Against Empire
Chapter 3: Intervention: Whose gain? Whose pain?

by Michael Parenti



MichaelParentiMichael Parenti
"The exercise of U.S. power is intended to preserve not only the
international capitalist system but U.S. hegemony of that system..."





Venezuelan President Chavez: Stuck in the crow of global capitalism. An itch they'd love to scratch...

Bolivia is now also in the crosshairs of the empire. Only the unexpected quagmire in Iraq has kept the Americans from intervening more aggressively in this area, their traditional "backyard".

Today, the United States is the foremost proponent of recolonization and leading antagonist of revolutionary change throughout the world. Emerging from World War II relatively unscathed and superior to all other industrial countries in wealth, productive capacity, and armed might, the United States became the prime purveyor and guardian of global capitalism. Judging by the size of its financial investments and military force, judging by every imperialist standard except direct colonization, the U.S. empire is the most formidable in history, far greater than Great Britain in the nineteenth century or Rome during antiquity.


A Global Military Empire

The exercise of U.S. power is intended to preserve not only the
international capitalist system but U.S. hegemony of that system.
The Pentagon's "Defense Planning Guidance" draft (1992) urges the
United States to continue to dominate the international system by
"discouraging the advanced industrialized nations from
challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger global or
regional role." By maintaining this dominance, the Pentagon
analysts assert, the United States can insure "a market-oriented
zone of peace and prosperity that encompasses more than two-
thirds of the world's economy".

This global power is immensely costly. Today, the United
States spends more on military arms and other forms of "national
security" than the rest of the world combined. U.S. leaders
preside over a global military apparatus of a magnitude never
before seen in human history. In 1993 it included almost a half-
million troops stationed at over 395 major military bases and
hundreds of minor installations in thirty-five foreign countries,
and a fleet larger in total tonnage and firepower than all the
other navies of the world combined, consisting of missile
cruisers, nuclear submarines, nuclear aircraft carriers,
destroyers, and spy ships that sail every ocean and make port on
every continent. U.S. bomber squadrons and long-range missiles
can reach any target, carrying enough explosive force to
destroy entire countries with an overkill capacity of more than
8,000 strategic nuclear weapons and 22,000 tactical ones. U.S.
rapid deployment forces have a firepower in conventional
weaponry vastly superior to any other nation's, with an ability
to slaughter with impunity--as the massacre of Iraq demonstrated
in 1990-91.

Since World War II, the U.S. government has given more than
$200 billion in military aid to train, equip, and subsidize more
than 2.3 million troops and internal security forces in more than
eighty countries, the purpose being not to defend them from
outside invasions but to protect ruling oligarchs and
multinational corporate investors from the dangers of domestic
anti-capitalist insurgency. Among the recipients have been some
of the most notorious military autocracies in history, countries
that have tortured, killed or otherwise maltreated large numbers
of their citizens because of their dissenting political views, as
in Turkey, Zaire, Chad, Pakistan, Morocco, Indonesia, Honduras,
Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Cuba (under Batista),
Nicaragua (under Somoza), Iran (under the Shah), the Philippines
(under Marcos), and Portugal (under Salazar).

U.S. leaders profess a dedication to democracy. Yet over the
past five decades, democratically elected reformist governments
in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile,
Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece, Argentina,
Bolivia, Haiti, and numerous other nations were overthrown by
pro-capitalist militaries that were funded and aided by the U.S.
national security state.

The U.S. national security state has participated in covert
actions or proxy mercenary wars against revolutionary governments
in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Portugal, Nicaragua,
Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, and elsewhere, usually with
dreadful devastation and loss of life for the indigenous
populations. Hostile actions have been directed against reformist
governments in Egypt, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Syria, Zaire, Jamaica,
South Yemen, the Fiji Islands, and elsewhere.

