The Intersectional Empire takes on the world: part one

When Donald Trump suggested renaming Fort Bragg after Al Sharpton, it was a punchline. Contrary to the former Presidents wishes, ten Army posts named after Confederate generals are to be renamed. Trump's joke could well be prophetic. To guess what kind of names the powers that be might go for, we can look to the Navy. Military ships have historically been named after warriors and Presidents. Breaking with tradition, the Navy has named a whole class of vessel after civil rights leader John Lewis. Each ship is being named after a civil rights figure. The USNS Harvey Milk, for example, is named after the first openly gay elected official in California (who also happened to be a long time supporter of Jim Jones, leader of a mass suicide cult). Other ships in the John Lewis class include Robert Kennedy; Lucy Stone, a suffragette; Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist; and Earl Warren, a former US Supreme Court justice. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said it was “important to recognize those who fought in a different way, who fought for the ideals we value as a country.” 

John Lewis died in 2020. At his eulogy, Barack Obama dubbed Lewis "a founding father" of a "fuller, fairer, better America". In that most tumultuous of years, statues of America's real founding fathers had been pulled from their pedestals. Of the "relentless young people" responsible for widespread rioting, looting, and arson, Obama said, "John, those are your children". The new fuller fairer America demands new symbols. According to one poll, many liberals would like to replace the stars and stripes with a flag that "better reflects our diversity as a people". In many ways, that's already happened: the rainbow ensign flies on military vehicles, on embassy buildings, and every redoubt of American domination. Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorized diplomatic outposts to fly the Pride flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag - not just for pride month, but all year round. Blinken also authorized U.S. embassies to fly BLM flags and banners.

Latinx girlboss imperialism

"I can change a diaper with one hand and console a crying toddler with the other...I am a woman of color. I am a cisgender millenial who has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional... I am a walking declaration... I refuse to internalise misguided patriarchal ideas about what a woman can or should be."

This is the face of the modern CIA. Significantly, this video series was a recruitment drive — these are the sort of people the CIA actively wants to hire. After proudly stating her race, sex, gender identity and psychological disorders, she claims to be "more than a box-checking exercise". This proud "daughter of immigrants" wears a T-shirt emblazoned with a raised fist. It was but one in a series of such videos entitled Humans of the CIA. In another video from the series a man of indeterminate racial origin tells the camera that his experience as a “chief of corporate strategy and education for diversity and inclusion” was great preparation for his career in the CIA. The CIA recruitment drive has heavily targeted people of color. The official CIA Instagram account features a black recruit wearing a hoody emblazoned with the words "WE ARE BLACK HISTORY" above an image of the African continent. White males are now entirely absent from recruitment material. That's hardly surprising, given that John Brennan, former Director of the CIA, told MSNBC "I’m increasingly embarrassed to be a white male these days". Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence in the Biden administration, has referred to "diversity, inclusion, equity" as "mission imperatives" that are "quickly emerging as one of the top national security issues of our time". If the case of Jonathan Pollard is anything to go by, the total opposite is the case. Minorities are liable to leak classified information to their co-religionists or to their ancestral country of origin in a way that non-hyphenated Americans aren't.

Woke washing?

Many view the adoption of woke rhetoric as a charade, as little more than a shallow PR exercise. Glenn Greenwald, talking on the Zero Books podcast, referred to it as “an incredibly cynical branding weapon”:

"In 2015 the British spy agency GCHQ announced LGBT day. Their headquarters were bathed in the colors of the rainbow flag, trying to put this pretty liberal-left face on this militaristic institution. You see this over and over now where every major authoritarian institution of militarism and corporatism now drapes themselves in identity politics and woke ideology... Its all about deceiving you into believing that these institutions are kind and gentle and noble and loving and fair because their weaponising identity politics to distract you from the reality of what neoliberalism and imperialism are."

Greenwald is partly correct. A CIA file released by Wikileaks talked of "tailoring messaging" to contain a backlash against the war in Afghanistan. The CIA perfected such messaging to, in their own words, ensure Western publics would be "better prepared to tolerate a spring and summer of greater military and civilian casualties". The agency knew the obvious, that war brings death, and America justified the bodies by building a few girls schools in the wreckage. Education for girls has become the most effective propaganda tool in justifying a bloody, long-running, ruinously expensive, and utterly pointless conflict. In a 2001 radio address, Laura Bush declared the “the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women in Afghanistan”. Twenty years later, a CNN headline ran, “Concerns mount that US withdrawal from Afghanistan could risk progress on women's rights”. According to a report by Vox, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made an "emotional" case for keeping troops in Aghanistan, arguing that women's right would "go back to the Stone Age" if America withdrew. Milley himself has acknowledged that "We have been in a condition of strategic stalemate where the government of Afghanistan was never going to militarily defeat the Taliban", so assumably wants to keeps troops on the ground forever.

The American media has picked up the talking point. The Washington Post editorial board acknowledge that withdrawal "may spare the United States further costs and lives" but still objected on the grounds that it would be a disaster for the countries women and a reversal of "social progress". Writing in that same paper, Max Boot asked readers to think of “all the women in the workforce”. The United States must drop cluster bombs on the heads of female civilians in Afghanistan in order to protect their human rights. Shrapnel from NATO munitions will rip through female flesh, spreading female empowerment in its wake. After the invasion, American media outlets celebrated such achievements as the first female tattoo artist opening a studio in Kabul. That, apparently, is what we were fighting for.

We are repeatedly prompted to celebrate the first - the first female CIA director, the first black Secretary of Defense. Joe Biden explained that he chose Lloyd Austin, who is African American, to join "our diverse national-security leadership team" as Secretary of Defense because he "reflects the lived experiences of all Americans". Austin should have been a controversial choice. Up until his appointment he was serving on the board of Raytheon, one of the largest arms manufacturers. Rather than decry the military industrial complex we’re encouraged to celebrate the first black man to fill the role. It was “another milestone”, said the Atlantic magazine. Militarism is being rebranded as feminist, LGBTQ, and anti-racist. Mieke Eoyang, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy at the DoD, responded to white progressive critics of Susan Rice and Michele Flournoy: "training their fire on women of color who are under consideration to lead the national security departments makes me deeply uncomfortable about their allyship to those communities. Especially when the national security community is dominated by white men". Both women have a track record of supporting catastrophic wars, but US imperialism can now be covered up and bolstered with claims of racism, sexism, and any number of phobias. Israel pioneered what’s been deemed ‘pink-washing’, using homosexual libertinism as a weird marker of civilized values as opposed to the barbarism of Muslim Arabs. Black faces in high places have been rather effective at minimising criticism of US foreign policy. War hawks have long wielded charges of anti-Americanism as a cudgel. Now their critics can be deemed anti-American and racist. Even Muammar Gaddafi was won over by Barack Obama, whom he designated “an exceptional case...being a black African his mentality is different to that of the Yankees.” Soon after that comment Gaddafi would be sodomised to death with a bayonet after a U.S. military intervention. Obama and Susan Rice were a black face for the same old militarism. The anarchy they unleashed on Libya remains to this day.

Politically correct rhetoric is often deployed to advance pre-existing American foreign policy. As Darren Beattie has pointed out, what he terms the Globalist American Empire has used minority groups "to advance its power objectives geopolitically (Uiguhrs, Rohinga) - and women and gays to mobilize color revolution protests in Eastern Europe and Thailand". Warmongering is now often wrapped in a rainbow flag. Richard Grenell was the first openly gay person to serve at Cabinet level, appointed by Trump as Director of National Intelligence. In a campaign ad Grenell bragged that the then-President "fully supported our fight to crush the homophobic and barbaric Islamic terrorist organization Hezbollah and the Iranian regime that supports them." One imagines the recipients of military-industrial largesse would latch onto any pretext for war. Wokeness may just be a handy way to propagandize for wars they would want to fight regardless.

It’s easy to be cynical about the American elites self-proclaimed values. This is the same elite that maintains the closest of ties with Saudi Arabia. One could dismiss the rhetoric as hot air, as disingenuous marketing spin. The high-minded moral indignation might ring rather hollow but do not underestimate the human capacity to truly and deeply believe our own self-serving bullshit. Human beings are fully capable of sincere inconsistency. Rank hypocrisy doesn’t disprove underlying values. 

