13 April 2003
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We are busy preparing an intense Journées d'études for
the visit of Howard
Zinn in Grenoble on 5-6 May. [Please visit our Research Center's web site
for the program of this important two-day event :
Below we have received two important articles forwarded to us by our
research associates, Elisabeth Chamorand and Richard Du Boff. The first is
an encouraging message from Michael Moore which Elisabeth Chamorand
received today. The second item sent by Richard Du Boff is his economic
analysis of crisis capitalism in America.
Both of these articles offer an important window for understanding where
the United States of America is heading in the next months and years. . . .
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/Director of Research
From Elisabeth Chamorand
My Oscar "Backlash": "Stupid White Men" Back At #1, "Bowling" Breaks
by Michael Moore
It appears that the Bush administration will have succeeded in colonizing
Iraq sometime in the next few days. This is a blunder of such magnitude --
and we will pay for it for years to come. It was not worth the life of one
single American kid in uniform, let alone the thousands of Iraqis who have
died, and my condolences and prayers go out to all of them.
So, where are all those weapons of mass destruction that were the pretense
for this war? Ha! There is so much to say about all this, but I will
save it for later.
What I am most concerned about right now is that all of you -- the majority
of Americans who did not support this war in the first place --not go silent
or be intimidated by what will be touted as some great military victory.
Now, more than ever, the voices of peace and truth must be heard. I have
received a lot of mail from people who are feeling a profound sense of
despair and believe that their voices have been drowned out by the drums and
bombs of false patriotism. Some are afraid of retaliation at work or at
school or in their neighborhoods because they have been vocal proponents of
peace. They have been told over and over that it is not "appropriate" to
protest once the country is at war, and that your only duty now is to
"support the troops."
Can I share with you what it's been like for me since I used my time
Oscar stage two weeks ago to speak out against Bush and this war? I hope
that, in reading what I'm about to tell you, you'll feel a bit more
emboldened to make your voice heard in whatever way or forum that is
open to you.
When "Bowling for Columbine" was announced as the Oscar winner for Best
Documentary at the Academy Awards, the audience rose to its feet. It was a
great moment, one that I will always cherish. They were standing and
cheering for a film that says we Americans are a uniquely violent people,
using our massive stash of guns to kill each other and to use them against
many countries around the world. They were applauding a film that shows
George W. Bush using fictitious fears to frighten the public into giving him
whatever he wants. And they were honoring a film that states the following:
The first Gulf War was an attempt to reinstall the dictator of Kuwait;
Saddam Hussein was armed with weapons from the United States; and the
American government is responsible for the deaths of a half-million children
in Iraq over the past decade through its sanctions and bombing. That was the
movie they were cheering, that was the movie they voted for, and so I
decided that is what I should acknowledge in my speech.
And, thus, I said the following from the Oscar stage:
"On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan (from
Canada), I would like to thank the Academy for this award. I have invited
the other Documentary nominees on stage with me. They are here in solidarity
because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction because we live in
fictitious times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give
us a fictitious president. We are now fighting a war for fictitious reasons.
Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fictitious 'Orange Alerts,' we
are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And,
whenever you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is
Halfway through my remarks, some in the audience started to cheer. That
immediately set off a group of people in the balcony who started to boo.
Then those supporting my remarks started to shout down the booers. The
L. A. Times reported that the director of the show started screaming at the
orchestra "Music! Music!" in order to cut me off, so the band dutifully
struck up a tune and my time was up. (For more on why I said what I said,
you can read the op-ed I wrote for the L.A. Times, plus other reaction from
around the country at my website)
The next day -- and in the two weeks since -- the right-wing pundits
radio shock jocks have been calling for my head. So, has all this ruckus
hurt me? Have they succeeded in "silencing" me?
Well, take a look at my Oscar "backlash":
-- On the day after I criticized Bush and the war at the Academy Awards,
attendance at "Bowling for Columbine" in theaters around the country
went up 110% (source: Daily Variety/BoxOfficeMojo.com). The following
box office gross was up a whopping 73% (Variety). It is now the
longest-running consecutive commercial release in America, 26 weeks in a row
and still thriving. The number of theaters showing the film since the Oscars
has INCREASED, and it has now bested the previous box office record for a
documentary by nearly 300%.
-- Yesterday (April 6), "Stupid White Men" shot back to #1 on the New
Times bestseller list. This is my book's 50th week on the list, 8 of
them at number one, and this marks its fourth return to the top position,
that virtually never happens.
-- In the week after the Oscars, my website was getting 10-20 million
hits A DAY (one day we even got more hits than the White House!). The mail
overwhelmingly positive and supportive (and the hate mail has been
-- In the two days following the Oscars, more people pre-ordered the
for "Bowling for Columbine" on Amazon.com than the video for the Oscar
winner for Best Picture, "Chicago."
-- In the past week, I have obtained funding for my next documentary,
and I have been offered a slot back on television to do an updated version
Nation"/ "The Awful Truth."
I tell you all of this because I want to counteract a message that is
to us all the time -- that, if you take a chance to speak out politically,
you will live to regret it. It will hurt you in some way, usually
financially. You could lose your job. Others may not hire you. You will
lose friends. And on and on and on.
