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Death of an empire

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Message Jean-Luc Basle

U.S. mainstream media focuses on domestic issues while ignoring international events. They write about Pelosi's decision to withhold the articles of impeachment, the democratic candidates to the 2020 presidential election, and Wall Street's bonuses but say little, if anything, about worrisome foreign events, such as Turkey's plan to intervene in Libya's civil war. Why should they? George W. Bush's senior political advisor, Karl Rove, is reported to have said: "We are an empire now, when we act, we create our own reality." This is typical of the way Washington's foreign policy establishment thinks today. It is delusional.

The war on terrorism is an unmitigated disaster. The concept itself is absurd. One does not fight an idea. One fights an enemy. Afghanistan, the longest war ever fought by the United States at a cost of $975 billion dollars, is proof of this absurdity. The Pentagon documents released by the Washington Post in early December dispel any illusion one might have had. Quote from Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general: "We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan ... We didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking." These documents remind us of the infamous Pentagon Papers in which the Pentagon admitted it really did not know why it was fighting in Vietnam other than for face saving reasons.

Following the March 2003 Iraq invasion to get rid of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the country is now governed by a Shiite majority culturally close to Iran. This wasn't expected but could have been anticipated considering that eighty percent of the Iraqi population is Sunni. Syria is still standing after seven years of a most destructive war, indirectly supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia. The conflict gave Russia the opportunity to reenter the Middle East theater from which it had been excluded for many decades. Again, this could have been anticipated since Russia has a naval base in Syria. Economic sanctions failed to sway the Iranians from ousting the mullahs. The cruise missile attacks on two Saudi oil facilities on September 18th, attributed to Iran, underline Saudi Arabia's vulnerability and irrelevance of the 1945 Roosevelt-King Saud Quincy Pact.

Besides its human and financial costs, the war on terrorism is producing unexpected and potentially disastrous blowbacks. Turkey is buying the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system despite objections from Washington. Tayyip Erdogan, its president, announced he will send troops to Libya in support of the Government of National Accord and against General Khalifa Haftar's forces. In short, Turkey, a NATO member, is pursuing its own policy in the Empire's backyard. Iran is conducting a four-day naval exercise with Russia and China, demonstrating that the United States' attempt at isolating it, is failing. Concomitantly, the United States is antagonizing its European allies. The Senate voted a law imposing sanctions on corporations involved in the building of North Stream II, a pipeline meant to bring Russian natural gas to Germany and other European countries. The Germans are incensed. They see it as an interference in their internal affairs. Sanctioning one of your most important allies is certainly not the best way to woo it. It's a sign of desperation.

While the news is bad on the foreign front, it is not good on the domestic one. Following the empty Russiagate accusations, the Democrats have now resolved to politicize the impeachment process in the most undemocratic way. This is a farce. Don't they know George W. Bush launched two illegal wars, authorized torture (enhanced-interrogation techniques), detained foreigners without due process in a foreign country? The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves.

In a report released on December 9, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed that the Steel Dossier, on which Russiagate essentially rested, was a fraud, and that the FBI lied to the FISA courts on several occasions to get authorizations to spy on members of Trump's presidential campaign, notably Carter Page, his foreign-policy adviser. The irony of it all is that the FISA courts were created in 1975 by the Church Committee to curb surveillance abuses during the Vietnam War by intelligence agencies!... In a rather pitiful interview, former FBI director James Comey absolves himself of any crime, blaming the Bureau's lower ranks for any misconduct.

The Washington Post's revelations regarding the Afghanistan war quickly disappeared from the mainstream-media front pages while it should have led to a Congress inquiry, since the war had not been approved by the Senate, as it should have. Similarly, the Epstein scandal was quickly brushed off the news after Jeffrey Epstein's suicide. Dead men don't speak.

Where does all of this originate? In 1967, the late and able J. William Fulbright, Senator of Arkansas, published a book whose title answers the question: "The arrogance of power". Unfortunately, since then things have gone from bad to worse. In February 1992, the Defense Department published "Planning Defense guidance". It is attributed to Paul Wolfowitz who was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the time. The document states that the United States will not tolerate the emergence of a new challenger in the future, after the fall of the Soviet Union. In September 2000, political scientists William Kristol and Robert Kagan published "The New American Century", which defined the 21st century as the American century; i.e., the preeminence of the United States in world affairs. These preposterous claims, which have no validity whatsoever, bring us back to Karl Rove's empty phrase. Yet, they are extremely dangerous as they unnecessarily increase tensions in an already dangerous world.

The Washington foreign-policy establishment dreams of world supremacy while the country is crumbling under a federal debt whose level is nearing the one reached at the height of World War II, a country whose college enrollment is falling, whose student debts reach astronomical levels, whose voters' turnout in presidential elections is one of the lowest among developed countries, whose economic inequality returned to its 1925 level, whose inmate population in relative and absolute terms is the highest in the world; i.e. higher than in Russia, China and Iran, three countries regularly pointed out as the scum of the world in mainstream media, etc. Ever since 9/11, the United States spent an estimated $6.4 trillion on wars. Yet, politicians tell Americans there is no money for social programs and education.

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Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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