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The U. S. Now Poses the Greatest Threat of Any Country in History
My harsh title is not based on the belief that U.S. leaders are the most vicious ever, although they are amply arrogant, ruthless, and even vicious, rendered more hypocritical by the veneer of self-righteousness and godly service. Rather it rests, first, on the fact that they have far more destructive power than any predecessors, have already used it, threaten to escalate their violence, and are not only subject to inadequate constraints, but operate in a political culture that is volatile, manipulable, and contains threatening irrational elements. The rise of U.S. destructive power, far beyond anything related to national defense, and far beyond the capabilities of any potential rivals, was clearly purposeful and designed to serve both the transnational business and financial interests of the U.S. elite and the contractor-Pentagon-politician vested interests of mili- tarizationthe military-industrial complex (MIC).
The so-called defense budget should properly be called an offense budget. This budgetof enormous size and now exceeding the total for the rest of the world taken togetherand the increasing aggressiveness of the U.S. elite in using its military superiority to project power by threats and violence in distant places, has put great pressure on other countries to build up their own arms. They need the arms not only to defend themselves against possible U.S. attack, but also against the use of its military superiority to establish threatening alliances and bases on their borders. Such alliance building and basing has been carried out against substantial powers such as Russia and China, as well as lesser regional powers such as Iran. With imperialist arrogance, U.S. officials and pundits have found the arms budget increases and weapons-testing responses of these lesser powers to be provocative and challenging. But these responses are absolutely inevitable and the U.S. offense budget and power projection promotes the advance of an already emerging new arms race.
The arms race is also helped along by an array of U.S. policies that stymie arms control, such as:
- withdrawing from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty in 2001
- sabotaging the 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention by refusing to agree to on-site inspections, also in 2001
- opposing the UN Agreement to Curb the International Flow of Small Arms in 2001, the only nation to do so
- refusing to sign the Land Mine Treaty (Clinton in 1997)
- refusing to join 123 nations pledged to ban the use and production of anti-personnel bombs in 2001
- rejecting the Comprehensive [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty in 1999
- refusing to recognize the International Court of Justices jurisdiction over this countrys unlawful use of force against Nicaragua in 1986
- failing to carry out its promise, made in signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that it would work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons
This refusal to abide by international law and adhere to international agreements is regular prac- tice where these may interfere with U.S. plans to project power.
The U.S. military buildup has its own internal momentum, as the huge vested interests in weapons and war constantly search for technical advances and new missions that will justify larger budgets. It has been persuasively argued that the United States goads other states into defensive responses in order to justify increasing defense expenditures (e.g., Robert A. Pape, Soft Balancing Against the United States, International Security, Summer 2005). Furthermore, the military superiority and desire to test and prove the efficacy of the advancing militaryand deplete stocks that will then need replenishingmake for provocative behavior and a willingness to take risks that lead more readily to war. It also makes the country more willing to attack defenseless small countries, in part because it is so easy and in Madeleine Albrights words, Whats the point of having this marvelous military if we dont use it? It impels U.S. leaders to overestimate how easily they can bully or beat into submission smaller countries, like Vietnam and Iraq.
Both the external and internal constraints on militarization and war are weak. U.S. military and economic power have allowed it to engage in three wars of aggression in violation of the UN Charter in the last decade without any serious opposition by the UN or international community (i.e., governments capable of any effective opposition to hegemonic power). Even earlier, it was able to kill millions and virtually destroy Indo- china, ravage Central America via murderous proxies and support South Africas rampages against the frontline states and Israels invasions of Lebanon, without any UN or international community obstruction. In the case of its attack on Iraq, the United States even received from the UN ex-post facto recognition of its occupation and pacification rightswhich helps explain the August 19, 2003 bombing of UN offices in Baghdad. The UN is also busily engaged in providing the United States and Israel with some kind of quasi-legal sanction for the next phase of U.S. serial aggressions.
Global citizens have disapproved of these aggressions and protests have grown in breadth and size, but thus far they have not been able to stop the onslaughts. Democracy is not working well across the globe, as elite rulers have regularly ignored public antiwar sentiment as expressed in elections as well as polls. Where they have not, as in France and Turkey in 2003, those rulers have been vilified in the United States and have struggled to compensate for their democratic excesses. In the United States, not only has the ruling elite been able to ignore poll majorities favoring an exit from Iraq, the 2006 election victory of the Democratswidely seen to have been a reflection of the publics interest in withdrawalhas not prevented a further Bush escalation of the war, with only nominal Democratic Party resistance. In another mark of democratic failure, the Democrats agreed to remove a funding bill requirement that Bush seek congressional approval before launching an attack on Iran.
It should also be noted that in the United States executive power has been so centralized and the checks and balances system so weakened that a single person or clique is now capable of taking the country into war (which they have already done in the case of Iraq, based on brazen lies). That single person or clique also has the power to use nuclear weapons, which the United States has used before (uniquely), and which the U.S. leadership is reportedly willing and even eager to use against Iran to end another (fraudulent) mushroom cloud threat and to teach the world a lesson about who is boss. In short, the worlds most urgent and real mushroom cloud threat is located in the hands of a few proven irresponsibles with executive power in the United States.
A second reason why the United States poses such a major threat to civilization is that, while the impending climate and environmental crisis is rooted in unrestrained economic growth, instead of leading the world toward a reorientation and restraint, the United States continues to oppose these and instead pursue short-term economic advantage. As the leader of the neoliberal revolution, it presses for opening up more Third World markets and more blind growth, and actively opposes collective and meaningful actions that might constrain or reduce the human contribution to global warming. It is a beautiful illustration of the triumph of immediate gratification and the higher irresponsibility of the dominant business and MIC elite.
A third reason why this country poses such a serious threat is that the world cannot afford either the waste of an arms race or the social costs of the neoliberal revolution, both of which the United States presses. Global inequalities have increased, billions of people are short of water, food, adequate medical care, and decent educational resources. These, plus the Western wars of domination, have increased ethnic tensions, crime, clientelism, and mass migrations, thereby causing more conflict, terrorism, and wars, as well as vast human suffering.
The world needs leadership in resolving these real problems, but what it has been getting from the United States are policies that waste resources, stoke conflict, kill and destroy, and literally fight against a constructive dealing with threatening environmental disasters. The end times folks that have close links to the Bush administration may be getting their Armageddon without any divine aid, merely by Bush-U.S. policy as usual.
Edward S. Herman is an economist, media critic, and author of numerous articles and books, including The Washington Connection and Third World Facism, Manufacturing Consent (with Noam Chomsky) and Triumph of the Market.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
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MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
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CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
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HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
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VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
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COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
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OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
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HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.