The Hidden Structure Of U.S. Empire

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Above Photo: Americans share the vital interest of the rest of the world in dismantling the U.S. empire and starting to work with all our neighbors to build a peaceful, just and sustainable post-imperial future that we all can share. (Photo: Screenshot)

This irresponsible empire has squandered the resources of our own and other nations and spawned existential dangers that threaten the whole world, from nuclear war to environmental crisis.

My father was a doctor in the British Royal Navy, and I grew up traveling by troop-ship between the last outposts of the British Empire – Trincomalee, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malta, Aden, Singapore – and living in and around naval dockyards in England and Scotland.

The British naval bases where I grew up and the fading empire they supported are now part of history. Chatham Dockyard. a working dockyard for over 400 years, is now a museum and tourist attraction.  Trincomalee Dockyard, where I was born, has been in the news as a site where the Sri Lankan Navy is accused of torturing and disappearing Tamil prisoners during the Sri Lankan civil war.

Since the late 1970s, I have lived in California and Florida, grappling with the contradictions of U.S. empire like other Americans.  The U.S. does not have an internationally recognized territorial empire like the British or Ottoman Empires. American politicians routinely deny that the United States maintains or seeks an empire at all, even as they insist that its interests extend across the entire world, and as its policies impact the lives – and threaten the future – of people everywhere.

So how are we to understand this phenomenon of U.S. empire, which is so central to all our lives and our future, and yet whose structure remains hidden and covert?So how are we to understand this phenomenon of U.S. empire, which is so central to all our lives and our future, and yet whose structure remains hidden and covert?

In Ethnographies of U.S. Empire, co-edited by Carol McGranahan of the University of Colorado and John F. Collins of CUNY, twenty-four anthropologists studied groups of people whose lives are shaped by the U.S. empire and their interactions with it. Their subjects ranged from indigenous peoples in the U.S. and Hawaii to call center workers in the Philippines to the forcibly exiled people of Diego Garcia.

Many of the ethnographies highlighted the seeming contradiction of an actually existing global empire in a post-colonial world where nearly all countries are internationally recognized as independent and sovereign.

Stratified Sovereignty 

The final entry in Ethnographies of U.S. Empire arrived at the most comprehensive analysis of the stratified and complex patterns of sovereignty through which formally independent states and their citizens nonetheless fall under the overarching sovereignty of the U.S. empire.

This chapter, “From Exception to Empire: Sovereignty, Carceral Circulation and the Global War on Terror,” by Darryl Li, an anthropology professor at the University of Chicago, follows a group of men who came to Bosnia Hercegovina from mostly Arab countries to fight on the Bosnian Muslim side in the U.S.-backed proxy war to break up Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

By 2001, most of these 660 men had made new homes in Bosnia. Many had married Bosnian women and had Bosnian families.  All had been granted Bosnian citizenship in recognition of their role in their adopted country’s independence. But after the crimes of September 11th 2001, the U.S. government saw these former mujahideen as inherently dangerous, and insisted that they must be “denaturalized” and “repatriated.”

At first, this was done through an extrajudicial process of “rendition,” but after 2005 it was institutionalized in a nine-member State Commission (which included a U.S. Army officer and a British immigration official) to strip people of Bosnian citizenship; a “Reception Center for Irregular Migrants,” a prison built at European Union expense on the edge of a refugee camp for Bosnian Serbs in Lukavica on the outskirts of Sarajevo; and a “Service for Foreigners’ Affairs” under Bosnia’s Ministry of Security, organized, trained and equipped by U.S. advisers at U.S. taxpayer expense, to run the prison and conduct deportations.

Darryl Li visited, studied and stayed in contact with some of these men and their Bosnian families for several years. He observed how, while the U.S. exercised supreme sovereignty over these men and their fate, the U.S. role was carefully hidden behind and operated through the formal sovereignty of Bosnia Hercegovina; and also how the fates of groups of men of different nationalities were governed by U.S. imperial relations with the various countries they came from and to where they could be “repatriated.”

Most Egyptian men were sent back to Egypt, a reliable U.S. ally, where they were imprisoned, tortured and, in many cases, disappeared, according to their Bosnian families. By contrast, six men from Algeria were rendered to the U.S. concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. They were imprisoned there until they won a landmark case in the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed them to sue for habeas corpus in U.S. courts. They were finally released in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

A Syrian-Bosnian man named Abu Hamza became the de facto leader of resistance to these denaturalizations and deportations. He was imprisoned for 7-1/2 years at the Lukavica prison, during most of which time the U.S. and its allies fought a bloody but failed proxy war to install a more subservient regime in his country of origin. He was finally released in 2016 to rejoin his Bosnian family.

