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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/20/21

Hedges: The Unraveling of the American Empire

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From Scheer Post

AAUS leadership has stumbled from one military debacle to another, a trajectory mirroring the sad finales of other historical imperial powers

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America's defeat in Afghanistan is one in a string of catastrophic military blunders that herald the death of the American empire. With the exception of the first Gulf War, fought largely by mechanized units in the open desert that did not - wisely - attempt to occupy Iraq, the United States political and military leadership has stumbled from one military debacle to another. Korea. Vietnam. Lebanon. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Libya. The trajectory of military fiascos mirrors the sad finales of the Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, Russian, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese and Soviet empires. While each of these empires decayed with their own peculiarities, they all exhibited patterns of dissolution that characterize the American experiment.

Imperial ineptitude is matched by domestic ineptitude. The collapse of good government at home, with legislative, executive and judicial systems all seized by corporate power, ensures that the incompetent and the corrupt, those dedicated not to the national interest but to swelling the profits of the oligarchic elite, lead the country into a cul-de-sac. Rulers and military leaders, driven by venal self-interest, are often buffoonish characters in a grand comic operetta. How else to think of Allen Dulles, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Trump or the hapless Joe Biden? While their intellectual and moral vacuity is often darkly amusing, it is murderous and savage when directed towards their victims.

There is not a single case since 1941 when the coups, political assassinations, election fraud, black propaganda, blackmail, kidnapping, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, U.S. sanctioned massacres, torture in global black sites, proxy wars or military interventions carried out by the United States resulted in the establishment of a democratic government. The two-decade-long wars in the Middle East, the greatest strategic blunder in American history, have only left in their wake one failed state after another. Yet, no one in the ruling class is held accountable.

War, when it is waged to serve utopian absurdities, such as implanting a client government in Baghdad that will flip the region, including Iran, into U.S. protectorates, or when, as in Afghanistan, there is no vision at all, descends into a quagmire. The massive allocation of money and resources to the U.S. military, which includes Biden's request for $715 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2022, a $11.3 billion, or 1.6 percent increase, over 2021, is not in the end about national defense. The bloated military budget is designed, as Seymour Melman explained in his book, "The Permanent War Economy," primarily to keep the American economy from collapsing. All we really make anymore are weapons. Once this is understood, perpetual war makes sense, at least for those who profit from it.

The idea that America is a defender of democracy, liberty and human rights would come as a huge surprise to those who saw their democratically elected governments subverted and overthrown by the United States in Panama (1941), Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), Honduras (2009) and Egypt (2013). And this list does not include a host of other governments that, however despotic, as was the case in South Vietnam, Indonesia or Iraq, were viewed as inimical to American interests and destroyed, in each case making life for the inhabitants of these countries even more miserable.

I spent two decades on the outer reaches of empire as a foreign correspondent. The flowery rhetoric used to justify the subjugation of other nations so corporations can plunder natural resources and exploit cheap labor is solely for domestic consumption. The generals, intelligence operatives, diplomats, bankers and corporate executives that manage empire find this idealistic talk risible. They despise, with good reason, naïve liberals who call for "humanitarian intervention" and believe the ideals used to justify empire are real, that empire can be a force for good. These liberal interventionists, the useful idiots of imperialism, attempt to civilize a process that was created and designed to repress, intimidate, plunder and dominate.

The liberal interventionists, because they wrap themselves in high ideals, are responsible for numerous military and foreign policy debacles. The call by liberal interventionists such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Susan Rice and Samantha Power to fund jihadists in Syria and depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya rent these countries as in Afghanistan and Iraq into warring fiefdoms. The liberal interventionists are also the tip of the spear in the campaign to rachet up tensions with China and Russia.

Russia is blamed for interfering in the last two presidential elections on behalf of Donald Trump. Russia, whose economy is roughly the size of Italy's, is also attacked for destabilizing the Ukraine, supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, funding France's National Front party and hacking into German computers. Biden has imposed sanctions on Russia -- including limits on buying newly issued sovereign debt -- in response to allegations that Moscow was behind a hack on SolarWinds Corp. and worked to thwart his candidacy.

