The sorrows of empire



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THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE

Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic

CHALMERS JOHNSON, 2004

Professor Emeritus, UCS



D[Brief Excerpts]



[4] This book is a guide to the American empire as it begins openly to spread its imperial wings. Its reach is global: as of September 2001, the Department of Defense acknowledged at least 725 American military bases existed outside the United States. Actually, there are many more, since some bases exist under leaseholds, informal agreements, or disguises of various kinds. And more have been created since the announcement was made. The landscape of this military empire is as unfamiliar and fantastic to most Americans today as Tibet or Timbuktu were to nineteenth-century Europeans. Among its recent additions are the al-Udeid air base in the desert of Qatar, where several thousand American military men and women live in air-conditioned tents, and the al-Masirah Island naval air station in the Gulf of Oman, where the only diversion is "wadi ball," a cross between volleyball and football. It [5] includes expensive, permanent garrisons built between 1999 and 2001 in such unlikely places as Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. America's modern empire of bases also has its entertainment and getaway spots, much like those north Indian hill towns the administrators of the British Raj used for rest and recreation in the summer heat. The modern equivalents of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Srinagar are the armed forces' ski and vacation center at Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps, its resort hotel in downtown Tokyo, and the 234 military golf courses it operates world-wide, not to mention the seventy-one Learjets, thirteen Gulfstream Ills, and seventeen Cessna Citation luxury jets used to fly admirals and generals to such spots. At a cost of $50 million apiece, each Gulfstream accommodates twelve passengers plus two pilots, one flight engineer, a communications systems operator, and a flight attendant.

Like empires of old, ours has its proconsuls, in this case high-ranking military officers who enforce extraterritorial "status of forces agreements" on host governments to ensure that American troops are not held responsible for crimes they commit against local residents. Our militarized empire is a physical reality with a distinct way of life but it is also a network of economic and political interests tied in a thousand different ways to American corporations, universities, and communities but kept separate from what passes for everyday life back in what has only recently come to be known as "the homeland " And yet even that sense of separation is disappearing—for the changing nature of the empire is changing our society as well....

[12] In my opinion, the growth of militarism, official secrecy, and a belief that the United States is no longer bound, as the Declaration of Independence so famously puts it, by "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind" is probably irreversible. A revolution would be required to bring the Pentagon back under democratic control, or to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency, or even to contemplate enforcing article 1, section 9, clause 7 of the Constitution: "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time."....

[13] As militarism, the arrogance of power, and the euphemisms required to justify imperialism inevitably conflict with America's democratic structure of government and distort its culture and basic values, I fear that we will lose our country. If I overstate the threat, I am sure to be forgiven because future generations will be so glad I was wrong. The danger I foresee is that the United States is embarked on a path not unlike that of the former Soviet Union during the 1980s. The USSR collapsed for three basic reasons—internal economic contradictions driven by ideological rigidity, imperial overstretch, and an inability to reform. Because the United States is far wealthier, it may take longer for similar afflictions to do their work. But the similarities are obvious and it is nowhere written that the United States, in its guise as an empire dominating the world, must go on forever....

[28] Imperialism is hard to define but easily recognized. In the words of the early-twentieth-century English political economist John Hobson, imperialists are "parasites upon patriotism."16 They are the people who anticipate "profitable businesses and lucrative employment" in the course of creating and exploiting an empire. They hold military and civilian posts in the imperial power, trade with the dominated peoples on structurally favorable terms, manufacture weapons and munitions for wars and police actions, and provide and manage capital for investment in the colonies, semicolonies, and satellites that imperialism creates.

The simplest definition of imperialism is the domination and exploitation of weaker states by stronger ones. Numerous sorrows follow from this ancient and easily observable phenomenon. Imperialism is, for example, the root cause of one of the worst maladies inflicted by Western [29] civilization on the rest of the world—namely, racism. As David Abernethy, an authority on European imperialism, observes, "It was but a short mental leap for people superior in power to infer that they were superior in intellect, morality, and civilization as well. The superiority complex served as a rationalization for colonial rule and, by reducing qualms over the rightness of dominating other people, was empowering in its own right."17

