18 Janvier 2003
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
We have repaired our email system -for at least the present moment- and we take this opportunity to send our reflections on what many believe to be the imminent war in the Middle East.
(Please see below the important article
on Iraq and the Bush administration sent to us by our research associate
Michael Parenti, at Berkeley.)
Fragments from A Reflection on War
by Francis Feeley
Classic military science teaches that there are essentially four types of war: a) wars of national independence, b) imperialist wars of expansion, c) wars of national self-defense, and d) civil wars between social classes.
In American history, the War of Independence
(1776-83) represents the first type. The subsequent 19th-century conquest
of Indian lands, the Mexican War, the U.S. conquest of Cuba and the Philippines
are illustrations the
second type of war. An example of the third type of war in U.S. history is World War II (AKA "the Good War"), which is represented as a war against fascist expansion.
The fourth type of war, Civil War, is problematic in American history: Some historians argue that beginning in 1860 a new industrial capitalist class, in alliance with western farmers, gained political power, via the New Republican Party, in Washington, D.C. and went to war against the reactionary, slave-owning agrarian class in the southern states, which had controlled, through the Democratic Party, the three branches of government in Washington for the past decades. The ascendancy of this new political party, with its specific social class interest was incompatible with southern Democratic interests, and the definitive defeat of southern aristocratic control of the state quickly released the forces of rapid industrial expansion in late 19th-century America.
Other historians have argued that the so-called Civil War was more accurately a "War of Secession," or a "War between the States," fought between regional factions for national self-defense, i.e. to preserve the union of the United States of America against regional separatism. Either way, no less than 2% of the total U.S. population ended up dead before this war was over.
Another observation from classic
military science is that open conflict is preceded by a period of preparation
that includes psychological warfare. Wars, in other words, usually begin
long before the actual confrontation
Today, modern science permits virtual
wars to be fought. The author George Orwell suggested in his book 1984,
such "wars" are perpetuated to strengthen popular allegiance to the
state. A post-Orwellian strategy used
by the United States military is to hide the evidence of criminal activities in the "killing fields" during war by preventing reporters and cameraman from visiting sites until the destruction and the mass burial of the evidence has been achieved. This "sanitized" version of war is more like a "Covert Action," where U.S. agents are sent to the hospitals and morgues of suppress evidence, and burial brigades spend hours, if not days, burning and hiding dead bodies. Thus it would seem that modern military science teaches a pre-war strategy of psychological terror and a post-war tactic of hiding the evidence of destruction, in order to control descent. ("What's all the fuss about, anyway?)
For more on new techniques employed by the state to hide the costs of war from public view, please see the "Reporters without Borders" bilingual (French/English) web site:
The ease with which the American
ruling class manipulates the feelings and perceptions of the American public
is cause for alarm in distant places. Today's friends could quickly appear
on tomorrow's "enemy list" in a world
where capitalist competition reigns and where real communities have been subverted and replaced by an imaginary sense of community that is promoted and paid for by commercial interests. Many years ago, William Appleman
Williams observed that what we as a nation share in common has been reduced to a desire to consume and a fear of communism.
The latter notion of an "indispensable
enemy" is not new, but Lewis Carroll reminds us that any conflict, even
one which evokes the most bitter feelings, can be transcended by the perception
of a GREATER DANGER: "just
then flew down a monstrous crow, as black as a tar barrel, which frightened both the heroes so they quite forgot their quarrel."
Professor/Director of research
To Kill Iraq: The Reasons Why
by Michael Parenti
In October 2002, after several days
of full-dress debate in the House and Senate, the US Congress fell into
behind almost-elected president George W. Bush, giving him a mandate to launch a massive military assault against the already battered nation of Iraq. The discourse in Congress was marked by its usual cowardice. Even
many of the senators and representatives who voted against the president's resolution did so on the narrowest procedural grounds, taking pains to tell how they too detested Saddam Hussein, how they agreed with the president on many points, how something needed to be done about Iraq but not just yet, not quite in this way. So it is with Congress: so much political discourse in so narrow a political space. Few of the members dared to question the unexamined assumptions about US virtue, and the imperial right of US leaders to decide which nations shall live and which shall die. Few, if any, pointed to the continual bloody stream of war crimes committed by a succession of arrogant US administrations in blatant violation of human rights and international law.
Pretexts for War.
Bush and other members of his administration have given varied and unpersuasive reasons to justify the "war"---actually a one-sided massacre--- against Iraq. They claim it is necessary to insure the safety
and security of the Middle East and of the United States itself, for Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear missiles. But UN inspection teams have determined that Iraq has no such nuclear
capability and actually has been in compliance with yearly disarmament inspections.As for the fact that Iraq once had factories that produced chemical and bacteriological weapons, whose fault was that? It was the United States that supplied such things to Saddam. This is one of several key facts about past US-Iraq relations that the corporate media have consistently suppressed. In any case, according to UN inspection reports, Iraq's C&B
warfare capability has been dismantled. Still the Bushites keep talking about Iraq's dangerous "potential." As reported by the Associated Press (2 November 2002), Undersecretary of State John Bolton claimed that "Iraq
would be able to develop a nuclear weapon within a year if it gets the right technology." If it gets the right technology? What does that say about anything? The truistic nature of this assertion has gone unnoticed.
Djibouti, Qatar, and New Jersey would be able to develop nuclear weapons if they got "the right technology."
Through September and October of 2002, the White House made it clear that Iraq would be attacked if it had weapons of mass destruction. Then in November 2002, Bush announced he would attack if Saddam denied that he had weapons of mass destruction. So if the Iraqis admit having such weapons, they will be bombed; and if they deny having them, they still will be bombed--whether they have them or not.
The Bushites also charged Iraq with
allowing al Qaeda terrorists to operate within its territory. But US intelligence
sources themselves let it be known that the Iraqi government was not connected
to Islamic terrorist organizations. In closed sessions with a House committee,
when administration officials were repeatedly asked whether they had information
of an imminent threat from Saddam against US citizens, they stated
unequivocally that they had no such evidence (San Francisco Chronicle, 20 September 2002). Truth be told, the Bush family has closer ties to the bin Laden family than does Saddam Hussein. No mention is made of how US leaders themselves have allowed terrorists to train and operate within our own territory, including a mass murderer like Orlando Bosch. Convicted of blowing up a Cuban airliner, Bosch walks free in Miami.
Bush and company seized upon yet
another pretext for war: Saddam has committed war crimes and acts of aggression,
including the war against Iran and the massacre of Kurds. But the Pentagon's
own study found that the gassing of Kurds at Malahja was committed by the
Iranians, not the Iraqis (Times of India, 18 September 2002). Another seldom
mentioned fact: US leaders gave Iraq encouragement and military support
in its war against Iran. And if war crimes and aggression are the issue,
there are the US invasions of Grenada and Panama to consider, and the US-sponsored
wars of attrition against civilian targets in Mozambique, Angola, Nicaragua,
Salvador, Guatemala, Yugoslavia, and scores of other places, leaving hundreds of thousands dead. There is no communist state or "rogue nation" that has such a horrific record of military aggression against other
countries over the last two decades.
With all the various pretexts for
war ringing hollow, the Bushites resorted to the final indictment: Saddam
was a dictator. The United States stood for democracy and human rights.
It followed that US leaders were obliged to use force and violence to effect
regime change in Iraq. Again, we might raise questions. There is no denying
that Saddam is a dictator, but how did he and his crew ever come to power?
Saddam's conservative wing
of the Ba'ath party was backed by the CIA. They were enlisted to destroy the Iraqi popular revolution and slaughter every democratic, left-progressive individual they could get hold of, which indeed they did,
including the progressive wing of the Ba'ath party itself---another fact that US media have let slide down the memory hole. Saddam was Washington's poster boy until the end of the Cold War.So why has George II, like his daddy, targeted Iraq? When individuals keep providing new and different explanations to justify a particular action, they most likely are lying. So with political leaders and policymakers. Having seen that the pretexts given by the White House to justify war are palpably false, some people conclude that the administration is befuddled
or even "crazy." But just because they are trying to mislead and confuse the public does not perforce mean they themselves are misled and confused. Rather it might be that they have reasons which they prefer not to see
publicized and debated, for then it would become evident that US policies of the kind leveled against Iraq advance the interests of the rich and powerful at much cost to the American people and every other people on the
face of the earth. Here I offer what I believe are the real reasons for the US aggression against Iraq.
Global Politico-Economic Supremacy.
