2004: The Year Of Disillusion

by Manuel García, Jr.


December 13, 2004   


(Swans - December 13, 2004)  

The Big Story Of 2004

The big story of 2004 is the end of a two-headed illusion: that the U.S. is not an empire and that it is democratic.

Historians and many knowledgeable people have long seen through the illusion, perhaps even for a century, but in 2004 the fact of US imperialism is obvious and casually stated, (1) as is the realization that elections have little impact on government policies in substantive matters: the economy, war, the conduct of corporations. (2)

The Iraq War was the major story of 2003, but last year many still clung to the illusion of America as a democratic republic rather than an imperial oligarchy. The majority of Americans refused to believe their government would attack another nation under false pretenses, and for imperial ambitions. Comparisons between America's attack on Iraq to Germany's attack on Poland in September 1939 are now common, as are "Bush equals Hitler" allusions. (3)

It is this change in popular perception of the Iraq War, from a military operation within a broader campaign of self-defense initiated as a response to a terrorist attack on US soil, to a deceptively justified premeditated attack motivated by a concern to control Middle East oil, that is the major development in American popular consciousness in 2004.

The Fallen Illusions

The popular illusions that fell this year were:

1. weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq (4)

2. military victory

3. ending terrorism (5)

4. American goodness ("Abu Ghraib")

5. fair elections (in three shades): a. denial of Nader to the electorate by "Democrats" b. denial of Democrat electoral victory by Republican "fraud" c. Jim Crow barring poll access as a Republican "voter suppression" effort

6. a reasoning electorate ("values") (6)

7. the Democratic Party stands for something (besides pork).

The election of George W. Bush in 2004 can be seen as the falling away of all veiling illusions that anything other than tribalism is the source of power in the United States. Power is "white power," this is primal. (7)

What Happens Now?

The Republicans will pounce on the Social Security Trust Fund making every effort to raid ("privatize") this most socialist of almost virginal US public treasures. This will require incurring additional debt, which will create profit opportunities for the financial industry. Given the depth of US debt, if the dollar collapsed this would be the story of 2005, something like the story of 1929. (8) Recently, the economist Paul Krugman noted that it was the privatization of Argentina's public pension system that created additional national debt for that country, and which precipitated the collapse of their economy in 2001 with a default of $100B, the largest such event in modern economic history. (9)

If the Democrats let the Republicans take Social Security (and "take" is what it would be, this is primal), then they will lose all credibility with those who still support them, and it would be hard to see how they would survive. The Democrats' agenda for 2005-2008 has to be "save Social Security, or die."

Can the Blue People, the disillusioned and the I-told-you-so leftists ever kiss and make up, and more importantly create an effective political front? Not soon (being right is always more important, even in the left), but perhaps a few forward-thinking minds will begin working toward that goal by using the 2008 election as a motivating milestone in the construction of a robust opposition.

For me one thing is clear, Ralph Nader may be our greatest living American Patriot. He keeps at it with wit and good humor despite the many low blows sent his way. He is today's Tom Paine; everyone knows he is right, but their own fears, biases and personal "take" from the system get in the way of being able to embrace the ideals he represents. (10)

That we do it to ourselves may forever remain safely veiled by comforting illusions, as well as comforting disillusion.

The Forces On The Empire

The factors threatening our (well, their) empire are, in order of greatest severity: debt, loss of oil, entropy, military failure, demographics and agricultural losses.

"Debt" is the unpaid tab of binge capitalism, with speculative imperialist war.

Most of our oil is imported, and we also depend heavily on the financial gains made by sponsoring the currency of the oil financing cycle. (11) The current Iraq War was launched to counter threats to the dollar's monopoly of oil commerce. (12)

The degradation of both domestic and international political order would be a major threat to any system of imperial planning and control. Since the US imperial system aims to produce socio-political "stability" for business to maintain a steady state of extractive operations, any surprise or upset of the economic and political environment can create deep anxiety and even losses of capital (chilling!). The more obsessive and finely detailed the mania for control, the greater the exposure to the whims of chance. Entropy is strictly the disorder of thermal systems, for example the loss of heat at constant temperature. The deepest explanation of the nature of entropy was given by the mathematical physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906), the inscription on his tombstone is the formula resulting from his work. Entropy itself is a simple concept; it is the observation that there is an inherent "wearing out" or degradation of the mechanisms of the universe as time progresses. This degradation can never be reversed (over the long term), though it can be accelerated by wasteful use of energy. Entropy is easy to see. Organic decay is entropy, aging is entropy, global warming is entropy, the increasing chaos under the American occupation in Iraq is entropy. The planning for the Iraq War and its aftermath did not include any considerations of entropy -- rose petals were planned for.

