The Real Costs of Empire
— The Editors
VIETNAM ALL OVER again? Yes, it is. The massacres by United States military
forces of unarmed civilians in Haditha and, as is
finally being revealed despite official lies and coverup,
numerous other Iraqi towns, are showing tens of millions of Americans what
this war is, and part of what it really costs. The highest costs obviously
are borne by the ordinary people of
Keep Haditha in mind as you read this editorial
statement. And remember it, too, during the coming midterm election season;
because we predict right now that neither party will utter that word during
the campaign, just as neither -- particularly the Democrats -- spoke the words
"Abu Ghraib" during the Kerry-Bush presidential
debacle in 2004. That obscene bipartisan silence covers up the fact that torture
was mandated by Justice Department memos, and by Pentagon and White House
orders. Even now, the
On the surface, two questions hang over the November elections: the status of the Bush administration for the final two years of this wretched presidency, and whether the imperial-messianic ambitions of this regime can be checked. In particular, will the U.S. government be restrained from "going all the way" in its war drive against Iran -- a project which could take down (along with its perpetrators) the Middle East, the world economy and the prospects for stopping global nuclear weapons proliferation?
Admittedly that's not how the issue will be discussed in what passes for American political debate, where the contrived crisis over "an Iranian bomb" will mask the real and horrible dangers of another U.S.-initiated "regime change" military operation. Neither party will openly discuss the plans for this next war. The fate of the Bush regime may be answered by voters in November -- along with the number and extent of indictments of administration officials and allies in assorted corrupt and criminal enterprises -- but as to stopping the drive to a war with Iran, the prospects would look somewhat better if the Democrats actually opposed it.
But there's a deeper question largely ignored in what passes for debate in
We'll analyze election prospects in our next issue, but right now we want to point out a paradox. Significant Republican losses in the House of Representatives seem likely, even with gerrymandered districts. Stir in the retired generals' attack on Donald Rumsfeld -- which represents, in fact, a statement from military elites that Iraq is a lost war and the entire administration a failure -- and vast public disillusionment not only over the war but $3.00 a dollar gas, vanishing decent jobs and assorted other outrages, and you have all the ingredients for a crippled presidency.
Yet even if there's an electoral debacle in which Republicans actually lose
Congress, a disintegrating Republican presidency might find targeting
"Representatives from both Left and Right promised the audience that the [Iranian nuclear] threat will not be ignored. Not by a Republican administration -- as was emphasized by Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon -- nor by a Democratic one, as Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean promised in terms not at all different from those used by Bush, Cheney and Rice.
"And Dean -- wearing the badge of a leftist Democrat -- was actually the one
going into details in regard to
The spectacle of Hillary Clinton as a beneficiary of fundraising by Rupert
Murdoch of the Fox War Network says it all about the prowar Democrats. As to the present war, rather than stopping
the carnage in
All this poses some serious challenges for the antiwar movement. How much
To turn the disgust of the majority of the American people with this war into an overwhelming demand to "Bring the Troops Home Now!," our antiwar movement must break the taboo on discussing the buried question -- what the war, and maintaining the empire of U.S. corporate and military power, actually costs our society as well as the world.
Open and Hidden Costs
The fate of our society cannot be separated from the question of -- call it what it is -- imperialism. If there was a time, especially between World Wars I and II and during the 1950s, when Democrats could be both "New Dealers" and imperialists -- when U.S. power trampling on nations and peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa was relatively low in cost and helped make the United States a rich country -- the cost-benefit ratios of intervention began to change in late 1960s.
Today, with the
Without a doubt, though, it's in
The raw fact of war profiteering and cronyism is not esoteric knowledge;
it is widely known and bitterly resented in the
* Begin with "the border," the issue on everyone's mind nowadays. What every
knowledgeable observer in
The corporate plan, to be sure, called for the uprooted Mexican rural poor
to be market-conscripted into the industrial jobs of the maquiladoras -- the multinational-owned factories replacing
At this writing Bush and the Congress are moving toward a bloody-sausage
political "compromise" on immigration, which will include militarizing the
border -- yet another burden on the over-stretched National Guard -- and massive
fence construction to keep out "those people." Who will reap the contracts
and profits from that project? Can you say "Halliburton and other cronies
again"? Just like
* Wiretapping, domestic surveillance and data mining are running amok under the pretext of "monitoring terror suspects." What's been publicly revealed is surely the tip of the iceberg. Civil liberties, basic privacy and democratic rights are disappearing species for one reason above all. It's not fundamentally because a vicious anti-democratic administration is in power, although it is; nor is it because the U.S. political system and social order are under a powerful assault from working class and oppressed people's movements, which (we regret to say) at the moment they're not.
The basic reason for these atrocities is that trying to police the world necessarily requires policing the population at home. This goes far beyond enhancing technical security against the threats of actual terrorist attacks or of retaliation against imperialism's global rampage -- a job which the agencies in charge of protecting the country's ports and vital economic targets are doing, in the opinion of many experts, very poorly indeed. More important, from the standpoint of the security of empire, the "homeland" has to be kept in line.
Dissent has to be intimidated and tightly leashed, lest the population get
the idea that its shrinking economic security and prospects are inextricably
connected to the bloating of the war machine. Most important of all, maintaining
the myth of the "global war on terror" requires a perpetual climate of fear.
Fear of immigrants crossing the border. Fear of "Saddam Hussein's weapons
of mass destruction," which never existed after 1995. Fear of "the Iranian
nuclear bomb," which is mythically projected to become "a real threat" just
in time for the
In narrow terms, the electoral outcome in November will probably rest on whether gasoline prices are over $3 a gallon, whether the previous month's economic news looks good, whether there's been another Katrina-type horror, whether voter rolls are rigged to keep Black and Latino voters away and electronic voting machines programmed to lose their votes. Bigger questions will be fought out afterward, by other means.
ATC 123, July-August 2006