Demise of the American Empire: Pinpointing the Timeline

 

In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power

by Alfred W McCoy

Haymarket Books (2016)

Book Review

Prior to 2001 and the launch of the War on Terror, the US political elite adamantly denied (despite massive evidence to the contrary), that the United States was an empire rather than a republic. Because their sudden about face (ie acknowledgement and promotion of US imperialism) was so recent, there has been little opportunity for scholarly analysis of America’s effectiveness as an empire. It’s this void Alfred McCoy seeks to fill with In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.

Competition for Control of the Eurasian Landmass

McCoy traces America’s serious global empire building to their defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898, which won them Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Panama Canal Zone and the Philippines.* He maintains that us strategies for empire-building, like those of the former British empire, have mainly relied on seeking and maintaining control of the “World-Island.” This is a term coined by London School of Economics director Halford Mackinder’s World Island in 1904. Under this concept, the World Island consists of the vast European-Asian landmass that is home to 70% of the world’s population, 75% of its global energy resources and 60% of its current productivity.

How the US Maintains Military Control

After the US became the world’s preeminent superpower after World War II, they have used nine basic strategies to maintain military control of the Eurasian landmass: mass surveillance (based on a system of extensive personal data collection that began during their “pacification”** of the Philippines (1898-1907); CIA covert operations (involving electoral interference, military coups, installation of compliant puppet dictators, targeted assassinations, torture, advanced technological weaponry (electronic senors, satellite imagery, drones, etc) and, increasingly cyperwarfare and space-based weaponry (most information about the latter two is classified).

America Falling Behind China Economically and Militarily

For me the most interesting section of the book examines ways in which the US is rapidly falling behind China – not only economically but militarily. McCoy identifies Bush’s rash decision to invade Iraq as the start of the American empire’s steady decline. While the US has spent the last 16 years mired in unwinnable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, China is busily building alliances and investing their trade surplus (from selling Americans cheap consumer goods) in Russia and other countries located in the World Island. In Afghanistan alone, they are responsible for 79% of foreign investment.

Meanwhile China is rapidly creating a single economic zone across the Eurasian landmass, with a vast network of high speed trains and pipelines following historical Silk Road and Tran-Siberian Railway routes – and soon a high speed Southeast Asian and Moscow-Beijing line.

Even the Pentagon-linked Rand Corporation predicts China’s will exceed that of the US by 2030 or sooner. In 2010, China became the world’s leading manufacturing nation. In 2014, it took the lead in the number of new patents it awards annually.

Even more concerning is the rapid decline of US educational standards compared to those of China, which has ominous implications for the development of high tech weaponry. Chinese students consistently score first in math, science and reading, while US students score 27th, 20th and 17th respectively.

By 2025, China is expected to have better long range cruise missiles than the US, better air defense aircraft, better electronic sensors, better digital communications capacity, better computer processing power and better cyber-security. At the same time, they have a significant strategic advantage because the US spreads its military resources so thin by fighting so many foreign wars simultaneously.

According to McCoy, they already have the ability to cripple critical US infrastructure (electrical and telecommunications grid and pipelines) via cyber warfare.

Collapse Predicted Between 2030-2040

McCoy predicts (and makes an excellent case for) the demise of the US empire some time between 2030-2040. It could happen gradually, as US economic and military prowess continues its steady decline – or suddenly, if the loss of its privileged status causes the US dollar to collapse. The impending implosion may be aggravated by climate change, especially if the Pentagon is drawn into wars over dwindling food and water resources or control of massive numbers of climate refugees.


*In a separate development, the Kingdom of Hawai’i was illegally overthrown by The Committee of Safety (a group of wealthy American/European businessmen) in 1998. The Committee of Safety used U.S. Marines to detain the Queen while they announced their takeover of Hawai’i.

**”Pacification” is a military euphemism for violently subjugating the indigenous population of an occupied country.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

 

 

The Long US Government War Against Americans

The Cointelpro Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States

by Ward Churchill* and Jim Vander Wall

South End Press (1990)

Free PDF: Cointelpro Papers

Book Review

As the authors describe, the FBI Cointelpro program first came to light in letters and memos seized when antiwar activists broke into an FBI field office in 1971 looking for draft cards. Using these and other documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the authors make it clear that the FBI has infiltrated and sabotaged every major citizens group since 1945.

The Cointelpro papers should be required reading for high school graduation. It’s essential to realize that government wire tapping, stalking, covert break-ins and infiltration of community groups didn’t start in 2002 when these activities first became “legal” under the Patriot Act. In fact, it’s extremely well documented (by University of Wisconsin professor Alfred McCoy – see Spying on Americans: the Ugly History) that it first began during the US occupation of the Philippines in 1898-1901.

This book had great personal importance in my life. There are a number of parallels between Jean Seberg’s case (see below) and the FBI harassment I began experiencing in 1987 related to my work with two former Black Panthers.** Along with four other African American activists, they had occupied an abandoned Seattle school in 1985 to transform it into a community-controlled African American Heritage Building and Cultural Center.

The section of Cointelpro Papers I found most illuminating describes the death squad activity that occurred on the Pine Ridge Sioux reservations during the 1970s – fifty-plus murders were never even investigated, much less prosecuted. Most Americans assume forced disappearances and extrajudicial assassinations only occur in Third World countries (thanks to the excellent CIA training their military officers receive at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning Georgia). Learning of scores of documented instances on US soil is extremely troubling.