Since World War II, U.S. forces have directly invaded or
launched aerial attacks against Vietnam, the Dominican Republic,
North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya,
Iraq, and Somalia, sowing varying degrees of death and

Before World War II, U.S. military forces waged a bloody and
protracted war of conquest in the Philippines in 1899-1903. Along
with fourteen other capitalist nations, the United States invaded
socialist Russia in 1918-21. U.S. expeditionary forces fought in
China along with other Western armies to suppress the Boxer
Rebellion and keep the Chinese under the heel of European and
North American colonizers. U.S. Marines invaded and occupied
Nicaragua in 1912 and again in 1926 to 1933; Cuba, 1898 to 1902;
Mexico, 1914 and 1916; Honduras, six invasions between 1911 to
1925; Panama, 1903-1914, and Haiti, 1915 to 1934.


Why Intervention?

Why has a professedly peace-loving, democratic nation found it
necessary to use so much violence and repression against so many
peoples in so many places? An important goal of U.S. policy is to
make the world safe for the Fortune 500 and its global system of
capital accumulation. Governments that strive for any kind of
economic independence or any sort of populist redistributive
politics, who have sought to take some of their economic surplus
and apply it to not-for-profit services that benefit the
people--such governments are the ones most likely to feel the
wrath of U.S. intervention or invasion.

The designated "enemy" can be a reformist, populist,
military government as in Panama under Torrijo (and even under
Noriega), Egypt under Nasser, Peru under Velasco, and Portugal
under the MFA; a Christian socialist government as in Nicaragua
under the Sandinistas; a social democracy as in Chile under
Allende, Jamaica under Manley, Greece under Papandreou, and the
Dominican Republic under Bosch; a Marxist-Leninist government as
in Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea; an Islamic revolutionary order
as in Libya under Qaddafi; or even a conservative militarist
regime as in Iraq under Saddam Hussein--if it should get out of
line on oil prices and oil quotas.

The public record shows that the United States is the
foremost interventionist power in the world. There are varied and
overlapping reasons for this:

Protect Direct Investments. In 1907, Woodrow Wilson
recognized the support role played by the capitalist state on
behalf of private capital:


Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer
insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation
must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed
against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by
financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the
sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process.
Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful
corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.

Later, as president of the United States, Wilson noted that
the United States was involved in a struggle to "command the
economic fortunes of the world."

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,
large U.S. investments in Central America and the Caribbean
brought frequent military intercession, protracted war, prolonged
occupation, or even direct territorial acquisition, as with
Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Panama Canal Zone. The investments
were often in the natural resources of the country: sugar,
tobacco, cotton, and precious metals. In large part, the
interventions in the Gulf in 1991 (see chapter six) and in
Somalia in 1993 (chapter seven) were respectively to protect oil
profits and oil prospects.

In the post cold-war era, Admiral Charles Larson noted that,
although U.S. military forces have been reduced in some parts of
the world, they remain at impressive levels in the Asia-Pacific
area because U.S. trade in that region is greater than with
either Europe or Latin America. Naval expert Charles Meconis also
pointed to "the economic importance of the region" as the reason
for a major U.S. military presence in the Pacific (see Daniel
Schirmer, Monthly Review, July/August 1994). In these instances,
the sword follows the dollar.

Create Opportunities for New Investments. Sometimes the
dollar follows the sword, as when military power creates
opportunities for new investments. Thus, in 1915, U.S. leaders,
citing "political instability," invaded Haiti and crushed the
popular militia. The troops stayed for nineteen years. During
that period French, German, and British investors were pushed out
and U.S. firms tripled their investments in Haiti.
More recently, Taiwanese companies gave preference to U.S.
firms over Japanese ones because the U.S. military was protecting
Taiwan. In 1993, Saudi Arabia signed a $6 billion contract for
jet airliners exclusively with U.S. firms. Having been frozen out
of the deal, a European consortium charged that Washington had
pressured the Saudis, who had become reliant on Washington for
their military security in the post-Gulf War era.

Preserving Politico-Economic Domination and the
International Capital Accumulation System.
Specific investments
are not the only imperialist concern. There is the overall
commitment to safeguarding the global class system, keeping the
world's land, labor, natural resources, and markets accessible to
transnational investors. More important than particular holdings
is the whole process of investment and profit. To defend that
process the imperialist state thwarts and crushes those popular
movements that attempt any kind of redistributive politics,
sending a message to them and others that if they try to better
themselves by infringing upon the prerogatives of corporate
capital, they will pay a severe price.

In two of the most notable U.S. military interventions,
Soviet Russia in 1918-20 and Vietnam in 1954-73, most of the
investments were European, not American. In these and other such
instances, the intent was to prevent the emergence of competing
social orders and obliterate all workable alternatives to the
capitalist client-state. That remains the goal to this day. The
countries most recently targeted being South Yemen, North Korea,
and Cuba.

Ronald Reagan was right when he avowed that his invasion of
Grenada was not to protect the U.S. nutmeg supply. There was
plenty of nutmeg to be got from Africa. He was acknowledging that
Grenada's natural resources were not crucial. Nor would the
revolutionary collectivization of a poor nation of 102,000 souls
represent much of a threat or investment loss to global
capitalism. But if enough countries follow that course, it
eventually would put the global capitalist system at risk.
Reagan's invasion of Grenada served notice to all other
Caribbean countries that this was the fate that awaited any
nation that sought to get out from under its client-state status.
So the invaders put an end to the New Jewel Movement's
revolutionary programs for land reform, health care, education,
and cooperatives. Today, with its unemployment at new heights and
its poverty at new depths, Grenada is once again firmly bound to
the free market world. Everyone else in the region indeed has
taken note.

The imperialist state's first concern is not to protect the
direct investments of any particular company, although it
sometimes does that, but to protect the global system of private
accumulation from competing systems. The case of Cuba illustrates
this point. It has been pointed out that Washington's embargo
against Cuba is shutting out U.S. business from billions of
dollars of attractive investment and trade opportunities. From
this it is mistakenly concluded that U.S. policy is not propelled
by economic interests. In fact, it demonstrates just the
opposite, an unwillingness to tolerate those states that try to
get out from under the global capitalist system.

The purpose of the capitalist state is to do things for the
advancement of the entire capitalist system that individual
corporate interests cannot do. Left to their own competitive
devices, business firms are not willing to abide by certain rules
nor tend to common systemic interests. This is true both for the
domestic economy and foreign affairs. Like any good capitalist
organization, a business firm may have a general long-range
interest in seeing Cuban socialism crushed, but it might have a
more tempting immediate interest in doing a profitable business
with the class enemy. It remains for the capitalist state to
force individual companies back in line.

What is at stake is not the investments within a particular
Third World country but the long-range security of the entire
system of transnational capitalism. No country that pursues an
independent course of development shall be allowed to prevail as
a dangerous example to other nations.


Common Confusions

Some critics have argued that economic factors have not exerted
an important influence on U.S. interventionist policy because
most interventions are in countries that have no great natural
treasures and no large U.S. investments, such as, Grenada, El
Salvador, Nicaragua, and Vietnam. This is like saying that police
are not especially concerned about protecting wealth and property
because most of their actions take place in poor neighborhoods.
Interventionist forces do not go where capital exists as such;
they go where capital is threatened. They have not intervened in
affluent Switzerland, for instance, because capitalism in that
country is relatively secure and unchallenged. But if leftist
parties gained power in Bern and attempted to nationalize Swiss
banks and major properties, it very likely would invite the
strenuous attentions of the Western industrial powers.
Some observers maintain that intervention is bred by the
national-security apparatus itself, the State Department, the
National Security Council, and the CIA. These agencies conjure up
new enemies and crises because they need to justify their own
existence and augment their budget allocations. This view avoids
the realities of class interest and power. It suggests that
policymakers serve no purpose other than policymaking for their
own bureaucratic aggrandizement. Such a notion reverses cause and
effect. It is a little like saying the horse is the cause of the
horse race. It treats the national security state as the
originator of intervention when in fact it is but one of the
major instruments. U.S. leaders were engaging in interventionist
actions long before the CIA and NSC existed.

