One of the great paradoxes of history are the claims of imperialist politicians
to be engaged in a great humanitarian crusade, a historic "civilizing
mission" designed to liberate nations and peoples, while practicing
the most barbaric conquests, destructive wars and large scale bloodletting
of conquered people in historical memory.
- In the modern capitalist era, the ideologies
of imperialist rulers vary over time, from the early appeals to "the
right" to wealth, power, colonies and grandeur to later claims of
a 'civilizing mission'. More recently imperial rulers have propagated,
many diverse justifications adapted to specific contexts, adversaries,
circumstances and audiences.
- This essay will concentrate on analyzing
contemporary US imperial ideological arguments for legitimizing wars and
sanctions to sustain dominance.
- Contextualizing Imperial Ideology
- Imperialist propaganda varies according to
whether it is directed against a competitor for global power, or whether
as a justification for applying sanctions, or engaging in open warfare
against a local or regional socio-political adversary.
- With regard to established imperial (Europe)
or rising world economic competitors (China), US imperial propaganda varies
over time. Early in the 19th century , Washington proclaimed the "Monroe
Doctrine", denouncing European efforts to colonize Latin America,
privileging its own imperial designs in that region. In the 20th century
when the US imperial policymakers were displacing Europe from prime resource
based colonies in the Middle East and Africa, it played on several themes.
It condemned 'colonial forms of domination' and promoted 'neo-colonial'
transitions that ended European monopolies and facilitated US multi-national
corporate penetration. This was clearly evident during and after World
War 2, in the Middle East petrol-countries.
- During the 1950s as the US assumed imperial
primacy and radical anti-colonial nationalism came to the fore, Washington
forged alliances with the declining colonial power to combat a common enemy
and to prop up post-colonial powers to combat a common enemy . Even with
the post World War 2 economic recovery, growth and unification of Europe,
it still works in tandem and under US leadership in militarily repressing
nationalist insurgencies and regimes. When conflicts and competition occur,
between US and European regimes, banks and enterprises, the mass media
of each region publish "investigatory findings" highlighting
the frauds and malfeasance of its competitors ..and US regulatory agencies
levy heavy fines on their European counterparts, overlooking similar practices
by Wall Street financial firms.
- In recent times the rising tide of militarist
imperialism and colonial wars fueled by Israeli proxies in the US state
has led to some serious divergencies between US and European imperialism.
With the exception of England, Europe made a minimum symbolic commitment
to the US wars and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Germany and France
concentrated on expanding their export markets and economic capacities;
displacing the US in major markets and resource sites. The convergence
of US and European empires led to the integration of financial institutions
and the subsequent common crises and collapse but without any coordinated
policy of recovery. US ideologists propagated the idea of a "declining
and decaying European Union", while the European ideologues emphasized
the failures of Anglo-American de-regulated, 'free markets' and Wall Street
- Imperial Ideology, Rising Economic Powers and Nationalist
- There is a long history of imperialist "anti-imperialism",
officially sponsored condemnation, exposés and moral indignation
directed exclusively against rival imperialists, emerging powers or simply
competitors, who in some cases are simply following in the footsteps of
the established imperial powers.
- English imperialists in their heyday justified
their world-wide plunder of three continents by perpetuating the "Black
Legend", of Spanish empire's "exceptional cruelty" toward
indigenous people of Latin America, while engaging in the biggest and most
lucrative African slave trade. While the Spanish colonists enslaved the
indigenous people, the Anglo-American settlers exterminated them..
- In the run-up to World War II, European and
US imperial powers, while exploiting their Asian colonies condemned Japanese
imperial powers' invasion and colonization of China. Japan, in turn claimed
it was leading Asia's forces fighting against Western imperialism and projected
a post-colonial "co-prosperity" sphere of equal Asian partners.
- The imperialist use of "anti-imperialist"
moral rhetoric was designed to weaken rivals and was directed to several
audiences. In fact, at no point did the anti-imperialist rhetoric serve
to "liberate" any of the colonized people. In almost all cases
the victorious imperial power only substituted one form colonial or neo-colonial
rule for another.
