Abby Martin is an American journalist, TV presenter and activist. She helped found the citizen journalism website Media Roots and serves on the board of directors for the Media Freedom Foundation which manages Project Censored. She hosted Breaking the Set on the Russian state-sponsored network RT America from 2012 to 2015, and then launched The Empire Files in that same year as an investigative documentary and interview series on Telesur, later released as a web series. In 2019, she released the film documentary, The Empire Files: Gaza Fights for Freedom. She continues her work opposing imperialism and promoting peace, as an independent filmmaker and journalist. We are extremely honored that she took the time to talk to us and share her views. Her responses below are exactly as she provided.
The questions here are not philosophical or abstract. They focus on the realities of the international power struggle unfolding in real time. They directly address the role of the U.S. in the escalating tensions and its capacity to reduce them. We also probe the role of everyday citizens in affecting the relationship the U.S. now has and will have with the rest of the world community.Here is what Abby Martin had to say.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has recently put the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds before midnight. Midnight means all out war, probably nuclear holocaust. This is the closest it has every been. Do you agree with this dire assessment?
Just a minuscule percentage of the world’s nuclear arsenal being detonated would have cataclysmic effects, propelling us into a nuclear winter that could eventually end human life on earth. Hydrogen bombs are up to one thousand times stronger than those that decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the US has thousands of them.
It’s chilling to face the reality that nuclear war is not some distant Cold War era threat, but a strong possibility in our near future. Due to incompetence or belligerence, any nuclear armed country could initiate this death spiral.
Right now we face an unprecedented ecological crisis in need of global cooperation. Instead of becoming a leader to reduce and dismantle nuclear weapons, the US is spending over a trillion dollars to modernize its nuclear arsenal. And despite being a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, the US is buying hundreds more. In February, the Biden administration secured a contract with Northrop Grumman for 600 new nukes, for no reason other than to line the coffers of the defense industry.
DC think tank policy prescriptions about nuclear weapons are sponsored by the very arms companies rewarded with lucrative contracts for their recommendations, which always result in further militarization. We need to strategize how we can live in a world beyond nukes, because there will never be peace as long as these weapons exist.
The U.S. always portrays itself as the greatest force on the planet for peace, justice, human rights, racial equality, etc. Polls tell us that most other nations actually regard the U.S. as the greatest threat to stability. What in your view is the truth here?
One just has to leave the United States and speak to people in other countries, especially those long subjugated by the US, to see how true this idea really is. The United States is a global Empire, which imposes its world order through military force. A new study reveals that US “counterterrorism” operations have been active in 83 countries in the last three years alone. It does this not to spread “democracy” or “human rights”—a ridiculous assertion for an oligarchy that hosts the largest incarcerated population—but to extract resources and protect capital.
Whatever the US dictates, its junior collaborators follow suit and the rest know the penalty for bucking the beast—genocidal sanctions, coups, invasions and bombing campaigns. These criminal actions depend on a compliant corporate media that make them palatable to the public. But for those living under the sanctions and bombs, it’s clear who the real threat is.
Here’s a chicken-or-egg question: The U.S. accuses both Russia and China of rapidly expanding their military capabilities, claiming its own posturing and increase in weaponry is a response to its hostile adversaries, Russia and China. Both Russia and China claim they are merely responding to intimidation and military threats posed by the U.S.What’s your view? Do Russia and China have imperial ambitions or are they just trying to defend themselves against what they see as an increasingly aggressive U.S. military?
The U.S. military is bigger and more costly than the next ten countries combined. It is patently absurd to think that it is Russia or China, not the U.S. that is setting the world stage militarily. For example, when the U.S. violated the international treaty on outer space to create Space Force, Russia reacted by announcing it would pursue its own space defense to prepare for US plans.
Almost every think tank that influences US politics has set its sights on China under the great-power competition doctrine, and has articulated that Russia and China need to be the military focus instead of the Middle East. Most of their mapped out policy scenarios end in full blown war, something that would be catastrophic and completely unnecessary.
While both countries clearly have strategic geopolitical ambitions, Russia and China do not share the U.S.’s imperial goals for global hegemony. China spreads its influence through production and financial investments but it only has one military base in Djibouti. When you compare this to the nearly 1,000 US bases littering the earth, the notion that the U.S. is acting defensively is laughable.
The U.S. always denies that it has imperial ambitions. Most unbiased experts say that by any objective standards, the U.S. is an empire — indeed the most powerful, sprawling empire in history.Does the U.S. have to be an empire to be successful in the world and effectively protect and serve its citizenry?
The U.S. is not only an Empire, it is the biggest and most powerful Empire the world has ever seen. It has 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and it bends other countries to its will through sanctions and war. It has interfered to subvert the democratic processes more than 50 times in Latin America alone. The US is not effective at protecting and serving its own citizenry, so it has no moral leg to stand on to justify this global military presence and daily violence. It is only successful if you look at control and domination as merits of success. The system it upholds exists to benefit very few people, which becomes a tinier pool every year, while the vast majority at the bottom suffer and die preventable deaths—structural violence under capitalism.
In 2009, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced a reset with Russia, heralding greater cooperation and understanding. By 2014, Obama had made a sharp reversal. A sweeping regime of sanctions has since been imposed on Russia to cripple its economy. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats now relentlessly demonize Russia and Putin, blaming them for every imaginable ill. Both in the media and from official pronouncements by government officials, Russia has become the favorite whipping boy for both the U.S. and its “special friend”, Great Britain. Why? What happened?
