Confirmed: The Immorality of the American Empire

This week’s Senate confirmation hearings for President Obama’s nominee to be the next director of the CIA, John Brennan, finally shone some light on the administration’s relentless drone wars. Unfortunately, and quite predictably, that light was lacking in intensity and carefully focused (with surgical precision, one might say) through a red, white, and blue filter. The so-called John Brennan and Dianne Feinsteinliberals on Dianne Feinstein’s committee probed the keeper of Obama’s “kill-list” on the constitutionality of killing American citizens without even a smattering of due process. The chairwoman herself, after kicking out the protestors from Code Pink who bravely sought to remind everyone of the true toll of the drone wars, proposed to remedy this obvious defect through the creation of another Star Chamber to mirror the odious FISA court set up to rubber-stamp the government’s surveillance practices. Completely missing from all of this news-cycle fodder was the larger issue of killing countless civilians who have not been blessed with membership in the world’s most self-important tribe.

No neutral observer of these proceedings should be left under the misapprehension that the United States has a plausible claim to global moral leadership. The only lives that matter to Americans are the lives of Americans. If you are a citizen of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, or Somalia, you are effectively sub-human, a non-entity. You may be disposed of at any time for any reason, or no reason at all. The master race that believes it owns the planet and has a right to organize all life thereon will not acknowledge your passing any more than it recognizes the innate sanctity of your life. The leader of this master race will shed no crocodile tears for your children, the victims of his psychopathic, cowardly, and stupid henchmen. The members of this great tribe, with a few exceptions whose voices will be suppressed, will not hold candle-lit vigils to commemorate your suffering. On the contrary, they will swallow, like unthinking bovines, the relentless propaganda of the empire that tells them you are an enemy of the United States intent on killing Americans because you hate “their freedoms.” The possibility that you might hate them because they have killed your fathers, brothers, wives, sons, and daughters will not cross their minds. You are just an object to be destroyed, like a target in a video game. Your humanity goes unrecognized, and with it all the normal human emotions and thought processes such as fear, grief, anger, confusion, and the desire for revenge.

Safe in their precious “Homeland,” with no foreign angels of death hovering over their heads 24 hours a day, the special Americans lie to one another about the extent of your misery. Senator Feinstein – she who would protect American lives by banning assault weapons – played footsie with Obama’s professional killer, endorsing his lie that drone strikes are remarkably precise by opining that the number of civilian casualties is in the single digits. Oh, how wonderful and clever the Americans are – so ingenious and considerate in their administration of global order! No one bothered to point out to the chairwoman that a comprehensive joint study between NYU and Stanford found the number of civilian deaths to number in the hundreds, including at least 1761 children. Children. Or, as the American corporate media would say, parroting the imperial line, militants intent on harming Americans.

This could have been an opportunity for sincere repentance and remorse. The killer could have broken down, crushed by the understanding that his sins do not comport with the Christian values his society professes to hold dear. But America doesn’t do repentance. America does what it wants, when it wants, where it wants. If you happen to get in the way, it is your fault, not theirs.

Intelligence and Stupidity, Hope and Change

If the United States’ claims to moral leadership lie in tatters, so does the pretension of Barack Obama. Having responded to the banking crisis by ensuring that no bankers went to jail, he followed the Bush administration’s practices of extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation by making sure that no one would ever stand trial for making a mockery of the Constitution. The administration’s attempted justification for the killing of Americans abroad could easily have been penned by John Yoo, the Bush acolyte who sought to justify torture. And the nomination of John Brennan completes the line of continuity, replacing the conveniently disgraced General Petraeus with the man who headed the CIA’s National Counterterrorism Center in the middle of the Bush years. Black Americans in particular need to ask themselves exactly what they were voting for in the last two presidential elections. And if this is what they wanted, they should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander in Afghanistan and a man heavily involved in drone strikes, has come to acknowledge that the strategy is counter-productive:

The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates…. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.

The Living Under Drones study found that as many as 74% of Pakistanis now see the United States as an enemy. In Yemen, the number of core al-Qaeda has doubled since Obama’s decision to launch drone strikes there. Is the next director of the CIA unaware of these disturbing facts? Are he and his boss really that stupid?  Are they so blinded by superpower arrogance that they think the way to rule the world is with an iron fist?

Let us consider an alternative narrative. Just as the government pays lip service to the economic aspirations of the middle class while ensuring an intensification of plutocracy, so the government claims to be protecting us from dangerous foreign threats while ensuring that such threats will multiply. A military empire requires the cultivation of fear at home, and this in turn demands the maintenance of potential external dangers. Simply put, the United States does not want a peaceful, harmonious world; it wants a world that appears to need the supervision of its benign munificence. As American society crumbles and the world’s environment collapses, our imperial overlords will have their global protection racket neatly sewn up. The only thing left standing will be our army. Just like the founders intended.

  1. Link removed 10/11/15 due to 404 error. Figure from the Living Under Drones report.

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