The Mistakes of the Global Imperial State and the Mistakes of Others  

29 Mar


It was pointed out to me that the oddities of reconciliation without truth that I encountered in the Philippines with respect to the persisting prominence of the Marcos family despite the widespread discrediting of his period of ruler ship (1965-1986) is not as strange as I made it appear. After all, Jeb Bush has recently announced his intention to seek the presidency of the United States in 2016, and George W. Bush despite his deplorable presidency, is regarded as a political asset, and is actively campaigning and raising funds on behalf of his younger brother. In the Philippines, unlike the United States, there was a political rupture brought about by the People Power Movement that drove the Marcos clan from power and led directly to Corey Aquino becoming president, widow of Benigno Aquino Jr., the slain Marcos opponent. Even now this populist triumph is celebrated as a day of national pride for the country, and Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III sits in the Malacañang Palace as the elected leader of the country. Yet the political realities in the Philippines, as with America, are more notable for their continuities with their discredited past than by changes that repudiate and overcome it.


Barack Obama was acting in an admittedly different political setting in the United States when he put aside well grounded allegations of criminality directed at the leadership during the Bush presidency, prudently contending that the country should look forward not backward when it comes to criminal accountability of its former political leaders. Of course, this is the opposite of what was done with surviving German and Japanese leaders after World War II at the widely heralded Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, nor can such prudence ever become the norm in the United States in relation to the crimes of ordinary people, even the laudable whistleblowing crimes of the sort attributed to Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. Such selective impunity seems to be the price that imperial democracies pay for avoiding civil strife at home, and preferable to the unity associated with authoritarian forms of governance.


For this reason alone, Obama’s morally regressive approach to accountability is politically understandable and prudent. America is polarized, and the most alienated and angry segment of the citizenry embraces the gun culture and likely remains ardently supportive of the sort of militarism and patriotic fervor that had been so strongly in evidence during the Bush presidency.


Thoughts along these lines led me a broader set of reflections. The mistakes that the Philippines makes, however horrifying from the perspectives of human rights, are at least largely confined to the territorial limits of the country and victimize its own citizenry. By way of comparison, the foreign policy mistakes that the United States mainly vicitimize others, although they often do at the same time impose heavy costs on the most marginal and vulnerable of Americans. As a society, many regret the impacts of the Vietnam War or the Iraq War on the serenity and self-esteem of American society, but as Americans we rarely, if ever, pause to lament the immense losses inflicted on societal experience of those living within such distant battlefields of geopolitical ambition. These victim societies are passive recipients of this destructive experience, rarely possessing the capability or even the political will to strike back. Such is the one-sidedness of imperial relationships.


An estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million Vietnamese died during the Vietnam War as compared to 58, 000 Americans, and similar casualty ratios are present in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, without even considering the disruption and devastation experienced. In Iraq since 2003 it is estimated that between 600,000 and 1 million Iraqis were killed, and over 2 million were internally displaced and another 500,000 Iraqis became refugees as a result of the war, while the United States lost in the vicinity of 4,500 combat personnel. Battlefield statistics should not blind us to the absoluteness of each death from the perspective of loved ones, but they do reveal a central dimension of the distribution of the relative human costs of war as between an intervening government and the target society. This calculus of combat death does begin to tell the story of the devastation of a foreign society, or the residual dangers that can materialize in death and maiming injuries long after the guns are silent from lethal unexploded ordinance that litters the countryside for generations, soil contamination by Agent Orange, and warheads containing depleted uranium, as well as a legacy of trauma and many daily reminders of war memories in the shape of devastated landscapes and destroyed landmarks of cultural heritage.


From almost any ethical standpoint it would seem that some conception of international responsibility should restrain the use of force in situations other than those authorized by international law. But that’s not the way the world works. The mistakes and wrongdoing that takes place in a distant foreign war is rarely acknowledged, and never punished or restitution offered. Perversely, it is only the territorial leaders that are held to account (e.g. Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and Muammar Qaddafi). The United States Government, specifically the Pentagon, makes it a point to tell the world that it does not collect data on civilian casualties associated with its international military operations. In part, there is an attitude of denial, minimizing the ordeals inflicted on foreign countries, and in part there is the salve of an underlying official insistence that the U.S. makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties. In the context of drone warfare, Washington insists that there are very few civilian victims, as measured by the number of deaths, but never admits that a far larger number of civilians huddle in continuous acute fear that they may be targeted or unintentionally struck dead by an errant missile.


