Chris Hedges Foreign Policy Original

Hedges: The Unraveling of the American Empire

US leadership has stumbled from one military debacle to another, a trajectory mirroring the sad finales of other historical imperial powers.
Original illustration by Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

America’s defeat in Afghanistan is one in a string of catastrophic military blunders that herald the death of the American empire. With the exception of the first Gulf War, fought largely by mechanized units in the open desert that did not – wisely – attempt to occupy Iraq, the United States political and military leadership has stumbled from one military debacle to another. Korea. Vietnam. Lebanon. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Libya. The trajectory of military fiascos mirrors the sad finales of the Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, Russian, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese and Soviet empires. While each of these empires decayed with their own peculiarities, they all exhibited patterns of dissolution that characterize the American experiment.

Imperial ineptitude is matched by domestic ineptitude. The collapse of good government at home, with legislative, executive and judicial systems all seized by corporate power, ensures that the incompetent and the corrupt, those dedicated not to the national interest but to swelling the profits of the oligarchic elite, lead the country into a cul-de-sac. Rulers and military leaders, driven by venal self-interest, are often buffoonish characters in a grand comic operetta. How else to think of Allen Dulles, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Trump or the hapless Joe Biden? While their intellectual and moral vacuity is often darkly amusing, it is murderous and savage when directed towards their victims.

There is not a single case since 1941 when the coups, political assassinations, election fraud, black propaganda, blackmail, kidnapping, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, U.S. sanctioned massacres, torture in global black sites, proxy wars or military interventions carried out by the United States resulted in the establishment of a democratic government. The two-decade-long wars in the Middle East, the greatest strategic blunder in American history, have only left in their wake one failed state after another. Yet, no one in the ruling class is held accountable.

War, when it is waged to serve utopian absurdities, such as implanting a client government in Baghdad that will flip the region, including Iran, into U.S. protectorates, or when, as in Afghanistan, there is no vision at all, descends into a quagmire. The massive allocation of money and resources to the U.S. military, which includes Biden’s request for $715 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2022, a $11.3 billion, or 1.6 percent increase, over 2021, is not in the end about national defense. The bloated military budget is designed, as Seymour Melman explained in his book, “The Permanent War Economy,” primarily to keep the American economy from collapsing. All we really make anymore are weapons. Once this is understood, perpetual war makes sense, at least for those who profit from it.

The idea that America is a defender of democracy, liberty and human rights would come as a huge surprise to those who saw their democratically elected governments subverted and overthrown by the United States in Panama (1941), Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), Honduras (2009) and Egypt (2013). And this list does not include a host of other governments that, however despotic, as was the case in South Vietnam, Indonesia or Iraq, were viewed as inimical to American interests and destroyed, in each case making life for the inhabitants of these countries even more miserable.

I spent two decades on the outer reaches of empire as a foreign correspondent. The flowery rhetoric used to justify the subjugation of other nations so corporations can plunder natural resources and exploit cheap labor is solely for domestic consumption. The generals, intelligence operatives, diplomats, bankers and corporate executives that manage empire find this idealistic talk risible. They despise, with good reason, naïve liberals who call for “humanitarian intervention” and believe the ideals used to justify empire are real, that empire can be a force for good. These liberal interventionists, the useful idiots of imperialism, attempt to civilize a process that was created and designed to repress, intimidate, plunder and dominate.

The liberal interventionists, because they wrap themselves in high ideals, are responsible for numerous military and foreign policy debacles. The call by liberal interventionists such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Susan Rice and Samantha Power to fund jihadists in Syria and depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya rent these countries — as in Afghanistan and Iraq — into warring fiefdoms. The liberal interventionists are also the tip of the spear in the campaign to rachet up tensions with China and Russia.

Russia is blamed for interfering in the last two presidential elections on behalf of Donald Trump. Russia, whose economy is roughly the size of Italy’s, is also attacked for destabilizing the Ukraine, supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, funding France’s National Front party and hacking into German computers. Biden has imposed sanctions on Russia – including limits on buying newly issued sovereign debt – in response to allegations that Moscow was behind a hack on SolarWinds Corp. and worked to thwart his candidacy.

At the same time, the liberal interventionists are orchestrating a new cold war with China, justifying this cold war because the Chinese government is carrying out genocide against its Uyghur minority, repressing the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and stealing U.S. patents. As with Russia, sanctions have been imposed targeting the country’s ruling elite. The U.S. is also carrying out provocative military maneuvers along the Russian border and in the South China Sea.

The core belief of imperialists, whether they come in the form of a Barack Obama or a George W. Bush, is racism and ethnic chauvinism, the notion that Americans are permitted, because of superior attributes, to impose their “values” on lesser races and peoples by force. This racism, carried out in the name of Western civilization and its corollary white supremacy, unites the rabid imperialists and liberal interventionists in the Republican and Democratic parties. It is the fatal disease of empire, captured in Graham Greene’s novel “The Quiet American” and Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient.”

