The American Manifest Destiny
Killing from afar
Americans and their European poodles coiffeured red white and blue in American power salons are unlawfully targeting, and killing from afar, suspected militants innocent bystanders, and helpers, labelled “collateral damage,” whilst avoiding more politically toxic body bags containing returning American “heroes” to military bases and more lachrymose wailing from American politicians. Today, this day, men and women with “games console mentality” can kill your brothers and sisters and mine, by pressing a button caressed by their dutiful hands in America, for a drone strike against suspected militants and thereby international law, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, then take a burger lunch without fear of reprisal? I don’t think so. The trouble starts in their dreams as their conscience asks “is this right.” They toss and turn in a nightmare of their own making as they “kick against the pricks” (Samuel Becket) their minds fixed in a deadly occupation, perpetrating crimes against humanity.
Amongst this button pushing elite, depression and post traumatic stress syndrome are on the rise, is it any wonder? Rachel Martin from NPR-Media reported as early as December 18th, 2011, that “A new Pentagon study shows that almost 30 percent of drone pilots surveyed suffer from what the military calls “burnout” it’s the first time the military has tried to measure the psychological impact of waging a “remote controlled war”. Martin further writes “The report … shows that 29% of the drone pilots surveyed said they were burned out and suffered from high levels of fatigue. The Air Force doesn’t consider this a dangerous level of stress.” [my emphasis] the operators clearly do, as they break down in ever increasing numbers having killed and maimed “the other.”
The CIA ignoring international normative laws (and the health of their operators) designed and enshrined to protect “The Human” is, from a burning mental phosphorous, operating weapons that activated from afar, penetrate into the bone of nations, searing the very marrow of a nation’s sovereign wealth and ultimate sacred resource, its citizens. This and other methods of intimidation and coercion, illegally and immorally limit any true “exercise of Sovereignty” (Chomsky). UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston: “The CIA is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws.” It is accepted that innocent civilians are targeted even rescuers. UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns: “if civilian rescuers are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime.”
Ultimate moral abandonment does not separate a man or woman mentally, emotionally, from unlawful acts when they, obeying orders, kill. They are, in no way, as they might think in hopeful reflective or reflexive moments, twice removed from a perceived enemy in cyber screen reality, killing, but apart somehow in a cyber vacuum. Murder is murder and nature abhorring a vacuum that justice loves, echoes war crime, war crime, war crime.
Because of this obscenity, of American personnel forced by neo-con ideology and CIA doctrine to participate in ever more sophisticated “techno kills,” against so-called “super-terror” perpetrators, more often than not killing the innocent and losing their innocence in the process. So, I felt the deep need to read and share, again, Emmanuel Kant’s famous essay of 1795 “Perpetual Peace” and mourn the absent peace in a troubled world, and, its absence in most people’s hearts, where the only lasting and true peace is to be found. But not today, this day, and in my heart, as the politically created “other” is slaughtered in foreign lands, by Americans asleep in their “duty” but awake at night to their guilt ridden nightmares. This evil affects us all and we, so troubled, must speak out, we are not things, we are the state, nature’s global lands, there for benevolent and wise husbandry as a shared and vital resource, welcome of friends, gracious in the collective respect of nature and permeable borders; borders, as functioning as a healthy synaptic cleft.
But, where today does this sanctified thought and morally constructed nation state pertain? Where are human rights truly cherished? And the individual loved? Are we, in this “era” edging toward Immanuel Kant’s “late eighteenth-century vision of cosmopolitan justice which could, in certain cases of genocide and torture, override the traditional boundaries of national sovereignty?” (Richard Ashby Wilson, Human Rights in the ‘War On Terror’, p5). If we are, then we must recognise what is sacred and what is not. And, what constitutes right recognition and knowledge and what doesn’t. We must move beyond concepts of evil and less evil, (which is an evil in itself) to love and more love and, are we prepared to do this before it is too late? “Seeing persons as ends in themselves and not as means to other ends corresponds with a Kantian defence of human rights and liberal democracy more generally. In the struggle against Islamist terrorists, we are well advised to temper our desire for good consequences (which can seldom be predicted in advance) with an equal concern with intentions and integrity of motives.” (Richard Ashby Wilson, Human Rights in the, ‘War On Terror’, p21).
