Guest Writings
 
  
16/2/05

The Anti-Empire Report, No. 18 by William Blum


“What do the imperial mafia really want?” 

After what was humorously designated an “election” in Iraq, there was a marked increase in calls for the United States to announce a timetable for withdrawal from that unhappy land. Senator Kennedy, The Brookings Institution, and a British government official were amongst numerous of the influential class to propose such action. The rationale behind the timing of these requests, one would assume, is that now that Iraq has displayed a measure of what the White House calls “democracy”, the United States can and should declare, once again, “mission accomplished” and leave, without loss of face.

Such a proposal might make sense if this thing called democracy was indeed the reason the United States invaded and occupied Iraq. But the fact that Washington officials do not miss an opportunity to make it abundantly clear that they have no intention of leaving in the foreseeable future reveals how unenlightened are these calls for departure; for the reasons the US is in Iraq have very little to do with democracy, by whatever description. On February 17, 2003, a month before the American invasion, I wrote an essay entitled: “What do the imperial mafia really want?” It can be read online.{1} Briefly, the essay

lists as motivations for the attack: expansion of the empire, idealism, oil, globalization, arms industry, Israel.

The election in Iraq has been labeled “successful” in many quarters primarily, it would appear, because it was held at all and there was much less of the usual violence attending it on that day. For the record it should be noted that Iraq held peaceful elections under Saddam Hussein on a number of occasions. Individuals could run for parliament after being cleared by the Baath party. Presumably, a similar process attended the recent election, with clearance being provided by other sources, including occupation authorities. Did any candidate try to run on a platform of early withdrawal of all American military forces and the cessation of construction of some dozen permanent American military bases? He likely wouldn’t have gotten clearance, but since scarcely any of the voters were privy to the names of the candidates or their platforms anyway the question is academic.

In any event, it’s questionable whether the United States cares all that much about who makes up the Iraqi government. Whoever it is will not have much power to place obstacles in the way of Washington’s goals, particularly concerning oil, military bases, the care and feeding of American corporations, and catering to Israel’s needs.

Commie rhetoric

“The defense of proletarian internationalism is a sacred duty of each communist and workers’ party and of every Marxist-Leninist.”

During the Cold War, we were all taught that it was one of the many signs of America’s superiority over the Russian commies that we didn’t talk that way. American cultural products and conservatives routinely satirized this commiespeak.

Now, American servicemen heading for Iraq are given “talking points” on cards and in slide shows to enable them to better relate to the media and others. Amongst the talking points are: “We are a values-based, people-focused team that strives to uphold the dignity and respect of all.” … “We are not an occupying force.” … “We are moving forward together with the Iraqi government as partners in building a future for the sons and daughters of Iraq.” … “Coalition forces will help our Iraqi partners as they build their new and independent country and take their rightful place in the world community.”{2}

And here is Dick Cheney speaking of Viktor Yushchenko, newly elected president of Ukraine (color him good for he’s “pro-West”): “Free nations stood with him as he made his just demands that the voice of the people be heard. The free world will stand with him once again as he works to consolidate Ukraine’s democratic gains.”{3}

In his January 20 inauguration speech, which lasted 21 minutes, President Bush used the word “liberty” 15 times and the word “freedom” 27 times; that’s one or the other word casually dropped exactly once every 30 seconds. He made not a single mention of Iraq or Afghanistan or any other world issue. The president’s advisers said the speech was “the rhetorical institutionalization of the Bush doctrine and reflected the president’s deepest convictions about the purposes behind his foreign policies.” But, they added, “it was carefully written not to tie him to an inflexible or unrealistic application of his goal of ending tyranny.”{4}

Only a man of Mr. Bush’s, er, self-confidence, could believe that he could get away with this.

And Commie Socialist Realism

A TV ad for Anheuser-Busch shown during the recent Super Bowl: An airport, a contingent of US soldiers in uniform is passing through, presumably on the way to or just returning from Iraq; the people in the terminal one by one look up, and slowly realize who’s walking by — It’s (choke) … Can it (gasp) be? … Yes! HEROES!! Real honest-to-God heroes!! The faces of the onlookers are filled with deep gratitude and pride. The soldiers begin to realize what’s happening as the waves of adulation sweep over them, their faces are bursting with matching gratitude and matching pride, their faces say “Thanks.” The screen says “Thanks.” Not a dry eye in the whole damn terminal.

In the USSR they might have been a group of Stakhanovite hero workers on the way to the factory.

The guilty saved by a guilty conscience

February 13 marked the 60th anniversary of the firebombing of Dresden by the United States and Great Britain in World War II. Several thousand people marched in Dresden on that day to condemn the incendiary destruction of the beautiful old city and the taking of tens of thousands of lives for no apparent military purpose. (It’s been suggested that the motivation had to do with the expectation that the city would soon be falling under Soviet control.) The Western media has referred to the demonstrators simply as “neo-Nazis” and “fascists” as if no German citizen or anyone else could have any good reason to be upset by the bombing, which could well qualify as a war crime. The Independent of London reported that “Churchmen in Dresden have blamed hostility to the Allies on East German Communist propaganda which for decades held that the raid was a needless act of ‘Anglo-American aggression’ inflicted on innocent civilians.” Dresden was part of East Germany.

The operative word here is “guilt”. German guilt is so heavy that, apart from the right wing, Germans generally reject attempts to lessen it by blaming the Allies for anything; and likewise reject attempts to portray Germans as also victims of World War II. German Chancellor Gerhardt Schröder appealed to Germans to reject such interpretations of the Dresden raid. “Showing historical responsibility means not weighing crimes against suffering,” he said. “I always remember how much suffering Germany caused to others by a war that it started.”{5}

The same guilt factor comes into play in the recent scenario involving Germany and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Under a 2002 German law allowing prosecutors to investigate war crimes no matter where they occurred, the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York filed a request with the German prosecutor’s office to investigate war crimes charges against Rumsfeld arising from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The Germans chose to ignore their own law and declined to pursue the matter. The outcome was never in doubt. The idea of the German government prosecuting an American official for war crimes borders on science fiction.

Neo-conservative fairy tales

What do you call a man who said: “When history is written, the contras will be folk heroes?”{6}

The man was speaking of that charming band of Nicaraguans who went around in the 1980s burning down schools and medical clinics, murdering teachers, doctors and nurses, and sabotaging any other accomplishment the Sandinista government could point to with pride (all carried out with the invaluable assistance of the CIA, fulfilling its historical role of counter-revolutionary).

You call the man Elliott Abrams and you also call him the new deputy national security adviser to President Bush; another promotion for the man who in the 1980s in the Reagan administration was a tireless campaigner for the vilest of dictatorships, death squads, and torturers in Central America and Pinochet’s Chile. In 1991 he pled guilty to the much lesser crime of withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair but was pardoned by George W.’s dad.

History, in recent years, has been kinder to Abrams than to his prediction. It would be difficult to find anyone outside of extreme-neo-con-land who has a charitable word for the contras, who also engaged in widespread drug trafficking and were accomplished rapists.

As can be seen in my essay referred to above, another neo-con leading light, Michael Ledeen, of the American Enterprise Institute, also tried his hand at prognostication shortly before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, declaring that “If we just … wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well, and our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

I could not resist. Last spring I sent Mr. Ledeen an email reminding him of his words and saying simply: “I’d like to ask you what songs your children are singing these days.”

I received no reply.

Does anyone have Elliott Abrams’ email address?

Are they not devilishly clever?

What’s that? They’ve cut the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency by 506 million dollars? How can they do that? Do they want to wreck the EPA? Yes, that’s the idea. Same with Social Security. Same with any federal agency that gives corporations or the wealthy a hard time or that smacks of the government helping lesser folk. The gargantuan tax cuts not only rained money down on rich Republican Party contributors, but they produced deficits which are now being used as an excuse for cuts in social spending, always at the top of the wish list for the AynRandites of the Bush administration.

What’s next? Attacking unions, gay marriage, and the ACLU?

In the last issue of this report, I discussed how prominent Democrats have been trying to sound like Republicans on religious matters, talking it up holy-like on god and bible. Now we have clear indications of the Democrats sliding backwards on the abortion issue.{7} And topping it all off was a letter of January 13 signed by 21 Democratic senators — including Kennedy, Clinton, Kerry, Biden, Schumer and Kohl — to the president urging him to expand the military. The letter opens with: “The United States military is too small for the missions it faces. Accordingly, we write today to urge you to include funding for an expanded active duty Army and Marine Corps in your FY2006 budget request.”{8}

The time when Democrats offered the voting public a clear liberal alternative to the conservative Republicans has become a subject for nostalgia buffs. Progressives surely have their work cut out for them. But it’s best that they proceed with their eyes open and their backs unturned. Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic Party will not make their job easier. He wasn’t chosen to put a brake on the movement to the right. “I don’t mind being called a liberal,” he said last year. “I just don’t really think it’s true.”

Hypocrisy of this magnitude has to be respected

At last year’s meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights, the United States sponsored a motion criticizing China’s record on human rights and is considering doing so again at this year’s meeting in March. Chinese treatment of prisoners is one thing that bothers the State Department, including holding prisoners without revealing their names.{9} (Did anyone say Guantanamo?)

I wonder when the US will start “rendering” prisoners to China for interrogation cum torture. Or have they already begun?

The State Department is also upset that Cuba and Zimbabwe are on a panel to develop the agenda for the meeting. “The United States believes that countries that routinely and systematically violate the rights of their citizens should not be selected to review the human rights performance of other countries.”{10}

(Educational note to elucidate the preceding: During the period of its revolution, Cuba has had one of the very best records on human rights in all of Latin America. Please see my essay in which I discuss this.){11}

Another member on the panel with Cuba and Zimbabwe, but not singled out for rights violations by the State Department, is Saudi Arabia. One would think that if the department is politically unable to criticize the Saudis, it would have enough self-respect and common sense to refrain from singling out any of the other panel members.

NOTES

{1} members.aol.com/bblum6/mafia.htm

{2} Editor & Publisher, January 18, 2005

{3} Washington Post, January 27, 2005

{4} Washington Post, January 22, 2005

{5} The Independent (London), February 14, 2005

{6} LA Weekly (Los Angeles), March 9-15, 1990, p.12

{7} Nicole Colson, “Have the Democrats Surrendered on Abortion Rights?” Counterpunch, February 10, 2005; Washington Post, February 13, 2005, p.A5 

{8} Press release issued by the office of Sen. Jack Reed (D.-RI), US Fed News, January 13, 2005

{9} Washington Post, February 7, 2005

{10} Washington Post, February 9, 2005

{11} members.aol.com/bblum6/democ.htm

William Blum is the author of:

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2

Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower

West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir

Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

<www.killinghope.org >

Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.

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