The American Empire
and Its Eventual Demise
The United States has had an empire for
a long time. Despite all the public
relations, empires exist only to benefit the rulers. Chalmers Johnson presents evidence for his
conclusions in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. The American Empire has 5 global military
commands, more than one million women and men on four continents, has a carrier
battle group in each ocean, guarantees the survival of regimes in Iraq, South
Korea and Israel and dominates the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund
and the World Trade Organization.
The US Defense Department’s 2005 Base
Structure Report shows 737 military bases in foreign countries. With no given reason, the Report omits bases
in Kosovo, Afghanistan,
Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan,
Qatar and Uzbekistan.
Forty percent of the defense
budget and the entire intelligence budget are secret to all but a handful of
sympathetic congressmen. The result is
an out of-control military complex with intelligence agencies controlled
exclusively by the President.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s
enabling legislation did not list clandestine or covert activities that became
the CIA’s main activity. Senator Frank
Church’s described “covert action” as a “semantic disguise for murder,
coercion, blackmail, bribery, the spreading of lies, and consorting with known
torturers and international terrorists.”
The CIA clandestine operations have worked to manipulate or undermine
democratic governments. Its operations
were essential in overthrowing democratic governments in Iran (1953), Guatemala
(1954) and Chile
The CIA has been defective in
gathering intelligence. My feeling is
that the CIA purposely inflated the military and economic might of the old
Soviet Union to justify their expanded budget along that of the US armed
forces. In 1989, I was reading about the
obvious deterioration of the Soviet Army in the German news magazine Der
Spiegel. The American media was totally
oblivious of this development. During
the Reagan administration, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger stated that the Soviet Union had massive underground shelters ready to
protect their citizens in a nuclear war.
This was part of an effort to justify massive spending for a US Star
Wars program. The underground shelters
were probably all Soviet propaganda with no basis in fact. No one has even seen these shelters.
In 2003, the US intelligence agencies did not have a single
agent in Iraq. Rather they relied on information from con
men like Ahmad Chalabi. Critics have noted the notorious deficiency of having
field agents over many decades.
States has exempted itself from international laws in Iraq and our
political and military leaders are liable for war crimes. Article 54 (2) of the Protocol Additional to
the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, relating to the Protection of
Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1) states, “It is prohibited
to attack, destroy, remove or render useless
objects indispensable to the survival of
the civilian population, such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the
production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and
supplies, irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their
sustenance value to the civilian population or the adverse Party, whatever the
motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, or cause them to move away,
or for any other motive.” During the
Gulf War of 1991, the United
States purposely destroyed the civilian
infrastructure, including 18 of 20 electricity-generating plants, water-pumping
and sanitation systems which caused the outbreak of disease and high rates of
The embargo imposed on Iraq after the
Gulf War was one of the most comprehensive in history. It prohibited chorine imports that would
purify the water supply. Among numerous
items that the United States prohibited from entering Iraq in the winter of
2001 were dialysis, dental and firefighting equipment, water tankers, milk and
yogurt production equipment, and printing machines for schools.
All empires state that the people
they control are getting a good deal.
The Bush administration maintained that the US
was bringing democracy to Iraq. Imperialists have always stated a higher
purpose to their actions – divine right, racial superiority, manifest destiny,
bringing Christianity or a ”civilizing mission’ to mask barbarous behavior in
other countries. Most of these defenses
have been out of fashion for a long time. Modern day imperialists tout the benefits of
globalization, free trade, the rule of (foreign) law, liberation from a local
tyranny or democracy that are code words for exploitation of poor countries.
Almost all the countries under
imperialistic rule in the 19th and 20th centuries
remained “poor, disease- and crime-ridden, and at the mercy of a rigged
international trading system” that was supposed to work to everyone’s
advantage. Between 1747 and 1947, India’s per
capita income was flat. In the second
half of Queen Victoria’s
reign, British misrule brought on famines and plagues that took the lives of 30
to 50 million Indians.
The British have been successful
that they were totally different from the French, Belgians, Dutch, Japanese,
Germans and Russians. Those who read
novels or watch the television series Masterpiece Theater have the idea
that they were “decent chaps”. The
Kenyans would be surprised at this image.
When they rebelled against ruthless land seizures by British settlers,
the British detained, tortured, sodomized, castrated and executed thousands. Imperialists’ defenders do not research the
feelings of those ruled.
Chalmers Johnson sees a solution:
“A grassroots movement to abolish the CIA, break the hold of the
military-industrial complex, and establish public financing of elections.” Due to corporate control of the media and the
difficulties of organizing a large diffuse population, he does not think this
The United States’ efforts to maintain
an empire has diminished its domestic democracy eventually resulting in a
military dictatorship or a softer, gentler civilian equivalent. What the Reichstag fire was to Nazi Germany,
the 9/11 event was to the Bush Administration.
Johnson believes that “…the
combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, military
Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have destroyed our republican
structure in favor of an imperial presidency.”
All previous empires have collapsed because of hubris and
overstretch. Ours is no exception.
Ed O’Rourke is an environmental accountant in Houston.