The U.S. Scorched Earth Policy, Ten Years After Iraq Invasion

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

In desperation to halt the slide into “non-empire” status, the U.S. makes every government on Earth a potential target for “humanitarian” military intervention. The imposition of chaos is Washington’s default foreign policy as an alternative to “the Chinese handwriting on the wall.”


The U.S. Scorched Earth Policy, Ten Years After Iraq Invasion

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Iraq was much more than an imperial episode; it was supposed to be an epochal game-changer.”

When the United States invaded Iraq on March 17, 2003, the Bush regime hoped to forestall America’s impending economic eclipse through ruthless deployment of its last remaining global advantage: a war machine so huge and technologically advanced, it accounted for half the world’s military spending. The strategic aim of the unprovoked assault, broadly outlined by the Project for the New American Century and telegraphed in numerous Pentagon leaks, was to block the rise of any challenge to U.S. imperial supremacy in the foreseeable future.

Iraq, which the Republican administration believed was ripe for a relatively quick and painless plucking, would serve as a base for U.S. power projection throughout the Arab world and deep into formerly Soviet Central Asia, a region of vast energy reserves that was “still in play” in terms of competition with Russia, China, India and Iran. The U.S. military would thrust itself into the contested region, blocking the natural progression of trade and political relations between eastern and western Eurasia, and unambiguously establishing the United States as the “New Rome” – the permanent arbiter of global affairs. The rise of China would be both slowed and politically quarantined, through a robust U.S. presence.

The larger goal was to prevent America’s long-term economic decline – no secret, even then – from resulting in the loss of global strategic supremacy. The “New Rome” might be in an advanced state of deindustrialization and increasingly uncompetitive in trade, its “soft power” utterly exhausted, but aggressive deployment of its awesome war machine would allow the U.S. to remain the “indispensable nation,” the permanent hegemon.

The rise of China would be both slowed and politically quarantined, through a robust U.S. presence.”

Iraq was much more than an imperial episode; it was supposed to be an epochal game-changer – the equivalent of George Bush slamming his fist on the global game board, upsetting all the pieces, and then putting them back in ways that ensured U.S. dominance. China, and all the other emerging powers of a world seeking independent routes of development – checked!

As I wrote in BlackCommentator on the evening that Shock and Awe broke over Baghdad:

We are all assembled, the world's people, awaiting the Pirates' lunge at history. The Bush men have made sure we pay rapt attention to their Big Bang, their epochal Event, after which the nature of things will have changed unalterably to their advantage – they think. The Bush men are certain of our collective response, convinced that once we have witnessed The Mother of All War Shows, humanity will react according to plan, and submit.”

As we predicted, Bush had “reached too far.” His engines of war ultimately failed to “harness Time and cheat the laws of political economy, to leapfrog over the contradictions of their parasitical existence into a new epoch of their own imagining.”

The eventual defeat and withdrawal at the hands of Iraqi irregulars and civil society was catastrophic to U.S. prestige. So much face was lost, it required that the Empire put a new, Black face forward, so as to resume the game under (cosmetically) new circumstances.

A cunning liar emerged from the duopoly pack, a slick young man who claimed to oppose “dumb” wars while pledging undying dedication to U.S. supremacy in the world. And much of the world let its guard down.

So much face was lost, it required that the Empire put a new, Black face forward.”

Barack Obama would need some smartly-worded wars, because he faced the same historical dilemma as Bush – only now, the imperial rot was far more advanced, and evident to everyone. People had coined the term BRICs, to describe the emerging powerhouses of Brazil, whose development bank would soon surpass the World Bank in size; Russia, newly assertive and still a petro-chemical colossus; India, soon to be the world’s most populous nation; and China, which by some measures became the planet’s biggest economy in 2010, following the global capitalist financial meltdown. (American intelligence services still claim the final economic eclipse of the U.S. will not arrive until around 2030, in the vain hope of delaying a national psychological depression.) Just like Bush, Obama needed to reset the game board.

The defeat in Iraq could not be reversed, so Obama reluctantly honored the terms of Bush’s withdrawal agreement. He “surged” in Afghanistan, to no avail, and now seeks a formula to retain as much killing power in that country as possible after 2014. But Obama’s forced retreats in Iraq and Afghanistan were accompanied by a general declaration of war against the international order, cloaked in the bogus doctrine of humanitarian military intervention. The scope of U.S. aggression has become limitless, bounded only by the geopolitical ambitions of Washington and its ad hoc formations of allies and proxies. Obama has shattered the bedrock of global relations – the sovereignty of nationswithout which there can be no international rule of law. Every government on the planet can be made a target, if the U.S. makes the case that the regime is unfit to administer its people.