One of those who argues that the state is a self-generated
aggrandizer is Richard Barnet, who dismisses the "more familiar
and more sinister motives" of economic imperialism. Whatever
their economic systems, all large industrial states, he
maintains, seek to project power and influence in a search for
security and domination. To be sure, the search for security is a
real consideration for every state, especially in a world in
which capitalist power is hegemonic and ever threatening. But the
capital investments of multinational corporations expand in a far
more dynamic way than the economic expansion manifested by
socialist or precapitalist governments.

In fact, the case studies in Barnet's book Intervention and
Revolution point to business, rather than the national security
bureaucracies, as the primary motive of U.S. intervention. Anti-
communism and the Soviet threat seem less a source for policy
than a propaganda ploy to frighten the American public and rally
support for overseas commitments. The very motives Barnet
dismisses seem to be operative in his case studies of Greece,
Iran, Lebanon, and the Dominican Republic, specifically the
desire to secure access to markets and raw materials and the
need, explicitly stated by various policymakers, to protect free
enterprise throughout the world.

Some might complain that the foregoing analysis is
"simplistic" because it ascribes all international events to
purely economic and class motives and ignores other variables
like geopolitics, culture, ethnicity, nationalism, ideology, and
morality. But I do not argue that the struggle to maintain
capitalist global hegemony explains everything about world
politics nor even everything about U.S. foreign policy. However,
it explains quite a lot; so is it not time we become aware of it?
If mainstream opinion makers really want to portray
political life in all its manifold complexities, then why are
they so studiously reticent about the immense realities of

The existence of other variables such as nationalism,
militarism, the search for national security, and the pursuit of
power and hegemonic dominance, neither compels us to dismiss
economic realities, nor to treat these other variables as
insulated from class interests. Thus, the desire to extend U.S.
strategic power into a particular region is impelled at least in
part by a desire to stabilize the area along lines that are
favorable to politico-economic elite interests--which is why the
region becomes a focus of concern in the first place.

In other words, various considerations work with circular
effect upon each other. The growth in overseas investments invite
a need for military protection. This, in turn, creates a need to
secure bases and establish alliances with other nations. The
alliances now expand the "defense" perimeter that must be
maintained. So a particular country becomes not only an
"essential" asset for our defense but must itself be defended,
like any other asset.


Inventing Enemies

As noted in the previous chapter, the U.S. empire is
neoimperialist in its operational mode. With the exception of a
few territorial possessions, U.S. overseas expansion has relied
on indirect control rather than direct possession. This is not to
say that U.S. leaders are strangers to annexation and conquest.
Most of what is now the continental United States was forcibly
wrested from Native American nations. California and all of the
Southwest USA were taken from Mexico by war. Florida and Puerto
Rico were seized from Spain.

U.S. leaders must convince the American people that the
immense costs of empire are necessary for their security and
survival. For years we were told that the great danger we faced
was "the World Communist Menace with its headquarters in Moscow."
U.S. citizens accepted a crushing tax burden to pay for
"defense," to win the superpower arms race and "contain Soviet
aggression wherever it might arise." Since the demise of the
USSR, our political leaders have been warning us that the world
is full of other dangerous adversaries, who apparently had been
previously overlooked.

Who are these evil adversaries who wait to spring upon the
USA the moment we drop our guard or the moment we make real cuts
in our gargantuan military budget? Why do they stalk us instead
of, say, Denmark or Brazil?
This scenario of a world of enemies
was used by the rulers of the Roman empire and by nineteenth-
century British imperialists. Enemies always had to be
confronted, requiring more interventions and more expansion. And
if enemies were not to be found, they would be invented.
Americans have little cause to take pride in being part of
"our" mighty empire, for what that empire does to peoples abroad
is nothing to be proud of. And at home, the policies of empire
benefit the dominant interests rather than the interests of the
common citizenry. When Washington says "our" interests must be
protected abroad, we might question whether all of us are
represented by the goals pursued. Far-off countries, previously
unknown to most Americans, suddenly become vital to "our"
interests. To protect "our" oil in the Middle East and "our"
resources and "our" markets elsewhere, our sons and daughters
have to participate in overseas military ventures, and our taxes
are needed to finance these ventures.