The book also reproduces chilling FBI memos related to the coordinated FBI/police attack and murder of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and the attempted murder of Los Angeles Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt (who was subsequently imprisoned for 27 years on fictitious charges). The book goes on to recount to the brave refusal of Seattle mayor Wes Uhlman to consent to a similar FBI/police raid on the Black Panthers in Seattle (see The Mayor Who Said No to the Feds).

The saddest chapter describes the sadistic campaign of personal harassment Hoover undertook against actress Jean Seberg, a white actress who provided the Black Panthers with financial support. As a result of rumor campaigns and vicious gossip columns planted by the FBI, Seberg and her partner ultimately committed suicide.


*Ward Churchill is a well-known American Indian Movement (AIM) activist and former professor of ethnic studies at University of Colorado.

**Which I describe in my memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee

Spying on Americans: the Ugly History

hoover

The Origins of the US Police State

While the majority of Americans were stunned and outraged at Edward Snowden’s revelations that the government was secretly monitoring their phone calls and emails, the US government has been systematically spying on law abiding citizens for nearly 100 years. In July 2013, University of Wisconsin professor Alfred McCoy, one of America’s foremost experts on CIA narcotics trafficking, laid out an elegant history of government domestic spying in Tomgram: Obama’s Expanding Surveillance Universe. It should be required reading for every high school graduate. Below are some highlights:

1898 -1901 US Occupation of the Philippines

The US Army first developed the capacity to spy and keep records on civilians when they occupied the Philippines (following the Spanish American War) in 1898. n when they occupied the Philippines following the Spanish American War. The local population already had a large, well-organized resistance movement which had been battling Spain for independence. In 1901, as director of the army’s first field intelligence unit, Captain Ralph Van Deman, compiled detailed personal and financial records on thousands of Filipino leaders.

1917 – 1921 World War I and the Palmer Raids

After the US entered World War I in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson engaged Van Deman to create the US Army’s Military Intelligence Division to spy on US civilians. Van Deman, in turn, enlisted a patriotic vigilante group called the American Protective League to assist in collecting a million pages of surveillance reports on Americans of German ancestry (like my grandfather and great grandfather, who was forced to flee to South America).

After the war ended in 1918 they joined with the Bureau of Investigation (renamed the FBI in 1935) to engage in strike breaking in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest and round up and deport European labor activists.

In 1921, incoming president Warren Harding condemned Wilson’s oppressive secret police apparatus and forced the Army and FBI to cut their ties with vigilante groups. Although Van Deman was forced into retirement, he and his wife continued to compile files on 250,000 so-called subversives.

1940 – 1945 World War II

In 1940, Hoover made use of Van Deman’s files and a network of 300,000 informants to carry out illegal FBI wiretaps, break-ins, and mail intercepts against political dissidents – based on allegations, which were never substantiated, that they posed a threat against wartime defense plants were never substantiated.

1960-74 Vietnam War and COINTELPRO

From 1960-74, Hoover expanded this operation, which he renamed COINTELPRO. As well as spying on activists, this operation also subjected them to extensive personal harassment. According to the senateChurch Committee investigating  COINTELPRO, Hoover’s vicious tactics included “anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might results in deaths.” As most activists over fifty can tell you, COINTELPRO never ended. I write about my personal encounter with the 1980s version of COINTELPRO in my 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee.

In 1974, New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that the CIA, which is forbidden under federal law to operate on US territory, was also engaged in illegal surveillance of antiwar activists under a program known as Operation Chaos. Following his election in 1978, President Jimmy Carter pushed for enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This made government wiretaps illegal unless they were approved by a special FISA court.

2003 – 2008 US Occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq (under Bush)

By the time the US attacked Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003-2003, the intelligence security state had a vast array of new spying technologies (including electronic surveillance, biometric identification, and spy drones) at their disposal. In an attempt to bring the Iraqi resistance under control, General McChrystal ordered the collection of 3 million Iraqi fingerprints and iris scans.

Meanwhile Bush attempted to resurrect Hoover’s old vigilante networks via Operation Tips, which was blocked by major opposition from Congress, civil libertarians, and the media. A parallel initiative called Total Information Awareness, which would have compiled electronic files on millions of Americans, was also banned by Congress.

Despite these setbacks, Bush’s defiance of FISA by ordering the NSA to commence collecting email and phone records of American civilians (exposed by the New York Times in 2005) was retroactively ratified by Congress in 2007.

2009 – present US Occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and Somalia

Obama substantially expanded NSA spying by collaborating with British intelligence to tap into trans-Atlantic cables carrying phone and email traffic and authorizing NSA spying on residents in NATO ally countries Germany, France, and Italy.

Between 2006-10 the US launched the planet’s first cyberwar. In 2010 Obama ordered cyberattacks (Stuxnet) against Iran’s nuclear facility.

Obama’s Vision for Future Surveillance

According to McCoy, since 2012 Obama has been cutting conventional armaments and investing billions in global information control and space warfare technology. New programs include a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency with 6,000 employees coordinating surveillance data from predator drones, Reapers, U-2 spy planes, Global Hawks, X-37B space drones, Google Earth, Space Surveillance Telescopes, and orbiting satellite. Alongside their surveillance capabilities, new generation spy satellites will have the capability of enveloping the Earth in an electronic grid capable of pulverizing suspected terrorists or entire armies.

Hear Jeff Blankfort interview McCoy about his Tomdispatch article at Radio 4

photo credit: KAZVorpal via photopin cc

Reposted from Veterans Today