The Decline and Fall of the American Empire — Part the Last

Oliver Munday/New Yorker

Welcome back. For this final installment, I decided to include an honorable mention, which is the way abuse, corruption, and even high treason have become acceptable to millions of Americans. Alongside economic turmoil, social problems, and military misadventures, this also illustrates the level of regression and decline that has happened in the U.S. since the latter half of the 20th century.

Tolerance of Abuse & Corruption

While the trend of decline has been ongoing since the mid- to late- 1970s, the symptoms have become most acute in recent years. For four years, the US had a sitting president who achieved the office of POTUS by colluding with a foreign (and hostile) nation. As the Mueller Probe demonstrated, the Trump campaign knew in advance that Russian agents were responsible for the DNC hack and obtained “dirt” from their email servers.

As the Probe further indicated, the Trump campaign sought to benefit from this, knowingly and happily. The Probe also showed that on ten separate occasions, they attempted to obstruct the investigation into this and other connections between Trump, Putin, Russian oligarchs, and other foreign governments. The full extent of these ties, and the clandestine meetings conducted by Bush’s transitional team and cabinet, are still being revealed!

Despite what some might think, this is actually something of a tradition among ruthless, right-wing presidents and hopefuls. The most recent was Ronald Reagan, the only president (until now) accused of committing what was tantamount to high treason during his presidency. This was known as the “Iran-Contra Affair,” which took place between 1985 and 1987.

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This involved the secret sale of weapons to the Iranian government (which had been under an arms embargo since the revolution in 1979) and using that money to fund the Contra militants in Nicaragua. The Reagan administration tried to excuse the weapons sales by claiming it was for the release of hostages, but a Congressional investigation revealed that the arms sales went back to 1981, before the people in question had even been taken hostage.

Meanwhile, the funneling of the proceeds of these sales to the Contras, a right-wing terrorist group accused of running drugs and killing civilians, was blamed on Col. Oliver North of the National Security Council (NSC). Oliver was a clear fall guy who, thanks to the way he destroyed all the relevant documentation, got off scot-free and since became a commentator for FoxNews.

This was not the first time that a prominent Republican committed treason. In 1968, when Nixon was running for president, he passed messages to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, telling him to stall the peace talks. The reason was that Nixon knew that if Johnson reached a peace agreement with North Vietnam, he’d likely win the election. Nixon’s tactic worked, and he got away with it because the Johnson administration knew about it from the secret wiretaps they had installed in Thieu’s office (which they dared not reveal).

Getting back to Reagan, much has been said about his accomplishments and failures, but the overriding claims made to me by old-school Republicans is that he “made us feel good to be American again.” And it’s certainly true. Reagan’s charm and charismatic personality did give a lot of people a warm, fuzzy feeling deep down. But behind that veneer, he was setting trends in motion that would set the stage for men like George W. and Donald Trump.

Ollie Atkins

These included the aforementioned deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, racist campaign modes, and military misadventures. In 1988, when Americans once again went to the voting booths, they chose to stay on the path Reagan laid out by electing his VP, George H.W. Bush. In many ways, Bush’s administration was plagued by the mistakes of his predecessor — in terms of the nation’s economy as well as its foreign and domestic policy. For this reason, Bush became a one-term president and lost to Clinton in 1992.

However, eight years later, the US once again fell beneath the specter of corrupt GOP leadership. In 2001, George W. Bush became president amid one of the most contested elections in US history. The so-called “voting irregularities” that took place in Florida were the result of widespread suppression, misinformation and voter fraud on behalf of then-Governor Jeb Bush and members of Bush’s campaign team.

This was compounded by the fact that the recount was overseen by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who was also serving as co-chair of George W. Bush’s election efforts in Florida. The final touch was the way the US Supreme Court, which was stacked with Republican judges at the time (much as it is today), chose to overrule the Florida Supreme Court’s decision calling for a manual recount, effectively making Bush the winner.

A massive act of partisan-fueled corruption not only went unpunished, but was rewarded. Eight months later, 9/11 happened, and the majority of American people swallowed the narrative that Bush was “doing a good job since 9/11,” or that questioning the president in a time of war was “unpatriotic.” People willingly buried their critical thinking and rational faculties, not for the sake of loyalty to the country but loyalty to the current president.

It wasn’t until 2005, after the 9/11 Commission revealed Bush had been repeatedly warned over an 8-month period about an impending attack and did nothing, that the lies about WMDs and ties to Al-Qaeda were exposed, and Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, that Americans felt safe criticizing him again. And yet, he was not impeached for his crimes and continued to slowly bleed support for another two years, adding the Great Recession to his long list of immense failures.

And in the latest and worst example of corruption being tolerated at the highest levels, the American people went to the polls in 2016 and elected a man notorious for sexually assaulting women, cheating on his wives, marrying his mistresses, sexualizing his own daughter, committing fraud, saying incredibly stupid, racist, hurtful, ugly, bigoted things, and praising Vladimir Putin and other enemy despots. It also became clear that Russia — the source of the DNC hack and the Podesta email leak — was aiding his campaign and that he was colluding with them.