The next time "our" oil in the Middle East is in jeopardy,
we might remember that relatively few of us own oil stock. Yet
even portfolio-deprived Americans are presumed to have a common
interest with Exxon and Mobil because they live in an economy
dependent on oil. It is assumed that if the people of other lands
wrested control of their oil away from the big U.S. companies,
they would refuse to sell it to us. Supposedly they would prefer
to drive us into the arms of competing producers and themselves
into ruination, denying themselves the billions of dollars they
might earn on the North American market.

In fact, nations that acquire control of their own resources
do not act so strangely. Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, Libya, and
others would be happy to have access to markets in this country,
selling at prices equal to or more reasonable than those offered
by the giant multinationals. So when Third World peoples, through
nationalization, revolution, or both, take over the oil in their
own land, or the copper, tin, sugar, or other industries, it does
not hurt the interests of the U.S. working populace. But it
certainly hurts the multinational conglomerates that once
profited so handsomely from these enterprises.


Who Pays? Who Profits?

We are made to believe that the people of the United States have
a common interest with the giant multinationals, the very
companies that desert our communities in pursuit of cheaper labor
abroad. In truth, on almost every issue the people are not in the
same boat with the big companies. Policy costs are not equally
shared; benefits are not equally enjoyed. The "national" policies
of an imperialist country reflect the interests of that country's
dominant socio-economic class. Class rather than nation-state
more often is the crucial unit of analysis in the study of


[The liberals' blind spot]
The tendency to deny the existence of conflicting class
interests when dealing with imperialism leads to some serious
misunderstandings. For example, liberal writers like Kenneth
Boulding and Richard Barnet have pointed out that empires cost
more than they bring in, especially when wars are fought to
maintain them. Thus, from 1950 to 1970, the U.S. government spent
several billions of dollars to shore up a corrupt dictatorship in
the Philippines, hoping to protect about $1 billion in U.S.
investments in that country. At first glance it does not make
sense to spend $3 billion to protect $1 billion. Saul Landau has
made this same point in regard to the costs of U.S. interventions
in Central America: they exceed actual U.S. investments. Barnet
notes that "the costs of maintaining imperial privilege always
exceed the gains." From this it has been concluded that empires
simply are not worth all the expense and trouble. Long before
Barnet, the Round Table imperialist policymakers in Great Britain
wanted us to believe that the empire was not maintained because
of profit; indeed "from a purely material point of view the
Empire is a burden rather than a source of gain" (Round Table,
vol 1, 232-39, 411).

To be sure, empires do not come cheap. Burdensome
expenditures are needed for military repression and prolonged
occupation, for colonial administration, for bribes and arms to
native collaborators, and for the development of a commercial
infrastructure to facilitate extractive industries and capital
penetration. But empires are not losing propositions for
everyone. The governments of imperial nations may spend more than
they take in, but the people who reap the benefits are not the
same ones who foot the bill. As Thorstein Veblen pointed out in
The Theory of the Business Enterprise (1904), the gains of empire
flow into the hands of the privileged business class while the
costs are extracted from "the industry of the rest of the
people." The transnationals monopolize the private returns of
empire while carrying little, if any, of the public cost. The
expenditures needed in the way of armaments and aid to make the
world safe for General Motors, General Dynamics, General
Electric, and all the other generals are paid by the U.S.
government, that is, by the taxpayers.

So it was with the British empire in India, the costs of
which, Marx noted a half-century before Veblen, were "paid out of
the pockets of the people of England," and far exceeded what came
back into the British treasury. He concluded that the advantage
to Great Britain from her Indian Empire was limited to the "very
considerable" profits which accrued to select individuals, mostly
a coterie of stockholders and officers in the East India Company
and the Bank of England.

Likewise, beginning in the late nineteenth century and
carrying over into the twentieth, the German conquest of
Southwest Africa "remained a loss-making enterprise for the
German taxpayer," according to historian Horst Drechsler, yet "a
number of monopolists still managed to squeeze huge profits out
of the colony in the closing years of German colonial
domination." And imperialism is in the service of the few
monopolists not the many taxpayers.

