Democratic Underground

Welcome to Imperial America
November 28, 2001
by Jerald Cumbus (JCMach1)

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"Thus, before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers. But through the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colors, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines. For what is now left of the 'ancient customs'... They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practiced, but are already unknown. And what shall I say of the men? ... For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the form of the commonwealth, but have long since lost its substance." - Cicero

Since September 11th there have been a number of people (especially on the Left) who have called George W. Bush's ruthless grab for power Nazi-like. A number of these people (and you know who you are) have put forward many theories about how the current situation we find ourselves involved in is like the rise of the National Socialists in the 1930s. While I think a number of interesting points have been made, I believe the operative historical precedent isn't the rise of the Nazi. The key to understanding our current situation can be found much farther back in history: the fall of the Roman Republic.

"In the city the landless urban population was now engaged in various kinds of production and services. So long as the consumer market was being increased - by providing for the war machine, by the need for new buildings and engineering works in the city - and by satisfying the growing sophistication of the urban population itself - there was enough work to keep the city dwellers employed and quiet" (Cunliffe 90-91). So it went in the Roman Republic and so it goes in America today.

Much like the growth the Romans faced with the First and Second Punic Wars, America in the 20th Century was forced by circumstances and sometimes necessity to expand its military power across the globe. After the Second World War, that power led to a specific American led hegemony in Europe in the form of NATO. Military hegemony led directly to an American economic hegemony. Eventually becoming the multi-national corporations we have today, the tentacles of American economic Imperialism spread across the globe. Nothing could resist the force of this globalization of American Empire.

Those who did resist became pariah states or worse. Take for example the last 40 years of Cuban history. Or, take the ousting and subsequent murder of Salvador Allende in Chile by CIA operatives. America guarded its empire zealously under Republican and Democratic presidents. In Vietnam, two Democratic administrations and one Republican one fought a war to ensure American dominance of Southeast Asia. Defeated, one might have thought that the Empire had been taught a lesson. Just like the Roman Republic though, we took our defeats and further mastered the art of waging war in pursuit of Empire.

Similar to the Republic, America has formed itself from an ever-increasing expansion of the notion of citizenship. In early Rome, local peoples in Italy found themselves homogenized into the melting-pot of Roman society. Like the American ideal, the Roman ideals of government created a nation and a way of life. In a kind of Imperialist 'mission creep' those values eventually morphed into the militarist Imperialism of the present day and of the past. Instead of accepting difference as an important value in a citizen or a political ally, Rome began accepting only blind allegiance to its directives. Is this any different from America today?

Eisenhower's farewell speech in which he warned of the growing power of the military industrial complex should have much resonance today. By Eisenhower's time, it had become clear that America's Imperial goals were being permanently instilled in our society in the name of National Security. Switzerland has almost perfect National Security. In America National Security equals the preservation of the American Empire at any cost. While I could argue who is Marius and who is Sulla, I propose there is something much greater at stake in the loss of our civil liberties and the stolen selection of George W. Bush as President: we risk losing Democracy itself if we follow the path of Imperialism. It doesn't happen overnight. It moves from Marius to Sulla and to Caesar. And while Augustus is not too bad, it also gives us Caligula and Nero. This is the same anti-Democratic system that has given us George W. Bush.

As Cicero argues, if we do not act it is our own fault. These acts cannot stand in a true Democracy. Getting rid of Bush alone will not do, the mechanisms of Imperialism must be dismantled in our country. If we fail at this, another will rise in his place. We cannot forget that the blades that killed Caesar engendered in the womb of Rome the Imperial state. In these times we indeed find that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.