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- America ... goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benign sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
- John Quincy Adams, US House of Representatives, July 4, 1821
- If you want to talk of core of the war attacking Syria, they [United States] have been attacking Syria through proxies, they didn't fight ISIS, they didn't take any pressure on Turkey and Saudi Arabia in order to tell them stop sending money and personnel and every logistics support to that terrorist they could have been done so, but they didn't. So, actually they are waging war but in different way...
- Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or "disappeared", at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame.
- Amnesty International, 1996 Report on U. S. Military Aid and Human Rights
- The humiliating retreat from Afghanistan is just the punctuation mark. What we’re witnessing is the end of the US empire, with all the alien rulers, corrupt judges, illegitimate government, incompetent generals, foreign profiteers, and hordes of invading migrants, moral degeneracy, and declining religious faith, morale, and national confidence that customarily accompanies such events. If history is any guide, this is not going to be turned around, so it is time to stop thinking in terms of “preserving” and “conserving” and “restoring” that which is destroyed, and start thinking in terms of building anew with the benefit of the lessons learned from the decline and fall of the United States of America.
- Between 1945 and 2005 the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the U.S. caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair.
- William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, third edition (2006), p. 1-2
- There have also been cases where the United States, while (perhaps) not interfering in the election process, was, however, involved in overthrowing a democratically-elected government, such as in Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, the Congo 1960, Ecuador 1961, Bolivia 1964, Greece 1967, and Fiji 1987.
- William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, third edition (2006), p. 286
- U.S. imperialism has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century. It has defeated communism and Nazism and has intervened against the Taliban and Serbian ethnic cleansing.
- Max Boot. "American Imperialism? No Need to Run Away from Label". Op-Ed. USA Today. (May 6, 2003).
- America has never been an empire. We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused; preferring greatness to power and justice to glory.
- George W. Bush, speech at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California (19 November 1999)
- I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it...I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street ... Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
- Smedley Butler, "Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC". Federation of American Scientists. Archived from the original on 1998-05-24.
- Our inhabitants are especially free to promote their own welfare. They are unburdened by militarism. They are not called upon to support any imperialistic designs. Every mother can rest in the assurance that her children will find here a land of devotion, prosperity and peace. The tall shaft near which we are gathered and yonder stately memorial remind us that our standards of manhood are revealed in the adoration which we pay to Washington and Lincoln. They are unrivaled and unsurpassed. Above all else, they are Americans.
- Calvin Coolidge, Authority and Religious Liberty, Address before the Holy Name Society, Washington, D.C., (21 September 1924).
- The American forces are distinctly the forces of peace. They are the guaranties of that order and tranquility in this part of the world, which is alike beneficial to us and all the other nations. Everyone knows that we covet no territory, we entertain no imperialistic designs, we harbor no enmity toward any other people. We seek no revenge, we nurse no grievances, we have inflicted no injuries, and we fear no enemies. Our ways are the ways of peace.
- Calvin Coolidge, Ways to Peace, "Ways to Peace" speech at Arlington (31 May 1926).
- It used to be that only the critics of American foreign policy referred to the American empire ... In the past three or four years [2001–2004], however, a growing number of commentators have begun to use the term American empire less pejoratively, if still ambivalently, and in some cases with genuine enthusiasm.
- Niall Ferguson, “Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire”, (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), pp. 3–4.
- What is not allowed is to say that the United States is an empire and that this might not be wholly bad.
- Niall Ferguson, (2005). "The unconscious colossus: Limits of (& alternatives to) American empire". Daedalus. 134 (2): 18–33
- It was all so long ago and far away that it seemed to have little bearing on the perpetual Current Year until now. Such doings in an obscure front in The Forever War do not mingle easily with meaningless office paperwork, CRT, “mostly peaceful protests,” The Wu-Tang Flu, “Fortified” elections, or the Transgender-Industrial Complex. Those moments in that place still carry so much weight for me that I can hardly take much of my stateside life since then seriously, let alone the pathetic senile farce that is the contemporary Globalist American Empire. One simply goes with the flow and waits for the next set; the next season in which you get to live again with the same ardor and purpose as you once did.
