Biden, 100 days

Edwin Sánchez, Cutting a vase. Self-portrait inspired by a criminal practice from the 50s in Colombia. Sculpture 11. Bogotá, Colombia, 2010
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By CHRIS HEDGES*

The true tragedy behind the collapse of the American empire.

The defeat of the United States in Afghanistan is one of a series of catastrophic military mistakes that herald the death of the American empire. With the exception of the first Gulf War, fought largely by mechanized units in the open desert that – wisely – did not attempt to occupy Iraq, US political and military leadership has stumbled from one military disaster to the next. Korea. Vietnam. Lebanon. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Libya. The trajectory of military failures mirrors the sad ends of the Chinese, Ottoman, Habsburg, Russian, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese and Soviet empires. While each of these empires decayed with its own peculiarities, they all exhibited the patterns of dissolution that characterize the American experiment.

Imperial ineptitude is matched by domestic ineptitude. The collapse of good government at home, with the legislative, executive and judicial systems captured by corporate power, ensures that the incompetent and the corrupt, those dedicated not to the national interest but to swelling the profits of the oligarchic elite, lead the country down an alley. no way out. Rulers and military leaders, driven by bribable self-interest, are often buffoons in a great comic operetta. How else can you think of Allen Dulles, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Trump or the unfortunate Joe Biden? While its intellectual and moral vacuity is often darkly amusing, it is murderous and savage when directed at its victims.

The two-decade wars in the Middle East, the greatest strategic blunder in American history, have left only one failed state after another in their wake. However, no one in the ruling class is held accountable. There has not been a single case since 1941, when coups, political assassinations, election fraud, shady propaganda, blackmail, kidnapping, brutal counterinsurgency campaigns, US-sanctioned massacres, torture in clandestine locations around the world, proxy wars or military interventions carried out by the United States resulted in the establishment of a democratic government.

War, when it is fought to serve utopian absurdities, such as the implantation of a puppet government in Baghdad, which will convert the region, including Iran, into American protectorates, or when, as in Afghanistan, there is no vision at all, it collapses in a quagmire. The massive allocation of money and resources to the US military, which includes Biden's $715 billion request for the Department of Defense in fiscal 2022, an increase of $11,3 billion, or 1,6% , regarding 2021, is not, after all, about national defense. The expanded military budget is drawn up, as Seymour Melman explained in his book, “The permanent war economy” [Praeger, 1970], first of all to prevent the collapse of the American economy. All we really do is guns. Once this is understood, perpetual war makes sense, at least for those who profit from it.

The idea that America is a champion of democracy, freedom and human rights would come as a great surprise to those who saw their democratically elected governments subverted and overthrown by the United States in Panama (1941), Syria (1949), Iran (1953 ), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), Honduras (2009) and Egypt (2013). And this list does not include a series of other governments that, despite being despotic, as in the case of South Vietnam, Indonesia or Iraq, were seen as enemies of American interests and destroyed, in each case making the lives of the inhabitants of these countries even more difficult. miserable.

I spent two decades on the fringes of empire as a foreign correspondent. The flowery rhetoric used to justify the subjugation of other nations so that corporations can plunder natural resources and exploit cheap labor is exclusively for domestic consumption. The generals, intelligence operators, diplomats, bankers and corporate executives who run the empire find this idealistic talk laughable. They despise, with good reason, naive liberals who call for “humanitarian intervention” and believe that the ideals used to justify empire are real, that empire can be a force for good. These interventionist liberals, the useful idiots of imperialism, try to civilize a process that was created and designed to repress, intimidate, plunder and dominate.

The interventionist liberals, by covering themselves with high ideals, are responsible for countless military and foreign policy disasters. The call of interventionist liberals like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Susan Rice and Samantha Power to fund the jihadists in Syria and depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and rent these countries – such as Afghanistan and Iraq – as warring grounds. Interventionist liberals are also spearheads in the campaign to increase tensions with China and Russia.

Russia is blamed for interfering in the last two presidential elections on behalf of Donald Trump. Russia, whose economy is roughly the size of Italy's, is also attacked for destabilizing Ukraine, supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, funding the French National Front party [now called National Regroupment] and hacking into German computers. Biden imposed sanctions on Russia – including limits on the purchase of newly issued sovereign debt – in response to allegations that Moscow was behind an invasion of Russia. SolarWinds Corp. and worked to thwart his candidacy.

At the same time, interventionist liberals are orchestrating a new cold war with China, justifying it by the Chinese government's carrying out of genocide against its Uighur minority, the repression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and the theft of US patents. As in the case of Russia, sanctions were imposed against the country's ruling elite. The US is also carrying out provocative military maneuvers along the Russian border and in the South China Sea.