The crimes of empire always spawn counter-violence that is then used to justify harsher forms of imperial repression. For example, the United States routinely kidnapped Islamic jihadists fighting in the Balkans between 1995 and 1998. They were sent to Egypt — many were Egyptian — where they were savagely tortured and usually executed. In 1998, the International Islamic Front for Jihad said it would carry out a strike against the United States after jihadists were kidnapped and transferred to black sites from Albania. They made good on their threat igniting massive truck bombs at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 dead. Of course, the “extraordinary renditions” by the CIA did not end and neither did the attacks by jihadists.

Our decades-long military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, are called “micro-militarism.” The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) when they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. The defeat triggered successful revolts throughout the Athenian empire. The Roman empire, which at its height lasted for two centuries, created a military machine that, like the Pentagon, was a state within a state. Rome’s military rulers, led by Augustus, snuffed out the remnants of Rome’s anemic democracy and ushered in a period of despotism that saw the empire disintegrate under the weight of extravagant military expenditures and corruption. The British empire, after the suicidal military folly of World War I, was terminated in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Britain was forced to withdraw in humiliation, empowering Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over its few remaining colonies. None of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power”: “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

The worse it gets at home the more the empire needs to fabricate enemies within and without. This is the real reason for the increase in tensions with Russia and China. The poverty of half the nation and concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny oligarchic cabal, the wanton murder of unarmed civilians by militarized police, the rage at the ruling elites, expressed with nearly half the electorate voting for a con artist and demagogue and a mob of his supporters storming the capital, are the internal signs of disintegration. The inability of the for-profit national health services to cope with the pandemic, the passage of a Covid relief bill and the proposal of an infrastructure bill that would hand the bulk of some $5 trillion dollars to corporations while tossing crumbs — one-time checks of $1,400 to a citizenry in deep financial distress — will only fuel the decline.

Because of the loss of unionized jobs, the real decline of wages, de-industrialization, chronic underemployment and unemployment, and punishing austerity programs, the country is plagued by a plethora of diseases of despair including opioid addictions, alcoholism, suicides, gambling, depression, morbid obesity and mass shootings — since March 16 the United States has had at least 45 mass shootings, including eight people killed in an Indiana FedEx facility on Friday, three dead and three injured in a shooting in Wisconsin on Sunday, and another three dead in a shooting in Austin on Sunday. These are the consequences of a deeply troubled society.

The façade of empire is able to mask the rot within its foundations, often for decades, until, as we saw with the Soviet Union, the empire appears to suddenly disintegrate. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will probably mark the final chapter of the American empire. In 2015, the dollar accounted for 90 percent of bilateral transactions between China and Russia, a percentage that has since fallen to about 50 percent. The use of sanctions as a weapon against China and Russia pushes these countries to replace the dollar with their own national currencies. Russia, as part of this move away from the dollar, has begun accumulating yuan reserves.

The loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency will instantly raise the cost of imports. It will result in unemployment of Depression-era levels. It will force the empire to dramatically contract. It will, as the economy worsens, fuel a hyper-nationalism that will most likely be expressed through a Christianized fascism. The mechanisms, already in place, for total social control, militarized police, a suspension of civil liberties, wholesale government surveillance, enhanced “terrorism” laws that railroad people into the world’s largest prison system and censorship overseen by the digital media monopolies will seamlessly cement into place a police state. Nations that descend into crises these severe seek to deflect the rage of a betrayed population on foreign scapegoats. China and Russia will be used to fill these roles.

The defeat in Afghanistan is a familiar and sad story, one all those blinded by imperial hubris endure. The tragedy, however, is not the collapse of the American empire, but that, lacking the ability to engage in self-critique and self-correction, as it dies it will lash out in a blind, inchoate fury at innocents at home and abroad.


[Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost. Click here to sign up for email alerts.]

Chris Hedges
Chris HedgesChris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

Copyright 2021 Chris Hedges

69 comments

  1. The usual then, eh Chris?

    While I admire your ability to sum up the totality of western decline, you are starting to sound like John Pilger of late (that is, a notably predictable broken record).

    This IS all important analysis, and it IS correct. But, it still DOES read like collapse porn.

    Is that the best a left wing intellectual can do these days? Ideas for change (properly put forward and with a spark of inspiration) are simply beyond your reach, it seems.

    Disappointing. But, as a born pessimist, it’s all good with me.

    1. Today, a policeman who kneeled on man’s neck for over 9 minutes was found guilty of homicide. Literally millions of people had eyes on his crime and they demanded justice and got some today. They now have some hope of change for their children through justice. Some day, maybe a president and his cabal who bombed and militarily occupied foreign lands after inciting with lies, and twisted and inflammatory rhetoric, will stand trial. Now, there’s an idea.

      1. Rita, you have also nailed it! One policeman has taken the fall for literally hundreds of mostly invisible victims of Amerika’s brutality both abroad and at home. Yet the glorification of the perpetrators of these wars continues and the youth of the United States continue to be indoctrinated into the false myth of American exceptionalism to feed the war machine. Major Danny Sjursen (Ret) is right time to redefine patriotism as healthy dissent from the drivel that is passed off as love of country! I guess the Nazis loved their country too!

