An Imperial Mindset Protects the Real Enemy of the People: U.S. Militarism
The so-called left’s regurgitation of imperial talking points on Venezuela and Mugabe assists the billionaire ruling elite’s efforts to destroy any challenge to the rule of profit.
“The movement behind Sanders lacks an anti-imperialist program and sees war more as an individual issue.”
The U.S. is an imperialist state with an imperial mentality. Washington’s pursuit of endless war strongly influences U.S. culture at every level. This explains why majorities of the U.S. population may question the utility of military intervention but remain silent on the many wars that Washington wages abroad. Washington’s imperial mindset began as a product of its white supremacist and settler colonial origins and would expand into a global empire whose very foundations rest upon the corpses of the ongoing war on Black and Indigenous peoples. U.S. militarism emerged from the roots of settler colonialism to terrorize the planet’s darker races at the behest of the monopolies and banks in control of the imperialist world order.
The United States’ imperial mindset is dependent upon the erasure of both the scale and significance of the devastation that U.S. militarism produces abroad. Recent developments demonstrate just how effective the ideological arm of militarism can be in fostering a culture of war in the mainland of the United States. John Bolton, once considered a wildly unpopular war hawk, has been welcomed with open arms by the so-called “Resistance” to Donald Trump. At the third primary debate, Bernie Sanders called Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro a “tyrant” and condemned the oil-rich nation’s democratically elected government. Robert Mugabe’s death has also rehashed the U.S. corporate press’ decades-long demonization campaign against the former head of state of Zimbabwe. It is clear from these developments that the white supremacist dog whistles inherent in the U.S.’ imperial mentality provide U.S. militarism with the justifications necessary to conduct its destructive mission.
“U.S. militarism emerged from the roots of settler colonialism to terrorize the planet’s darker races.”
Militarism and white supremacy are one in the same, which is why the U.S. ruling class dehumanizes those subjects targeted for plunder and death. Marxist philosophy argues that the ruling ideas of a given society are the ideas of the ruling class. The U.S. ruling class promotes militarist ideas to secure its interests, namely the endless accumulation of capitalist profit. Mugabe and Maduro have been permanently branded as “tyrants” and “dictators” to serve these ends. They refused to bow down to the dictates of U.S. imperialism and thus were always high on the U.S.’ imperial hit list. Bolton, on the other hand, has been well-received by the ruling class after his ouster because his leading role in the massive genocide of Iraqis and his planned genocides of the people of Korea, Iran, and Venezuelarepresented a boon to corporate profits.
Hatred of the “other” keeps militarism insulated from criticism across the U.S. political spectrum. Self-ascribed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and neocon John Bolton both agree that Nicolas Maduro is a “dictator” whose perceived repugnant qualities (such as being a former bus driver) are responsible for the economic crisis in Venezuela. Forget that U.S. sanctions have killed forty thousand Venezuelans in two years or that the Bolivarian movement had reduced extreme poverty from nearly half of the population in the early 1990s to just 5.4 percent in 2015, the same year that Obama labeled Venezuela and Maduro a “threat” to the national security of the United States. Also forgotten in the constant demonization of Venezuela’s Bolivarian government is the very real program of political terrorism that the U.S. has employed against Venezuela since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998. This includes the CIA-backed coup attempt on Hugo Chavez in 2002 as well as the scores of violent rightwing protests that have erupted in Venezuela with the help of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) after Chavez died in 2013.
“Forgotten in the constant demonization of Venezuela’s Bolivarian government is the very real program of political terrorism that the U.S. has employed against Venezuela.”
Robert Mugabe has arguably received even worse treatment by the U.S. imperialist albatross than Maduro. Mugabe’s long tenure as Zimbabwe’s head of state was the culmination of a national liberation struggle that politically freed the country of British colonial rule. The British and the United States negotiated the Lancaster Agreement with Zimbabwe in 1979 to end the war of national liberation. This agreement stipulated that Zimbabwe would engage in gradual land reform with the cooperation of the U.K. and the United States. Neither imperial power abided by the agreement, and the U.K. under Blair tore it to shreds in 1997. By 2000, Zimbabwe’s land question remained an unresolved social crisis. Over 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s land rested in the hands of just 4,500 white settlers. Mugabe and the ZANU-PF averted total economic devastation by fast-tracking land reform without the permission of the United States. Zimbabwe’s land reform program successfully distributed land back to some 170,000 Black Zimbabwean families, with most land the recipients being poor workers and farmers.