In sum, there is nothing irrational about spending three
dollars of public money to protect one dollar of private
investment--at least not from the perspective of the investors.
To protect one dollar of their money they will spend three, four,
and five dollars of our money. In fact, when it comes to
protecting their money, our money is no object.

Furthermore, the cost of a particular U.S. intervention must
be measured not against the value of U.S. investments in the
country involved but against the value of the world investment
system. It has been noted that the cost of apprehending a bank
robber may occasionally exceed the sum that is stolen. But if
robbers were allowed to go their way, this would encourage others
to follow suit and would put the entire banking system in

At stake in these various wars of suppression, as already
noted, is not just the investments in any one country but the
security of the whole international system of finance capital. No
country is allowed to pursue an independent course of self-
development. None is permitted to go unpunished and undeterred.
None should serve as an inspiration or source of material support
to other nations that might want to pursue a politico-economic
path other than the maldevelopment offered by global capitalism.


The Myth of Popular Imperialism

Those who think of empire solely as an expression of national
interests rather than class interests are bound to misinterpret
the nature of imperialism. In his American Diplomacy 1900-1950,
George Kennan describes U.S. imperialist expansion at the end of
the nineteenth century as a product of popular aspiration: the
American people "simply liked the smell of empire"; they wanted
"to bask in the sunshine of recognition as one of the great
imperial powers of the world."

In The Progressive (October 1984), the liberal writers John
Buell and Matthew Rothschild comment that "the American psyche is
pegged to being biggest, best, richest, and strongest. Just
listen to the rhetoric of our politicians." But does the
politician's rhetoric really reflect the sentiments of most
Americans, who in fact come up as decidedly noninterventionist in
most opinion polls? Buell and Rothschild assert that "when a
Third World nation--whether it be Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, or
Nicaragua--spurns our way of doing things, our egos ache. . ."
Actually, such countries spurn the ways of global corporate
capitalism--and this is what U.S. politico-economic leaders will
not tolerate. Psychologizing about aching collective egos allows
us to blame imperialism on ordinary U.S. citizens who are neither
the creators nor beneficiaries of empire.

In like fashion, the historian William Appleman Williams, in
his Empire As a Way of Life, scolds the American people for
having become addicted to the conditions of empire. It seems "we"
like empire. "We" live beyond our means and need empire as part
of our way of life. "We" exploit the rest of the world and don't
know how to get back to a simpler life. The implication is that
"we" are profiting from the runaway firms that are exporting our
jobs and exploiting Third World peoples. "We" decided to send
troops into Central America, Vietnam, and the Middle East and
thought to overthrow democratic governments in a dozen or more
countries around the world. And "we" urged the building of a
global network of counterinsurgency, police torturers, and death
squads in numerous countries.

For Williams, imperialist policy is a product of mass
thinking. In truth, ordinary Americans usually have opposed
intervention or given only lukewarm support. Opinion polls during
the Vietnam War showed that the public wanted a negotiated
settlement and withdrawal of U.S. troops. They supported the idea
of a coalition government in Vietnam that included the
communists, and they supported elections even if the communists
won them.

Pollster Louis Harris reported that, during 1982-84
Americans rejected increased military aid for El Salvador and its
autocratic military machine by more than 3 to 1. Network surveys
found that 80 percent opposed sending troops to that country; 67
percent were against the U.S. mining of Nicaragua's harbors; and
2 to 1 majorities opposed aid to the Nicaraguan contras (the
rightwing CIA-supported mercenary army that was waging a brutal
war of attrition against Nicaraguan civilians). A 1983 Washington
Post/ABC News poll found that, by a 6 to 1 ratio, our citizens
opposed any attempt by the United States to overthrow the
Nicaraguan government. By more than 2 to 1 the public said the
greatest cause of unrest in Central America was not subversion
from Cuba, Nicaragua, or the Soviet Union but "poverty and the
lack of human rights in the area."