    2. If Chris Hodges’s “song” sounds like a broken record it’s because the cause for “celebration” does not change.

      If all you do is attending weddings, all you will hear are wedding bells.

      If you all you do is attend funerals all you will hear is the funeral dirge.

      We are witnessing the death march of the U.S. Empire and quite possibly the death of the planet, with Chris Hedges conducting Requiem in D Minor.

    3. So true. This is his shtick, his brand, his only product that he has to sell. Where would he be without it? I think he’s getting too old and comfortable to come up with anything more creative, so this is going to have to take him into retirement. The Russian TV guy on a soap box. Don’t get me wrong; he is informative because we get so little perspective on the US from the outside; the US media bubble is fairly absolute. Perhaps only an outsider can properly critique the “American Empire.” It is sad that there are not other eminent voices to inform and inspire us in a more balanced way; with less cliches and gross generalizations. Oh, the one trick pony. The US is doomed; the only solution is to pour into the streets in uprising. And that is probably doomed as well. Rinse and repeat. The hyper-dogmatic, by the book, marxist blueprint he is trying to superimpose on the US. On top of that, the unatainable purity test that no one can meet. Not Bernie Sanders, not anyone. His adulation of Jill Stein and Ralph Nader. Arrgh! Like a child holding his breath until his face turns blue, he would rather have a Trump or another Republican than god forbid vote for someone that doesn’t meet his purity test. That will show them! Why not run for office and show us how it’s done? Well, he tried that, but he would have to quit working for a Russian company. Oopsy daisy! And… everytime he goes on about the poor downtrodden people who voted for Trump, I want to laugh. That’s an American lie that he has assimilated because it’s fits in with his narrative; it serves him. The truth is, 2/3 of Trump voters earn equal or more than the national median household income, and 1/3 have a household income of over 100K. Yet Hedges, like the rest of the media, like to repeat the mythology that they are as a group poor and left out. True, 50K, the median income, doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to; this is a valid point. It’s also valid to discuss different types of poverty; a poverty in unmet expections, a poverty in the American dream. But lets quit pretending it is what it’s not. It’s getting to be pretty funny watching him butt heads with “Christian Fascists” who are just as self righteous and dogmatic as he is. Still, I read Chris Hedges because he offers an interesting and unique perspective.

  2. Right on brother Chris! Again you have hit the nail on the head, Militari$m! Regrettably, the immature Christianity of the United States that has morphed into Christian Facism has simply become the new religion of empire, a heresy that has gone largely unchallenged even by the so called mainstream churches be they Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Evangelical. Where are the teachings of the counter-cultural values of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, love of enemies, forgiveness, non-violence, blessed are the peace makers. Regrettably, these have been exchanged for the God of War where Jesus is a warlord who justifies America’s so called just, redemptive violence, the age old lie of all wars. We also have the “prosperity gospel” a cesspool of narcissism and utter betrayal of the servant leadership model of Jesus of Nazareth. Thank you for pointing this out repeatedly though I fear you are preaching to the choir and like the prophets of old pay the same price! Keep it up Lord Nuke as Fr. Dan said must always be challenged our very survival depends upon it! The only thing that will save us is deep Metanoia a profound transformative change of heart! Peace!

  3. Unfortunately but poignantly stated. Particularly about the lashing out of Christian fascism. Will america just eat itself to the bone? Will it just be countless mass shootings and militiae movements? Protests and a subsequent fascistic clamping down on said protests? Probably. I can’t see it playing out any other way.

    But what would it take for the USD to actually lose its standing as the reserve currency?

    1. Does the dollar actually need to be the reserve currency? I will be getting 1/2 of 1% for my savings soon. What does reserve currency matter to me?

      1. Ah yes, Rita, but if you are Synchrony Bank of Amazon, you will be receiving almost 28 percent interest on your customer’s credit card balance. What’s not to love?

  4. Never easy to read…..but I am thankful for Chris Hedges. I read his pieces and know that I am not alone in feeling so pessimistic about our future.

  5. I knew the American dollar was going out of fashion but the figures in the article are surprising. I haven’t read this elsewhere so does anyone know where this data comes from?
    Thanks.

  6. A wonderful, insightful article. Thank you.

    Explains why I have 3 Hedges Books in my library
    and virtually no other books on geopolitics.

    Larry Johnson

  7. As usual Hedges is right on target. He merely states the obvious for anyone with the eyes to see. What is disturbing however, is how few Americans fall into this category. For most, it appears groupthink is enough and the truth is just an abstraction to be ignored if inconvenient. I suspect it has always been this way. Most people seem to prefer to be told what to think and what to do and have no problem going along with the program….no matter how psychotic that program seems to be.

  8. We need more courageous voices like Chris Hedges to open our eyes to what is actually happening in this chaotic world being systematically abused by the U. S. Climate destruction is a kicker. And what happens when the internet of (all) things becomes self-aware?

