By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Aug. 20, 2021)
Guest column by Chris Hedges
The US empire is in terminal decline and heading for a dystopian future. Yet no one – not the generals, or politicians, not the CIA and intelligence agencies, diplomats, or the journalist from the establishment media who serve as cheerleaders for war, not the compliant academics or the defence industry will be held accountable for all the military follies that herald its imminent collapse.
The return of the Taliban to power is one more signpost of the end of the American empire. The two decades of combat, the one trillion dollars spent, the 100,000 troops deployed to subdue Afghanistan, the high-tech gadgets, Hellfire missiles and bombs, air commandos, black sites, torture, electronic surveillance, attack aircraft, mercenary armies, infusions of millions of dollars to buy off and bribe the local elites and train an Afghan army of 350,000 failed to defeat a guerrilla army in one of the poorest countries on Earth.
Empires at the end are collective suicide machines. The military in late empire becomes unmanageable, unaccountable, and endlessly self-perpetuating, no matter how many fiascos, blunders, and defeats it visits upon the carcass of the nation, or how much money it plunders, impoverishing the citizenry and leaving governing institutions and the physical infrastructure decayed.
The human tragedy – at least 801,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan is reduced to a neglected footnote.
Empires tend to collapse in an orgy of military folly. The Roman Republic, at its height, only lasted two centuries. America is set to disintegrate in roughly the same time. The is the enemy within.
It is one of the dark ironies that it was the American empire, led by Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, which spawned the mess in Afghanistan. Brzezinski oversaw a multibillion-dollar CIA covert operation to arm, train, and equip the Taliban to fight the Soviets. This clandestine effort sidelined the secular, democratic opposition and assured the ascendancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan once Soviet forces withdrew. The American empire would, years later, find itself desperately trying to destroy its own creation.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were not an existential threat to the United States. They were not politically significant. They did not disrupt the balance of global power. They were not an act of war. They were acts of error.
The only way to fight terrorists is to isolate them within their own societies. If America had the courage to be vulnerable, to grasp that this was an intelligence war, not a conventional war, it would be far safer and more secure today.
But the attacks gave the ruling elites lusting for control of the Middle East, especially Iraq the excuse to carry out the greatest strategic blunder in American history: the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war, including then-Senator Joe Biden, believed they could implant client regimes by force throughout the region, and use the oil revenues in Iraq to cover the cost of reconstruction and magically restore American global hegemony. It did the opposite.
Invading Iraq and Afghanistan, dropping bombs on villages and towns, kidnapping, torturing and imprisoning tens of thousands of people, resurrected the discredited radical Muslims and was a potent recruiting tool in the fight against US and NATO forces.
There was little objection within the power structures to these invasions. Rep. Barbara Lee was the lone dissenter. Those who spoke out against the idiocy of the looming bloodlust were slandered and cast into the wilderness, where most remain. Those who sold us the war kept their megaphones, a reward for their service to empire and the military-industrial complex.
Historians call the self-defeating military adventurism of late empires ‘micro-militarism.’ The historian Alfred Mc Coy says ‘While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power. Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micro military operations can yield haemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.’
The death blow to the American empire will, as McCoy writes, be the loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This loss will plunge the United States into a crippling and prolonged depression. It will force a massive contraction of the global military footprint.
The ugly, squalid face of empire, with the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency, will become familiar at home. The bleak economic landscape, with its decay and hopelessness, will accelerate an array of violent and self-destructive pathologies including mass shootings, hate crimes, opioid and heroin overdoses, morbid obesity, suicides, gambling, and alcoholism.
The state will increasingly dispense with the fiction of the rule of law to rely exclusively on militarised police, essentially internal armies of occupation, and the prisons and jails, which already hold 25% of the world’s prisoners even though the United States represents less than 5% of the global population.
Our demise will probably come more swiftly than we imagine. When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, empires become “brittle.” An economy heavily dependent on massive government subsidies to produce primarily weapons and munitions, as well as to fund military adventurism, will go into a tailspin with a heavily depreciated dollar.
Prices will dramatically rise because of the steep increase in the cost of imports. Wages in real terms will decline. The unemployment level will climb to depression-era levels. Social assistance programs, because of a contracting budget, will be sharply curtailed or eliminated. These developments will fuel rage and hyper-nationalism. It will spawn an authoritarian state to keep order and a creeping Christianised fascism.
The tools of control on the outer reaches of the empire, already part of our existence, will become widespread.
The wholesale surveillance, the abolition of basic civil liberties, militarised police authorised to use indiscriminate lethal force, along with the censorship of the press and social media, will define America.
We are not the first empire to suffer this fate. It is a familiar ending. Imperialism and militarism are poisons that eradicate the separation of powers, designed to prevent tyranny and extinguish democracy. If those who orchestrated these crimes are not held accountable through mass resistance, we will pay the price, and we may pay it soon, for their hubris and greed.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].