According to a long tradition of writing about imperialism, if dominion by a stronger state does not include the weaker state's "colonization," then it is not imperialism. Some writers have employed the term hegemony as a substitute for imperialism without colonies, and in the post-World War II era of superpowers, hegemonism became coterminous with the idea of Eastern and Western "camps." Always complicating matters has been a longstanding American urge to find euphemisms for imperialism that soften and disguise the U.S. version of it, at least from other Americans. Theodore Roosevelt, for example, professed to be not an imperialist but an "expansionist." Arguing for the annexation of the Philippines, he said, "There is not an imperialist in the country.... Expansion? Yes.... Expansion has been the law of our national growth."18

Abernethy is typical in insisting that in a real empire a stronger state must advance a formal claim over a weaker one. "Colonialism," Abernethy writes, "is the set of formal policies, informal practices, and ideologies employed by a metropole to retain control of a colony and to benefit from control. Colonialism is the consolidation of empire, the effort to extend and deepen governance claims made in an earlier period of empire building."19....

[30] Certainly, there are several kinds of imperialism that do not involve the attempt to create colonies. The characteristic institution of so-called neocolonialism is the multinational corporation covertly supported by an imperialist power. This form of imperialism reduces the political costs and liabilities of colonialism by maintaining a facade of nominal political independence in the exploited country. As the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara observed, neocolonialism "is the most redoubtable form of imperialism—most redoubtable because of the disguises and deceits that it involves, and the long experience that the imperialist powers have in this type of confrontation."21

The multinational corporation partly replicates one of the earliest institutions of imperialism, the chartered company. In such classically mercantilist organizations, the imperialist country authorized a private company to exploit and sometimes govern a foreign territory on a monopoly [31] basis and then split the profits between government officials and private investors. The best known of these were the English East India Company, formed in 1600; the Dutch East India Company, created in 1602; the French East India Company in 1664; and the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670. The chartered company and the modern multinational corporation differ primarily in that the former never pretended to believe in free trade whereas multinational corporations use "free trade" as their mantra....

[167] As I have said, no single purpose can possibly explain the more than 725 American military bases spread around the world. But the government's addiction to surveillance certainly explains where some of them are and why they are so secret. Another explanation for some of the bases is the staggering level of American dependence on foreign sources of oil, which grows greater by the year. Many garrisons are in foreign countries to defend oil leases from competitors or to provide police protection to oil pipelines, although they invariably claim to be doing something completely unrelated—fighting the "war on terrorism" or the "war on drugs," or training foreign soldiers, or engaging in some form of "humanitarian" intervention. The search for scarce resources is, of course, a traditional focus of foreign policy. Nonetheless, the United States has made itself particularly dependent on foreign oil because it refuses to conserve or in other ways put limits on fossil fuel consumption and because multi-national petroleum companies and the politicians they support profit enormously from Americans' profligate use. A year after the 9/11 attacks, General Motors's sales of its 5,000-pound gas-guzzling Chevrolet Suburban SUV, which gets thirteen miles to the gallon, had doubled.20

Starting with the ClA's 1953 covert overthrow of the government of Iran for the sake of the British Petroleum Company, American policy in [168] the Middle East—except for its support of Israel—has been dictated by oil. It has been a constant motive behind the vast expansion of bases in the Persian Gulf. America's wars in the oil lands of the Persian Gulf are the subject of a later chapter; what I want to explore here are some other cases in which oil is the only plausible explanation for acquiring more bases. In these cases, the government has produced elaborate cover stories for what amounts to the use of public resources and the armed forces to advance private capitalist interests. The invasion of Afghanistan and the rapid expansion of bases into Central and Southwestern Asia are among the best examples, although there are several instances from Latin America as well....

[176] A third big U.S. project in Central Asia has been proposed: dual oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan south through Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea coast of Pakistan. Support for this enterprise appears to have been a major consideration in the Bush administration's decision to attack Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The Taliban government in Afghanistan had so blocked development of the pipelines under American auspices that removal of the Taliban became the secret casus belli of the "war on terrorism" following the attacks of September 11, 2001. As the journalist Patrick Martin has commented, "If history had skipped over September 11 and the events of that day had never happened, it is very likely that the United States would have gone to war in Afghanistan anyway, and on much the same schedule."37....