  9. There’s little left to say.. .thank you Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer.
    ….in the wake of police murders of black and brown youth, school children…mass shootings …this is not a country…but a plantation serving only the interests of the landowner….
    Last night, I finished reading George Orwell’s ‘Burmese Days’ …for the second time…the ongoing racism and sense of privilege that the British Empire foisted on the Indian sub-continent… the self loathing of the protagonist as he fantasises the life he might have had if did not have these physical blemishes …mirror the collapse of America: the plantation.
    It disturbs me deeply to have shelter, a bathroom, enough food, the ability to practice my music (I try to play the ‘oud.) ..when so many do not have any of these basic human needs…as a military economy swallows up all resources and leaves a trail of death and destruction. …and climate catastrophe continues .

  10. “All we really make anymore are weapons.”- C.Hedges

    The fortune cookie version of Hedges essay.

    -J.Joslin ( electrical worker in Detroit, Michigan-South of another border…)

  11. Thank you for connecting the dots for me. Now I see why a pandemic was needed: public redirection.

  12. Although I believe most of this is true and contributes to our status quo, I also want to believe the outcomes are not yet clear. It is my hope that this once great country, that was disciplined by honor, hard work and justice, can once again regain its moral underbelly. Otherwise we will devolve into an immoral artificial dystopia. And what kind of nihilistic hell are building for our children? Time for good people to get involved

  13. Most American citizens are self-medicated, superficial puppets waiting with bated breath for their next entertainment fix – god forbid we show any substance, thought or compassion in this dead as a doornail country…

  14. Formidable…the antidote to justifiable fear is courageous elucidation.

  15. The Unraveling of Empire

    Sometimes, the people of a nation can be good and the leadership good.

    Sometimes, the people of a nation can be bad and the leadership good.

    Sometimes, the people of a nation can be good and the leadership bad.

    And sometimes, the people of a nation can be bad and the leadership bad.

    Empires thrive most with that last group.

  16. Alas, this lack of self-critique is here in Canada as well. All four major parties support the prevailing capitalist economic system. They all claim to have the solution to fix and regulate through some sort of legislation that would “maybe” impose a wealth tax, when that does nothing to analyze why we even need one. It’s as if the pandemic, with no one talkin’ ’bout *Taking Animals Off The Menu*, having only exacerbated the isolation and complete lack of wanting to be seen. Underneath all this jockeying for position and power, we endure the ‘weakly’ Kardashian display of flesh, plus the melting ice weigh up north which, could care less. I’m so pleased that Chris is unafraid of being seen.

  17. This is 2021. Anyone can see the online photographs of post apocalyptic abandon in places like Baton Rouge where the state is governed by a Westpoint graduate. Where the unemployable drug addled children of the state’s elites fail their way into six figure government sinecures. Where the educated and capable have been excommunicated from the economy. Where the largest employer in the state is state government.

    What happens if Mexico cuts off our food tomorrow? We can’t bomb strawberries and watermelons into the grocery stores. Millenials won’t be happy with an all American soy and corn diet.

  18. Something readers will already know, is that life will go on, regardless of circumstances. Life is still pretty good for many people in the West, despite what Chris mentions. If you agree with many of his arguments, that good life will disappear over the coming decades. It’s a hard vision to cope with, but people will still strive to improve their lives and material circumstances regardless of the odds. If we could see the future out to thousands or millions of years, we might be able to put the changes into the context of history or evolution, but living now, we are experiencing those changes, and it’s sometimes hard to see past that.

    I, for one, believe that humanity can change, that we can become wiser and stewards of the planet, but wisdom, as you know, comes from making mistakes and if what Chris is saying comes to pass, these are pretty big mistakes.

  19. As usual….always good. Thank you Chris.

    I am wondering if we are seeing the implosion of the world economic system. I have been reading about The Transnational Capitalist Class and I am interested in how this TCC is beginning to transform the world into a new form of Feudalism.

    The only light that I can see is the one within myself, along with others, who are thinking and acting in the same way. The vast majority of people seem to be sleepwalking through this crisis. It seems as through people are trying to cope with this darkness by denying that it even exists. We can’t let the flame go out. Peace.

  20. Chris Hedges never fails to tell the truth, no matter how ugly it is, no matter how much it shatters our ego, no matter how much shame lowers our lofty heads. That being said, when, how and where do we collectively finally start screaming ENOUGH! Maxine Waters has started screaming most recently. Look how the fat cat GOP has responded to her. Are we too fearful to join her and others in the streets?

    1. You decry ENOUGH, then claim Maxine Waters…… How you get from there to her without a word in between is utterly beyond me.