- The "anti-imperialism" of the imperialists
is directed at the nationalist movements of the colonized countries
and at their domestic public. British imperialists fomented uprisings
among the agro-mining elites in Latin America promising "free
trade" against Spanish mercantilist rule; they backed the "self-determination"
of the slaveholding cotton plantation owners in the US South against the
Union; they supported the territorial claims of the Iroquois tribal
leaders against the US anti-colonial revolutionaries exploiting legitimate
grievances for imperial ends. During World War II, the Japanese
imperialists supported a sector of the nationalist anti-colonial movement
in India against the British Empire. The US condemned Spanish colonial
rule in Cuba and the Philippines and went to war to "liberate"
the oppressed peoples from tyranny.and remained to impose a reign of terror,
exploitation and colonial rule
- The imperial powers sought to divide the
anti-colonial movements and create future "client rulers" when
and if they succeeded. The use of anti-imperialist rhetoric was designed
to attract two sets of groups. A conservative group with common political
and economic interests with the imperial power, which shared their hostility
to revolutionary nationalists and which sought to accrue greater advantage
by tying their fortunes to a rising imperial power. A radical sector of
the movement tactically allied itself with the rising imperial power, with
the idea of using the imperial power to secure resources (arms, propaganda,
vehicles and financial aid) and, once securing power, to discard them.
More often than not, in this game of mutual manipulation between empire
and nationalists, the former won out as is the case then and now.
- The imperialist "anti-imperialist"
rhetoric was equally directed at the domestic public, especially in countries
like the US which prized its 18th anti-colonial heritage. The purpose
was to broaden the base of empire building beyond the hard line empire
loyalists, militarists and corporate beneficiaries. Their appeal sought
to include liberals, humanitarians, progressive intellectuals, religious
and secular moralists and other "opinion-makers" who had a certain
cachet with the larger public, the ones who would have to pay with their
lives and tax money for the inter-imperial and colonial wars.
- The official spokespeople of empire publicize
real and fabricated atrocities of their imperial rivals, and highlight
the plight of the colonized victims. The corporate elite and the hardline
militarists demand military action to protect property, or to seize strategic
resources; the humanitarians and progressives denounce the "crimes
against humanity" and echo the calls "to do something concrete"
to save the victims from genocide. Sectors of the Left join the chorus
and, finding a sector of victims who fit in with their abstract ideology,
plead for the imperial powers to "arm the people to liberate themselves"
(sic). By lending moral support and a veneer of respectability to the
imperial war, by swallowing the propaganda of "war to save victims"
the progressives become the prototype of the "anti-imperialism of
the fools". Having secured broad public support on the bases of "anti-imperialism",
the imperialist powers feel free to sacrifice citizens' lives and the public
treasury, to pursue war, fueled by the moral fervor of a righteous cause.
As the butchery drags on and the casualties mount, and the public wearies
of war and its cost, progressive and leftist enthusiasm turns to silence
or worse, moral hypocrisy with claims that "the nature of the war
changed" or "that this isn't the kind of war that we had in mind
". As if the war makers ever intended to consult the progressives
and left on how and why they should engage in imperial wars!
- In the contemporary period the imperial "anti-imperialist
wars" and aggression have been greatly aided and abetted by well-funded
"grass roots" so-called "non-governmental organizations"
which act to mobilize popular movements which can "invite" imperial
- Over the past four decades US imperialism
has fomented at least two dozen "grass roots" movements which
have destroyed democratic governments, or decimated collectivist welfare
states or provoked major damage to the economy of targeted countries.
- In Chile throughout 1972-73 under the democratically
elected government of Salvador Allende, the CIA financed and provided major
support via the AFL-CIO--to private truck owners to paralyze the
flow of goods and services .They also funded a strike by a sector
of the copper workers union (at the El Tenient mine) to undermine copper
production and exports, in the lead up to the coup. After the military
took power several "grass roots" Christian Democratic union officials
participated in the purge of elected leftist union activists. Needless
to say in short order the truck owners and copper workers ended the strike,
dropped their demands and subsequently lost all bargaining rights!
- In the 1980's the CIA via Vatican channels
transferred millions of dollars to sustain the "Solidarity Union"
in Poland, making a hero of the Gdansk shipyards worker-leader Lech Walesa,
who spearheaded the general strike to topple the Communist regime. With
the overthrow of Communism so also went guaranteed employment, social security
and trade union militancy: the neo-liberal regimes reduced the workforce
at Gdansk by fifty percent and eventually closed it, giving the boot to
the entire workforce.. Walesa retired with a magnificent Presidential pension,
while his former workmates walked the streets and the new "independent"
Polish rulers provided NATO with military bases and mercenaries for imperial
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- In 2002 the White House, the CIA, the AFL-CIO
and NGOs, backed a Venezuelan military-business trade union bureaucrat
led "grass roots" coup that overthrew democratically elected
President Chavez. In 48 hours a million strong authentic grass roots mobilization
of the urban poor backed by constitutionalist military forces defeated
the US backed dictators and restored Chavez to power .Subsequently oil
executives directed a lockout backed by several US financed NGOs. They
were defeated by the workers' takeover of the oil industry. The unsuccessful
coup and lockout cost the Venezuelan economy billions of dollars in lost
income and caused a double digit decline in GNP.