At the same time, the liberal interventionists are orchestrating a new cold war with China, justifying this cold war because the Chinese government is carrying out genocide against its Uyghur minority, repressing the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and stealing U.S. patents. As with Russia, sanctions have been imposed targeting the country's ruling elite. The U.S. is also carrying out provocative military maneuvers along the Russian border and in the South China Sea.

The core belief of imperialists, whether they come in the form of a Barack Obama or a George W. Bush, is racism and ethnic chauvinism, the notion that Americans are permitted, because of superior attributes, to impose their "values" on lesser races and peoples by force. This racism, carried out in the name of Western civilization and its corollary white supremacy, unites the rabid imperialists and liberal interventionists in the Republican and Democratic parties. It is the fatal disease of empire, captured in Graham Greene's novel "The Quiet American" and Michael Ondaatje's "The English Patient."

The crimes of empire always spawn counter-violence that is then used to justify harsher forms of imperial repression. For example, the United States routinely kidnapped Islamic jihadists fighting in the Balkans between 1995 and 1998. They were sent to Egypt -- many were Egyptian -- where they were savagely tortured and usually executed. In 1998, the International Islamic Front for Jihad said it would carry out a strike against the United States after jihadists were kidnapped and transferred to black sites from Albania. They made good on their threat igniting massive truck bombs at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 dead. Of course, the "extraordinary renditions" by the CIA did not end and neither did the attacks by jihadists.

Our decades-long military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, are called "micro-militarism." The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) when they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. The defeat triggered successful revolts throughout the Athenian empire. The Roman empire, which at its height lasted for two centuries, created a military machine that, like the Pentagon, was a state within a state. Rome's military rulers, led by Augustus, snuffed out the remnants of Rome's anemic democracy and ushered in a period of despotism that saw the empire disintegrate under the weight of extravagant military expenditures and corruption. The British empire, after the suicidal military folly of World War I, was terminated in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Britain was forced to withdraw in humiliation, empowering Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over its few remaining colonies. None of these empires recovered.

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of (more...)
 

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8 people are discussing this page, with 15 comments


Gary Brumback

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Mr. Hedges, I used to agree with most of your commentaries. Not anymore. You have either become obtuse or I have become more discerning.

Perpetuating rather than winning wars is not a sign of the US empire, qua, its corpocracy, unraveling. To the contrary, it is far more profitable to perpetuate and lose wars. Our corpocracy depends on the business of war. Did you fail to notice that the current Secretary of Defense, a former board member of Raytheon, a war hustler and profiteer, awarded this company a 2.36 billion dollar weapons' contract?

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 20, 2021 at 4:56:18 PM

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Jack Flanders

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Do you remember the Cold War? We were told, perhaps lied to, that we won (partly) because our economy was stronger, more diverse and that we were able to outspend them. We (Americans) were roughly on par with the Soviet Union in terms of number of ISBMs (i.e. nuclear weapons). I think they had more missiles, but ours were more accurate.

True or not, it made some sense. Our real economy was more diverse and more global. We had a bigger trade economy. We made things, bought lots of things. We consumed more than anyone - because we could. I am not a fan of it, but I can see how it would create non-ideological allies.

We won the Cold War and watched the so-called "Peace Dividend" go straight to imperial expansion and the War Economy.

I wonder if we did not make the same mistake the Soviets made? Half of our economy is in financial services. The other half goes to weapons so that we can extort wealth from the rest of the globe. We crush and destroy things. I suggest that no one can become great by destroying things, no matter how "great" the destruction is.

I am unpersuaded by the fact that some military contractor made a lot of money to make things that can only be used to destroy things.

If military power was really a sign of strength, we would have solved the world's problems decades ago. Excessive reliance on military power is a sign of weakness, as the British, the Romans and the Soviets all learned the hard way.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 20, 2021 at 6:15:26 PM

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Truthbug

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"I wonder if we did not make the same mistake the Soviets made?"

