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"Imperial Fantasies"

          In 1898 most Americans, but not all, wanted an overseas
empire, so we could be an important world power, competing with
the Spanish, the French and the British.  Gore Vidal tells the
background thinking required to get into this state of mind in
his novel, EMPIRE.  Our leaders finally picked on the weakest of
those other empires, Spain.  
     After the Spanish-American War instead of dismantling that
old crumbling relic of the former glory days of Spain's mastery
of whole continents, as our idealists may have hoped, we simply
took over the last chunks of the Spanish Empire, and made them
our own:  Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands.  It
took years of very bloody fighting to subdue the resistance to
our imperialism in the Philippines.
     The stealing of Hawaii from the Hawaiians took place in that
same year, adding strategic mid-Pacific bases to our new empire. 
The need to defend Pearl Harbor got us into World War Two, later.
     Mark Twain, a cantankerous old free-thinker, objected to the
entire enterprise, in the name of what he thought our country
should stand for.  "You can't have an empire abroad and a
republic at home," he stated.  We are just now beginning to sense
the truth of that statement, as the democratic republic and our
individual "rights" go slipping through our fingers.
     A successful empire should be a profit-making enterprise. 
The Spanish took gold and silver from Peru and Mexico.  The
British took tea from Ceylon and India.  Our empire has never been
a paying proposition.  Our empire has existed for bragging rights
and strategic importance.
     The imperial bookkeeping has always been faulty.  If we
added the cost of military interventions in Nicaragua, Guatemala
and other exotic places to the price of coffee and bananas, sales
would plummet.  Our imperial adventures in Asia, for example in
Vietnam, never were connected to a profitable product at all, yet
our defeat there can be attributed to the fact that the people of
that country saw us as incomprehensibly inept replacements of the
French imperialists, whom they had already defeated.
     Now in these last days, there does seem to be a possible
profit-making product involved in our overseas military
adventures -- oil.  Some friends have tried to encourage me to
hope that the Pentagon has denied so vociferously and so openly
that we are not in the Middle East "for oil" -- "NO BLOOD FOR
OIL!" -- that they won't be able to take the profit which may yet
become available.  I wish, but I have my doubts.  Cheney will
figure out how to make this pay, for him, or I'll be surprised.
     Our acting-president can't bring himself to invade Liberia. 
We don't have the kind of troops needed to "restore peace" there. 
What our military is good at is carpet bombing, "strategic" or
otherwise, in which everything is obliterated.  Water systems,
electric power plants, sewage treatment plants, bridges, schools,
hospitals, fancy hotels -- whatever there is, we can level it. 
We can kill everything that moves.  
     But we have no talent, and little practice, at sorting sheep
from goats, ROK from "Red" Chinese, Viet Cong from "loyal" South
Vietnamese, pro- from anti-American Iraqis.  When they all look
alike, as they do in Liberia, our troops cannot sort them out. 
When there is no oil, or any other potentially profitable product
to go after, why go?
     Yet there is great pressure to send troops to Liberia.  And
there is also a great morale problem among the troops already in
Iraq.  In addition, our chicken-hawks, like Rumsfeld and
Wolfowitz, who have never been in a war, want to invade Syria,
Iran and North Korea.  The experienced professional soldiers at
the Pentagon are beginning to wonder where this may end.
     My imperial musings turned into a fantasy.  Since the
military cannot do what the thugs in charge are demanding that
they do, which is to police the entire world, the Pentagon stages
a coup, declares openly the end of the First American Republic,
and executes in public the following, in order of rank: Cheney,
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and Bush.  They appoint one of their
own, Colin Powell, to be 90-day Temporary Lord High Protector,
whose principle task will be to supervise the election of a new
President and a new Congress.  
     In this election bribery shall be a capital crime.  Any
financial contribution of any amount to any candidate for any
office shall result in immediate execution.  Powell will swear in
the new president, who will appoint a new cabinet and a new
Supreme Court, subject to the approval of the new Senate.  Powell
will declare openly the initiation of the Second American
Republic, and then retire, with honors.
     Until now I have always assumed that a military coup was
a very bad thing, as in Chile in 1973, when Henry Kissinger 
arranged the ascension of General Pinochet.  But now my
imagination has produced what some could call a good coup.  Too
bad it's imaginary.

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Copyright © 2003 Harry Willson

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