We see inevitably in the “war on terror” international and domestic liberty is curtailed because the motive by America is acrid greed which inflames the “others” citizens to violent or peaceful resistance around the globe. American state sanctioned terror begets “Super terrorism” fear, the erosion of trust, and civil and human rights. We must not just bemoan American hegemony but challenge, intellectually, and in peaceful activism, her motive, which is global control of cheaply obtained resources, but, at the expense of human dignity, freedom, suffering and life, reminding her again and again, that “the state, its constitution, and its political practices can only be justified by reference to those higher moral values (liberty, dignity, natural rights). Let us call this position then liberalism.” (Fernando R. Teson, Human Rights in the ‘War On Terror’, pp60-61). And let us record here its absence in American foreign policy, and, American institutional lack of conscience. But not in the vast majority of American citizens, a hundred and fifty million of which belong to co-operatives. This an astounding statistic!
I call not for retribution, or, prosecutions of American leaders for their criminal actions. I call for ‘Truth and Reconciliation’, ‘Wise Councils’ and ‘People’s Tribunals’; processes to be adopted and adapted so that America and Americans (is there a difference?) recognise the destructive seeds sown and destruction wrought. And so confessing, liberate the love and compassion in America’s citizens who will call for, then sanction, America paying much needed compensation to nations wronged and the families of citizens murdered in the name of American progress whilst understanding the root causes for such criminal activity. Then and only then, will America’s manifest soul and the true spirit of her Constitution become alive to the needs of the world beyond her borders. Thomas Cushman: “My view is rather more like Kant’s in Perpetual Peace, in which he argued that if wars were to occur they should be used as opportunities for the reform of the situations that caused it to happen.” (Thomas Cushman, Human Rights in the ‘War on Terror’, p82). This cannot happen in an atmosphere of vengeance but in mutual recognition of the highest values.
Kant: “A state is not, like the ground which it occupies, a piece of property (patrimonium). It is a society of men [women] whom no one else has any right to command or to dispose except the state itself. It is a trunk with its own roots.” If the state is reduced to an inanimate thing, its citizens things, chattels and property to be bribed, stolen, sold, enslaved by markets or killed as collateral damage, where in fact the state is the animated evolving and collective will of the people, then this must, does, give rise to a deep sense of injustice, unrest and revolutionary action. We must not forget that war, is the sanctioned “organization of murder” (McBain). Remember this and organise for peace, for peace is our true state and kingdom. Make no mistake the people are the new super power, when disposed toward truth, unassailable. Then, “Standing Armies (miles perpetuus) shall in Time be Totally Abolished”. (Kant)
Who are these men?
Between nations today, we see at best, a troubled armistice or the nationalised, institutionalised, American neo-con opportunists striking and aggressing other nations predominately Muslim, for financial and military strategic advantage, piling suffering on the back of suffering with ever more sophisticated and lethal means thereby, provoking enmity from the outraged citizens of those nations. Kant looked back from 1795 to a Europe in perpetual war, with great international rivalries between Prussia and Austria and other “European quarrels” and so qualified looked forward to the consequences of a world without principles among the governing elites whilst postulating an answer to becalm the roughest sea of troubles: peace for all time and all people. Kant: “The causes for making future wars (which are perhaps unknown to the contracting parties) are without exception annihilated by the treaty of peace,” with no peace in sight and as modern technology matches supremacist American ambition? One asks who are these men that defile the world and bring America such disrepute? As they sanction extrajudicial assassinations in sovereign territories planning for ‘world domination’ whatever the cost in human life or the health of their own citizens.
