Skip navigation

A World Without Empire: A Manifesto

By the CODEPINK Peace Collective

The peace collective is anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist. We are for a world free from neoliberal greed and violence. We support and affirm the right to self-determination for all peoples, especially those in the Global South, as they resist the colonial domination of the U.S. empire. We advocate for international cooperation, not a unipolar world order.

A world without empire is one that values human life, the natural world, and true freedom. A world without empire is one that opposes a repackaged “white man’s burden,” the disingenuous colonial narratives of “lone democracies” that bear the obligation of “civilizing” the rest of the world. A world without empire would mean that our resources are going toward promoting economic justice and public welfare. This world would look like all people being able to seek medical treatment whenever they need to without worrying about the cost. This world would look like equitable voting practices that ensure the voices of all are heard and that no one’s voice is silenced. This world would view housing and public education as necessities, not luxuries. This world would view clean water, air, and energy as necessities, not luxuries.

We recognize that the myth of exponential growth has hinged on the existence of the military-industrial complex. The growth of empire would not exist without plundering the earth of its resources and denying people in Latin America, Asia, and Africa—in addition to the Native people of  Turtle Island—of their freedom to decide their own futures.

To defeat the military-industrial complex and its obsession with power, we must begin to look at our existences very differently. We must view the world and each other as abundance instead of buying into the capitalist myth of scarcity. Believing there is not enough for all of us is both untrue and violent. Austerity breeds violence. We must begin to challenge the belief that humans are inherently selfish, competitive, and individualistic, because we are not. Greed is taught and we often find that when we are our fullest, most raw selves, we are giving, kind, and interdependent. 

Capitalism is not human nature, but it benefits the ruling class to have us believe that it is. And capitalism is a system that chooses to accelerate the accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of all other living beings. Contrary to prevailing beliefs, this is not an inevitable system, and it is not the only possibility for our world. Alternative, more sustainable modes of organizing humanity exist and have existed in many societies past and present.

We recognize that the United States empire and its affiliates preach austerity when it comes to our survival. Yet during two of the greatest crises humanity has faced this century—a pandemic and a climate crisis—our government fails to address our needs and instead hands out blank checks to buy weapons of war and fund more devastating interventions: $2000 for us but billions for corporate bail-outs and weapons manufacturers. The trillions of U.S. dollars spent on weapons and perpetual violence have never made Americans or the rest of the world safer. In fact, they have only made this world increasingly less secure and safe while diverting funds from life-affirming services. As the United States continues on its path of destruction, it lets its own people fall through the cracks, because that is what empires are designed to do.

Imperialism and capitalism are not sustainable ideologies. They prioritize the accumulation of wealth into the hands of a small set of corporations, politicians, and profiteers while destroying everything and everyone in their wake. For example, the U.S. military is one of the largest environmental polluters and contributors to the climate crisis in the history of the world, consuming more liquid fuel and emitting more CO2 than other countries.

The Peace Collective is for a world that embraces sustainability in all forms: sustainability of resources, peoples, cultures, the economy, and international cooperation. A world that embraces our true human nature, which is to care for one another. A world without empire would demonstrate that life can exist without unrelenting profit at people’s expense. A world where people can get their needs met while being fulfilled and not exploited. 

To achieve a world without empire, the empire must be confronted and its crimes called out. For decades, the United States of America has dominated the world as the number one military power. This has been demonstrated by the United States’ willingness to cause immense pain and suffering anywhere it feels it has something to gain. 

This explicit violence has been seen all over the world. Throughout its war on communism, the United States dropped 7 million tons of bombs along with 400,000 tons of napalm on the people of Vietnam. In 2003, the United States invaded the country of Iraq, resulting in the deaths of over one million Iraqis and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Iraqis via U.S-run prisons. During and since the Obama years, the rise of drone warfare has allowed the U.S. empire to go to war more easily and more covertly, killing thousands without most of the American public even knowing. 

The U.S. has and continues to support coups of democratically elected leaders and has frequently funded insurgent groups, such as the Contras in Nicaragua, as part of regime change efforts in sovereign countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Between 1947 and 1989, the U.S. tried to change other nations’ governments a total of 72 times. These coups destroy opportunities for lasting peace and prosperity. 

The U.S. gives unrelenting support, through American taxpayer dollars, to neocolonial projects. The U.S funds the apartheid state of Israel that regularly murders Palestinians and that continues to take away their land and rights. The U.S supports Japan as it continues to occupy Okinawa (Ryukyu) and build yet more American military bases against the will of the Okinawan people as part of the U.S.’s “pivot to Asia.”

We oppose all forms of propaganda that glorify war and empire. Displays of military worship in movies and media; corporate media organizations that launder Defense Department talking points on international crises; the way the state and its media demonize countries that do not cater to the American elite’s corporate economic interests — these forms of propaganda only further escalate international tensions and work against the well-being of people around the world.

There is no way to drum up support for war without de-humanizing other groups of people. This de-humanization festers hatred that results in discrimination and violence domestically and abroad. We see a direct connection between the media discourse against China, South West Asian and North African nations, and Latin America with the rise of Islamophobia, Sinophobia, and targeted racial violence toward our communities. There are close ties between TV networks and members of weapon companies' board of directors. Violence against racial, religious, and ethnic minorities and other forms of discrimination statistically rise domestically as an inevitable consequence of U.S. wars, their imperialism and its white supremacist underpinnings, and the media propaganda that surrounds them. 

We see broad economic sanctions as a form of collective punishment for countries that do not align with U.S. hegemony. In its attempt to get countries like Iran and Venezuela to bend to its will, the U.S. government starves and kills civilians because it views U.S. hegemony as fundamentally more important than human life. Sanctions stop life-saving medicine and food supplies from entering countries and can also affect the influx of financial support from family members in the United States. These U.S.-imposed sanctions have led to tens of thousands of deaths of civilians per country, primarily children and the elderly who need sanctioned supplies most urgently.

We described above that we are against sanctions as a form of collective punishment, like we’ve seen imposed on the people of Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba. However, the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement calls for the boycott of goods made in illegal settlements in Palestine and for an end to military trade with Israel. Part of our anti-imperialist stance involves our support for Palestine. We unequivocally support BDS. We believe that Palestinians have a right to return to the homes they were expelled from during the Nakba and that Palestine should be free of checkpoints and all infrastructure that enforces apartheid. We view Zionism as antithetical to these beliefs. 

As the language of justice shifts, it’s important for people who value peace to not let our words get co-opted. The United States empire regularly weaponizes language like “human rights,” “democracy,” and “freedom” to justify invading countries and committing violent acts against civilian populations. However, we recognize that the government that denies its people healthcare, attempts to restrict voting access, funds its politicians’ campaigns through weapons defense contract money, has more military bases than any other nation, and has the largest prison population in the world knows nothing about human rights, democracy, and freedom. When the empire uses these reasons for war, it is always to manufacture consent for war.

A sustainable, just, and cooperative future for all is possible in our lifetime, but only by first envisioning and fighting for a world without empire and its needless destruction of the environment, the economy, diplomatic relations, and — most importantly — human life.