Chris Hedges: The Unraveling Of The American Empire

Chris Hedges

America’s defeat in Afghanistan is one in a string of catastrophic military blunders that herald the death of the American empire. With the exception of the first Gulf War, fought largely by mechanized units in the open desert that did not — wisely — attempt to occupy Iraq, the United States political and military leadership has stumbled from one military debacle to another. Korea. Vietnam. Lebanon. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Libya. The trajectory of military fiascos mirrors the sad finales of the Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, Russian, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese and Soviet empires. While each of these empires decayed with their own peculiarities, they all exhibited patterns of dissolution that characterize the American experiment.

Imperial ineptitude is matched by domestic ineptitude. The collapse of good government at home, with legislative, executive and judicial systems all seized by corporate power, ensures that the incompetent and the corrupt, those dedicated not to the national interest but to swelling the profits of the oligarchic elite, lead the country into a cul-de-sac. Rulers and military leaders, driven by venal self-interest, are often buffoonish characters in a grand comic operetta. How else to think of Allen Dulles, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Trump or the hapless Joe Biden? While their intellectual and moral vacuity is often darkly amusing, it is murderous and savage when directed towards their victims.

There is not a single case since 1941 when the coups, political assassinations, election fraud, black propaganda, blackmail, kidnapping, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, U.S. sanctioned massacres, torture in global black sites, proxy wars or military interventions carried out by the United States resulted in the establishment of a democratic government. The two-decade-long wars in the Middle East, the greatest strategic blunder in American history, have only left in their wake one failed state after another. Yet, no one in the ruling class is held accountable.


War, when it is waged to serve utopian absurdities, such as implanting a client government in Baghdad that will flip the region, including Iran, into U.S. protectorates, or when, as in Afghanistan, there is no vision at all, descends into a quagmire. The massive allocation of money and resources to the U.S. military, which includes Biden’s request for $715 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2022, a $11.3 billion, or 1.6 percent increase, over 2021, is not in the end about national defense. The bloated military budget is designed, as Seymour Melman explained in his book, The Permanent War Economy, primarily to keep the American economy from collapsing. All we really make anymore are weapons. Once this is understood, perpetual war makes sense, at least for those who profit from it.

The idea that America is a defender of democracy, liberty and human rights would come as a huge surprise to those who saw their democratically elected governments subverted and overthrown by the United States in Panama (1941), Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), Honduras (2009) and Egypt (2013). And this list does not include a host of other governments that, however despotic, as was the case in South Vietnam, Indonesia or Iraq, were viewed as inimical to American interests and destroyed, in each case making life for the inhabitants of these countries even more miserable.

I spent two decades on the outer reaches of empire as a foreign correspondent. The flowery rhetoric used to justify the subjugation of other nations so corporations can plunder natural resources and exploit cheap labor is solely for domestic consumption. The generals, intelligence operatives, diplomats, bankers and corporate executives that manage empire find this idealistic talk risible. They despise, with good reason, naïve liberals who call for “humanitarian intervention” and believe the ideals used to justify empire are real, that empire can be a force for good. These liberal interventionists, the useful idiots of imperialism, attempt to civilize a process that was created and designed to repress, intimidate, plunder and dominate.

The liberal interventionists, because they wrap themselves in high ideals, are responsible for numerous military and foreign policy debacles. The call by liberal interventionists such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Susan Rice and Samantha Power to fund jihadists in Syria and depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya rent these countries — as in Afghanistan and Iraq — into warring fiefdoms. The liberal interventionists are also the tip of the spear in the campaign to rachet up tensions with China and Russia.

U.S. State Department staff en route to Tripoli, Libya, Oct. 18, 2011. (State Department, Flickr)

Russia is blamed for interfering in the last two presidential elections on behalf of Donald Trump. Russia, whose economy is roughly the size of Italy’s, is also attacked for destabilizing the Ukraine, supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, funding France’s National Front party and hacking into German computers. Biden has imposed sanctions on Russia — including limits on buying newly issued sovereign debt — in response to allegations that Moscow was behind a hack on SolarWinds Corp. and worked to thwart his candidacy.

At the same time, the liberal interventionists are orchestrating a new cold war with China, justifying this cold war because the Chinese government is carrying out genocide against its Uyghur minority, repressing the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and stealing U.S. patents. As with Russia, sanctions have been imposed targeting the country’s ruling elite. The U.S. is also carrying out provocative military maneuvers along the Russian border and in the South China Sea.

The core belief of imperialists, whether they come in the form of a Barack Obama or a George W. Bush, is racism and ethnic chauvinism, the notion that Americans are permitted, because of superior attributes, to impose their “values” on lesser races and peoples by force. This racism, carried out in the name of Western civilization and its corollary white supremacy, unites the rabid imperialists and liberal interventionists in the Republican and Democratic parties. It is the fatal disease of empire, captured in Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American and Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.

Aug. 9, 1998: U.S. embassy after attack, Nairobi, Kenya,  (IDF, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The crimes of empire always spawn counter-violence that is then used to justify harsher forms of imperial repression. For example, the United States routinely kidnapped Islamic jihadists fighting in the Balkans between 1995 and 1998. They were sent to Egypt — many were Egyptian — where they were savagely tortured and usually executed. In 1998, the International Islamic Front for Jihad said it would carry out a strike against the United States after jihadists were kidnapped and transferred to black sites from Albania. They made good on their threat igniting massive truck bombs at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 dead. Of course, the “extraordinary renditions” by the CIA did not end and neither did the attacks by jihadists.


Our decades-long military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, are called “micro-militarism.” The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) when they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. The defeat triggered successful revolts throughout the Athenian empire.

The Roman empire, which at its height lasted for two centuries, created a military machine that, like the Pentagon, was a state within a state. Rome’s military rulers, led by Augustus, snuffed out the remnants of Rome’s anemic democracy and ushered in a period of despotism that saw the empire disintegrate under the weight of extravagant military expenditures and corruption.

The British empire, after the suicidal military folly of World War I, was terminated in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Britain was forced to withdraw in humiliation, empowering Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over its few remaining colonies. None of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power: “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

The worse it gets at home the more the empire needs to fabricate enemies within and without. This is the real reason for the increase in tensions with Russia and China. The poverty of half the nation and concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny oligarchic cabal, the wanton murder of unarmed civilians by militarized police, the rage at the ruling elites, expressed with nearly half the electorate voting for a con artist and demagogue and a mob of his supporters storming the capitol, are the internal signs of disintegration. The inability of the for-profit national health services to cope with the pandemic, the passage of a Covid relief bill and the proposal of an infrastructure bill that would hand the bulk of some $5 trillion dollars to corporations while tossing crumbs — one-time checks of $1,400 to a citizenry in deep financial distress — will only fuel the decline.

February 2018: Die-in demonstration by Teens For Gun Reform in wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. (Lorie Shaull via Flickr) [Editor’s note: Except, of course, the Parkland shooting, unlike the War in Afghanistan, was staged.]

Because of the loss of unionized jobs, the real decline of wages, de-industrialization, chronic underemployment and unemployment, and punishing austerity programs, the country is plagued by a plethora of diseases of despair including opioid addictions, alcoholism, suicides, gambling, depression, morbid obesity and mass shootings — since March 16 the United States has had at least 45 mass shootings, including eight people killed in an Indiana FedEx facility on Friday, three dead and three injured in a shooting in Wisconsin on Sunday, and another three dead in a shooting in Austin on Sunday. These are the consequences of a deeply troubled society.

The façade of empire is able to mask the rot within its foundations, often for decades, until, as we saw with the Soviet Union, the empire appears to suddenly disintegrate. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will probably mark the final chapter of the American empire. In 2015, the dollar accounted for 90 percent of bilateral transactions between China and Russia, a percentage that has since fallen to about 50 percent. The use of sanctions as a weapon against China and Russia pushes these countries to replace the dollar with their own national currencies. Russia, as part of this move away from the dollar, has begun accumulating yuan reserves.

The loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency will instantly raise the cost of imports. It will result in unemployment of Depression-era levels. It will force the empire to dramatically contract. It will, as the economy worsens, fuel a hyper-nationalism that will most likely be expressed through a Christianized fascism. The mechanisms, already in place, for total social control, militarized police, a suspension of civil liberties, wholesale government surveillance, enhanced “terrorism” laws that railroad people into the world’s largest prison system and censorship overseen by the digital media monopolies will seamlessly cement into place a police state. Nations that descend into crises this severe seek to deflect the rage of a betrayed population on foreign scapegoats. China and Russia will be used to fill these roles.

The defeat in Afghanistan is a familiar and sad story, one all those blinded by imperial hubris endure. The tragedy, however, is not the collapse of the American empire, but that, lacking the ability to engage in self-critique and self-correction, as it dies it will lash out in a blind, inchoate fury at innocents at home and abroad.

