American Empire Didn’t “Come Home.” It Began Here.
From the crackdown on Cop City protestors to January 6th, America is captive to the imperialist mindset.
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In Solidarity, Joe
Empire (noun): an extensive territory or enterprise under single domination or control.
There’s no denying that the United States is an empire. Unlike most other nations, it spans an entire continent. 26 states are named after now-obsolete indigenous societies, a small consolation extended to the victims of Manifest Destiny. Outside the mainland, the American flag flies over Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, and the Mariana Islands, all once-independent nations brought under imperial control. In addition to our territorial claims, the United States imposes its will on foreign populations through economic, militaristic, and political means. We’ve blockaded Cuba for over half a century. The International Money Fund, which demands poor nations accept capitalist austerity to receive funds, was born in the slope-side resort of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Even after withdrawing from Afghanistan, American-led sanctions could kill more Afghans in one year than the two decades of war.1 The CIA even bought the rights to Animal Farm so they could warp it into a piece of anti-Soviet propaganda.2
By any definition, the United States is an empire.
And like any empire, great harm has befallen those caught under our imperial boot. As a result of the 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya, the nation’s life expectancy fell by two years.3 The War on Terror was one human rights violation after another. From the illegal torture camp at Guantanamo Bay, to Barrack Obama executing a U.S. citizen without trial,4 to the unsanctioned military interventions around the globe, it is well established that the U.S. has used its foreign reach in detestable ways.
Given this poor record of foreign affairs, whenever civil liberties are violated at home, many are quick to draw a line to the similar actions of U.S. soldiers and intelligence officers stationed abroad. Historian Patrick Wyman made this case in response to police attacks on peaceful protestors during the 2020 protests, and The Intercept called attention to foreign-domestic connection following the January 6th insurrection.
While I admire both of these publishers, I think they have it backward. Empire didn’t “come home” to the United States. The Empire was born — and lives — on American soil. We can see the effects of empire, such as the militaristic crackdown on dissent, the preservation of minority rule, and the “othering” of those outside the homeland, everywhere we look.
Just a few weeks ago, 61 Americans were indicted on RICO charges for participating in various protests against Cop City, the planned police training ground in Atlanta, Georgia.5 The basis for the indictment would be laughable, were the accused not facing lengthy prison sentences. Some of the accused have done nothing more than attend a charity concert, while others bought glue that was used to make signs.6 The RICO arraignment came on top of previous charges for domestic terrorism and “intimidating authorities,” the latter of which was leveled against activists who distributed flyers calling the police “murderers” for shooting an unarmed protestor 57 times.
As no serious person would ever consider purchasing art supplies a criminal act, the state’s true intentions are obvious: The cops, much like U.S. troops stationed abroad, have become accustomed to their position atop the social hierarchy. When citizens threatened their status and egos by peacefully protesting against Cop City, they responded as any imperialist force would: attacking the dissenters with an iron fist.
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