The Empire Strikes Out

Review of Another Day in the Empire: Life in Neoconservative America by Kurt Nimmo (Dandelion Books, 2003).

A couple hundred years from now, long after the American Empire has crumbled, historians will attempt to provide their contemporaries with a detailed understanding of how a society that on occasion showed signs of promise ultimately failed to break free from its self-destructive addiction to spectacular violence at home and abroad.

One of the texts that could help these new age historians decipher the thought patterns of the failed empire's leaders and its inhabitants, as they blindly traveled down the path to ruin, is Kurt Nimmo's Another Day in the Empire. With Nimmo's trademark clarity and wit, Another Day chronicles a seven-month period of the reign of George W. Bush. The book addresses, through a series of essays in chronological order, such all-American topics as militarism and government secrecy and deception.

In its fact-filled 212 pages, Another Day provides a clearer understanding of the impact on America of the Bush administration's rush to invade Iraq than the tedious 480 pages that celebrated reporter Bob Woodward spent covering essentially the same period in his book, Plan of Attack. With its additional focus on 9/11, Afghanistan and the USA Patriot Act, Nimmo's book also serves as a worthy substitute for Woodward's earlier love letter to the commander in chief, Bush At War.

Granted, both Nimmo and Woodward eschew footnotes in their books. But if you're a regular reader of Nimmo's essays on Counterpunch and his Another Day in the Empire weblog, you'll notice he's a tireless researcher who tries to provide links and sources to back up each of his assertions.

Unlike Woodward and almost every establishment reporter covering the inner workings of the US federal bureaucracy, Nimmo doesn't take for granted official pronouncements and policy statements issued by the governing elite in Washington. He conducts his research and writes his articles with the understanding that members of the US government deceived Americans in the past, are employing deception now, and are a sure bet to use deception in the future in order to protect their monopoly on power in Washington.

In the book, Nimmo, like many other authors before him, reviews the Reagan administration's support of Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1980s. What sets Nimmo apart from the other commentators is his ability to cut to the chase. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush "were only interested in making sure Saddam gassed as many Iranians as possible," he writes, "and thus pay back the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for evicting the despised Shah Reza Pahlavi and initiating an anti-western revolution in Iran."

Supporters of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq are likely to dismiss Nimmo's criticism of the Reagan administration's coddling of Saddam Hussein during the Iraq-Iran War. That was then, this is now, they will say. The US government may have been on the wrong side in the 1980s, but now, as the imperial apologetics goes, the second Bush administration has made amends by finally driving Saddam's ruthless tyranny out of business.

Based on comments by Bush administration officials and their advisers, the executive branch obviously has its sites set on destabilizing and eventually performing an Operation Iranian Freedom in Tehran. Nimmo explains that Iran, as with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, intrigues the US foreign policy elites because it is a nation in a strategically important region of the world that refuses to genuflect to Washington. "No doubt it irks Bush, Cheney, neocons in general, and a few multinational oil corporations, that Iran is calling the shots on its oil resources," he writes.

Nimmo is not a Bush-bashing liberal. When it pertains to the current Democratic leadership in Congress, he's not afraid to call a spade a spade. "The Great Spineless One, Tom Daschle," Nimmo reminds us, signed onto Bush's invasion of Iraq because, as the Senate Democratic leader said in the fall of 2002, "I believe that Saddam Hussein represents a real threat."

Liberals in Washington "stand four square behind Bush for new and improved mass murder," he states. "One of these days maybe the whole lot of them can be indicted on charges of crimes against humanity."

Nimmo's conclusions aren't drawn out of thin air. He performs exhaustive research as he crafts each of his essays. If he were provided even a fraction of the time and financial resources that Bob Woodward has at his disposal, Nimmo's reporting on imperial Washington would probably compel every truth-seeking American to question how Woodward ever acquired his mythical status as the quintessential investigative journalist. If he weren't distracted with making a living, Nimmo probably could give Seymour Hersh and a handful of other top-notch newshounds covering US foreign policy a run for their money in the quest for the title of best American investigative journalist.

Another Day in the Empire – if it's still available in print or accessible in electronic book format in the post-American Empire era – could serve as a case study on how not to construct social arrangements. The book also could benefit future societies that do happen to make the initial mistake of building government structures modeled on a US framework by ensuring that power remains decentralized and the federal entity does not fall under the control of a governing class composed of career criminals.

For the sake of these future generations, it should be every peace-loving person's hope that Nimmo's book will be one of the texts on early 21st century American political affairs that survives the demise of the empire. There's a strong possibility, however, that future generations will also get their hands on one of the many dangerous tomes currently cluttering the shelves of libraries and bookstores that pontificates on the moral superiority of the American state. Based on the sheer number of books peddling this chauvinistic nonsense, future generations could be fooled into believing that the United States did in fact have a benign governmental system that failed only because outside forces subverted the American dream of democracy and freedom.

There's still a small ray of hope, though, that external military embarrassments combined with sustained domestic pressure will lead to an evolutionary weakening of the foundation on which the American Empire is tenuously perched. While an overwhelming majority of official Washington supports Bush's plans for endless war, a coalition of antiwar leftists, liberals, conservatives and libertarians could find some success in undermining the goals of the permanent warriors by exposing as fallacy the notion that bullying the world will enhance our security at home.

Another Day in the Empire succeeds at highlighting the double standards and hypocrisy of the governing elite and should find its way onto the reading list of this broad antiwar coalition. Nimmo takes occasional jabs at Bush administration economic, environmental and social policies, but not so much so that his book would alienate libertarian or conservative readers who otherwise should be able to find common ground on which to stand with Nimmo regarding the perils of endless wars against bogus enemies around the world and here at home.

Toward the end of the book, in a January 2003 essay, Nimmo writes that Saddam Hussein "is no Emmanuel Goldstein," Orwell's perennial enemy of the state in his classic novel, 1984. "More fearsome enemies will need to be devised if Bush and his rapacious neocon chicken hawks are going to accomplish their invidious mission," Nimmo explains. The governing elite will strive to manufacture a new bogeyman who "fits the bill of all-around bad guy and plenary threat to the global order of things."

Another Day is part of a growing body of literature that implicates members of the governing elite in Washington as the true enemies of liberty at home and abroad. Given how the United States is failing miserably in its public relations campaign in Iraq and how a growing number of Americans are beginning to see through the lie that the United States, as a general rule, promotes freedom and democracy abroad, it might not be so far-fetched to believe that the governing elite will some day, in the not-too-distant future, embark on a face-saving rollback of the American Empire. One certainly hopes that these self-described wise men will adopt this conciliatory policy before their imperial marauding blows up in everyone else's face.

May 20, 2004

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