When Darryl Li first visited Abu Hamza at the prison in Lukavica in 2009, he was dressed in an orange jalabiyya and baseball cap, on which he had stenciled the word “BOSNATANAMO.” He had made this uniform for himself to highlight the parallels between the plight of prisoners at Lukavica and Guantanamo.

The flags flying over the guard gate of the prison in Lukavica were those of Bosnia and the European Union, and the U.S. was officially involved in the imprisonment of the men there only through diplomatic channels, generous funding and the assistance of American trainers and advisers. And yet the U.S. empire was the thinly veiled power behind the very existence of the prison and all that happened there.

Darryl Li compared the fates of the men in Bosnia with other cases of post-9/11 U.S. detention, and found a similar pattern throughout the U.S. gulag, in which the fates of people from specific countries were largely determined by the nature of U.S. imperial relations with the countries involved.

Darryl Li’s research revealed an international system of stratified sovereignty, in which people’s lives were subject to the overarching imperial sovereignty of the U.S. empire as well as to the nominally independent sovereignty of their own countries.For example, four British men detained in Pakistan and sent to Guantanamo were among the first prisoners to be released and repatriated, and returned home to relatively normal lives in the U.K. By contrast, Li met a Palestinian man in Gaza in 2007 who was “repatriated” there despite never having lived there before. He was born in Jordan and grew up in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, where he was arrested and handed over to U.S. forces. After several years in U.S. military and CIA prisons, mostly in Afghanistan, he was sent back to Jordan, handed over to Israel and banished to Gaza.

In all these cases, Li observed how the U.S. empire maintained a systematic and overarching sovereignty over the people and countries involved, not by completely ignoring the sovereignty of Bosnia, Egypt, the U.K and other countries, but by selectively and opportunistically exercising its own power through their nominally independent political and legal systems and the particulars of its relations with each of them.

Darryl Li’s research revealed an international system of stratified sovereignty, in which people’s lives were subject to the overarching imperial sovereignty of the U.S. empire as well as to the nominally independent sovereignty of their own countries.

Empire, not exception.

The U.S. concentration camp at Guantanamo in Cuba is widely viewed as a glaring exception to U.S. and international rules of law. Darryl Li noted that the prisoners are not the only non-Americans and non-Cubans living at Guantanamo, which also has a civilian staff of janitors, cooks and other workers, mostly from Jamaica and the Philippines. Like the prisoners and their American guards, these workers also live under the overarching sovereignty of the U.S. Empire.

“Both third-country national prisoners and workers at GTMO share the predicament of dwelling in a space between the juridical protections of their governments, the local state and the U.S. hegemon,” Li observed.

Darryl Li concluded that this framework of stratified sovereignty, in which people live under the sovereignty of both their own country and that of the U.S. empire, is not an exception, but a norm of life in the U.S. empire. The shared predicament of workers and prisoners at Guantanamo is a striking example of how the U.S. empire works, not an exception to it.

Other seemingly exceptional cases can also be better understood as examples of this actually existing imperial system of stratified sovereignty.

Julian Assange’s precarious asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London is a case in point. In Julian’s case, U.S. imperial power has worked through a network of four nominally independent but subordinate states – Australia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ecuador – to corner him in London for over six years and prevent him from regaining his freedom.  And it may soon succeed in rendering him to the U.S. in shackles.

If this is what happens to Julian, his fate will not differ substantially from that of people who dared to defy the formal, territorial empires of the past. The Saudis conquered most of Arabia in the late 18th century, but their leader Abdullah bin Saudwas defeated, captured, rendered in chains to Istanbul and beheaded at the order of the Ottoman Sultan in 1818.

Until 1830, the British Royal Navy brought mutineers, smugglers and pirates captured on the high seas around the world back to London to be hung (slowly, in the case of pirates) at Execution Dock on the Thames. The most notorious pirates’ bodies were covered in tar and hung in chains from a gibbet on the riverbank as a warning against piracy to sailors on passing ships.

If anything can save Julian Assange from a 21st century version of their fate at the hands of today’s imperial power, it is empire-wide public outrage and the fear of U.S. officials that such a naked display of imperial power will give their game away.

Since 2001, the U.S. has been more ready than ever to attack or invade other countries at will, with no regard for U.S. or international law, and to kidnap or extradite people from around the world to face imperial retribution in U.S. prisons and courts.But fear of exposing its brutality and criminality rarely constrains the U.S. empire. Since 2001, the U.S. has been more ready than ever to attack or invade other countries at will, with no regard for U.S. or international law, and to kidnap or extradite people from around the world to face imperial retribution in U.S. prisons and courts.

