An American tragedy: Empires in decline tend to behave badly

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Item Link: Access the Resource

Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Date of Publication: July 25, 2019

Author(s): Danny Sjursen / Truthdig

Newspaper: Alternet

Categories: , ,

Empires in decline tend to behave badly. Indeed, whether British, French or Russian, the twilight years of imperialism often brought brutal repression of subjects abroad, the suppression of civil liberties at home and general varieties of brutality toward foreigners, be they refugees or migrants. The British built concentration camps and killed tens of thousands in Kenya during the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion. The French tortured and killed subjects in Algeria and nearly lost their own democracy in the process. The Russians slaughtered Afghans and then Chechens as the Soviet empire crumbled and transitioned to a truncated federation. As with these once-vast European empires, so it is with the United States in the 21st century.

The 18 or so years of war following the 9/11 attacks have seen this ostensible republic sink to new lows of behavior. Aggressive wars of choice have ushered in rampant torture, atrocities in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, extraordinary rendition, drone assassinations, warrantless wiretapping, mass surveillance of the citizenry, militarization of local police and now, migrant children in cages. As a child myself, educated in public schools that peddled the dangerous myth of American exceptionalism, I never imagined a day when my government would separate refugee children from their parents and then argue, straight-faced, in court, that the detained kids aren’t entitled to soap or toothbrushes. Yet here we are.

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