- Samuel Finlay, Requiem for the ‘stan, IM-1776, 20 August 2021
- The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.
- John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching (1944) p. 240
- The lack of objectivity, as far as foreign nations are concerned, is notorious. From one day to another, another nation is made out to be utterly depraved and fiendish, while one's own nation stands for everything that is good and noble. Every action of the enemy is judged by one standard - every action of oneself by another. Even good deeds by the enemy are considered a sign of particular devilishness, meant to deceive us and the world, while our bad deeds are necessary and justified by our noble goals which they serve.
- Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (1956), p. 100–101
- It is not our affluence, or our plumbing, or our clogged freeways that grip the imagination of others. Rather, it is the values upon which our system is built. These values imply our adherence not only to liberty and individual freedom, but also to international peace, law and order, and constructive social purpose. When we depart from these values, we do so at our peril.
- J. William Fulbright, Remarks in the Senate, June 29, 1961, Congressional Record, vol. 107, p. 11703.
- U.S. historians have generally considered the late 19th century imperialist urge as an aberration in an otherwise smooth democratic trajectory ... Yet a century later, as the U.S. empire engages in a new period of global expansion, Rome is once more a distant but essential mirror for American elites ... Now, with military mobilisation on an exceptional scale after September 2001, the United States is openly affirming and parading its imperial power. For the first time since the 1890s, the naked display of force is backed by explicitly imperialist discourse.
- Philip S. Golub, "Westward the Course of Empire", Le Monde Diplomatique, (September 2002)
- The United States does not, and indeed no nation-state can today, form the center of an imperialist project. Imperialism is over. No nation will be world leader in the way modern European nations were.
- Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, p. 136
- Terror, intimidation and violence are the glue that holds empire together. Aerial bombardment, drone and missile attacks, artillery and mortar strikes, targeted assassinations, massacres, the detention of tens of thousands, death squad killings, torture, wholesale surveillance, extraordinary renditions, curfews, propaganda, a loss of civil liberties and pliant political puppets are the grist of our wars and proxy wars.
- The US domination of the world economy, after 75 years, is over. It is not coming back. We manufacture little, short of weapons. Our economy is a mirage build on unsustainable levels of debt. The pillage orchestrated by the capitalist elites and corporations has hollowed the country out from the inside, leaving the infrastructure decayed, democratic institutions moribund and at least half the population struggling at subsistence level. The two ruling parties, puppets for the ruling oligarchs, refuse to curb the rapacious appetites of the war industry and the rich, accelerating the crisis. That the rage of the dispossessed is legitimate, even if it is expressed in inappropriate ways, is never acknowledged by the Democrats, who were instrumental in pushing through the trade deals, deindustrialization, tax loopholes for the rich, deficit spending, endless wars and austerity programs that have created crisis. Instead, shooting the messenger, the Biden administration is targeting Trump supporters and winning draconian sentences for those who stormed the capital on January 6. Biden’s Justice Department has formed a domestic terrorism unit to focus on extremists and Democrats have been behind a series of moves to de-platform and censor their right-wing critics.
- These anxieties prepared the way for a conservative revival based on family, faith and flag that enabled the neo-conservatives to transform conservative patriotism into assertive nationalism after 9/11. In the short term, the invasion of Iraq was a manifestation of national unity. Placed in a longer perspective, it reveals a growing divergence between new globalised interests, which rely on cross-border negotiation, and insular nationalist interests, which seek to rebuild fortress America.
- A. G. Hopkins (2007). "Capitalism, Nationalism and the New American Empire". The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. 35 (1): 95–117. doi:10.1080/03086530601143412. S2CID 143521756. Quoting page 95.
- Let us look facts straight in the eye. World imperialism headed by its aggressive detachment, U.S. imperialism, is directing the course of its economy towards preparations for war. It is arming itself to the teeth. U.S. imperialism is rearming Bonn's Germany, Japan, and all its allies and satellites with all kinds of weapons. It has set up and perfected aggressive military organizations, it has established and continues to establish military bases all around the socialist camp. It is accumulating stocks of nuclear weapons and refuses to disarm, to stop testing nuclear weapons, and is feverishly engaged in inventing new means of mass extermination. Why is it doing all this? To go to a wedding party? No, to go to war against us, to do away with socialism and communism, to put the peoples under bondage.