[187] Wars and imperialism are Siamese twins joined at the hip. Each thrives off the other. They cannot be separated. Imperialism is the single greatest cause of war, and war is the midwife of new imperialist acquisitions. Wars usually begin because political leaders convince a people that the use of armed force is necessary to defend the country or pursue some abstract goal—Cuban independence from Spain, preventing a Communist victory in a Korean civil war, keeping the banana republics of Central America in the "free world," or even bringing democracy to Iraq. For a major power, prosecution of any war that is not a defense of the "homeland" usually requires overseas military bases for strategic reasons. After the war is over, it is tempting for the victor to retain such bases and easy to find reasons to do so. Commonly, preparedness for a possible resumption of hostilities will be invoked. Over time, if a nation's aims become imperial, the bases form the skeleton of an empire. In recent centuries, wars launched from such bases have been the primary means through which imperialism has prospered and expanded, although an induced economic dependence can sometimes achieve the [187] same effect. Since the end of World War II, American governments have offered many rationales for the bases they were collecting around the world, including containing Communism, warding off the "domino theory," fighting "ethnic cleansing," and preventing the spread of "weapons of mass destruction."....


[214] FROM WAR TO IMPERIALISM

As the American empire grows, we go to war significantly more frequently than we did before and during the Cold War. Wars, in turn, promote the growth of the military and are a great advertising medium for the power and effectiveness of our weapons—and the companies that make them, which can then more easily peddle them to others. According to the journalist William Greider, "The U.S. volume [of arms sales] represents 44 percent of the global market, more than double America's market share in 1990 when the Soviet Union was the leading exporter of arms"37 As the military-industrial complex gets ever fatter, with more overcapacity, it must be "fed" ever more often. The creation of new bases requires more new bases to protect the ones already established, producing ever-tighter cycles of militarism, wars, arms sales, and base expansions.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we began to wage at an accelerating rate wars whose publicly stated purposes were increasingly deceptive or unpersuasive. We were also ever more willing to go to war outside the framework of international law and in the face of worldwide popular opposition. These were de facto imperialist wars, defended by propaganda claims of humanitarian intervention, women's liberation, the threat posed by unconventional weapons, or whatever current buzzword happened to occur to White House and Pentagon spokespersons. In each war we acquired major new military bases that in terms of location or scale were disproportionate to the military tasks required and that we retained and consolidated after the war. After the attacks of September 11,2001, we waged two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and acquired fourteen new bases, in Eastern Europe, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Pakistan,

Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. It was said that these wars were [215] a response to the terrorist attacks and would lessen our vulnerability to terrorism in the future. But it seems more likely that the new bases and other American targets of vulnerability will be subject to continued or increased terrorist strikes.

Following our usual practice, we established our bases in weak states, most of which have undemocratic and repressive governments. Immediately after our victory in the second Iraq war, we began to scale back our deployments in Germany, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, where we had become much more unpopular as a result of the war. Instead, we shifted our forces and garrisons to thinly populated, less demanding monarchies or autocracies/dictatorships, places like Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.38

A new picture of our empire has begun to emerge. We retain our centuries-old lock on Latin America and our close collaboration with the single-party government of Japan, although we are deeply disliked in Okinawa and South Korea, where the situation is increasingly volatile. Our lack of legitimacy in the war with Iraq has undercut our position in what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld disparagingly called "the old Europe," so we are trying to compensate by finding allies and building bases in the much poorer, still struggling ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe. In the oil-rich area of southern Eurasia we are building outposts in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, in an attempt to bring the whole region under American hegemony. Iran alone, thus far, has been impervious to our efforts. We did not do any of these things to fight terrorism, liberate Iraq, trigger a domino effect for the democratization of the Middle East, or the other excuses proffered by our leaders. We did them, as I will show, because of oil, Israel, and domestic politics—and to fulfill our self-perceived destiny as a New Rome. The next chapter takes up American imperialism on the current battleground of global power, the Persian Gulf, a region where we have a long history....

[219] One of our prime political and military concerns has always been to ensure that no other power, friendly or not, interferes with Saudi oil resources. In August 1945, the Army Corps of Engineers began work on an airfield at Dhahran, next door to Aramco's headquarters. From 1952 to 1963, the United States leased this airfield from the Saudis and based a Strategic Air Command squadron of nuclear-armed bombers there. In 1963, becoming concerned about the size of the American presence in his country. King Faisal ordered the air force to leave Dhahran, which was promptly renamed King Abdul Aziz Air Base of the Saudi Arabian Air Force. The Saudis, however, allowed the U.S. military to use it on a case-by-case basis until the Gulf War, when it was again turned over for operations to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Dhahran proved by far the most important Allied airfield in the American-led 1991 blitzkrieg against Iraq. Of some 7,248 aircraft arriving in Saudi Arabia between August 7, 1990, and March 26,1991,6,755 landed at Dhahran.4....

