America can no longer afford its global imperium
By Eric Margolis
The killing of the US ambassador to Libya and angry demonstrations across the Muslim world over a tacky anti-Islamic hate video have produced the usual flood of wrong-headed commentary from our media and politicians.
Across the land comes the familiar cry, “why do they hate us?” That any Americans can in this day and age still be surprised that their nation is hated by many people from Morocco to Indonesia to Nigeria is by far the biggest surprise. We have learned little from 9/11.
Those angry Muslims from Morocco to Bangladesh are not rioting and burning because they hate Christianity, fast food, America’s consumer society, democracy, or feminism, as we are endlessly misinformed by politicians and media.
The mass fury does not come because Muslims are somehow irrational, primitive, violent beings.
Nor is the hate video, which was actually seen by only a limited number of the world’s one billion Muslims, the real cause of the violence we have been witnessing: it is merely the spark that ignited the combustible haze of anti-Americanism that overlies over much of the Muslim world.
Many Americans believe they are innocent bystanders in the Muslim world, or involved there on an altruistic “mission” to uplift the benighted natives, to selflessly shoulder the heavy burden of policing the unruly globe, or abroad to wage an unending struggle against the dark forces of what we call “terrorism.”
What they do not at all understand is that the American imperium’s goal is to advance its own strategic, economic and political goals and keep much of the planet under its influence.
In the last century, such ambitions and behavior used to be called “imperialism,” a practice that became synonymous with the British Empire. At its apogee, the Britain Empire ruled one quarter of the globe and most of the world’s seas and oceans. At the heart of this vast empire lay its “jewel,” India. Britain’s rule over India was known as the British Raj (raj meaning rule in Hindi).
In 2008, I published my second book, “American Raj.” I sought to distill my fifty years of experience in the Muslim world to explain to Americans what was really going on in the troubled region, why it was so violent and unstable, and our own errors in fostering this problem. I tried to show what a positive role America could play for the entire Muslim world.
The more I examined the historical parallels between the British Empire and today’s American dominion over most of the Arab and greater Muslim world, the more it became evident that the United States had inherited the British Empire in 1945 and was copying its highly successful managerial techniques.
Chief among these was divide and rule, using petty princes and potentates as surrogates, building armies of native troops known as “sepoys,” forcing the subcontinent into economic subservience and captive markets.
Britain’s genius lay in managing a huge empire with tiny numbers of its own soldiers and officials. That’s why I entitled my book, “American Raj.” In it, I examined the way Washington controlled most of the Arab world’s regimes, how it promoted dictatorship and its handmaiden, corruption, and how the US used native armies to maintain its control.
I warned that the Mideast was seething with anti-Americanism, fury over the plight of Palestinians, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and rage against the corrupt, brutal rulers imposed by the United States, Britain and France. In “Raj,” I urged the United States to practice the values it preaches and help build real democracy in the Arab world before it was too late. The first and major step, I asserted, was imposed a just settlement for Palestine – which I termed “sand in the eye of the Muslim world.”
Not a single American publisher would touch “American Raj.” It was simply too heretical in challenging the myths of benign American foreign policy or predicting a coming explosion. My book was published in Canada and Europe, but not in my own country.
In December, 2010, two years after “Raj” came out, the Arab world began to erupt against dictatorship, corruption, and oppression. The revolt began in little Tunisia but soon spread to the bulwark of America’s Mideast Raj, Egypt, where the exceptionally brutal, corrupt US-backed dictatorship of Husni Mubarak was toppled. For 40 years, Washington had sustained military dictatorships in Egypt whose principal raison d’etre was making Israel comfortable and keeping the lid on a restive population.
The angry demonstrations still flaring across the Muslim world are a volcanic eruption of anger at America. They are not terrorism or religious fanaticism, though numbers of religious fanatics are indeed involved, particularly in Pakistan. They are anti-Americanism in full flame.
As I tried to explain in “American Raj,” what we call “terrorism” is in many cases virulent anti-Americanism aroused by our domination of the Muslim world – which has been battling first European, then American domination for the past two centuries. And the near universal belief among its citizens that the western powers are stealing their oil and gas resources, abetted by corrupt, Quisling regimes.
The natives are fighting back, just as they did under the British Raj. As America wrings its hands over attacks by our ingrate Afghan “sepoys” on their American and British advisors (read “white officers”), those who know India’s history will recall the great 1857 Indian Mutiny in which “loyal” native sepoy regiments turned on their British officers and their families.
Is it any wonder the Muslim world is so angry? The agony of Palestine continues, with America’s politicians, led by Mitt Romney, adopting an openly anti-Palestinian policy. His cynical words about kicking the Palestinian question down the road echoed across the Muslim world, as had virulently anti-Muslim statements by Republican presidential challengers like Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Or the constant Muslim-bashing of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the rest of the Murdoch empire, and the ever-expanding Evangelical news, film and publishing networks.
America’s armed forces and CIA are now waging military operations and assassinations in five Muslim nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and, most recently, Libya. US troops are heading into East and North Africa, with Mali next on the list. Iraq has been destroyed as a society and functioning state. Sudan, Africa’s largest state, has just been sundered into two inimical states, the US-backed one that coincidentally has oil.
There are nine million Palestinian refugees, two million Afghan refugees, two million Iraqi refugees, and now Syria is being torn apart by a US and Saudi-backed insurgency. Mubarak is gone, but Washington supports some of the world’s most reactionary and odious regimes, notably medieval monarchies in Arabia and the sinister military regime that rules Algeria. Let’s not forget, either, the ugly little despots of Central Asia who are supported and financed by Washington.
In short, there are a multitude of reasons for people in the Muslim world to be angry at America. And, of course, at themselves: youth unemployment and the economic, social and political backwardness of much of the Muslim world, endemic corruption and near total lack of real justice, powerlessness and hopelessness. Our so-called ally, Pakistan, offers an alarming example of a broken-down society ruled by thieving officials and above-the-law feudal landlords – sustained, of course, by Washington.
America can’t be blamed for many of the Muslim world’s wrenching social and political problems, but it is not doing enough to alleviate them. Instead, Washington clings to its overseas empire with the same tenacity as Britain’s imperialists at a time when the United Kingdom’s postwar economy lay shattered and drowning in debt. Britain could no longer afford its globe-girding empire then, and America can no longer afford its global imperium today. Both Raj’s had feet of clay.
ric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia. ericmargolis.com