Keys to a Criminal State: God, Country, and Capital

Image_Marcio Costa
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By Angels Diez*

A genealogy of American power following the teachings of Foucault would find a state whose imperialist expansion and domination are part of its nature and identity.

” The founders of New England were fervent sectarians and exalted renovators. United by the closest ties of certain religious beliefs, they felt free from all political prejudice.”
(A. Tocqueville)

Let's start with Obama. Because neither Donald Trump is a disturbed ignoramus nor Obama is a smart progressive. Contrary to the image deftly constructed by his public relations machine, Obama (with his faithful sidekick Hillary Clinton) has sown the planet with wars and substituted assassination for the capture of suspected terrorists by the Bush administration – as described by the journalist of the Jeremy Scahill inquiry 1 -.

It was not Trump who authorized the bombing of Yemen (2009), nor was he the one who invaded Pakistani airspace to execute bin Laden (2011), nor was he the one who murdered US citizens in Yemen (2011). Nor was it Trump who declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” on two occasions (2015 and 2017), nor was it he who increased covert operations around the world. Nor was he, but Obama who appointed John Brennan as director of the CIA – advocate of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture) and architect of drone attacks – (2013).

When we analyze US imperialist international policy and reduce our analysis to geopolitical, strategic or economic factors, we cannot explain apparently irrational actions that go against its national interests in the medium or long term. We end up attributing to their presidents a label of cruelty and irrational evil that puts us in a bad position when it comes to developing resistance strategies and confronting imperialism. Beyond the obvious differences between Obama and Trump, or between Clinton and Bush, or between Carter and Reagan, there is a common thread that unites the different administrations, whether Democratic or Republican, a common logic that is located in an ideological space or, rather, theological-political.

Thus, we will not speak of a president or a specific government. Let's talk about a State, let's talk about the genesis of a State that, from the moment it was constituted as such, undertook an expansionist crusade towards the West with the Bible in one hand and the rifle in the other.

Land looters and indigenous exterminators. Because the expansion of the new state was not simply a war for survival against England, said Howard Zinn, but a war for the development of a capitalist economy where land was essential for wealthy speculators (including George Washington). A strong and great republic, argued the founding fathers2 necessary to well protect the interests of the community against internal “factions” and external enemies. In short, a homeland with a system and a political organization designed against the majority, by and for the economic elites. 3 . The principles of liberalism – civil liberties, the rule of law and the free market – in the service of The wealth of nations (Adam Smith, 1776) was part of the DNA of the new state and remains until today, a moment in which American hegemony is in irreversible decline.

The United States came into the world as a capitalist state, without the feudal burden of old Europe, willing to materialize a biblical project subject to no more moral principles than the accumulation of wealth. Thus, the war of the United States against the world is a war without borders and without limits, and not even Capital can have them.

It's not that the European states of the XNUMXth century, in full territorial expansion dividing Africa and the East, were less cruel, remember the Congo – which before being Belgian belonged to the bloodthirsty Leopold II – or British India. But it so happens that, when the United States assumes world hegemony after the Second World War, the prophecy of the Destiny Manifest, on which the new state was built, already went hand in hand with unprecedented technical development. Consequently, the notice 4 Eisenhower on the danger posed by the influence of the military-industrial complex would fall on deaf ears, and therefore, the different forms of war that sow around the world are a logical consequence of an unstoppable system and ideology from the field of reason or moral principles.

The United States undertook world domination inspired by a civil religion based on Puritan and Calvinism 5, which was the basis of his vision of a chosen people, whose mission would be guide the rest of the nations . With that ideological foundation, they became the deadliest criminal state in history. Why the cruelest of states? As it is a modern State, guided by a capitalist technical rationality and by a fundamentalist racist religiosity, both factors fed back over the years and marked the course of American foreign and domestic policy.

