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.


Tor Hershman said...

"Two wars against Iraq have not brought democracy, freedom or security to the people:" the people there or here.

Stay on groovin' safari,

Realist said...

Just to set the record straight, Len, the USS Arizona was sitting in the Pearl Harbor mud when the Japanese signed the surrender instruments on the deck of the USS Missouri - now docked near the Arizona at Pearl.

Len Hart said...

Re: "Stay on groovin' safari,"

Thanks for your kind comment. Keep up the great work. I am still convinced that the voice of sanity can overcome the madness that has most certainly overtaken the US government, it's business community and, most tragically, a huge chunk of a duped population who should have known better.

Keep spreading the word. The recent 'tea bagger' movement, I am convinced, is NOT a people's movement. This is a TOP DOWN, focus group approved, right wing STUNT. But it has no legs based as it is upon a pack of malicious lies, propaganda, focus group approved 'talking points', buzzwords and bullshit!

Down withe the RULING ELITE ad DOWN WITH THE GOP who represents ONLY them.

Len Hart said...

Realist sez...

Just to set the record straight, Len, the USS Arizona was sitting in the Pearl Harbor mud when the Japanese signed the surrender instruments on the deck of the USS Missouri

Of course, you are correct! My bad! The correction has been made to the body copy. Thanks for heads up!

Anonymous said...

There are a number of people,(myself among them), believing that the murder of JFK was the moment the Praetorian Guard felt they had the controls well in hand.
"Landslide Lyndon" was a good friend to Brown and Root Construction, this association would be most lucrative in the flood of defense dollars to come from Viet-Nam.
I do believe that LBJ wanted to finish the work of FDR, he did not see the measure of warfare which would be foisted upon the nation. I believe he thought he could out smart the MIC, as he had out smarted so many of his opponents in the past.
He may have been complicit in the coup, thinking that to be alive was enough to gain an edge and recoup his liberal dreams.
Or it may have all been bs, and he knew it.
In any event, the state is now under the domination of a bunch of evil psychotics, people who foment stupidity and fear as a means to keep the mob at one another's throats.
While the Important People go about the business of business.
Keep it up, Cowboy, good stuff.
Donald L. Smith

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Len, the war against Japan was far, far, far from decided before the Nagasaki & Hiroshima bombs were dropped. The vast majority of US fliers, seamen, and soldiers assigned to bomb & invade Japan (conventionally) before the A-bombs were dropped were quite convinced that they were on a one-way suicide mission, as the Iwo Jima and Okinawa battles had had such horrific tolls - I defy you to find a single article written by a US GI in the Pacific who thought the war was over before the A-bombs delivered their deliverance.
In fact, the Red Army was steamrolling over the Japanese army in Manchuria, and the US firebombing missions would have continued against FAR MORE JAPANESE CITIES. Just read up on the Emperor's peace declaration AFTER the TWO a-bombs... Hirohito's Imperial Staff had to fend off coup efforts to continue the war. Had the war continued for even a couple more weeks, more Japanese cities would have been firebombed, and the Red Army would have been invited to participate in the invasion of Japan.... and the US death toll would have continued as well, especially pending a huge invasion.
Hate to ramble on here, but Navy CinC Pacific, Admiral Nimitz, was SO UPSET about the looming DEATH TOLL for US soldiers, sailors, and marines in a US invasion of Kyush, that he was in open rebellion against Army General Douglas McArthur (long derided as "blood and guts McArthur" by his men for McArthur's proclivity to always use the most aggressive plans, regardless of high cost in American lives) - the war was FAR, FAR, FAR from over in August of 1945, and I could provide REAMS of source documents to support that contention. The _a-bombs mercifully brought the war (in all its far-flung theaters, including China, Manchuria, etc.) to a speedy conclusion, KEPT the RUSSIANS OUT of any Japanase islands besides the Sakhalin islands, and saved dozens of other Japanese cities from being burned to the ground.

Len Hart said...

Jacob sez ...

...the war against Japan was far, far, far from decided before the Nagasaki 8 Hiroshim bombs were dropped.

You've misstated my position. I said that the US wanted to 'make a point'. They did and did so against a Civilian population. No one has ever made a convincing case that either Nagasaki or Hiroshima were of ANY military significance whatsoever.

I defy you to find a single article written by a US GI in the Pacific who thought the war was over before the A-bombs delivered their deliverance.

Again -- you misstate my position. Secondly, no ordinary soldier i.e, those not calling the shots at the Joint Chiefs of Staff level EVER had a say in when wars were ended and when they were not. Soldiers were and remain 'cannon fodder', proxies for politicians.

At at last, US propaganda --to this day --demonizes Hitler for his 'development' of wonders weapons with which he hope to win quick victories by using AGAINST civilian populations.

I wonder why it was WRONG for Hitler to use the Vs 1 and 2 against London but OKEY DOKEY for the US to use NUKES which in fact whiped TWO CIVLIANS POPULATIONS OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

At last, there was considerable dissent --at the time. Much of it stating --at the time --that the US would set a dangerous precedent if it insisted upon '...making a point'.

To wit:

"I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."

- Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380 "

May 28, 1945 --Hoover visited President Truman and suggested a way to end the Pacific war quickly:

"I am convinced that if you, as President, will make a shortwave broadcast to the people of Japan - tell them they can have their Emperor if they surrender, that it will not mean unconditional surrender except for the militarists - you'll get a peace in Japan - you'll have both wars over."

--Richard Norton Smith, An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, pg. 347.


"... after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Hoover wrote to Army and Navy Journal publisher Colonel John Callan O'Laughlin, "The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul."

--Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pg. 635.

Additionally --

"...the Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945...up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; ...if such leads had been followed up, there would have been NO OCCASSION to drop the [atomic] bombs."

- quoted by Barton Bernstein in Philip Nobile, ed., Judgment at the Smithsonian, pg. 142

The all caps 'emphasis' above is mine.

Clearly --the US was hell-bent on 'making a point' and did. There is no moral difference between the US use of NUKES on Japan and Hitler's use of the V-1 and the V-2 on England.

The US could have achieved surrender terms but chose, rather, to sacrifice a civilian population --a war crime, in fact --in order to 'make a point'.

Len Hart said...

Some excellent analysis re: Japans and the US use of Nukes is found at Sense of Events which cites two excellent and recent books:

There are two essential books to understand what happened and why. One is a little-known work of Japanese historians, written eight years after the bombing, Japan's Longest Day . Their focus is on the period between the Nagasaki bombing and the radio address of Emperor Hirohito in which he announced that the war had not turned in Japan's favor. The authors painstakingly document the fact that even the atomic bombings did not persuade all the Japanese high command to surrender. A coup was actually attempted by an army general, who sent troops to occupy the emperor's palace grounds, take the emperor into protective custody and seize the recordings of his statement to be broadcast. The coup failed, of course, but as Wellington had said about Waterloo, it was a close-run thing.

The second book is an award-winning book, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, by Richard B. Frank. A very comprehensive history, Frank documents the Japanese plan for defending against American invasion of the home islands, using Japanese documents and records. But his best contribution is the way he shows the context in which the Japanese bombings occurred.

Frank shows that the most destructive weapon used against Japan in 1945 was blockade, which robbed Japan of raw materials, petroleum and most vitally, food from the Asian mainland. The blockade was enforced by submarines and B-29 bombers, which laid mines throughout the Sea of Japan, concentrating on the approaches to Japan's harbors. Japan's industries were surprisingly resilient to aerial bombing but could not function when their raw materials were so successfully interdicted.