Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Gore Vidal dated the fall of the American republic and the subsequent rise of the American empire to February 27, 1947.
Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national-security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold, and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27. 1947. Place: White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, a handful of congressional leaders. Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that he could have his militarized economy only if he first "scared the hell out of the ,American people" that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged. The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by, and for the people is now a faded memory.

- Gore Vidal, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How we got to be so hated

Since that time by Gore's reckoning, the US has been an empire, a "national security state". Though the Constitution stipulates that only Congress can declare war, that provision has been conveniently ignored by every President since Harry Truman. The National Security Act created the CIA and other covert agencies in the executive branch. The measure was said to be necessary to counter a growing Soviet threat, though the Soviet Union had been all but destroyed by World War II. It was the start of the long, destructive cold war. It was the start of a hoax still perpetrated upon the American people.

Since that time, the US has intervened aggressively in every part of the world. Some 90% of all federal disbursements go to what is euphemistically called defense. The language itself has gone soft and imprecise. The right wing has gotten away with demonizing the noble word "liberal" from the Latin "liberalis", pertaining to a free person. Corporations control the government and public opinion via an increasingly corporate, increasingly concentrated "mass media" - the official means by which a ruling establishment, a mere one percent of the population, tells the rest of us what to think. Here's the worst of it: in 1991, 37% of federal revenues (taxes) came from individuals and only 8% from corporations. But corporations are treated as if they were persons.

Things have only gotten worse under Bush, a demagogue like many another wannabe who would exploit the corrupt status quo to elevate himself to dictator. Sadly, we won't know what the final figures will be until its too late to do anything about it.


Vidal's ideas, so succinct in his slim little pamphlet entitled The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, inspired William F. Buckley to threaten Vidal with typical right wing violence. It took place on television, in full view of the world. It jump started the famous feud between Buckley and Vidal and most certainly defined the vehemence and the substance of right/left debate in America.




What about living standards in the USA?
Eighty percent of Americans have been falling behind since 1973. That is the date they usually cite for the oil crisis. Nowadays a husband and wife make less money than the husband alone made at that time. On the other hand, some people have become fabulously rich. One percent owns everything - like the CEOs who now seem to be queuing up to go to gaol! Under them there is a further twenty percent who support the Empire. These are the lawyers, the journalists, politicians and bankers and so on. The one percent hires the twenty percent.

- Gore Vidal, The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

How do the Bushies continue to get away with mass murder in Iraq, possibly at home?
"Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find that, as force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments as well as to the most free and most popular."

David Hume, 1758, "Of the First Principles of Government"

Is it surprising then that the current ruling cabal and the GOP in general have waged war on the American working class at least since the ascension of Ronald Reagan? Briefly: since Ronald Reagan's infamous tax cut of 1982, the rich have gotten much, much richer and the poor have gotten much, much poorer. Over this period of time, only the upper quintile has prospered. Everyone else has lost ground. Of the upper quintile, only an increasingly smaller percentage prosper by any standard measurement.

This was by design, sold to the American public as supply side ecnomics, in reality "trickle down" theory. Wealth did not trickle down.

How modern sound the Vidal/Buckley debates! How little has changed! Now as then, a war rages as a right wing, reactionary administration impugns the patriotism of those who dare dissent. How omnipresent are the sixties -an era that defined the current debate! If there is a difference between Nixon's prosecution of Viet Nam and Bush's prosecution of Iraq it is only this: "we" thought we could change things and got tear gassed in Chicago, shot at Kent State for our efforts.

Today few try because few believe that anyone can make a difference. Having given up protest and activism, we have found nothing to replace them and, if we cannot, we are sorely fucked! Bush will have won and not only the people of Iraq will be enslaved, but also the people of the United States. If we are not already.


If God is on our side, it is hard to imagine how Satan treats the rest of the world.

Some assorted news items from the Bush police state:

U.S. Military Handbook Labels Media "A Threat"

A new U.S. military handbook officially states alongside Al Qaeda, computer hackers, drug cartels, warlords and militias. The handbook was published by the Army's 1st Information Operations Command. The Army has also placed new emails by soldiers. Soldiers sending emails or posting items on blogs must now first clear the content with a superior officer. Many believe the rules will likely result in the end of all military blogging.

Banned by Army: Folk Singer Joan Baez Can't Sing to Wounded Soldiers at Walter Reed
The Army has denied legendary folk singer and antiwar activist Joan Baez permission to sing at a concert for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. We speak with Baez at her home in Palo Alto. [includes rush transcript]

JOAN BAEZ: When I got back from touring in Europe, which is why I didn't know anything any sooner, my manager called and said that I had been invited by John Mellencamp to be a guest at his concert at Walter Reed Hospital. And my response was just kind of intuitive or instinctive, the way my responses usually are, and I said yes, and later on thought about why I had said yes, because I usually am sort of very -- run very shy of “singing to the troops.” But I realized that singing to the troops during a war, what I call a Bob Hope syndrome, is really condoning the war, and I’ve always had an aversion to the idea of singing to some kid who’s going to go out and get his brains blown out the next day. I feel as though I should have been sitting there pleading with him to go home.

However, when they got home, either they, I mean, a lot of times received a hostile reception, and for the most part just were ignored, and I think we are still seeing the results of their pain. And so, I thought, well, you know, this is one small way to show a welcome before the fact.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you agreed. Now, these are people -- at Walter Reed, these are people have come home wounded.

JOAN BAEZ: That is correct.

AMY GOODMAN: So you agreed.

JOAN BAEZ: Yeah. And then -- so, I guess, Mark, my manager and Mellencamp's manager began talking on the phone, because probably the greatest red tape in the history of the world would be the military, but it seemed to be developing in a positive way. So -- and then Mark would check with me, and he said, “Are you still on for this?” And I’d say yes. And this went on for, what, a month? And there was, I think, five days, about five days before the concert, and I was -- I did have a flight booked and a hotel booked and the final agreement, yes. Maybe four days before the concert, then I was told that I was not approved.

AMY GOODMAN: For what reason, were you told? What were you given as the reason?

JOAN BAEZ: Well, not -- I mean, all I know -- and it was Mellencamp's manager who did all the talking. He went there and talked face-to-face to somebody. I don't know whom. And he could not get an answer that made any sense to him from anybody. So all they could say was that I wasn't approved.

- Democracy Now

An extra:


Additional resources:
Now here's an update from Austin, TX in reply to Fuzzflash's excellent comment in which he used the phrase "got a job but not a life". It might have made the perfect country and western song, if Steve Goodman and David Allan Coe had not beat him to it. But that's not Fuzz's fault. There is always another song to be written:


Now...if you think that is over the top, then you ain't ever been to Texas.


As promised in the comments section, I have found a video clip featuring Merle Haggard with members of the Bob Wills' old Texas Playboys. Enjoy. It's hard to find music this good these days. This stuff swings.


The 'Cowboy' on FacebookMedia Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership, Global Issues, Updated: January 02, 2009

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