  21. I agree with most of what Chris Hedges writes, but he needs to define some terms he uses:
    “…since March 16 the United States has had at least 45 mass shootings, including eight people killed in an Indiana FedEx facility on Friday, three dead and three injured in a shooting in Wisconsin on Sunday, and another three dead in a shooting in Austin on Sunday.”
    “Mass murder” was long considered by the FBI to be where at least four people were killed, not counting the shooter. “In 2013, Congress defined mass killing as a single incident that leaves three or more people dead.” NBC News and CNN count three or four people, respectively, injured or killed, not counting the shooter as a “mass shooting”. Obviously the differing definitions yield different results: in Chicago this year, there have been zero mass murder shootings by the FBI definition, and 23 “mass shootings” incidents by the NBC News agency definition. Soon the media will have ways to remove Black-on-Black shootings, such as those crimes involving drugs, robberies and gang violence, since Black murder victims evidently only count with their families, not with the media.
    Intentional Homicide Rate peaked in the US in the 1970s and 1980s at ~10 per 100,000; it was 4.96 per 100,000 in 2018 (most recent listed). In the Western Hemisphere, out of 50 countries, the US comes in near the bottom (#45 or #46) in intentional homicide rate (#1 El Salvador is over 10-fold higher). Typically there are 10,000 to 15,000 gun-related homicides in the US each year. Mass shootings are not quantitatively important in that number.

  22. One elephant in the room that seems never to be mentioned in this context is: what will happen to Israel when the USD ceases to be world’s reserve currency? America will almost certainly no longer be able to support it financially or militarily, correct? It seems Israel’s fate will be a big factor in those developments yet nobody talks about it.

  23. The USA hasn’t won a war since 1945 *including* the first gulf war because if that was a win what does losing look like if not a wall to wall Bush to Bush debacle.

    Unless one wants to count the Stupendous Massive Reagan Victory over the tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada …

    right on the heels and to distract attention from and therefore cover up the catastrophic disaster of the (unprotected) Lebanon barracks bombing that killed 407 USA and French soldiers.

    So that total was 407 USA and French soldiers dead and a teensy weensie victoire over the commie pinkos of Grenada.

    There was also nabbing former cia asset Manuel Noriega in Panama that might also count for a win but I dunno …

    1. After discovering how lucrative fighting wars can be, the United States has not made the mistake of winning another one since 1945.

  24. White supremacy is not a mere corollary to racism, it is white supremacy’s raison d’etre, justifying the American foundation of structural white supremacy as in police, the electoral college, the Senate, corporate and fascist judges (judges in the Debs, Assange, Hale, Manning, Kiriakou, Chicago 7 and other cases…

    the assassinations of the Kennedys, Malcolm X and Dr. King and the current Bezos funded recall against pioneering Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant…

    And the startling absence of the irrevocable inalienable and undeniable right to vote in the Holy Writ of the Constitution of 1787.

    Capitalism and democracy are mutually exclusive.

    So are white suprematism and democracy.

    So are empire snd democracy.

  25. The years of corporate propaganda and the subservience to hierarchical organizations whether governmental, religious or business have taken their tole on the American mind. It is now ‘the way’ of doing things.

    And I think much of the citizenry has retreated into a world of fantasy because it is so difficult to discriminate between what is reality and what is a constructed. The “real” reality is getting too painful to bare. The number of ecological, economic and social problems is over whelming.

    Destruction, which seems inseparable form our form of capitalism, and empire seems eminent.

    Perhaps as one of the characters in Frank Herberts Dune said: “creative anarchy is the path to survival in this universe”.

  26. Recommendations

    The great thing about surviving a few decades of a dying empire is that you get to watch and participate. It’s an active sport. And while you not make it out alive, no one can deny you a mixture of rottenness and misery each day. Bathe in that. Don’t fear it. And know you are alive and putrid! Give it and take it. Taste it.

    But there will be times of decency mixed in. Indulge in the decency, regardless it’s moving and illusory. Make a game of finding meaning each day. Never be too sure of any value for long. Hold on to whatever may satiate a relationship.

  27. Last paragraph, in stone.

    From google search of the initial term (provoked by reading Georgio Agamben, who led me to Michel Foucault):
    “Biopolitics is an intersectional field between human biology and politics. It is a political wisdom taking into consideration the administration of life and a locality’s populations as its subject. To quote Michel Foucault, it is “to ensure, sustain, and multiply life, to put this life in order.”
    From google search of Achille Mbembe’s “Necropolititics (enmity, malice politics)”
    “In the last lecture of “Society must be Defended” and in the last chapter of The History of Sexuality (Vol.1), Foucault noticed how biopolitics, that is, the positive power over life can become a deadly form of power. It is not only a “calculated management of life” but also a “power to expose a whole population to death”.  Drawing on the dramatic experiences of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes and on the global nuclear threat, Foucault highlighted how human masses are eliminated in the name of the protection and survival of a nation, a people and/or a class. Besides, he noted how racism has become the political tool that enables the biological division of the human species and the justification of the extermination of those considered inferior. Foucault insisted modern racism has developed with the “colonizing genocide”, so that the right to take life could be justified. ”
    – – – – – –
    That biopolitics definition, “the administration of life,” screamed at me, “Social Engineering.” This is the state defining life and imposing said definition on its (by definition) subjugated subjects. The individual and his or her freedom are reduced to the choice of TV shows and whatever goods of engineered obsolescence can be afforded. Production is gone “git ‘er done” and “make it bright and shiny.” Workmanship – an expression of individualism, in the end – is banned, or isn’t even possible.
    A trove of Michel Foucault’s titles is available free on the site INTERNET ARCHIVES. I’ve begun with “Society Must Be Defended” and, for a philosopher, Foucault is just about readable.
    The Clausewitz aphorism “War is the continuation of politics by other means,” is turned around and given as “Politics is the continuation of war by other means.” He’s making quite an argument of it. It rather fits with what Hedges is writing here.