- The US backed "grass roots" armed
jihadists to liberated "Bosnia" and armed the "grass roots"
terrorist Kosova Liberation Army to break-up Yugoslavia. Almost the entire
Western Left cheered as, the US bombed Belgrade, degraded the economy and
claimed it was "responding to genocide". Kosova "free and
independent" became a huge market for white slavers, housed the biggest
US military base in Europe, with the highest per-capita out migration of
any country in Europe.
- The imperial "grass roots" strategy
combines humanitarian, democratic and anti-imperialist rhetoric and paid
and trained local NGO's, with mass media blitzes to mobilize Western public
opinion and especially "prestigious leftist moral critics" behind
their power grabs.
- The Consequence of Imperial Promoted "Anti-Imperialist"
Movements: Who Wins and Who Loses?
- The historic record of imperialist promoted
"anti-imperialist" and "pro-democracy" "grass
roots movements" is uniformly negative. Let us briefly summarize
the results. In Chile 'grass roots' truck owners strike led to the brutal
military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and nearly two decades of torture,
murder, jailing and forced exile of hundreds of thousands, the imposition
of brutal "free market policies" and subordination to US imperial
policies. In summary the US multi-national copper corporations and the
Chilean oligarchy were the big winners and the mass of the working class
and urban and rural poor the biggest losers. The US backed "grass
roots uprisings" in Eastern Europe against Soviet domination, exchanged
Russian for US domination; subordination to NATO instead of the Warsaw
Pact; the massive transfer of national public enterprises, banks and media
to Western multi-nationals. Privatization of national enterprises led
to unprecedented levels of double-digit unemployment, skyrocketing rents
and the growth of pensioner poverty.The crises induced the flight of millions
of the most educated and skilled workers and the elimination of free public
health, higher education and worker vacation resorts.
- Throughout the now capitalist Eastern Europe
and USSR highly organized criminal gangs developed large scale prostitution
and drug rings; foreign and local gangster 'entrepeneurs' seized lucrative
public enterprises and formed a new class of super-rich oligarchs Electoral
party politicians, local business people and professionals linked to Western
'partners' were the socio-economic winners. Pensioners, workers, collective
farmers, the unemployed youth were the big losers along with the formerly
subsidized cultural artists. Military bases in Eastern Europe became the
empire's first line of military attack of Russia and the target of any
- If we measure the consequences of the shift
in imperial power, it is clear that the Eastern Europe countries have become
even more subservient under the US and the EU than under Russia. Western
induced financial crises have devastated their economies; Eastern European
troops have served in more imperial wars under NATO than under Soviet rule;
the cultural media are under Western commercial control. Most of all, the
degree of imperial control over all economic sectors far exceeds anything
that existed under the Soviets. The Eastern European 'grass roots' movement
succeeded in deepening and extending the US Empire; the advocates of peace,
social justice, national independence, a cultural renaissance and social
welfare with democracy were the big losers.
- Western liberals, progressives and leftists
who fell in love with imperialist promoted "anti-imperialism"
are also big losers. Their support for the NATO attack on Yugoslavia led
to the break-up of a multi-national state and the creation of huge NATO
military bases and a white slavers paradise in Kosova. Their blind support
for the imperial promoted "liberation" of Eastern Europe devastated
the welfare state, eliminating the pressure on Western regimes' need to
compete in providing welfare provisions. The main beneficiaries of Western
imperial advances via 'grass roots' uprisings were the multi-national corporations,
the Pentagon and the rightwing free market neo-liberals.As the entire
political spectrum moved to the right a sector of the left and progressives
eventually jumped on the bandwagon. The Left moralists lost credibility
and support, their peace movements dwindled, and their "moral critiques"
lost resonance. The left and progressives who tail-ended the imperial
backed "grass roots movements", whether in the name of "anti-Stalinism",
"pro-democracy" or "anti-imperialism" have never engaged
in any critical reflection; no effort to analyze the long-term negative
consequences of their positions in terms of the losses in social welfare,
national independence or personal dignity.
- The long history of imperialist manipulation
of "anti-imperialist" narratives has found virulent expression
in the present day. The New Cold War launched by Obama against China and
Russia, the hot war brewing in the Gulf over Iran's alleged military threat,
the interventionist threat against Venezuela's "drug-networks",
and Syria's "bloodbath" are part and parcel of the use and abuse
of "anti-imperialism" to prop up a declining empire. Hopefully,
the progressive and leftist writers and scribes will learn from the ideological
pitfalls of the past and resist the temptation to access the mass media
by providing a 'progressive cover' to imperial dubbed "rebels".
It is time to distinguish between genuine anti-imperialism and pro-democracy
movements and those promoted by Washington, NATO and the mass media.