Image: Civilians slaughtered by US troops in My Lai, Vietnam 1968 - Wikimedia Commons
“Capitalism’s gratuitous wars and sanctioned greed have jeopardized the planet and filled it with refugees. Much of the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the government of the United States. Seventeen years after invading Afghanistan, after bombing it into the ‘stone age’ with the sole aim of toppling the Taliban, the US government is back in talks with the very same Taliban. In the interim it has destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to war and sanctions, a whole region has descended into chaos, ancient cities—pounded into dust.” – Arundhati Roy
“As naturally as the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than did the rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are. Immovably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them. The misplaced love of the common people for the wrong which is done to them is a greater force than the cunning of the authorities.” ― Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments
“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.” ― Smedley Butler, War is a Racket
“It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine.” — Martin Luther King, Jr., Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, 31 March 1968
Empire understands nothing except ruthless expansion. It has no other raison d’etre. In the past this meant the violent acquisition of lands and territories by a militarized system where caste was very apparent and visible. But today the dealings of empire are far more duplicitous. The ruling order of this age expands empire via the acquisition of capital while using the military industrial complex to police its exploits. But there is an insidious social conditioning at work which has led the general public to where it is today, a state of “inverted totalitarianism” as political philosopher Sheldon Wolin explained. Indeed, capitalism has morphed into the unassailable religion of the age even among the working class. Its tenets are still viewed as sacrosanct.
Violence is the sole language of empire. It is this only currency it uses to enforce its precepts and edicts, both at home and abroad. Eventually this language becomes internalized within the psyche of the subjects. Social and cultural conditioning maintained through constant subtle messaging via mass media begins to mold the public will toward that of authoritarian conformity. The American Empire is emblematic of this process. There is mass compliance to the dictates of the ruling class and this occurs most often without any prompting or debate whatsoever. In this dictatorship of money the poor are looked at with ridicule and contempt, and are often punished legally for their imposed poverty.
But the social conditioning of the American public has led toward a bizarre allegiance to its ruling class oppressors. Propaganda still works here and most are still besotted with the notion of America being a bastion of “freedom and democracy.” The growing gap between the ultra-wealthy and the poor and the gutting of civil liberties are ignored. And blind devotion is especially so when it comes to US foreign policy.
Most Americans still believe they live in the greatest country on the planet. They believe the American military to be noble and that they always reluctantly go into or are forced into war. Indeed, both the Democrats and Republicans possess an uncanny ability to bridge their ideological distances when it comes to defending US militarism, the Pentagon and the war machine of imperialism. But this is tied to the defense of capitalism, the ruling class, and the ultimate reason for war: the protection of that class’s global capital investments.
The persecution of Chelsea Manning, much like the case of Julian Assange, is demonstrative of this. It is a crusade against truth tellers that has been applauded from both sides of the American establishment, liberal and conservative alike. It does not matter that she helped to expose American war crimes. On the contrary, this is seen as heresy to the Empire itself. Manning’s crime was exposing the underbelly of the beast. A war machine which targeted and killed civilians and journalists by soldiers behind a glowing screen as if they were playing a video game.
Indeed, those deadened souls pulling the virtual trigger probably thought they were playing a video game since this is how the military seduced them to serve in their ranks in the first place. A kind of hypnotic, addictive, algorithmic tyranny of sorts. It is a form of escapism that so many young Americans are enticed by given their sad prospects in a society that has denuded the commons as well as their future. That it was a war based on lies against an impoverished nation already deeply weakened from decades of American led sanctions is inconsequential. Non-American life is routinely downgraded in comparisons to subjects of the Empire, even poor subjects, via rigorous conditioning, a prerequisite of military training. Flesh, bone and blood are reduced to a two dimensional drone image. The “other,” whether they be nationals of foreign lands or migrants, are mere avatars, projections of a psychic animus which have been painted by the ruling class as “threats to the homeland.”
The guardians of this narrative, those craven generals who delight in bloody forays but who wouldn’t dare place even a toe on a real battlefield, or the grim shadowy ghouls who haunt the halls of the Pentagon, or the purulent politicians who pontificate on meaningless terms like “American exceptionalism” and the “indispensable nation,” know how dangerous Chelsea Manning is to the daily workings of the death cult that is American Empire. She stands to expose the sham for what it is. And without working class kids to act as cannon fodder to protect the wealthy’s booty abroad they would be lost.
