Another darker aspect of both these wars was their destruction of civilian populations. These wars are not events in history, confined to school text-books alone. The aftermath of the Allied bombing of Iraqi landscape has brought about irreparable damages to the innocent civilian population. Neutral observers, including the United Nations agree that the use of heavy artillery has caused irreversible damage to Iraq’s people and a general decline of its environment. As a consequence incidences of ailments among Iraqi children have increased sharply. The devastation caused by the 1945 bombings were of much greater intensity. America and its allies though deny these charges; as a result the general public is insulated from these darker realities (Ciment, 1612).
American Presidents presiding over some key events in history, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Cold War, The Vietnam War, etc., were hindered from acting as public representatives due to pressure from the military industrial complex. John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush – all of them were subject to these opposing interests. But eventually, the corporate-government nexus proved too powerful; and in this sense American Presidents after the Second World War were largely restricted and powerless to uphold their higher personal values. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, America and its allies expected and prepared for a conventional war where their technologically superior military power would “shock and awe” the opponents into submission. But the reality however has proved to be much different. The coalition forces are mired in never-ending cycles of guerrilla warfare. If any lessons were learnt from the Vietnam fiasco, war should be a last resort and backed by significant domestic support. The Vietnam affair also exposed the need for international support. And before starting war operations there must be a clear exit strategy that is basically absent in the present quagmire. Such obstinacy not to learn from the country’s own past experiences depletes any credibility the Bush Administration might have enjoyed otherwise (Ciment, 1612).
Historically, empires might have grown out of primitive nations; language, culture and ethnicity being the uniting factors. But there is little evidence to suggest that the people of conquered lands will have to be of different cultural and ethnic origins. For example, one of the lengthiest and violent cases of imperialism was the British exploitation of Ireland. Ethnically and culturally there are only superficial differences between these people. Both peoples are of the Caucasian race as well. Hence, imperialism and empire building is purely an economic enterprise and not a political, racial or cultural one. There are many more examples in the history of imperialism that would support this thesis. In recent history, the United States and Saudi Arabia have been strong trading partners. But the cultural, racial and linguistic differences between the two countries could not be more different. Again, this goes to prove that imperialism restricts itself to economic exploitation.
The underlying economic nature of imperialism can also be discerned from its present manifestation. History text-books talk of imperialism as a historical concept; as if the world polity had elevated to a level of equality and justice. But, the truth is quite different. The most obvious case in point is the United States. Going by government rhetoric and the mainstream press, one would be led to believe that the American government is at the forefront of defending democratic values and that their military is used judiciously to “liberate” oppressed people. In other words:
“Democratic republics have been happily supportive of the genocides, wars, and bullying pursued by their democratically elected leaders. The United States, arguably the most democratic state of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, illustrates the point. Even if their reasons for doing so were beyond reproach, Americans did massacre Indians, drop two atomic bombs on the Japanese, assist in the fire bombing of Dresden, provoke war with Mexico and Spain, gratuitously incinerate retreating Iraqi soldiers, carried out barbarous acts in battling the Philippine insurgency and intervene-militarily, diplomatically, and surreptitiously-in scores of states…amounting to what, by today’s standards, would have to be termed crimes against humanity.” (Anderson, 2005)