    Foucault is one great thinker, and I highly recommend this read.

  28. Thank you Chris, for another beautifully rendered word portrait of the last Empire.
    Planet Earth is convulsing under the onslaught of incessant, mainly middle class consumerism, and there is little time left for another Empire to rise.
    Thank God.

  29. D.C. needs 50 million young immigrants tomorrow to file Form 1040’s for their long working life in American. What would the Federal Budget Deficit look like in the year 2040, without these young people entering our economy? David Stockman would be the perfect person to ask. Who votes for Continuing Budget Resolutions? The One Party System in D.C. Only w/ 50 million new sheep, can the One Party System in D.C. carry on.

    If China takes Taiwan, might D.C. deliberately default on all Chinese held Treasuries? Might D.C. convince her Allies to do the same; i.e., default on their Sovereigns held by the Chinese.

    The Trump Administration should have negotiated a 199 year Hong Kong style, totally sovereign, lease with Mexico. Int’l capital would flood in and overtime, border crossings slow down. I suggest a deep water port area and an interior area.

    There is zero transparency in our income tax system which serves the One Party System in D.C. All people know is that got a refund and how much. They do not know how many pennies on the dollar was their tax liability. But, they do know how much they paid last week for a gallon of milk and a gallon of gasoline.

    Only a Nat’l Sales, with generous exemptions for things purchased by the poor and lower income people, would give the People the transparency. Including F.I.C.A, might it be 25% ? Add in States sales tax, and it might be 30%. That’s real easy transparency and will be remembered everyday just like the People now do in regards to the high price of milk and gasoline.

    The U.S., W. Europe and Canada are the Narco States, because of it’s millions of unpunished drug “users.” Not Mexico.

    The biggest enemy of the People for decades has been, CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, Public television, MSNBC and the many others. And, they are responsible for mass shootings because of their 24/7 coverage. What does the FCC do about the coverage even during hours when kids are at home ? And, those polluting daytime ladies talk shows? TV is a vast and damaging wasteland. It has inflected great damage on the People.

    Covid has made the Police State much stronger. Police Unions should be outlawed. There should be an immediate end to “qualified immunity.” Every Police Officer should be required to Purchase Personal Liability Insurance; an idea that originated w/ Prof. Deborah Ramirez of Northeastern University. Her interview can be seen on Youtube.com Police Officers, their Unions and Departments should be prohibited from making political campaign contributions.

    I intend no Copyright of these thoughts and material.

    Thank you for your interest.
    H.H
    Writing from Federal occupied Nevada where the Capitol of the 13 Colonies owns 75% of our land. In contrast, they own just 4/10th’s of 1% of the Empire State of New York.

  30. Mr. Hedges nails it again, quite a feel-good story for a Monday right? 🙃At least it’s 4:20 tomorrow.

  31. Chris you certainly were “ordained to write” ! I wish every US citizen would read this and expunge their American exceptionalism beliefs. A country founded on genocide and slavery. That refuses to look at the truth of its history is doomed !

  32. Hi I respect Chris hedges and look forward to reading his articles even though they are somewhat depressing. I feel it is important to read what he has to say and stay informed on the current state of our society, especially the US Empire . That being said I am a bit skeptical regarding his claims off the global currency reserve and his predictions that the US dollar will soon be discontinued. Some of my research indicates that US dollar is climbing above 60% and there seems to be no indication of its demise. I would love to hear more or read more regarding Chris hedges and his predictions in this specific claim. As always, I love reading sheer post and all material from its dedicated writers.

  33. Was the USSR really an ’empire’, as ludicrously claimed here?

    Let’s see. The USSR ‘expanded’ into Eastern Europe, overwhelmingly as a defensive measure (ie, to have a ‘cordon sanitaire’) to deter another invasion from a real imperialist power, Germany for instance. In return, the USSR provided subsidies to its Eastern European satellites that no real imperialist power ever would. And the capitalist classes of these countries were expropriated and their economies subject to (bureaucratic) planning. The Poles had far higher per capita meat consumption than Soviet citizens, and in general Eastern Europe paid the USSR for staples and raw materials at below world market prices, and in turn the USSR paid higher than world market prices for Eastern European finished goods, machinery, etc. The USSR sold Cuba its oil at below world market prices and bought Cuban sugar at above world market prices.

