The Audacity of Empire

By Cindy Sheehan

Webster's Dictionary defines empire as: a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority; especially: one having an emperor as chief of state.

Even though most of us do not call our "chief of state" Emperor, the USA is most certainly an empire. We have all the trappings of empire (military parades, glorious coronation balls, an elite few ruling the empire) but the Oligarchs (rule by the few) call it a "democracy" so the plebes must buy into the myth that our nation is in any way democratic. Our military is used for spreading colonial capitalism all over the world. Even in the heyday of the Roman Empire, most conquered local governments retained some autonomy, unless, of course, the will of the people conflicted with the will of the Emperor.

Is there any bigger bureaucracy than the US government…that contains the US Military Industrial Complex? At this point, it is hard to distinguish the two behemoths…does the MIC control the government, or is it the other way around? Does the government support the MIC, or has the MIC overtaken the government to insure that the bloody empire continues? Is there an evil synergistic relationship between the two that will destroy the planet before The Empire® collapses under its own gluttonous weight?

There are already indications of The Empire® beginning to fray around the edges, the latest being the US/Israeli assault on Gaza that, although very destructive, was not able to fully suppress Hamas and achieve its aims. In Iraq, the MIC has not been victorious in subduing that population and there are indications that what might rise out of the ashes will be a more religious and anti-American regime: (once the Iraqi people vanquish the US pro-consul, Maliki) no matter how many bases or how large the embassy we leave in Iraq.

Many people looked at Obama as a "peace candidate" although he is no such thing. In his first week in office, he demonstrated that the Bush regime's illegal CIA drone bombings in the tribal regions of Pakistan would continue. Recently the US military took $40,000.00 to a village where 15 civilians were killed (less than three grand per person) with the imperialistic hubris that a few thousand lousy American dollars will pay for the life of a loved one. The Pakistani government is getting quite a bit of pressure from the civil society there about the illegal US strikes against its sovereign territories, but like all empires, the US could care less about the people it’s killing, or protests against its policies.

Doing the Imperial Shuffle

Many anti-war activists are concentrated on insuring that Obama fulfills his campaign promises to withdraw "combat" troops from Iraq without having the integrity to demand complete withdrawal of all troops and a return to total sovereignty of the country to the people of Iraq, and are not questioning Obama's determination to double troop strength to Afghanistan.

I think the US MIC empire needs to be destroyed, but I would prefer that we incorporate a voluntary reduction of empire, before the weight of The Empire® collapses like a house of cards on us; or on the innocents of Afghanistan.

Testifying to a Congressional committee, Bushian Defense Secretary, Robert Gates (in service to the Emperor, whomever he is), stated that the US needed another "five years" to undo the damage that years of neglect to the occupation of Afghanistan created and the "distraction" of the "dumb war" in Iraq. Five years more!? That would put the imperial occupation at Vietnam length and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen has already guaranteed that the carnage in Afghanistan will double when the troop strength doubles.

The Empire® knows full well that occupations are never successful and that the occupied peoples just need to wage guerilla wars of resistance and wait out the imperial forces and the occupations will eventually end with The Empire® being greatly weakened as was our case after Vietnam. Being quagmired in Afghanistan is what destroyed the USSR. The Empire® will lie and use patriotic, religious and hopeful rhetoric to justify these occupations when The Empire® is neither patriotic nor religious.

The Empire® knows only one god, and that's Profit and the religion of The Empire® is State Sanctioned Violence. A little known fact is that when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the "Military Industrial Complex," he wanted to insert "Congressional" (indicating the essential role that the US Congress plays in the care and feeding of the military industry) after "Military" but he took it out in his final draft.

So while Obama may remove a token number of troops from Iraq, he is shuffling them into Afghanistan so his fealty to The Empire® will be confirmed. Many so-called anti-war organizations are crazily doing the Imperial Shuffle with Obama and have no integrity unless they resist his carnage as they resisted the carnage of the Bush regime.
Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA)

The Obama regime is only adhering to the Bush-Maliki SOFA in Iraq---that was eventually ratified by the Iraqi parliament after some changes, but never ratified by our Congress. SOFA's are just what they appear, bilateral (sometimes multi-lateral) agreements between The Empire® and mostly puppet governments of the The Empire®. Rarely does the majority of the country's civil society approve a SOFA where a US military presence is forced upon the country. SOFA's are always signed under the gun with the threat (implied or explicit) of violence.

SOFA's usually immunize US personnel from prosecution for breaking the host country's laws. Wherever there is a US military base, there is crime upon the civilians (sometimes as wicked as rape and murder), a strain on the area's social services and infrastructure, and of course, also contamination of the ecology of the planet.

Many countries that I have visited have SOFA's in place and US military bases on their soil. I have never been to a country where the majority of civilians support the US military presence: Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Ireland, Cuba, Turkey, Australia, South Korea, the indigenous population of Hawaii, etc. The foreign bases are a blight on the communities where they are planted and constitute over 800 mini-empires all over the world.
The Domestic Ravages of Empire

Besides the millions of innocent civilians (EmpireSpeak®: collateral damage) that The Empire® has killed, oppressed, displaced or injured around the globe, the reliance on the business of killing to fuel our economy is now having a deleterious affect on everyone here except the Oligarchy.

