we had filled up our section of North America. We had tried twice—and failed—to conquer Canada. We had taken everything that we wanted from Mexico. Where next? Well, there was the Caribbean at our front door and the vast Pacific at our back. Enter the Four Horsemen— Mahan, Adams, Roosevelt and Lodge. The original republic was thought out ca re fu lly , and open ly , in The Federalist Papers', we were not going to have a monarchy and we were not going to have a democracy. And to this day we have had neither. For 200 years we have had an oligarchical system in which men of property can do well and others are on their own. Or, as Brooks Adams put it, the sole problem of our ruling class is whe ther to coerce or to bribe the powerless majority. The so-called Great Society bribed; today coercion is very much in the air. Happily, our neoconserva tive Mongo lo ids favor on ly authoritarian and never totalitarian means of coercion. Unlike the republic, the empire was worked out largely in secret. Captain Mahan, in a series of lectures delivered at the Naval War College, compared the United States with England. Each was essentially an island state that could preOur turn-of-the- century imperialists may have been wrong, and I th ink they were. But they were intelligent men w ith a plan, and the plan worked. vail in the world only through sea power. England had already proved his thesis. Now the United States must do the same. We must build a great navy in order to acquire overseas possessions. Since great navies are expensive, the wealth of new colonies must be used to pay for our fleets. In fact, the more colonies acquired, the more ships; the more ships, the more empire. Mahan’s thesis is agreeably circular. He showed how little England had ended up with most of Africa and all of southern Asia, thanks to sea power. He thought that we should do the same. The Caribbean was our first and easiest target. Then on to the Pacific Ocean, with all its islands. And finally, to China, which was breaking up as a political entity. Theodore Roosevelt and Brooks Adams were tremendously excited by this prospect. At the time Roosevelt was a mere police commissioner in New York City, but he had dreams of imperial glory. “ He wants to be,” snarled Henry Adams, “ our Dutch-American Napoleon.” Roosevelt began to maneuver his way toward the heart of power, sea power. With Lodge’s help, he got himself appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy, under a weak Secretary and a mild President. Now he was in place to modernize the fleet and to acquire colonies. Hawaii was annexed. Then a part of Samoa. Finally, colonial Cuba, somehow, had to be liberated from Spain’s tyranny. At the Naval War College, Roosevelt declared, “ To prepare for war is the most effectual means to promote peace.” How familiar that sounds! But since the United States had no enemies as of June 1897, a contemporary might have remarked that since we were already at peace with everyone, why prepare for war? Today, of course, we are what he dreamed we would be, a nation armed to the teeth and hostile to everyone. But what with Roosevelt was a design to acquire an empire is for us a means to transfer money from the Treasury to the various defense industries, which in turn pay for the elections of Congress and President. Our turn-of-the-century imperialists may have been wrong, and I think they were. But they were intelligent men with a plan, and the plan worked. Aided by Lodge in the Senate, Brooks Adams in the press, Admiral Mahan at the Naval War College, the young Assistant Secretary of the Navy began to build up the fleet and look for enemies. After all, as Brooks Adams proclaimed, “war is the solvent.” But war with whom? And for what? And where? At one point England seemed a likely enemy. We had a boundary dispute with it over Venezuela, which Clinton St. Quarterly 9

meant that we could invoke the all-purpose Monroe Doctrine (the invention of John Quincy Adams, Brooks’s grandfather). But as we might have lost such a war, nothing happened. Nevertheless, Roosevelt kept on beating his drum: “ No triumph of peace,” he shouted, “ can equal the armed triumph of war.” Also: “we must take Hawaii in the interests of the white race.” Even Henry Adams, who found TR. tiresome and Brooks, his own brother, brilliant but mad, suddenly declared, “ In another fifty years. . the white race will have to reconquer the tropics by war and nomadic invasion, or be shut up north of the 50th parallel.” And so at century’s end, our most distinguished ancestral voices were not prophesying but praying for war. An American warship, the Maine, blew up in Havana harbor. We held Spain responsible; thus, we got what John Hay called “ a splendid little war. We would liberate Cuba, drive Spain from the Caribbean. As for the Pacific, even before the Maine was sunk, Roosevelt had ordered Commodore Dewey and his fleet to the Spanish Philippines—just in case. Spain promptly collapsed, and we inherited its Pacific and Caribbean colonies. Admiral Mahan’s plan was working triumphantly. In time we allowed Cuba the appearance of freedom while holding on to Puerto Rico. Then President William McKinley, after an in-depth talk with God, decided that we should also keep the Philippines, in order, he said, to Christianize them. When reminded that the Filipinos were Roman Catholics, the President said, Exactly. We must Christianize them. Although Philippine nationalists had been our allies against Spain, we promptly betrayed them and their leader, Aguinaldo. As a result it took us several years to conquer the Philippines, and tens