Some argue the love affair with Putin ended with his refusal to support the Iraq War and subsequently Russia’s support for U.S. enemies like Assad, but many other factors play into why hostilities with Russia benefit the U.S.. The U.S. political system needs to manufacture consent for its global Empire by directing Americans’ attention and energy away from the corrupt oligarchs and corporate overlords who oppress us here at home to an external threat, like communism, terrorism, and now, Russia and China.
When Donald Trump became president, it was imperative to rationalize how someone so unsavory to liberal sensibilities won a democratic election. Instead of having reflection or accountability for the failures of the Democratic Party, and the anointment of a candidate like Hillary Clinton, the results were blamed on sinister foreign forces like Putin’s Russia, and entities like Russia Today. In fact, the U.S. intelligence community cited my show Breaking the Set, which ended two years prior to the election, as a major factor that “sowed discord” and “fomented radical discontent” within U.S. society, leading to the outcome of Trump’s victory.
Russia and China will continue to be hysterically fear mongered against because the arms industry needs to keep pumping out weapons to sell and the people need something, someone to blame for why our lives continue to degrade, other than our own government.
The number of spy missions, nuclear-armed bomber flights, and war games near Russia’s borders have vastly increased over the past year. Same with China. Is all of this just business-as-usual geopolitical posturing? Or does it represent a dangerous escalation and a new ominous direction in U.S. strategic positioning? What is the justification for what Russia and China see as provocations and aggressiveness, if not actual preparation for a war?
There is no rational justification for the continuous, aggressive US military buildup and maneuvering around Russia and China. The US routinely sends in ships and aircraft into the South China Sea to flex its muscles, which China recently denounced as a “threat to peace.” It is incomprehensible to imagine China conducting military operations in the Gulf of Mexico, but apparently China should accept the US doing this on a regular basis.
The U.S. and its loyalists will defend this insanity by saying that the U.S. is a beacon for good and needs to be on these countries’ doorsteps to keep these “authoritarian dictatorships” at bay, to save the world by preventing them from becoming *the next Empire.* None of this has any bearing in reality. Imperialism has nowhere to go but to expand, imperiling all life on earth. And US capitalism is threatened by China’s growing economic power. It does not want to exist in a multipolar world. It knows eventually it has to come to a head with what it sees as the great competitor, for no other reason than global domination.
Between the FONOPS in the South China Sea and the recently expressed enthusiasm for Taiwan’s independence, the risk of military conflict with China keeps increasing. Where is this headed? If the People’s Republic of China decides to use military force for full reunification of Taiwan, do you see the U.S. going to war in an attempt to prevent it?
A majority of Americans now favor using US troops to defend Taiwan if it is invaded by China, according to a recent poll. There is no other rationale to explain this mindset other than corporate media propaganda steadily pumping out anti-China stories and legitimizing it as an adversary.
The U.S. claims it conducts its war games around China in part to bolster its support for Taiwan. Now the narrative being pumped out by Pentagon sources is that these war games often end with China beating the U.S., calling for further military spending in order to beat China. The inevitability of war with China is a tacitly accepted reality, with rarely any questioning about whether or not the US should be conducting these acts of aggression or militarily backing Taiwan at all. How does any of this protect the American people? Needless to say, all of this points to the very real and growing possibility that the US will start war with China over Taiwan, and we need to speak out against this utter madness before it is too late.
In a democracy, at least in theory citizens have a say in all matters of public policy. Yet, in the end none of the recent military campaigns and undeclared wars seem to achieve much popular favor or support. What is and what should be the role of everyday citizens in determining the foreign policy and military priorities of the country? Or are such matters better left to the “experts”?
The United States functions as an oligarchy rather than a democracy. Policies are passed not due to public support but corporate interests. The overwhelming majority of people in this countrysupport things like paid maternity leave, free college, and a higher minimum wage. Yet these things are painted as wedge issues that can never be accomplished due to the partisan divide. Corporations control the political process and the conversation around it, and they always win what they want.
This is why during the COVID pandemic, the oligarchs siphoned two trillion dollars from the working class, while one third of small businesses shut down and the poor suffered through mass evictions and joblessness. Due to the neoliberal indoctrination of public education and mass conditioning of American Exceptionalism, most Americans haven’t given a second thought to what the US does in our names around the world.
Many U.S. journalists and politicians acknowledge that climate change is the largest threat facing humanity, but few point to the fact that the U.S. military is the largest institutional polluter, and emitter of carbon emissions, and every single climate treaty excludes their responsibility.
The need for critical media literacy and mass organizing has never been more urgent. If you want to go down the rabbit hole with me to learn more about the true nature of the US government and how we can unite to demilitarize our communities, check out The Empire Files.
First printed in COUNTERPUNCH
John Rachel has a BA in Philosophy, is a novelist and established political blogger. He has written eight novels, three political nonfiction books, and a fantasy/travel/cookbook about the dietary preferences of mermaids. His political articles have appeared at OpEdNews, Counterpunch, Russia Insider, Greanville Post, Dissident Voice, Nation of Change, and other alternative media outlets. His blog site is https://jdrachel.com/.