Confronting the Empire

How it is that, having lost an election widely viewed as a referendum on the war, the Bush administration has the temerity to announce a “surge” in American forces engaged in active combat in Iraq? The answer was given by incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D- Michigan):

“‘There are a lot of ways you could have a surge, it’s not just ‘surge versus non-surge,” Levin said. ‘If a temporary surge is part of a reduction of U.S. forces in four to six months with political milestones to achieving a political solution agreed upon by Iraqis’ then he would be on board.”

Get on board the Middle East war-escalator – Republicans, Democrats, one and all! Screw the American people and the recent election results – that was then, this is now. Democrats in the know are sitting back and enjoying the tax-funded orgy known as Pelosi-palooza!, raking in the campaign cash from lobbyists and special interests – and letting the good times roll!

We’re exporting “democracy” to the four corners of the globe, but what about right here in our own country, where the people not only have no voice, but exercise what amounts to negative control over U.S. foreign policy? After all, they just voted massively to curtail George W. Bush’s Middle Eastern crusade, and, barely a month later, that effort is about to go into overdrive as the President gets ready to announce a “surge” of 40,000 more troops – with the full complicity of the “opposition” party. It’s Bizarro World-style democracy, where the will of the people is studiously and pointedly ignored.

In spite of using the war issue to take control of the House and the Senate, Democrats for the most part oppose any kind of timetable for withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Levin’s is, unfortunately, one of the more antiwar voices in Washington – the others make him look positively dovish. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s leading presidential candidate, flat out opposes withdrawal – which is about the only consistent aspect of her always-evolving position. You’ll remember that it was Hillary who first started talking about a surge, albeit not in those precise words, two years ago, loudly insisting that we need “more troops,” and certainly not less, in our pursuit of “success.” Now she’s talking about “phased redeployment,” in tune with the Democratic caucus majority and the public mood, but she can rightly claim at least co-authorship (along with John McCain) of the basic “surge” concept.

Clearly, the politicians just don’t get it: they’re right back to business as usual, and the “opposition” party is going along to get along. Then again, maybe it’s we, the people, who don’t get it. Maybe we’re missing something important.

It’s time for the antiwar movement to reevaluate its tactics in light of our abysmal failure so far to so much as slow down the rush to catastrophe in the Middle East. The Democrats, having run – and won – on the failure of the Bush administration’s foreign policy of relentless aggression, have clearly stabbed us in the back. The much-vaunted “100 hours” of the Pelosi-ites doesn’t so much as touch on any foreign policy issue, let alone Iraq. These people have what they want – power – and you can bet they aren’t going to use it to any good ends. What is needed, therefore, is a new tack, a new strategy, a radical reminder to the mandarins of Washington that their power is not unlimited and that they can and will be called to account.

Enough already with the policy analyses, the measured rhetoric, the hat-in-hand appeals to the Czar. It’s time to confront – and bring down – the War Party. After all, what other choice do we have? We just had a national election in which the voters overwhelmingly rejected the war, and its perceived authors – and yet, here we are trying to beat back a serious escalation. When it comes to our policy in the Middle East, apparently a few neocons over at the American Enterprise Institute have more clout than the majority of American voters.

Well, then, what kind of confrontation? No, we don’t need an armed revolution, at least not quite yet – although readers of the Declaration of Independence will recognize that this is hardly an option that can either be ruled out or smeared as “anti-American.” As Jefferson put it, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” We have yet to come to that pass, however: they haven’t shut down opposition newspapers and websites, and they aren’t rounding up domestic political opponents and “disappearing” them to Guantanamo.

They are simply ignoring the popular will on an important issue, and there isn’t any way – short of recalling the Congress, and electing another one more reflective of American opinion on this rotten war – to make them pay attention.

Or is there?

The problem, as I see it, is summed up in a single word: Washington. The Imperial City is culturally as well as politically incapable of responding any longer to the national zeitgeist on the question of the war, and foreign policy in general. There are too many countervailing influences, and they are far too powerful – in a system that depends on campaign contributions and is ruled by special interests – to be safely ignored by any politico. Culturally, Washington, D.C. has been thoroughly corrupted by the virus of imperialism: these guys (and gals) like the idea of running an empire. Dazzled by their own importance in the scheme of things, and hypnotized by their own hubris, the denizens of the Imperial City disdain any suggestion that we might return to our humble republican roots. Why, that’s “isolationism,” and, in any event, an impossibility: too much money and prestige is tied up in maintaining the illusion of imperial glory. Get out of Iraq? Heck no! What do the American people know about foreign policy, anyway? They can’t even find Iraq on a map.

So, the problem, then, is a specific place – Washington, D.C. Defining that gets us halfway to a solution. Part of the answer, then, is to direct our attention to that particular location, and not in a way that will make our rulers happy.

Let us take as our model the anti-Soviet revolutions of the 1990s, where mass protests brought down the sclerotic commie regimes of Eastern Europe and the USSR without so much as a shot being fired. In most cases – with the exception of Romania – the pattern was quite similar: a large group of protesters would gather in the main square of the capital city and simply remain there until the regime collapsed, apparently the victim of sheer embarrassment.

This same tactic was taken up by the Serbian opponents of Slobodan Milosevic, and the partisans of the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine. The various U.S.-supported color-coded revolutions in Georgia, Kyrgystan, and the “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon all took up this strategy, scoring an impressive series of successes – and there is no reason why it can’t work in the U.S.

Washington is the problem, and the solution is to make that city ungovernable, and a thoroughly unpleasant place for our ruling elite to be. If they won’t listen to the voice of the hinterland, and suffer from delusions of invincibility, then they need to be reminded of their own vulnerability. By descending on Washington, and literally camping out, the millions who detest this war could make the city unlivable, or, at least, make it impossible for the mandarins of power to any longer discount us humble plebeians. These people love their perks, their privileges, their sense of empowerment, and, most of all, their pleasures – if we deprive them of all this, by making their lives a living hell, then and only then will we have any chance of decisively influencing the course of events.

A paroxysm of national rage is just what’s needed, one that will shock our rulers out of their daydreams of omnipotence and communicate the urgency of the crisis. It is, above all, a crisis of empire: a relatively sudden realization by the American people that they don’t want to go there, they don’t want to rule Iraq, and it’s time to reverse course before we do pemanent damage to the world and to ourselves.

I am usually opposed to civil disobedience, and have in the past inveighed – I believe that’s the proper word – against it. Yet we no longer have much choice. The U.S. cannot pursue the course it’s on much longer without some pretty awful consequences, the least of which would be a complete meltdown in Iraq and the regionalization of the war. The domestic consequences of this war – and of the so-called war on terrorism – are bearing down with such weight on the already fragile structure of our constitutional form of government, that we are in danger of being crushed, along with the hopeful vision of the Founders. We must act, just as Cindy Sheehan and her brave cohorts did recently when they interrupted the Democratic self-love-fest and refocused attention on the most important issue of them all: the war. And, no, hearings conducted by John Murtha don’t fit the bill: if they won’t cut off the funding for the war, then it’s time they were cut off from their pleasant lives and illusions of impregnable insularity.

Radical measures are called for. The time for talk is over: you can’t reason with these people, and I’ve given up trying. The time for action is now. Not inchoate rage, or violence, but focused anger, aimed with laser-like intensity at the root and source of all our problems – the seat of the Empire.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].