The following is based on a talk given by the author at the “End of Empire” session of the “Building a New World” Conference of the Prout World Assembly at Radford University, Radford, Virginia, on May 22, 2008.
I believe we have had two Americas. One started with the imperialist state which Alexander Hamilton tried to put into place in the 1790s with the First Bank of the United States. Thomas Jefferson overthrew this early expression of empire in the Civic Revolution of 1800 and created a strong and free America which lasted until 1913 in spite of the convulsion of the Civil War.
In 1913 the empire came back through the Federal Reserve Act and the 16th Amendment to the Constitution authorizing the income tax. Franklin Roosevelt dealt it a blow during the New Deal, but now it has taken over again, starting with the Vietnam War, continuing with the Reagan Revolution, and ending with the catastrophe of Bush II.
Though the America we know and love is in agony, I believe the ‘real’ America is still there, somewhere, among the people, particularly those who remain true to the teaching of the Master, “to love your neighbor as yourself.” Whether and how that America will now come to the fore is, for me, the next big question.
A few weeks after I retired from the government in January 2007, I published a book entitled Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age.
I had gone to work at NASA in the summer of 1985 as the lead resource analyst for the space shuttle solid rocket boosters.
My first major assignment was to talk with the solid rocket booster engineers and find out about the problems they were having with the O-ring joints. They told me that these joints, located between rocket segments, were being eroded by flame leaks almost every time the shuttle was launched.
The engineers said that if the flame leaks burned all the way through the joints, then the shuttle would blow up. Documents showed that if this happened the astronauts all would die. The engineers said they were trying to redesign the joints but that for now they “held their breath” each time there was a launch.
On January 26, 1986, space shuttle Challenger did blow up for the reason the engineers had described. Among the seven astronauts who died was Christa McAuliffe, the Teacher-in-Space and the first civilian shuttle passenger. I became the only NASA official to testify publicly to the Rogers Commission that NASA had known for a long time this could happen. For my testimony I later received the Cavallo Foundation Award given to whistleblowers for moral courage in business and industry.
After my testimony, the engineers for Morton Thiokol came forward and told how they had tried to stop the launch the night before, because they feared the unusually cold temperatures would prevent the O-ring joints from sealing. NASA refused to accept the engineers’ recommendation for a delay, and their own company managers approved the launch in writing.
This was as far as the Rogers Commission went with its investigation. After four more years of personal investigation, I was able to determine that NASA approved the launch against all expert opinion in connection with the TV publicity for the Teacher-in-Space mission and under pressure from the Reagan White House.
I was also able to show that the reason NASA kept flying, despite the knowledge that the O-ring joints were flawed and that their performance was further compromised by cold temperatures, was so as not to interfere with military launches the shuttle was going to be making in support of President Reagan’s Star Wars weapons-in-space system.
I tell you this story because it is a concrete example of what happens when a nation goes from being a democracy to an empire. For one thing, human life no longer matters. They don’t care if people live or die. They’ll kill millions, whole nations, entire cultures, to get what they covet. And they will give it fancy names, like “The War on Terror.” Or they’ll tell you the earth is overpopulated so hundreds of millions must starve, which is starting to happen even as we speak.
Also, there is always a great leader whose image and prestige matters more than common sense and the truth—a Great Communicator, a Decider, a Unitary Executive. And that leader is going to be good at scaring you and making you do things out of fear you would never do in your right mind.
Finally, under an empire, ideas of science and knowledge—which is to say, Truth—are sacrificed to the imperatives of militarism and national security. What was happening at the time of the Challenger disaster was that the manned space program, which had given mankind some of its greatest triumphs during the Apollo moon landing program, was now being subverted to begin launching weapons into space. Today, no nation in history has been as proficient as ours at inventing things to kill their fellow human beings.
Returning to my personal circumstances, I left NASA a few days after my testimony and spent the next twenty-one years working for the U.S. Treasury Department. There I learned more about what it has meant for us to become an empire, because it has affected public finance as much as space science. And I have studied this topic seriously for years. I publish articles regularly on Global Research and other websites and have a new book coming out this fall entitled, We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform.
The issue of whether we in the U.S. want to be an empire or a democracy goes back to the founding of the nation. In the 1790s, our first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, got Congress, with President George Washington’s approval, to pass legislation setting up the First Bank of the United States. Hamilton was frank at the time in telling people that the purpose of the Bank was to allow the creation of what he than called an “American empire” in order to compete with the European nations in controlling the world.
The Bank would do the same for the U.S. as the Bank of England did for Great Britain. It would buy government debt and use it as collateral for private lending. The debt would then be used to fund a large standing army and navy, even though in the long run, this could bankrupt the nation. The army and navy began to be built through the 1790s, until Thomas Jefferson and his followers stood up and said this is not the kind of nation we fought to create during the Revolutionary War.
Hamilton and Jefferson split, and that split has defined U.S. politics ever since. Hamilton became the de facto head of the Federalist Party, the ancestor first of the Whigs and then of the Republicans. Jefferson called himself a Republican at first, then a Democratic-Republican, then finally his party became the Democratic Party that has lasted until today. Of course we know that the two parties have come more and more to resemble each other in recent decades in supporting policies of imperialism.
