Refusing to be an Imperial Subject

Among my earliest memories in the late 1960s are anti-Vietnam war protests that I mostly experienced on TV. There was a cloud of teargas that wafted into my 6th grade classroom in North Oakland from the Governor Reagan-ordered National Guard assault on People’s Park protesters in Berkeley in 1969, but most of the upheavals of that era took place before I really came of age. By the time I was 15 in 1972, wondering if I would be drafted, the Vietnam War was winding down and the draft was soon abolished. During that time I had a class that focused for a month or two on “military justice,” emphasizing it as a quintessential oxymoron. I also heard about the U.S. role in the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile by way of FM radio newscasts that were great alternatives to the mainstream media (and exemplary of a time when the media’s hegemony and “truth” was being challenged from the grassroots left, not the aggrieved, resentful white right).

Here’s a collage from 2003 just before the attack on Iraq, attributed to the Committee for Full Enjoyment. (Yes that’s me when I still had hair!)

My political evolution through the 1970s into my early adulthood led me through anarchism (by way of the Spanish Civil War), anti-nuclear and pro-farmworker politics, and a consistent antipathy to the military. A bumper sticker of the era (that I had on my various vehicles) was white type on black background that mimicked the look of a contemporary ad for the U.S. Army: “Join The Army. Travel to exotic distant lands, meet exciting unusual people, and kill them.” When Reagan shockingly became president (surely he was too dumb and right-wing to be elected? Well, no), fired the Air Traffic Controllers and fired up the wars in Central America (and Grenada and Panama, plus backing Saddam Hussein in the 8-year Iran-Iraq war), local anti-war efforts focused on stopping arms shipments and halting the home-porting of the USS Missouri. When the Cold War collapsed in 1989, base closures followed, including nearly all the military properties in San Francisco and many around the bay. For a brief moment it seemed like maybe there was going to be a “peace dividend” and the long post-WWII slide into a military-industrial dominated society would begin to turn around.

The bumper sticker of my 1970s

As several of the books I look at here (see end for links) help to make clear, that didn’t happen, and it took a good deal of obfuscation and ideological gymnastics to ensure the continuity of the massive military budget when all the ostensible reasons for its maintenance were publicly disintegrating. David Vine in The United States of War has given us a detailed history of U.S. expansionism and empire from the pre-revolutionary colonial attacks on indigenous North America all the way to the recent offensive against ISIS in Syria (the book was published before the final collapse of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, now being carried on by Biden’s executive seizure of $7 billion in Afghan national assets, and ongoing punitive sanctions). Vine’s book is replete with informative maps that show each era of military-led expansion, first by building forts in other nation’s lands across the North American continent to facilitate western expansion and colonial subjugation of the first peoples, then seizing 1/3 of Mexico in the 1840s, and eventually the Philippines and a variety of islands in the Pacific and Caribbean by the turn of the 20th century, ending with a detailed look at the dramatic expansion of the U.S. military across the planet after WWII, with a less-known expansion of bases and hostilities across Africa since 2001.

It’s easy to imagine that the U.S. took a serious turn for the worse at various moments in history. A favorite of historians of a certain era was the seizure of the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii in 1898, ostensibly the first time the country became imperial in the manner of European states. But Vine is clear that that is a false understanding, and that there was never a period of U.S. history that wasn’t expansionist and covetous of neighboring (or far-flung) lands. Another moment some historians emphasize is World War II, and the fact that the U.S. was the only power physically stronger at the end of the war than at its outset. From its orchestration of a new world order in the post-war era, the United States embraced its new role as a pre-eminent superpower, though the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union became its explanation and rationale for its own militarism and incessant meddling. I never imagined the U.S. was anything but venal and ruthless in the 1950s, but Vine brought some statistics forward I hadn’t previously heard:

In a single year, 1958, the CIA led the government’s efforts to train more than five hundred thousand police officers in twenty-five nations, creating secret police units in nearly half and “strengthening repressive capacity” of undemocratic governments in particular. . . During his eight years in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized 170 major covert operations in forty-eight nations.

p. 201 and 202

Alfred McCoy in his latest To Govern the Globe: World Orders & Catastrophic Change offers a parallel list:

Between 1945 and 2000, the US intervened in 81 consequential elections worldwide, including eight times in Italy, five in Japan, and many more in Latin America. Between 1958 and 1975, military coups, many of them American-sponsored, changed governments in three dozen nations—a quarter of the world’s sovereign states—fostering a distinct “reverse wave” in the global trend toward democracy.

p. 227

I’ll come back to Vine a bit later when I return to the sheer madness of the economic side of this imperial project. But before that, it’s important to delve into its twisting self-justifications, which from the early days of the Cold War went through an Orwellian rebranding from war to defense, using deeply rooted definitions of the liberal self to render the brutal truth of a militarized empire largely invisible.

