Imperialism Military Nicholas Powers

As We Celebrate Independence, the US Stifles Freedoms Around the Globe

The U.S. has been a major force of violent repression globally that stamps out people’s hopes for freedom and justice.
US troops convoy in Syria. Sgt. Arjenis Nunez, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Nicholas Powers / Truthout

As fireworks boom and politicians solemnize Independence Day, the United States betrays the freedom of people around the world. The 4th of July is a strange spectacle: In Washington, D.C., patriots wave American flags at a parade even as the U.S. approves Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara, helping to crush the Sahrawi people’s hope for independence.

Take your pick: Rwanda to Bahrain, Israel to Morocco; the U.S. is the boss of an international ring of client states that crush dissent. It has flooded dictatorships and settler-colonial regimes with military weapons and drone bombed the hell out of innocent people in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. The world’s top arms seller, it ignores human rights abuses of customers who purchase weapons to kill civilians.

Add it up. The reality of the U.S. starkly contrasts with the image it sells on the 4th of July. The U.S. is not a beacon of freedom. It is a terrorist state. It is one of the major forces of violent repression that stamps out people’s hopes for freedom and justice.

Lord of War

Right now, planes filled with U.S.-manufactured guns and ammo land in airports of nations where activists are jailed or shot. Right now, an immense river of money from the U.S. fills the bank accounts of dictators and corrupt presidents who rig elections so they never have to leave office. Meanwhile, occupations from Morocco to Israel are greenlit.

In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame seized power after Hutu state militias committed genocide against Tutsis in 1994. More than half a million were killed or raped. Kagame, a Tutsi commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front became president in 2000 and has remained since. Riding on Western guilt over the genocide, he has become more authoritarian. Human Rights Watch released a report on opposition leaders and journalists who have been jailed or killed. One exiled opposition politician was recently shot in South Africa as Kagame rigs elections in Rwanda.


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Yet the U.S. provides military training and aid to Kagame’s regime. It has a Status of Forces agreement that lets American soldiers in and out of the nation with no oversight. In 2020, the U.S. signed a five-year development package for $643 million.

Or take Equatorial Guinea, dominated by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who ripped power from his uncle in 1979 and has sat in office ever since. Mbasogo is rich. Filthy rich. Several hundred million dollars rich. Yet three-fourths of his nation’s people live in poverty. According to a Human Rights Watch report, most children in Equatorial Guinea are not immunized to polio or measles and do not attend school. Half the population doesn’t have safe drinking water. Why? Well, the president and his regime are incredibly corrupt. The oil-rich nation is sucked dry by high-level officials going on shopping sprees.

Yet President Joe Biden invited Mbasogo to attend the U.S. African Leaders Summit in order to use it as a bulwark against China’s increasing influence. Of course, the U.S. wants that oil badly. A 2020 U.S. State Department report notes, “The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is endowed with oil and gas resources that attracted billions of dollars in direct U.S. investment instrumental to extracting those resources.” There you have it, folks! Who cares that a dictator is sitting on the oil drum!

You can pull the lens back and spin the globe to find Israel, a U.S. client state that gets $38 billion from 2017 to 2028 in a military aid package signed by President Barack Obama – even as the United Nations calls out Israel for its apartheid policies and illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

Add to that list: Egypt, Jordan, the Philippines and Bahrain. In a 2017 Truthout essay, Rich Whitney crunched the numbers and found the U.S. supports over 73 percent of the world’s dictators.

Bombs Bursting Everywhere

If the United States was at a strip club, it would shower mass murderers with dollar bills. The U.S. loves to bankroll corrupt client states and arm dictatorships. It does not matter if a Democrat or a Republican is in the Oval Office. It does not matter if the secretary of state, Homeland Security secretary, the president or vice president is Black or Latino, white or Asian. The agenda for all at the helm of the U.S. state is global hegemony.

U.S. “foreign policy” (imperialism) always drives toward the same goals: secure access to cheap resources and labor for its ruling class. To do so, the U.S. arms to the teeth so it can bully weaker nations. At first, this colonial system was openly racist, famously referred to as “the white man’s burden.” Later, after anti-racist movements made this overt racism untenable, the U.S. began to hide its empire under the loud, garish advertising of democracy. Noam Chomsky has called U.S. foreign policy directed by a “godfather principle, straight out of the Mafia” for its use of violence.

If you dial time backward, here’s a brief and incomplete list of U.S. imperialism. The so-called founding fathers hungrily eyed Native people’s lands. A genocidal fantasy named Manifest Destiny led wave after wave of European migrants to terrorize and steal. The U.S. stole from Mexico what is now New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. It stole Puerto Rico. It stole Guam. It stole Samoa. It stole the Virgin Islands. Its troops occupied Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It propped up the dictators of both islands, who killed and exploited their people. After World War II, it demolished Communist parties in Europe, who led resistance against the Nazis, to restore capitalist control. It backed the Shah of Iran against a democratically elected government. It took over from France a colonial war against the Vietnamese and bombed, burned and brutalized the tiny nation. It backed the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in Chile and supported a brutal right-wing dictatorship. It organized Operation Condor, a campaign to decimate the left in South America that killed 60,000 activists. It interfered in the struggle of African nations in the 20th century for independence by making sure no regime would defy the interests of multinationals. It has repeatedly vetoed UN resolutions by the Palestinians to establish their own state.

I can go on. And on and on. We can look at the Iraq War — or how the U.S. currently arms Saudi Arabia as it fires so many missiles into Yemen that the cities look like the cratered surface of the moon.

How many families have run from our bombs? How many fled a dictator we supported as their police dragged people by the hair into jail and tortured them? How many lost lives?

Freedom From U.S. Empire

Right now, smiling Americans celebrate. We got a day off. We can bask in patriotic hype of the U.S. as it pushes for cold war with China and fights a proxy war against Russia. We can say these are struggles for democracy. Yet most citizens seem to blissfully ignore the mountain of death made by the U.S.

One can say, Americans don’t know this history. Wherever we turn — be it movies or a web-series or music — our celebration of militarism is a wall that keeps us from seeing the truth of our nation.

Maybe the truth is more disturbing. Maybe we don’t want to know. Our government betrays our values to maintain power. It can because so many citizens want American exceptionalism that deep down, they believe anything is worth it to keep it, even killing innocents.

Or maybe, the reason the U.S. has engaged in endless war is because the American Revolution was never finished. What if we did? What does life look like if, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [humans] are created equal”?

What if we join hands with people around the world seeking freedom, even if it meant their freedom from us?

They are here. They are doing the work. Join Dissenters, the multiracial and class-political youth trying to end militarism. Support the Palestinian Youth Movement or CODEPINK. Or throw down at Rev. Billy’s The Church of Stop Shopping, a longtime activist choir that raises the roof in New York’s Lower East Side with socialist gospel and dancing and protest.

People are rising. They are declaring a new independence. They are saying: Another world is possible.


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Nicholas Powers

Nicholas Powers is the author of Thirst, a political vampire novel, and The Ground Below Zero: 9/11 to Burning Man, New Orleans to Darfur, Haiti to Occupy Wall Street, both published by Upset Press. He has been writing for Truthout since 2011. His article, “Killing the Future: The Theft of Black Life” in the Truthout anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? coalesces his years of reporting on police brutality.

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