THE BLOG
01/07/2008 01:07 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Passing of Empire

"The dollar is down more than 40 percent against the Euro over the past seven years, taking a particularly sharp drop last month...For untold millions worldwide, the weak dollar has emerged as a troubling dark spot...It has left many wondering whether the dollar has lost its bling for good...In recent months, the Euro surpassed the dollar as the currency with the largest global circulation." The Washington Post, December 24th, 2007

It is "essentially an evil thing...to initiate a war of aggression...(it) is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole...The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law...The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." From The Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunals, which were adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations in 1950.

Last night I had a dream of what the future might hold.

No one really expected the war crimes trials in 2010, but there was no alternative. It all started when the complete collapse of the dollar early in 2009 after years of huge budget and trade deficits arising from the ever expanding global war on terrorism made it impossible for Washington to continue business as usual. When the Kuwaitis unpegged their currency from the dollar in May 2007 and the Saudis and Gulf states followed suit in mid-2008, it should have set off alarm bells but didn't. When the Chinese and Japanese Central Banks stopped buying U.S. treasury notes late in 2008 it should have triggered drastic action to right the ship of state, but neither Congress nor President Bill Richardson were able to disengage from the binge-spending of borrowed money started by President George W. Bush. Washington smugly assumed that the world could not do without the dollar. When OPEC, led by the Saudi Arabians and Kuwaitis, decided in February 2009 to join a number of other oil producing countries including the Russians in decoupling oil prices from the dollar, the whole world fled the currency like it was the plague, shifting into the more stable Euro. Without the dollar as the dominant reserve currency for oil purchases, the U.S. treasury couldn't continue to print as many dollars as it needed to finance its wars because no one would take them and the currency collapsed, falling to 13% of its pre-2001 value.

Canada and Mexico took immediate steps to shore up the economic black hole of the U.S. economy. The Amero was introduced as a trade currency for all of North America, assuring the eventual death of the dollar, but stabilizing the regional market. The collapse of the dollar had more dire consequences overseas, where it became difficult to buy fuel and even food to support the extensive troop deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Ecuador. U.S. troops were largely immobile in their four huge bases in Iraq and there was some talk of seizing the oil fields, though concerns that U.S. forces would be attacked as they deployed and that the fields themselves would immediately be sabotaged by the government of Prime Minister Moqtada al-Sadr prevailed in the White House and no offensive action was taken. Secretary of War Joseph Lieberman resigned in protest after arguing unsuccessfully that nuclear weapons should be used immediately against both Baghdad and Tehran.

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi Pakistan was blown up by a devastating multiple truck bombing, killing 60 Americans. In the wake of the terrible attack and the decision by the Pakistani General Staff to declare neutrality and end cooperation with Washington, the U.S. abandoned its support bases in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and began a slow and bloody retreat towards the Afghan border area where a cease fire was under discussion with the local Taliban government that would permit withdrawal to the few remaining NATO concentrations around Kabul, though it was not clear whether Afghan President Gulbuddin Hekmatyar would open the border to permit the U.S. troops to pass through. Marine units holding the Ecuadorean oil port of Esmeraldas made preparations to board the U.S. Navy ships that were converging offshore as rioting increased in the city with the crowds demanding that the Americans should leave. Israel, meanwhile, quickly assessing the new balance of forces, moved to cut its own deal. Prime Minister Tzipi Livni accepted the Saudi King Abdullah's proposal first made in 2002 to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories in exchange for peace with all its neighbors, leaving the U.S. even more isolated and overextended in the Persian Gulf region.

The proposal by Baghdad and Tehran to hold war crimes trials for the American leaders who had instigated the invasion of Iraq should not have come as a surprise given the rapid eclipse of American power. What was shocking was that every other country represented on the UN Security Council except Britain approved the resolution and most seemed eager to punish the United States for the Bush administration's policies. Many expressed satisfaction that the school bully was now getting his comeuppance. The Basra Tribunal featured hundreds of witnesses and was jointly presided over by Iraqi Chief Justice Haroun al-Rashid and the head of the International Criminal Court, Anton Mussert of the Netherlands. The court drew on the precedent afforded by the Nuremberg Trials after the Second World War, which attempted to assign responsibility for the Nazi atrocities.

The U.S. at first resisted allowing its former officials to appear in an international court. Vice President Hillary Clinton was particularly concerned over the precedent as she knew that her husband Bill's bombing of Serbia would not pass muster when it came to war crimes. President Richardson only relented when Saudi Arabia agreed, as a quid pro quo, to supply the struggling U.S. economy with credits to purchase oil at below market prices as Washington could no longer meet domestic demand with the deflated dollar. As Richardson put it in a somber address to a joint session of Congress, "The death of the dollar has sharply limited our options. We are a debtor nation with a huge defense establishment that we can no longer afford and with global commitments that we can no longer meet. We started a war in Iraq which most of the world and many of the men and women sitting in this chamber now consider to have been both immoral and illegal." As a conciliatory move, Richardson released former Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul from federal prison, commuting their treason convictions in hopes that they might help mitigate the international anger against Washington.

Former President George W. Bush was quickly disqualified as being mentally unfit to testify before the court as a result of his post-2008 plummet into acute alcoholism. Dick Cheney preempted the court's trying him by shooting himself with a shotgun that was somehow smuggled into his cell in Basra's Hall of Justice by co-defendant George Tenet. Donald Rumsfeld had died two months before the tribunal convened and one of his chief aides Doug Feith fled to Israel to avoid prosecution. Feith reportedly slipped through airport security wearing a burkha as a disguise.

Tenet and the four leading CIA officers who were tried with him for torture and for producing false evidence to justify a war of aggression all claimed that they were only following the orders of the president. The court referred them to Nuremberg, where it was demonstrated that individuals have personal responsibility not to participate in war crimes and that such a defense was ruled inadmissible.

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz proved particularly disappointing. As the architect of the attack on Iraq, it was expected that he at least would be able to articulate a rational case for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Instead, he and Tenet argued that they had sincerely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim that was refuted by a long line of former intelligence analysts who produced their estimates debunking that view, analysis that was ignored in the rush to war. A guilt-ridden former Secretary of State Colin Powell provided evidence for the prosecution, citing concerns on his part and that of his staff that the information being used to justify war had been deliberately manipulated. Condoleezza Rice claimed that she couldn't remember anything at all, an assertion that was not supported by the inter-office memos demonstrating that she had urged making a political case to support the war since a factual case was lacking. A befuddled Alberto Gonzales denied having a hand in memos authorizing torture, a claim that actually made some of the judges laugh.

But then it was over. Chief Justice al-Rashid stood up to announced with a grin that it was all a mistake, that the reported invasion of his country that had killed nearly a million people and devastated the economy was really all a fantasy, largely invented by the media to sell newspapers and television advertisements. He observed that in the twenty-first century no country calling itself civilized could possibly have behaved with such utter contempt for human rights and allowed itself to be driven by narrow self-interest to attack other countries that had not posed a threat. Any such state would be a pariah, reviled by the rest of the world and it is a good thing that no such aggressive and unprincipled a power exists. No one is to blame and no one will be punished.

And then I woke up.