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, now detained in Canada, is the latest victim of U.S. imperial power. At least 26 U.S. and foreign banks have paid fines of billions of dollars for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, but none of their executives have been arrested and threatened with 30 year prison terms. In launching a trade war with China, challenging Chinese sovereignty to trade with Iran and holding Meng Wanzhou as a hostage or bargaining chip in these disputes, the U.S. is displaying a dogged determination to keep expanding its imperial ambitions.

The case of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden illustrates that there are geographic limits to U.S. imperial power. By escaping first to Hong Kong and then to Russia, Edward evaded capture or extradition. But his narrow escape and the very narrow choices available to him are themselves an illustration of how few places on Earth remain safely beyond the reach of U.S. imperial power.

The End of Empire

The corrosive and debilitating impact of U.S. empire on the sovereignty of other countries has been obvious to its detractors for a long time.

In the introduction to his 1965 book, Neo-Colonialism: the Last Stage of Imperialism, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana wrote, “The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.”

Darryl Li quoted Nkrumah’s verdict that this is, “…the worst form of imperialism. For those who practice it, it means power without responsibility, and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress.”

Nkrumah was deposed in a military coup orchestrated by the CIA the year after his words were published, but his critique remains, begging serious questions, “How long will the world tolerate this irresponsible form of empire?”  Or even, ” Will we allow this ‘last stage of imperialism’ to be the last stage of our civilization?”

The way the U.S. empire exercises power through stratified layers of sovereignty is both a strength and a weakness.  For a brief period in history, it has enabled the U.S. to wield imperial power in an otherwise post-colonial world, as Nkrumah described.

But Nkrumah had good reason to call this the last stage of imperialism. Once the U.S. empire’s subject nations decide to claim in full the legal sovereignty they gained in the 20thcentury, and reject the U.S.’s anachronistic imperial ambitions to dominate and exploit their institutions, their people and their future, this empire cannot permanently hold them back any more than the British or Ottoman Empires could.

This irresponsible empire has squandered the resources of our own and other nations and spawned existential dangers that threaten the whole world, from nuclear war to environmental crisis.  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has gradually advanced the hands of its Doomsday Clock from 17 minutes to midnight in 1994 up to 2 minutes to midnight in 2018.

The U.S.’s system of “managed democracy” or “inverted totalitarianism” concentrates ever-growing wealth and power in the hands of a corrupt ruling class, increasingly subjecting the American public to the same “exploitation without redress” as the U.S. empire’s foreign subjects and preventing us from tackling serious or even existential problems.

This self-reinforcing vicious circle endangers us all, not least those of us who live at the heart of this corrupt and ultimately self-destructive empire. So we Americans share the vital interest of the rest of the world in dismantling the U.S. empire and starting to work with all our neighbors to build a peaceful, just and sustainable post-imperial future that we all can share.

  • It is almost disingenuous to label the modern global Empire as US. It is largely transnational and corporate in structure today. Even the military coalitions that support Empire are multinational. The foundations of Empire are economic. The hidden structures of this Empire are largely financial. But there will be no argument from my corner that the heart of the military industrial complex that runs the global Empire today was birth in the United States.

    I recently stumbled across a very interesting private company, Viziv Technologies, that embodies much of the manner in which this economic Empire has been created and maintained. If the information on their website can be trusted, they are about to release a technology upon the world that has the capacity to radically change the way we distribution energy and information. Google it.

    Viziv Technologies is the culmination of over four decades of research in the field of Electromagnetic Surface Waves. We have assembled an experienced team from academia, industry, and government to take this revolutionary science from laboratory to industry. These men and women have joined together under one calling… POWER THE PLANET AND BRING LIGHT TO THE WORLD

    Viziv’s mission is the commercialization of the Zenneck surface wave in all of its various product applications. From communications to energy to sensing, Viziv’s technological advances are opening doors to a new era in science and engineering. We have assembled a world-class team, leveraging a series of valuable strategic partnerships to develop this exciting scientific breakthrough into commercial reality.

    According to SEC filings(‘Whoisraisingmoney’), since 2016, Viziv has raised $43,638,983. They have built an unusual tower in Midland, Texas the has a startling resemblance to Nikola Tesla’s tower built in Shoreham, New York in 1901-1902.