Just like Bush, Obama needed to reset the game board.”

Obama’s drone armadas are central to his military posture, and the war on terror rationales inherited from Bush remain useful to Obama’s purposes, at home as well as abroad. However, his principal tool and innovation in the twilight struggle to maintain U.S. hegemony in the era of general American decline, is humanitarian intervention, which justifies any aggression. In effectively jettisoning the rules of war – which the United States was so central to codifying after World War Two – Obama threatens to plunge the world into chaos.

It now appears that the U.S., in desperation to halt the slide into “non-empire” status, has adopted the imposition of chaos as its default foreign policy. No longer competitive in a global playing field, ruled by finance capitalists who create nothing and seek only to monetize other people’s labor and resources, the United States appears to have concluded that extended periods of chaos in crucial areas of the world may be more advantageous than a state of relative peace in which the U.S. is not the dominant actor.

Washington has long favored this strategy in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It funded Somali warlords to keep that nation in chaos and political incoherence, finally instigating Ethiopia to invade the country in late 2006 to prevent the spread of peace under a popular Islamist government. Since the fall of its long-time strongman, Mobutu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.S. proxies Rwanda and Uganda have imposed a living hell in the country’s eastern regions, a chaos so horrific it has claimed six million lives since 1996, and still counting. Minerals extraction continues amidst the carnage.

Obama threatens to plunge the world into chaos.”

Then came the advent of the Arab Spring, and the West’s nightmare scenario of true independence and popular rule in the energy centers of the world. Europe and the U.S. responded with overwhelming force, allying with the royalist Arab oil regimes and the international jihadist movement to bring down Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya, under a paper-thin humanitarian UN mandate. It was absolutely predictable that chaos would soon spread throughout the northern tier of Africa – what else could possibly occur with the empowerment of jihadists? Simultaneously, the West launched its jihadist war against Syria, igniting two years, so far, of chaos by design in the heart of the Arab world.

This is, in effect, a kind of scorched earth policy, based on the premise that chaos is preferable to international order in situations where a declining U.S. cannot exert effective control. It is a policy that does not blink after two years of mayhem in the tinderbox in which Syria sits – because the alternative, as the U.S. sees it, is the inevitable shrinking of its global domain through the independent interactions of other peoples. Given the alternative, Washington says: let it burn.

The scorched earth strategy suits a retreating army. America still has global reach, which means no region is safe from its dying, imperial convulsions. Although Venezuela provides a huge portion of U.S. oil imports and is situated on a continent that has overwhelmingly rejected the “Washington Consensus,” the period following Hugo Chavez’s passing is fraught with danger of blatant U.S. intervention. The declining empire’s rulers are desperate to erase the Chinese handwriting on the wall. They feel compelled to roll the dice, as Bush did, ten years ago.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].



Always said that whites are

Always said that whites are just crazy enough to set off of WW4 (WW3 is the war against the Developing World) when they begin to see their power decline. Perhaps the awareness of the history of horrors they've inflicted on other people's makes them fear what might be in store for them when they are no longer able to defend themselves, much less project power.  

Who would really want to be white in a not too distant future where whites are defenceless, irrelevent as a force in international affairs and poor? 

Dangerous psychology we're dealing with here, has to be handled with the kind of steelness of nerve and delicacy required to deactivate an unexploded bomb. Indeed that's the perfect analogy for what must be done with the last vestige white power.


You are correct.  We whites

You are correct.  We whites are incredibly stupid and narcissistic. Most Americans, too, I would say 99%, are ignoramuses, so, the empire collapses around us and no one notices the inevitability.

Ball Pets

narcissistic. Most Americans, too, I would say 99%, are ignoramuses, so, the empire collapses around us and no one notices the inevitability. Ball Pets

A Midsummer Night's Nightmare

Barack’s the Captain of our band,
Michele is here and holds his hand,
And other blacks must share the blame,
Whites alone don’t run the game.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!

(Apologies to William Shakespeare)


Addressing the replies

I'm a black man but not American. Dailing in from the UK.  

I have never voted for or offered any kind of support to any American president or British prime minister and therefore accept no responsibility for the actions of any holder of either office. 

Neither do I accept that the conduct of the people I come from has been as destructive as that of whites.

Simple as. 

Lastly, other than the fact that Obama is the current potus, I'm not really seeing why BO is being singled out as a singularly  injurious president since his (mis) deeds are a mere continuation of the atrocities that are a staple of ALL American presidencies. 

