Jason Miller: Success is Not An Option
Success is Not An Option: by Jason
To the Rogue
Tyrants Belong the Spoils
Were America's ruling elites forced to become conscienceless criminals so they could fend off the scimitar-bearing Islamic hordes itching to rape, behead, and eviscerate the entire freedom-loving American population?
Or is it that these avaricious, bellicose de facto rulers of America have treated humanity with contempt for years and are simply targeting their latest scapegoat?
Perhaps the answer lies in Adam Smith’s quote, cited by Noam Chomsky in his latest book:
“the vile maxim of the masters of mankind: …All for ourselves, and nothing for other people.”
With the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction at its disposal and the economic influence it wields, the US government subjugates mankind through intimidation, extortion, and military domination. Despite myriad signs of its empire declining, America's ruling class easily qualifies as the “masters of mankind”.
Noam Chomsky recently penned Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, a book in which he provided a powerfully-constructed and heavily documented argument that the United States is a failed state, like many of the nations it has declared to be threats to itself and its allies.
As Chomsky suggested, the Bush Regime and its multiple components (including corporate interests, many of America’s wealthy, certain radical segments of the Christian population, AIPAC and its supporters, and those amongst the middle and working class still beguiled by the corporate media) have been quick to label other nations as failed states to achieve their imperialist goals.
Iraq was a failed state and a threat to the United States. Hence the invasion and occupation. Haiti was a failed state and its people were suffering. Enter United States intervention and subsequent Haitian misery.
According to Chomsky, there are three essential components to a failed state:
1. their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction.
2. their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence.
3. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious “democratic deficit” that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance.
Examples abound to support Chomsky’s assertion that the United States is indeed as much of a failed state as those it is so quick to criticize, subvert, and in some cases, invade.
America began to decline seriously under Reagan, continued its precipitous drop under Bush I and Clinton, and has reached disturbing lows under Bush II. Whether Republican or Democrat, successive United States governments degenerated into an entity which is betraying a majority of its people and is a significant threat to the continued existence of the human species: a failed state.
Human Beings are Expendable in our Quest for Money and Power
Under Bush II, the United States launched an invasion against a sovereign nation which posed no threat to the United States or its allies. US-driven UN economic sanctions had neutered Hussein militarily while resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
It is now common knowledge that significant evidence exists that the Bush Regime took America to war based on what it knew to be false information. To date, at least 250,000 Iraqis and 2,400 Americans have died as a result of the lies of a failed state.
How many more Americans will die as a result of the hatred and furor ignited by US foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East? What will be the extent of the backlash for the US invasion of Iraq and its ongoing support of Israel’s genocidal acts against the Palestinians?
Consider Chomsky’s take on the obscene hypocrisy of American foreign policy:
“There is a straightforward single standard: Their terror against us and our clients is the ultimate evil, while our terror against them does not exist—or, if it does, it is entirely appropriate.”
It is well-documented that the United States has slaughtered millions of innocent civilians (3 million in Vietnam alone) in wars of imperial conquest waged under the guise of “protecting” the American people from grossly overstated threats like Communism. America’s elite rulers are so intent on their short-term power and money grab that they fail to realize (or more likely do not care) that they are putting many of their own people in grave danger by severely abusing the rest of humanity.
Want more evidence that the US government lacks the desire or capacity to protect the American people?
Contemplate the refusal to acknowledge the reality of global warming or to participate in the Kyoto Treaty, the perpetuation and expansion of its nuclear arsenal, tax cuts for the wealthy, deep cuts in social programs coupled with increased military spending at an insane clip, the creation of $27,000 worth of debt for each American, increased privatization, and further deregulation of corporations. In the United States, policies and laws hostile to the environment, consumers, the working class, and minorities have become the status quo.
Sadly, Katrina and New Orleans provide a glimpse of the future for the majority of Americans if current social and political trends continue. Such is life in a failed state for the those who do not rest comfortably atop the pyramid of wealth and power.
A strong argument exists that global warming is causing increasingly severe hurricanes, like Katrina. Meanwhile, America’s elites decided they had better uses for taxpayer money than to strengthen the levees or stop the erosion of the wetlands which buffered New Orleans from severe hurricanes. This despite eerily prescient warnings of a Katrina-like disaster in a 2001 article in National Geographic.