Worse than that, it became immediately apparent after the election that Trump was doing all he could to cover this collusion up. This included ordering FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, firing Comey because he wouldn’t, witness tampering, trying to discredit the Mueller investigation, trying to have Mueller fired, appointing a loyal Attorney-General (Barr) to suppress the Mueller Report’s findings, and ordering his staff not to cooperate with House and Senate investigations into the report.

There were even those Americans who said they would assassinate Clinton if she won, that they would kill for Trump if he’s impeached (still happening), that they support him turning the US into a dictatorship, would approve of him making identical statements to Hitler (as long as it came from him and not Hitler), and have admitted that they prefer a president who colludes with Russia than one who’s a Democrat.

And who can forget how Trump attempted to overturn the 2020 election, plotted a coup to seize control of the government, and then instigated an insurrection when those attempts failed? These actions constituted treason, and Trump has only deepened his betrayal by illegally holding on to top secret government documents, which he was likely attempting to sell to foreign governments (the smart money is on Saudi Arabia or Russia).

Trump was literally a disaster as president and the most incompetent, negligent, blatantly crooked, traitorous, and compromised man to ever hold the office of POTUS. And yet, 40% of the population continues to support him, going as far as to declare that all news and information regarding his criminal acts as “fake news,” the result of some clandestine conspiracy, and a second civil war is needed to right these wrongs.

Reality has literally become the enemy of people on the right end of the political spectrum. The GOP has chosen to embrace this and is now campaigning on the 2020 election being stolen, making it harder for Black and Brown people to vote, abortion bans, book banning/burning (because CRT is somehow “racist” and being taught to kids!), open calls for Civil War 2.0, and accusation that all Democrats are pedophiles who are “grooming children.”

The people who want to “save America” have effectively declared war against the 60% of Americans they hate and want to purge any thought that runs counter to their cult-like worldview. Their accusations are based entirely on projection, where Biden is somehow the racist, rapist, and senile one, Clinton is the corrupt one, BLM and Antifa are the fascist thugs, and it’s the Democrats who are trying to overthrow democracy.

And their justification seems to be that a cabal of criminal elites are their friends, and the most vicious and hateful people who are openly committing violence are somehow the victims or are being oppressed and censored. The words “alternative facts” were not only a hilariously ironic preview of how the Trump administration would be based on lies. It was a preview of the doublethink that it’s supporters would henceforth be championing!

It runs so deep at this point that Trump supporters will literally do and forsake anything to keep him in power rather than admit they were duped and fleeced for millions.

Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty

What to make of all this?

In short, it is clear that for the past 40 years, America has been governed by a cabal of increasingly conservative leaders who want to turn the clock back on history. Their goals, though they may seem a bit muddled and confused, are actually quite clear: They want to erase the legacy of the 60s and the 1930s, which includes the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the feminist movement, and the New Deal.

This entails throwing out things like organized labor, workers’ rights, womens’ rights, guaranteed health care, multiculturalism, minority rights, and human rights and usher in a new era that looks exactly like the 19th century. In this world, the super-rich control everything, people born into poverty will die off, and all government institutions (including the military) exist as an instrument of their policy.

And after forty years, this has culminated in the conservative movement becoming so brazenly right-wing and driven by ignorance and bigotry that the result was Donald Trump becoming president. The US was founded as a nation built on the ideal of the rule of law, individual liberty, constitutional rights, equality before the law, and social mobility.

Today, all of these tenets have been sacrificed repeatedly for the sake of protecting the office of the president, or have been tolerated because the people doing it claimed it was for the “good of the nation”. Meanwhile, the US is engaging in increasingly imperialistic behavior overseas, employing police-state tactics at home, and using any and all means to squeeze more wealth from its people and environment.

What can be said about a country whose citizens allow this to happen? What can be said about a country where almost half the people claim that they are okay with this, who have chosen to reject anything that comes from the sources they’re told to hate, and declare that they are fine with treason because they think their fellow Americans are the true enemy? What can be said about Americans who think it would be wonderful if the country was a dictatorship, so long as it’s “their guy” that’s running things?

Can a country in this state be saved? More importantly, doesn’t it even deserve to be? Maybe not. Personally, I don’t care if it deserves to be saved or not. Rarely does anyone get what they deserve in this world. The point is the collapse would be horrible and felt all around the world. So the process needs to be stopped now and reversed before it is too late.

What will it take to save the U.S. at this point? That’s a subject for another set of papers, I imagine. Despite what some might claim, I actually do have ideas. To be fair, though, they are not mine. They are things Americans have been calling for (in fact, begging for) for generations! Maybe it’s time they were listened to.



Space/astronomy journalist for Universe Today, SF author, and all around family man!

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Matt Williams

Space/astronomy journalist for Universe Today, SF author, and all around family man!