Monday, May 5, 2014

US Imperialism: The global terror machine

The US military making the world safe for US corporations paid for by our taxes
“We can no longer afford to let billionaires use the military to control and dominate as many nations as possible for economic gain.” Chalmers Johnson*

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I remember my mother showing me a map of Africa when I was a child, I lived in Nigeria for three years back then and my sister was born there. I still have that atlas.  She pointed to all the pink parts, Nigeria, Kenya, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) Ghana etc. I looked at other parts of the world and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was pink and all of India. The atlas was dated 1934 so Burma where I was born (now Myanmar) was also pink so was Cyprus and much of the Middle East. Man there was pink everywhere and it was ours.  Made me feel quite important as a 8 year old or so, that the country I called mine governed such a vast part of the planet.  How important it made me feel belonging to a country that was so powerful and did what it could to make the world free

My mum didn’t really know much better.  She left school at 14, went to work and died at 85 still working. She never really retired.  The best part of her life was as an army wife living in Nigeria where British troops could afford to hire local people to clean house or care for children. She wasn’t a racist or a bad person, just a person of her time.

By the fifties things were changing and it seemed that these people didn’t want British people there anymore.  I remember seeing headlines in the press about the savagery waged against honest British farmers in Kenya by terrorists.  Throughout Africa it seemed we were not wanted.  I recall a Scottish officer with the Nickname Mad Mitch. I have a vague memory of seeing him on TV in England, he was in Aden where we stopped when I was a child returning to England by boat. It was Arab terrorists this time that were attacking British troops. What was the matter with these people?  Didn’t they appreciate us?  Didn’t they know what was good for them?  This guy Lumumba’s followers were doing the same thing in the Congo.  And weren’t our boys fighting communists in Malaya so Malaysians could be free? I just couldn’t understand it.

I understand it now. I understand who were the terrorists and who weren’t.  As I grew older and developed a wider political outlook I also came to understand that while elements of the IRA did practice terrorist methods, the real terrorism came from the British state, the same terrorism it inflicted on the Kikuyu of Kenya who, as the leading elements in the Mao Mao movement drove British colonialism from the country. In fact, I learned about the occupation of Ireland by the British, an occupation that was hundreds of years old and that preceded the occupations in Africa and India. 

The war against the Mau Mau in Kenya was a particularly violent one.  It was really the last colonial war British imperialism fought as it could no longer afford to maintain its empire especially after the Second World War. The US was boss now. Stalinism in the form of the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent China led to a bi-polar world as the two systems vied for global influence. The Vietnamese paid dearly for that.

It’s not an accident that the struggle against the Mau Mau was so violent. British colonialism’s days were over. But like a wounded animal, an empire in decline will resort to the most brutal violence to maintain its position in the pecking order.  That’s what we are seeing with US imperialism now. The difference is that this weakened animal is armed to the teeth and can blow up the entire world including itself. The US capitalist class is the only force in history that has dropped nuclear bombs on civilian populations.

I wince when I read the incredibly biased US media coverage with regards to Russia. Don’t get me wrong.  I am not a supporter of Russian imperialism and I know what Putin is, the former KGB thug. Putin and Cheney are like two peas in a pod except Putin could beat Cheney up.

But the declining influence of US imperialism on the world stage is behind this terrorist state’s global aggression. The US is in debt. It is threatened by the rise of Russia, China and to a lesser extent India and Brazil. The war at home is making the US worker a low waged alternative to the manufacturers of the world.  The cost of US aggression is cuts in services, jobs, education and the crumbling of the nation’s infrastructure as a tiny percentage of US citizens accumulate massive wealth. 

This talk of a Russian aggression and annexing this and that needs a sober assessment. Let’s look at the US presence in the world. It has pretty much surrounded Russia as well as China with US military installations of one type or another.  This is pushing a new arms race and is certainly not making us safer; Just the opposite.

Before he died in 2010, Chalmers Johnson wrote of the growing world military build up of US capitalism and the need to stop it in order for us all to be safer.  The US “empire” he wrote,  …..consists of  865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. We deploy over 190,000 troops in 46 countries and territories. In just one such country, Japan, at the end of March 2008, we still had 99,295 people connected to U.S. military forces living and working there -- 49,364 members of our armed services, 45,753 dependent family members, and 4,178 civilian employees. Some 13,975 of these were crowded into the small island of Okinawa, the largest concentration of foreign troops anywhere in Japan.”

The cost of maintaining this military presence in 2010 was somewhere around $250 billion a year. Chalmers quotes Robert Pape author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism

 "America is in unprecedented decline. The self-inflicted wounds of the Iraq war, growing government debt, increasingly negative current-account balances and other internal economic weaknesses have cost the United States real power in today's world of rapidly spreading knowledge and technology. If present trends continue, we will look back on the Bush years as the death knell of American hegemony."

