An Interview with Terry Paupp
Terry Paupp is the author of Exodus from Empire: The Fall of America's Empire and the Rise of the Global Community. The book examines the downfall of the American Empire, its impact on the world community and what world order will take its place. Paupp has been a professor of philosophy and international law at Southwestern College, National University, San Diego City College. He served as the National Chancellor of the U.S. for the International Association of Educators for World Peace from 2001-2005. His previous books include “Achieving Inclusionary Governance: Advancing Peace and Development in First and Third World Nations (2000). He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Kevin Zeese: Exodus from Empire is an exhaustive book, 423 pages long, covering a wide array of empire-related issues. It must have taken you a geat deal of time and effort to write it. Why did you write this book?
Terry Paupp: Yes, you're right. A 423-page long book on empire related issues is quite an undertaking. I can honestly say that I have worked on, thought about, and read about these issues for the last 37 years of my life. So, starting as a freshman in college and continuing on through my years in higher education and teaching, I have wrestled with the reality of a mutating and violent American Empire. In high school I mourned the death of my hero, Robert F. Kennedy. In college, I was involved in the anti-war movement and an active participant in Vietnam War teach-ins and protests. After college I obtained a Master of Theological Studies in Chicago – doing my thesis on liberation theology in Latin America. It was at that time that I started viewing religion, politics, economics, and social life from the perspective of those on the bottom of society – the poor, oppressed – most of who live in the Global South (Third World). After teaching philosophy and comparative religion courses for 6 years, I went to law school and obtained a Juris-Doctor in Law. Soon thereafter, I returned to academics and writing books and articles about what I have termed "Inclusionary Governance" – juxtaposing that ideal for human rights and social justice to all forms of "Exclusionary Governance" and "Exclusionary States."
In my professional determination, the United States itself was hardly a democratic polity because of exclusionary policies based on race and after the 1870s policies increasingly based on the priorities of capital---the most privileged and wealthy classes of the elite. Further, after the Reagan era it has become clear to me that the US was increasingly becoming more like the oligarchies of Latin American dictators and its large landowners.
Certainly since George W. Bush stole the elections of 2000 and 2004 it is clear that voter suppression, the US Patriot Act, the corruption of the US Justice Department for partisan political gain, the death of a Constitutional framework of effective checks and balances, illegal wiretapping and spying on Americans in violation of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, has all contributed to the defense of corporate wealth and a corporate agenda that is inherently ant-democratic. These are features which are similar to a Latin American oligarchy---a so-called banana republic. Of course the main difference in the case of the US was its huge military budget and the military-industrial complex that drove it. This reality is what inspired me to write the book – especially after the Bush-2 regime invaded Iraq in 2003 and began and illegal occupation of that nation. For me, it was clear from the start that it would be another Vietnam – justified by the American Establishment with a phony pretext for war (9/11) just as the Gulf of Tonkin incident gave the Johnson administration a green light for introducing combat troops into Vietnam. On this matter, please refer to Chapter 5 of Exodus from Empire.
I have devoted Chapter 5 of Exodus from Empire to a discussion of this "hidden politics of empire." In short, this book came about out of a sense of rage and a sense of injustice against an empire that could sanction tremendous degrees of hunger, poverty, and inequality around the world while creating a global network of military bases for the defense of corporate interests only interested in their own profits to the exclusion of every other human and humane consideration.
KZ: Your book faces up to a key question that is rarely discussed in the U.S. media -- American Empire. I expect many in the media and the public do not think of the U.S. as an empire. Please explain why you call the U.S. an empire?
TP: You are quite correct in noting that the U.S. media fails to even acknowledge that Americans live in an empire. I call the U.S. an empire because it is clear to any serious student of history that it became one in the aftermath of World War II when England surrendered its colonies and accepted the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella from the beginnings of the Cold War.
The entire period of the late 1940s through the early 1960s was an age of de-colonization from the empires of Britain, France, and Germany. Yet, during this period the Cold War provided the context for the U.S. to embark upon neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism in order to protect the so-called "Free World." The reality is that the Free World is not really "free" in terms of civil liberties and human rights. It is free to open access by U.S.-based corporations and multinational/transnational business interests.
To assist in this structuring of the world economy in line with the American Establishment, the IMF, World Bank, and WTO have been established to govern the world economy and as many countries as possible within its orbit. To that end, both Wall Street and the U.S. Treasury Department – as the centers of U.S. finance and capital – give the rest of the world within its "sphere of influence" their marching orders. We see this as Third World nations have structural adjustment programs shoved down their throats by the IMF. These structural adjustment programs--- SAPs---that are imposed by the IMF function so as to order the governments who are the recipients of these loans to break up labor unions, suspend wage structures that benefit workers, and condone the rape of the environment.
All of this is undertaken by the U.S. Global Empire in the furtherance of its corporate allies and in its strategic search for obtaining natural resources – such as oil, tungsten, ore – to shore up its domination of the planet. In fact, the Pentagon has said as much in its planning documents since 2001 when it writes of "full spectrum dominance." What is that? It is the control of not only land, air, and sea by the American Empire, but outer space as well.
The weaponization of space is a high priority for the Bush-2 regime – as exemplified by its unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty and its spending billions of dollars every year for "National Missile Defense" (NMD). It is a program born in the Reagan years under the name of the "Strategic Defense Initiative" (SDI) which its critics later referred to as "Star Wars." So, the military and economic components of the American empire are all in place or being developed to be put in place so as to turn the 21st Century into the "Next American Century."
Just as the 20th Century has been referred to by historians as the "American Century," it is the hope and wet-dream of the Neo-Conservatives and their allies to make the 21st Century into their own. Hence, the invasions of the Middle East for oil, the building of U.S. military bases throughout Eurasia and the soft underbelly of Russia, and the ever sought after control of the Persian Gulf are all designed as a geopolitical strategy to reinforce the American Empire against all possible contenders for its dominant or "hegemonic" position. Therefore, both Russia and China are seen as new potential enemies insofar as they might develop the capacity to become competing hegemons---threatening American and British access to oil supplies and energy resources.