[236] It would be hard to deny that oil, Israel, and domestic politics all played crucial roles in the Bush administration's war against Iraq, but I believe the more encompassing explanation for our second war with Iraq is no different from that for our wars in the Balkans in 1999 or in Afghanistan in 2001-02: the inexorable pressures of imperialism and militarism. Jay Bookman, a columnist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, asked the relevant question months before the war began: "Why does the administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam [237] is toppled? Because we won't be leaving. Having conquered Iraq, the United States will create permanent military bases in that country from which to dominate the Middle East, including neighboring Iran."28....

[252] This compilation of American military bases in the Persian Gulf region is by no means complete. Since December 2002, the United States has been building a new base for its Special Forces in the former French colony of Djibouti, separated by only a twenty-mile strip of water from the port of Aden, at the entrance to the Red Sea. We have long deployed several thousand personnel at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, as well as around fifty F-15 and F-16 fighters and A-10 tank busters, although in the wake of Turkey s refusal to let the United States use its territory for the 2003 assault on Iraq, the Pentagon quickly withdrew most of them. We have also stationed dozens of aircraft at two bases close to the Iraqi [253] border in Jordan and have often used "Cairo West" air base in Egypt for refueling and airlift operations.

Most of these Middle Eastern military bases were hardened and outfitted specifically for the second war with Iraq and then used during that war. Iraq, however, is but part of a larger picture. Over the past half century the United States has been inexorably acquiring permanent military enclaves whose sole purpose appears to be the domination of one of the most strategically important areas of the world. Of course the United States has an interest in the oil of the region, but the carrier task forces that have already turned the Persian Gulf into an American lake would be sufficient to protect those interests.

The permanent deployment of American soldiers, sailors, and airmen whose culture, lifestyles, wealth, and physical appearance guarantee conflicts with the peoples who live in the Middle East, is irrational in terms of any cost-benefit analysis. In fact, given the widespread political unrest and a strong revival of militant Islam, the United States seems inexplicably intent on providing future enemies with enough grievances to do us considerable damage. One need only recall the arming of Saddam Hussein or the Stinger shoulder-launched missiles that the United States gave so freely to Afghan "freedom fighters" and that were ultimately turned against us. The question is: Have these bases become ends in themselves? Does their existence cause the United States to look for ways to use them? Was the assault against Iraq driven by Iraq's actions or by military capabilities in American hands? It may be that the ultimate causes of twenty-first-century mayhem in the Middle East are American militarism and imperialism—that is, our empire of bases itself....

[255] In accordance with the logic of Sun Tzu, Bill Clinton was actually a much more effective imperialist than George W. Bush. During the Clinton administration, the United States employed an indirect approach in imposing its will on other nations. The government of George W. Bush, by contrast, dropped all legitimating principles and adopted the view that might makes right. History tells us that an expansive nation must at least attempt to disguise what it is doing if it wants to consolidate its gains. It must pretend that its exploitation of the weak is in their own best interest, or their own fault, or the result of ineluctable processes beyond human control, or a consequence of the spread of civilization, or in accordance with scientific laws—anything but deliberate aggression by a hyperpower.

Clinton camouflaged his policies by carrying them out under the banner of "globalization." This proved quite effective in maneuvering rich but gullible nations to do America's bidding—for example, Argentina— or in destabilizing potential rivals—for example, South Korea and Indonesia in the 1997 economic crisis—or in protecting domestic economic [256] interests—for example, in maintaining the exorbitant prices of American pharmaceutical companies under cover of defending "intellectual property rights." During the 1990s, the rationales of free trade and capitalist economics were used to disguise America's hegemonic power and make it seem benign or, at least, natural and unavoidable. The main agents of this imperialism were Clinton's secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin, and his deputy (today, president of Harvard University), Lawrence Summers. The United States ruled the world but did so in a carefully masked way that produced high degrees of acquiescence among the dominated nations.

