Category Archives: US War Crimes

Is the US Global Empire Actually in Decline?

It is almost taken for granted, if not an article of faith, in the progressive milieu (e.g., here) that the US empire is declining. Does this hold up, or is it comfort food for the frustrated hoping for the revolution?

First, it is essential not to confuse the ongoing decline of the living conditions of US working people with a decline in the power of the US corporate empire. The decline of one often means the strengthening of the other.

In the aftermath of World War II, the US was the world manufacturing center, with the middle class rapidly expanding, and this era did end in the 1970s. It is also true the heyday of uncontested US world and corporate neoliberal supremacy is over, its zenith being the decade of the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allies. Now, looming on the horizon is China, with the US empire and its subordinate imperial allies (Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Italy) unable to thwart its rise this century, even more than when China stood up in 1949.

Yet the US imperial system still maintains decisive economic and political dominance, cultural and ideological hegemony, backed by tremendous military muscle. If US ruling class power were in decline, why have there been no socialist revolutions ­­­− the overturning of capitalist rule ­­­− in almost half a century? What would the world look like if the US lacked the muscle to be world cop?

Imperialism continually faces crises; this is inherent to their system. The question is: which class takes advantage of these crises to advance their interests, the corporate capitalist class or the working class and its allies at home and abroad. In the recent decades, capitalist crises have resulted in setbacks for our class, and a steady worsening of our conditions of life.

Previous proponents of US empire decline have predicted its demise with an expanding Communist bloc, then Germany and Japan with their supposedly more efficient capitalist production methods, then the European Union encompassing most of Western Europe into a supra-national entity, then the Asian Tigers, and then BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). All challenges turned out to be wishful thinking. Now the proponents of decline expect China itself will soon supplant US dominion.  We explore a number of the economic, political, and military difficulties the US empire confronts in its role as world cop.

Imperial Decline or Adjustments in Methods of Rule?

A common misconception among believers of US ruling class demise holds that imperial failure to succeed in some particular aim signifies imperial weakening. Examples of setbacks include Afghanistan, the failure to block North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, catastrophic mishandling of the COVID pandemic, and seeming inability to reign in the mammoth US national debt. However, throughout history, successful maintenance of imperial hegemony has never precluded absence of terrible setbacks and defeats. Most importantly, the fundamental question arising from a setback is which class learns to advance its interests more effectively, the imperial overlords or the oppressed.

The US rulers, as with other imperial nations, have proven adept at engineering more effective methods of control from crises, as Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine illustrates. For instance, in the mid-20th century the imperial powers were forced to relinquish direct political governance of their colonial empires, often due to costly wars. Until after World War II, the Western nations owned outright most of Africa and much of Asia. Yet this new Third World political independence did not herald the end of imperial rule over their former colonies. The imperialists simply readjusted their domination through a neocolonial setup and continued to loot these countries, such as siphoning off over $1 trillion  every year since 2005 just through tax havens.

Likewise, for seven decades the imperial ruling classes endured repeated defeats attempting to overturn the seemingly invincible Russian revolution. But they only needed to succeed one time, using a new strategy, to emerge victorious.

A third example, the growing US national deficit due to the cost of the war on Vietnam forced Nixon to no longer peg the value of the dollar to gold at $35 an ounce. After World War II, the US had imposed the dollar as the international reserve currency, fixed at this exchange rate.  Today gold is $1806 an ounce, yet the dollar continues as the world reserve currency. The US rulers resolved their crisis by readjusting the manner their dollar reigned in international markets.

A fourth example is the world historic defeat dealt the empire at the hands of the Vietnamese. Yet Vietnam today poses no challenge to US supremacy, in sharp contrast to 50 years ago.

The US ruling class is well versed in the lessons gained from centuries of Western imperial supremacy. They have repeatedly demonstrated that the no longer effective methods of world control can be updated.  Bankruptcy in methods of rule may not signify a decline, but only the need for a reset, allowing the domination to continue.

Part 1:  US Economic and Financial Strength

Decline in US Share of World Production

A central element of the waning US empire argument comes from the unparalleled economic rise of China. As a productive powerhouse, the US has been losing ground. As of 2019, before the COVID year reduced it further, the US share of world manufacturing amounted to 16.8%, while China was number one, at 28.7%.

Similarly, the US Gross Domestic Product itself (GDP) slipped from 40% of the world economy in 1960 to 24% in 2019. GDP is the total market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country.

When GDP is measured by the world reserve currency, the dollar, the US ranks first, at $21 trillion, with China number two at $14.7 trillion. Using the Purchasing Power Parity measure of GDP,  which measures economic output in terms of a nation’s own prices, China’s GDP surpasses the US at $24.16 trillion. By either measure, a steady US erosion over time is evident, particularly in relation to China, and a major concern for the US bosses.

Worsening US balance of trade reflects this decline. In 1971 the US had a negative balance of trade (the value of imports greater than the value of exports) for the first time in 78 years. Since then, the value of exports has exceeded that of imports only two times, in 1973 and 1975. From 2003 on, the US has been running an annual trade deficit of $500 billion or more. To date the US rulers “pay” for this by creating dollars out of thin air.

Ballooning US National Debt

The ballooning US national debt is considered another indicator of US imperial demise. The US debt clock puts the national debt at $28.5 trillion, up from $5.7 trillion in 2000. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) numbers, the US debt is 118% of the GDP, near a historic high point, up from 79.2% at the end of 2019.

The international reserves of the imperialist nations do not even cover 2% of their foreign debt. In contrast, China tops the list with the largest international reserves, which covers 153% of its foreign debt.

However, today US debt as a percent of GDP is lower than in World War II, at the height of US economic supremacy. Germany’s debt to GDP ratio is 72%. Japan’s is 264%, making its debt over two and a half times the size of the country’s GDP. China’s is 66%.

Yet a key concern with the ballooning national debt − inflation caused by creating money backed with no corresponding increase in production − hasn’t been a problem in any of these countries, not even Japan. The immediate issue with debt is not its size in trillions of dollars, but the degree annual economic growth exceeds the annual interest payment on the debt.

In the US, this payout costs almost $400 billion a year, 1.9% of GDP. Federal Reserve Board president Powell stated: “Given the low level of interest rates, there’s no issue about the United States being able to service its debt at this time or in the foreseeable future.” Former IMF chief economist and president of the American Economic Association, Olivier Blanchard likewise declared: “Put bluntly, public debt may have no fiscal cost” given that “the current US situation in which safe interest rates are expected to remain below growth rates for a long time, is more the historical norm than the exception.” According to these ruling class economists, the huge size of the US national debt presents no economic difficulty for their bosses.

Technological Patents

Patents are an indicator of a country’s technological progress because they reflect the creation and dissemination of knowledge in productive activities. Today China is on the technological cutting edge in wind power, solar power, online payments, digital currencies, artificial intelligence (such as facial recognition), quantum computing, satellites and space exploration, 5G and 6G, drones, and ultra-high voltage power transmission. In 2019, China ended the US reign as the leading filer of international patents, a position previously held by the US every year since the UN World Intellectual Property Organization’s Patent Cooperation Treaty System began in 1978.

The failure of the US rulers to thwart China’s scientific and technological advances threatens the preeminence the US holds on technological innovation. Rents from the US corner on intellectual property is a major contributor to the US economy. The drastic measures the US has taken against Huawei exemplify the anxiety of the empire’s rulers.

US technological superiority is now being challenged. Yet, as John Ross points out, “Even using PPP measures, the US possesses overall technological superiority compared to China…. the level of productivity of the US economy is more than three times that of China.”1

The US Still Controls the Global Financial Network

While the world share of US manufacturing and exports has shrunk, the US overlords still reign over the world financial order. A pillar of their world primacy lies in the dollar as the world’s “reserve currency,” an innocuous term referring to US sway over the global financial and trade structure, including international banking networks, such as the World Bank and the IMF.

Following the 1971 end of the dollar’s $35 an ounce peg to gold, Nixon engineered deals with the Middle East oil exporting regimes, guaranteeing them military support on condition they sell their oil exclusively in dollars. This gave a compelling new reason for foreign governments and banks to hold dollars. The US could now flood international markets with dollars regardless of the amount of gold it held. Today, most of the world’s currencies remain pegged directly or indirectly to the dollar.

To facilitate growing international trade, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) was created in 1973. SWIFT is a payment and transaction network used by international banks to monitor and process purchases and payments by individuals, companies, banks, and governments. Dominated by the US, it grants the country even greater mastery over world trade and financial markets. Here, China poses no challenge to US supremacy.

After the euro became established, the percent of world reserves held in US dollars diminished from the 71% share it held in 2001. Since 2003, the dollar has kept the principal share, fluctuating in the 60-65% range. Today, the percent of world nations’ currency reserves held in US dollars amounts to $7 trillion, 59.5% of international currency reserves.

In 2021 the dollar’s share of total foreign currency reserves is actually greater than in the 1980s and 1990s.

Because only a few reserve currencies are accepted in international trade, countries are not free to trade their goods in their own money. Rather, over 90% of nations’ imports and exports requires use of the dollar, the euro, or the currencies of other imperial states. The Chinese RMB, in contrast, constitutes merely 2.4% of international reserves, ranking China on the level of Canada. The US continues as the superpower in world currency reserves, while China is a marginal player.

The US Dollar as the World Reserve Currency

The US maintains preeminence because banks, governments and working peoples around the world regards US dollar as the safest, most reliable, and accepted currency to hold their savings.

A capitalist economic crisis, even when caused by the US itself, as in 2008, actually increases demand for the dollar, since the dollar is still viewed as the safe haven. People expect the dollar to be the currency most likely to retain its value in periods of uncertainty. Ironically, an economic crisis precipitated by the US results in money flooding into dollar assets, keeping world demand for dollars high. The 2008-09 crisis enabled the ruling class to advance their domination over working people, fleecing us of hundreds of billions of dollars.

SWIFT data show that China’s RMB plays a minor role in world trade transactions.  While China has become the world exporter, its currency was used in merely 1.9% of  international payments, versus 38% for the US dollar, with 77% of transactions in the dollar or euro. This means almost all China’s own imports and exports are not traded in Chinese currency, but in that of the US and its subordinates.

Being the leading force in SWIFT gives the US a powerful weapon. The US rulers can target countries it seeks to overthrow (such as Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Iran) with sanctions declared illegal by the United Nations. SWIFT enables the US rulers to prevent those countries’ access to their overseas bank accounts, blocks their access to international trade as well as loans from the World Bank, the IMF and most international banks. The US uses its authority in the World Trade Organization to prevent countries like Venezuela from demanding the WTO punish the US for disrupting Venezuela’s legitimate trade by means of these sanctions.

