Today, George Bush Jr has been re elected as US president in what must be one of the most doubtful and shameful episodes of modern American history. The halfway point in his campaign of terror and lies is a good point to talk about Picking the Bones by Geoffrey Regan.
I’m working my way through a friend’s box set of the high budget American TV drama Band Of Brothers. It’s gripping stuff and there’s no doubting the quality both in terms of acting, production and general entertainment factor. There is however a reoccurring theme throughout that reminds the viewer of an alternative agenda, one that has become such a natural function of all American media that we treat it as simply part of the package.
The good looking GI handing out Chocolate to starstruck children is as laughable as the street wise New Yorker arguing with the English public schoolboy tank commander (you can guess who turned out to be right). The portrayal of Uncle Sam as the global guardian of freedom, democracy and Christian decency is nothing new, and it’s part of the American way that forms the basis for Picking the Bones : Reclaiming the past from the Politicians.
Geoffrey Regan’s book starts at home with a well reasoned but stinging attack on Blair’s case for war. This is nothing new, it’s been done before with the likes of Stupid White men, but here the arguments have an altogether more convincing nature that leaves the reader with that restless uneasy feeling. I thought that Picking the Bones was going to be another of those books (there’s a whole section of them in WH Smith) but once our own politicians current crusade of lies and hearsay has been dealt with the book trains its sights on the White House.
During the eighties I found the Reagan-Thatcher thing fascinating, the combination of her nastiness and his fuckwitted nature made for frightening but strangely compelling viewing. Reagan’s rabid preoccupation with communism features heavily in the early chapters, his culture of fear and diversion makes for some insightful reading and the well researched facts lay the shortcomings of his intellect bare for all to see. The Bush family easily takes on Islam when Reagan had finished with his enemy but the author, knowing that we may all be Bushed out, thankfully leaves them to the broadsheets.
It’s not just politicians that come in for scathing criticism, as the book contains countless episodes of American military incompetence and ineptitude at every level over the past two centuries. The occupation of Grenada provides for some light hearted fun and finger pointing, however things soon get nasty when the attention turns to American activities in the far east. The well documented atrocities in Vietnam fade into insignificance when compared to those committed by America in the Philippines at the turn of the last century. The fact that I had never heard about this shamefully racist and barbaric part of American history somewhat reinforces the authors arguments about the re writing of history.
The friend who lent me Band of Brothers is now reading Picking the Bones, for a Frenchman this book will provide a smugly gratifying respite from the American idiocy that is ‘The cheese eating surrender monkey’. Regan systematically dispels the myth about the French with a genuine European military history contrasted nicely against the American tendency for fabricating their own fairly limited battle record.
It’s a blistering read with phrases such as ‘Post democratic’ and ‘Virtual democracy’ adding to its tragically Orewellian nature. There are some refreshingly extreme views, such as drawing parallels between modern American society and a fascist state, but these are all reasoned in an insightful and stimulating manner. It’s refreshing also to read about Churchill as just another politician prone to mistakes and occasional ill judgement, without the ludicrous rose tinted romance that accompanies most historical texts of the time.
So there it is, a genuinely inspiring book that goes some way to making a bit of sense out of the chaos that surrounds us.