    Directors and Executives of Viziv Technologies, LLC

    Michael W. Miller
    BRIGADIER GENERAL (RETIRED), USAF
    CEO AND PRESIDENT,
    VIZIV TECHNOLOGIES, LLC

    General Miller is the CEO and President of Viziv Technologies, LLC. Viziv Technologies is the owner of multiple patents related to a scientific breakthrough in energy transfer, communications, and transportation. General Miller earned a Ph.D. in Management from Walden University (2011), a Masters in Strategic Studies from the Air University, an MBA from the University of North Dakota and a Bachelors in Political Science from the University of New Orleans. Miller also attended the 2010 CAPSTONE General/Flag Officer Course, National Defense University, Fort McNair, Washington, DC and is a 2003 Fellow, Seminar XXI, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    General Miller retired from the Air Force after 28 years of military service. The first 6 years of his career he was an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Launch Officer and spent the remaining 22 years in the healthcare administration arena. He directed strategic planning for a global organization of 40,000 personnel with an annual budget of almost $6 billion. General Miller was an Air Force Corporate Board Member where he helped develop funding strategies for AF mission and personnel capabilities to meet war fighting requirements and developed recommendations for the Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff for the $150 billion annual budget. His career culminated as the Assistant Surgeon General, Strategic Medical Plans, Programs and Budget and Chief, Medical Service Corps. He is an inventor, experienced conference speaker, educator and problem-solver.

    Jerry Lomax
    EXECUTIVE VP BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT,
    VIZIV TECHNOLOGIES, LLC

    Jerry Lomax is a recently retired executive from Chevron Corporation where his career included international project engineering, upstream and midstream oil and gas operations, and technology. Most recently, Jerry was Vice President of Emerging Technologies at Chevron Technology Ventures. In this role, he stewarded Chevron’s $400 million venture capital portfolio and led demonstrations of emerging technologies for adoption across the enterprise. Key areas of focus included alternative fuels, renewables, energy storage, advanced materials, and emerging power technologies.

    Jerry received a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Washington and a Masters in Business Administration from Golden Gate University. He is married and has four children. He currently resides in Houston, Texas.

    Randall Jean Ph.D.
    CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, VIZIV TECHNOLOGIES, LLC

    Dr. Randall Jean is the holder of a more than a dozen U.S. patents and corresponding foreign patents in the field of microwave applied metrology which have resulted in scientific and industrial instruments for a wide range of sensing and control applications. Industrial products based upon these inventions are in use world-wide. He has almost 40 years of doctorate-level academic and industrial experience in the field of electromagnetics, remote sensing, and sensor development. In 1994 he received an R&D 100 award recognizing the most significant technology developments of the year for his invention of Guided Microwave Spectrometry. His research has included the development of microwave sensors for biomedical, industrial, and scientific applications and the development of wireless power transfer using Zenneck surface waves. Dr. Jean earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1970, his M.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1971 and his Ph. D. in Electrical Engineering in 1978, in each case, from Texas A&M University.

    Richard T. Devereaux
    MAJOR GENERAL (RETIRED), USAF
    EXECUTIVE VP, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
    VIZIV TECHNOLOGIES, LLC

    General Devereaux earned a B.S. in International Affairs from the US Air Force Academy (1978), an M.S. In Systems Management from the Air Force Institute of Technology (1988), an 2000 M.A. in Airpower Art and Science from Air University (1993), and a M.S in National Security Strategy from the National War College (1997). General Devereaux served over 34 years in the Air Force as a pilot, functional expert, and commander at multiple levels. As a pilot, he logged over 3,500 hours in the C-5 Galaxy, KC-135 Tanker, and instructed in numerous training aircraft. He commanded a flying squadron, an operations group, two wings, two installations, and the US Air Force Expeditionary Center in New Jersey.

    After 9/11, his operations group deployed multiple teams that established air mobility hubs across the Middle East. He served as the senior avionics manager for the C-17 aircraft prior to its first flight. He also completed two tours on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in the Operations and Logistics directorates, was the Director of all Air Force flying and technical training operations, and the Director of Regional Affairs on the Secretary of the Air Force’s international affairs staff. His last job on active duty was the Air Force Director of Operational Planning, Policy, and Strategy at the Pentagon. Since retiring in 2012, General Devereaux has worked as a strategic consultant for numerous defense firms, think tanks, and technology companies. He writes and lectures on defense, technology, and leadership in his home state of North Carolina and serves on the Boards of several communities and national organizations, including Chairman of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA.

    Allen Page, JD, CPA
    GENERAL COUNSEL AND SECRETARY,
    VIZIV TECHNOLOGIES, LLC

    Allen Page earned a B.B.A. in Accounting, cum laude, and a Masters of Accountancy from Baylor University in 2005, and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence, magna cum laude, from Baylor University School of Law in 2010. Mr. Page is also a certified public accountant.

