Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Let’s Talk a Little Treason

By Kevin Carson

Center for a Stateless Society

I normally associate terms like “treason” and “sedition” with right-wing know-nothings like the American Legion. So it’s eye-rollingly painful, in cases like the letter to Iran from Tom Cotton and 47 other Republican senators, to hear self-described progressives seize on those terms.

By way of background, the Congressional GOP recently invited ultra-hawkish and ultra-racist Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. The invitation was extended and accepted without Obama’s approval — a big no-no in legislative-executive etiquette — in a clear bid to pressure Obama into moving closer to Netanyahu’s aggressive line on Iran. And as if that wasn’t enough, Cotton’s letter (which warned the Islamic Republic that any agreement with Obama will be a dead letter the minute his Republican successor takes the oath of office in January 2017, and maybe before then if Senate ratification is called for) was a direct attempt to sabotage any peace settlement short of war.

Since then I’ve seen a lot of squawking from party-line liberals about the Logan Act — which prohibits anyone from conducting diplomacy with a foreign power without presidential approval — and “treason.”

Now, I consider the Cotton letter an outrage — but not because of the Logan Act or “treason.” Frankly, I don’t give a rip about those things. Normally I consider treason a good thing.

The actions of Cotton and the senators who co-signed that letter are despicable because, in a case where the executive is actually less militarily aggressive and imperialistic than Congress, the Congressional GOP is attempting to force Obama into a criminal war of aggression on Israel’s behalf. (Not that the attempt was successful — if anything the backlash may have actually caused the Democratic Party to extricate its collective nose from Israel’s posterior by a few microns.)

On the other hand, this is sort of a man-bites-dog story. Most of the time, we need a lot more “treason” and Logan Act violations against official U.S. foreign policy. For example, right now I’d celebrate any member of Congress who violated the Logan Act and undermined Obama’s actions against Venezuela and the US government’s broader agenda of reimposing Yanqui imperialism on South America.

And any senator who (say) attempted to undermine George Bush’s drive for war with Iraq in 2002-2003, by contacting the Iraqi government or travelling to Iraq, would have been a hero.

Quite frankly, the U.S. in 1945 replaced Germany and Japan as the world’s leading imperial and counter-insurgency power, and since then the primary purpose of U.S. foreign policy has been to make the world safe for corporate rule and to protect the global corporations and their trillions in stolen neo-colonial loot from the people of the countries they’re robbing and enslaving. The idea of “treason” against U.S. government policy, as such, evokes no more outrage in me than treason against the policies of Nazi Germany.

Here’s a (very partial) list of cases since WWII where anyone violating the Logan Act and “treasonously” undermining US foreign policy would have been a hero of humanity:  overthrowing Arbenz, Mossadeq, Sukarno and Lumumba; entering the Vietnam War; the wave of US-backed fascist military coups in South America starting with Brazil under LBJ and extending to the rest of the continent under Nixon and Kissinger; Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor; the destabilization of Afghanistan under Carter; US aid to Salvadoran death squads; the first and second Gulf Wars the Bushes lied us into; the Balkan Wars Clinton lied us into… ad nauseam, ad nauseam.

And really high on that list is American backing for the Israel settler state since its illegitimate creation in 1948, and extending through its entire history of ethnic cleansing and Apartheid since then.

Treason against the American state and its policies, as such, is no crime. The policies of the American state itself usually are.

9 replies »

  1. “”Quite frankly, the U.S. in 1945 replaced Germany and Japan as the world’s leading imperial and counter-insurgency power” ”

    USSR anyone?

    “Here’s a (very partial) list of cases since WWII where anyone violating the Logan Act and “treasonously” undermining US foreign policy would have been a hero of humanity: overthrowing Arbenz, Mossadeq, Sukarno and Lumumba; entering the Vietnam War; the wave of US-backed fascist military coups in South America starting with Brazil under LBJ and extending to the rest of the continent under Nixon and Kissinger; Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor; the destabilization of Afghanistan under Carter; US aid to Salvadoran death squads; the first and second Gulf Wars the Bushes lied us into; the Balkan Wars Clinton lied us into… ad nauseam, ad nauseam.”

    Funny we don’t hear about East Germany 1950, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968 and Poland 1981 or the soviet coups/invasions and general destabilization of Iran 1945-46, Cuba 1953-59, Afghanistan 1979-89, Nicaragua 1980s, North Korea 1945-53, North Vietnam 1954-89, China 1945-1950, Ethiopia 1974-91, Angola 1966-91. Backing Syria and Egypt for two arab Israeli wars 1967, 1973 and Syria in 1982-5 with the collapse of Lebanon.

