9/11 and the “War on Terror” radically transformed America. Since the end of WWII the US has been the dominant world power but after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon the “gloves came off”. The neocons had been plotting this transformation since the fall of the Soviet Union but liberal intellectuals and the liberal corporate media were maybe worse in their embrace of a lawless and heavily militarized empire. I remember being shocked listening to a liberal academic on NPR calmly speculating that, just hypothetically, at some point in the not-too-distant future, we might need to sacrifice our principles a bit, and torture some people, to “keep America safe.”
It didn’t end with the Bush Administration. For all the campaign blather about Hope and Change, Obama maintained the neocons foreign policy of murder, torture and endless war, while adding indefinite detention. The WikiLeaks Collateral Murder video offers a chilling glimpse into the actions of our lawless empire, where US helicopter pilots casually gun-down civilians, like it was just another day at the office. This revelation of the dark underside of empire is, by the way, the source of liberal anger against Julian Assange, who is smeared as an agent of Russia.
As you may have heard, masked men without badges are jumping out of unmarked vans and grabbing people in Portland. This is what empire brings. It is what Americans have inflicted on others, and it is coming home. As I’ve stated here before: what happens on the periphery of empire always come home. It’s essentially a lesser version of what America taught Latin American nations to do at the School of the Americas. Americans have also spent a lot of time teaching other people how to do this, and in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere where they were “advisors” have engaged in such behavior themselves. When American citizens started to question our system of inequality, it was inevitable that such tactics would be used against them also.
Going further, I’ve come to believe that empire is the real cause of liberal angst in the age of Trump. After all, it’s liberals who’ve been behind all the deep state machinations because they find Trump wholly undependable as manager of U.S. empire. If you will recall from the way-back machine, Trump ran against our worldwide empire and in the Republican debates criticized the invasion of Iraq as a huge mistake while linking this criticism to Obama’s regime-change policies. All of the attacks on Trump have come from this bi-partisan defense of empire, from Russia-gate to Ukraine-gate to the criticism of Trump failing to establish a no-fly zone in Syria, etc. With this perspective, is it any surprise that liberals joined the intelligence agencies to spy on members of the Trump campaign?
Indeed, the most amazing thing about the Trump presidency has been the response by liberals, where they’ve continuously attacked him from the right.
Of course, this behavior has consequences.
Right now our bi-partisan deep state insists that we initiate a new Cold War with both Russia and China. All of this in the teeth of a terrifying pandemic that our vaunted National Security State seems powerless to do much about.
A new Cold War does have the great advantage of diverting attention from our government’s incompetence in coping with the pandemic. It is just possible to get distracted amid the threat of a new Cold War, and their intention is certainly that we forget and don’t blame them for fucking-up the response to a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Unfortunately, this is the behavior of an empire in its twilight, where it thrashes around, desperately engaging in more and more of the destructive actions that led to its decline.
Hold on tight.