Kirstein Publishes Anti-Imperialism Essay to Accompany Art Exhibit in Slovenia

The essay below has been published in a book, Necessary Discourse on Hysteria, that accompanied a major art exhibit at the Koroska Gallery of Fine Arts, Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia that was held in November-December 2008. Its chief curators were Jernej Kozar and Rado Poggi. While the essay was written before the 2008 presidential election, it has been updated and its main arguments remain valid. I just received a copy of the exhibit publication with essays from other international contributors and images of the exhibit. This is the full citation: Necessary Discourse on Hysteria. Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia: The Koroska Gallery of Fine and Applied Arts Slovenj Gradej, 2009. {ISBN: 978-961-91463-5-4}

“American Imperialism and the Paranoid Style of American Politics.”

Richard Hofstadter, a major American historian of the postwar era, wrote an essay for Harper’s magazine, The Paranoid Style in American Politics in 1964. Whether it was Roman Catholicism, populism or masonry, communism or McCarthyism, this tendency to construe America as a nation under siege is a strong undercurrent of its oppressive culture and ethos. Yet I think paranoia is to a large extent cynically manufactured by the ruling classes in order to advance their personal quest of power projection and global domination.

An example was the shameless political advertisement of Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York. It depicted a phone ringing in the White House at 3:00 a.m. to suggest that then Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, could not be trusted as Commander in Chief and lacks the capacity to deal with an unannounced threat to the national interest. The ad was also inherently racist, as it depicted non-African-American children sleeping at that hour, but vulnerable if an African-American were elected president. It simply pandered to age-old hysterical themes of racial and national-security insecurities. Hysteria is frequently a manufactured by-product of power maximizing. An imperial, racist nation that practices global state terrorism is unwilling to encounter its own malevolence and so it projects onto others irrational qualities of evil and power. Recall the criminal invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003 was fueled by a hysterical overreaction to both the potential power and putative presence of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Jihadists, Muslims in general, terrorists, Al Qaeda, Hizbollah, Hamas, al Quds unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) are designated or depicted as terrorist organisations. The Department of State would be well served to designate the United States as a terrorist organisation if that term is going to be utilised to designate crimes against civilians committed for political objectives. The deemphasis on using the word “terror” is noticeable since Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president on January 20, 2009.

Yet the continued listing of so-called terrorist nations or non-state actors is an effort to dehumanise and marginalise those who have legitimate grievances against the United States, Israel and other oppressive governments. No other nation is as frightened as the United States about the external world and yet ironically no other nation can project power across the full spectrum of military assets. Yet this power has led to a perpetual unease, a sense of hysteria, a compulsion and addiction to war, a rogue state status of human rights violations and a slow but palpable decline in both the standard of living and civil liberties.

America’s greatest enemy is not external but internal. The power elites ranging from the neo-conservatives, the Israel Lobby, the centrist supporters of imperial overstretch such the Council on Foreign Relations, the Democratic and Republican parties, the immoral and unethical rulers of Wall Street and the Pentagon are the true enemies of the people. Great nations cannot sustain popular support of its endless wars and military adventurism unless it convinces the populace that their freedoms are enhanced by this madness.

Most Americans are proud of their country’s superpower status and are convinced that their freedom and putative democracy are sustained and nourished by constant muscular vigilance, frequent wars and an unrestrained worshipping of its military culture. Indeed, patriotism and love of country are to a large extent predicated on the belief that the American military is the sine qua non for our prosperity, protection and stability as a nation. Military academies, think tanks, specialised military universities, war-memorial monuments as prolific as McDonalds’s restaurants, veterans groups, Air Force Ones, marine presidential helicopters, colour guards, bellicose “bombs bursting in air” national anthems, p.o.w. flags, national holidays such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day and lesser ones as Armed Forces Day and the universality of the American flag are constant reminders of martial attributes that embrace war and violence to resolve interstate conflict. Washington, D.C. is virtually a military theme park that reflects the core values of the nation with scant attention to international peace and security.

At some point, the military empire that undermines our nation’s security needs to be dismantled and downsized in a manner that would not lead to unilateral disarmament beyond legitimate self-defence, but would clearly reduce the capacity of the arrogant hyperpower to wage war. Speaking truth to power, the United States of America is such a dangerous, irresponsible and destructive force, that for the sake of international peace and security, America must become a less powerful and more rational-state actor. The Fate of the Earth hangs in the balance.

Presidential Election, 2008:

I would prefer that one of the major candidates would have stated categorically that American imperialist forces would be withdrawn from Iraq without the usual qualifications of “orderly,” “systematically” etc. and critique the war in a manner that does not merely emphasise its impact on United States vital strategic interests in Afghanistan but as an immoral and ruthless projection of American power. The only candidate that did not vote for the authorisation to use force was former Senator Barack Obama. Even though he was not serving in the United States Senate but the Illinois State Senate, he publicly opposed the war on October 2, 2002, nine days before the Senate, with a Democratic party majority I might add, approved the evil joint-war resolution to send American military forces to Iraq.

In comparison to then Senator Clinton, there could be construed a greater credibility in the Illinois senator’s plan to withdraw one to two combat brigades a month and complete the withdrawal in sixteen months. As president, he appears to be implementing this phased withdrawal from Iraq and then deploying them to Afghanistan.

Senator Obama stated before his election as president he would engage in direct diplomacy with heads of state with which the United States has adversarial relations. These would include Iran, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela and Syria that would be diplomatically engaged without preconditions but with a suggested agenda of relevant items. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Mrs. Clinton, now ironically secretary of state, rejected such a rapprochement as naïve and as giving aid and comfort to our enemies.

The old politics of Cold War era confrontation does not quickly subside from this ruthless nation. A new politics is certainly needed where hegemonic aspirations are tempered with a more collegial and internationalist view of world politics. I think it naïve that America’s role in the world can be more constructive and less lethal in the absence of a more creative inter-state diplomatic agenda.

The costs of the Iraq war may reach three trillion dollars according to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. The war budget alone is annually about one trillion when, in addition to the Pentagon, one includes the intelligence services, the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Also the soaring health care costs for tens of thousands of wounded and psychologically damaged Iraq War veterans are part of the unsustainable economic burdens of the war to the United States economy. Rich nations do not have unlimited resources to police the world. Forty eight million Americans are without health insurance and the gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor is growing. Poor African-American males die at age 66.9 but the life expectancy of affluent white women is 81.1 years. This is not entirely the result of the Iraq War but it is arguable that the priorities of war, hegemonic domination and white Judeo-Christian supremacy demonstrate that a militarised society does not emphasise social equality at home, much less abroad.

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