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The Founders' Handiwork Has Turned to Dust

Written By: Bruce Fein  |  Posted: Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

We, the current citizens of the United States, have all been raised to embrace the American Empire without questioning its premises, just as British subjects more than a century ago viscerally cherished and celebrated the British Empire. The justifications for empires are characteristically unexamined to conceal an unflattering truth: they are all fueled by a base, animalistic craving to dominate other nations and people for the sake of domination. Empires historically have succumbed to ruination because of military overreach and global resentments.
Acclaimed Austrian scholar Joseph Schumpeter captured the essence of empire in his 1919 description of imperialism in The Sociology of Imperialism:
"For it is always a question, when one speaks of imperialism, of the assertion of an aggressiveness whose real basis does not lie in the aims followed at the moment but an aggressiveness in itself. And actually history shows us people and classes who desire expansion for the sake of expanding, war for the sake of fighting, domination for the sake of dominating. It values conquest not so much because of the advantages it brings, which are often more than doubtful, as because it is conquest, success, activity. Although expansion as self-purpose always needs concrete objects to activate it and support it, its meaning is not included therein. Hence its tendency toward the infinite unto the exhaustion of its forces, and its motto: plus ultra. Thus we define: Imperialism is the object-less disposition of a state to expansion by force without assigned limits.
"Our analysis of historical material show[s]: First, the undoubted fact that object-less tendencies toward forceful expansion without definite limits of purpose, nonrational and irrational, purely instinctive inclinations to war and conquest, play a very great role in the history of humanity. As paradoxical as it sounds, innumerable wars, perhaps the majority of all wars, have been waged without sufficient reason."
Earmarks of the American Empire, further corroboration of Schumpeter's observations of imperialism, are legion.
In the American Republic, the law was king. In the American Empire, the President is law.
After 9/11, both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama claimed unchecked authority to assassinate any American suspected of creating a "constant" and "imminent" danger to United States interests abroad. President Bush was advised by the Department of Justice that his Commander in Chief powers empowered him massacre civilians in the alleged "war" on international terrorism.
President Obama asserts that the provision of legal services on behalf of a listed foreign terrorist organization or a specially designated global terrorist to challenge the constitutionality of the listings or designations is itself a federal felony, i.e., asserting innocence of endangering national security is a crime! Punishing lawyers for providing legal representation is what partially condemns Russia and China as tyrannies. Indeed, Nazi lawyers in the postwar Nuremberg Justice Cases were prosecuted for complicity in a decree of May 21, 1942, which stipulated, "that in accordance with the order on penal justice in Poland of 4 December 1941 attorneys are not (to) undertake the defense of Polish persons before tribunals in the incorporated Eastern territories." Due process in the American Empire has reverted to the legally primitive days before Magna Carta in 1215.
Anything done in the name of defeating international terrorism is legal. President Bush was advised that his powers as Commander in Chief superseded any limitation enacted by Congress -- including prohibitions of torture, kidnapping, or even homicide -- if such presidential lawlessness is thought helpful to thwarting jihadists.
Government lawlessness, like the rising and setting of the sun, is no longer news. The FBI illegally collected more than 2, 000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking bogus terrorism emergencies or persuading phone companies to cooperate in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. No FBI agent is sanctioned.
President Bush and his national security circle flouted the criminal prohibitions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for more than five years by intercepting the phone calls or emails of American citizens on American soil without a judicial warrant. No criminal investigation ensues. Waterboarding, i.e., torture, likewise goes unprosecuted. Neither the attorneys who concocted legal justifications for the crime nor doctors who participated in the interrogation abuses nor government officials who authorized it are sanctioned.
Former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, boasts that he showered billions of taxpayer dollars on failing financial institutions without a crumb of legal authority yet encountered no legal or political repercussions.
President Barack Obama has followed if not bettered the national security instruction of the Bush-Cheney duumvirate, confounding messianic expectations.
His 2010 Nobel Peace Prize address boasted of the American Empire's six decades of policing the world and of his unchecked power, reminiscent of British kings', to commence war in ostensible defense of the United States or for professed humanitarian purposes on his say-so alone. President Obama emphasized: "I -- like any head of state -- reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation." The President spoke while he unilaterally expanded United States wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan against enemies unthreatening to United States sovereignty
More than 100, 000 American troops are fighting in Iraq while civil war or partition looms in the wake of the acrimonious elections of March 2010. An indefinite military presence is planned there in hopes of stabilizing the region.
The post-9/11 perpetual and global war against international terrorism continues unabated. The United States claims unique legal power to violate the sovereignty of every foreign country with predator drones, missile strikes, or foot soldiers in seeking to capture or kill any al-Qaeda suspect.
United States weapons, money, special forces, military advisors, and nation-building bureaucrats are poised to intervene in Yemen in response to a foiled Christmas Day attempt to blow up a commercial aircraft by a Muslim youth who may have been radicalized there. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton worries that "The instability in Yemen is a threat to regional stability and even global stability." The Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joe Lieberman (Ind., Conn.), declares the incident an act of war that requires a military not a law enforcement response -- like fighting the Nazi Luftwaffe or Emperor Hirohito's Zero aircraft in World War II. He urges that the would-be suicide bomber, 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, be regarded as a prisoner of war and prosecuted before a military commission, denuded of ordinary due process protections.