Military failure is a threat to the people of the empire because it can hurt them (by the actions of the victors against the vanquished) after the sacrifices they made for their own military have been used and lost.

The demographic threat to the American empire is the increasing population of the globe, further reducing the American minority on earth, as well as the dwindling proportion of white (and only English speaking) people in the American population. This may ultimately be what topples the empire.

The sixth factor that might threaten the American empire is the possible loss of agricultural productivity because of land exhaustion, desertification and salt build-up due to excessive irrigation and chemical farming, and the effects of climate change brought on by global warming.

The big story of 2005 in America is likely to be about whichever of these six factors suddenly explodes to threaten the empire. From today's perspective, the most likely story of 2005 will probably involve some combination of debt, oil and entropy, the essential ingredients of American capitalism.

The Hope For The Future

Are there any positive developments to 2004? Yes, I think so.

Children who find each other in the park can often find ways of playing together, even if their adult parents remain aloof. Sometimes the child's play turns nasty, but more often it rolls along happily. Our world is shrinking in a psychological sense. Our children experience the world as a more crowded playground than we did when we were their age, so they seem to be quicker and more apt at social engagement. The internet, for example, allows us to converse across great distances of space and culture, and this medium is just a natural part of our children's playground. This ease of access to information and conversation makes it more difficult to remain in the same degree of ignorance about other people as was the case in our youth and earlier times. It seems possible that the greater facility our children have to play together in the world's playground may be the source of the connecting recognition called peace, which blossoms in their time.

Happy New Year, world, and Peace.

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[All Web sites active 2 December 2004.]

1  "The UNITED STATES as an EMPIRE," Ernest Partridge and Bernard Weiner, editors & compilers, The Crisis Papers, http://www.crisispapers.org/topics/US-empire.htm  (back)

2  "Your Guide To The Money In U.S. Elections," The Center for Responsive Politics, http://www.opensecrets.org/

"2004 ELECTION OUTCOME: MONEY WINS," 29 November 2004, http://www.opensecrets.org/pressreleases/2004/04results.asp  (back)

3.  Bush = Hitler Allusions:

David M. Boje, Ph.D., "24 Ways President Bush is like Adolph Hitler?," PeaceAware.com, 27 February 2003, http://www.zianet.com/boje/peace/documents/24_ways_Bush_is_like_Hitler.htm

Robert Hinkley, "The Gallery of 'Bush = Hitler' Allusions," semiskimmed dot net, http://semiskimmed.net/bushhitler.html (extensive)

Edward Jayne, "31 Similarities Between Hitler and President Bush," www.dissidentvoice.org, 29 August 2004 (revised from an earlier version posted 29 March 2003), http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles3/Jayne_Hitler-Bush.htm  (back)

4.  Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), "Three in Four Say If Iraq Did Not Have WMD or Support al Qaeda, US Should Not Have Gone to War," Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland, 28 October 2004, http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Pres_Election_04/html/more_10_28_04.htm#1  (back)

5.  CNN LIVE SATURDAY, "Interview with Michael Ware; Ukrainian Parliament Votes Election Invalid; Retailers Hope Weekend Will Kick Off Holiday Season Profits," Aired 27 November 2004 - 16:00 ET http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0411/27/cst.04.html

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN ANCHOR: It's difficult to understand the situation in Iraq unless you've seen it for yourself. Michael Ware has been reporting on the war for Time magazine and has seen both sides of the conflict. He gained exclusive access to the insurgents and spent months with them. He also was embedded with the U.S. Army during the battle of Falluja. And he recently spoke do CNN's Aaron Brown.


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You've been in and out of there for two years. You'll be back in there probably sooner than you want. Do you have a sense that, on the military side, progress is being made?

MICHAEL WARE, TIME: To put it simply, no. No, I don't. I mean, I don't have any sense of victory or a sense that the coalition, the West is winning right now. I mean, it seems to me we're losing ground figuratively and literally.

Just from my own example. Nine months ago, I could travel the breadth of Iraq. Sure, it was dangerous, it was risky, but it was calculated. Then that ceased. And I was restricted to Baghdad itself. And the only way I could leave Baghdad was if the insurgents took me and guaranteed my safety. Now I can't believe [sic, even leave?] my compound. Kidnap teams circle my house. And even in my compound, they mortar -- drop bombs on our house. And in parts of Baghdad itself, the U.S. military has lost control.

