My Own Brush with Death Has Intensified My Opposition to U.S. Imperialism

by | Dec 22, 2023

Many readers of have wondered why they have seen no new articles from me in more than 6 weeks.  The answer is that I was battling heart and other health issues that nearly took my life.  At one point, my principal cardiologist told my wife that I was unlikely to make it out of the hospital.  Subsequently, I spent 3 weeks in the Intensive Care Unit trying to prove him wrong.  Fortunately, I survived the crisis and am now on the road to (a slow) recovery.

All of this was taking place as the war between Israel and Hamas continued to rage.  Instead of joining the emerging global call for a ceasefire to prevent further bloodshed, the Biden administration echoed the Israeli government’s position that Hamas was a terrorist group rather than a revolutionary movement and that it was entirely responsible for the latest armed conflict. Worse, U.S. officials embraced the idea that Israel could do virtually anything in the name of self-defense.  Even when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government launched a massive offensive in Gaza that has killed thousands of civilians (including more than 3,000 Palestinian children), Washington’s support of Israel’s conduct has not wavered.  U.S. weapons have continued to flow to that country in large quantities.

The United States has thereby become a facilitator of additional civilian casualties. Washington’s veto of a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire guarantees that the conflict will continue indefinitely, with an ever-growing body count.

The Biden administration has played a similar unhelpful role with respect to the war between Russia and Ukraine.  U.S. leaders were blind to Moscow’s position that Ukraine as a NATO member or NATO military asset posed an intolerable (indeed, existential) threat to Russia’s security.  Acceptance of the Kremlin’s insistence on a neutral Ukraine would likely have prevented the ongoing war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Instead of promoting negotiations that might bring the bloodshed to an end, the United States and other NATO members have encouraged (pressured?) Kiev to continue a war that has almost no prospect of a Ukrainian victory.  Washington and its allies have supplied Volodymr Zelensky’s corrupt, authoritarian regime with a tsunami of increasingly lethal weapons, but the conflict is now clearly a meat grinding stalemate.  Once again, the United States has helped create and sustain a tragedy.

Those two episodes are merely the latest examples of the destructive role of U.S. imperialism. One especially negative legacy has been Washington’s attempt to export democracy to the Muslim world through regime-change wars.  Those missions have generated widespread instability throughout the region, leading to or exacerbating civil conflicts and general disorders.  According to one credible study, the violence and disruptions have claimed some 3.6 million lives since 9-11.

One example of the fruits of U.S. policy has been the situation in Libya after Washington and key NATO allies helped overthrow Muamar Qaddafi.  The level of human tragedy in post-Qaddafi Libya has been horrifying. The country quickly became an arena of chaos as a multitude of militias vied for power, displacing more than a million residents. There were even credible reports of open‐​air slave markets for immigrants from Sub‐​Saharan Africa. The level of human tragedy in post-Qaddafi Libya is horrifying.

U.S. policies also have produced massive refugee crises.  At the time of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021, the BBC reported that there were more than 3.5 million internally displaced refugees and an additional 2.2 million people who had fled the country entirely. The situation in Iraq following the U.S. invasion and occupation is equally appalling.  Some 9.2 million people were internally displaced or had left the country by 2021, according to a study by the Watson Institute at Brown University. The multi-year, U.S.-supported effort to unseat Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has resulted in hideous carnage, as well as the displacement of innocent people throughout Syria. In addition to the more than 300,000 Syrians who have perished in the fighting since 2011, some 6.8 million are refugees.

My own brush with death underscored to me just how precious life is.  It is maddening to see that U.S. leaders clearly do not share that view.  Washington’s behavior confirms an attitude of indifference to the human suffering, especially the wave of casualties, that U.S. policies have caused.  Americans and all decent people should view U.S. leaders with horror and disgust.

Reprinted with permission from


  • Ted Galen Carpenter

    Ted Galen Carpenter is senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. Carpenter served as Cato’s director of foreign policy studies from 1986 to 1995 and as vice president for defense and foreign policy studies from 1995 to 2011.

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