The Evil Empire

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Evil Empire

I'm joking! We're not evil. We're the good guys. Seriously, I just don't think in terms of good and evil. The American empire is what it is. To proclaim it good or evil is a bit naive. I see a lot of hope in this country. We have the right ideals, we just need to practice them. We could truly be an amazing force for democracy in the world. But first we'd have to develop our democratic forms into a truly participatory democracy. Like Henry Ford always said, "You can't export something you don't have" (OK, I just made that up).

The main point of focusing on our empire is to raise the question, "Why is such an elementary fact not more well known?" In the last post I shared a relatively recent quote from Donald Rumsfeld. He was asked by Al Jazeera if the United States was building an empire. His response:

"We don't seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been."

I'm probably beating a dead horse here, but it's a key point. The fact that Mr. Rumsfeld is lying is not an issue. Public officials often fabricate, distort or otherwise manipulate reality. The really crucial thing is that he has the courage to say something that is so patently false. He knows he has nothing to fear. The mainstream media, the corporate media would never call him on this lie. Imagine Mr. Rumsfeld proclaiming that the United States is a communist country bent on the elimination of private property and the destruction of capitalism. This isn't a WMD type of lie. At the time he's telling those lies there is some credibility. People don't know for sure he's lying about WMD until later. Denying our imperialistic tendencies through international press coverage is a lie aimed at an internal audience. If you live in one of the 136 countries around the world that has a U.S. military troop presence, you'd laugh in Rumsfeld's face.

Of course it's an empire. It's been an empire from the very beginning. But since the second world war, the United States emerged as the premier superpower in the world. We quickly set out to remake the world order to our liking. It's hard to even fathom the vastness of this empire.

The extent of the U.S. global empire is almost incalculable. The latest "Base Structure Report" of the Department of Defense states that the Department’s physical assets consist of "more than 600,000 individual buildings and structures, at more than 6,000 locations, on more than 30 million acres."

Although most of these locations are in the continental United States, 96 of them are in U.S. territories around the globe, and 702 of them are in foreign countries. But as Chalmers Johnson has documented, the figure of 702 foreign military installations is too low, for it does not include installations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan. Johnson estimates that an honest count would be closer to 1,000.

Yeah but how does that impact our lives? Out of sight, out of mind.

Let me remind you all: it is our imperialistic actions in the Middle East that have drawn the anger of Osama Bin Laden, Al Quaida and much of the Muslim World:

What America is tasting now is something insignificant compard to what we have tasted for scores of years. Our nation (the Islamic World) has been tasting this humiliation and degradation for more than 80 years. Its sons are killed, its blood is shed, its sanctuaries are attacked and no one hears and no one heeds. Millions of innocent children are being killed as I speak. They are being killed in Iraq without committing any sins….To America, I say only a few words to it and its people. I swear to God, who has elevated the skies without pillars, neither America nor the people who live in it will dream of security before we live it here in Palestine and not before all the infidel armies leave the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him."–Osama Bin Laden October 7, 2001

Specifically it was our troop presence in Saudi Arabia, which contains the most holy of Muslim geography: Mecca and Medina, or M&Ms as we like to call them. We're still in Saudi Arabia. We're in Iraq, of course. We're also in Israel, which of course is an endorsement of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. The United Arab Emirates, Syria, Egypt , Kuwait, Jordan, Indonesia, Qatar, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan completes the list of Muslim countries we currently have a troop presence and/or bases in.

Now I'm not suggesting for a moment that we bow to the whims of every thug that comes our way, but what if they're right? What right did we have to overthrow the prime minister of Iraq in a CIA backed coup in February of 1963? Saddam Hussein was trained and financed by the CIA. The brutal and oppressive Saudi monarchy is propped up by U.S. taxpayers. It's simply insane to complain about the current state of the Middle East when we've had such a huge hand in creating the whole mess.

In 1953, The CIA overthrew the government of Iran. The coup ousted popular Prime Minister Mohammed Mosedeq and installed the Shah as head of state. Mosedeq had nationalized the oil industry which had been controlled by the British. The CIA paid members of the Iranian military and marchers to support the Shah. News of the coup, and the crackdown on democratic freedoms by the Shah, and British and American intelligence led to the Islamic revolution and hostage crisis in 1979.

Once you realize just how culpable we are in the creating the situations in the Middle East, you have to begin to question the very notion that we might be the ones to fix things. People talk about the war in terms of four years. But when you consider that we've been intervening in Iraq for well over forty years, isn't it time to let someone else have a try? Haven't we screwed things up enough as it is?

This is our brutal legacy around the world. Is this OK with you? The "if it wasn't us it would be someone else" argument just falls flat when you start to think of all the millions of dead people that lay in the wake of this massive empire. Real popular movements toward democracy crushed in the name of greed and exploitation.

The exploitation of cheap labor by large multi-national corporations is another part of this brutal puzzle. Something I will look at more in subsequent posts.

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 10:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

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