Carl Boggs, The Crime of Empire

Rogue Superpower and World Domination

Pluto, London- New York 2010, p. 291, L 14,99
By Ludwig Watzal

March 23, 2010 ” — “MWC” — Successive governments of the United States of America like to designate other countries, whose leaders they do not like, „rogue states“. Noam Chomsky showed in „Rogue States“ that this designation does not apply to countries such as Iraq but to the United States itself. According to him, the American superpower fulfills all the characteritics of such an entity. The U. S. and its „junior partner“, the United Kingdom, made Iraq a cartoon of an „outlaw nation“ that threatens the entire world, and Saddam Hussein the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. If that would have been true, they should have turned to the U. N. Security Council. Instead they started an act of aggression against Iraq, thereby showing contempt for international law and the U. N. Charter, which would have provided a legal base to handle this crisis peacefully. Chomsky mentions that Libya, Cuba, and North Korea were also designated as „rogue states“, and the ´boy emperor from Crawford, Texas` named Iran, Iraq and North Korea the „axis of evil“. U. S. President Ronald Reagan had already termed the Soviet Union an „evil emprie“. Having red Carl Boggs book, one can doubt whether the right countries were stigmatized „rogue states” because „The Crime of Empire“ is the criminal history of U. S. behavior in international relations.

The central thesis of Carl Boggs`book may be summerized in the following statement: „The U. S. stands today as the most fearsome outlaw nation in the world, its leaders having contributed to a steady descent into global lawlessness“. The author explores the rise of the U. S. from its fundation in 1776 as it rose against old European colonialism to the status of an empire, which dominates the world. Boggs follows an interesting approach. Over a period of more than 200 years the development of U. S. policy is described as a history of „military criminality and outlawry“. Boggs links global and domestic (political, economic and cultural) elements of a power structure that is addicted to militarism and war. The present U. S. neo-colonialist policies of aggression cannot be understood apart from this historical legacy. According to the author, the legacy of U. S. outlawry has its origins in the earliest days of the Republic beginning with the extermination of the Native American.

This book is the third part of a trilogy on U. S. imperial power which started with „Imperial Delusions“ in 2004 and was followed by „The Hollywood War Machine“ in 2006, the last one written with Tom Pollard. Without the support of the film industry, the corporate media and the military-industrial complex the American public could not have been so easily manipulated into supporting the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Carl Boggs teaches Social Science at the National University in Los Angeles. In 2007 he has received the Charles McCoy Career Achievement Award from the American Political Science Association. In seven chapters of his book, the author succeeds to convince readers about the criminal nature of the U.S. superpower.

The consequences of U. S. outlawry for the future of international relations are regarded by the author as „nightmarish”: in the wake of 9/11 the U. S. lost all legal restrains on its military conduct and stepped up its quest for world hegemony aggressively. The Bush administration demonstrated open contempt for international law, the United Nations, and the International Criminal Court (ICC). This contempt of the rule of law „is deeply rooted in U. S. practice and intellectual culture”. If that would not have been enough,it even arrogated itself a „right” to attack any country it deems as a potenial threat to U. S. domination.

Boggs points at a dichotomy in U. S. governments behavior. „No ruling elite proclaim the ´rule of law`more loudly, and no society produces more lawyers, prosecutors, judges, legal theorists – and prisons” than American society. But this goes no further than domestic society. At the international level, the U. S. „routinely favors power over legality, often dismissing legality as nuisance in the face of pressing global realities”. The U. S. power elites „believe” in „national exceptionalism”, they view the country as a „benevolent” or „benign” hegemon working for „democracy, human rights, and peace”. The elite – politicians, media, academia, and think tanks – presents U. S. policy as „pragmatic”, non-ideological, furthering liberal democracy, freedom, equality, and citizen participation. Policies are driven by a consensus of economic and geopolitical disiderata that actually „revolves around a struggle for domination over the Middle East”, writes Boggs. According to the author, the unholy legacy started with the white European settlers. They perceived their mission als „God-given”, driven by entlightenment and social progress. This „white-man´s burden” was later called „Manifest Destiny”. A concept rooted in the religious zealotry of the Puritans. In the nineteenth century the U. S. carried out military interventions in several nations in Central America and the Caribbean. The author writes that in 1844, under the presidency of James K. Polk, the U. S. annexed, after a self-provoced war against Mexico, large parts of Texas, California, New Mexiko, Arizona, and Nevada which belonged to Mexico. Already at that time this „premtive war” was justified by national security arguments. The Mexicans were slaughtered by the thousends as being „backward, ignorant, and undemocratic, hardly worthy proprietors of the land they had controlled”. Don´t the neocons and the religious fundamentalist of today cartoon the Muslims in a similar fashion, in order to dehumanize them and make attacks against them appeare more „rational”? With the massacre at Wounded Knee „a system firmly rooted in authoritarian controls and propelled by a micture of colonialism, racism, capitalism, and militarism” was firmly established. „An ideology of ruthless expansion was incorporated into the political culture, shared especially by the upper circles of politicians, business elites, the military, and Christian instituions.” And Boggs adds: „It is precisely the legacy of imperialism, warfare, and outlawry that was carried into, and helped shape, later U. S. behavior in such targeted areas as the Philippines, Central America, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East.”

In the chapter „Crimes against Peace”, „Warfare against Civilians”, „War Crimes by Proxy”, „Weapons of Mass Destruction”, „A Tale of Broken Treaties”, „War-Crimes Tribunals: Imperial Justice”, and „Torture and Other Atrocities” the author spreads out to readers a picture of this country, unknown to most of the world. To outsiders, the American political system presents a highly idealistic model that actually hides its hegemonic aims. This perception is widely shared around the world. In the chapter „Crimes against Peace”. Boggs shows how the U. S. violates not only the „Nuermberg principles” but also international law in general. He mentions that after World War II the Germans and Japanese were tried for „crimes against peace”. The Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuermberg defined such crimes as „planning, preparation, initiation, or waging a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy (for war)”. At different periods in its history „the U. S. has violated every one of the above principles, generally holding itself above the most hollowed norm of international law”, so Boggs.

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