- Enver Hoxha, Reject the Revisionist Theses of the XX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Anti-Marxist Stand of Krushchev's Group! Uphold Marxism-Leninism!, Speech Delivered by Enver Hoxha as Head of the Delegation of the Party of Labor of Albania Before the Meeting of 81 Communist and Workers Parties, Moscow, 16 November, 1960
- This is a huge nation dominated by the most reactionary and violent ruling class in the history of the world, where the majority of the people just simply cannot understand that they are existing on the misery and discomfort of the world.
- George Jackson, Blood in My Eye (1971), p. 72
- At an alliance-level analysis, case studies of South Korea and Japan show that the necessity of the alliance relationship with the U.S. and their relative capabilities to achieve security purposes lead them to increase the size of direct economic investment to support the U.S. forces stationed in their territories, as well as to facilitate the US global defense posture. In addition, these two countries have increased their political and economic contribution to the U.S.-led military operations beyond the geographic scope of the alliance in the post-Cold War period ... Behavioral changes among the U.S. allies in response to demands for sharing alliance burdens directly indicate the changed nature of unipolar alliances. In order to maintain its power preponderance and primacy, the unipole has imposed greater pressure on its allies to devote much of their resources and energy to contributing to its global defense posture ... [It] is expected that the systemic properties of unipolarity–non-structural threat and a power preponderance of the unipole–gradually increase the political and economic burdens of the allies in need of maintaining alliance relationships with the unipole.
- Sung Woo Kim, "System Polarities and Alliance Politics", (PhD thesis, University of Iowa, 2012), pp. 149–151
- Some of the wars America fought were "simply for profit" and the sanctions it has imposed on certain countries have been as destructive as wars... The American people have virtually no say over when we go to war. These decisions are made in back rooms somewhere...The American people continue to be lied to about why we go to war, because again, one of the big reasons is simply for profit, and that's always been true to some extent, but now it is in a very naked way.
- [On the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan] From a strategic point of view, it has to be seen as a complete failure, and yet it went on for 20 years, why did it go on for 20 years? Because the defense industry companies that make the bombs, that make the planes, that make the vehicles, and also the private military contractors that now are fighting the wars in lieu of public military personnel, they made trillions of dollars as long as the war continued. So they didn't care if the war was ever won, the goal was for the war to simply continue forever... the point is not to win the war, but to make sure it never ends because you're going to keep making profits.
The U.S. is not advancing human rights through its military interventions. It's not advancing humanitarianism. In fact, it's undermining it in a huge way.
- Since September 11, 2001 ... if not earlier, the idea of American empire is back ... Now ... for the first time since the early Twentieth century, it has become acceptable to ask whether the United States has become or is becoming an empire in some classic sense."
- Charles S. Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors, (Massachusetts & London: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp.2-24.
- Now we are doing imperialism with a black face.
- Chioma Oruh, interview (12 December 2009), as quoted in The Partisan Dynamics of Contention: Demobilization of the Anti-War Movement in the United States: 2007-2009" (2011), by Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas, pp. 59–60.
- As it happened in the 20th century, the American boys went to fight in two world wars, many of them lost their lives. The United States won the wars, won the land, but you gave back every piece of it. America didn't keep anything out of her victories for herself. You gave back Japan, an improved Japan, you gave Germany, an improved Germany, you've heard the Marshall Plan.
- Shimon Peres, 20 October 2004 speech
- I think if we look at the history of the European empires, the answer must be no. It is often assumed that because America possesses the military capability to become an empire, any overseas interest it does have must necessarily be imperial. ...In a number of crucial respects, the United States is, indeed, very un-imperial.... America bears not the slightest resemblance to ancient Rome. Unlike all previous European empires, it has no significant overseas settler populations in any of its formal dependencies and no obvious desire to acquire any. ...It exercises no direct rule anywhere outside these areas, and it has always attempted to extricate itself as swiftly as possible from anything that looks as if it were about to develop into even indirect rule.
