In a recent debate Congressman Ron Paul claimed the United States military had troops in 130 countries. The St. Petersburg Times looked into whether such an outrage could actually be true and was obliged to report that the number was actually 148 countries. However, if you watch NFL football games, you hear the announcers thank members of the U.S. military for watching from 177 countries. The proud public claim is worse than the scandalous claim or the “investigative” report. What gives?
We are supposed to be proud of the U.S. empire but to reject with high dudgeon any accusation of having an empire. Abroad, this conversation makes even less sense, because those troops and their bases are in everyone’s faces. I lived near Vicenza, Italy, years ago. The people tolerated the U.S. Army base. The addition of a many-times larger one in the same town, now underway, has led to outrage, condemnation, and bitter resentment of being handed second-class citizenship in one’s own country while being asked to show gratitude for it.
As President Obama encircles Russia with missile bases and China with naval bases, the people who live or used to live where the bases are built resent the occupation, just as the people of Iraq and Afghanistan resent the occupation. A global movement against U.S. military bases is rapidly rising from all corners of the empire. But so is a movement against the occupation of Der Homeland by an unrepresentative and unrepresenting police state.
Those of us not in the Forbes 400 have been handed second-class citizenship in the place we are supposedly protecting through the occupation of every other place. A large majority of us want the rich and the corporations taxed heavily, but they are not. We want the wars ended, the troops brought home, and military spending cut. None of this happens. Nor do the outcomes of elections impact the likelihood of any of these things happening. We want to keep and strengthen Social Security. We want Medicare protected and expanded to cover us all. We want rights enlarged for human beings and curtailed for corporations. We want to cut off the corporate welfare and the bankster bailouts. We want to invest in infrastructure, green energy, and education. We want the right to organize and assemble. And we want a clean system that allows public pressure through ordinary means: publicly funded elections, verifiable vote counting, no gerrymanders, no media and ballot barriers to candidates. None of this is forthcoming. We are paying taxation and receiving no representation.
Here’s an “End Empire” agenda:
· Cut a half a trillion dollars out of the $1.2 trillion national security budget; putting half of it into tax cuts for non-billionaires, and half of it into useful spending on green energy, education, retraining for displaced military-industrial workers, etc.
· Bring the National Guard home and de-federalize it.
· Ban the redeployment of personnel currently suffering PTSD.
· Ban no-bid uncompeted military contracts.
· Restore Constitutional war powers to the Congress.
· Create of a public referendum required prior to launching any war.
· Close the foreign bases.
· Ban weapons from space.
· Ban extra-legal prisons.
· Ban kangaroo military courts outside of our ordinary court system.
· Restore habeas corpus.
· Limit military spending to no more than twice that of the next highest spending nation on earth.
· Ban secret budgets, secret agencies, and secret operations.
· Ban the launching of drone strikes into foreign nations.
· Forbid the transfer of students’ information to military recruiters without their permission.
· Comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
I’ve had people across the political spectrum tell me this all seems reasonable and necessary. But that doesn’t make it happen. What could make change possible is the process of reversal now underway through which the occupied are becoming the occupiers. On Wall Street, protesters of plutocracy are risking their bodies. Police are assaulting, pepper-spraying, and tasering peaceful demonstrators, as uppercrusters guzzle champagne on balconies, gawking at the spectacle. But reports are leaking out of police refusing to participate in assaulting people — people who are acting on behalf of the police as much as anyone else. If the NYPD finds the decency found by some members of the militaries of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, the decency to refuse evil orders, the tide will quickly turn. If they do not, the tide will slowly turn. But turn it will.
Occupations are now being organized across the country, building up to a massive occupation of Washington, D.C., beginning October 6th: http://october2011.org
This is how it starts. There is no other moral option than nonviolent resistance. There is no other possible outcome than success. That’s the beauty of ending an empire; victory is guaranteed sooner or later by the inevitability of imperial collapse. Our task is to speed it along and ease the pain during the process. The last word goes to U2:
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on