US Empire: The Big Picture
Robert Jensen nails it. Rather than restating his points in my own words, I’ll fall back on my bad habit of extensively excerpting:
Republican politicians took potshots at House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi last week after she called President Bush “incompetent” and criticized his judgment and leadership. Her conclusion — “the emperor has no clothes” — understandably made Republicans angry, because it is so obviously accurate.
Pelosi’s remarks deserve scrutiny, but not because she was too harsh on the president. The lies and distortions that Bush and his top officials used to promote the U.S. invasion of Iraq were exposed long ago, and day-by-day the disastrous consequences of the occupation are obvious to all but the most fanatical of the Leader’s faithful.
But the problem is not just that the EMPEROR is bare, but that the U.S. EMPIRE has no clothes, and in that respect mainstream Democrats stand before the world as naked as the most reactionary Republicans.
…The modalities of control change, but the game remains the same; set the terms for the world economy and derail the possibility of independent development by any means necessary, with a gargantuan military on call when violence is required.
Nor do the differences in style and tactics make Democratic administrations any less imperial than Republicans. The Cold-War liberals of the Democratic Party had no greater qualms than Republicans about using the military to extend U.S. power in the Third World…
That pattern continues up to this day. We should not forget that for all the talk of Bill Clinton’s “multilateralism,” he launched an illegal attack on Iraq in 1998 and insisted on maintaining the harshest economic embargo in modern history on that country for eight years, which killed as many as 1 million Iraqis — policies that had virtually no support in the world. In short, Clinton killed more Iraqis than Bush as he ignored international law and world opinion. I doubt the fact that Clinton is smarter and more rhetorically gifted than Bush makes much difference to the dead in Iraq.
Neither Republicans nor mainstream Democrats seem capable of admitting that the invasion of Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, or creating democracy; it was simply an intensification of the longstanding U.S. project of controlling the strategically crucial energy resources of the Middle East. That project has gone on under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, taking different forms but always with that same goal of expanding U.S. power.
It’s not just the Iraq War that is immoral. The whole rotten project of empire building is immoral — and every bit as much a Democratic as a Republican project. When politicians from both parties offer platitudes about America’s benevolent intentions as they argue about the most appropriate strategies for running the world, we should remember this trenchant comment after World War I from W.E.B. DuBois: “It is curious to see America, the United States, looking on herself, first, as a sort of natural peacemaker, then as a moral protagonist in this terrible time. No nation is less fitted for this role.”
This analysis doesn’t mean voters can’t judge one particular empire-building politician more dangerous than another. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sometimes make strategic choices to vote for one over the other. It simply means we should make such choices with eyes open and no illusions.
Here, I borrow phrases from Pelosi’s condemnation of Bush: “When are people going to face reality? Pull the curtain back.”
Indeed, Rep. Pelosi, pull the curtain back. You will see naked emperors, Republican and Democratic. You will see the cowardly legislators who chose to step aside before the war, when spirited opposition in Congress might have helped derail the disaster that is playing out in Iraq.
Pull the curtain back, and step in front of the mirror.