Arguments that China and Russia are abandoning the dollar point out that, while in 2015 approximately 90% of trade between the two countries was conducted in dollars, by spring 2020 the figure had dropped to 46%, with 24% of the trade in their own currencies. This shows some increasing independence, yet almost twice as much China-Russia trade still takes place in the dollar rather than in their own money. Further, their moves from the dollar have been in reaction to US imposed sanctions and tariffs, forcing them off the dollar, not from their own choice to cast aside the dollar as the international currency.

If China and Russia had the means to create a new world economic order they could withdraw their over $1.1 trillion and $123 billion invested in US Treasury bonds and use the funds to start their own international financial structure.

That China pegs the RMB to the dollar, rather than the dollar pegged to the RMB, also indicates the economic power relations between China and the US. China has expressed unease about the US potential to cut China off from the SWIFT network. Zhou Li, a spokesperson for China’s Communist Party, urged his party’s leaders to prepare for decoupling from the dollar, because the US dollar “has us by the throat… By taking advantage of the dollar’s global monopoly position in the financial sector, the US will pose an increasingly severe threat to China’s further development.”

While China has displaced the US as the primary productive workhouse of the world, it remains far from displacing the US as the world financial center. The size of China’s economy has not translated into a matching economic power.

Part 2: Military and Ideological Forms of Domination

The US regards as its Manifest Destiny to rule the world. The US bosses equate their national security interests with global security interests; no place or issue is insignificant. The US sees its role as defending the world capitalist order even if narrow US interests are not immediately and practically involved.

The Question of a US Military Decline

The second central element of the waning US empire argument is based on the US armed forces failures in the Middle East wars. However, they overlook that the US rulers suffered more stinging defeats in Korea 70 years ago and Vietnam 50 years ago, when the US was considered at the height of its supremacy. While over 7000 US soldiers and 8000 “contractors,” a code word for mercenaries, have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, this is much smaller than the 41,300 troops killed in Korea, or the 58,000 in Vietnam. Although in wars against Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan, the US ruling class could not achieve its aims, these peoples’ anti-imperial struggles were derailed, a US key objective. To the extent the peoples of these countries “won,” they inherited a country in ruins.

Likewise, the rising British empire suffered defeats at the hands of the US in 1783 and 1814, but this had little impact on 19th century British global ascendancy.

Save Iraq in 1991, the US has not won a war since World War II. Yet even in its heyday, the US military did not take on and defeat another major power without considerable outside aid. Spain was mostly defeated in Cuba and the Philippines before the US attacked. The US entered World War I after the other fighting forces were reaching exhaustion. In World War II, the Soviet Red Army broke the back of the German Wehrmacht, not the US. Only against Japan did the US military play a key role in crushing an imperial rival, though even here, the bulk of Japanese troops were tied down fighting the Chinese.

While today, the US military is reluctant about engaging in a full-scale land war, this has been mostly the case for the whole 20th century before any alleged imperial deterioration. Previously, the US rulers proved adept at not entering a war until it could emerge on top once the wars ended.

The “Vietnam syndrome,” code word for the US people’s opposition to fighting wars to defend the corporate world order, continues to haunt and impede the US rulers when they consider new military aggressions. This “syndrome,” which Bush Sr boasted had been overcome, has only deepened as result of the Afghanistan and Iraq debacles. Yet the corporate class took advantage of these wars to loot trillions from public funds, with working people to pay the bill.

The US is spending over a trillion dollars to “upgrade” a nuclear capacity which could wipe out life on the planet.  Even if US military capacity were diminishing in some areas, this is immaterial so long as the US still can, with a push of the button, annihilate all it considers opponents, even if this means a likely mutually assured destruction. The US also possesses similarly dangerous arsenals of biological and chemical weapons. It is not rational to think the US rulers spend mind-boggling sums of money on this weaponry but will not use them again when considered necessary to preserve their supremacy.

The US empire’s military dominion remains firmly in place around the world. Peoples’ struggles to close US military bases have met with little success. US ruling class de facto military occupations overseas continue through its over 800 bases in over 160 countries. These constitute 95% of the world’s total foreign military bases.

To date, if there has been any lessening of US military destructive capacity, no new armed forces or uprisings have dared to take advantage of this. If some national force considered it possible to break out of the US world jailhouse, we would be seeing that.

Hybrid Warfare: US Regime-Change Tools Besides Military Intervention

Military victory is not necessary for the US rulers to keep “insubordinate” countries in line. It suffices for the US to leave in ruins their attempts to build political and economic systems that prioritize national sovereignty over US dictates.

When incapable of overturning a potential “threat of a good example” through military invasion, the US may engineer palace coups. Since 2000, it has succeeded in engineering coups in Honduras, Bolivia, Georgia, and Haiti, to name a few.

Alternatives to fomenting a military coup include the US conducting lawfare to overturn governments, as seen in Paraguay and Brazil. The US ruling class also skillfully co-opts “color revolutions,” as seen in the Arab Spring and in the implosion of the Soviet bloc. Worldwide, the US regularly violates the sovereignty of nations through its regime-change agencies such as the CIA, USAID, and NED.

Besides invasions, coups, lawfare, election interference, and color revolutions, the US relies on its command over the global financial system and the subservience of other imperialist nations. This enables the US overlords to impose crippling sanctions and blockades on countries that assert their national sovereignty. The blockades on Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Syria constitute a boot on their neck, which have only become more severe the more these peoples valiantly defend their independence.

Condemnation of these blockades by working people and nations worldwide has yet to have material effect in constraining this imperial cruelty against whole peoples. Rather than a decline of the US empire’s ability to thwart another country’s right to determine their own future, there have been changes in method, from overtly militaristic to more covert hybrid warfare. Both are brutal and effective means of regime change.

US-First World Ideological Hegemony

The corporate leaders of the West wield world dominion over the international media, including news services, social media, and advertising. Their Coke and Disney characters, for instance, have penetrated even the remotest corners of the world. Today most of the world’s viewers of the news are fed a version of the news through media stage-managed by the US and its subordinate allies. In addition, there are almost 4 billion social media users in the world, with six social media companies having more than one billion users. China owns just one of these. Only the US and its subordinates have world reach in their control of news and social media, while China does not.

Ramon Labanino, one of the Cuban 5, illustrated how the US rulers use their media to foment the July 12 regime change operation in Cuba:

We are in the presence of an international media dictatorship, the big media are in the hands of imperialism and now the social networks and the alternative media also use them in a masterful way. They have the capacity, through data engineering, bots, to replicate a tweet millions of times, which is what they have done against Cuba. A ruthless attack on social networks and in the media to show a Cuba that is not real. On the other hand, we have an invasion in our networks to disarticulate our computer systems so that even we cannot respond to the lies. The interesting thing is the double purpose, not only that they attack us, but then we cannot defend ourselves because the media belong to them… Within the CIA, for example, they have a special operations group that is in charge of cyber attacks of this type and there is a group called the Political Action Group that organizes, structures and directs this type of attack.

Worldwide use of media disinformation and news spin plays a central role in preserving US primacy and acceptance of its propaganda. As Covert Action Magazine reported:

United States warmakers have become so skilled at propaganda that not only can they wage a war of aggression without arousing protest; they can also compel liberals to denounce peace activists using language reminiscent of the McCarthy era. Take the case of Syria. The people and groups one would normally count on to oppose wars have been the ones largely defending it. They have also often been the ones to label war opponents as “Assad apologists” or “genocide deniers”—causing them to be blacklisted.

The ruling class media’s effective massaging of what is called “news” has penetrated and disoriented many anti-war forces. This illustrates the appalling collapse of a world anti-war opposition that almost 20 years ago had been called “the new superpower,” not some decline of the US as world cop. Corporate media operations play a role comparable to military might in perpetuating US global control.

Part 3: The Threat US Rulers Perceive in China

Secretary of State Blinken spelled it out:

China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system, all the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American people.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded to Washington’s view that the international system operates primarily to advance US corporate interests:

The ‘rules-based order’ claimed by the US…refers to rules set by the US alone, then it cannot be called international rules, but rather ‘hegemonic rules,’ which will only be rejected by the whole world.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov recently said:

The United States has declared limiting the advance of technology in Russia and China as its goal…They are promoting their ideology-driven agenda aimed at preserving their dominance by holding back progress in other countries.

The Challenge China Presents to US Rulers Differs from that of the Soviet Union

China’s development poses a threat to imperialist hegemony different from the former Soviet bloc. China competes in the world markets run by the Western nations, slowly supplanting their control. China’s economic performance, 70 years after its revolution, has been unprecedented in world history, even compared to the First World countries. In contrast, the Soviet economy after 70 years was faltering.

China does not provide the economic and military protection for nations striving to build a new society the way the Soviet Union had. The importance of the Communist bloc as a force constraining the US was immense and is underappreciated. The Communist bloc generally allied itself with anti-imperialist forces, encouraging Third World national liberation struggles as well as the Non-Aligned Movement. The Communist bloc’s exemplary social programs also prompted the rise of social-democratic welfare state regimes (e.g., Sweden) in the capitalist West to circumvent possible socialist revolution.

Now, with no Soviet Union and its allies to extend international solidarity assistance to oppressed peoples and nations, countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea are much more on their own to defend themselves against US military maneuvers and blockades.

As John Ross points out, China is capable of slowly supplanting US-First World power over a long period of time, but in no position to replace these imperial states as world hegemon, nor does it desire to do so. US products are being driven out by China’s cheaper high-quality products and China’s more equitable “win-win” business arrangements with other countries, offering the opportunity for Third World countries to develop. However, China cannot displace the US in the world financial system, where the US and its allies retain overwhelming control.

The US has proven incapable of impeding China from becoming an independent world force. No matter the tariffs and sanctions placed on China, they have had little impact. Yet, the US has caused China to digress from its socialist planned economy, through US corporations and consumerist values penetrating the Chinese system.

Part 4:  The World if the US were in Decline

Revolutions on the International Stage

A weakened US imperialism would encourage peoples and nations to “seize the time” and score significant gains against this overlord’s hold on their countries. Yet since shortly after 1975, with the victories in Vietnam and Laos, a drought in socialist revolutions has persisted for almost half a century. If the US empire were in decline, we would find it handicapped in countering victorious socialist revolutions. However, the opposite has been the case, with the US rulers consolidating their hegemony over the world.

This contrasts with the 40-year period between 1917 and 1959, when socialist revolutions occurred in Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam, eleven countries across eastern Europe, and Cuba. These took place in the era of US rise, not decline. During this period, the US empire had to confront even greater challenges to its dictates than presented by today’s China and Russia in the form of the world Communist bloc, associated parties in capitalist countries, and the national liberation movements.

During the period of alleged US imperial demise, it has been socialist revolution that experienced catastrophic defeats. In the last 30 years, the struggle for socialist revolution has gone sharply in reverse, with the US and its subordinates not only blocking successful revolutions but overturning socialism in most of the former Communist sphere. The last three decades has witnessed greater consolidation of imperial supremacy over the world, not a deterioration.