Given the statist and imperial structures of world order, it is not surprising that there is so little attention to such issues. The mistakes of an imperial global state have material reverberations far beyond their borders while the mistakes of normal state resound inwardly as in an echo chamber. The wrongs of those who act for the imperial global state are shielded from scrutiny by realistic notions of impunity, while the wrongs of those who act for a normal state are increasingly subject to international procedures of accountability. When this happened after World War II it was called ‘victors’ justice; when it happens now, especially with the one-eyed jurisprudence of ‘liberal legality’ it is explained by reference to prudence and realism, being practical, doing what it is possible, accepting limits, giving a fair trial to those who are accused, deterring some patterns of evil deeds.


This will not change unless either of two things come to pass: a global capability to interpret and implement international criminal law comes into being or the political consciousness of imperial global states is dramatically altered by the internalization of an ethos of responsibility toward foreign societies and their inhabitants. Any description of such advances in law and justice should make us aware of how utopian such expectations remain.


At present, there is only one global imperial state, the United States of America. Some suggest that China’s economic prowess creates a rival center of power and influence that should be acknowledged as a second global imperial state. This seems misleading. China may be more resilient, and is certainly less militarist in its conception of security and pursuit of its interests, but it is not global, nor does it fight wars distant from its homeland. Furthermore, Chinese language, currency, and culture do not enjoy the global reach of English, the U.S. dollar, and franchise capitalism. Undoubtedly, China is currently is arguably the most significant state in the world, but its reality is in keeping with core Westphalian ideas of territorial sovereignty, while the United States operates globally in all regions to solidify its status as the only global imperial state, indeed the first such state in the history of the world.

30 Responses to “The Mistakes of the Global Imperial State and the Mistakes of Others  ”

  1. Gene Schulman March 29, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    Wouldn’t you agree that “imperial democracies” is an oxymoron?

    • Richard Falk March 29, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

      Not really..imperialism overseas, procedural democracy at home (elections, due process,
      even human rights); the essence of the liberal compromise. Greetings, Richard

      • Gene Schulman March 30, 2015 at 1:06 am #

        Greetings, Richard. We seem to be reading different books, or looking through the glass from different sides. I see no evidence of procedural democracy, (elections rigged and meaningless, due process non-existent, and human rights?, constantly being revoked). Where is compromise, liberal or otherwise?

      • Anette Ringnes April 2, 2015 at 9:11 am #

        Dear Professor Falk,

        I am writing from the International Peace Institute in New York. We have tried to get a hold of your contact details through Princeton unsuccessfully after having our delivery to you returned. We wish to send you Terje Roed-Larsen’s new book “The Search for Peace in the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” which is a comprehensive volume of all relevant documents on the Arab-Israeli conflict for over a century and presents an account of key moments in the recent history of the Middle East peace process. The book contains a set of newly commissioned maps by Miklos Pinther, former chief cartographer at the United Nations and is a culmination of Mr. Roed-Larsen’s more than two decades of professional and personal involvement in diplomacy in the region.

        It would be much appreciated if you could send me your mailing address to my email.

        Best wishes,


    • darius March 30, 2015 at 6:49 am #

      You have not understood Mr. Falk’s real political views. He is NOT you and suppofrting Obama regime against republican where are the same, Obama even more savage.
      Please read the following to understand the real issues in the ME and how it is manipulated. Mr. Falk piece is a propaganda for hillary and ‘democratic’ party in the coming election.

      • Gene Schulman March 30, 2015 at 8:10 am #

        @ darius: I am afraid I do not understand your remarks about Mr. Falk’s “real political views.” What does the rant you linked have to do with his views? Or the subject of his post? I certainly do not read Falk as you do. I’m afraid I have to disappoint you, I agree most fully with Mr. Falk’s views, though occasionally allow myself to disagree on minor points like the above.

      • Richard Falk March 30, 2015 at 9:42 am #

        Thanks, Gene, for clarification & support!

      • Kata Fisher March 30, 2015 at 11:00 am #


        you wrote:

        “You have not understood Mr. Falk’s real political views. He is NOT you…”

        Can you please clarify what you mean with this – if possible for you:

        ” … and supporting Obama regime against Republican where are the same, Obama even more savage.”

        What do you exactly mean with “Obama even more savage”?

        Can you please explain this – if possible for you.

        A note: Give me one example of “savage” behavior by President Obama that was not imposed on to him (personally). Meaning – what savaging did he start that would qualify for violation of International Law and Human Rights?

        Another Note:

        We all understand that this is a very difficult time for everyone (for leaders and diplomats) — they can’t even agree on the essential part (legitimacy) of International Law and Human Rights. (I do not believe I am assuming here).

        Leaders and diplomats do not have necessary means to deal with problems of this point in time.

