Slouching Towards Washington

Posted on 1 July 2013 by


Does the U.S. have “friends and allies”? Or does the world merely consist of targets and tools? As we learned today the U.S. National Security Agency has been spying on a series of buildings and offices of the European Union, spying on Internet communications, phone calls and more. NATO headquarters has been used to spy on the EU. Most communications in Germany, where the U.S. has military bases, have also been trawled by the NSA. Some may reduce this to an issue of trust, and that certainly is relevant, but there is more to this: a state cannot have total power without total knowledge. The very quest for total knowledge should tell everyone exactly what kind of creature we are dealing with. It is an imperial state that seeks total power, and empire is the greatest dictator of all.

Elmar Brok, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in European Parliament added his opprobrium. “The spying has reached dimensions that I didn’t think were possible for a democratic country. Such behavior among allies is intolerable.” The US, he added, once the land of the free, “is suffering from a security syndrome,” added Brok, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. “They have completely lost all balance. George Orwell is nothing by comparison.” (Hecking & Schultz, 2013/6/30)

A further Merkel ally in European Parliament, Markus Ferber, accused the US on Sunday of using methods akin to the feared East German secret police, the Stasi. Like Weber, Ferber is a member of the CSU. “A democratic constitutional state that uses Stasi methods sacrifices all credibility as a moral authority,” Ferber told the German daily Die Welt on Sunday. “It has destroyed trust.” (Hecking & Schultz, 2013/6/30)

European capitals are now alive with the sound of indignation. That they knew but did not talk about it before is the key to secrecy, and it’s almost certain that European leaders knew they were under surveillance. The difference is that this is now public, and is open to “discussion.” An account has to be given for what it means to be an “ally of the U.S.” European leaders, at their wits’ end, cannot come up with one. Hence Germany’s Minister of Justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, denounced U.S. espionage as,

reminiscent of methods used by enemies during the Cold War. It defies belief that our friends in the US see the Europeans as their enemies.” (Hecking & Schultz, 2013/6/30)

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn added:

“It would seem that the secret services have gotten out of control. The US should monitor their own secret services rather than their allies. The US justifies everything as being part of the fight against terrorism.” (Hecking & Schultz, 2013/6/30)

As Guardian journalists noted, the latest NSA spying revelations, “went well beyond previous revelations of electronic spying said to be focused on identifying suspected terrorists, extremists and organised criminals” (Traynor, Osborne & Doward, 2013/6/30). Thus a second issue is resolved for anyone who was still either uncertain or unaware: there is no “global war on terror.” The precise aim is instead the appropriation of “terror” as a tool for bolstering U.S. dominance–dominance, and not hegemony, a hegemonic moment which for the U.S. has already passed.

Imperialist taxonomy: We are told that “nations are categorised by the US according to their trust level,” and the U.S., and the U.S. alone, “is defined as ‘first party’.” Meanwhile “the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand enjoy ‘second party’ trusted relationships.” However, “countries such as Germany and France have ‘third party’, or less trusted, relationships” (Traynor, Osborne & Doward, 2013/6/30). Note the select grouping of “second party” relationships: these are all of the key white settler states. When U.S. officials speak of “the international community,” this is what they mean: the white colonial club.

In addition to friends, allies, the international community, first and second party relationships, U.S. officials are often keen to appropriate the idea of moderation. Whoever is allied to the U.S. is thus by arbitrary definition “moderate.” Those aligned against the U.S. are therefore “extremists,” and some of them are “violent” extremists–because presumably the U.S. would also like to cast itself as fundamentally pacific too. When the U.S. arms killers, it is called “backing moderates.” And to those moderates I would say: there is nothing at all “moderate” about aligning yourself with, and depending upon the support of the U.S. global dictatorship.

There is nothing “moderate” about siding with NATO and U.S. imperialism. Imperialism and democracy are not compatible, not anywhere, not even in the home of empire. Playing the game of empire by repeating that Mubarak, Gaddafi, Assad, [insert villain of the day] “must go” simply helps to further empower and legitimate U.S. global dictatorship. If we cannot even start to decolonize our own minds of this baggage of prejudicial ideas, flawed concepts, and misplaced sentiments, then we have no chance of ever defeating empire.

This is indeed a global dictatorship in all reasonable and objective senses of the term “dictatorship,” in terms of the quest for monopolistic power, total surveillance, coercion, unilateral decision-making, and the extraction of capital to be accumulated by the already wealthy. It is dictatorship in instructing nations on what rules they are to follow in order to not be deemed rogue or failing states (thus likely targets of “kinetic humanitarianism”), and that they should instead follow Western capitalist principles of “good governance”. To that we can add: withholding recognition of popularly elected governments, as in Venezuela, or unilaterally deciding that some recently concocted sectional grouping without a mass, local following, is instead the “legitimate representative” of all of that nation’s people. Then there is the claim to be defending “vital U.S. interests”–but what are U.S. interests doing in our countries? Are we all mere tenants, here to serve the U.S. as custodians of its interests, as if we should have none of our own? Indeed, there is the next lesson: to be drafted into the new “global community” is to be divested of your own interests in your own situation, in the name of cosmopolitanism, humanity, and world governance–divested at the behest of the strongest power in that “community.”

Hypocrisies pile on top of manufactured crises and cruel injuries. The least we can do is not reassure empire, lending it our credulity, endorsing its targeting, making an issue of the nature of its enemies, none of whom have military installations in over 100 countries, none of whom have had led more than 30 military interventions abroad since 1989, none of whom have been conducting warfare in at least seven nations, often simultaneously, in the past decade, none of whom reach out and destroy lives around the planet with drones and cruise missiles, none of whom consume so many of the world’s resources, and none of whom have wrecked a global economy.

The least we can do is to not be moved by imperialists’ calculated, emotive appeals for the need to “act.” In his 1845 Theses on Feuerbach, Karl Marx’s eleventh thesis was: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it”. Here I would add: “The imperialists have only acted to change the world, in many dangerous and deleterious ways; my point is to understand it and respect the dignity of difference.” This is not to endorse the divorce of action from thought, the way that doctrinal upholders of humanitarian intervention would want as they have us unquestioningly reciting R2P principles, as if “protection” was an acceptable substitute for understanding a local society.

Far from divorcing action from thought, I look forward to the day when we form part of a liberated mass, its hour come round at last, that slouches towards Washington to be born.