If we were to make a genealogy of American power following Foucault's teachings, we would find a State whose imperialist expansion and domination are part of its nature and identity. We would find principles and technical developments capable of annihilating the planet, a circumstance that had not occurred before in history. The launch of two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 1945) when the war had already been won is the paradigmatic example. Therefore, celebrate the 9th of August as the International Day of American Crimes Against Humanity It makes perfect sense.

Patriotism, racism, religious fundamentalism and the cult of money are the passwords that we must exploit to develop effective anti-imperialist strategies because, in my point of view, they are the keys that explain the structure of the American State and allow us to anticipate movements beyond of the joints. José Martí, in his article on The Truth of America in 1894, announced the need to publish, not the accidental crime or misconduct that may occur in every city, but "Those qualities of constitution which, by their constancy and authority, demonstrate the two useful truths of our America: the rude, unequal, and decadent character of the United States, and the existence, in them, of all the violence, discord, immoralities, and disorders of which it is guilty the Hispanic American peoples”6

Within these constitutional qualities of that the Cuban hero spoke, we find, since the middle of the XNUMXth century, in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. This will be the flag that the US will fly to justify its right to territorial expansion as part of a providential project. In turn, the imposition of a particular way of seeing “democracy” (coinciding with its economic interests) would become its usual practice to establish relations with other States.

Marcos Reguera, in his doctoral thesis on the Empire of Democracy in America, will say that the term Destiny Manifest became a key piece of American identity during the XNUMXth century and helps to understand “what the American democratic system was like, adopting an imperialist character that will be central both to its process of national construction and to its own self-perception” 7. The conception of the homeland as a divine destiny linked to capitalist material development is an identity accompanied by another that will be difficult to limit even from universal moral principles, neither from international law nor even from a liberal economic rationale.

Because the homeland of the monster of the north, in whose entrails Martí lived, is not equivalent to nationalism in the European or Latin American sense. Rather, it forms part of a mythical imagery that combines isolationism (there is nothing but the United States worth its salt) and providence (a people chosen and guided by God). So we see that for most Americans, God rules through their presidents and they all swear by the Bible; their own, that of those who preceded them or that which embodies a certain symbolic capital. Former President Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ 8 and took his oath of office using two Bibles, the traditional Abraham Lincoln and the Martin Luther King 9 . Trump also used two, Lincoln's and the one his mother gave him; the universal symbolic and the individual particular are linked by the union of the sum of individualities in a common symbolic universe: the predestined nation.

Virtually every speech by American presidents ends with the phrase, which is the end of a repeated ritual: "God bless America", and on every dollar we find another phrase: "In God we trust". Jim Dotson says the phrase “In God We Trust” reflects what it means to be an American. God is the symbolic equivalent of money and is part of the white Protestant tradition founding the 13 colonies from which the new country 10 would emerge . When we see those scenes in American films in which every roadside hotel has a bible on the bedside table, or in which serial killers follow patterns of the sacred text, we are undoubtedly witnessing something that goes beyond a dramatic device. 11 .

According to recent data, 73% of Americans declare themselves Christians and only 20% do not identify with any religion (2019). The very North American phenomenon of telepreachers is not accidental either. Evangelical churches have become one of the instruments of interference, including coups d'état and terrorist financing (very jihadi ) across Latin America. The recent coup in Bolivia shows the clear influence of these churches and the implantation of telepreachers throughout the region, with close ties with their headquarters in the United States.

America's World War is often presented as an evangelical crusade: "bring on democracy", "defend the free world", "end evil", etc. Traditionally, mainstream media have served this religious purpose, producing images that have been adapted for prophetic discourses, for example, depicting invasions, murders, extortions, looting, etc. as saving crusades against terrible and demonic enemies, usually personified in the rulers of the countries to be attacked (Milosevich, Saddam, Gaddafi, Chávez, Maduro…).

It is not surprising that the cauldron of cultures that have come to the United States for centuries has not been able to endow that State with a brand of identity different from that idea of ​​an omnipresent and omnipotent Homeland with a providential destiny. On the contrary, for many of the migrant groups, the image of a promised land, an empty continent or a desert land waiting to be cultivated, which the founding fathers brought to the continent, was their letter of integration. 12 . Perhaps this will soon change as a result of the global COVID-19 crisis, or perhaps political conservatism manages to attribute to divine providence, so often, the punishment for not being faithful followers of their destiny.