The socialist revolutions that continue − North Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba − have all had to backtrack and reintroduce private enterprise and capitalist relations of production.  North Korea has allowed the growth of private markets; Cuba relies heavily on the Western tourist market. They have this forced upon them to survive more effectively in the present world neoliberal climate.

A victorious socialist revolution, even a much more limited anti-neoliberal revolution2 , requires a nation to stand up to the imperial vengeance that enforces neo-colonial subjugation. Small countries, such as Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela, have established political and some economic independence, but they have been unable to significantly advance against crushing blockades and US-backed coups in order to create developed economies. Historically, the only countries that have effectively broken with dependency and developed independently based on their own resources have been the Soviet Union and China.

Raul Castro made clear this world primacy of the US neoliberal empire:

In many cases, governments [including the subsidiary imperial ones] do not even have the capacity to enforce their sovereign prerogatives over the actions of national entities based in their own territories, as these are often docilely subordinated to Washington, as if we were living in a world subjugated by the unipolar power of the United States. This is a phenomenon that is expressed with particular impact in the financial sector, with national banks of several countries giving a US administration’s stipulations priority over the political decisions of their own governments.

A test of the US overlords’ decline can be measured in the struggle against US economic warfare in the form of sanctions. To date, the US can arm twist most countries besides China and Russia into abiding by its unilateral sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, and Iran. The US rulers still possess the power and self-assurance to ignore United Nations resolutions against economic warfare, including the UN General Assembly’s annual condemnation of the US blockade on Cuba. The peoples and nations of the world cannot make the US rulers pay a price for this warfare.

Domestic Struggles by the Working Class and its Allies that Shake the System

If the US empire were weakened, our working class could be winning strikes and union organizing drives against a capitalist class on the defensive. But the working class remains either quiescent, its struggles derailed, or most strikes settled by limiting the degree of boss takebacks. The 1997 UPS and 2016 Verizon strike were two that heralded important gains for workers. So far, however, the weakening class at home is not the corporate bosses, but the working class and its allies.

The workers movement has not even succeeded in gaining a national $15 minimum wage. The US rulers can spend over $900 billion a year on its war machine even during a pandemic that has killed almost 700,000, amid deteriorating standard of living  − no national health care, no quality free education, no raising of the minimum wage − without angry mass protests. This money could be spent on actual national security at home: housing for the homeless, eliminating poverty, countering global warming, jobs programs, and effectively handling the pandemic as China has (with only two deaths since May 2020). Instead, just in the Pentagon budget, nearly a trillion dollars a year of our money is a welfare handout to corporations to maintain their rule over the world. This overwhelming imperial reign over our workers’ movement signifies a degeneration in our working class organizations, not in the corporate overlords.

A weakened empire would provide opportunities for working class victories, re-allocating national wealth in their favor. Instead, we live in a new Gilded Age, with growing impoverishment of our class as the corporate heads keep grabbing greater shares of our national wealth. Americans for Tax Fairness points out:

America’s 719 billionaires held over four times more wealth ($4.56 trillion) than all the roughly 165 million Americans in society’s bottom half ($1.01 trillion), according to Federal Reserve Board data. In 1990, the situation was reversed — billionaires were worth $240 billion and the bottom 50% had $380 billion in collective wealth.

US billionaire wealth increased 19-fold over the last 31 years, with the combined wealth of 713 billionaires surging by $1.8 trillion during the pandemic, one-third of their wealth gains since 1990.

This scandalous appropriation of working people’s wealth by less than one thousand bosses at the top without causing mass indignation and working class fightback, encapsules the present power relations between the two contending classes.

With a weakened empire, we would expect a rise of a militant mass current in the trade unions and the working class committed to the struggle to reverse this trend. Instead, trade unions support corporate governance and their political candidates for office, not even making noise about a labor party.

With a weakened empire, we would expect the US working people to be turning away from the two corporate parties and building our own labor party as an alternative. In 2016 the US electorate backed two “outsiders,” Bernie Sanders and Trump, in the primaries against the traditional Democratic and Republican candidates, but this movement was co-opted with little difficulty. That the two corporate-owned parties still wield the power to co-opt, if not extinguish, our working class movements, as with the mass anti-Iraq war movement, the Occupy movement, the Madison trade union protests, the pro-Bernie groundswells in 2016 and 2020, shows the empire’s continued vitality, not deterioration.

In 2020 most all liberals and lefts capitulated to the Democrats’ anti-Trumpism, under the guise of “fighting fascism.” The “resistance” became the “assistance.” The promising Black Lives Matter movement of summer 2020 became largely absorbed into the Biden campaign a few months later. If the corporate empire were declining, progressive forces and leftist groups would not have bowed to neoliberal politicians and the national security state by climbing on the elect-Biden bandwagon. The 2020 election brought out the highest percent of voters in over a century to vote for one or the other of two neoliberal politicians. This stunning victory for the US ruling class resulted from a stunning surrender by progressive forces. To speak of declining corporate US supremacy in this context is nonsense.

Likely Indicators of a Demise of US Supremacy

For all our political lives we have been reading reports of the impending decline of US global supremacy. If just a fraction of these reports were accurate, then surely the presidential executive orders that Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, and Cuba are “unusual and extraordinary threats to the national security of the United States” would have some basis in reality.

If US corporate dominion were declining, we might see:

  • The long called for democratization of the United Nations and other international bodies with one nation, one vote
  • Social democratic welfare governments would again be supplanting neoliberal regimes
  • Replacement of World Bank, WTO, and IMF with international financial institutions independent of US control
  • Curtailing NATO and other imperialist military alliances
  • End of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency
  • Dismantling of US overseas military bases
  • Emergence of regional blocs independent of the US, replacing the current vassal organizations (e.g., European Union, OAS, Arab League, Organization of African Unity)
  • Nuclear disarmament rather than nuclear escalation
  • Working peoples of the world enforcing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • A decline of the allure of US controlled world media culture (e.g., Disney, Hollywood)

Part 5: Conclusion:  US Decline looks like a Mirage

Proponents of US decline point to two key indicators: its diminished role in global production and ineffectiveness of the US ruler’s military as world cop. Yet, the US rulers, with the aid of those in the European Union and Japan, maintain world financial control and continue to keep both our country and the world under lock and key.

The US overlords represent the spokesperson and enforcer of the First World imperial system of looting, while compelling subservience from the other imperial nations. None dare pose as potential imperial rivals to the US, nor challenge it in any substantial manner.

It is misleading to compare China’s rise to the US alone, since the US represents a bloc of imperial states. To supplant US economic preeminence, China would have to supplant the economic power of this entire bloc. These countries still generate most world production with little prospect this will change. A China-Russia alliance scarcely equals this US controlled First World club.

To date, each capitalist crisis has only reinforced the US rulers’ dominion as the world financial hub. Just the first half of this year, world investors have poured $900 billion into the safe haven US assets, more than they put into funds in the rest of the world combined. So long as the US capitalists can export their economic downturns to other countries and onto the backs of its own working people, so long as the world turns to the US dollar as the safe haven, decline of US ruling class preeminence is not on the table.

The last period of imperial weakening occurred from the time of US defeat in Vietnam up to the reimposition of imperial diktat under Reagan and his sidekick, Margaret Thatcher. During this time, working peoples’ victories were achieved across the international stage: Afghanistan, Iran, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Grenada; Cuban military solidarity in Angola, Vietnam’s equivalent in Cambodia; revolution in Portugal and in its African colonies, in Zimbabwe, and seeming imminent victories in El Salvador and Guatemala. At home, a rising class struggle current arose in the working class, as in the Sadlowski Steelworkers Fight Back movement and the militant 110-day coal miners strike, which forced President Carter to back down. This worldwide upsurge against corporate rule ended about 40 years ago, as yet unmatched by new ones.

Proclamations of a waning US empire portray a wishful thinking bordering on empty bravado. Moreover, a crumbling empire will not lead to its final exit without a massive working peoples’ movement at home to overthrow it. Glen Ford observed that capitalism has lost its legitimacy, especially among the young: “But that doesn’t by itself bring down a system. It is simply a sign that people are not happy. Mass unhappiness may bring down an administration. But it doesn’t necessarily change a system one bit.”

Capitalism is wracked by crisis – inherent to the system, Marx explained. Yet, as the catastrophe of World War I and its aftermath showed, as the Great Depression showed, as Europe in chaos after World War II showed, capitalist crises are no harbinger of its collapse. The question is not how severe the crisis, but which class, capitalist or working class, takes advantage of it to advance their own interests.

A ruling class crisis allows us to seize the opportunity if our forces are willing to fight, are organized, and are well-led. As Lenin emphasized, “The proletariat has no other weapon in the fight for power except organization.” In regards to organization, we are unprepared. Contributing to our lack of effective anti-imperialist organization is our profound disbelief that a serious challenge at home to US ruling class control is even possible.

Whatever the indications of US deterioration as world superpower, recall that the Roman empire’s decay began around 177 AD. But it did not collapse in the West until 300 years later, in 476, and the eastern half did not collapse for 1000 years after that. Informing a Roman slave or plebe in 200 AD that the boot on their necks was faltering would fall on deaf ears. We are now in a similar situation. The empire will never collapse by itself, even with the engulfing climate catastrophe. Wishful thinking presents a dysfunctional substitute for actual organizing, for preparing people to seize the time when the opening arises.

  1. John Ross, “China and South-South Cooperation in the present global situation,” in China’s Great Road, p. 203.
  2. There is a continuous class struggle between popular forces demanding increased government resources and programs to serve their needs, against corporate power seeking to privatize in corporate hands all such government spending and authority. This unchecked corporate centralization of wealth and power is euphemistically called “neoliberalism.”  An anti-neoliberal revolution places popular forces in political control while economic power remains in the hands of the capitalist class.
The post Is the US Global Empire Actually in Decline? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

To Counter Terror, Abolish War

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was among a small group of U.S. citizens who sat on milk crates or stood holding signs, across from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan. We had been fasting from solid foods for a month, calling for an end to brutal economic warfare waged against Iraq through imposition of U.N. sanctions. Each Friday of our fast, we approached the entrance to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations carrying lentils and rice, asking the U.S. officials to break our fast with us, asking them to hear our reports, gathered after visiting destitute Iraqi hospitals and homes. On four successive Friday afternoons, New York police handcuffed us and took us to jail.

Two days after the passenger planes attacked the World Trade Center,  U.S. Mission to the UN officials called us and asked that we visit with them.

