FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Empire Project, Another Round

by RON JACOBS

There is a debate currently taking place in the Burlington, Vermont region over the Pentagon’s desire to station F-35 fighter bombers at an Air National Guard base nearby.  As usual, the proponents of the planes and their “bedding down” (as the Pentagon calls this action) in Vermont make claims of jobs and other benefits if the planes are based in Vermont.  Opponents oppose the planes on a number of grounds: noise levels and the accompanying loss of property values, health issues related to the noise, and the dependence on the war economy, to name a few.   Like most decisions by the Pentagon, the opinions of the people affected are the least important of any of the factors involved.

The reason I mention the debate, however, has much to do with a book I just finished reading: The book, titled War and Empire by Paul Atwood (acting director of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences and a faculty member in the American Studies Department at UMass-Boston), is a survey of the ongoing project of American Empire.  As I follow the remarks of different people engaged in the F-35 debate, echoes of the nationalist conceit known as American exceptionalism are present everywhere.  Of course, the most obvious have come from the fiercest proponents of the F-35 and the military they service.  One such person put it plainly as possible when he wrote to the local Gannett outlet that the roar of the fighter planes was the sound of freedom.  Who cares about the death and destruction they represent, much less some pansy’s hearing?  On the other side of the argument, however, are those who always preface their opposition to the planes’ presence with praise for the military and its mission of “protecting our freedom.”  Then there is Vermont’s liberal Congressional delegation, all of whom are quite supportive of the Pentagon’s plan.

Atwood’s text provides a litany of instances and a multitude of words from throughout US history detailing the nation’s progression from a bunch of European colonizers to an international syndicate stealing resources and labor and replacing that with US corporate products and empty culture.  While this occurs, politicians and their media sycophants gloss the whole enterprise over with words like freedom and democracy.  Atwood’s judicious use of quotes and his explanation of historical incidents explain US history in a manner unfamiliar to many US citizens.  It is this unfamiliarity which assists the creators of Empire in their ongoing march.

Other books have done US history in a manner similar to Atwood.  Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States comes quickly to mind.  However, where Zinn emphasizes the popular (and not so popular) resistance to the US imperial project, Atwood’s text focuses on the logical progression from colonial settlement to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The economic underpinnings of empire are mentioned and discussed, especially in relation to the religion, racism and nationalist rationales that are used to encourage support for policies that primarily benefit corporate entities.

The history Atwood narrates in War and Empire is not new material for the critical student of US history.  Unfortunately, those are becoming few and far between.  Indeed, it seems to this writer that the predominant approach to history these days is one that historian Newt Gingrich would be happy to teach.  While school boards in Arizona remove books discussing the history of the American Southwest from a Latino point of view and textbook publishers allow censors in Texas to remove negative mentions of slavery from history textbooks, many other US residents get their version of history from television networks beholden to profit, religion and an American triumphalism that denies and glosses over criticism of US policy.  In short, there has never been a greater need for Atwood’s book.  Its concise and politically neutral narrative, combined with its brevity, make it the perfect US history book for any interested reader, no matter what their politics or scholarly status.

Getting back to the debate over the F-35s in Vermont, especially in relation to this book.  It is precisely because of their misunderstanding of US history and the military’s role in it that both proponents and opponents of the planes can praise the military for protecting their freedom.  Perhaps if they read War and Empire, neither side would be linking the words freedom and US military in their arguments.  Then again, if they did, at least they would be conscious of the misconception they were perpetrating.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail