Take a step back and look at the United States, 2020. Over 100,000 dead from Covid-19, by far the most in the world. Responding to a global crisis by exiting the World Health Organisation, stirring conspiracy theories about how the virus originated and using its Navy to steal global supplies of ventilators in acts of international piracy. A President who boasts of drinking poisonous substances not recommended by health organisations, who questions whether his own lockdown is legitimate and tacitly supports far-right protests against it. And now a country that has been rocked by six consecutive nights of protests over state racism and police brutality, with running battles between city youth and state authorities as Mayors announce curfews and some even call in the National Guard to try to stop what in many places looks close to being an uprising. If it wasn’t for the fact it is the most powerful country in the world, we would be calling the US a dangerous rogue state and there would be a discussion in the press about what action the ‘international community’ should be taking to deal with it.
Do not under-estimate the power the US still wields globally; even as it is increasingly racked by internal chaos, it retains an influence in the affairs of every nation that no other country can get close to matching. It’s position as global reserve currency – the money of international trade – means it’s Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, has effectively acted as global lender of last resort in this crisis, providing half the world with cheap and easy access to the Dollar. That dominant currency position has also allowed for a $2.2 trillion money-printing spree inside the US, money that has largely gone to keeping its corporations afloat while large sections of the country’s population enters economic free-fall. The US still has economic fire-power that few countries can match.
Then there is the military side of US power, with more military bases worldwide than any other Empire in history, at around 800 bases, located in every corner of the planet. The US military is bigger than the rest of the world combined, and annual military spending is still as big as the next seven largest countries. The US Navy’s control of the world’s seas makes it, in the words of the Council on Foreign Relations, “the guarantor of global trade”.
And we know all about the reach of its Air Force in Scotland, as Scottish Government owned Prestwick Airport has now virtually become a stop-off point exclusively for the US military. 841 stopovers were made between 2016 to August 2019 at the Airport, with service fees owed being waived by the arms-length Airport, and thus subsidised by Scottish taxpayers to keep Uncle Sam happy. The human rights organisation Reprieve has compiled evidence showing that Prestwick has been a “crucial” staging point in the CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition” flights, in which prisoners have been kidnapped and tortured. There is now a congressional investigation into whether an illegal conflict of interest has occurred as Trump’s golf resort in Turnberry has been used by Air Force crew.
Then there is Trident, a US manufactured and maintained nuclear weapons system operated out of Scotland, and Nato, the US dominated military alliance with its ‘first-strike’ nuclear policy, that the UK is a key part of and the SNP is signed up to if Scotland were to become independent. The US remains the country Scotland exports to more than any other outside of the UK, with £5.5 billion in exports going across the Atlantic, while £2.7 billion come the other way, our second largest source of imports internationally. We are tied into the US empire in more ways than one.
If a just, peaceful and democratic world is to be borne out of this pandemic, it will have to be one where the US Empire is broken apart by a combination of domestic and international pressure. Scotland should play its part.
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