Joseph Darda has a great book called Empire of Defense—Race and the Cultural Politics of Permanent War. It’s probably one of the best treatments of the logic of U.S. militarism and foreign policy I’ve read (even though I just went through the eight books listed at the end during the past six weeks—along with several others!—there are dozens of books on these topics that have been published in the past few years). I would put Darda’s book as a bookend with Stephen Mexal’s book on 19th century western liberalism that I discussed way back in 2014. Darda lays out how President Truman reorganized the military establishment in 1948, changing the Department of War to the Department of Defense, creating the National Security Council and the NSA, the CIA, and the foundations for the expansive spook bureaucracies we now have (though we have little conscious idea of what they do with the hundreds of billions of secret money they spend every year). But the U.S. was inheriting the role of defending a colonial world order, but knew it had to do it while seeming to be anticolonial. The deep Jim Crow racism of WWII-era US life was a problem internationally, and when prominent Black activists submitted a document to the United Nations called “We Charge Genocide” against the United States, it set off urgent efforts to reframe the US role in the world. Here’s Darda’s main argument in a nutshell:

There is nothing aberrational about racism in the United States. It is woven into the American creed. Liberalism defines the human by universalizing the characteristics of white Western man and valuing all others based on their adoption of, or failure to adopt, his characteristics. It defines humanity through inclusion but also through the violence of assimilation and exclusion, securing the liberal freedoms of some by looting the land and labor of others . . . The liberal state, facing a rising anticolonial tide, constructed a color-blind color line through the idea of defense…. But defense also means defining who does and doesn’t count as mankind. Defense is a racial regime through which the state distinguishes between the human with the right to self-defense, the deferred human to be assimilated, and the nonhuman to be killed . . . The collapse of colonialism and the erosion of Jim Crow threatened to undo a world long governed by white Western men. The empire of defense contained the emerging crisis by criminalizing those threatening to change that world, turning Asia and Africa into a crime front and black and brown America into a war front. It policed the crisis through repression but also by reform and, by preaching anticolonialism and antiracism, made it difficult to tell the difference.

p. 12, 13, and 23

And Darda is clear that from Truman onward, the line between war and policing has been blurring continuously. Both the Korean and Vietnam Wars were defined as “police actions” at the start. Eventually the efforts to police drugs turned into the War on Drugs. Essentially policing and war-making are two sides of a process whereby elites create boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate ways of living. By the time the Cold War ended in 1989, the Drug War had been a major activity for the military in Central America and the heavily militarized police inside the U.S. itself. Darda shows how the first Gulf War (and the ensuing bombings of Somalia and Serbia in the 1990s) were framed as “humanitarian wars,” a rationale trotted out on behalf of the women of Afghanistan and the suffering masses of Iraq, too, in the first decades of the 21st century.

One of many images on our Democracy Wall on the former police station on Valencia Street.

Of all the forms the idea of defense has taken since the formation of the Department of Defense under the Truman administration—from anti-communism and antidrug to humanitarianism and counterterrorism—counterinsurgency may be the most ingenious and the most dangerous for how it turns permanent war into a lesson in cultural studies.…The military’s revised counterinsurgency field manual stressed that “the most important cultural form for counterinsurgents to understand is the narrative” because narratives organize a person’s identity, community, and values. . . Officers could do whatever they wanted to Indian “insurgents,” as long as they maintained the moral high ground. Academy textbooks taught the young men of the future officer class that the American Indian Wars were not wars at all but missions to police unlawful people. The army was responding to and containing disorder, they asserted, not creating it. Students were taught that insurgency (criminality) created the need for counter-insurgency (police). The earliest counterinsurgencies against American Indians constituted whiteness as the right to police not crime but criminal being—the right to define the boundaries between the legal and the illegal, the righted and the rightless . . . The empire of defense is founded on the normalization of liberal war as a counterbalance to illiberal beliefs and behaviors, a struggle to save lives rather than take them. That idea—that well-executed state violence saves more lives than it takes—explains why Obama’s effort to end the war on terror, including the drone-strike playbook, ended so little.