    “”Quite frankly, the U.S. in 1945 replaced Germany and Japan as the world’s leading imperial and counter-insurgency power”

    What a joke tell that to the Ethiopians, North Koreans, Cubans, Angolans, Poles, East Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Iranians etc. Just more leftist myopia.

  2. The point is certainly well-taken, but in fairness I don’t know that Carson is offering an apology for the USSR. I think he’s simply saying that the USA took over where the Germans and Japanese and other pre-WW2 empires left off in terms of colonial/imperial hegemony, and that USA imperialism tended to be the most far reaching and extensive.

    The Soviets certainly maintained imperial hegemony over their vassal states in Eastern Europe, the individual Soviet republics (which had been part of the former Russian empire), and over states they directly invaded in the East like Afghanistan.

    But it could be argued that Soviet foreign policy on an international scale was more pro-insurgency than counter-insurgency. Much of US policy was oriented towards stopping anti-colonial insurgencies against Western colonial puppet regimes or client states. But Soviet policy was usually to back the insurgents in the name of anti-colonialism (although for the obvious purpose of bringing these revolutionary nationalist regimes into the Soviet orbit and making them into Soviet client states).

    • Yeah. I’ve heard of this guy before. He is just a Stalinist neocon rather than a Trotskist neocon.

  3. “But it could be argued that Soviet foreign policy on an international scale was more pro-insurgency than counter-insurgency. Much of US policy was oriented towards stopping anti-colonial insurgencies against Western colonial puppet regimes or client states. But Soviet policy was usually to back the insurgents in the name of anti-colonialism (although for the obvious purpose of bringing these revolutionary nationalist regimes into the Soviet orbit and making them into Soviet client states).”

    I think a better way to discuss this polarity was that the US Empire was based on the symmetrical use of force outside of the US (standard COIN stuff), while the USSR used symmetrical force inside the USSR and Satellite states and asymmetrical force in the third world.

    “Much of US policy was oriented towards stopping anti-colonial insurgencies against Western colonial puppet regimes or client states. ”

    Yes and no. We did not help France hold Indochina or Algeria, or Britain Pakistan and India. We sent support to UNITA after Portugal had given Angola independence. When the successor state was not overtly hostile to the US say, Algeria, Cambodia pre-1970, Singapore, Pakistan or India we did not intervene directly. If the successor state was (1) communist or (2) threatened by communist take over Cambodia after 1970 the US would intervene.

    Look to settle this once and for all the US and NATO allowed France to leave in 1966, but the USSR crushed Hungary and Czechoslovakia with force. They are not even close to being in the same league.

  4. Well, as you know, there’s a longstanding debate about what the “true” motivations of the US interventionist foreign policy were during the Cold War. Some folks, usually on the right, argue that is was mostly about countering Soviet expansion and preventing the spread of communism, Others, usually on the left, argue that is was more about expanding US hegemony and maintaining access to foreign markets, labor, and raw materials. In other words, was US foreign policy in the postwar period more about geopolitics or economics?

    I’d say the answer is obviously both. Of course, the US foreign policy elite were concerned about Soviet expansionism, the Stalinist occupation of Eastern Europe, the Chinese Revolution, the growth of communist insurgencies aided by the Soviets and/or Chinese in the Third World, the ongoing influence of the Communist parties in Western Europe, the number of Soviet and Chinese fellow travelers in the West, the possibility of Soviet bases being established in the Western hemisphere, etc.

    But I also think that’s only half the story. The other half is that the US saw itself as the natural successors to the former European colonial empires (and the Japanese empire in Asia). The US wanted to see India and Pakistan achieve independence because they were happy to see the British empire undermined. I remember seeing Sidney Hook giving an interview to William F. Buckley once where he mentioned that Truman had initially regarded British imperialism rather than Soviet expansionism as a greater threat to US interests following WW2. So that explains why the US supported independence for Britain’s former colonies. The same analysis could be applied to the rest of the former European empires as well (like France and Portugal), which would explain why the US had no problem initially with the independence of former European colonies in Asia and Africa.

    I think the US wanted to see the former European empires dismantled so the US could come in and pick up the slack so to speak. It’s true the US practiced a different model of imperialism than the old fashioned colonialists. They didn’t make the former European colonies in the Third World into formal colonial possessions like Guam or Puerto Rico, but they instead practiced a kind of neo-colonialism (as the Marxists called it) that was based on the client state model combined with political, military, and economic hegemony.