For a growing number of Americans though, wokeness isn’t a cynical and insincere means to an end, its a fanatical cult. What’s going on here is more than the adoption of some silly neologisms. This is not just a matter of style. It is not just performative. It is far more than a branding exercise. Every facet of American power has signed-on to the woke agenda. Critical race theory is the new governing ideology of the American empire and the implications of that are profound. Anybody with any sense of history will be aware of just how harshly America treats its ideological enemies. In Indonesia, up to one million civilians were slaughtered for communist sympathies with the full support of the United States. The vast security apparatus set up to fight the Cold War was never disbanded, it just found new targets. In 2021 the budget for the Department of Defense is 705.4 billion dollars. What happens when the influence of that money meets the influence of woke dogma?

The CIA and the Cultural Cold War

Far from cynically co-opting wokeness, the CIA were early investors. In 1950’s the CIA established the International Organisations Division. It’s cultural influence was huge. Looking back after the end of the Cold War, Tom Braden, chief of the IOD, described it as “the most important division that the agency had”. Some of the best-known publications of the Democratic Left (Encounter, New Leader, Partisan Review), were funded by the CIA. The goal of the Agency was to reorientate the left around anti-Soviet liberalism, and in that, they wholly succeeded. The Agency also funded influential feminist Gloria Steinem. Steinem described the Agency as, “completely different from its image”. She was "amazed to discover" that the CIA was full of "enlightened liberal non-partisan activists of the sort who characterized the Kennedy administration". According to the ex-director of the CIA William Colby, the covert nature of the programme was necessitated by the "very retrograde people" in Congress.

In 1976, decades before becoming Director of the CIA, John Brennan voted for Communist Party nominee Gus Hall. One of the most prominent members of the Party at the time was Angela Davis, who went on to stand as their VP candidate. Davis was a student of Herbert Marcuse, who had served in the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) and the State Department. Decades later, Davis would be a key influence on the founders of Black Lives Matter. I don’t know if Brennan was ever an Angela Davis fan, maybe he just liked Soviet economics, but his Twitter account reveals a man whose taken a giant gulp of the identity politics cool-aid. In the middle of deadly riots, Brennan tweeted: "National outrage about racial discrimination, hateful bigotry, & injustice of unequal opportunity is necessary for real change". He blamed the violence of BLM on “injustice & economic inequity fuelled by people like Trump”. Throughout Trump’s presidency his Twitter feed consisted of non-stop accusations of Trumps "reckless jingoism". Donald Trump is responsible for “fascism” and leading a “dangerous alliance” of “right wing extremists” and “malevolent bigots”, according to Brennan. He supported racial narcissist Colin Kaepernick. This was the man who had the power to launch coups and to massage and wholly invent ‘intelligence’. Significantly, John Brennan made his Gus Hall admission at a forum on Increasing Diversity in the Intelligence Community, to ensure black potential recruits that their activism wouldn’t be a bar to admission.

One of his predecessors, Michael Hayden, made an attack ad against Donald Trump, blasting him for not listening to experts: “Truth is really important, but especially in intelligence… The FBI says white nationalism is a real problem, and the FBI wants to do something about it, but the President doesn’t want to talk about that”. It’s a rather galling sentiment coming from somebody that worked under George W. Bush (Bush himself now spends his free time painting portraits lionizing immigrants). In reality, most white supremacist terror threats are make-work creations of the FBI — see, for example, The Base honeypot and the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping hoax. Obese FBI officers literally kneel before Black Lives Matter. What Michael Hayden himself termed “the permanent government” has made patriotic white people the new Muslims. When Michael Hayden isn’t fantasizing about adding Edward Snowden to a drone kill list he’s on Twitter calling Tucker Carlson “a dirty pig!”, “white supremacist”, “asshole” watched by “Nazis” on “Der Sturmer TV”, comparing the Georgia GOP to the KKK and claiming the economy would collapse without “undocumented workers”. While a legitimate critique of Trump and Trumpism could be voluminous, the Never Trump movement of former Republicans — which has always included the most fervent supporters of war, many of whom remain closely tied the National Security State — has so often expressed opposition to Trump as opposition to fascism.