Take the Dixie Chicks. I'm sure you've all heard by now that, because
lead singer mentioned how she was ashamed that Bush was from her home state
of Texas, their record sales have "plummeted" and country stations are
boycotting their music. The truth is that their sales are NOT down. This
week, after all the attacks, their album is still at #1 on the Billboard
country charts and, according to Entertainment Weekly, on the pop charts
during all the brouhaha, they ROSE from #6 to #4. In the New York Times,
Frank Rich reports that he tried to find a ticket to ANY of the Dixie
Chicks' upcoming concerts but he couldn't because they were all sold out.
They have not been hurt at all -- but that is not what the media would
you believe. Why is that? Because there is nothing more important now than
to keep the voices of dissent -- and those who would dare to ask a question
-- SILENT. And what better way than to try and take a few well-known
entertainers down with a pack of lies so that the average Joe or Jane gets
the message loud and clear: "Wow, if they would do that to the Dixie Chicks
or Michael Moore, what would they do to little ol' me?" In other words, shut
the f--- up.
And that, my friends, is the real point of this film that I just got
Oscar for -- how those in charge use FEAR to manipulate the public into
doing whatever they are told.
Well, the good news -- if there can be any good news this week -- is
not only have neither I nor others been silenced, we have been joined by
millions of Americans who think the same way we do. Don't let the false
patriots intimidate you by setting the agenda or the terms of the debate.
Don't be defeated by polls that show 70% of the public in favor of the war.
Remember that these Americans being polled are the same Americans whose kids
(or neighbor's kids) have been sent over to Iraq. They are scared for the
troops and they are being cowed into supporting a war they did not want --
and they want even less to see their friends, family, and neighbors come
home dead. Everyone supports the troops returning home alive and all of us
need to reach out and let their families know that.
Unfortunately, Bush and Co. are not through yet. This invasion and conquest
will encourage them to do it again elsewhere. The real purpose of this war
was to say to the rest of the world, "Don't Mess with Texas - If You Got
What We Want, We're Coming to Get It!" This is not the time for the majority
of us who believe in a peaceful America to be quiet. Make your voices heard.
Despite what they have pulled off, it is still our country.
from Richard Du Boff
War And The Economy: Constructive Collateral Damage
By Richard Du Boff
George Bush's war on Iraq will provide very little stimulus for the
economy. Direct outlays will fall somewhere between $60 and $80 billion for
a "quick" war, possibly as much as $125 billion for one lasting three to
four months. This means that, at most, war expenses could amount to about
1.1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and it now looks as though they
will turn out to be less.
This is not enough to generate anything like the stimulative jolt that
military conflicts once did. Most of the spending is going to transport
troops abroad and support them there, and to replace munitions and materiel
used up in the assault on Iraq. The Pentagon ordered no aircraft, ships,
and tanks to fight the depleted Iraqi military and will meet its needs from
inventory and order replacements and parts when needed. There is no
prospect of any industrial mobilization to ramp up production and create
jobs. Even $125 billion would make little difference for America's $11
Since the last quarter of 2002, when gross domestic product grew at
meager rate of 1.4 percent per year, increases in military spending have
accounted for a third of the economy's growth. But military dollars have
been helping the economy mainly because it sank into recession in March
2001 and is barely growing. Unemployment continues to rise, and fewer
people are now employed than at any time since late 1999; industrial
production is stagnant, foreign demand for U.S. goods is weak. Consumer
spending fell during January and February 2003; the University of
Michigan's index of consumer confidence has dropped to its lowest level in
ten years. And the favorable effects of military spending have been offset
by war jitters--an increase in oil prices, a plunge in airline traffic, a
shaky stock market, a sharp fall in the value of the dollar versus the euro
and the Japanese yen.
Postwar costs--occupation, repair and reconstruction, humanitarian
aid--could be far greater than those for the war itself, and might range
from $100 billion to $1 trillion, according to estimates by Yale economist
William Nordhaus, for time spans of two to ten years. But such expenses
would be spread out over longer periods of time and do little to spur the
economy. More importantly, they may never materialize, for they represent
the kinds of costs and responsibilities that the United States has never
assumed since the Second World War.
Latest example: Afghanistan. In the year ending September 2002, the
States spent $13 billion bombing that country and occupying parts of it. At
that time, President Bush stated that the United States was "currently
implementing more than $300 million" in recovery and rehabilitation
programs in Afghanistan--little more than 2 percent of the sum spent on the
war in that country. In fact most of the $300 million proves hard to trace,
and it is now clear that the total--if valid--includes funds already
committed to the United Nations (Commission for Refugees, World Food
Program, UNICEF). In February 2003 the U.S. Congress recommended $300
million for humanitarian and reconstruction for Afghanistan, after the Bush
administration failed to request any money at all in its 2003 budget.