        Give me one example of “savage” behavior by President Obama that was not imposed/imposed pattern on to him (personally). Meaning – what savaging did he actually start (in forms of legitimate fact)?

        Further, what is authentic terrorism? — and all definitions for forms of terrorism, – what is legitimate warfare – if any (I mean no just war, but legitimate warfare? – if any at all).

        If you reflect on legitimate warfare – you will, in fact, find savaging apart from legitimate warfare.

        Imposed pattern (if impossible to brake off / make it stop) would be legitimate warfare, in fact, on one’s individuals behave – such as Mr. Obama.

        He revoked illegitimate war: Iraq. Can I ask you this: Do you have a problem with that? Is there any problem with that, at all? There is still war in Iraq – but he is not responsible for that. (Just as he was not responsible for beginning of the war in Iraq).

        Please separate Religious prosecution and governing. Meaning, religious mob and treats of religious mobs can be under legitimate war (spiritual or natural).

        It best be spiritual then natural war against mob-religious because we all have individuals that are in irrevocable satanic seals and blasphemy of God’s Spirit, and are not subject to restore to healthy convince without Baptism in God’s Spirit. Meaning, you can’t reason with them. However, leaders should and have to reason with diplomats because civilians are killed and genocide is taking place.

        However, International Law and Human Rights are not to be disregarded and broken, otherwise one becomes that what is fighting: religious mob.

        I do not think or believe that I am wrong with this.

      • Darius March 30, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

        {He revoked illegitimate war: Iraq. Can I ask you this: Do you have a problem with that? Is there any problem with that, at all? There is still war in Iraq – but he is not responsible for that. (Just as he was not responsible for beginning of the war in Iraq).}

        You are very ignorant. Why do you even bother? Obama is directly responsible for the events in the ME. He is the butcher of Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Mali and more. I am not willing to engage with people who are deceived so easily.
        According to many informed Journalists, professors Obama and Obama regime would have attacked Syria if the world, including American people, were not against him. Another reason for him to postpone the attack was Britain who voted not to support Obama if he did. He wanted to attack Syria after killing more than 220000 people in Syria but he knew he is going to be identified as a WAR CRIMINAL again. He is responsible for what is going on in Yemen. I know you don’t understand this and I don’t expect you to grasp of these issues.
        Bush was opposed by so called ‘liberals’ like Juan Cole, Chomsky, Falk, but in 20014 all three told the public go and vote for this baby killer AGAIN. We also know more than 95% of ‘African American’ voted for him. He has been the best friend of Israel and has protected Israelis’ interests more than any other president even George Bush. All the phony liberal still are protecting this war criminal and cover up his crimes against humanity every single day. Just go to Juan Cole site to see it all.

      • Kata Fisher March 30, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

        You write:

        “You are very ignorant.”

        What do you mean by that?

        Just because I ask some legitimate questions does not mean that I am ignorant, unable to understand and grasp….what is going on?

        Why would I need to know all of that? Say, if I went for six years to some college/school to learn – I would not learn all of that. So, what is going on in “Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Mali and more.”?

        JE/EASE when you have kids to teach – you have to know everything….

        You write: “Obama is directly responsible for the events in the ME.”

        What events? Past/present/future?

        What exactly?

        I would strongly disagree with you that I am deceived so easily.

        You write:”According to many informed Journalists, professors Obama and Obama regime would have attacked Syria if the world, including American people, were not against him.”

        This is a very sincere, existing in fact, and truthful assessment of “liberal led democracy?” Any gaps /shortfalls to your assessment?

        “Another reason for him to postpone the attack was Britain who voted not to support Obama if he did” [I understand this].

        “He wanted to attack Syria after killing more than 220000 people in Syria but he knew he is going to be identified as a WAR CRIMINAL again. He is responsible for what is going on in Yemen.”

        What is going on in Yemen?

        You write:
        “I know you don’t understand this and I don’t expect you to grasp of these issues.”

        I disagree with You because you underestimate what I can understand and grasp….

        You write:

        “Bush was opposed by so called ‘liberals’ like Juan Cole, Chomsky, Falk, but in 20014 all three told the public go and vote for this baby killer AGAIN. We also know more than 95% of ‘African American’ voted for him. He has been the best friend of Israel and has protected Israelis’ interests more than any other president even George Bush. All the phony liberal still are protecting this war criminal and cover up his crimes against humanity every single day. Just go to Juan Cole site to see it all” [I understand this].

        You seem to have too many grammatical errors / and other glaring errors – so that I will skip this part.

  2. Alfredo Giannantonio March 29, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    Thank you very much, excellent analysis and comment

  3. Kata Fisher March 29, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

    A note:

    Does anyone understand what is this all about? What do these things mean?