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This column is from Scheerpostfor which Chris Hedges writes a regular column twice a month. Click here to sign up for email alerts.

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19 thoughts on “Chris Hedges: The Unraveling Of The American Empire”

  1. Moon fakery?

    There are no up close, full face clear photos of the astronots standing on the surface of the moon [except two incidental blurry distance pics].

    If you had been to the surface of the moon, wouldn’t you want a clear full face photo of yourself standing on the moon? Think of the historic value of such photos. Yet, there are none.

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Will. I have posted a half-dozen or so comments. Pretty bizarre: attacking a guy for an article he did not write? I think MattyD 4Truth has outed himself as a complete idiot. I guess that’s his claim to fame: smearing those who are doing their best to expose propaganda!

      1. I had a bad sense about Matty for a while. This video put the icing on the cake. He was way off course. Bossman backing him up only meant he had also not spent any time reading the article or examining the situation and calling me a liar did not help.
        Glad to see you straightened out the situation. I was stunned and quite put off when I first saw that report, but it served a good purpose in exposing Matty for who he really is….a big mouth, shallow and fact-less.
        In any case, I think I’ll avoid 153 news for a while.

      2. I have invited Allan Weisbecker on my radio show (LIVE) to discuss his reasons for thinking I am a fraud, if that’s what he thinks. I thought he was a friend of mine. Comes as news to me.

  2. This is a bit off the wall, but nonetheless intriguing when one looks at the way high tech is subverting, censoring and propagandizing the American and world populace. I was looking for something TOTALLY unrelated to this product (actually, a skin cream) when it appeared in the choices.

    If this is not subliminal and subversive, what is…?

    If you think this was accident, think again. This is death by a million little cuts.

  3. This article is fairly short, so I’ll post in its entirety….the only correction to make is to change the spelling of Faucian to FAUSTIAN! I have little doubt Fau(st)ci has close connections with ALL that is evil.

    “….and if it wasn’t coronavirus, it just would have been something else.”….That absolutely sums it up clearly!

    Steve Deace on ‘Faucian Bargain’: Second Opinions About COVID-19 Denied to Americans

    By GQ Pan and Jan Jekielek

    April 26, 2021 Updated:

    Americans are being denied access to key information about COVID-19 by unelected bureaucrats who seek to expand government power and control, warned talk show host and author Steve Deace, whose new book “Faucian Bargain” recently topped Amazon’s bestsellers list.

    “The two main objectives of our health care system—informed consent and second opinions—were denied to us at COVID,” Deace said in an interview with The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders,” adding that much of the data presented in his book has not been communicated to the American public by Dr. Anthony Fau (ST)ci , who leads the nation’s pandemic response.

    “For example, if the average American knew that almost half of the deaths in America with COVID occurred in nursing homes where less than one percent of Americans live, we would have never ever gone along with this level of subjugation,” Deace told host Jan Jekielek. “These are the sorts of data points that have been kept from the American people, so they have not been given the right to informed consent.”

    Deace moved on to cite a variety of “counter experts” from prestigious institutions such as Stanford and Oxford Universities, who “got kicked to the curb” because of their skepticism of one particular COVID-19 model used to justify lockdowns that severely affected people’s lives.

    “We were told to trust the experts,” he said. “Why weren’t we permitted to get second opinions from counter experts, before we decided to risk a huge drop in cancer screenings, 40 million unemployed, 20 percent of American small businesses that are never going to return, on average, across the country?”

    Deace then highlighted an apparent lack of controlled scientific studies proving the effectiveness of masks. He noted that while no domestic studies used a random controlled sample of unmasked people, a Danish study did and found that wearing a mask doesn’t significantly reduce one’s chances of contracting the virus.

    Deace also pointed to an April 2020 study published by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Following angry outcries calling for the paper’s retraction, the authors were forced to add a lengthy statement explaining how they came to the conclusion that masks are not effective in helping to lower the spread of the virus.

    “Then there’s now a disclaimer, where they basically apologize to the mob for the fact that they ever tried to do actual science,” he said. “SO THAT”S WHAT THE MASK HAS REALLY BECOME. IT’S GONE BEYOND VIRTUE SIGNALING. IT IS IDOLATRY. IT’S “I’M BETTER THAN YOU. I’M SMARTER THAN YOU. I CARE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE MORE THAN YOU. When really it’s a tool of ignorance.”

    When asked whether he thinks the pandemic was used by bureaucrats like Fau (ST)ci to increase power, Deace said he believed there have been “forces waiting for the right moment” and saw the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to advance their agenda.

