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July 02, 2007

Mad Dreams Of Empire Politics

Reading Cullen Murphy's Are We Rome?, I was struck by the following passage:

...[O]ne summer morning not long ago...my plane touched down in the rain at Shannon Airport, in the Republic of Ireland. ...[A]s it happened, the president of the United States had arrived in Ireland shortly before I did, for an eighteen-hour official visit. His two Air Force One jumbo jets were parked on the shiny tarmac, nose to nose. The presidential eagle, a descendant of Rome’s, glared from within the presidential seal, painted prominently near the front door of each fuselage. A defensive perimeter of concertina wire surrounded the two aircraft. Surface-to-air missiles backed it up. The perimeter was manned by American forces in battle fatigues, flown in for the occasion — just one element of the president’s US security detail, a thousand strong. Other security personnel peered down from the rooftops of hangars and terminals, automatic weapons at the ready. Ringing the airport was a cordon of Scorpion tanks supplied by the Irish Republic. A traveling president...brings with him a government in microcosm... — cabinet members and courtiers and cooks, speech doctors and spin doctors. Provisioning has not been overlooked: the plane can serve meals for 2,000 people, the supplies bought anonymously at American supermarkets by undercover agents, the updated version of [the servants who tasted the Emperor's food as a protection against poisoning]. And if there's a medical emergency? An onboard operating room is stocked with blood of the president’s type; his personal physician is at hand. From the plane's command center a president can launch and wage a nuclear war, or any other kind, for that matter. The forward compartment is what passes for a throne room, containing the president's leather armchair and his wraparound desk and his telephone with its twenty-eight encrypted lines.

Off in the mist would be the Air Force cargo planes, which had brought helicopters, a dozen Secret Service SUVs, and the official presidential limousine (plus the official decoy limousine), its windows three inches thick and its doors so heavy with armor that gas-powered pistons must be used to help open them. Four US naval vessels plied the Shannon River estuary nearby. Outside the airport the roads were jammed with Irish soldiers and police officers — 6.000 in all, slightly more than an entire Roman legion — and on even the tiniest boreens security personnel with communications piglet tails trailing from their ears would emerge from hiding places in the bracken if a passing car, like mine, so much as slowed to avoid some sheep. [Emphasis added]

All for an eighteen-hour visit. Imagine being the person at the center of that frenzied whirlwind of brutal excess. The effect must be positively hallucinatory. No wonder they go mad, imagining themselves to be omnipotent, God's elect, inhabiting an altogether different reality from the rest of us. Consider how inimical such excess is to democracy. It truly is the stuff of Empire.

And then consider this, from the same book:

The idea that an American imperium is part of God's plan was the message of the Christmas card sent out in 2003 by Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne. It read: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Not exactly subtle: it's empire we're after, and it's God's plan. The Cheneys humbly commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Think of that the next time they tell you we're just trying to spread democracy and freedom.

Posted by Jonathan at July 2, 2007 10:53 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb