21st Century Empires

Jenny Marsh—06/2005
In its conquest of the Middle East, the American Empire is not only spilling blood in desert sands, but in the process it is destroying the hearts and minds of the American people.

ON 20th MARCH 2003, the United States and the United Kingdom illegally invaded the sovereign state of Iraq on the back of false allegations concerning its involvement with 9/11 and its stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, weapons that presented a direct threat to Western countries. In fact, they were following a plan drawn up long before 9/11 to extend and strengthen US control over dwindling global resources. This plan was originally conceived by neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, and was speedily implemented by hijacking the terrible tragedy of 9/11 and using it as a new Pearl Harbour to allow the US to pursue unilateral expansion and control — in other words, empire building.

In the first month of the Iraqi invasion, over 30,000 bombs and missiles were dropped in a strategy of bludgeoning the country to bloody submission — a strategy proudly labelled "shock and awe" by the Pentagon, and one that has been responsible for the huge civilian death toll estimated at over 100,000 by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. This death toll was entirely deliberate, an attempt to break the Iraqi will and to reinforce to the world to American military might.

Since that invasion, over 43,000 mostly Iraqi people have been arrested, many of which have been beaten, tortured and humiliated by a US army lacking morality and constraint (do any hired killers have morality?), with only 600 of the 43,000 referred to the Iraqi authorities for prosecution. Torture camps have been openly set up by the United States in Iraq and in Cuba, and over twelve thousand of prisoners, some of them US and UK citizens, have been detained without legal counsel. No exaggeration: the situation in Iraq can be described as a crime against humanity, which has seen a murderous program implemented with torture and imprisonment without trial, ironically, by the self-appointed banner-wavers and global enforcers of freedom and democracy — the United States of America.

Whilst few outside the United States ever believed the "pack of lies" (Galloway's description) used to justify the US call for invasion — most Americans, stupefied by a heady mix of blind patriotism and a government propaganda-saturated media, decided to put their trust in their bovine president and his raptor advisors. Britney Spears summed up public opinion in November 2003 when she said, "I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that."

But the lies the Bush and Blair administrations had used to legitimize the invasion started to crumble — weapons of mass destruction were not found and any 9/11 involvement was shown to be completely baseless (as it always was). As this happened, these administrations quietly shifted to regime-change as moral justification for the invasion. The problem is that regime-change is not a justification to invade a sovereign state and is illegal under international law, described at the Nuremburg Trials as "the gravest of war crimes". But international law (Article 51) is hardly of concern when you are the only superpower remaining in the world, and so we have a situation whereby the whole world knows that a terrible crime has been committed, but nobody is strong enough to bring the mass murderer to justice. (In fact, as the US is the self-appointed global police, the situation is akin to trying to bring a murderer to justice when it is the police force itself that perpetrated the crime.)

Publicly, Bush and Blair presented this tragedy as a mistake of intelligence: they had merely acted in good faith on poor intelligence. However, even this justification, like all that have stood before it, has been proved false, something most of us with access to independent media suspected all along. But it was never proved until The Sunday Times in London uncovered some government memos — principal amongst them the "Downing Street Memo" — which clearly and unequivocally states that, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the propaganda myth of terrorism and WMD. The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." This admission that the intelligence was being manufactured to remove Saddam was from the top secret minutes of a meeting between Tony Blair and senior government and intelligence officials eight months before the invasion of Iraq. And evidence does not come more direct than that.

So the weapons of mass destruction fiasco wasn't an intelligence failure, it was a political and propaganda success. A huge success. Politicians and their spin-doctors had to work extremely hard to edit the intelligence so that it supported invasion, and then to try to present it convincingly to the American people and to the United Nations. This is confirmed by Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who was working in the Pentagon at the time and has since blown the whistle on how the Bush administration was distorting intelligence reports to suit its own political goals. And the American people and other political parties fell for it — hook, line and sinker. Bush manufactured the domestic support he needed to illegally invade the sovereign state of Iraq and set up a series of strategically placed military bases that he has no intention of giving up anytime in the near future.

If you were outside the US, your media coverage would have been quite emphatic right from the start that the Bush and Blair governments had contrived intelligence reports to support their invasion plans. If you were unfortunate enough to be inside the US and therefore subject to its huge propaganda mill, you would probably have given the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt, as Britney Spears did, in its use of intelligence before the war and its vow to use military action only as a very last resort.

So both leaders intentionally mislead their countries into armed conflict which directly resulted in the violent murder of over 100,000 Iraqi civilian men, women and children, over two thousand American service men and women, and the maiming of countless thousands on both sides. Nobody said that empire building is bloodless, but what is most remarkable is that this catastrophe seems to have been supported by the voting populations of the US and the UK who voted back the very leaders responsible. This gave a clear sanction to the contempt of international law and the mass murder of foreign nationals. It is absolutely shame-making for the US and the UK citizens to have re-elected governments directly responsible for these terrible war crimes.

At least in the US, there was a major propaganda campaign being waged on the population that manipulated public perception. The US people were sold the conflict on the back of mawkish patriotism and a huge propaganda campaign that presented the war as exciting entertainment and revenge for 9/11 (although Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with Al Qaeda — something even Bush eventually admitted).

The same, however, cannot be said for Britain which has a more diverse media than the US. Blair's support for Bush may have lost him much public support, but not enough to loose him an election against a much weaker Conservative opponent (the Conservatives like the Democrats supported the war). A few weeks before the invasion, London witnessed one of the largest anti-war demonstrations in modern times — it seemed that the whole country turned out to reject the Iraqi invasion. But when even the will of nearly two million people was not enough to stop a Prime Minister's infatuation with Washington power, a new cynicism was born in British politics as the people realized that modern "democratic" government has little regard for their will and desires. Even so, there is absolutely no excuse for re-electing a mass-murderer. To do so, as this country did, was absolutely shameful.

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We live in the age of the American Empire. And like every empire before it, this one is being pushed to grow as fast as it can — for empires are like cancers, if they stop growing, they end up imploding. The American Empire started at the end of World War II, which was the last nail in the coffin of the old British Empire. Whilst the Soviet Empire, which started at around same time as the American Empire, was unable to sustain itself economically, the American Empire went from strength to strength because the United States could afford to finance it — just.

The problem with building an empire in the 21st Century is that you have to do it right out in the open — in the full glare of a world stage under the scrutiny of a 21 st Century media. Of course, you may not care what the world thinks of you, especially if you are top-dog, but if you are ostensibly a democracy, you certainly care what your own people think of you — you have to at least appear not to act too imperially. For this reason, "democratic" empires rely on the heavy use of propaganda to maintain domestic support, and an obedient mass-media to disseminate that propaganda with maximum distortion from the truth.

Therefore, the battle-front for the American Empire is not the Middle East where the physical bombs are dropping, but the hearts and minds of the American people. It is here that we find the roots of the terrible violence and mass-murder that is taking place a world apart in the hot desert sands. The Iraqi war was one fought within the borders of the US: the army was the mass-media corporations; their weapons were the television screen and the newspaper; the generals were the media moguls, and behind them, the Bush Chickenhawk Junta.

The beliefs of the voting-majority of Americans, therefore, have as much to do with global destiny as it does with US national politics, because the US is the current military superpower with an invasive foreign policy. The irony is that whilst American opinion affects the world, the majority of individuals having those opinions is notoriously insular — only a small percentage carries passports and most regard the rest of the world as heathen backwaters. (This position is entirely understandable because America has the greatest wealth per capita of almost any other country, is the progenitor of Western modern culture, and shares its language with only a few other "Americanized" nations.) The result is public support for an American foreign policy that is notoriously undiplomatic, insensitive and bullish, from the perspective of the rest of the world. In recent years this foreign policy is becoming more and more imperialist, as America pushes to extend its military and economic control over the rest of the world in an attempt to shore up its top dog status (and oil supplies) in a world were new economic superpowers are on the horizon — China and possibly the EU.

The problem with the American government acting in an increasingly imperial and unilateral manner in its foreign (and domestic) policies is that this requires an equal and opposite brainwashing of its voters to support these policies. So war, which from any sane and civilized perspective can only ever be a terrible last resort, becomes exciting entertainment — the ultimate reality TV show. Of course, anything bringing too much reality to such a show — pictures of children blown to pieces and pools of blood staining the sand — is carefully edited out to maintain a dangerous fantasy. At the same time, a climate of fear, bigotry and blind patriotism is carefully cultivated to close the hearts of the American people — for no human being connected to his or her heart could ever support the murderous crimes that have taken place in Iraq over the past decade.

Only an increasingly barbarous people will support increasingly barbarous government policy, and the US mass-media worked overtime on a two-pronged approach of barbarization and insulation. This deadly combination gives sanction to the shameful deeds of the American Empire. But at least this empire will not last forever, for US military might comes at a great price: military spending has skyrocketed under George Bush with the result that the US deficit is now almost 8 trillion dollars and climbing rapidly — an amount that even the United States will not be able to sustain for long. When the money runs out and the deficit loan starts needing repayment, the US Empire will go the way of all empires.

In the meantime, when the dust settles from the Iraq invasion, Iraq will supply the world with a new generation of angry religious fanatics — many more than Afghanistan did a few decades earlier — and America will try to continue building its empire, military base after military base, selling the world an American Dream that in all but name is an American Nightmare, peddled by a people turned to stone by the mass-media propaganda mills that have desensitized and dehumanized them. And so we all continue to suffer the consequences of war, until sooner or later we come to the age-old realization that in war there are never victors — just losers — in a perpetual cycle of violence, ignorance and revenge.

To break this cycle we have to have the courage to lay aside our fervent patriotism, elitism, righteousness and greed, and open ourselves up to the pain and suffering our political choices have created: in our own hearts, in our communities and in countries far away. And if being human means that we are branded by ignorant fools as "un-American" or "unpatriotic", than that is a label we have a duty to bear because the consequences of supporting current US government policy is death — death to the American soul, death to its soldiers and death to many hundreds of thousands of people like you and me in other countries. Where is the patriotism and Americanism in that? Only persistent humanity can destroy an empire — Gandhi demonstrated that — and it is to our humanity that each of us is being called during this challenging time.



Update: On the 7th July 2005 there were some terrible bomb explosions here in London. Over 50 people have been killed and more than 700 injured. This is blow-back from the UK's part played in the unprovoked invasion of Iraq on false pretexts, the murder of a hundred thousand of its innocent civilians, the abuse of the Arab people and the theft of its resources. You cannot invade another country and murder so many of its people without suffering dire consequences. Bush and Blair have made the world a far more dangerous place, there is no doubt about it. And this is deliberate: imbecilic presidents such as Bush can only remain in office in a war situation where the people foolishly herd together to support their government in times of crisis, so it is in his interest to provoke perpetual war against "terrorists". For a fuller reaction to the London bombing, click here.