We did, and for the opposite reasons. The human being is a dualism, with both "individual" and "social" identity. The USSR overemphasized the social, and they bit the dust because they didn't adequately provide for the individual. The US overemphasizes the individual, and we are now biting the dust because we aren't adequately providing for the social identity to the human being.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 7:04:15 PM

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John Zwiebel

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Reply to Gary Brumback:   New Content

You have completely missed Hedges point, by such a degree that I have no idea how to redirect you back in the right direction.

Hedges did not at all fail to notice what the current SecDef is doing nor where he comes from.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 at 7:56:37 PM

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John Jonik

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"American Empire", instead of just the "United States OF America", unfairly drags the whole continental mass into this...not to mention that Hawaii is in Polynesia, not any part of America. It's tiresome to see the "America" nickname used for the USA...ignoring for now that the country isn't exactly united.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 20, 2021 at 11:44:01 PM

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John Zwiebel

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When traveling abroad, few have ever asked me if I was from the "United States", rather they want to know if I am American.

Your quest for "political correctness" is as nauseating to me as those who deny the point of whatever the message because they insist on using "humankind" rather than "mankind".

Sure, the USA is not America, what is the term you want to replace it with? "United Statesian"? Yeah, that rolls off the tongue.

You are just "virtue signaling" which is also tiresome.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 at 8:03:49 PM

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Larry Robinson

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so much disinformation, but I will focus on one aspect that Hedges and others are making. Weapons procurement in the US defense budget represents approximately 1% of US GDP. It is thus a tiny part of our economy. Argue policy, argue global strategies of national security; but try and keep the debate on FACTS

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 10:05:18 AM

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Blair Gelbond

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Larry,

I suggest you look in the mirror - with a guide to help you see your blind spots.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 2:13:28 PM

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Blair Gelbond

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Larry,

I suggest you look in the mirror - with a guide to help you see your blind spots.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 2:13:43 PM

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Larry, you underestimate the true cost of the military. When you add up the budgeted amount, which is the only amount you're counting, with the interest we pay on debts accrued by the military, the costs of the 16 separate "Intelligence" organizations, veteran's benefits, and other hidden costs, the true costs are currently about 1.5 Trillion dollars a year, about twice the budgeted cost you consider. For a reference,

click here

That reference is years old, yet comes to a total figure of 1.2 Trillion dollars a year.

Now consider also that with any of us, it's the cream of our earnings, the small excess beyond all the necessary expenditures that allow us to improve, expand, make life easier, improve our lives. With the nation, the military is the most obvious mechanism by which we throw away most all that effort. Most experts would agree that the military budget can be halved without risk to national security. Even just the budgeted amount is equal to the budgeted amount of the next several countries, including China and Russia.

How can you not understand such a simple and valid argument that because of it, we are a nation of idiots.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021 at 7:19:00 PM

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Jack Flanders

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I don't think your numbers take the Pentagon's Black Budget into account. Isn't in the trillions? Or that just the amount they can't account for?

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 at 5:25:24 PM

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Blair Gelbond

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Reply to Jack Flanders:   New Content

Thank you, Jack.

And you didn't even mention the budget for Deep Black Projects!

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 at 7:04:45 PM

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Jack Flanders

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Reply to Blair Gelbond:   New Content
I forgot about them!

There was a time when I recognized the (possible) need to keep our military budget a secret, but that was a long time ago.

Now, it is harder than ever to tell where the public sector ends and the private sector begins. A super black budget could be used for almost anything. Who would know? There's no oversight.



Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 27, 2021 at 6:30:02 PM

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Blair Gelbond

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Reply to Jack Flanders:   New Content

Hello Jack and thanks for your response.

We do know where the money from these projects are going.

Hold on to your hat and, if you wish, see Steven M. Greer on Youtube and his website.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 27, 2021 at 9:14:31 PM

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THE BUFFOONS STILL TALK HEDGES POINT OUT, WORTH

READING.

Submitted on Monday, Apr 26, 2021 at 3:08:32 PM

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