The disruption of the divine right of white settlers to lay private claims to African land made Mugabe the target of a relentless and sustained campaign of racist vilification. Mugabe’s dehumanization justified the crushing sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States beginning in 2003. Sanctions have starved Zimbabwe’s financial system from access to the world market. The U.S. and Western corporate press rarely blame high inflation and austerity in Zimbabwe on the existing sanctions regime. That’s because people in the United States and the West have come to know Mugabe and Zimbabwe as just another example of self-inflicted savagery on the African continent rather than an example of resistance, however flawed, to imperialist treachery.
“Sanctions have starved Zimbabwe’s financial system from access to the world market.”
Militarism is the first line of defense for imperialist treachery. Without militarism, the U.S.’ capitalist and neocolonial empire responsible for the suffering of the masses domestically and abroad would fall like a house of cards. A necessary component in the struggle against militarism is the need to combat, in an organized manner, the stranglehold of the white supremacist imperial mindset over U.S. society. This mindset bases all social relations on the premise that the United States is the great civilizer of the backwards people of the world—a White Man’s Burden on steroids. American exceptionalism is the nationalist doctrine of this diseased imperial mindset. The entire ruling class worships the great white exceptionalism of the American way of life to render endless war an exercise in national redemption.
What passes for the left in the U.S. has largely adopted the imperial mentality of its rulers. The rise of Bernie Sanders’ “democratic socialism” has made little difference in the national discourse around militarism. Sanders’ popular support has challenged the austerity consensus in Washington on an “America first” basis. While Sanders the candidate concretely opposes the U.S. invasion of Iraq and calls for diplomacy with allies and so-called foes alike, the movement behind him lacks an anti-imperialist program and sees war more as an individual issue rather than the point of reference where all the ills of imperialism stem. Social democracy in the U.S. and West has long sought the spoils of imperialism to satisfy the frustrations of a (mostly white) section of its destitute workers. Militarism is no longer interested in or capable of raising the standards of any section of its working class beyond the optics provided by high technology created from the stolen resources and labor of the Third World. The so-called left’s regurgitation of imperial talking points on Venezuela and Mugabe assists the billionaire ruling elites in quenching their immense thirst to weaken, divide, and ultimately destroy any challenge to the rule of profit.
“American exceptionalism is the nationalist doctrine of this diseased imperial mindset.”
Decades of repression and class warfare has disorganized the most anti-war constituency in the U.S., Black America, and given fertile ground for the opportunism of the Black misleadership class to fester and grow. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) is currently the only formation in the United States armed with a program that organizes Black America to lead the struggle against war and challenge the so-called left’s role in sustaining militarism. The program calls on the Black left to pressure 2020 presidential candidates to reduce the military budget by fifty percent, commit to closing the U.S.’ 800 military bases, end the Department of Defense’s 1033 program to militarize local police departments, and work to withdraw AFRICOM’s military personnel from Africa (to name just a few of its demands). The program reflects Black America’s historical consensus on peace and self-determination—a consensus that evolved from centuries of struggle against the triple evils of racism, capitalism, and militarism. Humanity will not last another century if left to the devices of U.S. militarism. Leftists of all ethnicities must do what they can to ensure more favorable conditions for BAP’s work to grow into a mass Black-led movement for self-determination and internationalist solidarity. That means exposing, criticizing, and organizing against the imperial mentality of the U.S. left at every turn, even when massively popular politicians like Bernie Sanders are the ones showing their imperial stripes.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News--From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing).He can be reached at [email protected], on Instagram at danny_haiphong, and on Twitter at @SpiritofHo.
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