They're all bastards in my book and the people most responsible for allowing these mad men to unleash the horrors they inflict on the world and its peoples are the whites who elect them and do their bidding. 

No doubt Karma may come knocking on my door to demand to redress for my misdeeds, but mine don't include any of the following:

I haven't invaded, genocided, raped, enslaved bombed tortured and looted my way around the globe. 

End Of

Funny how the only area that whites are willing to accept blacks as equals is in wrongdoing. No "white guilt" there then. 

Indeed white guilt =

whites are guilty of everything but feel guilt for nothing. 


"Funny how the only area that Whites are willing to accept Blacks as equals is in wrongdoing..."

What a brilliantly inciteful statement! I also agree with you that, in spite of what many conservatives may claim, there is no such thing as "White guilt. "

While I cannot pretend to speak for Blacks who live in other places such as Europe, Canada, Latin America, Africa, or the Caribbean, I believe that the inane worship of "Black" leaders such as President Obama by so many Black people and their spokespersons in the United States has permanently eroded, degraded, and undermined both our moral standing, and our credibility as a people who spent centuries fighting for freedom and as a group which historically has stood with the people in the rest of the world who are powerless and ruthlessly oppressed, even when "our" system is the chief oppressor. The ascension of leaders like Barack Obama to positions of power who are no different, and no better for us than their White predecessors, yet are blindly followed and vigorously protected from even the mildest forms of criticism by most Black Americans, has demonstrated that, in many respects, the Civil Rights movement was a fraud. American Blacks really did not want either to change the vicious and unjust nature of the system or to exercise genuine freedom, we just wanted "in" at any price, and most of us are more than happy to do so on the White man's terms. Personally, I have no interest in "joining" my oppressors in a final, futile, doomed, effort to stop, or to reverse the tide of history by attempting to stand against the inevitable rise of nations such as China and India. Blacks in America should be preparing to live in a world in which a single dominant, yet deeply dysfunctional White empire no longer calls the shots for humanity. We should be establishing relationships with Blacks around the world so that we can compete and thrive in the coming multi-polar world. Instead, many of us prefer to cling to the dream that the old racist, White dominated order will or should last forever, and that, it will finally treat us better, or repay us for the colossal harm it has done to us even as it declines in power and influence. 

My remarks about Obama were

My remarks about Obama were not meant as a defense of the man. but a response to the other two commentors who seemed to be trying to make Black America equally responsible for white America's crimes. 

I don't accept that. 

Yes, Black America got it wrong on Obama but for the most part they've got it right, taking  slow cautious steps, improving their condition incrementally. Being dominant among the voices that spoke out against America's imperialism and violence. 

I won't judge my Brethren and Sistren in the US too harshly for their glee at BO's ascendency. 

America's political machinations decieve all kinds of people and I suspect that part of the reason the Obama Deception worked so well on Black America is simply that Black American's haven't had any significant wins for a long time and just wanted to revel in the novelty and power of a first black president. That doesn't make them equally culpable for the littany of crimes WHITE America and its presidents have perpetrated on the world. 

African Americans who are descended from Enslaved Africans are not in America of their own choice. They are as much victims of white supremacy as other native peoples around the world. Whatever they do must be viewed in that light, for their actions are always done under duress and often with limited means to decipher the true nature of the game.  

I don't think Black America's reputation has been irrevocably tarnished by its association with BO. I see this as a blemish on Black America's otherwise impeccable record as a people who stood up against WHITE SUPREMACY, not only in their own behalf but also for the sake of others. 

Black America will continue to be embraced by its comrades in struggle across the Global African Community.

I agree with your advice that Africans around the globe must reconnect and make plans for an African future outside the white supremacist economic and social paradigm. 

White Supremacy, on the other hand, has indeed played its last hand, and very badly too because the BO presidency has left scars across the globe that will never heal. The demand for freedom from western imperialism will no more be appeased by the mere appointment of black faces in high WHITE places.  


I haven't invaded, genocided, raped, enslaved bombed tortured and looted my way around the globe. Greg Aziz

The U.S. Scorched Earth Policy, Ten Years After Iraq Invasion

Yes, I too am dialling in from the UK.  Whites know why the time was right for a Black President, after all they are the best thinkers on the planet or so they would have everyone else believe.