    Prior to joining Viziv, Mr. Page was a Senior Associate at Vinson & Elkins, L.L.P. where he represented various companies and investors primarily in the technology and energy industries, focusing his practice on venture capital financings, joint ventures, private equity investments, mergers and acquisitions, fund formations and general corporate advice.

    Mr. Page also worked as an Associate at DLA Piper and a Senior Accountant at Ernst & Young prior to his time at Vinson & Elkins.

    Key People in Viziv Technologies, LLC:

    Keith Lennon
    Michael Miller
    Corum James
    Corum Kenneth
    Pinzone, Jr. Basil
    Steve Wilson
    James Corum
    Kenneth Corum
    Basil Pinzone, Jr.
    David Griffith
    Allen Page
    Terry Knutson
    Calvin Webb, III

    COMMERCIALIZATION AND PATENTS
    Viziv Technologies has a portfolio of over 60 U.S. and international granted patents. Additional patent applications are in development and more are expected.

    100+ Unique U.S. patents filed.
    760+ Pending patent filings (U.S. and International).
    65+ Patents granted (U.S. and International).

    VIZIV TECHNOLOGIES, LLC PARTNERS WITH BAYLOR UNIVERSITY TO DEVELOP POTENTIALLY REVOLUTIONARY ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTION TECHNOLOGY

    Waxahachie, Texas-based Viziv Technologies, LLC, joins five other ventures conducting research in the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative.

    WACO, Texas (August 27, 2018) – Viziv Technologies, LLC, and Baylor University announce a new research partnership aimed at commercializing an entirely new means of delivering electrical energy wirelessly over long distances. Over four decades in development, Viziv’s systems use a phenomenon known as a Zenneck surface wave to propagate electromagnetic waves along the interface of earth and air. Viziv’s ultimate goal is to provide the capability to safely, economically and efficiently deliver electrical power virtually anywhere in the world through the use of surface wave technologies. Parallel research efforts at Viziv include the use of surface waves for communication, radio navigation, and sensing. Research within the Baylor collaborative will inform each of these applications as commercial development continues.

    The deep state military industrial complex has followed this pattern for developing technologies using public money in the United States since at least WWII and then commercializing their research using private corporations in partnership with educational institutions like Baylor University, Stanford and others. The venture capital firms of Silicon Valley and others are the outcomes of these types of partnerships. But this may be a really big one. Details of Nicola Tesla’s work largely vanished upon his death in 1943 in the midst of WWII. Peculiar that a version of this should suddenly surface now with one of the key technologies needed for future energy and information distribution, with two retired high ranking US military figures spearheading the commercialization efforts. There are some other very curious peculiarities about this specific company. Do your own research(for example on James Corum and Kenneth Corum).

    What I am attempting to highlight here is the manner in which the facistic relationship between business and the military in the United States has evolved into what we generally call the American Empire. The commercialization of technology has been at the heart of this process since at least the very beginnings of the industrial revolution. It is the underlying economic structure of the monetary market economic system that allows this commercialization to take place, for the few to benefit and become immensely wealthy and powerful by leveraging the efforts of the many. It began in America as a system of colonization and slavery. Over the centuries it has morphed and transformed but not fundamentally changed until today it is at the heart of the existential threat to all life upon the Earth.

    All the political, diplomatic and economic manipulations that have served the self interests of the few at such great cost to the many remain largely unchecked. The cultural facilitator of this process is the global monetary market system. As an advocate for the sustainability advocacy organization called the Zeitgeist Movement, I recognize that the incredible technologies available today are the birthright of all humanity to be used for creating a sustainable quality of life upon the Earth. The deep value shift from the self interests of the monetary market culture to the shared common interests of all life that recognizes the Earth as our shared life ground is the great challenge facing a global humanity. All technology is simply shared cultural ideas. It costs us nothing to share ideas. Our failures to share are certainly costing many of us the quality of life which is already possible were it not for the artificially created scarcity that the monetary market culture demands to insure profitability.

    I don’t know anymore about this new company than anyone else can know by googling it. What I do know is that there is no technology that can save us unless we learn to recognize our common life ground and to share.

  • Werner Rhein

    The US Constitution was created by rich people for rich people and had never any thing to do with a real democracy. There where certain freedoms given to the footfolks, like where to live and work and vote every few years. But there votes mostly never really counted for anything, The rich did what they wanted and what made profits for them.

  • gininitaly

    Excellent article.