p. 159 and 160 and 188

This drive to otherize, mostly on the basis of a mythical white supremacy, is what the current wave of right-wing hysteria about Critical Race Theory is working overtime to reclaim. But the idea that book banning, laws controlling pedagogy, and ongoing wars over the curricula taught in schools will somehow reassert and consolidate a white supremacist denial of history is laughable. The cat is WAY out of the bag, and the vast body of new history just in the past two decades has buried the old American self-congratulatory whitewashing for good. The aggressive assertion of ignorance and denial in so many parts of our culture, usually rooted in fear and racism, is not going anywhere, but it’s not taking over either. It’s fighting a rear-guard last gasp effort to save its vanquished worldview, and can only temporarily succeed by loudly insisting on denial and silence.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s most recent book Not “A Nation of Immigrants”: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion is a good case in point. Her book, along with prior works by her, are rapidly being disseminated across the country, showing up in colleges and high schools everywhere. This rigorously documented account of the brutal violence unleashed as waves of colonial settlers followed the call to carry out the country’s “manifest destiny” to conquer the continent cannot be un-learned once it is understood. Among other things, she debunks the Kennedy-era PR campaign that the U.S. is a “nation of immigrants,” re-packaged and rolled out again during the Obama era. Kennedy was trying to help voters accept a Catholic as presidential and of course Obama was doing the same for African Americans, but in both cases, the use of the idea serves to obliterate the reality that everyone who came here from elsewhere was either enslaved, indebted, or willing to engage in violently seizing lands from the people who were already here.

Attempts to “include” Native peoples as victims of racism further camouflages settler colonialism and constitutes a type of social genocide. The US polity has been trying to rid itself of Indigenous nations since first settlement. Four hundred years later, multiculturalism is the mechanism for avoiding acknowledgment of settler colonialism.

p. 270

She finds a compelling 1934 quote from Nazi historian Albrecht Wirth in a German global history of the time:

Wirth hailed the founding of the United States: “The most important event in the history of the states of the Second Millennium . . . was the founding of the United States of America. The struggle of the Aryans for world domination received thereby its strongest prop.”

p. 193

And this dovetailed with a thought that began kicking around in my head a few weeks ago. How different would the world have been had the Nazis won WWII? It seems that the United States has done most of the violence that the Nazis would have inflicted had they been running their thousand year Reich. Obviously the Third Reich was a Fordist mass-oriented society, whereas post-WWII U.S. is based on the pseudo-individualism of mass consumerism. But the endless wars, the glorification of the military, the fusion of the state and corporate power, all have reached a zenith never imagined by the uniform- and conformity-obsessed Hitler and his followers. Using a complex liberalism based on white civilized men as the peak of sophistication and the bearers of full rights, Pax Americana probably has a lot more in common with what a Nazi world system might have looked like than we want to believe. Industrialized human slaughter was not pursued, but the millions uprooted, maimed, and killed by bombing, chemical warfare, political manipulation, and economic strangulation inflicted by the U.S. certainly tally up to a record of unequaled mayhem and mass murder.

The United States, still claims it is not an empire even though it has dozens of island possessions around the Pacific Ocean, neo-colonial islands like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and as Vine details in his book, over 800 bases in dozens of countries around the world. What other country has military bases in dozens of countries? With airforce and navy patrols the borders of every other country in the world? Only the United States. But as Todd Miller has ably demonstrated in his 2019 book Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World, the old idea of national boundaries is rapidly eroding in the early 21st century. “It is no longer entirely accurate to think of borders as lines of dispute between states; instead, they are places where states work together to pacify nonstate entities using special zones of exception.” (p. 24) In this sense, his analysis dovetails with Darda’s, identifying the function of the state in controlling or repressing those not deemed fully human, fully qualified for human rights, etc., i.e. “non-state entities.” Miller, like other writers in this group, finds his own angle on the merger of war and policing, inside and outside the official boundaries of the nation.