I had naively hoped this overture could signify empathy on the part of U.S. officials. Perhaps the 9/11 attack would engender sorrow over the suffering and pain endured by people of Iraq and other lands when the U.S. attacks them. The officials at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations wanted to know why we went to Iraq but we sensed they were mainly interested in filling out forms to comply with an order to gather more information about U.S. people going to Iraq.

The U.S. government and military exploited the grief and shock following 9/11 attacks to raise fears, promote Islamophobia and launch forever wars which continue to this day. Under the guise of “counter-terrorism,” the U.S. now pledges to combine drone attacks, surveillance, airstrikes, and covert operations to continue waging war in Afghanistan. Terror among Afghans persists.

I visited Kabul, Afghanistan in September 2019. While there, a young friend whom I’ve known for five years greeted me and then spoke in a hushed voice. “Kathy,” he asked, “do you know about Qazi Qadir, Bahadir, Jehanzeb and Saboor?” I nodded. I had read a news account, shortly before I arrived, about Afghan Special Operations commandos, trained by the CIA, having waged a night raid in the city of Jalalabad at the home of four brothers. They awakened the young men, then shot and killed them. Neighbors said the young men had gathered to welcome their father back from the Hajj; numerous colleagues insisted the young men were innocent.

My young friend has been deeply troubled by many other incidents in which the United States directly attacked innocent people or trained Afghan units to do so. Two decades of U.S. combat in Afghanistan have made civilians vulnerable to drone attacks, night raids, airstrikes and arrests. Over 4 million people have become internally displaced as they fled from battles or could no longer survive on scarred, drought stricken lands.

In an earlier visit to Kabul, at the height of the U.S. troop surge, another young friend earnestly asked me to tell parents in the United States not to send their sons and daughters to Afghanistan. “Here it is very dangerous for them,” he said. “And they do not really help us.”

For many years, the United States claimed its mission in Afghanistan improved the lives of Afghan women and children. But essentially, the U.S. war improved the livelihoods of those who designed, manufactured, sold and used weaponry to kill Afghans.

When the U.S. was winding down its troop surge in 2014, but not its occupation,  military officials undertook what they called “the largest retrograde mission in U.S. military history,” incurring enormous expenses. One estimate suggested the war in Afghanistan, that year, was costing $2 million per U.S. soldier. That same year, UNICEF officials calculated that the cost of adding iodized salt into the diet of an Afghan infant, a step which could prevent chronic brain damage in children suffering from acute malnourishment, would be 5 cents per child per year.

Which endeavor would the majority of U.S. people have opted to support, in their personal budgets, had they ever been given a choice? Profligate U.S. military spending in Afghanistan or vital assistance for a starving Afghan child?

One of my young Afghan friends says he is now an anarchist. He doesn’t place much trust in governments and militaries. He feels strong allegiance toward the grassroots network he has helped build, a group I would normally name and celebrate, but must now refer to as “our young friends in Afghanistan,” in hopes of protecting them from hostile groups.

The brave and passionate dedication they showed as they worked tirelessly to share resources, care for the environment, and practice nonviolence has made them quite vulnerable to potential accusers who may believe they were too connected with westerners.

In recent weeks, I’ve been part of an ad hoc team assisting 60 young people and their family members who feel alarmed about remaining in Kabul and are sorting out their options to flee the country.

It’s difficult to forecast how Taliban rule will affect them.

Already, some extraordinarily brave people have held protests in in the provinces of Herat, Nimroz, Balkh and Farah, and in the city of Kabul where dozens of women took to the streets to demand representation in the new government and to insist that their rights must be protected.

In many provinces in Afghanistan, the Taliban may find themselves ruling over increasingly resentful people. Half the population already lives in poverty and economic catastrophe looms. In damage caused by war, people have lost harvests, homes and livestock. A third wave of COVID afflicts the country and  three million Afghans face consequences of severe drought. Will the Taliban government have the resources and skills to cope with these overwhelming problems?

On the other hand, in some provinces, Taliban rule has seemed preferable to the previous government’s incompetence and corruption, particularly in regard to property or land disputes.

We should be honest. The Taliban are in power today because of a colossal mess the U.S. helped create.

Now, we U.S. citizens must insist on paying reparations for destruction caused by 20 years of war. To be meaningful, reparations must also include dismantling the warfare systems that caused so much havoc and misery. Our wars of choice were waged against people who meant us no harm. We must choose, now, to lay aside the cruel futility of our forever wars.

My young friend who whispered to me about human rights abuses in 2019 recently fled Afghanistan. He said he doesn’t want to be driven by fear, but he deeply wants to use his life to do good, to build a better world.

Ultimately, Afghanistan will need people like him and his friends if the country is ever to experience a future where basic human rights to food, shelter, health care and education are met. It will need people who have already made dedicated sacrifices for peace, believing in an Afghan adage which says “blood doesn’t wash away blood.”

Essentially, people in Afghanistan will need U.S. people to embrace this same teaching. We must express true sorrow, seek forgiveness, and show valor similar to that of the brave people insisting on human rights in Afghanistan today.

Collectively, recognizing the terrible legacy of 9/11, we must agree:  To counter terror, abolish war.

This article first appeared at Waging Nonviolence

The post To Counter Terror, Abolish War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Paul Wolfowitz: Deluded and At Liberty

It was all marvellous for Paul Wolfowitz to get on Australian television (why bother?) to brusquely discuss those attacks on US soil in September 2001 and criticism of the invasion of Iraq by US-led forces.  After two decades, the former US deputy secretary of defense has not mellowed.

With each show, interview and podium performance Wolfowitz gives, there is a sense that the hole he has dug for himself has become an oasis of reassuring delusion.  Iraq’s despot Saddam Hussein, executed at the behest of authorities sponsored and propped by the US, gave Wolfowitz an ecstatic excuse to explain the rationale of American power: he was a threat, and worldly threat at that.  In 2003, there was little evidence to suggest that, but neoconservatism has always been a doctrine in search of cartoonish myths.

The fact that Weapons of Mass Destruction featured prominently as the reason for overthrowing Saddam became the necessitous outcome of bureaucratic sensibility: “for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy,” he told Vanity Fair in 2003, “we settled on the one issue everyone could agree on: weapons of mass destruction”.

When those elusive WMDs proved stubbornly elusive, PW shifted his emphasis from security rationales to one of liberation.  Along the way he blamed the “consensus judgment of the intelligence community” for not getting it right in the first place, an assessment verging on the mendacious.

While Saddam Hussein was a high grade butcher and villain to many of his people, it is hard to credit him with the Bond villain, pulp view Wolfowitz gives him.  Evidence chasers such as Ben Bonk at the Central Intelligence Agency were frustrated in being thrown at the fruitless effort to link Saddam to al-Qaeda.  Intelligence operatives were effectively being leaned upon to confect the record and find justifications.

In 2013, Wolfowitz was still insisting on uncertainty as a principle.  “We still don’t know how all of this is going to end.”  He accepted that the decapitation of the Iraqi leadership without an immediate substitute might have been unwise.  The “idea that we’re going to come in like [General Douglas] MacArthur in Japan and write the constitution for them” was erroneous.

That did not matter.  The threat was there and present, growing like a stimulated bacillus.  Depraved and disoriented, he takes the argument that invading Iraq at the time was appropriate because it would have had to happen in any case. Saddam was street store vendor, sponsor and patron of terrorism (he never defines the dimension of this, nor adduces evidence) and needed to be dealt with.  The sword would eventually have to be unsheathed.  “We would very likely either have had to go through this whole scenario all over but probably with higher costs for having delayed, or we’d be in a situation today where not only Iran was edging towards nuclear weapons but so was Iraq and also Libya.”

In 2003, the aptly named Jeffrey Record reflected his surname’s worth by taking a hatchet to the Wolfowitz view in a scathing assessment for the Strategic Studies Institute.  In declaring a global war on terrorism (GWOT), the Bush administration had identified a range of states, weapons of danger, terrorists and terrorism while conflating “them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.”  Not sloppy, is Record.

He goes on to note, relevantly, the conflation premise: that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were seen, amateurishly, “as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat.”  This “strategic error of the first order” ignored “critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to US deterrence and military action” led to “an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq.  The result: “a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism” and the diversion of “attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda.”

The 9/11 Commission Report, despite noting “friendly contacts” between Osama bin Laden and Iraqi officials at various points, similarly found “no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative personal relationship.”  Nor was there “evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”

Critics suggest incompetence and bungling in the invasion of Iraq.  They exclude venality and calculation.  Wolfowitz, as if anticipating a prosecution in some faraway court, has been busy covering his tracks and pointing the finger at other decision makers further up the greased pole.  The top suspect: current retiree amateur painter President George W. Bush.  “I don’t think I ever met the president alone.  I didn’t meet him very often.  [Secretary of State Colin] Powell had access to him whenever he wanted it.  And if he was so sure it was a mistake why didn’t he say so?”  What a merry band they make.

Wolfowitz, for the defence, always has to play some useful (or useless) idiot card, proffered from the surrounds of the tired lecture circuit or the American Enterprise Institute.  He is ideologically inclined, evidentially challenged, and keen to accept material that confirms his prejudice rather than contradicts it.  When found wanting about his decisions on accepting, for instance, the bargain basement material of Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, he returned to common cultural themes.  “I don’t think anybody in that part of the world was completely straight with us.”

Perhaps, after two decades, it is time to sort the books, order the records and call forth those architects of war who, dismally deluded and acting with criminal intent and incompetence, plunged a good part of the globe into conflict, leaving a legacy that continues to pollute with tenacious determination.  Along the way, we can mourn the dead of 9/11 and all the dead that followed.

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The Rise of the Security-Industrial Complex from 9/11 to COVID-19

I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life.

— Osama bin Laden (October 2001), as reported by CNN

What a strange and harrowing road we’ve walked since September 11, 2001, littered with the debris of our once-vaunted liberties. We have gone from a nation that took great pride in being a model of a representative democracy to being a model of how to persuade a freedom-loving people to march in lockstep with a police state.

Our losses are mounting with every passing day.

What began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act  has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The citizenry’s unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has resulted in a society where the nation has been locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, police violence and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

The rights embodied in the Constitution, if not already eviscerated, are on life support.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people, a war that has grown more pronounced since 9/11.

Indeed, since the towers fell on 9/11, the U.S. government has posed a greater threat to our freedoms than any terrorist, extremist or foreign entity ever could.

While nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government and its agents have easily killed at least ten times that number of civilians in the U.S. and abroad since 9/11 through its police shootings, SWAT team raids, drone strikes and profit-driven efforts to police the globe, sell weapons to foreign nations (which too often fall into the hands of terrorists), and foment civil unrest in order to keep the security industrial complex gainfully employed.

The American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, denied due process, and killed.

In allowing ourselves to be distracted by terror drills, foreign wars, color-coded warnings, pandemic lockdowns and other carefully constructed exercises in propaganda, sleight of hand, and obfuscation, we failed to recognize that the U.S. government—the government that was supposed to be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”—has become the enemy of the people.

