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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

A Message from the Heart of the Empire

They prepare slaughter and masquerade it as peace
(paraphrasing Tacitus)

Michael Youlton • 21 January, 2003

Snap 1

At least one man using a Kalashnikov rifle opened fire today, Tuesday January 21st 2003, on a vehicle carrying two American civilians near a U.S. military base, killing one and critically wounding the other. Both victims were contractors working for the U.S. military in Kuwait. Their four-wheel drive Toyota was ambushed and riddled with bullets at a stoplight on Highway 85 near Camp Doha, a military installation serving as a base for 17,000 troops in the oil-rich Gulf nation.

This is the third attack on US personnel in Kuwait — the ‘friendliest’ Arab country according to the White House — over the last couple of months. A U.S. Marine was killed and a second was wounded on Oct. 8 when two Kuwaitis opened fire on a group of Marines taking a break from training. The two men were killed by other Marines. On Nov. 21, a Kuwaiti policeman shot and seriously injured two U.S. soldiers after stopping their car on a highway.

Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf that has allowed large numbers of American ground troops to assemble and engage in training for desert warfare. The United States announced on Monday that it is sending a specially tailored force of about 37,000 soldiers to Kuwait, spearheaded by the Texas-based 4th Infantry Division - the largest ground force identified so far among the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops included in deployment.

Snap 2

They came in buses, on trains, in car caravans. Last Saturday's anti-war march in Washington by some euphoric estimates, was, as Joni Mitchell sang in another century, half a million strong. By everyone's reckoning, it was the largest D.C. anti-war demonstration ever.

And that was only one of them. In San Francisco, another record-breaking crowd, of up to 300,000 people, crowded the waterfront. Portland, Oregon saw 25,000 — the largest such protest in the city's history — railing against Bush's folly. In Tampa, Florida — one of many cities not accustomed to this sort of thing — 2,000 rallied at the gates of MacDill Air Force Base. Other places reported over a thousand people protesting last weekend — in some place, far more — including cities as diverse as Honolulu, Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Lincoln (Nebraska), Salt Lake City, Spokane, San Luis Obispo, Tucson, Albuquerque, Ann Arbor, Santa Barbara, Orange County (at the Nixon Library), and Milwaukee. In the state capital of Montpelier, Vermont, 3,000 people rallied in a town of 8,000!

And, as happens every weekend these days, the streets and squares of other cities were also filled with demonstrations demanding that America not go to war, and that their own governments oppose it. On Saturday, the list included Moscow, Tokyo, Cairo, Christchurch, Paris. In Canada, marches were held in dozens of cities, with tens of thousands each in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Halifax. And Shannon and Dublin closer at home.

But as inspiring as such rallies were for what, in recent months, have now been millions of participants, one question hangs over the entire exercise.

Will it work?

Snap 3

Martin Mansergh in a letter to the Irish Times in December, just before the Season of Goodwill was upon us, wrote: “The United States is “a beacon of democracy, economic opportunity and human advance….not an empire”. And he continued: “Why does Ireland have to be more neutral than the other neutrals?”

And, he closed his letter, quoting Marx (yes!?!), “if you will the end, you must will the means”.

MM was answering critics of the US foreign policy. He may have even be referring to my own article in The Blanket (Sept. ’02) that I tried to develop the hypothesis of the growing new Empire (Lol!). In passing, MM did no justice to Thomas Jefferson who wrote in the ‘Empire of Liberty’: I am persuaded no constitution was ever before so well calculated as ours for extensive empire and self government. And who would have been very angry at Mr. Mansergh for denying and denigrating the American founding father’s life-long work. But what did those dead old foggies ever know, right?

And does one assume that Mr. Mansergh is unaware, when he vehemently denies any linkage between the oil cartels and the rape of Afghanistan last year and in the intended destruction of Iraq today, that one of his opposite American numbers, very close to the President, has been sitting for years in the Management Boards of oil giants who have been drilling in Afghanistan’s northern neighbours? In Uzbekistan and Azerbaican? And is very keen to pump that oil southwards, through Afghanistan and Iran and to the Gulf, towards the sea and the tankers?

Mr Mansergh’ s argumerts are perfectly orthodox examples of the arrogant hectoring and insolent tone adopted quite often by (ex-) and present Fianna Fail politicians…that kitch imperial tone (so dear to Charlie I and McCreevy and Mary Harney) that boomerangs against them time after time yet whose lesson does not ever sink in…how not to think of Moliere’s Don Juan (V2): “Les vices a la mode passent pour vertus”…roughly and inexpertly translated by myself as “Trendy flaws (or vice) passing themselves as virtues”.

Let us focus, momentarily, on Mr.Mansergh’s defence of the empire - the core of his argumentation. A weak zone defence by the subterfuge of pretending that the Empire does not really exist. For to defend it straight would have been just too gross. Mr. Mansergh is not an apologist…he is not, a Rumsfeld or a Powell or a Robinson…no, no. He’s (he was?) the special advisor to the Irish Government and, as such, he prefers to don the invisible cloak, to play it the cute way.

Trying to deny the existence and development of the Empire is futile though. I believe that over the last 10-15 years there has been a shift - a shift that makes perfectly clear and possible today to bring together diverse economic, political and military powers, to realize, in other words, a properly capitalist order. This, I estimate, must become the point of departure for a discussion of whether the Empire exists or not…and what it’s doing and what it plans for tomorrow. It operates with a new notion of right, or rather, a new inscription of authority and a new design of the production of norms and (para)legal instruments of coercion that guarantee profits and capitalist stability and resolve ‘minor’ or even ‘major’ conflicts.