War has been reframed, the police have become more militarized; the military has been “policified.” While law enforcement agents carry AR-15s and work in zones of exception, like border patrols, soldiers are taking on law enforcement duties; the National Guard polices the border. [Jeff] Halper calls this the MISSILE complex, an acronym for military, internal security, intelligence, and law enforcement. The divisions of the police and military of the nation-state are breaking down and reforming to create an even more powerful force: the crux of homeland security.

p. 79

Sidewalk graffiti 2018

And who can argue against security? This is the root of permanent or infinite war (terms that come up in some of the other volumes too): when security “works,” you seek more, and when it doesn’t work, you need more. This is the ideal logic to justify endlessly rising military budgets, and not just military per se, but the now sprawling Department of Homeland Security, the heavily militarized border zone 100 miles from any actual border, and the hundreds of billions that disappear into the black budgets of CIA, DIA, DEA, NSA, and some 18 spy agencies now buried in the federal government’s bureaucracies.

Using funds from DHS, the State Department, the International Bureau on Narcotics Enforcement, the Export Control and Border Security Program, and the Department of Defense, the United States is pouring billions into its international border operations in the form of training programs and resource transfers. Attachés, advisors, and trainers are spread throughout the world.

p. 249

From the 1950s on to the present, a significant part of federal spending is used to project the techniques, technologies, and ideologies of the U.S. military/police/security apparatus around the world. No one votes for this. When it comes to funding the military the number of dissenters who have been elected to Congress are vanishingly small. The recent passage of an all-time high military budget of nearly $800 billion (which doesn’t include all the black budget billions, contingencies, and other accounting tricks to raise the total well beyond $1 trillion for ONE YEAR!) passed with huge bipartisan majorities and was quickly signed by Biden.

Vine quotes a 30-year military veteran, who says “The Department of Defense is no longer a war-fighting organization, it’s a business enterprise.” (p. 284) Given the abject failure to win any of the wars they’ve engaged in during the 21st century, it’s astonishing that politicians keep getting elected who wrap themselves in the flag and claim, against all evidence, that we have the best military in the world, with the best, bravest soldiers, etc. etc., ad nauseum. The reality is quite obviously different.

Andrew Cockburn has been writing critical analyses of military spending in Harper’s Magazine for years, and now a lot of that work has been compiled in the new book The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine. He starts off with a bang (so to speak!), quoting former Air Force fighter pilot Colonel John Boyd:

People say the Pentagon does not have a strategy,” he said. “They are wrong. The Pentagon does have a strategy. It is: ‘Don’t interrupt the money flow, add to it.’ ”

p. xii

Cockburn’s chapters, mostly articles from his Harper’s opus, unpack the endless series of scandals, like the F-35 boondoggle, the pointless F-22 Raptor, the utterly corrupt and counterproductive efforts to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan. He also shows how even when things go “right” they go wrong. Quoting analyst Franklin Spinney’s investigatory work, he shows “how the project budgets for various ambitious weapons-buying plans had never materialized, at least never to the degree necessary to buy the projected number of actual weapons—hence the shrinking forces.” (p. 46) For example, the F-35 costs almost six times more than the F-16 it’s replacing, while the Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer costs 4 times more than the ones they’re replacing ($7.5 billion each!)

The Zumwalt’s overruns were so enormous that although the original plan called for thirty-two ships, production was cut to just three.

p. 54

Cockburn, like his sibling writers, has a sharp pen, and finds the stories that make his analysis sing. He found a Pentagon story known to many: “Ivan Selin, a senior Pentagon official, would inform newly arrived subordinates in the 1960s Pentagon that they would be programming “weapons that don’t work to meet threats that don’t exist.” (p. 61) But he goes further and connects this hilarious aphorism that rules the weapons procurement world to the current hysteria about hypersonic weapons supposedly in development by Russia and China. He sardonically notes that the U.S. and Russia have taken Selin’s axiom a step further:

they mean to deploy a weapon that doesn’t work against a threat that doesn’t exist that was in turn developed to counter an equally nonexistent threat.

p. 69

When I was a young college student at Sonoma State in 1975 I recall attending a teach-in on the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), which was created by the Johnson administration in 1968 with a budget of $7.5 million and had already ballooned to $850 million under Nixon in 1973. The logic of the LEAA was to promote national standards and procedures for domestic policing through sharing resources and training. Eventually the Pentagon set up a program called 1033 that “had delivered $5 billion worth of equipment between 1990 and 2014, including $1.4 billion in tactical military equipment. The program began in 1990 to funnel surplus military equipment to help police departments wage the war on drugs. It expanded in 1997, and then again after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.”