Consider that the government’s answer to every problem has been more government—at taxpayer expense—and less individual liberty.

Every crisis—manufactured or otherwise—since the nation’s early beginnings has become a make-work opportunity for the government to expand its reach and its power at taxpayer expense while limiting our freedoms at every turn: The Great Depression. The World Wars. The 9/11 terror attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic.

Viewed in this light, the history of the United States is a testament to the old adage that liberty decreases as government (and government bureaucracy) grows. Or, to put it another way, as government expands, liberty contracts.

This is how the emergency state operates, after all, and we should know: after all, we have spent the past 20 years in a state of emergency.

From 9/11 to COVID-19, “we the people” have acted the part of the helpless, gullible victims desperately in need of the government to save us from whatever danger threatens. In turn, the government has been all too accommodating and eager while also expanding its power and authority in the so-called name of national security.

This is a government that has grown so corrupt, greedy, power-hungry and tyrannical over the course of the past 240-plus years that our constitutional republic has since given way to idiocracy, and representative government has given way to a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens).

What this really amounts to is a war on the American people, fought on American soil, funded with taxpayer dollars, and waged with a single-minded determination to use national crises, manufactured or otherwise, in order to transform the American homeland into a battlefield.

Indeed, the government’s (mis)management of various states of emergency in the past 20 years has spawned a massive security-industrial complex the likes of which have never been seen before. According to the National Priorities Project at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies, since 9/11, the United States has spent $21 trillion on “militarization, surveillance, and repression.”

Clearly, this is not a government that is a friend to freedom.

Rather, this is a government that, in conjunction with its corporate partners, views the citizenry as consumers and bits of data to be bought, sold and traded.

This is a government that spies on and treats its people as if they have no right to privacy, especially in their own homes while the freedom to be human is being erased.

This is a government that is laying the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data as a convenient means by which to penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors. Incredibly, a new government agency HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

This is a government that routinely engages in taxation without representation, whose elected officials lobby for our votes only to ignore us once elected.

This is a government comprised of petty bureaucrats, vigilantes masquerading as cops, and faceless technicians.

This is a government that railroads taxpayers into financing government programs whose only purpose is to increase the power and wealth of the corporate elite.

This is a government—a warring empire—that forces its taxpayers to pay for wars abroad that serve no other purpose except to expand the reach of the military industrial complex.

This is a government that subjects its people to scans, searches, pat downs and other indignities by the TSA and VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets like shopping malls and bus depots by black-clad, Darth Vader look-alikes.

This is a government that uses fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, to track the citizenry’s movements, record their conversations, and catalogue their transactions.

This is a government whose wall-to-wall surveillance has given rise to a suspect society in which the burden of proof has been reversed such that Americans are now assumed guilty until or unless they can prove their innocence.

This is a government that treats its people like second-class citizens who have no rights, and is working overtime to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.

This is a government that uses free speech zones, roving bubble zones and trespass laws to silence, censor and marginalize Americans and restrict their First Amendment right to speak truth to power.

This is a government that persists in renewing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely based on the say-so of the government.

This is a government that saddled us with the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.

This is a government that, in direct opposition to the dire warnings of those who founded our country, has allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a standing army by way of programs that transfer surplus military hardware to local and state police.

This is a government that has militarized American’s domestic police, equipping them with military weapons such as “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; a million hollow-point bullets; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft,” in addition to armored vehicles, sound cannons and the like.

This is a government that has provided cover to police when they shoot and kill unarmed individuals just for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

This is a government that has created a Constitution-free zone within 100 miles inland of the border around the United States, paving the way for Border Patrol agents to search people’s homes, intimately probe their bodies, and rifle through their belongings, all without a warrant. Nearly 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, 197.4 million people) now live within that 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

This is a government that treats public school students as if they were prison inmates, enforcing zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, and indoctrinating them with teaching that emphasizes rote memorization and test-taking over learning, synthesizing and critical thinking.

This is a government that is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s sorely neglected infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—is rapidly deteriorating.

This is a government that has empowered police departments to make a profit at the expense of those they have sworn to protect through the use of asset forfeiture laws, speed traps, and red light cameras.

This is a government whose gun violence—inflicted on unarmed individuals by battlefield-trained SWAT teams, militarized police, and bureaucratic government agents trained to shoot first and ask questions later—poses a greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass shooter. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government agents armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines.

This is a government that has allowed the presidency to become a dictatorship operating above and beyond the law, regardless of which party is in power.

This is a government that treats dissidents, whistleblowers and freedom fighters as enemies of the state.

This is a government that has in recent decades unleashed untold horrors upon the world—including its own citizenry—in the name of global conquest, the acquisition of greater wealth, scientific experimentation, and technological advances, all packaged in the guise of the greater good.

This is a government that allows its agents to break laws with immunity while average Americans get the book thrown at them.

This is a government that speaks in a language of force. What is this language of force? Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality. Contempt of cop charges.

This is a government that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security, national crises and national emergencies.

This is a government that exports violence worldwide, with one of this country’s most profitable exports being weapons. Indeed, the United States, the world’s largest exporter of arms, has been selling violence to the world in order to prop up the military industrial complex and maintain its endless wars abroad.

This is a government that is consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population and seemingly unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

This is a government that routinely undermines the Constitution and rides roughshod over the rights of the citizenry, eviscerating individual freedoms so that its own powers can be expanded.

This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation, the Constitution be damned.

In other words, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, this is not a government that believes in, let alone upholds, freedom.

 

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The “Longest War” Is Not Over

Speaking from the White House on August 31, President Joe Biden lied to the people of the U.S. and to the world: “Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan — the longest war in American history.” The U.S. war on Afghanistan did not end— it has only adapted to technological advances and morphed into a war that will be more politically sustainable, one more intractable and more easily exportable. As the president admitted, “We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries.  We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it.  We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground — or very few, if needed.”

Five days before, on the evening of Thursday, August 26, hours after a suicide bomb was detonated at the gate of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport killing and wounding scores of Afghans trying to flee their country and killing 18 U.S. soldiers, President Biden spoke to the world, “outraged as well as heartbroken,” he said. Many of us listening to the president’s speech, made before the victims could be counted and the rubble cleared, did not find comfort or hope in his words. Instead, our heartbreak and outrage were only amplified as Joe Biden seized the tragedy to call for more war.

“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he threatened. “I’ve also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities. We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing.”

The president’s threatened “moment of our choosing” came one day later, on Friday, August 27, when the U.S. military carried out a drone strike against what it said was an ISIS-K “planner” in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. The U.S. military’s claim that it knows of “no civilian casualties” in the attack is contradicted by reports from the ground. “We saw that rickshaws were burning,” one Afghan witness said. “Children and women were wounded and one man, one boy and one woman had been killed on the spot.” Fear of an ISIS-K counterattack further hampered evacuation efforts as the U.S. Embassy warned U.S. citizens to leave the airport. “This strike was not the last,” said President Biden. On August 29, another U.S. drone strike killed a family of ten in Kabul.

The first lethal drone strike in history occurred in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, when the CIA identified Taliban leader Mullah Omar, “or 98-percent probable it was he,” but the Hellfire missile launched by a Predator drone killed two unidentified men while Mullah Omar escaped. These two recent instances of “force and precision” ordered by Biden twenty years later, marked the presumed end to the war there just as it had begun. The intervening record has not been much better and, in fact, documents exposed by whistleblower Daniel Hale prove that the U.S. government is aware that 90% of its drone strike victims are not the intended targets.

Zemari Ahmadi, who was killed in the August 29 drone strike in Kabul along with nine members of his family, seven of them young children, had been employed by a California based humanitarian organization and had applied for a visa to come to the U.S., as had Ahmadi’s nephew Nasser, also killed in the same attack. Nasser had worked with U.S. Special Forces in the Afghan city of Herat and had also served as a guard for the U.S. Consulate there. Whatever affinity the surviving members of Ahmadi’s family and friends might have had with the U.S. went up in smoke, that day. “America is the killer of Muslims in every place and every time,” said one relative who attended the funeral, “I hope that all Islamic countries unite in their view that America is a criminal.” Another mourner, a colleague of Ahmadi, said “We’re now much more afraid of drones than we are of the Taliban.”

The fact that targeted killings like those carried out in Afghanistan and other places from 2001 to the present are counterproductive to the stated objectives of defeating terrorism, regional stability or of winning hearts and minds has been known by the architects of the “war on terror,” at least since 2009. Thanks to Wikileaks, we have access to a CIA document from that year, Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool. Among the “key findings” in the CIA report, analysts warn of the negative consequences of assassinating so-called High Level Targets (HLT). “The potential negative effect of HLT operations, include increasing the level of insurgent support …, strengthening an armed group’s bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

The obvious truths that the CIA kept buried in a secret report have been admitted many times by high ranking officers implementing those policies. In 2013, General James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, reported in The New York Times, “We’re seeing that blowback. If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.” In a 2010 interview in Rollingstone, General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, figured that “for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.” By the general’s equation, the U.S. created a minimum of 130 new enemies for itself in the strikes ordered by President Biden on August 27 and 29 alone.

When the catastrophic consequences of a nation’s policies are so clearly predictable and evidently inevitable, they are intentional. What has happened to Afghanistan is not a series of mistakes or good intentions gone awry, they are crimes.

In his novel, 1984, George Orwell foresaw a dystopian future where wars would be fought perpetually, not intended to be won or resolved in any way and President Eisenhower’s parting words as he left office in 1961 were a warning of the “grave implications” of the “military-industrial complex.” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange noted that these dire predictions had come to pass, speaking in 2011: “The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the U.S. and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war.”

No, the war is not over. From a nation that should be promising reparations and begging the forgiveness of the people of Afghanistan comes the infantile raging, “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay” and while pledging to perpetuate the conditions that provoke terrorism, the parting taunt “and to ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet.”

In the simplistic dualism of U.S. partisan politics, the issue seems to be only whether the current president should be blamed or should be given a pass and the blame put on his predecessor. This is a discussion that is not only irrelevant but a dangerous evasion of responsibility. 20 years of war crimes makes many complicit.

In 1972, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings. Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, [and] in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” All of us in the U.S., the politicians, voters, tax payers, the investors and even those who protested and resisted it, are responsible for 20 years of war in Afghanistan. We are also all responsible for ending it.

The post The “Longest War” Is Not Over first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Afghan Crisis Must End America’s Empire of War, Corruption and Poverty

Millions of Afghans have been displaced by the war.  Photo: MikrofonNews

Americans have been shocked by videos of thousands of Afghans risking their lives to flee the Taliban’s return to power in their country – and then by an Islamic State suicide bombing and ensuing massacre by U.S. forces that together killed at least 170 people, including 13 U.S. troops.

Even as UN agencies warn of an impending humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the U.S. Treasury has frozen nearly all of the Afghan Central Bank’s $9.4 billion in foreign currency reserves, depriving the new government of funds that it will desperately need in the coming months to feed its people and provide basic services.

Under pressure from the Biden administration, the International Monetary Fund decided not to release $450 million in funds that were scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan to help the country cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. and other Western countries have also halted humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. After chairing a G7 summit on Afghanistan on August 24, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that withholding aid and recognition gave them “very considerable leverage – economic, diplomatic and political” over the Taliban.

Western politicians couch this leverage in terms of human rights, but they are clearly trying to ensure that their Afghan allies retain some power in the new government, and that Western influence and interests in Afghanistan do not end with the Taliban’s return. This leverage is being exercised in dollars, pounds and euros, but it will be paid for in Afghan lives.

To read or listen to Western analysts, one would think that the United States and its allies’ 20-year war was a benign and beneficial effort to modernize the country, liberate Afghan women and provide healthcare, education and good jobs, and that this has all now been swept away by capitulation to the Taliban.

The reality is quite different, and not so hard to understand. The United States spent $2.26 trillion on its war in Afghanistan. Spending that kind of money in any country should have lifted most people out of poverty. But the vast bulk of those funds, about $1.5 trillion, went to absurd, stratospheric military spending to maintain the U.S. military occupation, drop over 80,000 bombs and missiles on Afghans, pay private contractors, and transport troops, weapons and military equipment back and forth around the world for 20 years.

Since the United States fought this war with borrowed money, it has also cost half a trillion dollars in interest payments alone, which will continue far into the future. Medical and disability costs for U.S. soldiers wounded in Afghanistan already amount to over $175 billion, and they will likewise keep mounting as the soldiers age. Medical and disability costs for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could eventually top a trillion dollars.

So what about “rebuilding Afghanistan”? Congress appropriated $144 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2001, but $88 billion of that was spent to recruit, arm, train and pay the Afghan “security forces” that have now disintegrated, with soldiers returning to their villages or joining the Taliban. Another $15.5 billion spent between 2008 and 2017 was documented as “waste, fraud and abuse” by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The crumbs left over, less than 2% of total U.S. spending on Afghanistan, amount to about $40 billion, which should have provided some benefit to the Afghan people in economic development, healthcare, education, infrastructure and humanitarian aid.

But, as in Iraq, the government the U.S installed in Afghanistan was notoriously corrupt, and its corruption only became more entrenched and systemic over time. Transparency International (TI) has consistently ranked U.S.-occupied Afghanistan as among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Western readers may think that this corruption is a long-standing problem in Afghanistan, as opposed to a particular feature of the U.S. occupation, but this is not the case. TI notes that ”it is widely recognized that the scale of corruption in the post-2001 period has increased over previous levels.” A 2009 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that “corruption has soared to levels not seen in previous administrations.”

Those administrations would include the Taliban government that U.S. invasion forces removed from power in 2001, and the Soviet-allied socialist governments that were overthrown by the U.S.-deployed precursors of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the 1980s, destroying the substantial progress they had made in education, healthcare and women’s rights.

A 2010 report by former Reagan Pentagon official Anthony H. Cordesman, entitled “How America Corrupted Afghanistan”, chastised the U.S. government for throwing gobs of money into that country with virtually no accountability.

The New York Times reported in 2013 that every month for a decade, the CIA had been dropping off suitcases, backpacks and even plastic shopping bags stuffed with U.S. dollars for the Afghan president to bribe warlords and politicians.

Corruption also undermined the very areas that Western politicians now hold up as the successes of the occupation, like education and healthcare. The education system has been riddled with schools, teachers, and students that exist only on paper. Afghan pharmacies are stocked with fake, expired or low quality medicines, many smuggled in from neighboring Pakistan. At the personal level, corruption was fueled by civil servants like teachers earning only one-tenth the salaries of better-connected Afghans working for foreign NGOs and contractors.

Rooting out corruption and improving Afghan lives has always been secondary to the primary U.S. goal of fighting the Taliban and maintaining or extending its puppet government’s control. As TI reported, “The U.S. has intentionally paid different armed groups and Afghan civil servants to ensure cooperation and/or information, and cooperated with governors regardless of how corrupt they were… Corruption has undermined the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by fuelling grievances against the Afghan government and channelling material support to the insurgency.”

The endless violence of the U.S. occupation and the corruption of the U.S.-backed government boosted popular support for the Taliban, especially in rural areas where three quarters of Afghans live. The intractable poverty of occupied Afghanistan also contributed to the Taliban victory, as people naturally questioned how their occupation by wealthy countries like the United States and its Western allies could leave them in such abject poverty.

Well before the current crisis, the number of Afghans reporting that they were struggling to live on their current income increased from 60% in 2008 to 90% by 2018. A 2018 Gallup poll found the lowest levels of self-reported “well-being” that Gallup has ever recorded anywhere in the world. Afghans not only reported record levels of misery but also unprecedented hopelessness about their future.

Despite some gains in education for girls, only a third of Afghan girls attended primary school in 2019 and only 37% of adolescent Afghan girls were literate. One reason that so few children go to school in Afghanistan is that more than two million children between the ages of 6 and 14 have to work to support their poverty-stricken families.

Yet instead of atoning for our role in keeping most Afghans mired in poverty, Western leaders are now cutting off desperately needed economic and humanitarian aid that was funding three quarters of Afghanistan’s public sector and made up 40% of its total GDP.

In effect, the United States and its allies are responding to losing the war by threatening the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan with a second, economic war. If the new Afghan government does not give in to their “leverage” and meet their demands, our leaders will starve their people and then blame the Taliban for the ensuing famine and humanitarian crisis, just as they demonize and blame other victims of U.S. economic warfare, from Cuba to Iran.

After pouring trillions of dollars into endless war in Afghanistan, America’s main duty now is to help the 40 million Afghans who have not fled their country, as they try to recover from the terrible wounds and trauma of the war America inflicted on them, as well as a massive drought that devastated 40% of their crops this year and a crippling third wave of covid-19.

The U.S. should release the $9.4 billion in Afghan funds held in U.S. banks. It should shift the $6 billion allocated for the now defunct Afghan armed forces to humanitarian aid, instead of diverting it to other forms of wasteful military spending. It should encourage European allies and the IMF not to withhold funds. Instead, they should fully fund the UN 2021 appeal for $1.3 billion in emergency aid, which as of late August was less than 40% funded.

Once upon a time, the United States helped its British and Soviet allies to defeat Germany and Japan, and then helped to rebuild them as healthy, peaceful and prosperous countries. For all America’s serious faults – its racism, its crimes against humanity in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and its neocolonial relations with poorer countries – America held up a promise of prosperity that people in many countries around the world were ready to follow.

If all the United States has to offer other countries today is the war, corruption and poverty it brought to Afghanistan, then the world is wise to be moving on and looking at new models to follow: new experiments in popular and social democracy; renewed emphasis on national sovereignty and international law; alternatives to the use of military force to resolve international problems; and more equitable ways of organizing internationally to tackle global crises like the Covid pandemic and the climate disaster.

The United States can either stumble on in its fruitless attempt to control the world through militarism and coercion, or it can use this opportunity to rethink its place in the world. Americans should be ready to turn the page on our fading role as global hegemon and see how we can make a meaningful, cooperative contribution to a future that we will never again be able to dominate, but which we must help to build.

The post Afghan Crisis Must End America’s Empire of War, Corruption and Poverty first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US: the Sickness Unto Death

As soon as I heard Biden say, “We will hunt you down,” about the Afghan airport bombers, I knew that the US would immediately kill some Afghan women and children. The US will slaughter women and children at the drop of a smallpox blanket, an H-bomb, Agent Orange or a reaper drone. When the rampaging trillion-dollar-a-year military and surveillance empire feels it has been wronged there is no limit to its blood lust.

So today we have the report that the US drone-striked an Afghan family, killing six children, ages two to ten, and three adults. The empire’s mockingbird media will spin this as unfortunate but necessary and, no matter how much evidence the empire offers to the contrary, US serfs will believe that they have rights and freedoms and are a “model” for the world. So another story today won’t faze them any more than dead Afghan children:

Today former New York Times science writer Alex Berenson was permanently banned from the intelligence agency tentacle known as Twitter. Berenson tweeted that the covid vaccines do not prevent infection and transmission — which is exactly what the vaccine pushers themselves have said previously — the vaccines only lessen symptoms — but the little people aren’t allowed to tell truths about lockdowns or vaccines — vaccines developed and marketed at “warp speed” and so obviously harmless, useful and necessary that tens of millions of people have to be bribed, brainwashed, threatened, vilified, censored, entered in million dollar lotteries, thrown out of work and smashed back to feudalism in order for people to take them.

“Covid” is no more going to end than the war on terror ended. It’s too profitable, it’s a gold mine. Covid even has a bigger market — a potential 7 billion customers shot up with yearly boosters. Whenever the government declares a war something — Communism, drugs, cancer, terrorism — the war will be endless, highly profitable for a few, and send the working class majority running in fear farther and farther away from truth, health and answers.

The vaccine is your God. The vaccine is your government. The vaccine will decide how much 1st Amendment you get. The vaccine will decide how much freedom of movement you’re allowed. The vaccine is the be-all and end-all and you will have this piped into your brains 24/7 from every direction. If you want your Social Security checks and Medicare, take the shot. If you want to see a movie or eat at a restaurant, take the shot. If you want to travel, take the shot. If you want out of your house, take the shot. If you want us to let you live at all, take the shot. “Two weeks to flatten the curve” was one of the funniest jokes we ever told you. So long and so many freedoms ago…

Fighting a civil war about this suits us just fine. We have many more things we’d like to do to you as we get ready for the homeland calamity (not security) of the US dollar losing its reserve currency status. Unlike you beggars, we plan ahead. Many of you don’t even know where your next meal or tent encampment is coming from. We want this vaccine as bad as we wanted the Iraq War and if you don’t like it, you’re a traitor to health, freedom, old people and children — you are a pestilence that’s destroying our way of life. It feels really great to concentrate all of our problems on powerless little vermin like you. If you were gone, everything would be all right.

Probably sacrificing a bunch of you will make this plague go away. Follow the science. It’s not like we’re superstitious witch doctors. Wear your mask in the restaurant when you walk to your table because the virus floats up there whether you’re seven feet tall or five feet tall — when you sit down at your table, take your mask off because the virus isn’t there. Basically, the virus likes you sitting down, lying down, shutting up, staying home, shooting up, obeying and making Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos richer. What’s good for them is good for you and what’s good for you is doing everything we say when we say it even if it contradicts something we said five minutes ago — beating you down and getting you mindless is where we want you.

But the one true God is the vaccine. Take the poison, goddamn you. The Rev. Tony Fauci don’t know nothin’ about no gain of function research. Jesus, even people at Jonestown were more cooperative than you are. But we love you, we’re concerned about you. That’s why we prohibited millions of you from working and then watched you go broke, losing your jobs, homes and savings. That’s why we gave you Medicare for All. Oh, wait…

Just take the shot, we’ve got all kinds of things in store for you if you don’t. We’ve only just begun to fight, doctors and nurses will be our armies, they will vanquish you, hospitals will be our castles and the drawbridges will be pulled up on you unvaccinated polluted rabble. And stop being paranoid and libelous about good people like us, we’re the best people, we are so superior to you, it’s infuriating that we even have to explain ourselves — you’d think that we’ve maimed and killed people with DES, Oraflex, Vioxx or the Swine Flu vaccine — or killed innocent women and children with reaper drones. Alarmist know-nothings!

“Two weeks to flatten the curve…” If you were gone, everything would be all right. Hurry up and take the poison, goddam you. We have to make more progress. Tomorrow belongs to us!

The post US: the Sickness Unto Death first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will Americans Who Were Right on Afghanistan Still Be Ignored?

Protest in Westwood, California 2002. Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

America’s corporate media are ringing with recriminations over the humiliating U.S. military defeat in Afghanistan. But very little of the criticism goes to the root of the problem, which was the original decision to militarily invade and occupy Afghanistan in the first place.

That decision set in motion a cycle of violence and chaos that no subsequent U.S. policy or military strategy could resolve over the next 20 years, in Afghanistan, Iraq or any of the other countries swept up in America’s post-9/11 wars.

While Americans were reeling in shock at the images of airliners crashing into buildings on September 11, 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld held a meeting in an intact part of the Pentagon. Undersecretary Cambone’s notes from that meeting spell out how quickly and blindly U.S. officials prepared to plunge our nation into graveyards of empire in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

Cambone wrote that Rumsfeld wanted “…best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. (Saddam Hussein) at same time – not only UBL (Usama Bin Laden)… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

So within hours of these horrific crimes in the United States, the central question senior U.S. officials were asking was not how to investigate them and hold the perpetrators accountable, but how to use this “Pearl Harbor” moment to justify wars, regime changes and militarism on a global scale.

Three days later, Congress passed a bill authorizing the president to use military force “…against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons…”

In 2016, the Congressional Research Service reported that this Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) had been cited to justify 37 distinct military operations in 14 different countries and at sea. The vast majority of the people killed, maimed or displaced in these operations had nothing to do with the crimes of September 11. Successive administrations have repeatedly ignored the actual wording of the authorization, which only authorized the use of force against those involved in some way in the 9/11 attacks.

The only member of Congress who had the wisdom and courage to vote against the 2001 AUMF was Barbara Lee of Oakland. Lee compared it to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution and warned her colleagues that it would inevitably be used in the same expansive and illegitimate way. The final words of her floor speech echo presciently through the 20-year-long spiral of violence, chaos and war crimes it unleashed, “As we act, let us not become the evil we deplore.”

In a meeting at Camp David that weekend, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz argued forcefully for an attack on Iraq, even before Afghanistan. Bush insisted Afghanistan must come first, but privately promised Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle that Iraq would be their next target.

In the days after September 11, the U.S. corporate media followed the Bush administration’s lead, and the public heard only rare, isolated voices questioning whether war was the correct response to the crimes committed.

But former Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor Ben Ferencz spoke to NPR (National Public Radio) a week after 9/11, and he explained that attacking Afghanistan was not only unwise and dangerous, but was not a legitimate response to these crimes. NPR’s Katy Clark struggled to understand what he was saying:

Clark: …do you think that the talk of retaliation is not a legitimate response to the death of 5,000 (sic) people?

Ferencz: It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done.

Clark: No one is saying we’re going to punish those who are not responsible.

Ferencz:  We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t believe in what has happened, who don’t approve of what has happened.

Clark:  So you are saying that you see no appropriate role for the military in this.

Ferencz: I wouldn’t say there is no appropriate role, but the role should be consistent with our ideals. We shouldn’t let them kill our principles at the same time they kill our people. And our principles are respect for the rule of law. Not charging in blindly and killing people because we are blinded by our tears and our rage.

The drumbeat of war pervaded the airwaves, twisting 9/11 into a powerful propaganda narrative to whip up the fear of terrorism and justify the march to war. But many Americans shared the reservations of Rep. Barbara Lee and Ben Ferencz, understanding enough of their country’s history to recognize that the 9/11 tragedy was being hijacked by the same military-industrial complex that produced the debacle in Vietnam and keeps reinventing itself generation after generation to support and profit from American wars, coups and militarism.

On September 28, 2001, the Socialist Worker website published statements by 15 writers and activists under the heading, “Why we say no to war and hate.” They included Noam Chomsky, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan and me (Medea). Our statements took aim at the Bush administration’s attacks on civil liberties at home and abroad, as well as its plans for war on Afghanistan.

The late academic and author Chalmers Johnson wrote that 9/11 was not an attack on the United States but “an attack on U.S. foreign policy.” Edward Herman predicted “massive civilian casualties.” Matt Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, wrote that, “For every innocent person Bush kills in this war, five or ten terrorists will arise.” I (Medea) wrote that ”a military response will only create more of the hatred against the U.S. that created this terrorism in the first place.”

Our analysis was correct and our predictions were prescient. We humbly submit that the media and politicians should start listening to the voices of peace and sanity instead of to lying, delusional warmongers.

What leads to catastrophes like the U.S. war in Afghanistan is not the absence of convincing anti-war voices but that our political and media systems routinely marginalize and ignore voices like those of Barbara Lee, Ben Ferencz and ourselves.

That is not because we are wrong and the belligerent voices they listen to are right. They marginalize us precisely because we are right and they are wrong, and because serious, rational debates over war, peace and military spending would jeopardize some of the most powerful and corrupt vested interests that dominate and control U.S. politics on a bipartisan basis.

In every foreign policy crisis, the very existence of our military’s enormous destructive capacity and the myths our leaders promote to justify it converge in an orgy of self-serving interests and political pressures to stoke our fears and pretend that there are military “solutions” for them.

Losing the Vietnam War was a serious reality check on the limits of U.S. military power. As the junior officers who fought in Vietnam rose through the ranks to become America’s military leaders, they acted more cautiously and realistically for the next 20 years. But the end of the Cold War opened the door to an ambitious new generation of warmongers who were determined to capitalize on the U.S. post-Cold War “power dividend“.

Madeleine Albright spoke for this emerging new breed of war-hawks when she confronted General Colin Powell in 1992 with her question, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

As Secretary of State in Clinton’s second term, Albright engineered the first of a series of illegal U.S. invasions to carve out an independent Kosovo from the splintered remains of Yugoslavia. When U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told her his government was “having trouble with our lawyers” over the illegality of the NATO war plan, Albright said they should just “get new lawyers.”

In the 1990s, the neocons and liberal interventionists dismissed and marginalized the idea that non-military, non-coercive approaches can more effectively resolve foreign policy problems without the horrors of war or deadly sanctions. This bipartisan war lobby then exploited the 9/11 attacks to consolidate and expand their control of U.S. foreign policy.

But after spending trillions of dollars and killing millions of people, the abysmal record of U.S. war-making since World War II remains a tragic litany of failure and defeat, even on its own terms. The only wars the United States has won since 1945 have been limited wars to recover small neocolonial outposts in Grenada, Panama and Kuwait.

Every time the United States has expanded its military ambitions to attack or invade larger or more independent countries, the results have been universally catastrophic. So our country’s absurd investment of 66% of discretionary federal spending in destructive weapons, and recruiting and training young Americans to use them, does not make us safer but only encourages our leaders to unleash pointless violence and chaos on our neighbors around the world.

Most of our neighbors have grasped by now that these forces and the dysfunctional U.S. political system that keeps them at its disposal pose a serious threat to peace and to their own aspirations for democracy. Few people in other countries want any part of America’s wars, or its revived Cold War against China and Russia, and these trends are most pronounced among America’s long-time allies in Europe and in its traditional “backyard” in Canada and Latin America.

On October 19, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld addressed B-2 bomber crews at Whiteman AFB in Missouri as they prepared to take off across the world to inflict misdirected vengeance on the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. He told them, “We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter. And you are the ones who will help achieve that goal.”

Now that dropping over 80,000 bombs and missiles on the people of Afghanistan for 20 years has failed to change the way they live, apart from killing hundreds of thousands of them and destroying their homes, we must instead, as Rumsfeld said, change the way we live.

We should start by finally listening to Barbara Lee. First, we should pass her bill to repeal the two post-9/11 AUMFs that launched our 20-year fiasco in Afghanistan and other wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Then we should  pass her bill to redirect $350 billion per year from the U.S. military budget (roughly a 50% cut) to “increase our diplomatic capacity and for domestic programs that will keep our Nation and our people safer.”

Finally reining in America’s out-of-control militarism would be a wise and appropriate response to its epic defeat in Afghanistan, before the same corrupt interests drag us into even more dangerous wars against more formidable enemies than the Taliban.

 

The post Will Americans Who Were Right on Afghanistan Still Be Ignored? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden Must Call Off the B-52s Bombing Afghan Cities

American flag is lowered as U.S. soldiers leave Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, May 2, 2021. Photo: Afghan Ministry of Defense Press Office.

Nine provincial capitals in Afghanistan have fallen to the Taliban in six days – Zaranj, Sheberghan, Sar-e-Pul, Kunduz, Taloqan, Aybak, Farah, Pul-e-Khumri and Faizabad – while fighting continues in four more – Lashkargah, Kandahar, Herat & Mazar-i-Sharif. U.S. military officials now believe Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, could fall in one to three months.

It is horrific to watch the death, destruction and mass displacement of thousands of terrified Afghans and the triumph of the misogynist Taliban that ruled the nation 20 years ago. But the fall of the centralized, corrupt government propped up by the Western powers was inevitable, whether this year, next year or ten years from now.

President Biden has reacted to America’s snowballing humiliation in the graveyard of empires by once again dispatching U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to Doha to urge the government and the Taliban to seek a political solution, while at the same time dispatching B-52 bombers to attack at least two provincial capitals.

In Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province, the U.S. bombing has already reportedly destroyed a high school and a health clinic. Another B-52 bombed Sheberghan, the capital of Jowzjan province and the home of the infamous warlord and accused war criminal Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is now the military commander of the U.S.-backed government’s armed forces.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that U.S. Reaper drones and AC-130 gunships are also still operating in Afghanistan.