Rendering FEMA impotent, robbing National Guard resources to conquer Iraq, abandoning thousands of poor Blacks to suffer and die, patrolling the streets with heavily armed Blackwater mercenaries, and suspending federal wage protections during reconstruction are clear indications of a state which has failed a majority its people miserably.
There is little room for doubt that the Bush Regime places itself above both domestic and international law. A few illustrations include:
1. wiretapping of US citizens without seeking FISA court approval (the FISA court has granted approval to virtually every request it has considered)
2. passing and renewing the Orwellian Patriot Act which seriously violates four of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights
3. the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a sovereign nation which had not attacked the United States and had posed no imminent threat
4. suspending habeas corpus and posse comitatus
5. defying the Geneva Conventions by arbitrarily arresting, detaining and torturing at least 14,000 alleged “enemy combatants”
6. significant expansion of Executive powers by adding signing statements (which direct the Executive branch to implement laws as the president sees fit rather than as Congress intended) to over 750 laws.
In Failed States, Chomsky provided many examples of America’s elites’ actions that demonstrate their disregard for domestic and international law, tracing the roots and progression of such behavior back to World War II.
A Hideous Despot Lurks Behind the Facade of Lady Liberty
The most disturbing aspect of Chomsky’s treatise defining the United States as a failed state is his exploration of its “democratic deficit”.
In stark contrast to our forefathers' blueprint for a constitutional republic in which the Constitution exists to limit government power, the people elect their leaders, and an independent judiciary exists to review the Constitutionality of government actions, America has devolved into a nation governed by the elite for the elite. The Constitution has been reduced to “just a goddamned piece of paper.”
Consider Chomsky’s analysis:
The reactionary statists who have a thin grip on political power are dedicated warriors. With consistency and passion that approach caricature, their policies serve the substantial people—in fact, an unusually narrow sector of them—and disregard or harm the underlying population and future generations. They are also seeking to use their current opportunities to institutionalize these arrangements, so that it will be no small task to reconstruct a more humane and democratic society.
US corporations contribute greatly to the American democratic deficit. Possessing rights exceeding those of human beings and bearing limited accountability, powerful corporations enable wealthy shareholders and executives to place profits ahead of people and the environment to a sociopathic extent. Corporate moral compasses are consistently drawn off course by the powerful pull of money.
Deregulation leading to decreased environmental and consumer protections , a stagnant minimum wage, skyrocketing pay for executives relative to workers, diminished benefits for the working class, and a significant decline in the power of labor unions are but a few results of corporate power in the United States. Political manipulation through unbridled lobbying combined with a revolving door between corporate suites and government offices ensure that corporate interests supersede those of the poor and working class.
Corporate-controlled media has interests which are closely aligned with those of the “substantial people”, as Chomsky called America’s elites in Failed States. Chomsky observed that in Nazi Germany, Goebbels used mainstream media’s “American advertising methods” to “sell National Socialism”. And it worked.
History is repeating itself as mainstream print and broadcast media work tirelessly to sell America’s “unsubstantial people” on grossly immoral and illegal government policies detrimental to their well-being, such as concentrating the wealth and power in the hands of a few and fighting for global hegemony. And it is working.
America’s mainstream media has two powerful weapons at its disposal, both of which are deeply embedded in the psyche of many Americans.
As Chomsky pointed out in his book, the media wins the hearts and minds of many Americans by reminding them of their “nobility of purpose” in bringing “the Spirit of Civilization” to other peoples and nations, even if it means killing millions in the process.
Americans have also demonstrated a repeated vulnerability to the media manipulating them with fear. Throughout history, America’s elite have contrived or grossly exaggerated foes such as Native Americans, Blacks, Communists, Hispanic narco-terrorists, illegal immigrants, terrorists, and street criminals. Manufactured irrational fear has led to compliance, subjugation, and the creation of a host of industries benefiting the “substantial people”. Long live the military and prison industrial complexes!
One of Chomsky’s most startling and often over-looked observations about America is the chasm between political will and the popular will.