A Winston Smith poster from 2007, reposted in 2017 on Valencia Street

During the George Floyd protests in summer 2020 I recall thinking that it was so overdue, and how much I hoped it would connect to not just the idea of “defunding the police,” but the dismantlement and radical defunding of the globe-spanning US military and empire. While millions marched in open rebellion against white supremacy and police violence, the calls for pulling the plug on the war machine and US Empire were rather muted, even though the two are inseparable. Across the pond, an old friend was foregrounding his recommitment to combating nuclear war, another ticking time bomb. Bizarrely, and tragically, Obama authorized a $1 trillion multi-year “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and for many of who have been anti-nuclear since the 1970s, we could only wonder “what WAS he thinking?” And Cockburn has a simple answer: “there has clearly been a rational motivation underlying all these elaborate preparations for nuclear war over the years: money.” (p. 39) David Vine addresses this too:

The cost of nuclear weapons and additional military spending in the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Veterans Affairs brought annual totals to around $1.25 trillion in 2019. Total costs for the post-October 7, 2001, wars, including obligated future spending on interest and veterans care, will soon reach $6.4 trillion . . . Weapons production and other military spending became the “largest public works project” in the postwar era… While other wealth industrialized nations created welfare states after World War II with investments in universal health care, education, child care, housing, and other social benefits, U.S. leaders and elites created a warfare state built around the construction and maintenance of military bases, the world’s largest arms industry, a large standing military, and the wars that followed in their wake.

p. 281 and 316

Or, as Malm and the Zetkin Collective put it in their White Skin, Black Fuel: On The Danger of Fossil Fascism:

… war was the continuation of industry by other means and vice versa, and if people could only open their eyes to this presence of death in their daily life, they would see it shine. This perpetual warring rested, of course, on a primordial war against nature. That was the enemy that must be vanquished before any other.

p. 411

Their book is a fantastic, detailed, and well-researched examination of the rise of the far-right in various European countries, especially Poland, Norway, Hungary, Sweden, France, Spain, Italy, and Holland, and of course Trump and his followers in the U.S., Bolsonaro in Brazil, and to a lesser extent Duterte in the Philippines. The historic trajectory of fascism, starting at a time when capitalist expansion was still a growing future-leaning movement, but now representing a defensive, fearful withdrawal behind walls and guns, is much more closely linked than you might at first imagine to oil and coal. Even though some far-right politicians and some mass murderers have claimed “green” motivations for their exclusionary and death-dealing activities, for the most part, the far right engages in outright denial about climate chaos, while insisting on their rights to burn as much oil or coal as they want to as fast as they can (this is especially true in oil-rich Norway, and coal-heavy Poland). The writers realize they are dealing with “men [who] on some level of their psyche actually desired the destruction of the planet.” (p. 194) And that’s when you realize that the whole project embedded in the West, in the settler colonialism that subjugated the world, is not simply exploitation, not simply extraction, not slavery or genocide… its omnicide.

And that brings us finally to Amitav Ghosh’s brilliant book The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis. He is such a joy to read. His deeper ruminations on the logic that underlies world history starting from the Dutch genocide against the Banda islanders in what is now Indonesia in the mid-1600s (so they could control the nutmeg and mace trade), all the way to the current world chaos, does not shrink from the dramatic conclusion that we are on a trajectory toward omnicide.

It is a vision in which genocide and ecocide are seen to be not just inevitable, but instruments of a higher purpose. Indeed, this worldview goes much further than either ecocide or genocide: it envisions and welcomes the prospect of “omnicide,” the extermination of everything—people, animals, and the planet itself. The end of the world is seen, as Tennyson puts it, as the “far-off event” that allows Man to realize his true self, as pure Spirit, disencumbered of all fleshly and earthly ties. These ideas may appear deranged, but they continue to constitute a vital substrate of contemporary imaginaries. Signs of this substrate are everywhere around us: in the evangelical Christian idea of the “Rapture”; in the apocalyptic visions of ecofascists; in the dreams of those who yearn for a world “cleansed” of humanity; and in the fantasies of billionaires who, having grown tired of this surly Earth and its sullen inhabitants, aspire to create a tamer version of it by terraforming some other planet. Their dream may be wrapped in futuristic cladding, but is in in fact nothing but an atavistic yearning to put in motion once again the processes of terraforming by which settler-colonials turned large parts of the Earth into “neo-Europes.”

