�An empire is always coercive and autocratic: It is like
a cover that presses on a boiling cauldron. At a certain point, the internal
pressure is too strong, the cover is blown off and there is a sort of volcanic
eruption.� --Umberto Eco, Italian medievalist
�An empire is a despotism, and an emperor is a despot,
bound by no law or limitation but his own will; it is a stretch of tyranny
beyond absolute monarchy.� --John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd American President
�The deterioration of every government begins with the
decay of the principles on which it was founded.� --Montesquieu (1689-1755),
Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu
A sure sign of decadence in an empire is when hard
earned money seems to lose any meaning and is wasted left and right. There are
instances that indicate that is what is happening in the United States today.
There is a dance of the billions that defies imagination and that nobody seems
First case in point: In 2006, investment banker and
securities firm Goldman Sachs
paid out a whopping $16.5 billion in year-end bonuses to its executives and
employees. That sort of cash, if it were to be transported in boxes of
100-dollar bills would require about 50 10-ton truckloads. This came out to a Christmas gift of $625,000 for
each man and woman in that organization, whose main production is to shift
papers around. Last year, the firm paid its two co-presidents $53 million each
in salary, bonuses and benefits. Do you think there is a link between
exorbitant private profits and political power? Well, you may want to ask
yourself why Bush nominated a former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs as Treasury Secretary
and chose a lawyer from Goldman Sachs as his chief of staff.
Case two where money is flowing freely is the Pentagon.
The military budget of the United States government for 2007 piles up to the
huge amount of $623 billion. That is more than $2,000 for each American man,
woman and child. As the 9/11 Commission Report pointed out, �The Department
of Defense is the behemoth . . . With an annual budget larger than the gross
domestic product of Russia, it is an empire.� The real New American Empireis the U.S. Department of Defense. Its annual budget represents more
than 50 percent of the military expenditures of all the 191 other countries in
the world bundled together. It is an empire that spreads its tentacles in 135 countries,with troops in every single one of them, and which
has deployed the unbelievable number of 737 military bases in these foreign lands. This is really an empire out of
control that has become an increasing threat to the world.
Obtaining defense contracts is a
sure way to quick riches. For example, a report by the Special Inspector
General for Iraq Reconstruction has concluded that the highest proportion of
overhead was incurred in oil-facility contracts won by KBR Inc., the Halliburton subsidiary and Vice President Dick Cheney�s former firm. As to
links between defense contracts and political power, you may want to ask
yourself why Bush nominated the president of a major arms supplier to the post
of under secretary of the Navy.
With so much money floating around, it is no wonder that a
congressional committee, the House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee, recently discovered that about 36 10-ton truckloads of newly printed
$100 bills disappeared in Iraq (363
tons of cash at a value of some $12 billion at the last count) and were
unaccounted for. They are in somebody�s pockets, but Congress still does not
know whose pockets, not being able to follow the meandering maze of fraud, waste, abuse and corruption that is taking place in
the Iraq war.
It is reasonable to think that some of this cash served to
buy the famous December 15, 2005, Iraqi elections heralded by the Bush-Cheney
regime as a model of democracy for the Middle East. If the $12 billion
unaccounted for had been spread equally among 12 million eligible Iraqi voters,
each one of them in that impoverished country would have received $1,000 in
freshly minted $100 dollar bills. We have to remember that the December 15,
2005, election handed over power, until 2009, to a coalition of fanatical
fundamentalist and theocratic Shiite parties backed by Iran, and led by the Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
Of course, the first and greatest cost of the Iraq War is
the human cost and the destruction of a country by immoral foreign invaders.
But the money corruption comes a close second.
In peaceful times, corruption is a constant menace in
a democracy. In times of war, if no special steps are taken, it becomes
endemic. And under the Bush-Cheney regime, no such steps were taken to avoid
corruption. To the contrary, it would appear that such corruption was welcome,
possibly in the knowledge or hope that some of the money floating around would
find its way back into the political system. That is why money corruption poses
a deadly threat to the American democracy.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), for one, feared the U.S.
Constitution would in time �fail . . . because of the corruption of the
people, in a general sense.� For his part, President Abraham Lincoln
(1809-1865) thought that corruption in high places would follow as �all
wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.�
The question that remains to be answered is whether the
American democracy can be saved from the ambient corruption, or whether it is
already too late. Indeed, has the United States fallen into
a chasm of corruption so deep that it cannot recover from it?
[To be continued next week.]Rodrigue Tremblay
lives in Montreal and can be reached at email@example.com.
He is the author of the book �The
New American Empire�. Visit his blog site at