Consider that in 1984, Reagan won with 30% of the popular vote. Of those polled, 4% said they voted for Reagan because “he’s a real conservative”. This equates to 1% of voters stating they were endorsing conservatism with their vote. America’s media proclaimed the election “a powerful mandate for conservatism”. Polls showed that in 1984 over 80% of Americans supported increases in social spending and a majority favored cuts in military spending over decreased spending on healthcare. Obviously the Reagan and his administration chose to curry the favor of 20% of the population when they implemented policy.
The United States is the only industrialized nation with no universal health care system. 46 million Americans are uninsured and the WHO recently rated the US healthcare system as number 37 in the world. Chomsky cited numerous opinion polls, including those conducted by NBC-Wall Street Journal and the Pew Research Center. Each poll reflected that over 60% of Americans wanted a universal health care system. Yet the privatized system is too great a benefit to the “substantial people”. It is politically “untouchable”. A nation as wealthy as the United States that does not provide basic healthcare to all of its people is a failed state.
Deceitful manipulation of public opinion for political gain is a specialty of US government elites. As Congress was cutting $20 billion from the Medicaid program, Tom Delay led the charge (made possible by corporate media) to give Terri Schiavo the “chance we all deserve”. Where is the duplicity, you ask? Terri Schiavo was a Medicaid patient.
How Can We the People Reclaim the United States?
What measures would restore the American government to its Constitutional mandates to “provide for the general welfare” and to “provide for the common defense”, return the US to being a law-abiding member of the world community, and eradicate the “democratic deficit”?
In Failed State, Chomsky suggested:
1. accept the jurisdiction of the
International Criminal Court and the World Court.
2. Sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols
3. let the UN take the lead in international crises
4. rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror
5. keep to the traditional interpretation for the UN Charter
6. give up the Security Council veto and have a “decent respect for the opinion of mankind”, as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centers disagree
7. cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending
Beyond Chomsky’s suggestions, here are some avenues the poor, working and middle class can pursue to put their state back on a path toward success for them:
1. massive, sustained boycotts of major
corporations which engage in egregiously criminal behavior,
in the US or abroad.
2. massive and sustained boycotts of the mainstream media
3. America’s youth refusing to enlist in the military so long as the United States continues to use its military for purposes other than defense.
4. significant numbers of existing military personnel refusing to fight wars of aggression by following the example of Kevin Benderman and filing for conscientious objector status
5. the formation of a viable third political party (i.e. Populists, Socialists, or Labor) which represents the “unsubstantials” to counter the Democrats and Republicans (both mere vehicles for the wealthy and elite to maintain power)
6. increased unionization and enhanced cooperation amongst existing unions
7. massive numbers of Americans declining to engage in over-consumption
8. American consumers limiting their debt to necessities and expenses for their businesses if they are proprietors
9. wide-spread support of NGO’s that support human rights and provide poverty relief
10. individual Americans making a conscious effort to educate themselves and to think critically
11. sweeping efforts to teach America’s youth true American history and to use their critical thinking skills to question their failed state
12. wide-ranging grass roots efforts to maintain the alternative media on the Internet, Internet communities and the integrity of the Internet by limiting control by major corporations
13. individuals engaging in civil disobedience when it is sensible and necessary
Noam Chomsky, one of the preeminent scholars and moral philosophers of our time, has been largely ignored by the mainstream media, presumably because of his vehement dissent against US foreign and domestic policy.
Recently, he has also been demonized by a number of his fellow dissenters, scholars, and members of the reality-based community. Some criticize him for his unwillingness to validate the assertion that 9/11 was perpetrated by the US government. Others call him a Zionist who is soft on Israel. Some even believe that Chomsky is actually one the “substantial people” and uses his brilliant dissent to advocate non-violent change as a means of taming potentially violent revolutionaries. Still others label him a hypocrite because of the measure of wealth he has derived from over the course of his career.
Regardless of what one believes about Chomsky or his motives, Failed States is a brilliant dissection of the increasingly inhumane and authoritarian political structure of the United States. Chomsky advances a highly convincing argument that America is indeed a failed state whose de facto ruling elite are engaged in The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. Like him or not, Chomsky’s latest work exposes America’s ruling for the world to see them as the ruthless narcissists they truly are.
Jason Miller is a 39 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. When he is not spending time with his wife and three sons, researching, or writing, he is working as a loan counselor. He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at