And more. In Empire there is peace…in Mr Mansergh’s words like the European Union ensuring peace for 50 years. Despite, of course, Cyprus, the Palestinian question, the Basque country, Bosnia, Kosovo and the 6 Counties to mention a few not so peaceful situations. And the violent dismemberment of the old socialist bloc countries. In Empire there is the guarantee for justice for all…The concept of Empire, therefore, is a global concept under the direction of a single conductor, a unitary power that attempts to maintain the social peace and produces its ethical truths:

  1. Like ‘human rights’, like ‘respect of minorities’, like, when necessary ‘just wars at the borders against the barbarians (with their alleged weapons of mass destruction and their Authorities now, their Bin Ladens and Mullah Muhammeds yesterday, their Milosevics the day before)… that and internally against the rebellious’. And who knows who is on the list tomorrow? North Korea, Iran, the Saudis? The Cubans, Colombians or the Brazilians?
  2. Like a serious questioning of national sovereignty and the entire juridical superstructure built internationally since the late ‘40s. And the Empire assumes unilaterally, in the Roman tradition the imperial right to do almost as it pleases. For it controls the bomb(s), it controls money and it controls space and the ether.

Snap 4

The anti-war movement that has blossomed worldwide in the last four months, and that today continues to grow and spread, is essentially in uncharted waters. There is no unifying ideology, no single organization rallying the (anti-) troops. No major political leaders are voicing the opinions being mouthed by the protesters; while media treatment has been more respectful than in many past years, it has still been sparse and patronizing, treating the opposition as more of a political sideshow than a major factor in whether America will invade or not.

In many ways, the Empire’s entire political establishment is missing the boat. While polls show Americans and Europeans divided on the issue of war, the depth of anger among those who dislike Bush and what he represents is remarkably strong. That anger springs not just from Bush's apparent enthusiasm for the shedding of other peoples' blood, but for many other reasons born of Bush Administration excess, and the excesses of the entire American political system. What angers many people most about Bush —— the corruption, the racism, the favoritism for the rich, the zeal for more power, the arrogance, the bullying, the contempt for international norms, for domestic law, and for the constitution itself — was all present in spades under Clinton, and Bush I and Reagan before. But Bush is the natural outgrowth of these trends, the perfect clone.

Those who will most influence the decision to go to war, in the Empire’s heartlands, and to support the war, in countries such as ours or England, Scotland or Wales, are presently so immersed in a culture that accepts American military aggression as a natural thing to do and support, and so inclined to publicly defer to the White House even if they privately disagree, that what is happening in the streets and schools and offices and churches and living rooms may well be no more than a distant, inconsequential murmur. Moreover, the same arrogance that such decisionmakers show for the rest of us is also a staple of their attitude toward the people all over — we're ignorant, we don't know what they know, it's none of our business.

Except that it is, of course, our business — not simply because we pay the taxes that will fund and support this wretched military excess, but because it is the oppressed multitudes who will be the targets and sacrificial victims of the virulent anti- feelings sweeping the world. We'll be the ones in the exploding office towers and under the jet planes of tomorrow. And it is each of us that has grown up being fed a powerful (if frequently mythic) notion that America was founded with a radical and unique vision of a government controlled by its people. And that the American people are our friends and that we owe them a lot that the missiles will be killing and the stealth drones will be spying on confirming the hits.

To the extent that the American people, or us here in Ireland, ever had that control, we're losing it, and the people know it. Contrary to what happened in the case of Vietnam or the war in the 6 Counties, we are trying to prevent a war before that war has even begun, a task that has never been attempted by this many people and never been done successfully. And most of all, we are trying to influence a public policy decision when there are virtually no decisionmakers on the inside championing our views.

It just may work anyway. As the White House itself keeps insisting, an invasion of Iraq is not a foregone conclusion, even as the United States masses over 100,000 troops, and growing, for a prospective march to Baghdad. But while they bluster and threaten, feverish efforts are underway on countless fronts to prevent the use of direct force. Both the United States and a host of Arab countries are negotiating behind the scenes to find a way for Saddam Hussein to leave power and go into exile, probably in Saudi Arabia. Rumsfeld said so. Such a development would not only forestall war, but would — regardless of what he is replaced by — be probably welcome for an Iraqi public that, even without another war, has already suffered brutally under two decades of constant war, privation, and dictatorial repression. The future, however, may be another story. See the examples of Iran and the Shah - followed by Khomeini. And last year, of the puppets in Kabul replacing the Taliban. Things to think about.

Beyond those negotiations, there is the U.N. weapons inspection team, which — despite the Bush Administration's best efforts to distort and pervert its findings as a rationale for invasion — is expected, next week, to issue a report that is anything but damning. There is the virtually unanimous global consensus, including a majority of U.N. Security Council members, that war should be a last, not first, resort; those governments are all working behind the scenes to stop Bush. At the heart of the Empire, there is the opposition of virtually the entire Pentagon establishment, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There is the prospective cost of an invasion and possible occupation, at a time of economic downturn and exploding budget deficits. And then there is the wild card of massive public opposition, globally and especially in the United States itself.

Can it be done?

Paraphrasing Martin Mansergh, we know enough to will the end, have we got the courage and the vision to will the means?




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

23 January 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Answers Needed Now
Francie Perry


Where are the courts of Human Rights?
Victor Barker


Principle, Pragmatism and Lies

Ed Moloney


Historical Unconsciousness
Seoirse McLaughlin


Fallen Anglicans and Other Limping Analogies
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain


A Message from the Heart of the Empire
Michael Youlton


19 January 2003


Fair Trial Not a Farcical Travesty
Bernadette Sands McKevitt


For Whom the Bells Toll
Anthony McIntyre


The Republic: Of Connolly, of Costello, of Kearney and Campbell

Terry Harkin


O Bradaigh versus Adams
Classicism versus Historical Consciousness

Father Sean Mc Manus


Beyond the Border
Annie Higgins




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