The territorial expansion of the United States will not only be based on the “exceptionality of its political institutions” – says Marcos – but on the racial particularism of the population. The political concept of Manifest Destiny with its Malthusian brand that justified the Anglo-Saxon racial expansion will cease to be used after the Second World War and will give way to other concepts such as American Exceptionalism, the free world (Free World) or of the American Century (American Century) that will shape a racist philosophy that "from social Darwinism advocated the predominance of the United States over other nations as part of the law of survival of the fittest nation"13

Within the Puritan and Calvinist tradition, sociologist Max Weber found a close connection between this Protestant ethic and personal enrichment. 14 . Wealth became a passport to the kingdom of heaven. The way to get rich under capitalism inevitably passes through imperialism and, therefore, through war. Marine Corps General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), being one of the most decorated soldiers in US history, after retiring in 1934 wrote  War is a Racket [War is a farce, in free translation], in which he describes how his country went to war with the only true objective of increasing its profits. He wrote: “I received honors, medals and promotions. But when I look back, I think I could have given some hints to Al Capone. He, as a gangster, could operate in three districts of one city. We, as Marines, serve on three continents. The problem is that when the US dollar only gains 6%, they get impatient over here and go abroad to gain 100%. The flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.”. 15

A no less important element that permeates the State along with political conservatism with a religious edge is anti-intellectualism. It is an ideological trend that, in my view, has allowed the continuity and reproduction of this political theology, providing it with popular support that has legitimized and continues to legitimize the criminal actions of the US State. Presidents like Trump, Bush or Reagan, who despise the “experts” and boast of their ignorance, adhere to an anti-elitist and authoritarian tradition deeply rooted in the American people. In an article for the magazine Newsweek, Isaac Asimov described what he called the “cult of ignorance in America” as follows: “In America there is a cult of ignorance and always has been. Anti-intellectualism has been that constant that has permeated our political and cultural life, sheltered by the false premise that democracy means that 'my ignorance is worth as much as your knowledge'” 16 .

The symbiosis of contempt for culture, the cult of money and the exaltation of emotions will find its maximum expression in the development of consumption from the 1950s onwards. world, the USA will become, with the development of mass production, the place of excess, excess, gluttony and, why not, killing.

These ideological keys help to explain, but in no way justify, US imperialist expansion, including those constitutive qualities that Martí spoke of, but they are not enough to understand the magnitude of the atrocities committed in recent decades. Crimes against humanity are on a higher scale and can only be sustained over time thanks to impunity.

In recent years, with the retreat of hegemonic power in the United States, the different administrations have protected their presidents, their secretaries of state, their soldiers... Power and impunity certainly tend to go hand in hand (many in our country know about this alliance in relation to crimes of the Franco regime). Impunity occurs when institutions are controlled, when international law is wielded with discretion, and when silence makes whole societies complicit. In the case of the United States, it is not just a form of international action. A mentality guided by providence and intoxicated with excesses only seems to hold back against an equivalent power, in general, other states with atomic bombs or with such determination as to unbalance the bottom line.

For years, maintaining US hegemony has meant controlling international organizations, whether through blackmailing their funding or putting like-minded people in their direction. But in recent years, as the war has spread across the globe, that has fallen short. So the next step was to misrepresent the resolutions, ignore the institutions themselves, reject the signing of treaties, etc. In this direction is the Secretary of State of the United States, Michael Pompeo, in March of last year, he prohibited visas to employees of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who participate in investigations of US citizens in any of the territories in which the jurisdiction of the ICC extends. 17 But none of this is new, remember that the United States was the only country condemned by the International Court of Justice in The Hague for committing international terrorism – technically, the illegal use of force – against Nicaragua, and that when they were condemned to pay reparations not only rejected the Court's decision as well as rejecting its jurisdiction.