- Anthony Pagden "Imperialism, liberalism & the quest for perpetual peace". (2005). Daedalus. 134 (2): 46–57.
- Far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people. And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, 'Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us'? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No. The only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead, and that is the kind of nation we are.
- No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century's terrible wars - no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure; no oath of fealty. America's resolve in the defense of liberty has been tested time and again. It has not been found wanting, nor must it ever be. America must never falter in holding high the banner of freedom.
- A political unit that has overwhelming superiority in military power, and uses that power to influence the internal behavior of other states, is called an empire. Because the United States does not seek to control territory or govern the overseas citizens of the empire, we are an indirect empire, to be sure, but an empire nonetheless. If this is correct, our goal is not combating a rival, but maintaining our imperial position and maintaining imperial order.
- Stephen Peter Rosen, "The Future of War and the American Military: Demography, technology, and the politics of modern empire". Harvard Magazine. (May–June 2002).
- According to Pompeo [U.S. Secretary of State] , Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) harbor a “decades-long desire for global hegemony.” This is ironic. Only one country – the US – has a defense strategy calling for it to be the “preeminent military power in the world,” with “favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere.” China’s defense white paper, by contrast, states that “China will never follow the beaten track of big powers in seeking hegemony,” and that, “As economic globalization, the information society, and cultural diversification develop in an increasingly multi-polar world, peace, development, and win-win cooperation remain the irreversible trends of the times.”
US military spending totaled $732 billion in 2019, nearly three times the $261 billion China spent. The US.. has around 800 overseas military bases, while China has just one (a small naval base in Djibouti). The US has many military bases close to China, which has none anywhere near the US. The US has 5,800 nuclear warheads; China has roughly 320. The US has 11 aircraft carriers; China has one. The US has launched many overseas wars in the past 40 years; China has launched none (though it has been criticized for border skirmishes, most recently with India, that stop short of war).
- ... so influential has been the discourse insisting on American specialness, altruism and opportunity, that imperialism in the United States as a word or ideology has turned up only rarely and recently in accounts of the United States culture, politics and history. But the connection between imperial politics and culture in North America, and in particular in the United States, is astonishingly direct.
- Edward Said. "Culture and Imperialism, speech at York University, Toronto, February 10, 1993".
- Many democrats, liberals, traditional conservatives, and even some leftists continue to tell themselves that the election of Joe Biden was the first step toward restoring U.S. standing in the world after the damage caused by Donald Trump. And in a variety of ways — many stylistic and some substantive — that perspective has merit. But when it comes to national security policy, the U.S. has been on a steady, hypermilitarized arc for decades. Taken broadly, U.S. policy has been largely consistent on “national security” and “counterterrorism” matters from 9/11 to the present....
Biden’s election slogan was “America is back.” The truth is that “America” never left. There will be no major departures from the imperial course under Biden. While the drone wars continue, and the shift back to Cold War posturing in Europe and Asia accelerates, Biden will maintain the hostile stance toward left movements and governments throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. On climate change, Biden will reverse some of Trump’s most extreme stances, while still placing the profits of major corporations and the military industry over the health of the planet. The militarization of the borders and the maltreatment of refugees will remain, and the vast domestic surveillance apparatus will endure. The stark truth is this: The interests of the War Party trump any political disputes between the Democrats and the Republicans.
- The war in Afghanistan was brought to a humiliating close with the hasty retreat from Kabul that left thousands of Americans and refugees behind, and the State Department and CIA’s thinly-veiled propaganda efforts literally painted over by the Taliban. The sad fact is the American Empire is rudderless, having been picked clean of its military and economic assets, squandered on pointless foreign incursions, consumerism, and deranged social engineering experiments. The Chinese, having waited patiently all the while working assiduously to perfect their economic engine, have already started making inroads into the American withdrawal in Central Asia with their Belt and Road initiative. As US politicians squabble over mask mandates and trans bathrooms and Americans go ever further into debt, China builds another thousand miles of bullet train track and earns billions in foreign currency from their world-beating exports. In the words of my co-host Hans Lander, “this country will probably will never recover from the events of 9/11.” And as the 20th anniversary of the events is upon us, I’ll close with a quote from former Italian President Francesco Cossiga, who stated: All the democratic circles in America and Europe, in particular the Italian intelligence agency, know very well that the catastrophic attack was planned and carried out by the American CIA and Mossad, with the help of the Zionist world, to accuse the Arab countries and to persuade the Western powers to go into Iraq and Afghanistan. If history is any guide, governments will continue to lie, and the people will continue to believe them. For those that remember, however – never forget.
- Adam Smith, 9/11 – a Retrospective, The American Sun, 9 September 2021
- Better than the American Century or the Pax Americana, the notion of an American Lebensraum captures the specific and global historical geography of U.S. ascension to power. After World War II, global power would no longer be measured in terms of colonized land or power over territory. Rather, global power was measured in directly economic terms. Trade and markets now figured as the economic nexuses of global power, a shift confirmed in the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement, which not only inaugurated an international currency system but also established two central banking institutions—the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—to oversee the global economy. These represented the first planks of the economic infrastructure of the postwar American Lebensraum.
- Neil SMith "American Empire: Roosevelt's Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization". University of California Press. (October 29, 2004).
- The term "imperialism" is no more precise, and its overuse and recent abuse is making it nearly meaningless as an analytical concept...."imperialism" is "more often the name of the emotion that reacts to a series of events than a definition of the events themselves. Where Colonization finds analysts and analogies, imperialism must contend with crusaders for and against.
- I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.
- Sanctions which can lead to starvation and medical shortages are not the answer to the crisis in Venezuela, says UN human rights expert Idriss Jazairy. His comments follow the imposition of sanctions on Venezuela’s national oil company by the United States. “I am especially concerned to hear reports that these sanctions are aimed at changing the government of Venezuela... Coercion, whether military or economic, must never be used to seek a change in government in a sovereign state. The use of sanctions by outside powers to overthrow an elected government is in violation of all norms of international law ... His call echoed comments by the Spokesman for the UN Secretary General, underscoring “the urgent need for all relevant actors to engage in an inclusive and credible political dialogue to address the long crisis facing the country, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights".
- United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Venezuela sanctions harm human rights of innocent people, UN expert warns, United Nations News (31 January 2019)
- To the extent that Americans think about these bases at all, we generally assume they’re essential to national security and global peace. Our leaders have claimed as much since most of them were established during World War II and the early days of the Cold War. As a result, we consider the situation normal and accept that US military installations exist in staggering numbers in other countries, on other peoples’ land. On the other hand, the idea that there would be foreign bases on US soil is unthinkable.
While there are no freestanding foreign bases permanently located in the United States, there are now around 800 US bases in foreign countries. Seventy years after World War II and 62 years after the Korean War, there are still 174 US “base sites” in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea, according to the Pentagon. Hundreds more dot the planet in around 80 countries, including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, among many other places. Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.
- David Vine, [“https://www.thenation.com/article/the-united-states-probably-has-more-foreign-military-bases-than-any-other-people-nation-or-empire-in-history/ “The United States Probably Has More Foreign Military Bases Than Any Other People, Nation, or Empire in History”], The Nation, (September 14, 2015).
- It would still be wrong to see the American occupation of Hawaii (1897) and the occupation of the Philippines and Cuba in the wake of the Spanish–American War (1898) as too radical a departure in US foreign relations. The American involvement with East Asia, both in commercial and political terms, goes back to the 1840s – it was US naval vessels, after all, that forced Western trade on Japan in 1854. The Mexican War of 1846–48 – in which Matthew Perry of later Japanese fame had served with distinction – also brought the United States into closer contact with the Caribbean and Central America. In 1855 the American William Walker set himself up as the ruler of Nicaragua, and numerous other adventurers in the late nineteenth century attempted to follow his example. And, as we know, American interventionism in the Caribbean did not end with Cuba: between 1898 and 1920 US Marines were used on at least twenty separate occasions in the region. What does set the late 1890s apart, though, was the willingness of the American federal state under McKinley and Roosevelt to take political responsibility for the overseas peoples under its control. In a way historians have been right in seeing the establishment of an American transoceanic empire as an aberration – a short-term reaction to the culmination of European imperialism and an attempt at conforming to the global system it created. By taking up the white man’s burden – as Kipling had implored it to do in his poem – the United States found a place as one among the Western great powers. The problem for the American imperialists was, however, that America was already fast becoming something more than one among many: in terms of its economic and military power, it did not need to conform or to take on a role that, in ideological terms, was foreign to it. Rather than being one imperial power, the United States was fast becoming the protector and balancer of a capitalist world system. It was that role that America formally assumed – even with regard to Europe itself – during World War I.
- Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Intervention and the Making of Our Times (2012), p. 15
- The routine lust for land, markets or security became justifications for noble rhetoric about prosperity, liberty and security.
- William Appleman Williams, "Empire as a Way of Life: An Essay on the Causes and Character of America's Present Predicament Along with a Few Thoughts About an Alternative" (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), S1.
- The Constitution says that anyone "born or naturalized in the United States" is a citizen of the country. But for U.S. territories, eligibility for birthright citizenship in the territories is controlled only by Congress – it is not constitutionally guaranteed.
- Jess Zalph, Nina Totenberg, “Supreme Court declines to consider challenge to racist citizenship laws”, NPR, (October 17, 2022)
- Residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas Islands are deemed U.S. citizens under the Immigration and Nationality Act. But American Samoans are not. Congress has not granted birthright citizenship to residents of American Samoa or Swains Island, both of which are classified only as "outlying possessions."
It is this disparate treatment that was before the court, after three American Samoans living in Utah brought a challenge to the Immigration and Nationality Act, contending that the statutory denial of citizenship is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment's Citizenship Clause.
The Citizenship Clause was adopted after the Civil War primarily to protect the birthright citizenship of Black Americans, which was rejected by the Supreme Court prior to the Civil War. However, the meaning of the clause for residents of the territories has historically been contested — as has the force of constitutional protections in the territories altogether. In this case, Fitisemanu v. U.S., the American Samoans contend that the residents of all the territories should be considered "in the United States" for the purpose of citizenship.
While American Samoans who live in the States may apply for citizenship, before they successfully do so they are denied many of the rights attached to citizenship, such as the right to vote, run for office, or serve on juries. The plaintiffs in this case say their career opportunities have been curtailed and that, as non-citizens, they are unable to sponsor immigration visas for their families. Applying for citizenship itself is onerous, can take several years, and is not guaranteed.
- Jess Zalph, Nina Totenberg, “Supreme Court declines to consider challenge to racist citizenship laws”, NPR, (October 17, 2022)
- The Constitution's underlying disparity in treatment between the 50 states and the U.S. territories was enshrined in the Insular Cases, a series of cases decided in the early 1900s after the Spanish-American War. These cases — so called because of their "insular" (island-related) focus — held that full constitutional rights apply only to "incorporated" territories destined for statehood, such as Hawaii, but not to "unincorporated" territories, which then included Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Infamously, the distinction between incorporated and unincorporated territories rested on explicitly racist stereotypes about individuals from those territories. Opposing Filipino statehood, for example, one senator called Filipinos "unruly and disobedient." Another called them "mongrels."
Under the Insular Cases, which were primarily about tariffs and jury trials in the territories, the Supreme Court upheld this suspect "incorporated vs. unincorporated" framework of rights. The Court's language and reasoning was hardly any better than that of Congress. One case emphasized that "differences of race, habits, laws and customs" in the territories might require action on the part of Congress that wouldn't be required if the territory were "inhabited only by people of the same race." Another referred to "savage tribes" which may be "[in]capable of self-government."
It is this insidious foundation of the Insular Cases that has drawn the condemnation of both liberal and conservative justices. In Vaello-Madero, a case from last term about Puerto Ricans' eligibility for disability benefits, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a 10-page concurrence calling for the Insular Cases to be overruled — something that is now unlikely to happen any time soon.
- American benevolence
- American exceptionalism
- Military-industrial complex
- Philippine-American War