The preferred scenario for postwar aid to Iraq is one in which the United
States will pay U.S. companies to repair and rebuild the country--and cover
the costs by seizing Iraqi oil fields and selling the product on the world
market. This might be easier said than done: Iraq's oil sales and revenues
are currently under United Nations control, due to sanctions that the
United States helped put in place after the 1991 war. But a head start was
made on April 2, when President Bush, using the USA-Patriot Act,
confiscated $1.7 billion in U.S. bank accounts belonging to the Iraqi
government, state-owned banks, and oil-marketing enterprises "to assist in
the reconstruction of Iraq." In other words, the Iraqi people should pay
their destroyers to rebuild their country.
The United States has sent clear signals that it intends to keep the United
Nations and non-U.S. contractors on the sidelines. Five U.S. corporations
have been selected by the U.S. Agency for International Development to put
in secret and noncompetitive bids for the work to be done--Halliburton
(vice-president Dick Cheney's former company), Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons, and
the Louis Berger Group: together, these companies made political
contributions of $2.8 million between 1999 and 2002, more than two-thirds
to the Republican party. The reconstruction projects include at least half
of the "economically important roads and bridges" and 1,500 miles of
roadway, according to the Wall Street Journal, all scheduled to be reopened
within 18 months, as well as 15 percent of the high-voltage electricity
grid. The primary goal is obviously to jump start Iraq's petroleum sector
following the war.
The second Bush war against Iraq is producing its greatest benefits
integral part of a radical, and increasingly savage, political conservatism
that began to coalesce around a number of causes in the 1970s--resentment
and rage over military defeat in Vietnam, the civil rights and womens'
movements, and renewed government intervention in the economy (medical
insurance for the elderly, workplace safety regulations, environmental
protection, among others). The new-right agenda was activated, and
massively empowered, by the events of September 11, 2001--a godsend for
George Bush & Company. The "war on terrorism" abroad and war on the welfare
state at home are unified and moving forward in lockstep.
The war against America's pathetically small social welfare system is
through fiscal policy, by destroying the balance between government
spending and taxes. The idea is to starve the federal government of
resources by enacting huge tax cuts for the rich and for corporate
business, thereby creating huge deficits in the federal budget--which can
then be brought under control, of course, only by sharper cuts in
For the purpose of enlarging the budget deficit to reduce spending on
social programs, military spending is the perfect tool. If no expenses can
be spared for "national defense," how can they even be questioned if
necessary for stopping the likes of Osama bin Laden? Thus we have the Bush
method of combating terrorism--reliance on military force, which those "old
Europeans," who have considerable experience with terrorism themselves, are
apparently not smart enough to have thought of. Higher levels of military
spending duly increase budget deficits, crowd out all kinds of spending for
nonmilitary purposes, and generate profits for the arms contractors--the
"merchants of death" as they used to be called in more innocent times.
For months the White House refused to put a price tag on the anticipated
war in Iraq, claiming that too many variables were at play, so that the
military budget for 2003 contained not a single dollar for the war.
Democrats in Congress, as well as several Republicans like Senator Chuck
Grassley (Iowa), soon understood that Bush was stalling for another reason,
namely, that putting a high price on the war--$60 to $100 billion--would
complicate if not doom his efforts to have the Congress pass a budget
making room for his latest round of tax cuts. It is a tactic used
successfully in 2001, when Bush delayed telling Congress how much money he
wanted for the Pentagon in coming years, allowing his first tax cuts to be
accepted by Congress before the spending increases for the Pentagon were
put on the table. Three days after the bombs and missiles were unleashed on
Baghdad, the President finally asked for an additional $63 billion for the
"initial costs" of his war.
The result is that military outlays, counting (possibly underestimating)
the costs of the war, will have increased by $154 billion from 2001 through
2003, during which time the federal government's budget position will have
deteriorated by $497 billion (a surplus of $127 billion in 2001, a
projected deficit of $370 billion in 2003).
The return of deficit finance on this scale is sweet music for the Bush
administration: it can trumpet the need for deeper cuts in social spending.
Of the $497 billion swing toward deficit during 2001-2003, increases in
military spending will have provided more than 30 percent of it--an
enormous proportion given the fact that the budget was already headed
toward deficit because of the recession (when the economy contracts, the
government's tax collections fall off and some expenditures, particularly
unemployment compensation, rise). It might be noted that increases in
military spending tend to expand the economy, and narrow the deficit, to
some degree--but an exceedingly small one in this instance. Spending on the
war will not increase employment in many industries, and some of it is
taking place abroad (Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, elsewhere).
As for the real costs of the war, they could hardly be clearer. Targeted
for cutbacks in federal money are virtually all social programs--Medicare
and Medicaid, food stamps, housing, job training and child care, education
and student loans, environmental protection, public transportation, science
research, even veterans' benefits and school funding for children of
Jeffrey Garten, dean of the Yale School of Management and former economic
and foreign policy official in the Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Clinton
administrations, warns that the increases in spending on war and homeland
security are "aggravating an already acute fiscal problem, eroding economic
vitality" and creating "the kind of politically paralyzing guns-or-butter
debate that characterized the Vietnam era."
Maybe so for Garten and everyone to his left, but not for Bush and his
constituency. The direct impact of the war on the economy gives us more
guns and less social butter, a constructive outcome for the right wing
oligarchy now ruling this country.