A central US goal, as enunciated by the little Dr. Strangeloves who inhabit the upper echelons of policymaking in the Bush administration, is to perpetuate US global supremacy. The objective is not just power for its own
sake but power to insure plutocratic control of the planet, power to privatize and deregulate the economies of every nation in the world, to hoist upon the backs of peoples everywhereincluding the people of North
America ---the blessings of an untrammeled "free market" corporate capitalism. The struggle is between those who believe that the land, labor, capital, technology, and markets of the world should be dedicated to
maximizing capital accumulation for the few, and those who believe that these things should be used for the communal benefit and socio-economic development of the many. The goal is to insure not merely the supremacy of global capitalism as such, but the supremacy of US global capitalism by preventing the emergence of any other potentially competing superpower or, for that matter, any potentially competing regional power. Iraq is a case in point. Some nations in the Middle East have oil but no water; others have water but no oil. Iraq is the only one with plenty of both, along with a good agricultural basealthough its fertile lands are now much contaminated by
the depleted uranium dropped upon it during the 1991 Gulf War bombings. In earlier times, Iraq's oil was completely owned by US, British, and other Western companies. In 1958 there was a popular revolution in Iraq. Ten years later, the rightwing of the Ba'ath party took power, with Saddam Hussein serving as point man for the CIA. His assignment was to undo the bourgeois-democratic revolution, as I have already noted. But instead of
acting as a compradore collaborator to Western investors in the style of Nicaragua's Somoza, Chile's Pinochet, Peru's Fujimora, and numerous others, Saddam and his cohorts nationalized the Iraqi oil industry in 1972, ejected
the Western profiteers, and pursued policies of public development and economic nationalism. By 1990, Iraq had the highest standard of living in the Middle East (which may not be saying all that much), and it was evident
that the US had failed to rollback the gains of the 1958 revolution. But the awful destruction delivered upon Iraq both by the Gulf War and the subsequent decade of economic sanctions did achieve a kind of
counterrevolutionary rollback from afar.Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, US leaders decided that Third World development no longer needed to be tolerated. Just as Yugoslavia served as a "bad" example in Europe, so Iraq served as a bad example to other nations in the Middle East. The last thing the plutocrats in Washington want in that region is independent, self-defining developing nations that wish to control their own land, labor, and natural resources. US economic and military power has been repeatedly used to suppress competing systems. Self-defining countries like Cuba, Iraq, and Yugoslavia are targeted. Consider Yugoslavia. It showed no desire to become part of the European Union and absolutely no interest in joining NATO. It had an economy that was relatively prosperous, with some 80 percent of it still publicly owned. The wars of secession and attrition waged against Yugoslavia---all in the name of human rights and democracy---destroyed that country's economic infrastructure and fractured it into a cluster of poor, powerless, right-wing mini-republics, whose economies are being privatized, deregulated, and opened to Western corporate penetration on terms that are completely favorable to the investors. We see this happening most recently in Serbia. Everything is being privatized at garage sale prices. Human service, jobs, and pension funds are disappearing. Unemployment, inflation, and poverty are skyrocketing, as is crime, homelessness, prostitution, and suicide. Welcome to Serbia's free market paradise.
Judging from what has been happening
in Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Panama, Grenada, and elsewhere---we can anticipate
that the same thing is in store for Iraq following a US occupation: An
Iraqi puppet government
will be put in place, headed by someone every bit as subservient to the White House as Tony Blair. The Iraqi state-owned media will become "free and independent" by being handed over to rich conservative private
corporations. Anything even remotely critical of US foreign policy and free market capitalism will be deprived of an effective platform. Conservative political parties, heavily financed by US sources, will outspend any leftist groupings that might have survived. On this steeply unleveled playing field, US advisors will conduct US-style "democratic elections," perhaps replicating the admirable results produced in Florida and elsewhere. Just about everything in the Iraqi economy will be privatized at giveaway prices. Poverty and underemployment, already high, will climb precipitously. So will the Iraqi national debt, as international loans are floated that "help" the Iraqis pay for their own victimization. Public services will dwindle to nothing, and Iraq will suffer even more misery than it does today. We are being asked to believe that the Iraqi people are willing to endure another massive bombing campaign in order to reach this free-market paradise.
Natural Resource Grab.