    Of course, US foreign policy makers wanted to keep out Soviet influence and opposed localized communist revolutions. That goes without saying. But I don’t think that was the whole story. There was also the ambition of superseding the former empires in terms of economic dominance, and the pursuit of a 20th century variation of older policies like the Open Door and the Monroe Doctrine.

    The problem with the idea that US interventionism during the Cold War was motivated solely by anti-communism or anti-Sovietism is that the US was also aggressively expansionist before the advent of modern communism (see Manifest Destiny). The record of US interventions in the Western hemisphere for example long predates the growth of communism, and is comparable to US interventions during the Cold War era. The postwar era saw the US pursuing interventions overseas that paralleled what the US had always done in the Western hemisphere. The difference is that the US had become a superpower and the old European powers had been rendered powerless. In fact, I suspect that if it had not been for the constraints imposed on US foreign policy by the USSR, China, etc. then US interventionism would have been even more far reaching than it was in the during the same time period. That is illustrated by the fact that US foreign policy became even more aggressive after the end of the Cold War, the China opening, and the end of the Soviet Union that it had previously been, and as it continues to be at present.

    • “I think the US wanted to see the former European empires dismantled so the US could come in and pick up the slack so to speak. It’s true the US practiced a different model of imperialism than the old fashioned colonialists. They didn’t make the former European colonies in the Third World into formal colonial possessions like Guam or Puerto Rico, but they instead practiced a kind of neo-colonialism (as the Marxists called it) that was based on the client state model combined with political, military, and economic hegemony.”

      I think that is stretching it a bit. South Korea and Taiwan were formerly Japanese colonies and during the Cold War were in the US sphere. I doubt anyone there would have considered their relationship with the US colonial subjects given their recent memory of Japan. As this pertains to Latin America I tend to agree the US was doing this kind of stuff long before the Cold War. Yet I think it is hard to argue that without Soviet intervention in China, Vietnam, Korea and Afghanistan we would have be incentivized to intervene there. I don’t think the gleeful world domination tour that the Neo-Cons are operating on was a prevelant after WW2, I mean Eisenhower was not thrilled with the Military-Industrial-Complex and Robert Taft Sr. was not thrilled either with this new role for the US.

      “The problem with the idea that US interventionism during the Cold War was motivated solely by anti-communism or anti-Sovietism is that the US was also aggressively expansionist before the advent of modern communism (see Manifest Destiny). The record of US interventions in the Western hemisphere for example long predates the growth of communism, and is comparable to US interventions during the Cold War era. The postwar era saw the US pursuing interventions overseas that paralleled what the US had always done in the Western hemisphere. The difference is that the US had become a superpower and the old European powers had been rendered powerless. In fact, I suspect that if it had not been for the constraints imposed on US foreign policy by the USSR, China, etc. then US interventionism would have been even more far reaching than it was in the during the same time period. That is illustrated by the fact that US foreign policy became even more aggressive after the end of the Cold War, the China opening, and the end of the Soviet Union that it had previously been, and as it continues to be at present.”

      Interesting point, but could it not just as well be said that had their been no USSR or had the USSR been fatally weakened after WWII that a neo-isolationism would have emerged in the US as it did after WW1?

      “In fact, if anything, it looks like the US took a softer stance towards some of the very worst tendencies in the communist world, because these were the ones that tended to act the most independently of Moscow.”

      There is some truth to this. For example during WWII the OSS gave funding and support to the Viet Minh. During the late 1940s the US also trained and equipped something like 10 communist Chinese divisions. Members of the state department actively undermined Chang Kai Shek’s authority. I think these anomalies bring out that US foreign policy was not monolithic, but had factions and sometimes those factions worked at cross-purposes.

  5. Of course, there’s also the longstanding debate about whether regimes undermined by the US during the Cold War in the name of anti-communism were really communist, or threatened by communism, or whether they merely resisted US hegemony or the interests of US businesses (Iran, Guatemala, Chile, etc). There’s also the matter of the US aligning itself with communist states or movements (or at least giving tacit support) when it was perceived at tactically advantageous. Among the the most notorious examples of this was the CIA support for the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese during the 80s, and providing Most Favored Nation status to Nicolae Ceaucescu’s Romania during the 70s and 80s. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1985/06/why-romania-no-longer-deserves-to-be-a-most-favored-nation

    In fact, if anything, it looks like the US took a softer stance towards some of the very worst tendencies in the communist world, because these were the ones that tended to act the most independently of Moscow.

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