Thursday, March 29, 2007

Flexing Imperial Muscles in the Middle East

Jacob Hornberger’s Commentary

In the wake of the Iranian capture of British sailors, U.S. Naval forces are conducting “exercises” in the Persian Gulf, heightening tensions against Iran. (Surprise, surprise!)

Bush administration officials say that the exercises are intended to send a message — that Iran is not going to be permitted to expand its influence and power in the Middle East. (You would think they would have thought about that before installing a pro-Iran regime in Iraq.)

As one anonymous senior U.S. official put it, “Iran has been trying to send a message for some time that we are on the way out, that they are the natural great power of the region and that everybody should circle around Iran. This whole thing [the Naval exercises] is designed to send a message to the region. We are sending a message that we are here to stay.”

That is classic empire talk! Isn’t that exactly the way officials in the Roman, Soviet, and British empires spoke?

Suppose Iran sent a fleet of battleships and carriers into the Gulf of Mexico and declared to Washington, “This exercise is designed to send you a message about your aims to expand your power and influence in Latin America. You will not be permitted to do so, and we are here to stay.”

U.S. officials would have a conniption fit, no doubt about it.

Now, suppose some Iranian soldiers “strayed” into U.S. territorial waters and were taken into custody by U.S. officials. What do you think would happen to the Iranian captives?

They would never be permitted to set foot on American shores. Instead, they would be shackled and goggled and then shipped to Guantanamo Bay or one of the CIA’s secret overseas prisons, where they would be subject to torture and sex abuse as “enemy combatants” in the “global war on terror.”

Now, how do you think U.S.-British Empire officials would respond if the British soldiers who were recently taken captive were whisked off by Iranian officials to some secret Iranian prison camp, where they were disrobed and subjected to the same mistreatment, torture, and abuse that prisoners have been subjected to at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the CIA’s prison camps?

U.S. and British officials would have a conniption fit, no doubt about it.

The U.S. Empire is currently engaged in the same imperial misconduct in the Middle East in which it has been engaged for decades, which has caused untold damage to America, including the 9/11 attacks. And to what avail? People in the Middle East hate the U.S. more than ever, which makes the threat of terrorism that much greater, which only solidifies the Pentagon’s power over the American people.

Why, even longtime ally Saudi King Abdullah is now calling the U.S. occupation of Iraq “illegal” (which, of course, it is). How long before Abdullah becomes the new Official Enemy, just as former U.S. partners and allies Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden did?

The basic issue is: What business does the U.S. government have occupying Iraq, conducting naval exercises in the Persian Gulf, and threatening Iran with war? Answer: No more business than Iran would have occupying Mexico, conducting naval exercises in the Gulf of Mexico, and threatening the U.S. with war.

When Americans finally wish to restore freedom, harmony, and peace of mind to our land, they’re going to have to confront the paradigm of empire, militarism, and interventionism that holds our nation in its grip. Otherwise, if they want their empire, they need to get used to imperial muscle-flexing, perpetual war and international tensions, and to the loss of their liberty, prosperity, and harmony.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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