The US spends over one trillion dollars per year (more that the next 10 country's combined) on the two occupations in the Middle East, the aforementioned permanent bases around the world, foreign military aid, nuclear programs (both for "peaceful" and aggressive usages), "detention" centers, black-op sites (funding is estimated, only), military hardware and the bloated Pentagon bureaucratic budget. To service this empire, in the past eight years, the US has borrowed heavily, and increased the printing of currency (combined with manipulating interest rates, etc) to finance the MIC Empire and keep a certain segment of the population's income flowing. Over 50% of our tax dollar goes towards the military budget, or servicing the debt from old wars like Vietnam.

We know that millions of people have already lost their homes or are in danger of imminent foreclosure. Many people lost their homes due to the slimy sub-prime mortgage Ponzi schemes, but certainly others have due to financial crises like job loss (the real unemployment figure is over 15%) or medical bills. With nearly fifty millions of us uninsured or underinsured and with the medical complex profiting off of this misery, medical financial crises are unfortunately becoming more common.

Recently two horrible incidents caught my attention, and while they are getting some media attention, one must never think that they are isolated incidents.

In one incident, a man in Los Angeles killed his five children, his wife and then himself because he didn't have a job and his family was extremely income-insecure. In another, a 93 year-old man in Bay City, Michigan, froze to death in his apartment because his utilities got shut off for non-payment (appropriate punishment for not being able to stretch one’s Social Security check?). These two incidents should shock you into action even if you weren't personally affected. As the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) says: An injury to one is an injury to all.

In my own anecdotal experience, two long time Sheehan family friends are very reluctantly joining the military because they see no viable alternative in today's economy and with the invincibility of the young, refuse to take what happened to my son, Casey, as a warning or model…but instead are enticed by $40,000.00 dollar signing bonuses which will never fully be realized, anyway. I fear that military recruiters will see an increase in enlistment in all demographics, but will particularly and vigorously re-target poor and colored communities to fulfill Obama's goal of increasing the military by 92,000 troops.
The Audacity of Hope

To me, the "Audacity of Hope" is just EmpireSpeak® for, yet again, the American public desperately hoping that someone has finally achieved the office of Emperor without being tainted by the evil of that empire. It's not possible. We had several candidates who were true peace candidates running for that office in '08, but they never had a chance. Our Media Industrial Complex is also in service to The Empire® and will never allow an alternative to The Empire® to be presented. Every large media conglomeration has ties to the MIC and a vested interest in keeping it going.

Every four years, we are given the illusion of hope. In the 20th and 21st Century, we have had 10 Republican administrations (Ford was not re-elected) and 8 Democratic administrations. We flow seamlessly between Democratic and Republican empires without much relevant reform happening from the top-down. It seems like we come to reject the prior administration with regularity.

If any candidate was a rejection of a prior Administration, it is Obama. At the time of the election, Bush's unpopularity was at an all time personal and historic high. Bush is reviled almost completely around the world, but in the US, he left office with a 22% disapproval rating. In my humble opinion, just about any ticket could have beaten the McCain/Palin ticket. And was the addition of incomprehensible Sarah Palin just assurance that the Empire could maintain the illusion of hope and choice? The relative closeness of the election despite the incredible weakness of the (R) ticket, is testament to the nature of The Empire
®, in any other country, I believe that the Bush regime would have been forced from office long before it left peacefully.

All Obama had to do was run a very careful campaign and publicly denounce anyone/thing that would taint him in the eyes of the Oligarchy: he betrayed his pastor and long time friend, Jeremiah Wright, for only telling the truth. He voted to give Telco's immunity from being prosecuted under the FISA laws; he advocated for a Bankster bailout; voted to reauthorize the USA PATRIOT ACT; pledged his undying allegiance and support to Israel and sold-out our LGBTQ community before he was even inaugurated.  

During Obama's inaugural speech (which was a master-piece of touchy-feely, yet hostile rhetoric) he demonstrated his fluency in EmpireSpeak®, god-talk: and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

I am not even sure what that means, except to me, a student of American history, it reflects President Polk's, "Manifest Destiny" that was the impetus and rationale for slaughtering our indigenous peoples almost to extinction and stealing their lands and the lands of Mexico. Obama has co-opted the exploitative EmpireSpeak® that God has graced the US with the destiny to conquer the world, so everything the US does is the will of God and, therefore, good. Personally, I don't want a "freedom" delivered to my "future generations" that is dripping in innocent blood and diminished because Obama is carrying on The Empire'®s War on Terror®."

The US has been an empire for a long time. American humorist and early peacenik, Mark Twain, was VP of the US Anti-Imperialism league in the late 19th-early 20th century when the quest for empire was fervent and hundreds of thousands of people were killed in imperial conquests (supported by media of the time).

The only good that I saw coming from the Bush regime is something that I am sure it did not intend: putting a stupidly evil, but at the same time, blatant face on The Empire®. Although Obama was the first president in a long time to be elected with over 50% of the vote that is only 50% of the people who voted. He does not have a clear mandate to put a kinder-gentler face on The Empire® and many people on the left-left and the right-right do not support him (although many neo-cons of both parties do).

What is so audacious about "hope" is that it disarms our intellect and our energy for true change. Our willingness to confront The Empire® at every turn thaws into only opposing what the new Emperor decrees are "dumb wars."

This is the Audacity of Empire and this is what we must still resist.

Author's note: I do not have a registered trademark for the phrases "The Empire" or "EmpireSpeak" but I accidentally found out how to make the ® mark and thought it was a great way to emphasize the corporate nature of the US empire.


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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.