Jefferson was elected president in what was called the Civic Revolution of 1800. The first thing he did was cut military spending. He did what no one has done since, which was to balance the federal budget for eight consecutive years. Then he took an action which defined our nation to a considerable extent all the way into the 20th century. In 1803 he doubled the size of the nation overnight through the Louisiana Purchase.
So for the next century, instead of competing with the European nations for overseas colonies, our energies were devoted to settling the North American continent, to the detriment, of course, of the Native American peoples. We became, as did Russia in Eurasia and Brazil in South America, a continental land power. And we stayed that way for over a century.
But empire finally caught up with us. Across the sea in South Africa a man named Cecil Rhodes was devising a plan to make the British Empire the ruler of the globe. He created a secret society to accomplish this, called the Round Table, using money provided by the Rothschild family, who had controlled the British economy since the Napoleonic wars.
The U.S. was integral to their plans. Following is the relevant passage from Cecil Rhodes’ will of 1877. His aims, he wrote in the will, were:
…The extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom and of colonization by British subjects of all lands wherein the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour, and enterprise,…the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of a British Empire, the consolidation of the whole Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial Representation in the Imperial Parliament which may to tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire, and finally the production of so great a power as to hereafter render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.
Think about that: “the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire.” In fact, as Professor Carroll Quigley made clear in his celebrated book, The Anglo-American Establishment, the British planners, whose descendants still rule that nation, acknowledged that a time would come when the U.S. would be the senior partner in the empire, which is exactly what happened over the century that lay ahead.
The Russian writer P.D. Ouspensky said all the history you read about in the history books is “the history of crime.” This is what he was talking about.
The takeover of America was accomplished when the British, European, and American bankers created the Federal Reserve System in 1913. That year our nation was hijacked. Congressman Charles Lindbergh, father of the future aviator, called it “the legislative crime of the ages.”
The Federal Reserve is a privately-owned central banking system modeled on the Bank of England. From that day onward we got all the accoutrements of empire which have burdened our nation ever since: an enormous national debt, a crushing tax burden, permanent inflation, constant warfare, a gigantic and overweening military-industrial complex, a national character marked by arrogance and violence, and today, the enmity of the world.
Our wealth has been based, first, of course, on our own industriousness and natural resources—a positive—but, when that has proved insufficient, on taking it from others. Until recently our businesses and industry have dominated the globe—ever since World War II. The American dollar has been the world’s reserve currency and the denominator of trade in the “black gold” known as oil.
Through the neocolonialist institution known as the International Monetary Fund, we dominated the economies of the developing world. And we backed up our hegemony with military might. Since the start of World War II in 1941 we have been at war with somebody, either overtly or covertly, continuously. This pattern of warfare accelerated with the Reagan Doctrine of fighting proxy wars starting in the 1980s.
Today our military is based in 166 nations. Our economy is dominated by two industries—banking and armaments. Egged on by Israel and the U.S.-based neocons, we are engaged in the military conquest of the Middle East. This began after the 9/11 attacks through use of off-the-shelf plans to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. We are also seeking “full-spectrum dominance” by planning, once again, to put weapons into space.
And we are bankrupt—morally and financially. We gave away our manufacturing industries to the operators of overseas sweatshops and have tried to live on our investments and the inflation of our homes and paper assets. Our secret intelligence agencies are heavily involved in the illicit drug trade, and we carry out our foreign policy with assassinations, subversion, and torture.
Yet we have a national debt approaching $10 trillion and a total societal debt of $50 trillion, neither of which can ever be paid off. Meanwhile the world’s financial controllers, still mainly based in London along with Wall Street, have gotten unbelievably rich from the proceeds of empire over the decades and are probably laughing up their sleeves as they watch us inch toward the next world war.
Because it’s a fact that the threat of nuclear war which we thought had been dispelled by the end of the Cold War today has come back. Remember talk of the “peace dividend”? What a joke! In our name, and with our money, the U.S. military-industrial complex is seriously preparing for a world war that would be fought with nuclear weapons against Russia and China.
The trigger could be a U.S. attack on Iran, which seems to be in the works and may take place before the November presidential election. Disgusting and corrupt corporate media outlets like the Washington Post are again beating the drums for war on behalf of the financiers and Israel as they did in the run-up to the war against Iraq.
Is there still a chance for us to step back and become the nation we once were, the home of liberty and the hope of mankind? Although I have tried to address these and many other issues in my writings, I honestly do not have the answer to that very pertinent question.
Copyright 2008 by Richard C. Cook
Richard C. Cook is a former U.S. federal government analyst, whose career included service with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Carter White House, NASA, and the U.S. Treasury Department. His articles on economics, politics, and space policy have appeared on numerous websites. His book on monetary reform entitled We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform will be published soon by Tendril Press. He is also the author of Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age, called by one reviewer, “the most important spaceflight book of the last twenty years.” His Challenger website is at www.richardccook.com. A new economics website at www.RealSustainableLiving.com is upcoming with partner/author Susan Boskey. To get on his mailing list, for questions and comments, or to pre-purchase copies of his new book, please write EconomicSanity@gmail.com.