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Our new empire

The American Empire, having lost its old enemy, Communism, has found a new `ism' with which to justify military action anywhere in the world. Now that the campaign in Iraq has revealed the intentions of the empire, we now have to learn to live in it, both as nations and as peoples, says TIMERI N. MURARI.


The world may now lie under the shadow of America.

IRAQ is history. It became history when America decided to invade, with or without the United Nations. Norman Mailer in The Naked and the Dead had his character state: "War is about real estate". Iraq is a good piece of real estate to control for what is under it. Quite simply, America wanted it.

We are all, like Iraq, subjects of the American Empire. We have been, like it or not, for the last 60 years, the end of World War II and the rise of America as a global power. It has seduced us with its wealth, as all empires have, and drawn the most talented children to it. Standing where we are at this moment, we must believe that the American Empire will now rule until infinity. Its army, with all its massive firepower, can roam the world at will. Its economy is our economy.

This belief of Imperial Infinity is not new. A subject of the Roman Empire must have believed that that Empire would rule into infinity. Probably it did during one man's lifetime. But that Rome, which ruled the known world, both economically and militarily, began to shrink, accelerating at an alarming rate until Rome only ruled Rome.

I wrote a novel about the British Empire, choosing to begin it in the year 1900. I chose that time because the British Empire was at its very peak. The Empress Victoria was on the throne, in India our Viceroy was Lord Curzon and, from that point of view, the power of that Empire looked infinite to an Indian subject. Nothing could shake such a power that, militarily and economically, ruled most of the world. Yet, within a dozen years, the collapse began, in India anyway, accelerated by World War I and then Jallianwallah Bagh. The British Empire lasted a mere 100 years, nothing much in man's time span.

The point I am making is that every Empire ends. It has a sell-by date, except neither the Imperial power nor the subject people know when this date will come. It will come; history teaches us of this certainty, if nothing else. Nothing lasts forever, not the earth, not the sun, not those tiny pin points of light above our heads, some a million times larger than earth.

Down here, the Greek, Byzantine, Ottoman, Russian, Mongol, Mughal Empires are footnotes in our history books. The American Empire too will go the way of all empires. The American Empire could believe that, like a Third Reich, it will last a thousand years. We are at that point when there is an infinity in the Empire's life.

Iraq revealed its intentions. Now, we have to learn to live in the American Empire, both as nations and as a people. The American past is not a promising signpost. By the very nature of what it is, Empires are malignant, not benign though they cloak this malignancy with shallow kindness. The American one has killed many millions of people, mostly non-Caucasian races ranging from the Native American, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Afghans and Arabs. During World War II when the Russians were advancing rapidly into Germany, we must remember the United States and the United Kingdom supported local militia to delay the Russian advance. By doing that, thousands of Jews continued to die in those concentration camps. While back in America, American citizens were herded into concentration camps too. They had the misfortune to be of Japanese descent.

The American Empire, having lost its old enemy, Communism, has found a new "ism" with which to justify any military action. Anywhere in the world. Terror-ism was born out of the tragic conflagration of 9/11. We are now all suspect members of this new "ism". Under the old "ism", we could be denied entry or, if American citizens, subjected to the McCarthy witch-hunts. To be even suspected of this new "ism" is enough to end up in an American prison or worse, the concentration camp in Cuba. Under a proposed new bill, the Domestic Security Enhancement act, the government could withhold the identity of anyone detained in connection with a terror investigation and their names would be exempt from the Freedom of Information act. This "ism" demands unquestionable love and adoration of all things American. Even those white Americans who protested the Iraq war sailed very close to committing treason. Last month Stephen Dawnes was handcuffed and arrested in a shopping mall for wearing a "Give Peace a Chance" T-shirt. An old woman carrying an anti-war placard "No Blood for Oil" was arrested and jailed.

Speaking to a group of college students in Los Angeles recently, James Woolsey, a hard line hawk and ex-Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, described the war in Iraq as the onset of the "Fourth World War" (the third being the Cold War), saying: "This Fourth World War, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us". Woolsey was a member of the Project for the New American Century, a forum that laid out plans for global, unchallenged American power. He now sits on the powerful Defense Policy Board, a hawkish semi-official ideological body that advises the Pentagon.

He claimed the new war faces three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the "fascists" of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaeda. That is for now but the net could grow wider. "As we move toward a new Middle East," he said, "over the years and, I think, over the decades to come ... we will make a lot of people very nervous. Our response should be, "Good! We want you nervous. We want you to realise now, for the fourth time in 100 years, this country and its allies are on the march."

He speaks from the very pinnacle of power and he is addressing not only the Arab nations but also all of us who are assembled below him. He speaks for our new Caesar and we have to wait until his empire reaches its inevitable end.

Timeri N. Murari is a novelist, playwright and filmmaker. Visit him at:

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