of thousands of Filipinos died that our empire might grow. The war was the making of Theodore Roosevelt. Surrounded by the flower of the American press, he led a group of so- called Rough Riders up a very small hill in Cuba. For this proto-photo opportunity Lieut. Ulysses S. Grant, who fought at Vera Cruz, said in his memoirs, “The war was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.” . he became a national hero, Governor of New York, McKinley’s running mate and, when McKinley was killed in 1901, President. Not everyone liked the new empire. After Manila, Mark Twain thought that the stars and bars of the American flag should be replaced by a skull and crossbones. He also said “We cannot maintain an empire in the Orient and maintain a republic in America.” He was right, of course. But as he was only a writer who said funny things, he was ignored. The compulsively vigorous Roosevelt defended our war against the Philippine population, and he attacked the likes of Twain. “ Every argument that can be made for the Filipinos could be made for the Apaches,” he explained, with his lovely gift for analogy. “And every word that can be said for Aguinaldo could be said for Sitting Bull. As peace, order and prosperity followed our expansion over the land of the Indians, so they will follow us in the Philippines.” Despite the criticism of the few, the Four Horsemen had pulled it off. The United States was a world empire. And one of the horsemen not only got to be president but for his pious meddling in the Russo-Japanese conflict, our greatest apostle of war was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. One must never underestimate the Scandinavian wit. Empires are restless organisms. They must constantly renew themselves; should an empire start leaking energy, it will die. Not for nothing were the Adams brothers fascinated by entropy. By energy. By force. Brooks Adams, as usual, said the unsayable. “ Laws are a necessity,” he declared. “ Laws are made by the strongest, and they must and shall be obeyed.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. thought this a wonderful,observation, while the philosopher William James came to a similar conclusion, which can also be detected, like an invisible dynamo, at the heart of the novels of his brother Henry. According to Brooks Adams, “ The most difficult problem of modern times is unquestionably how to protect property under popular governments.” The Four Horsemen fretted a lot about this. They need not have. We have never had a popular government in the sense that they feared, nor are we in any danger now. Our only political party has two right wings, one called Republican, the other Democratic. But Henry Adams figured all that out back in the 1890s. “We have a single system,” he wrote, and “ in that system the only question is the price at which the proletariat is to be bought and sold, the bread and circuses.” But none of this was for public consumption. Publicly, the Four Horsemen and their outriders spoke of the American mission to bring to all the world freedom and peace, through slavery and war if necessary. Privately, their constant fear was that the weak masses might combine one day against the strong few, their natural leaders, and take away their money. As early as the election of 1876 socialism had been targeted as a vast evilithat must never be allowed to corrupt simple American persons. When Christianity was invoked as the natural enemy of those who might limit the rich and their games, the combination of cross and dollar sign proved—and proves—irresistible. During the first decade of our disagreeable century, the great world fact was the internal collapse of China. Who could pick up the pieces? Britain grabbed Kowloon; Russia was busy in the north; the Kaiser’s fleet prowled the China coast; Japan was modernizing itself, and biding its time. Although Theodore Roosevelt lived and died a dedicated racist, the Japanese puzzled him. After they sank the Russian fleet, Roosevelt decided that they were to be respected and feared even though they were our racial inferiors. For those Americans who served in World War II, it was an article of faith—as of 1941, anyway—that the Japanese could never win a modern war. Because of their slant eyes, they would not be able to master aircraft. 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Jingoism aside, Brooks Adams was a good analyst. In the 1890s he wrote: “ Russia, to survive, must undergo a social revolution internally and/or expand externally. She will try to move into Shansi Province, richest prize in the world. Should Russian and Germany combine. . . ” That was the nightmare of the Four Horsemen. At a time when simpler folk feared the rise of Germany alone, Brooks Adams saw the world ultimately polarized between Russian and the United States, with China as the common prize. American maritime power versus Russia’s landmass. That is why, quite seriously, he wanted to extend the Monroe Doctrine to the Pacific Ocean. For him, “war [was] the ultimate form of economic competition.” We are now at the end of the twentieth century. England, France and Germany have all disappeared from the imperial stage. China is now reassembling itself, and Confucius, greatest of political thinkers, is again at the center of the Middle Kingdom. Japan has the world money power and wants a landmass; China now seems ready to go into business with its ancient enemy. Wars of the sort that the Four Horsemen enjoyed are, if no longer possible, no longer practical. Today’s conquests are shifts of currency by computer, and the manufacture of