2 July 2004

US rules, OK?

By Tapani Lausti

The rewriting of history according to the "transatlantic community of shared values" continues apace in Finland. The eulogies to Ronald Reagan after his death in early June were genuinely enthusiastic. The deceased president was described as a visionary and his stature as a statesman was generally admired. The world was described as a safer place after his presidency. Those who used to laugh at Reagan's limited understanding of world affairs were now pitied for their short-sightedness. The peace movement of the time was accused of supporting the Soviet Union. Luckily the visionary president saw the end of the "Evil Empire" approaching, we were assured.

All these distortions of historical reality are now part and parcel of the intellectual atmosphere spread by pro-NATO commentators. Not that everybody believes them, but their propaganda is helped by much of the press which hardly ever uses really critical commentators as experts worthy of interviews or guest columns.

Reagan's darker sides were alluded to here and there but readers were not reminded of the awful human cost of his government's policies, especially in Central America where hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered with full US support. It was safer to be a dissident in the Soviet camp than in Central America. Soviet dissidents often ended up in jail but they were not murdered in cold blood as happened frequently in many Latin American states — with hardly a murmur from the outside world. We used to know Soviet dissidents by name. How many people remember even one murdered dissident by name in the US backyard? John Pilger's phrase comes to mind: undeserving victims.

Those of us who used to be critical of both the Soviet Union and the United States are being airbrushed from history. There is now only one civilised world — and it is led by Washington. Yes, Iraq is a problem, but it is implicitly described as a temporary setback on the way to a brighter future. The Finns have been advised to accept the US leading role in the world and adapt to it.

One commentator in the national daily, Helsingin Sanomat, compared George W. Bush to Reagan, describing the current president as "a smaller man". "At least for the time being", he added. However, like Reagan did not believe in the eternity of the Soviet Union, "Bush does not see any reason to believe that miserable systems of oppression are permanent and cannot really be got rid of". The same commentator described the US as a nation reaching far, although sometimes making mistakes but then learning from them — at least for the time being. (Tomi Ervamaa, "Kansakunta, joka kurkottaa", Helsingin Sanomat, 13 June 2004)

Reflecting on the US's current problems, Finland's ex-ambassador to Washington, Richard Müller, writes that one should not draw too far-reaching conclusions from the events in Iraq. He says that the Europeans, too, have broken international law, the difference being that the Americans are more honest in admitting their crimes. (Yhdysvallat on yhä demokratian esikuva, Turun Sanomat, 21 May 2004)

Ex-Prime Minister Esko Aho has been warning against the dangers of "fundamentalist anti-Americanism". He acknowledges that the good will normally enjoyed by the US in Europe has reached a low point but says that "Finland should not join a choir singing a distorting anti-American song". He wants good relations with the US, not only for economic reasons but because "the relations have a security political dimension". This he does not explain and then adds that the interests uniting the US and Europe could be used to solve regional conflicts in the Middle East.

So there we are, the world is supposedly safer with the US at the helm. The US record in the Middle East and elsewhere is nothing to be worried about — things will be OK in the end.

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