It claims to be conducting a war on terrorism against a network (al-Qaeda) it helped create to fight proxy wars on its behalf (in Afghanistan and the Balkans.)
It says it must bring anthrax terrorists to justice, but has the world's largest stockpile of smallpox, anthrax, and other biological weapons. It continues to experiment with new weaponized pathogens. It refuses to agree to measures to strengthen a biological weapons treaty. And there's evidence it has used biological weapons (in the Korean War.)
It has called some its past adversaries empires, bent on world domination (the Soviet Union), but it has 200,000 soldiers permanently stationed in dozens of countries around the globe. Its global military presence expands every year, encircling one of the few countries left to challenge its hegemony -- Russia.
In one country alone (South Korea), which it has occupied for over five decades, it has 45,000 soldiers.
The country's wars are always said to be fought for some high moral purpose: to stop ethnic cleansing, to prevent tyranny, to uphold international law, to defeat communist expansion, to root out terrorism, but somehow, while this is being done, the country always seems, as John Flynn once put it, to capture its enemies' markets while blundering into their oil wells.
It's always strapped for cash when it comes to social spending, health care and Social Security, but can find billions at the drop of a hat for a new weapons program.
Its colossal military is more than two and half times larger than the militaries of the next nine largest potential adversaries combined (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Cuba.)
Its military spending, combined with that of its allies (NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia), is five times greater than that of the next nine largest potential adversaries together. Yet, it says, it's always under threat.
In the last five decades, it has attacked no less than two dozen countries. In the last four years, it has bombed four countries (Afghanistan, Sudan, Yugoslavia, Iraq) one of them in two separate campaigns (Afghanistan), and one almost daily (Iraq.)
Even though the raison d'être of the major military alliance it leads (NATO) has vanished, the alliance is more robust than ever, and is expanding.
It refuses to sign a treaty banning land mines.
It refuses to sign the Kyoto Accords, limiting greenhouse gasses.
It uses cluster bombs -- bombs consisting of dozens of tiny land mine-like bomblets -- which continue to kill, usually children, well after a war is finished.
It has 30,000 tons of chemical weapons.
It has the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. It refuses to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
It refuses to renounce the first strike use of nuclear weapons. It won't commit to refraining from using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
It is the only country to ever use nuclear weapons.
It says it doesn't target civilians, but, in maintaining the world's largest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, is prepared to kill civilians in countless numbers.
In one major campaign lasting over ten years (Vietnam War), it carpet bombed three countries (North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), killing at least three million civilians. A decade earlier, it carpet bombed North Korea so thoroughly it ran out of targets to bomb.
It issues ultimata to other countries (Yugoslavia, Afghanistan), and when the ultimata are rejected, it says the other side refused to negotiate. When the other side begs to negotiate, it's bombed.
It promotes the deception that a country can be bombed around the clock with only a few civilian casualties. It announces in advance of a bombing campaign that some civilian deaths are inevitable, and then, when they occur, say they were accidental and unintended.
It bombs civilian infrastructure -- water treatment facilities, power plants, dams, flood control systems, irrigation, water storage, pumping stations, sewage facilities, bridges, transportation facilities, petrochemical plants, fertilizer factories, auto-plants, as well as hospitals, schools, old folks homes, Red Cross buildings, and residential neighborhoods. After reducing its enemies to rubble, it imposes sanctions to hinder the rebuilding of all that was destroyed (Yugoslavia, Iraq), until a puppet regime is installed (Yugoslavia.)
It enforces one sanctions regime (Iraq) that is estimated to have contributed to the deaths of 1.5 million civilians. One of the country's leaders (Madeleine Albright) said the deaths are "worth it."
If it doesn't like another country's economic policies, it tars the leadership as tyrants and brutes, declares the country a dictatorship, and raises concern about human rights violations (Yugoslavia, Belarus) and railroads the leaders into jail (Yugoslavia) or arranges to have them overthrown in a coup (Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Yugoslavia.) Authoritarian countries whose leaders are tyrants and brutes and who routinely trample human rights are called friends and allies if they have the right economic policies (Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Philippines, El Salvador, Haiti.) Their leaders don't go to jail (Pinochet.)
It routinely intervenes in the elections of other countries, funding political parties, NGO's and media, but prohibits other countries from intervening in its own elections.
It commits war crimes unrestrainedly, free from censure and prosecution, because it controls the international body that establishes war crimes tribunals. It refuses to sign a treaty to establish a international criminal court that could prosecute war crimes free from its interference.
Its media is described as practicing "suck-up" journalism, afraid to be too critical of the country's leadership, for fear of being frozen out and refused access to "news makers." The media regards itself as duty-bound by patriotism to assist in the production and dissemination of propaganda in times of war, a now permanent condition.
The majority of its population consists of honest, humane, peace-loving people, who are poles apart from the barbarous, sociopaths who run the country. They are kept in a fog as to what's being done in their name. If they knew, they wouldn't stand for it for a moment. This, the leadership knows, and so spends liberally on public relations to keep the population pliable and in the dark.
It has the largest prison population per capita in the world.
In one of its largest states (California), it spends more on prisons than education.
The infant mortality rate in its capital is higher than that of a third world country it has blockaded economically for four decades (Cuba), and whose politics it doesn't like.
Criticism of the country's foreign policy is dealt with by assigning dismissive labels to the critics (anti-American, communists), threats of legal sanction (charges of sedition), or threats of deportation (to Cuba.) The criticisms themselves are never addressed.
The country forces the poor and wretched of the world to adopt austere economic policies that it, itself, would never adopt, for fear of economic ruin. The polices have the effect of intensifying the misery of the world's poor, while increasing the wealth of the country's business elite.
The country claims to have a free press, but only the wealthiest can own the press. Not surprisingly, the press reflects the interests of the wealthy. It's said that anyone can become leader of the country, but only those who can ingratiate themselves with the wealthiest citizens can raise the funds and backing to occupy the country's highest offices. The president, the cabinet, and most elected representatives, have either been bought by, or are members of, the country's economic elite.
The country's foreign policies have caused illimitable suffering throughout much of the world for decades. This has led to it being reviled over the greater part of the globe. Its leader (George W. Bush) can only reply, "I don't know why. We're doing such a good job."
Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.