After Yemen, Somalia is in the queue to be invaded by the American Empire because of collaboration between the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabab and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. War ineluctably expands to wherever a terrorist may dwell.
Empire's exponents falsely assert that critical intelligence will be frustrated if suspected terrorists are criminally prosecuted because defense lawyers will advise silence. Yet in more than 200 terrorist-related convictions obtained since 9/11, criminal defendants have regularly provided counterterrorism intelligence to obtain leniency or other deals. In November 2009, federal prosecutors in Minneapolis unsealed criminal charges against eight Somali men who had served as recruiters, sending area youths from the Twin Cities into Africa to serve as suicide bombers. The prosecution's case was assembled with help from suspects who had been quietly cooperating with authorities.
A Chicago suspect, after detention at O'Hare International Airport, exposed fresh details of the 2008 plot to bomb hotels, a train station, and a Jewish cultural center in Mumbai. David Coleman Headley has pleaded guilty to a crime and is cooperating with prosecutors, U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald has disclosed.
Bryant Neal Vinas, a former New York City transit worker and convert to Islam, provided U.S. and Belgian law enforcement a deeper understanding of al-Qaeda training camps and testified in European courts against fellow trainees, according to court papers.
The incentive to talk in exchange for reduced criminal charges or punishment is enormous. Abdulmutallab continues to talk to the FBI despite receiving Miranda warnings and retaining an attorney.
Tiny Denmark, whose defense budget is a decimal point of the Pentagon's, is less easily frightened than the United States. On January 1, 2010, a Somali Muslim attempted to assassinate artist Kurt Westergaard in revenge for a 2005 cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammad as a terrorist. The portrayal had earlier provoked Muslim firebombing attacks on Danish diplomatic missions and three other radical Islamic plots to kill the Danish cartoonist. Denmark's intelligence chief asserted the assassination incident was "terrorist related, " with a possible connection to al-Shabab. The Danish Prime Minister descried the terrorism as "an attack on our open society and our democracy." Yet Denmark did not declare war on terrorism or against al-Shabab. It did not declare the would-be assassin a prisoner of war or slate him for trial before a military commission. The Danish government arrested and charged the accused with attempted murder subject to prosecution in civilian courts with customary due process protections. The easily alarmed American Empire, in contrast, would have condemned the attempted assassination as an act of war subject to prosecution before a military tribunal.
Fright and expense prompted the Obama administration to abandon a federal criminal prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, mastermind of the 9/11 abominations, in New York City.
The United States has never been safer from existential threats. Yet Americans are inundated with an endless stream of fear-inducing stories featured in leading newspapers and broadcasts. As Scott Shane in The New York Times has written (January 13, 2010): "As terrorist plots against the United States have piled up in recent months, politicians and the news media have sounded the alarm with a riveting message for Americans: Be afraid. Al Qaeda is on the march again, targeting the country from within and without, and your hapless government cannot protect you.
"But the politically charged clamor has lumped together disparate cases and obscured the fact that the enemies on American soil in 2009 ... were a scattered, uncoordinated group of amateurs who displayed more fervor than skill...
"Exactly 14 of the approximately 14, 000 murders in the United States resulted from allegedly jihadist attacks: 13 people shot at Fort Hood in Texas in November and one at a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., in June." In contrast, 21 were murdered at Virginia Tech by a mentally imbalanced student in 2007.
The American Empire's exaggerations corroborate General Douglas MacArthur's post-World War II observation: "Our economy is now geared to an arms economy bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and an incessant propaganda of fear." Fear is chronically brandished by demagogic leaders to coax the masses to accept anything in the name of safety. H.L. Mencken elaborated in 1918: "Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."
The Founding Fathers would be appalled by the American Empire. They had constructed an American Republic to repudiate crusades, constant warfare, or virtual deification of the Commander in Chief. They had pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to defeat the British Empire with its global military tentacles, unchecked executive, secrecy, and ubiquitous government regulation and protectionism. President Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address proclaimed: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none." President Grover Cleveland elaborated on the foreign policy of the United States inherited from the Constitution's makers:
"It is the policy of peace suitable to our interests. It is the policy of neutrality; rejecting any share in foreign brawls and ambitions on other continents, and repelling their intrusion here. It is the policy of Monroe and of Washington and Jefferson: Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none."
The Founding Fathers' handiwork has turned to ashes. The vast majority of Americans irrespective of political persuasion unthinkingly assume that the United States should project itself into every nook and cranny of the globe to bolster national security and freedom by guaranteeing international stability and giving birth to new democracies. President Barack Obama, speaking at West Point on December 1, 2009, insisted that the United States has fought and will continue to fight for a better future for our children and grandchildren, whose future, in turn, depends on other people living in freedom and opportunity. In other words, the United States must fight to purge the world of tyranny and to prevent retrogression (as from Russia's Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin) because freedom for Americans requires liberty throughout the planet.
That moral conviction stems partially from the Empire's self-righteousness. President Dwight D. Eisenhower sermonized: "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."
Bruce Fein is the author of the Forthcoming book: American Empire, Before the Fall, from which this article is taken.
Copyright © 2010 Campaign for Liberty

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