Francis Fukuyama explains, they are “American nationalists, who tend to take a narrow, security-related view of American national interests, distrust[ing] multilateralism, and in there more extreme manifestations tend toward nativism and isolationism.” (Fukuyama, America At The Crossroads, p7). They are neo-conservatives. “Whatever its complex roots, neo-conservatism has become inevitably linked to concepts like pre-emption, regime change, unilateralism, and benevolent hegemony as put into practice by the Bush administration.” (Fukuyama, America At The Crossroads, p7). They approve of drone warfare and the “technological revolution” that has been “U.S.-pioneered”. This revolution writes Zbigniew Brzezinski “in military affairs will place increasing emphasis on combat versatility below the nuclear threshold, while seeking more generally to de-emphasize the centrality of nuclear weapons in modern conflict” (Brzezinski, The Choice Global Domination or Global Leadership, p19).
He, Brzezinski, also thinks, God help us, that even “a nuclear war between, say, India and Pakistan or Iran and Israel, however horrible, is unlikely to precipitate a serious threat to the U.S. homeland.” So that’s ok then the world can freeze in a nuclear winter as long as it doesn’t affect the violent hot spot that is America. This, writ-large, is neo-con thinking, if it can be called as such. Believe me, Brzezinski is deadly serious in making such absurd statements and flattered by dangerous sycophants. Brzezinski a “demonstrably wise man who got it right when it counted, and whose views may now offer the country some help in getting out of the woods when it counted.” (The Washington Post, Book World). I would have them in even temper to read this from Kant and know what is wise and what is not: “It follows that a war of extermination in which the destruction of both parties and of all justice can result, would permit perpetual peace only in the vast burial ground of the human race.” [my emphasis].
Early in 2012 Robert Taylor, writing for Polcymic, stated that “According to the Washington Post, CIA Director David Petraeus wants to “bolster the agency’s ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging Al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots”, Mali for example. Further and importantly for those interested in human rights and normative international law, humanitarian law and proportionality governing the conduct of war, Taylor warns “The Obama-CIA drone program is the perfect example of government secrecy, lawlessness, and the inevitable next step in the U.S. government’s long tradition of claiming the right to intervene militar[ily] anywhere and everywhere it pleases.” This their Manifest Destiny drone use but a symptom of abusive thinking.
America plans, unrestrained and unilaterally focussed, for a long fight against terrorism, using ever sophisticated military hardware in the form of drones (meaning, stealing resources whilst killing suspected militants and maiming civilians) and a long flight from sanity whilst perpetuating and perpetrating conflict. The unclassified United States Air Force (USAF) Unmanned Aircraft Systems flight plan 2009-2047, yes that’s 2047 (!!) shows us where this deadly “technological revolution” is heading and what “combat versatility” really means. USAF: “The range, reach, lethality of 2047 combat operations will necessitate an unmanned system-of-systems to mitigate risk to mission and force, and provide perceive-act line executions … UAS’s (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) are compelling where human physiology limits mission execution (e.g. persistence, speed of reaction, contaminated environment).” They have a vision for a “USAF positioned to harness increasingly automated, modular, and sustainable UAS resulting in leaner, more adaptable and tailorable forces that maximize the effectiveness of 21st Century airpower.” All this “promoting service interdependency and the wisest use of tax dollars” (my emphasis). This USAF vision and “wise use of tax dollars” sees a world locked in lethal combat through 2047! The world so biologically and morally degraded that to send America’s sons and daughters into, by then toxic, battle zones will be impossible. By 2047 there will be around 9 billion souls living on a planet that is dying, conditions so appalling that we will see then a drastic drop in population or a third world war. A fourth world war will see us, reckoned Einstein, fighting with bows and arrows through a pall, a fog of death and destruction. Perhaps he was wrong about “bows and arrows”, for there will be no trees.