The rapid disintegration of the Afghan forces that the U.S. and its Western allies have recruited, armed and trained for 20 years at a cost of about $90 billion should come as no surprise. On paper, the Afghan National Army has 180,000 troops, but in reality most are unemployed Afghans desperate to earn some money to support their families but not eager to fight their fellow Afghans. The Afghan Army is also notorious for its corruption and mismanagement.

The army and the even more beleaguered and vulnerable police forces that man isolated outposts and checkpoints around the country are plagued by high casualties, rapid turnover and desertion. Most troops feel no loyalty to the corrupt U.S.-backed government and routinely abandon their posts, either to join the Taliban or just to go home.

When the BBC asked General Khoshal Sadat, the national police chief, about the impact of high casualties on police recruitment in February 2020, he cynically replied, “When you look at recruitment, I always think about the Afghan families and how many children they have. The good thing is there is never a shortage of fighting-age males who will be able to join the force.”

But a police recruit at a checkpoint questioned the very purpose of the war, telling the BBC’s Nanna Muus Steffensen, “We Muslims are all brothers. We don’t have a problem with each other.” In that case, she asked him, why were they fighting? He hesitated, laughed nervously and shook his head in resignation. “You know why. I know why,” he said. “It’s not really our fight.”

Since 2007, the jewel of U.S. and Western military training missions in Afghanistan has been the Afghan Commando Corps or special operations forces, who comprise only 7% of Afghan National Army troops but reportedly do 70 to 80% of the fighting. But the Commandos have struggled to reach their target of recruiting, arming and training 30,000 troops, and poor recruitment from Pashtuns, the largest and traditionally dominant ethnic group, has been a critical weakness, especially from the Pashtun heartland in the South.

The Commandos and the professional officer corps of the Afghan National Army are dominated by ethnic Tajiks, effectively the successors to the Northern Alliance that the U.S. supported against the Taliban 20 years ago. As of 2017, the Commandos numbered only 16,000 to 21,000, and it is not clear how many of these Western-trained troops now serve as the last line of defense between the U.S.-backed puppet government and total defeat.

The Taliban’s speedy and simultaneous occupation of large amounts of territory all over the country appears to be a deliberate strategy to overwhelm and outflank the government’s small number of well-trained, well-armed troops. The Taliban have had more success winning the loyalty of minorities in the North and West than government forces have had recruiting Pashtuns from the South, and the government’s small number of well-trained troops cannot be everywhere at once.

But what of the United States? Its deployment of B-52 bombers, Reaper drones and AC-130 gunships are a brutal response by a failing, flailing imperial power to a historic, humiliating defeat.

The United States does not flinch from committing mass murder against its enemies. Just look at the U.S.-led destruction of Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq, and Raqqa in Syria. How many Americans even know about the officially-sanctioned massacre of civilians that Iraqi forces committed when the U.S.-led coalition finally took control of Mosul in 2017, after President Trump said it should “take out the families” of Islamic State fighters?

Twenty years after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld committed a full range of war crimes, from torture and the deliberate killing of civilians to the “supreme international crime” of aggression, Biden is clearly no more concerned than they were with criminal accountability or the judgment of history. But even from the most pragmatic and callous point of view, what can continued aerial bombardment of Afghan cities accomplish, besides a final but futile climax to the 20-year-long U.S. slaughter of Afghans by over 80,000 American bombs and missiles?

The intellectually and strategically bankrupt U.S. military and CIA bureaucracy has a history of congratulating itself for fleeting, superficial victories. It quickly declared victory in Afghanistan in 2001 and set out to duplicate its imagined conquest in Iraq. Then the short-lived success of their 2011 regime change operation in Libya encouraged the United States and its allies to turn Al Qaeda loose in Syria, spawning a decade of intractable violence and chaos and the rise of the Islamic State.

In the same manner, Biden’s unaccountable and corrupt national security advisors seem to be urging him to use the same weapons that obliterated the Islamic State’s urban bases in Iraq and Syria to attack Taliban-held cities in Afghanistan.

But Afghanistan is not Iraq or Syria. Only 26% of Afghans live in cities, compared with 71% in Iraq and 54% in Syria, and the Taliban’s base is not in the cities but in the rural areas where the other three quarters of Afghans live. Despite support from Pakistan over the years, the Taliban are not an invading force like Islamic State in Iraq but an Afghan nationalist movement that has fought for 20 years to expel foreign invasion and occupation forces from their country.

In many areas, Afghan government forces have not fled from the Taliban, as the Iraqi Army did from the Islamic State, but joined them. On August 9th, the Taliban occupied Aybak, the sixth provincial capital to fall, after a local warlord and his 250 fighters agreed to join forces with the Taliban and the governor of Samangan province handed the city over to them.

That very same day, the Afghan government’s chief negotiator, Abdullah Abdullah, returned to Doha for further peace talks with the Taliban. His American allies must make it clear to him and his government, and to the Taliban, that the United States will fully support every effort to achieve a more peaceful political transition.

But the United States must not keep bombing and killing Afghans to provide cover for the U.S.-backed puppet government to avoid difficult but necessary compromises at the negotiating table to bring peace to the incredibly long-suffering, war-weary people of Afghanistan. Bombing Taliban-occupied cities and the people who live in them is a savage and criminal policy that President Biden must renounce.

The defeat of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan now seems to be unfolding even faster than the collapse of South Vietnam between 1973 and 1975 The public takeaway from the U.S. defeat in Southeast Asia was the “Vietnam syndrome,” an aversion to overseas military interventions that lasted for decades.

As we approach the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we should reflect on how the Bush administration exploited the U.S. public’s thirst for revenge to unleash this bloody, tragic and utterly futile 20-year war.

The lesson of America’s experience in Afghanistan should be a new “Afghanistan syndrome,” a public aversion to war that prevents future U.S. military attacks and invasions, rejects attempts to socially engineer the governments of other nations and leads to a new and active American commitment to peace, diplomacy and disarmament.

The post Biden Must Call Off the B-52s Bombing Afghan Cities first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Leaving Bagram Airbase: The Day the US Imperium Turned Tail

From the Bagram Airbase they left, leaving behind a piece of the New York World Trade Centre that collapsed with such graphic horror on September 11, 2001.  As with previous occupiers and occupants, the powers that had made this venue a residence of war operations were cutting their losses and running.

Over the years, the base, originally built by the Soviets in the 1950s and known to US personnel as Bagram Airfield, became a loud statement of occupation, able to hold up to 10,000 troops and sprawling across 30 square miles.  It was also replete with cholesterol hardening fast food restaurants (Pizza Hut, Burger King), jewellers, car dealerships and such amenities as swimming pools, spas and cinemas.

Bagram also had room to accommodate the unfortunates captured in that anomalously worded “War on Terror”: detainees, many al-Qaeda suspects, faced torture in what came to be known as Afghanistan’s Guantanamo.  US forces relinquished control of the prison, now sporting the benign name of Parwan Detention Facility, to Afghan security forces in December 2014. Ill-treatment of prisoners continued.

After two decades, it seemed that the US armed forces could not wait to leave.  The departure date, scheduled for September, was being brought forward, though President Joe Biden denied that anything had changed.  “A safe, orderly drawdown,” stated the Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, “enables us to maintain an ongoing diplomatic presence, support the Afghan people and the government, and prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists that threatens our homeland.”

There was little fuss in the way things unfolded on July 1 – at least initially.  The New York Times observed that the final withdrawal “occurred with little fanfare and no public ceremony, and in an atmosphere of grave concern over the Afghan security forces’ ability to hold off Taliban advances across the country.”

The signal for chaos and mayhem had been given.  Darwaish Raufi, Afghanistan’s district administrator for Bagram, found himself confronting an ominous spectacle.  There had been confusion and uncertainty about the logistics of the operation.  With the base unsecured, around 100 looters capitalised, seizing gas canisters and laptops.  “They were stopped and some have been arrested and the rest have been cleared from the base.”  The district governor was left puzzled.  “American soldiers should share information with the Afghan government, especially local officials, but they didn’t let me know.”

US military spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett disagreed.  “All handovers of Resolute Support bases and facilities, to include Bagram Airfield, have been closely coordinated, both with senior leaders from the government and with our Afghan partners in the security forces, including leadership of the locally based units respective to each base.”

Across the country, the Taliban are smacking their lips in anticipation of further gains.  “We consider this withdrawal a positive step,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. “Afghans can get closer to stability and peace with the full withdrawal of foreign forces.”  So far, the peace negotiations move at snail-like speed.  The Taliban refuse to declare a ceasefire.  Districts in the country have been falling with regularity to their forces.  Demoralised Afghan soldiers have been leaving their posts, though this is justified on the basis of strategic soundness (urban centres need protection).

With a security vacuum gapingly prominent in parts of the country, regional militias have promised to mount resistance.  “Having reached home,” Nishank Motwani, Deputy Director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation in Unit in Kabul gloomily remarked, “Americans and allied forces will now watch what they fought so hard to build over 20 years burn down from afar and knowing that the Afghan men and women they fought with risk losing everything.”

Former UK chief of the defence staff Lord David Richards could hardly improve on that, telling the BBC that, “A country that we promised a huge amount to now faces … almost certain civil war, with the likelihood that the Taliban will get back to where they were in 2001, occupying most of the major cities and the majority of the country.”

General Richard Dannant, formerly chief of the general staff, kept matters paternalistic; as with other civilising missions of imperial days past, he wrote of a task that had failed.  “Taliban force of arms has prevailed, and the people of that country have been denied the chance to choose a better way of life.”

The Biden administration continues to offer its model of hollow assurance for an ally it has cut loose, accompanied by a promise to provide security assistance to the value of $3 billion in 2022.  The President’s meeting with President Ashraf Ghani and chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah on June 25 saw the recapitulation of unconvincing themes.  All three “concurred on the need for unity among Afghan leaders in support of peace and stability”.  Biden “reaffirmed the US commitment to fully support intra-Afghan negotiations.”  Despite the departure of US troops, “the strong bilateral partnership will continue.”

In a State Department briefing on July 1, officials continued to patch up the façade of support.  When asked by a journalist how the US could claim to be supporting the Afghan government “when we’re not going to be there”, department spokesperson Ned Price was prepared with some casuistry: “we are withdrawing our military forces, as the President announced, but we intend to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul.”  The country would not be abandoned; support would be undiminished.

At a White House press conference, Biden suggested how far down Afghanistan, and its fate, features in US policy circles.  In a moment of frankness, he put a halt to questions on that doomed country and wished to “talk about happy things, man.  I’m not going to answer any more questions on Afghanistan.”  It was a matter of priorities.  “It’s the holiday weekend. I’m going to celebrate it.  There’s great things happening.”  Just not in Afghanistan.

The post Leaving Bagram Airbase: The Day the US Imperium Turned Tail first appeared on Dissident Voice.