    “Just look how quickly people like Bill Gates had their messaging already in order,” he said, “look how instantaneously the messaging was assembled.” Deace said, “I absolutely believe there were forces at work, waiting for some kind of moment to institute, what they even use in their own language, a ‘Great Reset.’”

    “They didn’t know what it was going to be, and then they saw this come along and figured that this was the moment for them to act,” he continued. “I don’t think that is tied into the origin of the virus whatsoever, and if it wasn’t coronavirus, it just would have been something else.”

    Here’s Deace’s book:

  4. Upon reading articles of the following nature, it becomes more than obvious the BLM and ANTIFA “protests” are an agenda driven campaign financed by the NWO cabal. No other explanation makes common sense. Who in their right mind wants the cops defunded which would lead to total lawlessness; which is just about what we have now without any thoughtless/ mindless defunding. Can anyone imagine what it would be like post defunding. Mad Max is what I envision.

    When did tossing Molotov cocktails become less than attempted murder??

    At least the mayor of Portland is coming to his senses.


  5. Republicans or Dems, I dare you to tell me these “honorable” men and women do not look like CLOWNS in their ridiculous different colored masks….pushing them up over their damn nose every 10 seconds and trying to speak through a piece of cloth. It’s a bad joke. It’s buffoonery and a circus and I guarantee when they are off camera, they are having one big damn laugh at our expense. Frig ’em all!! This is totally ridiculous and outrageous!

  6. More fakery from NASA!! For a helicopter to fly, there must be some atmosphere, correct? Where the f is the dust?? Like all else in the USA, it’s fake, phony and a lie. Period.


    The helicopter kicks up absolutely no dust which is impossible. Mars is completely covered in super fine dust laid down by millions of years of wind erosion with no rain ever happening to secure it to the surface. No dust from the downdraft means this is just CGI fakery, the mission is fake as I originally stated and then clearly demonstrated with the (now faked properly) “camera images” but they screwed up again, evidently Mars is a clean room that has no dust. You know – the dust that can completely block out all views of the surface during dust storms. The dust they claim has seriously stifled previous rovers because it built up on the solar panels. Where is it in that helicopter video? it should have been a red-out or brown out. I figured the helicopter would be a failure from the dust, WHERE IS IT???

  7. Chris Hedges has some great insights on foreign affairs but is less astute when it comes to domestic false flags. For one, hospitals were decidedly NOT overloaded during COVID, and yes, Parkland was a staged event. The only major mistake about our military interventions was to call the first Gulf War a success. What did it achieve and at what cost? Almost 300,000 US veterans of that war have suffered from the cholinesterase poisoning associated with chronic administration of pyridostigmine–and over 25,000 have suffered premature deaths. The US military played with fire and created a conflagration, since no research had ever examined what months of pyridostigmine prophylactics could do to the human body.

    What is happening now is that the elites are starting to throw in the towel on the foreign front and desperately trying to cling to power in the US by mass propaganda, intimidation, censorship, fomenting of of racial divisiveness, sponsoring of so-called color” revolutions, and execution of electoral coups. In the end, however, their lack of legitimacy will do them in–but not before they have permanently damaged the great American experiment in democracy.

  8. [Editor’s note: Except, of course, the Parkland shooting, unlike the War in Afghanistan, was staged.]

    I am happy to see the quote above by Jim Fetzer that injects some reality into the Comment by Hedges.

    Any mention of Parkland brings a flood of memories about crisis actor Hogg and his father who is an inventor of the bang bang theatrical guns that make a lot of noise but kill no one. There’s even several photos of a white pickup leaving the scene with a large bag of what are thought to be theatrical guns. The truck also onloaded several men dressed in black.
    The so-called dead left the school in a mist because no bodies were seen to be removed, similar to Sandy Hook.


  9. I already knew Chris Hedges was a Trump hater. He has some good insight but is blind to what happened in the stolen election and the Demolition Party sponsored “storming” of the Capitol. Chris is also a sucker to believe all the mass shooting are real, organic events as opposed to engineered events to outrage the sheep who demand more gun control as if there could be such a thing for the outlaw thugs who will always have guns. There are actual and real mass shootings daily in Chicago. But that’s usually black killing black violence which they seldom nationally cover. Movie theater shooting – check, grocery store shooting – check, Church shooting – check, Mall shooting – check, School shooting X too many to count. The Cult wants you to think no place is safe. That should have the opposite effect and does … every day people are deciding they need to be armed to counter the threat of random violence or crimes of opportunity.


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