those things that people everywhere are willing to buy. I have said very little about writers because writers have figure^ very little in our imperial story. The founders of both republic and empire wrote well: Jefferson and Hamilton, Lincoln and Grant, T.R. and the Adamses. Today public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books; and there is some evidence that they can’t read them either. Yet at the dawn of the empire, for a brief instant, our professional writers tried to make a difference. Upton Sinclair and company attacked the excesses of the ruling class. Theodore Roosevelt coined the world “ muckraking” to describe what they were doing. He did not mean As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action. Words are used to confuse, so tha t at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests. the word as praise. Since then a few of our w rite rs have written on public themes, but as they were not taken seriously, they have ended by not taking themselves seriously, at least as citizens of a republic. After all, most writers are paid by universities, and it is not wise to be thought critical of a garrison state which spends so much money on so many campuses. When Confucius was asked what would be the first thing that he would do if he were to lead the state—his never-to- be-fulfilled dream—he said rectify the language. This is wise. This is subtle. As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests. Finally, words must be so twisted as to justify an empire that has now ceased to exist, much less make sense. Is rectification of our system possible for us? Henry Adams thought not. In 1910 he wrote: “The whole fabric of society will go to wrack if we really lay hands of reform on our rotten institutions.” Then he added, “ From top to bottom the whole system is a fraud, all of us know it, laborers, and capitalists alike, and all of us are consenting parties to it.” Since then, consent has grown frayed; and we have become poor, and our people sullen. To maintain a thirty-five-year arms race it is necessary to have a fearsome enemy. Not since the invention of the Wizard of Oz have American publicists created anything quite so demented as the idea that the Soviet Union is a monolithic, omnipotent empire with tentacles everywhere on earth, intent on our destruction, which will surely take place unless we constantly imitate it with our war machine and its secret services. In actual fact, the Soviet Union is a Second World country with a First World military capacity. Frighten the Russians sufficiently and they might blow us up. By the same token, as our republic now begins to crack under the vast expense of maintaining a mindless imperial force, we might try to blow them up. Particularly if we had a President who really was a twice-born Christian, and believed that the good folks would all go to heaven (where they were headed anyway) and the bad folks would go where they belong. Fortunately, to date, we have had only hypocrites in the White House. But you never can tell. Even worse than the not-very-likely prospect of a nuclear war—deliberate or by accident—is the economic collapse of our society because too many of our resources have been wasted on the military. The Pentagon is like a black hole; what goes in is forever lost to us, and no new wealth is created. Hence, our cities, whose centers are unlivable; our crime rate, the highest in the Western world; a public education system that has given up. . .you know the litany. There is not only one way out. The time has come for the United States to make common cause with the Soviet Union. The bringing together of the Soviet landmass (with all its natural resources) and our island empire (with all its technological resources) would be of great benefit to each society, not to mention the world. Also, to recall the wisdom of the Four Horsemen who gave us our empire, the Soviet Union and our section of North America combined would be a match, industrially and technologically, for the Sino-Japanese axis that will dominate the future just as Japan dominates world trade today. But where the horsemen thought of war as the supreme solvent, we now know that war is worse than useless. Therefore, the alliance of the two great powers of the Northern Hemisphere will double the strength of each and give us, working together, an opportunity to survive, economically, in a highly centralized Asiatic world. Writer Gore Vidal’s recent work includes the historical novels Lincoln and Burr. This article appeared in The Nation, Jan. 11, 1986. Artist Carl Smool lives in Seattle. M ouse o f t i t le s Ltd. We carry a large selection offine books for the discriminating reader. I At John's Landing in the Water Tower 20%off any one book expires June 30, 1986 ^^«LINTON STREET 228-02901 magazines । ■ cards | I special orders ■ HEADLINES MONDAY-SATURDAY 11-9:30 PM SUN 12-6 PM 527 NW 21st (503) 248-0755 Enjoy the beauty of Portland’s waterfront from the decks of an authentic 599 passenger Sternwheeler. Join one of our regular weekly outings or take part in a special cruise commemorating holidays such as Rose Festival, Mother’s Day, Secretary’s Day, or Memorial Day. LUNCH/HARBOR CRUISES EVENING DINNER CRUISE SUNDAY BRUNCHES Friday & Saturday 12 pm Friday & Saturday 12 pm 10 am & 1 pm $14 w / lunch or cruise only $9 $24.50 $15.50 PRIVATE CHARTERS • RESERVATIONS REQUIRED • GIFT CERTIFICATES CALL NOW FOR RESERVATIONS & I N F O R M A T I O N (503) 223-3928 ALL THE 0™ THERE 7.00 & STARTS APRIL 8:45 P'u s 5:15 SUNDAY ’ V ARIOUS LA- WEEKLY A COMEDY BY 1 ^ ° ° ^ I Clinton St. Quarterly 11