When one reads the above, one is reminded of the “supremacist attitude,” of not just the U.S but mostly all nations and their citizens who buy into the collective nationalised notion of the “ethics of power” and therefore supremacy, superiority and therefore ultimately racist policies governed by the threat of or actual use of overwhelming force, as a divine manifest destiny, and operating as a quantum from colonialist history. “Centuries of European Colonialism of the Americas, Africa, Australia, Oceania and Asia were justified by the white supremacist attitudes, during the 19th century, the phrase “The White Man’s Burden” was widely used to justify imperialist policy as a noble enterprise.” (Wikipedia). It is today, but, American “imperialist policy as a noble enterprise” was politically challenged by the tragedy of men and women lost to terrorism on 9/11. One does not mourn the Twin Towers as a symbol of American corporate and military aggression their vertiginous height a modern folly, only the poor souls lost to violence. “New glass skyscrapers stand shoulder to shoulder, reflecting one another narcissistically,” then suddenly gone, two extracted teeth from the once noble now slack American hegemonic jaw? Well? Then, ignoble America turned on the world with all the spite and aggression which post 9/11 became a symbol of their murderous Manifest Destiny.
“Manifest Destiny” as a term, was coined by the “influential” journalist John L. O’Sullivan who advocated in an article for the United States Magazine and Democratic (Review 17, no.1, July-August 1845) that the U.S annex the Republic of Texas writing, “our manifest destiny [is] to overspread the continent allotted by providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” This was the perceived divine right of Americans then as it is today, as inter alia, America steals the world as it undermines the sacrosanct sovereignty of nations, of people, in an inexhaustible drive to appropriate mineral, energy and other resources through violent politics, big-stick diplomacy or military aggression. For the ever intumesce American consumer the “multiplying millions,” must be fed in proportion to their inflated sense of destiny. American Empire “overspreading” the world, across “salt water.” This, post World War Two, was always the American mindset, the American dream, because their Manifest Destiny. And they will break the law to sustain it as they break people’s lives to get it.
It is therefore of global importance in light of a deadly “technological revolution” that the understanding and debate centres and focuses on the principles of Morals, Ethics, Natural Rights that spawned and ever nourish Human Rights, and the virtues that, upheld and lived, offer restraint to American tyranny. This American led tyranny flexes its technological muscles, hides under a cloak of secrecy, corrupt and failing institutions and unaccounted military abuse in foreign lands, where human rights are willfully ignored as egregious crimes are committed.
The Right To Life
With no checks and balances through correct and correcting oversight justice is simply a word holding no solace for the aggrieved and afflicted. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in his Report 2009, in part on American extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for the UN Human Rights Council, found that there were systematic failures in tracking “civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan [meaning] a lost opportunity to analyze causes and the lost possibility of reducing those deaths.” Not to speak of legal challenges and compensation. “[A] failure to undertake transparent and effective investigations into, and meaningful prosecution of, wrongful deaths means the [US] Government cannot fulfil its obligation to ensure accountability for violations of the right to life.” (Alston A/HRC/11/2 Add 5, p27). This extends of course to Afghanistan. Reports Alston “I saw first hand how the opacity of the military justice system reduces confidence in the [US] Governments commitment to public accountability for illegal conduct.” (Alston A/HRC/11/2 Add 5, p27). He notes, “The legal obligation to effectively punish violations is as vital to the rule of law in war as in peace. It is thus alarming when States either fail to investigate or permit lenient punishment of crimes committed against civilians and combatants. The legal duty to investigate and punish violations of the right to life is not a formality.” (A/HRC/11/2/Add 5, p28). Nothing has changed since.
American progress is, has been, constructed on abuse and contempt for the sovereignty of other nations and their people and is thereby racist. American peace, American liberty, American freedom, and the ruthless pursuit of happiness for American citizens is the dream, but the manifest truth is, that American citizens are facing social meltdown and immizeration at home as their military and intelligence agencies kill abroad for profit. This America we hold to be self evident. “The idea of rights is nothing but the concept of virtue applied to the world of politics. By means of the idea of rights men have defined the nature of licence and of tyranny … no man can be great without virtue, nor any nation great without the respects for rights.” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America  1991:219). This America must be your manifest duty to understand. How can you export American Democracy to a distrusting world when “you have no product?” (Cindy Sheehan).
Clive Hambidge is Human Development Director at Facilitate Global. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .