Imperialism and Fascism are on the Rise in the USA

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
— James Madison (1751-1836), 4th U.S. President and author of the U.S. Constitution

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.
— Sinclair Lewis, (It Can’t Happen Here, 1935)

Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of a private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd US President

…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. For, although the will of an absolute monarch is law, yet his edicts must be registered by parliaments. Even this formality is not necessary in an empire.
— John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd American President

I’m the commander in chief, see, I don’t need to explain, I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting part about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.
— George W. Bush, quoted in Bob Woodward’s book Bush at War

It may be partly a consequence of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the perceived rising external threat coming from fanatical Islamists, but it is undeniable that imperialism abroad and fascism at home are on the rise in 21st Century America. This is amazing because, along with totalitarian communism, these were precisely the two most disastrous political diseases of the 20th Century against which the United States and other democracies fought. They led to two world wars and turned the 20th Century into the most murderous century in the history of mankind. Such a development is important for the United States, but it is also of paramount importance for all the other democracies, because if the United States, which has one of the best democratic constitutions in the world, falls to a form of benign totalitarianism, what is the fate of democracy elsewhere?

Before we proceed, let us define a few terms. Indeed, what is imperialism? What is fascism? And what is totalitarianism? What is democracy?

Firstly, imperialism is the use of force in international relations outside the realm of international law and the requirements of self-defense, with the purpose of taking control of foreign countries, their populations and their resources, and with the express intention of changing their cultures or systems of government. The best book on imperialism is J.A. Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study (1902).

Secondly, fascism is a political regime that is characterized by a high degree of concentration of power in the state, in one political party or in one person, accompanied by a messianic and belligerent form of nationalism, by the usurpation of legislative and judicial prerogative by the executive branch of the government, by the suppression of individual freedoms at home, by the worshipping of national symbols such as flags, and by a rise of militarism and the pursuit of military expansions abroad, often so as to avenge some perceived humiliation. One of the best books on fascism is Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism (2004).

Thirdly, totalitarianism is a broad concept concerning the exercise of power by one party or one person within a country through force, while being unrestrained by laws or by rules. Perhaps the best book on totalitarianism is Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1958).

Finally, democracy is a form of government where the citizens’ preferences are paramount in adopting public policies and where people elect a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It rests on the rule of law, the decentralization and separation of powers, and the protection of fundamental liberties and individual rights. It is the antithesis of imperialism, fascism and all types of totalitarianism. A classic analysis of American-style democracy is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835).

Now, let us look at a few facts and events that have recently taken place in the United States. When they are placed together to form a whole, they form a powerful political and legal framework that could allow President George W. Bush or any other politician to run the United States by decree rather than by the will of the people.

First, there is the September 2002 Neocon imperialist doctrine adopted by the Bush-Cheney administration that was used to launch the March 2003 illegal military invasion of Iraq. This was done according to the imperialistic “Bush Doctrine” of pre-emptive wars,1 of international unilateralism, and of American assertive military supremacy around the world. According to this hubristic foreign policy doctrine, the United States could invade any country, especially in the Middle East, in order to impose a local democratic government friendly to the United States and its allies. The occupied country would then become a model to other countries which would adopt the same type of political regime and the same policies. We all know how this new imperialistic doctrine has fared in Iraq and what have been its disastrous consequences.

The 2002 Bush Doctrine, in asserting the right for the U.S. to invade other nations for vague reasons of social engineering, nation building or regime change, represents a repudiation of the Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter‘s ban on wars of aggression, both strongly supported by American leaders sixty years ago. For example, the Nuremberg Charter stipulates that “To initiate a war of aggression… is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime.” As for the U.N. Charter, its Preamble says that it has been established “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

Second, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the regime of Adolf Hitler suspending the right of habeas corpus in Germany on February 28, 1933, the Bush-Cheney regime also suspended the right of habeas corpus in the United States. Indeed, on October 17, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law S.3930, the Military Commissions Act, a law that cancels the right of habeas corpus for foreigners accused of terrorism and for both Americans and foreigners who have been designated as “enemy combatants” by the Executive branch. Under this law, any individual, citizen or non-citizen, can be deprived of the protection of due process at the whim of the Executive branch, and be imprisoned indefinitely without legal recourse. The United States is probably the only country in the world where the right of habeas corpus has been suspended and yet is still being called a ‘democratic’ country.

Third, the Defense Authorization Act of 2006 (H.R. 1815), passed by Congress on September 30 2006, and signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 17, 2006, empowers the president to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist “incident,” if he or other federal officials perceive a shortfall of “public order”. The resort to martial law could come, for example, as a response to a terrorist attack, but it is not excluded that it could be imposed if some antiwar protests were to get unruly or after any major political disturbance. Since the current Bush-Cheney administration got away with declaring a war abroad on a pretext, what would prevent them from imposing martial law at home also on a pretext?

Fourth, let us consider that when Congress passed the Insurrection Act in 1807, the purpose was to severely restrict the president’s ability to deploy the military within the United States. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, tightened these restrictions, imposing a two-year prison sentence on anyone who used the military within the U.S. without the express permission of Congress. Indeed, its Section 1385 (Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus), as later amended, states that “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both”.

These protections are all gone now. Indeed, the adoption of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (H.R. 5122) changed the name of the key provision in the statute book from “Insurrection Act” to “Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act.” While the U.S. Insurrection Act of 1807 stated that the president could deploy troops within the United States only “to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy”, the new law allows the president not only to declare martial law and rule by decree, but it also gives the president the power to take charge of United States National Guard troops without the states’ governors’ authorization. The law also expands the list of such permissible cases for martial law to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition” — and such “condition” is not defined or limited in scope. All the safeguards against the use of the military at home have been removed in favor of new powers being given to the president to do so nearly at his whim.

Fifth, the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, signed by President George W. Bush on May 4, 2007, an event that was generally not covered by U.S. mainstream media or discussed by the U.S. Congress, goes even further and declares that in the event of a “catastrophic event”, the president can become what is best described as a de facto dictator: “The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government.”

Sixth, on March 15, 2004, the National Security Agency’s wire-tapping and domestic spying program, without proper judicial supervision, was authorized by the Bush-Cheney White House, without Justice Department approval and over the objections of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. This was an illegal program of domestic spying, because it violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a panel of judges to hear wiretap requests in secret. When a government begins to violate the law, there is no way of knowing in advance where this will lead and how far it will go. It is an open field.

And seventh, there is the practice of submitting detainees to torture and to other degrading treatments despite the clear obligation not to do so under international law and under U.S. law. It is truly amazing that the Bush-Cheney White House had to be reminded by the Supreme Court, in June 2006, that it had to abide by the Geneva Conventions. It seems they could not figure that out by themselves.

These are seven ominous developments among the most serious, some having gone nearly unnoticed within the United States, but which would have the Fathers of the U.S. Constitution turning in their graves, if they could see what has been done to their work. Technically, there is still a fair amount of personal liberty and freedom in the United States for the average person, but this could change at the drop of a hat, or more likely, at the stroke of a pen. Over the last six years, the Bush-Cheney administration has been unmistakably shifting the USA toward imperialism and toward fascism.

This is not to deny that we live in dangerous and taxing times, but Americans should pray that no major catastrophic event occur under George W. Bush’s watch, because all the necessary apparatus has been set into place to suspend liberties and freedoms and impose a fascist-like regime upon the American people when the pretext presents itself. This is a sobering thought.

  1. Bush’s March 20, 2003 Iraq War was a preventive war, not a pre-emptive war. However, the Bush administration, in its September 19, 2002 so-called “Bush Doctrine” document, asserted that they were ready to “act preemptively”, “to forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries.” Also, when they raised the issue of the “mushroom cloud”, they justified (wrongly, I agree) their coming war as a pre-emptive one, not as a preventive one. So, in its official political vocabulary, the Bush-Cheney regime has pretended that the Iraq War was a pre-emptive one, even if legally it was not. []

Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and author of the book The New American Empire. He can be reached at: rodrigue.tremblay@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Rodrigue, or visit Rodrigue's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rowan Berkeley said on July 4th, 2007 at 6:28am #

    What a ridiculous set of sources. This article is sub sophomoric, to put it gently.

  2. Eric said on July 4th, 2007 at 6:46am #

    Sophomoric. Sorry, but I had to look it up( I didn’t even read the article yet, but I like to base its value on the response it gets). I might not be the champion debater, but an insult is not an argument in my book. So what is your argument?

  3. Myles Hoenig said on July 4th, 2007 at 7:38am #

    Many of the sources are from Wikipedia. This could be controversial because it is claimed to have a ‘liberal’ bias, so much so that the radical right wing Christians have set up their own. However, Wikipedia reflects the view of its readership (world wide, not just in America) and it is indeed ‘liberal’. Those who respect academic advancement and unbiased information gathering tend to be ‘liberal’, or open minded. Also, Wikipedia is also viewed to be nearly as accurate as all other mainstream encyclopedias.

    Many of the other sources are newspaper accounts or original sources.

    All in all, this was a well done piece of analysis. Perhaps Rowan above simply wanted to dershowitz a respected article or writer because it didn’t conform to a right wing ideological bent.

  4. Timber said on July 4th, 2007 at 7:40am #

    Rowan Berkeley–

    Can you dispute the nature of the legislation that is cited?

    Plenty of people in this country pretend to “love freedom” because they associate freedom with being able to drive some trendy gas-guzzler or exploit other people’s slavery by shopping at WalMart, not with any kind of actual liberty. In fact, we make a fetish of obedience by idolizing the “be all you’re told to be” authoritarianism of the military, and celebrating the “every knee shall bow” authoritarianism of the church.

    The pants-wetting racist paranoia of the “war on terror” that justifies all the attacks on real political and social freedom–as opposed to false freedoms that are just bribes to keep the herd in line–is rank cowardice, and ignores the history of our contempt for the people we now pretend to want to “liberate.” We have killed, maimed, and displaced about three million Iraqis, and we show no remorse, only childish frustration that they didn’t lay down and hand over their nation and its resources to us without a fight.

    If Americans aren’t outraged, maybe it isn’t because they’re “not paying attention.” Maybe it’s just because a lot of them are just assholes.

  5. Max Shields said on July 4th, 2007 at 8:16am #

    Agree, but it is all too easy to see our imperialism in light of the current administration. U.S. imperialism has been a hallmark of our foreign policis in one form or another for the better part of a century. Some would see its beginnings even earlier.

    If we hold up Bush as the exemplar of the worst, we miss the underpinnings of the policies which have long created U.S. interventionism and the history of endless war. I have little doubt that Bush will stand down come January 2009, but that changing of the guard does not alter the militaristic and imperialistic trajectory of our deep seeded foreign policies.

  6. Rowan Berkeley said on July 4th, 2007 at 12:47pm #

    I wonder, should they read this part of Hobson’s “Imperialism” (First edition: 1902) before or after they read Hannah Arendt?

    “If the special interest of the investor is liable to clash with the public interest and to induce a wrecking policy, still more dangerous is the special interest of the financier, the general dealer in investments. In large measure the rank and the of the investors are, both for business and for politics, the cat’s-paws of the great financial houses, who use stocks and shares not so much as investments to yield them interest, but as material for speculation in the money market. In handling large masses of stocks and shares, in floating companies, in manipulating fluctuations of values, the magnates of the Bourse find their gain. These great businesses—banking, broking, bill discounting, loan floating, company promoting—form the central ganglion of international capitalism. United by the strongest bonds of organisation, always in closest and quickest touch with one another, situated in the very heart of the business capital of every State, controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, chiefly by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience, they are in a unique position to control the policy of nations. No great quick direction of capital is possible save by their consent and through their agency. Does any one seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European State, or a great State loan subscribed, if the house of Rothschild and its connections set their face against it?
    Every great political act involving a new flow of capital, or a large fluctuation in the values of existing investments, must receive the sanction and the practical aid of this little group of financial kings. These men, holding their realised wealth and their business capital, as they must, chiefly in stocks and bonds, have a double stake, first as investors, but secondly and chiefly as financial dealers. As investors, their political influence does not differ essentially from that of the smaller investors, except that they usually possess a practical control of the businesses in which they invest. As speculators or financial dealers they constitute, however, the gravest single factor in the economics of Imperialism. To create new public debts, to float new companies, and to cause constant considerable fluctuations of values are three conditions of their profitable business. Each condition carries them into politics, and throws them on the side of Imperialism.”

    http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/Hobson/hbsnImp5.html#Part I, Chapter IV, Economic Parasites of Imperialism

  7. Nicki Langewis said on July 4th, 2007 at 6:52pm #

    This is succinctly put, but still people won’t understand. I fear the society we live in today isn’t the society our founding fathers believed in and wanted to protect. The average person knows no geography, history or political theory. Their world is small, and I wonder if they will even recognize when all freedoms cease. I hope I will be allowed to leave when the need arises.

  8. Eric said on July 5th, 2007 at 12:22pm #

    So, Mr Berkeley, should they read it before or after?

    You might have not realised this, but as you were rethorically adressing yourself, you were actually typing this into the discussion box of the DV website. Or perhaps those lines were intended to a whole party of yours present here watching you teaching the rest of us. Or it might be just that you intend us to read your mind as you don’t even bother properly adressing those doing the reading. There is not way to tell at present how far you wish to take that condescendance.

    Still, I have to say I agree with this citation, that in no way contradicts this article, althought it should make for another related subject to the matter, not a more relevant one.

    Now to add to the discussion, Bush II sure didn’t break new grounds here (how could he), it really is all an old recipe from the British empire of which the USA is an offshoot. We can still see the results even today on any type of map we like to make. Even going further back, it always boils down to the struggle of the masses under a system set up by the elite to legitimize their own game of control, whether it be Monarchy, communism or democracy: All good systems on paper, but ultimately all corrupt in their application. Even totalitarian regimes had their purpose momentarily legitimized.We know Hitler was venerated for pulling his country out of unemployment, Saddam surely was too for lifting roughly half of the country into the middle class (Chomsky, Hegemony or survival), but we all agree now on what it was really worth(interrestingly, both systems were for a time supported by US interrests). And of course, if history teaches us one thing, it’s that nobody learns from it.

    Perhaps its time for people to open their eyes and see democracy for what it really is: Yet another system set in place by the elite to keep the masses in quiet expectation as it milks them long and hard.

  9. Rowan Berkeley said on July 6th, 2007 at 12:21am #

    Perhaps they should avoid the question of the relative autonomy of today’s banking sector, take the word of Hobson that (at least a hundred years ago) the Rothschilds ran the entire imperialist system, assume nothing has changed, but agree with Hannah Arendt that such thoughts pose a danger to ‘democracy’?

  10. Rowan Berkeley said on July 6th, 2007 at 1:02am #

    Just to further complicate this issue, I shall offer the idea that, however many Jewish magnates there may still be within international banking, it is wrong to assume that zionism is doted upon by such magnates. It is probably more likely that zionism’s degree of influence over them is based on blackmail. This would certainly help to put into context the outburst by Marty Peretz against Georg Soros in ‘The New Republic’ a couple of months ago, in which he threatened to publish details of Soros’ childhood as a nazi spare wheel, if the latter did not quit complaining about zionism.

  11. Eric said on July 6th, 2007 at 6:50am #

    Again, I have to agree with you. I will without fail look into this direction. Thanks for the insight.

  12. Sandy Shanks said on July 7th, 2007 at 3:54pm #

    In an effort to get back to the point, the point being Mr. Tremblay’s article and the irrefutable conclusion that this is the 21st Century, not the 20th. I am a firm believer that there are lessons to be learned from history. However, perhaps it is now time to return to the issues raised by this article, because the issues, legislation, and executive orders are, in fact, very real issues and not a product of the author’s imagination. In an article I wrote, based on his, I took Mr. Tremblay one step further. I might also add that I have been a conservative for over a generation.

    After reading his article, I became frightened out of wits. Beyond the obvious, I started wondering about the ’08 elections. Americans are banking on the idea that finally, on Jan. 20, 2009, short of impeachment, which is unlikely, we will rid ourselves of the neoconservative [read fascist] White House. Not even the GOP candidates want anything to do with that bunch. It may take a generation to repair the damage the neocons did, and it may take that long before a Republican is again elected President.

    However, that dream of expulsion of neocon power ignores the warnings issued by Mr. Tremblay. That dream ignores the neocon thirst for power. It ignores the wild card, Cheney, the real power in Washington.

    The dream also ignores a man named Osama bin Laden, Bush’s symbiotic twin. Osama can, just as easily as you or I, read Mr. Tremblay’s devastating indictment. It is well-documented that Osama is up on his world politics. It is equally well-documented that Osama and al Qa’ida launch their attacks for political reasons. Case in point, 9/11, where months later, in March 2003, Bush/Cheney did exactly what Osama wanted them to do by diverting our attention from his host country. The attacks in Madrid in 2004 altered the outcome of the Spanish elections and caused the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq. The attacks in London in 2005 contributed to the downfall of Prime Minister Blair. Al Qa’ida has also shown patience, waiting years for a stunning attack. Anyone thinking al Qa’ida is past tense, think again. Thanks to their poster boy, our President, al Qa’ida is more virulent, more diversified than ever.

    Now if I were Osama I would initiate an attack upon the US homeland in the fall of 2008, say 9/11, because Osama loves anniversaries. This could prompt Cheney, I’m sorry, Bush, to declare martial law and suspend the ’08 elections indefinitely.