[264] Starting in approximately 1981, the United States introduced, under the cover of globalization, a new strategy intended to accomplish two major goals: first, to discredit state-assisted capitalism like Japan's and prevent its spread to any countries other than the East Asian NICs [Newly Industrialized Countries], which had already industrialized by following the Japanese model; and second, to weaken the sovereignty of Third World nations so that they would become even more dependent on the largesse of the advanced capitalist nations and unable to organize themselves as a power bloc to negotiate equitably with the rich countries.

The United State's chosen instruments for putting this strategy into effect were the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the World Bank and the IMF were created after World War II to manage the international economy and prevent a recurrence of the beggar-thy-neighbor policies of the 1930s. What has to be understood is that both the fund and the bank are actually surrogates for the U.S. Treasury. They are both located at 19th and H Streets, Northwest, in Washington, DC, and their voting rules ensure that they can do nothing without the approval of the secretary of the Treasury. The political scientist Thomas Ferguson compares the IMF to the famous dog in the old RCA advertisements listening to "his master's voice"—the Treasury—on a Victrola.18....

[272] In all, the WTO system that came into being in 1995 is a deceptive but extremely effective tool of economic imperialism wielded by rich nations against poor ones. Within a few years after it was launched, however, the system started to fall apart. Post-September 11, the overemphasis on militarism and unilateralism in the United States has radically weakened the effectiveness of international law, eroding the facade of legality that supports the WTO rules. At the same time, the interests of American militarists and economic globalists have begun to clash, particularly over the rise of an obvious future superpower—China. The economic globalists have invested more heavily in manufacturing in China than in any other place outside the Anglo-American world. The militarists, on the other hand, are already plotting to contain China, militarily if necessary, to decide future global supremacy.

[281] As the United States devotes ever more of its manufacturing assets to the arms trade, it becomes ever more dependent on imports for the non-military products that its citizens no longer manufacture but need in order to maintain their customary lifestyles. With a record trade deficit for 2002 of $435.2 billion and a close-to-negligible savings rate, Americans may end up owing foreigners as much as $3.5 trillion in the next few years alone. As the economic analyst William Greider concludes, "Instead effacing this darkening prospect, [President George W] Bush and team regularly dismiss the worldviews of these creditor nations and lecture them condescendingly on our superior qualities. Any profligate debtor who insults his banker is unwise, to put it mildly.... American leadership has ... become increasingly delusional—I mean that literally—and blind to the adverse balance of power accumulating against it."49

Our government seems not to grasp the relationship between its military unilateralism and the collateral damage it is doing to international commerce, an activity that depends on mutually beneficial relationships among individuals, businesses, and countries to function well. If foreign creditors conclude that the United States is no longer a defender of international law, they may lose interest in investing in such a country. Our version of unilateralist military imperialism undercuts international institutions, causes trade to dry up, distorts the availability of finance, and is environmentally disastrous. While the globalization of the 1990s was premised on cheating the poor and defenseless and on destroying the only physical environment we will ever have, its replacement by American militarism and imperialism is likely to usher in something much worse for developed, developing, and underdeveloped nations alike....

[283] As I have shown, the United States has been inching toward imperialism and militarism for many years. Our leaders, disguising the direction they were taking, cloaked their foreign policies in euphemisms such as [284] "lone superpower," "indispensable nation," "reluctant sheriff," "humanitarian intervention," and "globalization." With the advent of the George W. Bush administration and particularly after the assaults of September 11, 2001, however, these pretenses gave way to assertions of the second coming of the Roman Empire. "American imperialism used to be a fiction of the far-left imagination," wrote the English journalist Madeleine Bunting, "now it is an uncomfortable fact of life."1

During 2003, the Bush administration took the further step of carrying out its first "preventive" war—against Iraq, a sovereign nation one-twelfth the size of the United States in population terms and virtually undefended in the face of the Pentagon's awesome array of weaponry and military power. Conducted with few allies and no legal justification and in the face of worldwide protest, this war brought to an end the system of international order that persisted throughout the Cold War and traced its roots back to seventeenth-century doctrines of sovereignty, nonintervention, and the illegitimacy of aggressive war.

From the moment we took on a role that included the permanent military domination of the world, we were on our own—feared, hated, corrupt and corrupting, maintaining "order" through state terrorism and bribery, and given to megalomanic rhetoric and sophistries that virtually invited the rest of the world to unite against us. We had mounted the Napoleonic tiger. The question was, would we—and could we—ever dismount?