The terrorists of Abu Musab al Zarqawi control entire quarters or suburbs. One of them, Haifa Street, the most famous, is within mortar range of the US Embassy itself.

And every day we're creating more recruits for the insurgents. And every day more young men from outside Iraq, from the Muslim world, the grieved and disenfranchised, are rising up and coming to join the fight, to blood [sic, bloody?] themselves. Right now, we are the midwives of the next generation of jihad, of the next al Qaeda.

So the very thing that the administration says it went there to prevent, it is creating. And despite the honor and the bravery and the uncommon valor that I see among the American boys there in uniform who are fighting this grinding war day-to-day, when I see them dying in front of me, I can't help but think that perhaps they're dying in vain. Because we're making the nightmare that we're trying to prevent.

CNN Transcripts for November 27, 2004 http://edition .cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/2004.11.27.html CNN Transcripts, Main Page http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/  (back)

6.  Manuel García, Jr., "The Imprisoned American Mind," Swans, 2 August 2004, http://www.swans.com/library/art10/mgarci19.html  (back)

7.  Michael Novick, "A Post-Mortem on Post-Election Post-Mortems: The Death Knell of White Supremacy," www.dissidentvoice.org, 16 November 2004 (widely multi-posted, not clear which is the initial web source, or if there were multiple web sources; ultimate source = AntiRacistAction_LA@yahoo.com), http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Nov2004/Novick1116.htm  (back)

8.  Brett Arends, "Economic 'Armageddon' Predicted," Boston Herald, 23 November 2004, http://business.bostonherald.com/businessNews/view.bg?articleid=55356  (back)

9.  Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, "Krugman: Economic Crisis a Question of When, Not If," 22 November 2004, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=6888422  (back)

10.  Bertrand Russell, "The Fate Of Thomas Paine," (1934) in Why I Am Not A Christian, And Other Essays On Religion And Related Subjects, edited by Paul Edwards, (1957, George Allen & Unwin Ltd.), NY: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster, Inc.), ISBN 0-671-20323-1 After publishing The Rights Of Man in England in 1792, in which he argued against deficit financing and hereditary sovereigns, Paine was declared a traitor and went to France to avoid an English hanging. His arguments were common sense,
Nevertheless, Pitt [William Pitt the Younger, 1759-1806, Prime Minister in 1792] decided to inaugurate his reign of terror by prosecuting Paine and suppressing The Rights Of Man. According to his niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, he "used to say that Tom Paine was quite in the right, but then, he would add, what am I to do? As things are, if I were to encourage Tom Paine's opinions we should have a bloody revolution."

11.  Manuel García, Jr., "The Palestinians Versus The SUV," Swans, 10 May 2004, http://www.swans.com/library/art10/mgarci13.html  (back)

12.  William Clark, "Iran is the Next Target: the Emerging Euro-dominated International Oil Marker," Centre for Research on Globalisation (Canada), 27 October 2004, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CLA410A.html  (back)

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Manuel García, Jr. is a graduate aerospace engineer, working as a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He did underground nuclear testing between 1978 and 1992. He is concerned with employee rights and unionization at the nuclear weapons labs, and the larger issue of their social costs. Otherwise, he is an amateur poet who is fascinated by the physics of fluids, zen sensibility, and the impact of truth.

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This Week's Internal Links

2004: A Case Study In Forensic Irony - by Phil Rockstroh

2004: Diary Of A Man In Despair - by Michael Doliner

Empire Of Amnesia, 2004 - by John Steppling

2004: Reality in Perspective - by Jan Baughman

2004: Another Best and Worst Year - by Joe Davison

2004: The Lost Year - by Eli Beckerman

2004: Perspectives And Opportunities - by Louis Proyect

2004: The Insurgent Word - by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Retrospective On 2004, Or Why I Need More Sleep - by Joel Wendland

Beyond The Beyond: Reflections on a November Visited Upon us . . . Again - by Milo Clark

2004: We Could Use Some People Power In The U.S. - by Frank Wycoff

2004: The Superpower Kept Sinking - by Philip Greenspan

The Message Of 2004 - by Charles Marowitz

2004: A Year Of Frightening Regression - by Edward S. Herman

Death Genes: The Second Coming - Book Excerpt by Walker Percy

Libertad Bajo Palabra - Poem by Octavio Paz (also in French and in English)

Plantation Politics? Mimes, Minstrels And Miscalculation - by S. Jeffrey Jones

Blips #8 - From the Editor's desk

Letters to the Editor


Published December 13, 2004
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