  4. rehmat1 March 30, 2015 at 7:17 am #

    Dr. Falk, you need to learn more about Philippines’ colonial legacy, which is not much different than the Zionist entity. Both have occupied Muslim lands with the help of western colonial powers.

    The US, not only, is training Philippines Army but Marines are fighting along Pilipino soldiers against Muslim resistant groups which have been struggling for independence from Manila. This was confirmed by Senate Defense Committee Rodolfo Baizon, who tabled Senate Resolution 1370 – calling for the withdrawal of US troops out of “conflict or combat-prone areas” – Sulu, Basilan and Central Mindanao.

    The ‘Moroland’ consists of Mindanao, the second largest island within Philippines, along with Sulu, Palawan, Basilan and neighboring islands – are home to over 12 million Muslims (out the total population of 20 millions). Islam came to Moroland in 1210 CE through Muslim Arab traders – 300 years ahead of Christianity brought by Portuguese invaders in 1521 CE. For more than three centuries the Spanish Christians tried to eradicate Islam from Moroland, followed by forty-seven years of American occupation and destruction of Islamic identity. In 1946, while ending American occupation – Washington, against the wishes of the Muslim-majority – awarded Moroland to Christian Philippine in exchange for US military bases.

  5. Beau Oolayforos March 30, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    Thanks for another enlightening article, and especially for the cautious but realistic hopefulness your second-to-the-last paragraph gives me, at least. Neither of the two conditions you mention is unattainable – as we know, many people have been and are working toward exactly these goals. That would be the best-case scenario. History is littered with the other kind – Spain comes to mind, where the collapsing Empire seemed to bring all that greed and cruelty back home, in the form of horrific civil wars. At least we can read the cautionary tales.

  6. Jerry "Peacemaker" March 30, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    Shortly before Jay Leno retired from the Tonight Show, George W. Bush was on the show. Given the greatest foreign policy catastrophe in U.S. history – the Iraq War begun in 2003 – based on outright lies and resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children, Bush told Leno and the show’s viewing audience that the greatest lesson he learned from his father George H.W. Bush was “unconditional love”.
    That is beyond comprehension.

  7. rehmat1 April 1, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    Dr. Falk – As I expected, your speech at Southampton University has been cancelled. As the saying goes, ‘You cannot fight the fire dragon.”

    • Gene Schulman April 2, 2015 at 12:49 am #

      @ rehmat1: You’re not the only one complaining.

      Here’s Atzmon proclaiming we

      • rehmat1 April 2, 2015 at 8:17 am #

        Gene Schulman – Nope. My old friend Gilad Atzmon from Peacepalestine website run by an Italian-American Jewish activist, is NOT complaining but telling the truth. Some writers have called Atzmon the ‘Promised Jewish Messiah’ after authoring book ‘The Wandering Who: A study of Jewish Identity Politics‘. He, like myself, also favors Iran having a few nuclear bombs as deterrent.

      • Gene Schulman April 2, 2015 at 8:42 am #

        You misunderstood, rhemat1, Gilad is my pal too. The word I used was “proclaiming”! I’ve never heard him say he was in favor of Iran having “a few nuclear arms”. I’m sure, like me he’d prefer Israel give up theirs.

      • Kata Fisher April 2, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

        A short note:

        “Gilad Atzmon, an Israel-born Jew, who has been championing for a single democratic Palestinian state for Muslims, Christians and Jews for years.”

        Your Friend Gilad Atzmon does not understand…

        One cant make “Palestinian state” out of Davidic Kingdom, meaning historical Holy Land. From the Bible (Biblical) stand-point you just can’t do that.

        It would turn Faith rights and Freedom of Faith issues up-side down.

        While entire Arab Population in Holy Land can (and can not be) referred as “people in Palestine” – Holy Land / Israel (Davidic Kingdom) can’t be “Palestine” in this point in time.

        Before Law was given point in time is over. “Palestine” is in time-pass.

        Davidic Kingdom / Holy Land (with Judah and Israel) as parted Kingdoms can’t legitimately become “Palestine State.”

        It is Holy Land as Israel.

        However, unless legitimate democracy – fake one will not work for the people in Holy Land — people that are already there, as well as immigrating people — people that are immigrating according to their Faith right.

        But also, there ar civil rights that are not taking place in Arab controlled areas of Holy Land.

        There are deep Faith issues concerning this – violating Landmarks of Holy Land and Faith rights will bring about only deep consequences for all.