They fear Manning’s courage because they can neither plumb its depths nor navigate its landscape. It is an alien to them. Courage to them is the kind that comes in the form of mass murderers like sniper Chris Kyle, a psychopath mercenary in loyal service to the forces of capital. He, like the other servicemen and women in the military, protected the interests of oil companies, US weapons manufacturers and building contractors in conquered territories, but he embodies Americana more than any other figure today because he carried out the orders of empire without question. He killed the so called savages who supposedly threatened the American “way of life.” That he was an invader in their country is never challenged within the empire. On the contrary, the natives are cast as the “intruders” and “insurgents” while the invading military forces are portrayed as “freedom fighters” who are “defending the homeland” and spreading “democracy.”
Today Iran and Venezuela are once again in the crosshairs of the American Empire’s belligerence. Their defiance to the dominant socioeconomic order will simply not be tolerated by the global ruling caste, represented as the unquestioned “interests” of the United States. The imposed suffering on these nations has been twisted as proof that they are now in need of American salvation in the form of even more crippling sanctions, coups, neoliberal austerity and military intervention. As the corporate vultures lie in wait for the next carcass of a society to feed upon, the hawks are busy building the case for the continuation and expansion of capitalist wars of conquest.
Bolton and Pompeo are now the equivalent of the generals who carved up Numidia for the wealthy families of ancient Rome, with Trump, the half-witted, narcissistic and cruel emperor, presiding over the whole in extremis farce. Indeed, the bloated orange Emperor issued the latest of his decrees in his usual banal fashion, via tweet:
“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”
One can query when Iran, or any other nation has ever “threatened” the United States, but that question will never be asked by the corporate press who are also in service to Empire. They are, in fact, its mouthpiece and advocate. The US has at least 900 military bases and colonial outposts scattered around the planet, yet this is never looked at as imperialistic in the least by the establishment, including its media. Scores of nations lie in ruins or are besieged with chaos and misery thanks to American bellicosity, from Libya to Iraq and beyond. But the US never looks back in regret at any of its multiple forays, not even a few years back.
To be sure the American Empire, which has seldom seen a year without pillage of another nation or region, is now facing its greatest nemesis. Unheeded lessons of the past have made it thoroughly inoculated to its own demise. In short, it is drunk on its hubris and unable to grapple with its inevitable descent. Climate change is ravaging the heartland with crops inundated from Iowa to Nebraska. The fire season in the west has become a never ending, year round event. Miami and much of Florida will eventually be flooded beyond economic viability, with New York, Houston and several other coastal cities to follow. How soon will troops be deployed in the heartland or on flooded, climate change ravaged streets? But alas, the American ruling class will continue to shew away the screeching canaries. They will cast the calamities and catastrophes as “opportunities” as Pompeo incredulously did in a speech about the rapidly melting Arctic.
American Empire knows no other language sans brutality, deceit and belligerence. It is rapidly militarizing our collective climate catastrophe and shoring up ways to secure its dominance and control of waning resources. As in every other war the Empire has launched, the coming ones will be drenched in lies. It will be to save the planet or the “future.” But like every other war it will be waged against the poorest of the earth, those whose carbon footprint is microscopic compared with the wealthy few. The global south whose presence is everywhere and yet rendered largely invisible. But these unheard voices are being viewed increasingly as a threat to a pure white world of plenty, and their dehumanization might undoubtedly lend itself to atrocities and genocide not ever seen before.
The American Empire, one of the shortest lived in human history, has become the biggest threat to humanity and the living biosphere itself. Its industries rape the soil and defile the water. Its military tortures and slaughters the poorest people and decimates the most vulnerable of species. And its corporate media inundates the collective psyche with propaganda and spectacle. It demolishes democratic movements at their onset and installs puppet leaders who do its bidding by starving or stealing from their own people. And it does all of this with impunity.
But like all empires it will eventually fall. Its endless and costly wars on behalf of capital investments and profiteering are contributing to that demise. After all, billions of dollars are spent to keep the bloated military industrial complex afloat in service to the ruling class while social and economic safety nets are torn to shreds. It is now building a $100 million dollar drone base in Africa and is still the owner of the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal. A society can only do this for so long before it collapses, and with climate change catastrophe on the horizon this game the Empire is playing will be sure to crash big and in a global manner. We can only hope that when it does there will be something left worth salvaging from the ruins of the earth it has so brutally laid siege to.
Kenn Orphan is an artist, writer, radical nature lover, weary but committed activist and hospice social worker. The intent of his blog is to bear witness to the dire events unfolding around us without any pretense of false hope; and to share insights and reflections through the transformative lens of solidarity. He writes about art and culture, socio-economic injustice, geopolitical issues and the existential threats we collectively face from corporate capitalism, the war industry, climate change and an ever imperiled biosphere. His work focuses on the desperate need for a global paradigm shift that fosters compassion for and solidarity with the suffering of humanity and the countless other species with whom we share this precious planet. Visit his blog at https://kennorphan.com/