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46 MIN READ TIME

What White Supremacists Know

THE UNITED STATES has been at war every day since its founding, often covertly and often in several parts of the world at once. As ghastly as that sentence is, it still does not capture the full picture. Indeed, prior to its founding, what would become the United States was engaged—as it would continue to be for more than a century following—in internal warfare to piece together its continental territory. Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

The United States is not exceptional in the amount of violence or bloodshed when compared to colonial conquests in Africa, Asia, theCaribbean, and South America. Elimination of the native is implicit in settler colonialism and colonial projects in which large swaths of land and workforces are sought for commercial exploitation. Extreme violence against noncombatants was a defining characteristic of all European colonialism, often with genocidal results.

Rather, what distinguishes the United States is the triumphal mythology attached to that violence and its political uses, even to this day. The post–9/11 external and internal U.S. war against Muslims-as-“barbarians” finds its prefiguration in the “savage wars” of the American colonies and the early U.S. state against Native Americans. And when there were, in effect, no Native Americans left to fight, the practice of “savage wars” remained. In the twentieth century, well before the War on Terror, the United States carried out large-scale warfare in the Philippines, Europe, Korea, and Vietnam; prolonged invasions and occupations in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic; and counterinsurgencies in Columbia and Southern Africa. In all instances, the United States has perceived itself to be pitted in war against savage forces.

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About Boston Review

Paperback, 128 pages “All history,” writes Maximillian Alvarez in his contribution to this issue, “is the history of empire—a bid for control of that greatest expanse of territory, the past.” Evil Empire confronts these histories head-on, exploring the motivations, consequences, and surprising resiliency of empire and its narratives. Contributors grapple with the economic, technological, racial, and rhetorical elements of U.S. power and show how the effects are far-reaching and, in many ways, self-defeating. Drawing on a range of disciplines—from political science to science fiction—our authors approach the theme with imagination and urgency, animated by the desire to strengthen the fight for a better future. Featuring Nikhil Pal Singh, Arundhati Roy interviewed by Avni Sejpal, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Yuri Herrera translated by Lisa Dillman, Pankaj Mishra interviewed by Wajahat Ali, Frank Pasquale, Adom Getachew, Maximillian Alvarez, Jeanne Morefield, Michael Kimmage, Stuart Schrader, Marisol LeBrón, and Mark Bould.