September 5, 2003

You're not an American – you're a citizen of the Empire

by Justin Raimondo

I'm not surprised at the news that the citizenship oath all immigrants take is being "updated." An empire, after all, demands a different sort of loyalty than a republic.

As the Los Angeles Daily News puts it: "The citizenship oath, which requires immigrants to renounce loyalty to 'princes and potentates,' is getting a makeover after a half-century." According to Eduardo Aguirre, Jr., director of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security: "It's being recrafted so it has more meaning to those who are raising their right hand and swearing."

The new oath will be unveiled on Sept. 17, which – as if you didn't know – is Citizenship Day. Here's the old oath:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

Clearly, the current oath is far too republican – small 'r,' please – for a nation such as the United States, which claims the right to preemptively attack anyone, anywhere on earth, that might prove to be a threat some time in the indefinite future. A threat – as defined by our Imperial mandarins, whose big internal disagreement is over whether to pursue mere "global hegemony," or come out of the closet, so to speak, and openly proclaim the American Empire.

If we're going to be an empire, then hostility to princes and potentates has got to go: it's a relic of the bad old days when "isolationism" held sway and the President had to go to Congress – not the UN – before going to war. Let's face it: our President is more of a potentate than Napoleon and the Holy Roman Emperor combined.

Furthermore, let's get rid of this stuff about renouncing all allegiance to foreign states – that is obviously a hate crime, and will no doubt get blue-pencilled out of existence. After all, it isn't the U.S. that's fighting a war in Iraq: it's "the Coalition." And, as we all know, certain foreign princes are in favor at the Imperial Court: loyalty to them is not only not frowned upon, it is positively required.

And what's this about defending the Constitution? We'll have to change that to defending the Patriot Act, pronto.

The reference to God has got to go. Render under Caesar – and, in our pagan era, he comes first. Caesar is, after all, divine, a deity surrounded by supplicants, hailed by all factions, who, no matter what their other differences, swear fealty to the Empire.

Yes, the ostensible liberals, as well as the neoconservatives, are embracing the makeover of our old Republic: from Howard Dean to Bill Kristol, a left-right Popular Front for the Promotion of Imperialism has grown up, a general consensus that we must take up the burden of rebuilding and even "democratizing" Iraq by pouring billions ($60 billion, to start) into the project, and untold thousands of American lives. The question of whether war against Iraq was justified to begin with is the subject of endless controversy, but both left and right are taking up the cry: "Just fix it!"

That's the title of the latest column by Molly Ivins, the twangy Texas liberal whose folksy brand of do-gooder liberalism is like an old, over-rehearsed vaudeville act that was tired forty years ago. While Bush is asking for a mere $60 billion to "reconstruct" Iraq, Ivins and the liberals would up it to $120 billion or so. Both candidate Dean and Ivins call for the U.S. to subordinate itself to the UN, in order to get some French and German troops in there, but that doesn't stop them from calling for more U.S. troops. As Ivins puts it:

"I suggest we send more American troops, because letting Iraq degenerate into chaos isn't good for the Iraqis or us."

Leave it to the peaceniks to call for the continuation of the war, albeit properly "internationalized," while the real antiwar agitation is coming from senior military officers in the Pentagon.

A classified Pentagon report leaked to the Washington Times shows that the postwar planning process was seriously "deficient": no one, it is claimed, predicted the guerrilla war that is now deepening. No one, of course, but General Shinseki and other high-ranking military officers, both active and retired, who opposed this war to begin with – and are working to get our troops out of the line of fire. With some success, as the Washington Post reported the other day:

"On Tuesday, President Bush's first day back in the West Wing after a month at his ranch, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell walked into the Oval Office to present something close to a fait accompli.

In what was billed as a routine session, Powell told Bush that they had to go to the United Nations with a resolution seeking a U.N.-sanctioned military force in Iraq – something the administration had resisted for nearly five months. Powell, whose department had long favored such an action, informed the commander in chief that the military brass supported the State Department's position despite resistance by the Pentagon's civilian leadership."

Faced with this revolt by his Praetorians, the Imperial Bush and his national security chief "quickly agreed," according to eyewitnesses. You bet they did. Millions of antiwar demonstrators in the streets can always be ignored, but when your own troops threaten to mutiny a wise ruler will order a strategic retreat.

This complete turnaround on the question of the UN and its role in Iraq, this appeal to our former allies in Europe to send troops to take some of the heat off the U.S., is a recognition that the Empire is dying at the moment of its greatest glory. Having "won" the battle for Iraq in record time, the U.S. now finds itself in the ironic position of being unable to pay the cost of "victory."