        I am very serious about this – Scriptural things / Faith issues can’t be mishandled…I mean Scriptural things / Faith rights can be dismissed – but not without consequence upon next generations, even imminent consequences.

        There is a legitimate possibility that All Holy Land area can be a legitimate democracy with overlapping districts.

        David just wrote an article about democracy and voting concerning Arabs in Holy Land. “Two state” is just a terrible thing for all in Holy Land. However, “two districts” may be legitimate in Holy Land to Israel / Davidic Kingdom. ( I think – but I am not 100% sure) from Biblical perspective. I just have brainstorming on that.

      • Kata Fisher April 2, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

        My note was for Rehmat1 – I forgot to note that. Sorry.

  8. rehmat1 April 2, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    @Kata Fisher – During my blogging – I have heard hundreds of professional Israeli hasbra morons who all have one thing in common – their brains between their legs.

    Gilad Atzmon along with other 8000 S.H.I.T Jews also believe in one state for both foreign Jews and native Muslims and Christians. However, American Jewish blogger Roger Tucker of ‘One Palestine State’, believes that all foreign Jewish settlers should be sent back to their ancestral lands.


    “Israel restrained itself from pounding Egypt only because it was aware that the Egyptians had the means to retaliate. In other words, Israeli leaders knew all along that Egypt possessed the capacity to inflict pain to Israel’s cities. They must have realised that Egyptian objectives were not genocidal – but it also means that Israel’s enemies: Arab countries, as well as Iran, must pursue every possible means to posses the kind of weaponry that deters Israel. It seems this is the only way to bring Israeli aggression to an end,” wrote Gilad Atzmon, September 14, 2013.

    • Kata Fisher April 3, 2015 at 6:04 am #

      Rehmat: Only prophets of Juda would say obnoxious things such as that – too bad they are not Baptised in God’s Spirit and ordained (in Church age).

      The Zionist lodge must smell real bad. You must be right – to say such things about your friend.

      Corporate Jewish as well as Hebrew-Jewish / Muslim conscience is just as Salomons conscience after 700 wives and 300 concubines — who can disagree with that?

      It is late Church age – only Household of David has no wrenched mind.


      • rehmat1 April 4, 2015 at 7:33 am #

        Kata Fisher – When was the last time you read your Talmud or Torah for that matter?

        The prophets of Judea, as described by those “holy books”, were racist, womanizers and mass-murderers. Read professor Israel Shahak’s book, ‘Jewish History Jewish Religion’.

        Shame on rabbis who portrayed those prophets being ‘antisemites’ – LAUGHTER!!

      • Kata Fisher April 4, 2015 at 12:23 pm #


        I read and study New Testament every day. But every Friday in eucharistic prayer chapel – I read from any other Books (Old and New Testament).

        Often I just focus only on footnotes that are relevant to the New Testament. Meaning, I am not much serios about it / reading Old Testament. It is a lot to go about apart from New Testament.

        However, I have had spent much time in Old Testament over the years and must tell you that the prophets (of Old Testament) were not “racist, womanizers and mass-murderers.” I do (and do not know) how people study and interpret their stuff at their application.

        I read plenty of the books about Religion – for the sake of my well-being – I would not and I could not not pick another one in my will-power.

        I do not know – I do not need to know any more concerning religious disorder. I am sure that I will not read about Faith order – so I’m disinterested.

      • Kata Fisher April 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm #


        You may like this article:

        I show you something:

        There is no such thing as “Jerusalem syndrome.” But there is such thing as satanic practices (counterfeit charismatic’s in seven lying spirit/s of Anti-Crist/False one that try’s to pass off for “Church-Charismatic” in Spirt of God) in Jerusalem that spread like a plague – world-wide, and even to the city of David.

        And many get given over to Satan, are judged by God at “the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD.”

        And in Church-Catholic-Charismatic we say something like this:

        “27So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

        28Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.

        29For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

        30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

        31But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.

        32Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world” (See and

    • Gene Schulman April 3, 2015 at 9:23 am #

      rehmat1: There is nothing in this article that you linked that even mentions nuclear weapons. Please don’t project your own beliefs onto Gilad.

      • rehmat1 April 4, 2015 at 7:35 am #

        Gene… I never pretended to be a ‘magician’ who can perform miracle on ‘self-denying’ bigots.

  9. rehmat1 April 4, 2015 at 7:36 am #

    UK journalist, author and feminist, Uganda-born Yasmin Alibhai-Brown crossed the Jewish Lobby ‘Red-Line’ on March 29, 2015. In a column at UK daily Independent, she called the Zionist entity a worst terrorist entity than Islamic resistance Hamas, ruling the Gaza Strip without Israel-US-EU blessings since 2006.

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