Another reason for targeting Iraq can be summed up in one word: oil. Along with maintaining the overall global system of expropriation, US leaders are interested in more immediate old-time colonial plunder. The present White
House leadership is composed of oil men who are both sorely tempted and threatened by Iraq's oil reserve, one of the largest in the world. With 113 billion barrels at $25 a barrel, Iraq's supply comes to over $2.8 trillion dollars. But not a drop of it belongs to the US oil cartel; it is all state owned. Baghdad has offered exploratory oncessions to France, China, Russia, Brazil, Italy, and Malaysia. But with a US takeover of Iraq and a new puppet regime in place, all these agreements may be subject to cancellation. We may soon witness the biggest oil grab in the history of Third World colonialism by US oil companies aided and abetted by the US government.
One thing that US leaders have been interested in doing with Iraqi oil---given the glut and slumping price of crude in recent years---is keep it off the market for awhile longer. As the London Financial Times (24 February 1998) reported, oil prices fell sharply because of the agreement between the United Nations and Iraq that would allow Baghdad to sell oil on the world market. The agreement "could lead to much larger volumes of Iraqi crude oil competing for market shares." The San Francisco Chronicle (22 February 1998) headlined its story "IRAQ'S OIL POSES THREAT TO THE WEST."
In fact, Iraqi crude poses no threat to "the West" only to Western oil investors. If Iraq were able to reenter the international oil market, the Chronicle reported, "it would devalue British North Sea oil, undermine American oil production and---much more important---it would destroy the huge profits which the United States [read, US oil companies] stands to gain from its massive investment in Caucasian oil production, especially in Azerbajian." We might conclude that direct control and ownership of Iraqi oil is the surest way to keep it off the world market and the surest way to profit from its future sale when the price is right.
Domestic Political Gains.
War and violence have been good to George W. Bush. As of September 10, 2001, his approval ratings were sagging woefully. Then came the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, swiftly followed by the newly trumpeted war against terrorism and the massive bombing and invasion of Afghanistan. Bush's approval ratings skyrocketed. But soon came the corporate scandals of 2002: Enron, WorldCom, and even more perilously
Harken and Halliburton. By July, both the president and vice-president were implicated in fraudulent corporate accounting practices, making false claims of profit to pump up stock values, followed by heavy insider selling
just before the stock was revealed to be nearly worthless and collapsed in price. By September, the impending war against Iraq blew this whole issue off the front pages and out of the evening news. Daddy Bush did the same
thing in 1990, sending the savings and loan scandal into media limbo by waging war against that very same country.
By October 2002, the Republican party, reeling from the scandals and pegged as the party of corporate favoritism and corruption, reemerged as the party of patriotism, national defense, and strong military leadership to win control of both houses of Congress, winning elections it should never have won. Many Americans rallied around the flag, draped as it was around the president. Some of our compatriots, who are cynical and suspicious about politicians in everyday affairs, display an almost child-like unlimited trust and knee-jerk faith when these same politicians trumpet a need to defend our national security against some alien threat, real or imagined.
War also distracts the people from
their economic problems, the need for decent housing, schools, and jobs,
and a recession that shows no sign of easing. Since George II took office,
the stock market has dropped 34 percent, unemployment has climbed 35 percent,
the federal surplus of $281 billion is now a deficit of $157 billion, and
an additional 1.5 million people are without health insurance, bringing
the total to 41 million. War has been good for the conservative agenda
in general, providing record military spending, greater profits for the
defense industry, and a deficit spending spree that further enriches the
creditor class at the taxpayer's expense, and is used to justify more cuts
in domestic human services.Liberal intellectuals are never happier than
when, with patronizing smiles, they can dilate on the stupidity of George
Bush. What I have tried to show is that Bush is neither retarded nor misdirected.
Given his class perspective and interests, there are compelling reasons
to commit armed
aggression against Iraq---and against other countries to come. It is time we dwelled less upon his malapropisms and more on his rather effective deceptions and relentless viciousness. Many decent crusaders have been
defeated because of their inability to fully comprehend the utter depravity of their enemies. The more we know what we are up against, the better we can fight it.
Michael Parenti's latest books are The Terrorism Trap (City Lights); To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia (Verso): and the 7th edition of Democracy for the Few (Wadsworth). His forthcoming work, The Assassination
of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome, will be published in the spring by The New Press.