    Afghanistan, on its opposite flank was also of military importance to the USSR, this time against the US who were helping to overthrow the left-nationalist Afghani government to use Afghanistan as a staging post against the USSR. The Soviet invasion was the best thing to have happened in Afghanistan’s history (then or since), where, for instance, women for the first time could get an education without fear of being murdered by religious fanatics. Thousands of Afghanis were sent to the USSR to get a tertiary education.

    None of the above is ‘imperialism’ by any stretch, which overwhelmingly occurred for non-economic, political and/or defensive reasons whose overarching aim was to neutralise aggression from actual imperialism.

    What characterises the modern imperialism of actual capitalist countries, aside from its proneness to inter-imperialist wars, is super-exploitation of the working population, and a plundering of the natural resources, of the subjugated country by monopoly capital that has outgrown the capacity of the exploiting country to absorb it. All of which involves holding back the subjugated country’s own social and economic development. It’s not an accident that imperialism’s victims are called ‘developing countries’, because they will always and forever be ‘developing’. As we can see, this is the exact opposite of what happened with supposed Soviet ‘imperialism’, or of today’s new liberal bogeyman, China, whose ‘belt and road’ initiative is being branded ‘imperialist’ by the shitlibs in the Washington blob.

    Hedges likes to decry liberals, but implicitly equates all military invasions or occupations as ‘imperialism’, showing here a purely moralistic understanding of imperialism no different from the average liberal.

    1. By this notion, you could excuse most of US hegemony in the western hemisphere as “defensive”.

      1. You miss the point: the economic relations between the USSR and its satellites were the exact opposite of imperialism. There was no inherent economic compulsion driving the USSR to conquer Eastern Europe or Afghanistan. It was purely military-strategic — these countries were a drain on the Soviet economy.

        Contrast that with imperialism: the imperial corporation (eg, United Fruit Company, Chevron, etc) extracts super profits from the subjugated country. When the subjugated population threatens to rise up, and when the local agents can no longer cope, then the CIA and/or the armed fist of the imperialist military is called upon. This is obligatory and not merely ‘policy’ — the imperialist ruling class demands and expects it. Also, objectively, no US intervention in the western hemisphere could ever be construed as ‘defending’ the US itself, despite all the propaganda. The US military in the Western hemisphere defends US corporate investments and interests.

        In contrast, Soviet military interventions aimed to defend not Soviet ‘capital’ or ‘investments’ but the USSR itself. And when the USSR also abolished capitalism that was always a good thing indeed, not unlike Emperor Napoleon’s exploits in cleaning out much of the feudal detritus of Europe.

      2. I’m not going to argue with such ahistorical rubbish.

        There satellite states had MANY resources the Russia-centric, Moscow-based Bolshevik government craved, including warm water ports, protein sources, gas, urianium, educated technicians, breadbaskets, and on and on — these are ECONOMIC benefits to a single monopolistic corporation — the Soviet state. Look at the economic development of industrialized, educated Czechoslavakia and grain-rich Poland, for example, when it came into Soviet orbit — the drain was toward Moscow, as ready-made munitions factories supported Cold War buildups and goods could be traded for the gas/oil excess of Siberia. Beyond the cost of policing these unwilling recruits, the real drain that would eventually break both the colonies and the colonizers was a sclerotic state capitalism that could not make an effective shift from industrialization and warfighting to a consumer/service-based economy in even the most basic of ways. When it came to the life basics (housing, medical care, calories) the Soviet system was a huge breakthrough for the peasants (at least those who survived the civil war, collectivization, and WWII) yet by the 1960s it was clear that you would have to keep their eyes averted from what their peers in western Europe were getting if you were to maintain positivity…

        When you tout the benefits of ending capitalism in those folks, you make it clear what your real stance is — just own that, instead of

    2. Very interesting and insightful comments. Are there a few good books or references that could help me understand some of the details that you present regarding the USSR and it’s role with the satellite eastern European nations?

      Thanks

      1. Yes there are plenty of good books and references regarding Soviet economic relations with its satellites. Probably the best single source is a report to the National Council for Soviet and East European Research, entitled “Costs and Benefits of Soviet Trade with Eastern Europe: A Theoretical and Quantitative Analysis, Part III, Implicit Subsidies in Soviet Trade with Eastern Europe”, by Michael Marrese (Northwestern University) and John Vanous (University of British Colombia). I’m not sure if links are allowed on this site, but if you google the above, it will appear.

        As for ‘theory’ that the USSR was ‘state capitalist’, ever since Karl Kautsky a convenient ideological bolt hole for ‘left’ and liberal anti-communists and latter day State Department socialists, see Trotsky’s “In Defense of Marxism”, and an excellent polemic against its later Maoist proponents called “Why the USSR is Not Capitalist”, both of which are available at the Marxists Internet Archive.

  34. Good read! Hedges assembles yet another insightful and tragic history to support convincing arguments for ideas related to a failing State along with uncomfortable but familiar signs of an empire in crisis.