Although I am not a bible pusher, my reading of Revelations in my younger years led me to the conclusion by the time I was 30 that

  1.  Rome will be destroyed
  2. A Black Man sitting in the White house on a black horse would be the last horseman.  To take the blame for all the other horsemen before him.   He would bring a hope or false hope with his sweet words of  ‘hurt not the oil nor the wine (wheat). ‘   Today Obomba has a drone and Monsonato gives us GM everything
  3. Rome designed genocide to deal with the children of the light (for want of a better description)
  4. Rome will control the economy and all in it.  He-She will cause the whole world to be drunken from the wine he-she brews.

Revelations goes on to tell about the false jews who would turn the concept of holiness into satan's synagogue: The relationship between the true axis of evil, Europe-USA –Israel: The killing sprees:  All this on the physical level whilst the spiritual level is revealing too.  Whosoever wrote the thing had inside knowledge of their intentions.  Do not get me twisted the Bible came from an original source of which I will not go into now.

I complained bitterly that no Black Man should put himself in that White House because of what it represented on both a spiritual or physical level.   The black face was just being used.  (as it is in the upcoming presidential trip to that shitty little country who have elected a black Miss Israel as a deflection of their polices)

Our own Black House is UN-inhabitated , but that condition is being dealt with as I speak and personally I cannot wait to be free of Rome's perfidy.  Rome gives the beast a bad name.

And just like some of the previous posts so eloquently and decisively put , even I some time after Obomba’s re-election caught myself hoping that he was finally going to get wicked on the evil that surrounded him.  I just had to hit myself upside the head quick so to speak.

Obuma is turning into the white man’s wet dream but he don’t speak for me.   Admittedly 95% of the black race probably hold him in some esteem, however, I am damn sure most of those useless eaters won’t be going anywhere fast with their ignorance.

What was it that cokehead said , 'fool me once and fool me again.'  Just about sums up the decline of the beast but you got to admit that one had the baddest swagger of all time as the young would say.

An analysis with much merit, G.Ford. & Update re new art online

When I was a grad student in "American Civilization" (funny name,yes), I preferred to wait for analysis after, rather than as newspapers spun history-in-the-making.  I was young, naive and although I knew, even then, that who wrote the history bent the results in the telling of it, it was much later that I realized the same errors I'd objected to, in the newspapers, at the time they were current, would "work their way into history" because the bias, as well as error, would be used as basis.  That is, what the history writer quoted decade(s) later as primary sources, would be the NYTimes, etc. with their errors and bias.  Howard Zinn didn't write "A People's History of the United States" (publish it, I mean, since he worked on it for 20 years while teaching, beginning at Spelman College in Atlanta) until much later.  Historiography was just beginning, so to speak, as I was leaving grad school to begin my art career in the mid1960s.  So I had a lot to learn. Still learning.

    So many people around the world protested before the U.S. attacked Iraq ten years ago, bombing starting today.  I had protest art going out, citing the above mentioned "Project for a New American Century" was mentioned during the media build-up, in a critical way,in a column  in the not-very-radical Atlanta Journal Constitution, the daily paper.   I was able to get out for awhile, wearing a sign protesting the war on the day of the big march in NYC, rolling part of the way, spouse pushing my wheelchair.  At Columbus Circle, a reporter from Japan wanted to push me, in my wheelchair, towards the camera and his cameraman, so my individual protest could be seen in Japan:wheelchair user as photogenic item.  Even though he protested that he pushed his own mother's wheelchair, I said, "Only my husband pushes my wheelchair."  So, the reporter couldn't bear not being the smiling pusher in his newsreport.

     My art of protest after the Iraq invasion began is in two places on the internet: my art webpages and the musuem archive webpage.  Note that the CLARA database of the museum has never changed the date, which they typed wrong, but I had put the date I completed the art, 4-28-2003 on the art itself, in the margin of the French Liberte stamp.  The piece is titled "Liberte".  To  find it, google search "sanda aronson".   UPDATE: I just added a new piece of art to my Flickr public photostream page:tag line "police shootings".  Use google search to find link;near top of list.

A Different Lens

Hi Glenn,

I am new to this site. It came highly recommended and I can see why. Interesting, how given the same facts our interpretations will vary.

What suggestions do you have for President Obama? What can he do to change your views? What action can he take to differentiate himself from Bush?

During the re-election campaign, I noted the international community including Arab nations praised Obama for (possibly nuanced) changing US foreign policy to one that is more inclusive. I believe the international community is beginning to change its view of the US as a Bully!

Now we are collaborating with other nations as opposed to telling them what to do or making unilateral decisions. Imagine Rumsfeld in office with Bush, during this possible North Korean crisis, we would be at war, WWIII! They would not attempt to engage China in pressuring North Korea as we are doing now.

So I do not understand all you arguments or accusations.