During the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, the president's chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, once reproved White House counsel John Dean for speaking too frankly to Congress about the felonies President Nixon had ordered. "John," he said, "once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it's hard to get it back in." This homely metaphor by a former advertising executive who was to spend eighteen months in prison for his own role in Watergate also describes the situation of the United States on the day our invasion of Iraq began.

For us, the sorrows of empire may prove to be the inescapable consequences of the path our elites chose after September 11,2001. Militarism and imperialism always bring with them sorrows. The ubiquitous symbol [285] of the Christian religion, the cross, is perhaps the world's most famous reminder of one sorrow that accompanied the Roman Empire. It represented the most atrocious death Roman proconsuls could devise to keep subordinate peoples in line, as empires invariably discover they must do. From Cato to Cicero, the slogan of Roman leaders was "Let them hate us so long as they fear us" (Oderint dum metuant).

Roman imperial sorrows mounted up over hundreds of years. Ours are likely to arrive with the speed of FedEx. If present trends continue, four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative impact guarantees that the United States will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution. First, there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second, there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an "executive branch" of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency. Third, an already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and short-change the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens. The future, of course, is as yet unmade. All these trends can be resisted and other—better—futures can certainly be imagined. But it is important to be as clear-eyed as possible about what the present choices and the present path of our imperial leaders portend. So let me briefly assess the ramifications of each of these sorrows and try to estimate how far they have advanced....

[310] Empires do not last, and their ends are usually unpleasant. Americans like me, born before World War II, have personal knowledge—in some cases, personal experience—of the collapse of at least six empires: those of Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union. If one includes all of the twentieth century, three more major empires came tumbling down—the Chinese, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman. A combination of imperial overstretch, rigid economic institutions, and an inability to reform weakened all these empires, leaving them fatally vulnerable in the face of disastrous wars, many of which the empires themselves invited. There is no reason to think that an American empire will not go the same way—and for the same reasons. If efforts at globalization delayed the beginnings of that collapse for a while, the shift to militarism and imperialism settles the issue.

At the same time, it must be recognized that any study of our empire is a work in progress. Although we may know the eventual outcome, it is not at all clear what comes next. Since the turn of the twenty-first century, only three years ago, the United States has fought two imperialist wars—in Afghanistan and Iraq—and is contemplating at least two more—in Iran and North Korea. For over eighteen months after the end of hostilities in Afghanistan it held 680 people from forty-three countries in a detention camp in Cuba without bringing any charges against them. The commandant has indicated that he plans to build a death row and an execution chamber. Law professor Jonathan Turley explains, "This camp was created to execute people. The administration has no interest in long-term prison sentences for people it regards as hardcore terrorists." It also has no interest in conforming to internationally recognized standards of justice—or in considering itself part of or in any way accountable to a community of nations, however defined.57

[311] The United States is actively seeking more oil and more bases, particularly in West Africa, which appears likely to play a role in the future similar to that of Central Asia today, except that transportation costs from south Atlantic ports are much cheaper. Our military has announced plans to build a naval base on Sao Tome, a small, desperately poor island in the Gulf of Guinea, which may be sitting on four billion barrels of high-quality crude oil. Exxon Mobil is expected to start drilling offshore by 2004. Sao Tome's 160,000 inhabitants are descendants of Angolan slaves, Portuguese political exiles, and Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition. Nigeria, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea already supply us with about 15 percent of our imported oil, nearly as much as Saudi Arabia; and that figure could grow to 25 percent by 2015. A similar picture emerges in Latin America, where one of the main purposes of our deployment of troops in Colombia is to protect Occidental Petroleum's oil and gas interests in Arauca province in the northeast.58....

[312] There is one development that could conceivably stop this process of overreaching: the people could retake control of Congress, reform it along with the corrupted elections laws that have made it into a forum for special interests, turn it into a genuine assembly of democratic representatives, and cut off the supply of money to the Pentagon and the secret intelligence agencies. We have a strong civil society that could, in theory, overcome the entrenched interests of the armed forces and the military-industrial complex. At this late date, however, it is difficult to imagine how Congress, much like the Roman senate in the last days of the republic, could be brought back to life and cleansed of its endemic corruption. Failing such a reform, Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, waits impatiently for her meeting with us.








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