This is not defense
The architects of US foreign policy are the most efficient of the world’s terrorists.  US capitalism says Iran is a threat as it surrounds that country with bases and invades its immediate neighbor without justification.  The US overthrew a secular democratic government in Iran in 1953.

It has installations in Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, Afghanistan and other countries in Russia’s orbit.   This aggression using NATO as a junior partner is being waged on behalf of US corporations. Iran is not threat to American workers nor is Russia, not at this point anyway. It has reached a point where Americans will hardly be able to travel to any country at all as victims of US foreign policy lash out at us in a desperate attempt to slow its decline.

As this blog reported earlier, US capitalism is the main force destabilizing the Ukraine and supporting right wing fascist elements in its drive to extend its influence in to Eastern Europe. It is a very dangerous game it is playing here with our lives and the lives of all workers.

On the other hand, so few of us travel anywhere compared to Europeans or Asians for example that we’ll never see the other side or be confronted buy the victims of US imperialism’s terror.

Reminding myself once again of my earlier ignorance I eventually discovered that the British in China had a policy they called extraterritoriality which is described as the state of being exempted from the jurisdiction of local law.  What this meant was that a British person could kill a Chinese man or rape a Chinese woman which was common or commit any other crime and local authorities could not do anything about it. This procedure was normally the result of negotiations between the parties. But the parties consisted of a loser and a winner or the stronger and the weaker.  These deals were the product of coercion.

US imperialism forces similar conditions on those countries where it has a presence through Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) that prevent the host government from having any jurisdiction over US troops that commit crimes overseas. Johnson wrote in 2010: “The problem of rape has been ubiquitous around all of our bases on every continent and has probably contributed as much to our being loathed abroad as the policies of the Bush administration or our economic exploitation of poverty-stricken countries whose raw materials we covet.”  He goes on to say: “It is fair to say that the U.S. military has created a worldwide sexual playground for its personnel and protected them to a large extent from the consequences of their behavior. “
Okinawa is the most infamous example of this.  Johnson noted that “In Japan, of 3,184 U.S. military personnel who committed crimes between 2001 and 2008, 83% were not prosecuted. SOFA agreements allow military personnel and military contractors accused of off-duty crimes to remain in U.S. custody while the country in question investigates. The U.S., then, moves them out the country before they can be charged.”

The same can be said of the US military itself where rape is an epidemic and cover up as common. The tragedy is that so many Americans just turn a blind eye to it all. I know from experience that so many of us detest the role our government plays at home and abroad. But so many people feel there is nothing that can be done so they simply try to get on with their lives and avoid it. The news doesn’t help as it is completely biased and there is no force in US society of any significance that offers an alternative.  The trade union leadership is completely subservient to capital and refuses even to fight for their own members. They are completely silent with regards to the US war machine and the likes of the CIA. 

The cost of these wars for US corporations is borne by US workers in the form of declining living standards and increased misery.  Neither party of Wall Street, Democrats or Republicans will show a way out.  There resides here in the Bay Area Barbara Lee, one of the most progressive or left of the Democratic politicians. The liberal middle class loves her.  But as transit workers here faced a summer of terror and insecurity as well as two strikes she had nothing to say. She was nowhere to be found.

After 911, I remember telling some of my co-workers that the first question we should be asking ourselves is what is our government up to abroad that would lead to this? We cannot ignore the conduct of this mad clique that has its hands on levers of society.  Being what we are geographically we have been relatively unscathed, war has been tolerated as long as Americans don’t get killed.  The present predatory wars are being fought by a small section of US society, workers all and the rest of us bury our heads, work and party if we’re not in jail. Most of us wouldn’t know where Crimea is or Ukraine or Bulgaria or Romania.  It is said derisively that we learn about other countries after the Pentagon bombs them (remember Grenada? Some threat wasn’t it?) and we see Wolf Blitzer walking over these little interactive maps on the floor of the CNN newsroom.

Obama and the US military machine, mad as it is, is playing a dangerous game in Russia’s back yard. The entire European Union could be affected.  We only have to look at the bases, see the installations and where they are to se who is the aggressor. US foreign policy is bad for Americans. Chalmers again:
“The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.”

As Pericles was reputed to have said: "Just because you don't take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you."  The events of September 11th 2001 was politics having an interest in us. Only an independent workers movement can stop this madness. We cannot continue to ignore the actions of our government and ignore politics. Direct action at varying levels must be part of our movement, the building of an independent workers’ political party must be also. We cannot rely on the Democratic Party to resolve these pressing issues.

I am confident that the US working class will enter the stage of history and make its mark.  But we must not fool ourselves, the stakes are high and the situation is dire. The domestic security situation has worsened since the onset of the Occupy Movement. It is safe to say that the US security apparatus probably dwarfs the old Stalinist KGB.

It’s not over yet, we’ve got a world to win.

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