Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Impotent Empire

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Two wars against Iraq have not brought democracy, freedom or security to the people. Yet --both wars may have accomplished what their most vociferous advocates had hoped, that is, the enrichment of the US 'ruling elite' of just one percent of the total population, the US oligarchy. The peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer still under an imperial yoke! Terrorism --a transparent 'cover' --was not unaffected! In fact, terrorism is always worse under GOP regimes, as if by design. [See also: Why the CIA is the World's Number One Terrorist Organization]
It was part of a historic pattern in US foreign policy to tell the American people that war was necessary to defend the United States against a threat, or to bring liberty and democracy to other countries, while the real motives for war - the profits of corporations, the control of vital raw materials, the expansion of the US empire - were concealed.

--Howard Zinn, The Unraveling of the Bush Presidency
According to Zinn, The fall of the American empire may be more precipitous than that of Rome which, in retrospect seems to have taken place in slow motion. A date of 478, the date the last 'emperor' was driven from the throne, is often said to have been the official fall. But it was a long process and it is conceivable that it was little noticed at the time. It was not an electronic age.

At home, the US PATRIOT Act granted sweeping state powers to intercept communications and conduct searches without warrants! The right wing monopoly media never bothers to ask: how does one wage war for freedom abroad while subverting it at home? How does a dictatorship bring 'freedom' to conquered peoples?

During the Bush regime, Dick Cheney lobbied the Senate to defeat a bill that would have banned torture. He succeeded! In 2006, Congress passed and sent to Bush a bill that allows the CIA to continue torturing people 'suspected' of being terrorist. The practice is conducted in an American gulag of secret CIA prisons abroad.

Citizens living within the US were no better off. The bill --unconstitutionally --ended the right of habeas corpus for anyone, including US citizens, whom the President or the secretary of defense may deem to be `unlawful enemy combatants'.

In 2006 Congress passed a military budget of $500 billion and arms and oil firms got huge profits, while education and medical care were cut. Chief Executive Officers got 400 times the wage of the average worker, while the minimum wage stayed where it was ten years ago, at $5.15 an hour.

As this blog has pointed out: terrorism is always worse Under GOP regimes. Zinn characterizes American foreign policy in a phrase: "an old way of thinking!". Zinn is right to term it a 'destructive script' repeated at Wounded Knee, the invasion of Cuba, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Central American nations such as El Salvador and Nicaragua. According to the US State Department, the US intervened militarily 103 times in foreign countries between 1798 and 1895. Zinn also connects "internal" imperialism with the "external" variety in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and at home, the position of the globe's "sole superpower" is visibly fraying. The country that was once proclaimed an "empire lite" has proven increasingly light-headed. The country once hailed as a power greater than that of imperial Rome or imperial Britain, a dominating force beyond anything ever seen on the planet, now can't seem to make a move in its own interest that isn't a disaster. The Iraq government's recent offensive in Basra is but the latest example with -- we can be sure -- more to come. ... It's called A People's History of American Empire. It's a gem and it's being published today.

--Tomgram: Howard Zinn, The End of Empire?
In the twilight of the Roman Empire, the Emperor Valens could not raise an army. The battle of Adrianople was fought between barbarians for and against Rome! The US, most noticeably under Bush Jr, recruited among those who are consistently 'left behind' by GOP regimes. These people are found throughout a GOP waste-land economy.

The real 'dirty work' is outsourced to mercenaries --just like Rome! There is a 'living' in 'killing' as Blackwater will testify, hopefully, at the war crimes trial of US war criminals.

Many writers blame the rise of Christianity for the fall of Rome. Many found it impossible to render unto both Caesar and God. Cultism was as rampant throughout the latter empire as wingnuts in America. 'Christians' were one of many strange cults and still are, stranger still in the US specifically. All are symptomatic of needs not met by empire.

Nothing has changed. It is a subtle argument that Rome did not fall but was supplanted from within and yet survives in the form of the Roman Catholic Church.

The many who saw in Bush the new Richard Coeur de Lion may still be suffering from the shock as well as the humiliation this would-be 'Richard' has brought upon America. So humiliating his downfall, the GOP did not even bother to steal the election for McCain. Better to let Obama preside over what may be this 'empire's' inevitable fall!

Gore Vidal dates the end of the American empire to a time during the Reagan administration when the US became a net debtor nation. But for a brief turnaround under Clinton, the tend lines begun with Reagan resumed and, as a result, we have become a vassal state of China which boasts the world's largest positive current account balance; the US is on bottom with the world's largest negative current account balance. [Source: the CIA's 'World Fact Book'] Even so, America is a different case. Unlike Rome, the US rise to empire was rapid, the result of allied victory in WWII. Unlike the slow fall of Rome, our fall will be as rapid as was our rise to power and global prominance. Gore Vidal believes our fall was begun the day the US became a net debtor nation and that, I believe, occurred in the RR administration. By that criterion, we are like hold-outs in Rome, living among the shadows of ruins.

The American empire began with two acts of needless savagery which equal or surpass even the genocide of the Native American, and that is, the dropping of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The lives of some 200,000 civilians were taken in a flash because imperial Washington wanted to make a point!

But what point? The surrender terms offered before the nukes were dropped are verbatim those signed later on the Battleship Missouri. For what noble principle were the lives of some 200,000 civilians sacrificed?
Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-born scientist who played a major role in the development of the atomic bomb, argued against its use. "Japan was essentially defeated," he said, and "it would be wrong to attack its cities with atomic bombs as if atomic bombs were simply another military weapon." In a 1960 magazine article, Szilard wrote: "If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them."

--Mark Weber, Was Hiroshima Necessary?
It's never too late to do the right thing!

Gibbon, in his monumental 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' identified major developments leading to the fall of empire, most prominently a 'loss of civic virtue' and a series of disastrous barbarian incursions.

The 'Praetorian Guard' assumed power. And, if history is any guide, we should not be surprised if our own Military/Industrial complex, already the 'enforcement arm' of the nation's ruling elite of just one percent of the total population, should decide to cut out the middle man. Should this happen, the office of 'President' may remain but 'appointed' by the Pentagon as Roman Emperors were 'selected' by the Praetorian Guard.

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