U.S. troops are sitting ducks for every terrorist outfit known, and a whole slew of new ones. We have "won" an outsized version of the Gaza Strip, our own mega-version of Israel's occupied territories, complete with car-bombs, suicidal killers, and chanting crowds hurling abuse and throwing stones.

Colin Powell still adheres to one of the chief strictures of the Powell Doctrine, which is to devise an exit strategy before going into battle. That this was not done, and that we are now paying in blood and treasure for this oversight, gives Powell and the more reasonable faction of the Imperial Court some authority to move forward with their plan to "internationalize" the conflict, and get out – partially, and eventually – through the back door, without ever acknowledging our ignominious retreat.

But of course it was no oversight that the postwar planning for the "reconstruction" of Iraq was rushed, and inadequate. According to the neocons' own public statements, the Iraq war was scheduled to be only the first in a series of conflicts, a regional war of "liberation" aimed at toppling the "democratic dominoes" – Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and beyond – in fairly rapid succession. As Laurent Murawiec, the Rand Corporation "expert," put it in his famous Powerpoint presentation to Richard Perle's Defense Policy Board:

"Iraq is the tactical pivot,

Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot,

Egypt the prize."

That's why they didn't plan for policing and reconstructing Iraq. By this time, according to the neocon timetable, we should already have taken Riyadh and started marching on Cairo.

Nor have they given up on this scenario. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Iraq, explaining that he's concerned about the infiltration of "foreign fighters" into Iraq, and pinning the blame on Syria and Iran. Forget what's happening in Baghdad: look to Tehran and Damascus. If we're bogged down in Iraq, the hawkish answer is escalation.

But widening this war isn't in the cards, at least politically: public opinion is taking a different direction. A presidential candidate who campaigned on a platform of instituting a "humbler" foreign policy is facing a nation already war-weary – with the war not even six months along. A year from now, what will the polls say? You don't need to be Nostradamus to hazard a guess. The neocons may stamp their feet, demanding a wider war, and may even turn on the President if they don't get one, but Karl Rove is not about to go down that road. At least, not yet….

Is the U.S. making a U-turn on the road to Empire? The tentative answer appears to be yes, thank God. So let's hold up on that national makeover, at least for the moment. This episode of Imperial Eye for the Republican Guy looks like a wash-out.


I think David Frum has, er, missed the point of Anthony Gancarski's polemic directed at Michael Ledeen. I hardly think Gancarski took seriously the idea that Ledeen had actually received a cool 25 mil for services rendered in revealing the "real" whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. (He's in Iran: but then, you knew that). It seems clear that this was meant as sarcasm, and so it's distinctly odd, I think, that Ledeen – and now Frum – took it literally. But then, again, ideologues are not known for having a sense of humor. Certainly Frum is far from being the neocons' Seinfeld. And what can you say about a man who uses the moniker of a fascist dictator as part of his email address? I guess Ledeen's authorship of a book entitled Universal Fascism is just one of those funny coincidences. Sheesh, you couldn't get away with making these characters up.

But what gets me is that this is what they choose to argue about: not a substantial point of policy, not the momentous question of Republic vs. Empire, but the petty details of who said what about whom. Ledeen and Frum resemble nothing so much as a couple of old ladies exchanging gossip over a back fence, nattering on about imagined insults and obscure slights, and using the opportunity to characterize their enemies in the worst imaginable terms. According to Frum, this sarcastic sally by Gancarski is "a loony new conspiracy theory.", he says, is "the most strident of the editorial outlets of the antiwar right." It's like that "study" of conservatives done at the University of Berkeley (where else?) that characterized right-wingers as psychopathological basket cases. It's a pure argumentum ad hominem, expressed by Frum in terms that can only be called childish. Frum raves on and on – in an editorial voice that sounds distinctly squeaky, one might almost say adolescent – pretending that Gancarski wasn't kidding about Ledeen collecting his "reward," and triumphantly declaiming:

"But then – if you thought that rationally, you wouldn't be writing for, would you?"

So here we have the leading neoconservative polemicist reduced to sticking out his tongue and jeering like some inarticulate schoolboy: Nyah, nyah, nyah!

Is this obnoxious twit for real? No wonder they kicked him out of the White House. A former presidential speechwriter has now descended into pure name-calling – but, then again, what do you expect from the author of that infamous phrase, "axis of evil," that got us into so much hot water in Korea?

Speaking of National Review, they have the scoop on the new citizenship oath (those guys have connections), and it looks like I was right: potentates is out. So is foreign. NR is mad because the new oath "sheds a worthy martial flavor." Maybe we should make all immigrants wear uniforms, put John Derbyshire in charge of them, and march them all off to Iraq….

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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