  35. Dear Chris Hedges,

    for the last year or two I have been reading many of your posts, listened to a couple of your books and watched endless hours of you speaking. Many thanks for your great work and insight into the stories of our time.

    The lack of self reflection and unwillingness to adopt is really something that is hard to understand. I guess when systems get so big, they are impossible to control. One would think in order to benefit longer it would correct itself, but…

  36. Off topic, I admit.
    I flipped on the TV and the verdict in the Chauvin trial came in.
    Now, I was terrorized by Chauvin’s composure as he knelt on George Floyd’s neck. The feeling was half as bad – merely really bad – witnessing his composure at the trial. But the judge reading guilty, one, two, three… had Chauvin’s eyes darting left, then right, then left, then right, alternating as though on a precise timer.
    What the Hell? In all my life I’d never seen anything like it. Is going to haunt me for quite a while, I’m afraid.

  37. Chris specifically calls out Barack Obama and Susan Rice, yet still can not see the irony of calling this “racism” and “white supremacy.”

    “Naturally, the common people don’t want war … but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” — Hermann Goring.

    Thus lust for power and control, and the diversion to lofty ideals or “self-defense,” is limited neither to “Western civilization” nor governmental form. Excuses such as race, religion, “love” of king and the savagery of the “other” have always been the propaganda tools of choice to get the “common people” to not only be “dragged along” but to enthusiastically back war and shame those who oppose it. Power, authoritarianism (both dominant and submissive forms) and the herd mentality are the root causes, motivators and inherent tendencies; race is merely an occasional tool. Genghis Khan, Shaka Zulu and Montezuma were not “white,” and destroying a tool like racism would not fix the problem even if it could be achieved. Mankind will always have the contradictory tendencies of fearing the unusual versus curiosity, of competition versus cooperation. This can’t be solved by scapegoating white people and absolving non-whites of all responsibility.

    Chris does better when he shifts his focus to empire (power) itself rather than race. He recognizes the Roman military and the Pentagon as “a state within a state,” but fails to see the Anglo Empire or the global elite as a state outside of and superior to states. One can view the Suez Crisis as the end of the British Empire, but one can also view the world wars as the formation of the new Anglo/Western Empire that included the Commonwealth and the US, as Cecil Rhodes imagined, and vassalized the EU. The EU is now beginning to revolt, just as Athenian vassals did after Sicily.

    As the crisis of empire deepens, Chris foresees the establishment of “Christianized fascism” and a totalitarian state, for which the mechanisms of power have already been established. But conservative Christian churches have been at the forefront of resistance to medical martial law, which has been the spear point of growing liberal fascism, cancel fanatics and the frantic attempts to censor. Totalitarian rule is certainly one potential outcome, but it’s not inevitable. It may be the outcome in some Western vassal states but not in others. We’ll soon see how committed Americans are to cherished personal freedoms promised by the Bill of Rights. Admittedly, the signs are not good if the prevalence of masks and Covid vaccinations are a good indication. Still, there are suits being filed, election audits being performed and alternative websites and mailing lists are springing up. If one looks hard enough, one can find sources of Hydroxychloroquie and Ivermectin, and vitamin D is readily available to all.

    1. “Medical marital law… Admittedly, the signs are not good if the prevalence of masks and Covid vaccinations are a good indication…”

      So wearing masks and voluntarily getting vaccinations is an abandonement of civil liberties?

      Surely, you are actually more concerned about the shelter-in-place rules and shuttering of businesses than you are about people choosing to be safe and/or respectful to the safety of others?

      But, if so, are you also against enforcement of criminal laws, flouridation of the drinking water and limits on what pollutants individuals and organizations can expel into our shared environment, how individuals treat their own children, etc.?

      Individual rights absolutists frequently don’t seem to give two shits about the actual lives of humans or animals, or want to really explore where there logic takes them. In this case, the author credits churches for fighting for rights many of them would gladly take away from others who are not followers of their rigid path.

      I really don’t know when so many people on the “left” embraced libertarianism, but I find it quite odd and disconcerting.

      On a small note, of COURSE Hedges sees elites, national and global, as a state acting beyond the control of the social contract that supposedly defines the state.

  38. Russia, whose economy is roughly the size of Italy’s

    )))) Talk about being situationally unaware. But then again–US “journalism” is defined by that.

    1. I wondered about that too, but checking World Bank, IMF, and UN figures, Italy’s GDP ranks several above Russia’s. Surprised me as well.

  39. Pingback: Journal of People
  40. I was initially confused when I read that Amnesty International had declared the United States of America to be in a low level state of civil war back in 2020. Then I read the statistics regarding non-gang related mass shootings: 615 events in which four or more people were injured or killed. So far, this year’s number is on par to exceed the 2020 total, with between 160 and 175 events depending on whether you track with wiki or GVA. One can only conclude that the past two centuries of genocide and unchecked military and economic aggression in pursuit of land and resources, has finally reduced the population of our nation to psychopathic imbeciles incapable of exercising even the most basic levels of impulse control.

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