p. 82

Ghosh is trying to understand why so much evidence can accumulate about the direction we’re going (towards planetary ecocide) and yet lead to so little change. It led him to go centuries back to the earliest European settlements in Asia and North America to examine the exterminationist behavior of those early colonizers. And given his deep roots in his natal India, he is able recognize that the logic of settler colonialism has triumphed across the world, to the point that the fascistic government of Narendra Modi in India is applying the same logic to the millions of impoverished forest dwellers in central India, and the Chinese Communist Party is applying it to the Uighurs in the far northwest of China’s territory. It no longer demands “whiteness” per se to justify a policy of extermination on behalf of the machine-like logic of capitalist expansion and accumulation.

He states the obvious, that capitalism is and has always been a war economy, and that any country’s ability to create and maintain an empire and to project its military force is

directly connected to the size of its carbon footprint—and this has been true since the early nineteenth century. During the Second World War the American military’s consumption of petroleum amounted to one gallon of petroleum per solider per day; during the first Gulf War this rose to four gallons per soldier per day; in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rate of consumption surged to sixteen gallons per soldier per day . . . In the 1990s the three branches of the US military consumed approximately 25 billion tons of fuel per year. This was more than a fifth of the country’s total consumption, and “more than the total commercial energy consumption of nearly two thirds of the world’s countries.” During the years of the Iraq War, the US military was consuming around 1.3 billion gallons of oil annually for its Middle Eastern operations alone. That was more than the annual consumption of Bangladesh, a country of 180 million people.

p. 121-122

And yet, in all the talk of global agreements to combat CO2 emissions, military sources are not even mentioned! Ghosh’s book is a brilliant tour-de-force that will make you think deeply and philosophically about our predicament, while learning a great deal about histories that have shaped us without our knowledge. Similarly, Malm and the Zetkin Collective’s book on fossil fascism helps in a way no other book does, to make clear the connections between anti-immigrant hysteria, far-right political gains, and the odd role of fossil capital in underwriting it, embracing it, and promoting it as a “solution” to the impasse they are rapidly approaching—when millions of people begin to directly dismantle the machines and infrastructure that continue to destroy the earth.

I am heartened to think that the millions of people who hit the streets in the middle of the pandemic to protest the deep structural racism of U.S. life are still out there, still organizing, still ready to combat the tide of reaction that seems to be rising. I, like many, wonder what will be the catalyst for the next appearance of social revolution, but we can hardly doubt that the people who can make it happen are us. We are many, they are few. A new world beckons, the old one is burning. And other inspiring (or laughably irrelevant) last words!

Empire of Defense—Race and the Cultural Politics of Permanent War

by Joseph Darda, University of Chicago Press: 2019

Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World

by Todd Miller, Verso Books: 2019

Not “A Nation of Immigrants”: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion

by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Beacon Press: 2021

The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis

by Amitav Ghosh, University of Chicago Press: 2021

The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine

by Andrew Cockburn, Verso Books: 2021

The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State

by David Vine, UC Press: 2020

To Govern the Globe: World Orders & Catastrophic Change

by Alfred W. McCoy, Haymarket Books: 2021

White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism

by Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective, Verso Books: 2021

Banksy made it to Sycamore Alley in 2010.

2 comments to Refusing to be an Imperial Subject

  • Brilliant summary of some very hard-hitting books. Of course, you know that the only false note I will detect is the obligatory hopium windup at the end.
    “They” may be few, but they are extremely powerful and gaining even more power by the accursed day, and we haven’t got the slightest inroad to stem the demyelinated lunacy of omnicide. Still, hats off to such deeply informed reading and writing.

  • David Gibbons

    The pandemic has been a great storm, clawing at the weaknesses in the edifices of power. The people at the bottom of the edifices of power slowly are beginning to decline to play the game. So many ‘help wanted’ signs, but people are beginning to decline to receive the benefits of the current ‘social contract’. That social contract has included an early clause: “You will all support the military-industrial complex without question, though your children have no food or shelter, for the children shall be secure behind our weapons”.

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