Apart from assigning itself a role that combines the duties of the world’s judge, jury, executioner and policeman, the United States has a related tendency of never admitting when it has made a mistake in international affairs. While the wider world knows exactly who won and who lost the long war in Vietnam, there are some in the United States who still believe that the US won the war. While traditional imperialist nations like France and Britain are home to citizens who admit their loses, sometimes with a glint of post-imperial sorrow, in the US wars simply are not lost. The nation that give the world “the power of positive thinking” seems psychologically unable to acknowledge any outcome but a positive one and in the words of the great observational comedian George Carlin, American decides instead to “bullshit itself”.
This Orwellian universe in which losses are victories, war criminality is self-defence and mass murder is liberation is in fact somewhat unique to the United States. It certainly contrasts with the more straightforward British, French and wider European narrative of going to war against “foreign savages” because they’re sitting on tea leaves, oil fields or gold mines that “we want”.
As such, the writings of British imperialist journalists, novelists and historians often read like little more than a litany of insults directed at whichever foreign ethnicity that the troops happened to be slaughtering at any given time. In Winston Churchill’s writings about various imperial theatres from Sudan to India, one almost comes to pity Churchill for not being able to fully decide which non-Christian religion he despises the most.
But American propaganda is even more selfish. For the US, the enemy isn’t some lowly savage with a filthy religion and a barbarous culture. For the United States the enemy’s characteristics are not even relevant. All that matters is that the US is in a war and this itself is cause for celebration among the powers that be. The reason that Americans often shout “USA–USA–USA” while few in imperial Britain shouted “UK–UK–UK” is because they were too busy reading magazine articles about how wicked the people of African and Asia were thought to be in the minds of pith helmet wearing journalists and Victorian “adventurers”. To put it simply, Americans love hearing about how perfect they are whilst in imperial Britain, the public were much more fond of hearing about how utterly terrifying, backward, violent and stupid everyone else was thought to be.
Thus, when the ideal candidate for the American powers that be, Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election….she didn’t actually lose! Instead of admitting that Hillary Clinton lost, the narrative of Donald Trump and his family colluding with a foreign regime was born. The fact of the matter is that Trump’s victory was not a question of Americans vs. Russians – it was a matter of American elites vs. ordinary Americans. It was furthermore a matter of Americans who wanted to identify as Americans versus the cult of identity politics that Hillary Clinton never truly believed in but nevertheless tried to exploit based on a miscalculation of how popular sectarian politics actually was on main-street USA.
In this sense, Hillary Clinton’s powerful backers miscalculated Trump’s appeal in the same way in which the US military miscalculated the strength of the Vietcong decades before. As the US was already going through a period of very poor relations with Russia and as most Americans have seen Cold War era spy films in which there are Russian villains, Russia was an easy enough choice for enemy number one.
The only problem is that Donald Trump and his base of hardcore support are so utterly American that the entire Russia story never sat right with them. Trump’s base are all about guns, hamburgers, pick-up trucks and country and western music – they are about as far removed from bears, vodka, tiny Lada cars and Tchaikovsky as one could possibly imagine. Part of the aim of the Russia story was to try and convince some of Trump’s supporters that Trump was the less patriotic of the two candidates. This however backfired and even caused some Trump supporters to become mildly pro-Russia if for no other reason than Russia was said to have shared a common enemy with them, that of Hillary Clinton.
And now it seems that at the end of an exhaustive investigation into Donald Trump, his family and his associates, there was no collusion after all. All that happened was that the same US establishment that pretended that it didn’t lose in Vietnam, decided to pretend that it didn’t lose a major election. Unfortunately for them, the US lost in Vietnam for the same reason that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. Those fighting for their homeland tend to have the upper hand and in 2016, it was an all American outsider who turned out to have more of an authentic appeal than an all American insider.