There is an urban legend concerning Colin Powell's response to an alleged question from the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding American 'empire building'......it goes a little somethin' like this.......
When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.
He answered by saying that, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."
It became very quiet in the room.
Turns out, that's not even close to what really happened. And that's not even close to what Colin Powell said.
It was actually the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 26, 2003. And The United States Secretary Of State was forced to convince the world that a Hitler protege of the new millenium was actually dangerous.
He wasn't trying to sell life insurance, he was trying to explain that the importance of an international consensus against a Genocidal Maniac was instinctual.
From the link above-
In a question-and-answer session afterwards (during which the phrase "empire building" was never mentioned, incidentally), the secretary of state was asked by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey if he felt the U.S and its allies had given due consideration to the use of "soft power" — promulgating moral and democratic values as a means of achieving progress towards international peace and stability, basically — versus the "hard power" of military force.
Here, in part, is how Colin Powell actually responded to Carey's question:
There is nothing in American experience or in American political life or in our culture that suggests we want to use hard power. But what we have found over the decades is that unless you do have hard power — and here I think you're referring to military power — then sometimes you are faced with situations that you can't deal with.
I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.
So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world. [Applause.]
We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.
It wasn't the first time Colin Powell had used the figure of speech. During an "MTV Global Discussion" on February 14, 2002, he was asked how he felt representing a country commonly perceived as "the Satan of contemporary politics." Here is the relevant part of his reply:
[F]ar from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.
And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, "Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us"? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.
Funny thing about the article, is that the phrase "the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead" wasn't actually spoken at the World Economic Forum (where they probably had a diplomatic spread worthy of King Tut). Actually, it was on MTV.
And so here another American generation stands, taking on yet another new version of international oppression, fascism, tyranny and injustice. And yet again this generation of American decides to risk their lives for the benefit of the rest of the world. Willingly and Fearlessly.
I am permanently indebted to those who gave their lives so that I may live in a land that is free.
This weekend, we celebrate their lives.
Naturally, someone will try and fuck it up. I was thinking of something along the lines of this asshole, you know what I mean.
This weekend, at some point, salute the Freedom Makers.
Happy Memorial Day.....we don't want your oil, just a place to bury the dead.
Update: Bill at INDC Journal links to this stunning and moving interactive feature highlighting the stories of WWII veterans. Yet more stories of brave Americans making the world safe for us and the rest of the world. These are the stories of our country that more of us need to remember. Attention the rest of the world: these are the REAL Americans.....Michael Moore and friends DO NOT speak for us.