However, the impunity of a criminal state also occurs within the US, because, as we said at the beginning, it is not a matter of one or the other government. In that country, the police do not enjoy legitimacy, but the power to know that they are unpunished. White policemen who murder African-Americans, companies that pollute the water, the air… The Blacks Lives Matter movement emerged from the acquittal of the policeman who murdered the African-American teenager Trayvon Martin (2013).

Thus, commemorating August 9th as the International Day for American Crimes Against Humanity implies not only showing the nature of a criminal State – its constitutive qualities – but also committing to break the impunity that tends to perpetuate its domain. Because, deep down, you cannot convince a religious fundamentalist that he is wrong. It only makes sense to do justice: to prevent the crime from going unpunished.

*Angeles Diez and teacher from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid,  Dr. In Political Science and Sociology, member of the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity and the Internationalist Anti-Imperialist Front.

Translation: Ricardo Kobayaski

Originally published in Rebellion

Notes


1 Interview with journalist Jeremy Scahill, on the occasion of the presentation of his book Swedish wars, the world is a battlefield, in El Confidencial, “Bush hunted … Obama assassin” https://www.elconfidencial.com/mundo / 2013-10-16 / bush-hunted-obama-assassin_42073 /

2 The Founding Fathers of the United States are George Washington, first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797, Thomas Jefferson, third president from 1801 to 1809, and Benjamin Franklin, politician, scientist, inventor and staunch supporter of colonial union (1706-1790).

3 Ángeles Diez, Communication Media and Democracy. How was he excluded from the people of the government and how was he convinced of the opposite. 31/05/2010 on https://rebelion.org/como-se-excluyo-al-pueblo-del-gobierno-y-como-se-le-convencio-de-lo-contrario/

4 In a televised speech on January 17, 1961, at the end of his term as President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the "Military Industrial Complex"'s great influence on American politics. http://carpetashistoria.fahce.unlp.edu.ar/carpeta-3/fuentes/la-guerra-fria/el-complejo-industrial-militar-segun-eisenhower

5 At the end of the XNUMXth century, when the American Revolution broke out, half the inhabitants were Puritans and two thirds were Calvinists (Andrés González Martín, The American Religion of Winning and the North American Civil Religion)

6 José Martí, The truth about the United States, in Patria 23/03/1894

7 Marcos Reguera, Doctoral thesis: “The empire of democracy in America. John L. O'Sullivan and the formation of the concept of Manified Destiny” pg. 22 p. 22. A fundamental thesis to help deepen US imperialism.

8 Digital Protestant, “Obama clarifies his evangelical Christian faith as a member of the United Church of Christ”, https://protestantedigital.com/print/21015/Obama_aclara_su_fe_cristiana_evangelica_como_miembro_de_la_Iglesia_Unida_de_Cristo

9 Remember that Martin Luther King was a Baptist pastor

10 Kennedy was the only non-Protestant president of the United States, he was Catholic and had difficulties in his election campaign because he was accused of being subordinate to foreign agents.

11 The film Seven directed by David Fincher in 1995, which narrates the pursuit of a serial killer who acts according to the seven deadly sins is one of the best examples.

12 This prophetic ideology is a link that unites the US with the Zionist project of the Jewish State in Palestine (along with Jewish emigration to the US after World War II and its geostrategic interests in the area). A Zionist entity that could not subsist in an area without the unconditional subsidy of American power and without the implantation of a system of apartheid even more terrible than the South African.

13 Marcos Reguera, op. Cit. Page 33

14 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

15 Smedley Butler, War is a Racket. In https://www.docdroid.net/SizLkOR/butler-smedley-d-la-guerra-es-una-estafa-pdf#page=5

16 I. Asimov, Anti-intellectualism in the United States, Newsweek, January 21, 1980, in https://alexiscondori.com/translation/0014-asimov-antiintelectualismo-culto-ignorancia ,

17 https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/04/08/opinion/1554738101_453213.html

 

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