Even the public's superpatriotic yellow-ribbon binge during
the more recent Gulf War of 1991 was not the cause of the war
itself. It was only one of the disgusting and disheartening by-
products. Up to the eve of that conflict, opinion polls showed
Americans favoring a negotiated withdrawal of Iraqi troops rather
than direct U.S. military engagement. But once U.S. forces were
committed to action, then the "support-our-troops" and "go for
victory" mentality took hold of the public, pumped up as always
by a jingoistic media propaganda machine.

Once war comes, especially with the promise of a quick and
easy victory, some individuals suspend all critical judgment and
respond on cue like mindless superpatriots. One can point to the
small businessman in Massachusetts, who announced that he was a
"strong supporter" of the U.S. military involvement in the Gulf,
yet admitted he was not sure what the war was about. "That's
something I would like know," he stated. "What are we fighting
about?" (New York Times, November 15, 1990)

In the afterglow of the Gulf triumph, George Bush had a 93
percent approval rating and was deemed unbeatable for reelection
in 1992. Yet within a year, Americans had come down from their
yellow ribbon binge and experienced a postbellum depression,
filled with worries about jobs, money, taxes and other such
realities. Bush's popularity all but evaporated and he was
defeated by a scandal-plagued, relatively unknown governor from

Whether they support or oppose a particular intervention,
the American people cannot be considered the motivating force of
the war policy. They do not sweep their leaders into war on a
tide of popular hysteria. It is the other way around. Their
leaders take them for a ride and bring out the worst in them.
Even then, there are hundreds of thousands who remain actively
opposed and millions who correctly suspect that such ventures are
not in their interest.


Cultural Imperialism

Imperialism exercises control over the communication universe.
American movies, television shows, music, fashions, and consumer
products inundate Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as
Western and Eastern Europe. U.S. rock stars and other performers
play before wildly enthusiastic audiences from Madrid to Moscow,
from Rio to Bangkok. U.S. advertising agencies dominate the
publicity and advertising industries of the world.

Millions of news reports, photographs, commentaries,
editorials, syndicated columns, feature stories from U.S. media,
saturate most other countries each year. The average Third World
nation is usually more exposed to U.S. media viewpoints than to
those of neighboring countries or its own backlands. Millions of
comic books and magazines, condemning communism and boosting the
wonders of the free market, are translated into dozens of
languages and distributed by U.S. (dis)information agencies. The
CIA alone owns outright over 200 newspapers, magazines, wire
services and publishing houses in countries throughout the world.
U.S. government-funded agencies like the National Endowment
for Democracy and the Agency for International Development, along
with the Ford Foundation and other such organizations, help
maintain Third World universities, providing money for academic
programs, social science institutes, research, student
scholarships, and textbooks supportive of a free market
ideological perspective. Right-wing Christian missionary agencies
preach political quiescence and anticommunism to native
populations. The AFL-CIO's American Institute for Free Labor
Development (AIFLD), with ample State Department funding, has
actively infiltrated Third World labor organizations or built
compliant unions that are more anticommunist than pro-worker.
AIFLD graduates have been linked to coups and counterinsurgency
work in various countries. Similar AFL-CIO undertakings operate
in Africa and Asia.

The CIA has infiltrated important political organizations in
numerous countries and maintains agents at the highest levels of
various governments, including heads of state, military leaders,
and opposition political parties. Washington has financed
conservative political parties in Latin America, Asia, Africa,
and Western and Eastern Europe. Their major qualification is that
they be friendly to Western capital penetration. While federal
law prohibits foreigners from making campaign contributions to
U.S. candidates, Washington policymakers reserve the right to
interfere in the elections of other countries, such as Italy, the
Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, to name
only a few. U.S. leaders feel free to intrude massively upon the
economic, military, political, and cultural practices and
institutions of any country they so choose. That's what it means
to have an empire.


"PLEASE REMEMBER: No matter how involved we get in our human causes, we must never forget that one of the cruelest oppressions that which our own species perpetrates every day on billions of defenceless animals."