The core belief of the imperialists, whether they come in the form of a Barack Obama or a George W. Bush, is racism and ethnic chauvinism, the notion that Americans are allowed, because of superior attributes, to impose their "values" by force. ” to lesser races and peoples. This racism, carried out in the name of Western civilization and its resultant white supremacy, unites the rabid imperialists and interventionist liberals in the Republican and Democratic parties. It is the fatal disease of empire, captured in Graham Greene's novel the quiet american and Michael Ondaatje the english patient.

The crimes of empire always generate counter-violence which is then used to justify harsher forms of imperial repression. For example, the United States routinely kidnapped Islamic jihadists fighting in the Balkans between 1995 and 1998. They were sent to Egypt – many were Egyptians – where they were savagely tortured and usually executed. In 1998, the International Islamic Front for Jihad said it would strike against the United States after jihadists were kidnapped and transferred to clandestine locations in Albania. They made good on their threat to blow up numerous truck bombs at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which left 224 people dead. Of course, the “extraordinary rendition” by the CIA has not ended and neither have the attacks by the jihadists.

Our decades-long military fiascos, a feature of all past empires, are called “micromilitarism”. The Athenians engaged in micromilitarism during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) when they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. The defeat triggered successful revolts across the Athenian empire. The Roman Empire, which lasted two centuries at its height, created a military machine that, like the Pentagon, was a state within a state. Rome's military rulers, led by Augustus, wiped out the remnants of Rome's anemic democracy and ushered in a period of despotism that saw the empire disintegrate under the weight of extravagant military spending and corruption. The British empire, after the suicidal military madness of World War I, ended in 1956, when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Britain was forced to withdraw in a humiliating manner, empowering Arab nationalist leaders like Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over its few remaining colonies. None of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force to the conquest and control of overseas domains, declining empires are prone to thoughtless displays of power, dreaming up daring military masterstrokes that somehow way would recover lost prestige and power”, writes the historian Alfred W. McCoy in his book "In the shadows of the American century: the rise and decline of US global power” [Haymarket Books, 2017]: “often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can generate hemorrhagic expenses or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already underway”.

The worse it gets at home, the more the empire has to manufacture enemies inside and out. This is the real reason for rising tensions with Russia and China. The poverty of half the nation and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small oligarchic cabal, the indiscriminate murder of unarmed civilians by the militarized police, the anger of the ruling elites, demonstrated by almost half of voters voting for a crook and demagogue and a crowd of his supporters invading the capital, are the internal signs of disintegration. The inability of for-profit national health services to cope with the pandemic, the passing of a Covid relief bill, and the proposed infrastructure bill that would hand over the bulk of an estimated $5 trillion to corporations as it launches. crumbs – a check for $1.400 to a citizen in deep financial difficulty – will only foster decline.

Due to the loss of unionized jobs, declining real wages, deindustrialization, chronic underemployment and unemployment and the punishment of austerity programs, the country is plagued by a myriad of diseases of despair, including opioid addictions, alcoholism, suicides. , gambling, depression, morbid obesity and mass shootings – since March 16, the United States has seen at least 45 mass shootings, including eight people killed at a FedEx facility in Indiana on Friday, three dead and three injured in a shooting in Wisconsin on Sunday, and three others killed in a shooting in Austin on Sunday. These are the consequences of a deeply troubled society.

The facade of empire is able to mask the rot within its foundations, often for decades, until, as we saw with the Soviet Union, the empire suddenly seems to disintegrate. The loss of the dollar as a global reserve currency is likely to mark the final chapter of the American empire. In 2015, the dollar accounted for 90% of bilateral transactions between China and Russia, a percentage that has since dropped to around 50%. The use of sanctions as a weapon against China and Russia puts pressure on these countries to replace the dollar with their own national currencies. Russia, as part of this shift away from the dollar, has started to accumulate yuan reserves.

The loss of the dollar as the world's reserve currency will instantly increase the cost of imports. It will result in unemployment at Depression-era levels. It will force the empire to contract dramatically. As the economy deteriorates, it will encourage a hypernationalism that is likely to express itself through Christianized fascism. The mechanisms, already in place, of total social control, militarized police, suspension of civil liberties, wholesale government surveillance, enforced "terrorism" laws that land people in the world's largest prison system, and censorship controlled by digital media monopolies cement a police state without difficulty. Nations that fall into such severe crises seek to divert the fury of a betrayed population onto foreign scapegoats. China and Russia will be used to fill these roles.

The defeat in Afghanistan is a familiar and sad story, one that all those blinded by imperial arrogance tolerate. However, the tragedy is not the collapse of the American empire, but that the inability to self-criticize and self-correct, as it dies, will lash out in rudimentary, blind rage at innocents at home and abroad.

*Chris Hedges is a journalist. Author, among other books, of Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Nation books).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves

Originally published on the website AlterNet.

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