Michael Parenti

BIOGRAPHY | Iinterview NL 19 april 2004 |                                                                                    The Goals of US Global Interventionism | Project for a New American Century | To Kill Iraq, the reasons why | Follow The Leader

 

Michael Parenti is an internationally known award-winning author and lecturer. He is one of the nation's leading progressive political analysts. His highly informative and entertaining books and talks have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad.

"Here at home and throughout the world people are fighting back against the forces of wealth, privilege, and militarism -- some because they have no choice, others because they would choose no other course but the one that leads to peace and justice." Michael Parenti

His book “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize Oct 2003.

Michael Parenti received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University . He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, in the United States and abroad. Some of his writings have been translated into Bangla, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

He is the author of seventeen books including:

* The Assassination of Julius Caesar (The New Press, 2003)
* The Terrorism Trap (City Lights Books, 2002)
* Democracy for the Few ( Wadsworth , seventh edition, 2002)
* To Kill a Nation (Verso Books, 2001)
* History as Mystery (City Lights Books, 1999)
* America Besieged (City Lights Books, 1998)
* Blackshirts and Reds (City Lights Books, 1997)
* Dirty Truths (City Lights Books, 1996)
* Against Empire (City Lights Books, 1995)
* Inventing Reality (Wadsworth, second edition, 1993)
* Land of Idols (St. Martin's, 1993)
* Make-Believe Media (Wadsworth, 1992)
* The Sword and the Dollar (St. Martin's, 1989)

Some 250 articles of his have appeared in scholarly journals, political periodicals and various magazines and newspapers.

He appears on radio and television talk shows to discuss current issues and ideas from his published works. Dr. Parenti's talks and commentaries are played on radio stations and cable community access stations to enthusiastic audiences in the U.S., Canada and abroad.

He lectures on college campuses and before a wide range of audiences across North American and abroad. His books are enjoyed by both lay readers and scholars, and have been used extensively in college courses. Among the many topics he treats are:

* Democracy and Economic Power
* Imperialism and U.S. Interventionism
* Terrorism and Globalization
* Political Bias in the U.S. News Media
* Ideology and History
* Race, Gender, and Class
* The Overthrow of Communism
* Fascism: Past and Present

Website: www.michaelparenti.org
 

Listen to Michael Parenti - www.democracynow.org
Globalization and Terrorism - Friday, December 28th, 2001 - Listen to Segment



Michael Parenti behaalde in 1962 het doctoraat in de politieke wetenschappen aan Yale University. Hij doceerde aan verschillende universiteiten in de Verenigde Staten en in het buitenland, o.a. aan het Sarah Lawrence College, State University of New York te Stony Brook en te Albany, en aan de University of Canterbury in Nieuw Zeeland.
Zijn boeken worden uitgegeven in 11 talen: Engels, Spaans, Chinees, Portugees, Japans, Turks, Pools, Duits, Sanskriet, Bangla, en ook in het Nederlands.

Hij heeft tot nog toe o.a. de volgende titels op zijn actief:

- The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome (2003) - genomineerd voor de Pulitzer Price.  
- The Terrorism Trap. September 11 and Beyond (City Lights Books, 2002);
- To Kill a Nation. The Attack on Yugoslavia (Verso, 2000);
- History as Mistery (City Lights Books, 1999);
- Democracy for the Few (St.Martin's, 7de editie 2001);
- America Besieged (City Lights Books, 1998);
- Blackshirts and Reds. Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism (City Lights Books, 1997
- Nederlandse versie: uitgeverij (EPO, 2001);
- Dirty Thruths (City Lights Books, 1996);
- Against Empire (City Lights Books, 1995);
- Land of Idols . Political Mythology in America (St.Martin's, 1994);
- Inventing Reality. The Politics of News Media (St.Martin's, 2de editie 1993);
- Make-Believe Media. The Politics of Entertainment (St.Martin's, 1992);
- The Sword and the Dollar. Imperialism, Revolution and the Arms Race (St.Martin's, 1989);
- Power and the Powerless (St.Martin's, 1978);
- Ethnic and Political Attitudes (Arno Press, 1975);
- The Anti-Communist Impulse (Random House, 1969).

Zijn essays en artikels verschijnen in talloze Amerikaanse kranten en tijdschriften zoals CovertAction Quarterly, Monthly Review, Prevailing Winds, New Political Science, Nature, Society and Thought, Z Magazine, Dollars and Sense, The Humanist, The Nation, Research in Sociology, Journal of Politics, American Political Science Review, New York Times, Los Angeles Times en vele anderen

Parenti is regelmatig te horen in radio- en tv-talkshows om actuele stellingen en ideeën uit zijn gepubliceerde werken te bediscussiëren. Parenti's lezingen en commentaren zijn te horen op radiozenders in de VS, Canada en elders.
Hij geeft lezingen aan universiteiten, maar ook elders voor een breed publiek, overal in de Verenigde Staten en in het buitenland.
Zijn helderheid en zijn - in de VS ondertussen legendarische - opwindende formuleringen maken dat zijn boeken gelezen worden door zowel gewone mensen (leken in de politieke wetenschappen) als door academici en studenten. Zijn boeken worden extensief gebruikt in universiteitscursussen.

Interview met Michael Parenti
by han Soete & Christophe Callewaert Monday, Apr. 19, 2004 at 10:25 PM

han@indymedia.be Christophe@indymedia.be

Imperialisme is zijn momentum aan het verliezen. Wie gaan ze nu aanvallen? Iran? Weet je wel hoe groot Iran is, dat wonen meer dan 55 miljoen mensen, en die zijn bereid om te sterven voor hun vaderland. Daar hebben ze massaal veel troepen voor nodig en dan is het nog niet eens gezegd dat ze het onder controle zouden kunnen houden. Ze weten echt niet wat hun volgende stap zal zijn, ze weten nog niet eens hoe ze het in Irak gaan afhandelen.

In je getuigenis voor het tribunaal gaf je aan dat de politiek van de PNAC eigenlijk de verder-zetting is van een jarenlange politiek van de USA.

De PNAC is een recent fenomeen, het ontstond pas in 1996 of '97, en er zijn inderdaad al altijd dergelijke groepen geweest die strategieën uittekenden ... over hoe men controle moet behouden of verwerven. Nu de muur gevallen is, is er de PNAC en die zegt : ?We hebben nu een kans voor de globale overheersing, laten we die kans vastgrijpen?. Dat is iets nieuws in de manier waarop het wordt aangepakt, voorgesteld en in de manier waarop het door de Bush administratie werd geïmplementeerd, maar het is niet nieuw dat een denktank een lange termijn strategie uitstekend voor het globale kapitalisme.

Sommige mensen zeggen dat er toch een kwalitatieve verandering is sinds 11 september.

11 september gaf de US administratie een zeer goed wapen om de publieke opinie te mobiliseren achter die politiek van globale militaire interventie. Miljoenen Amerikanen steunen de invasie van Irak omdat ze geloven dat het hen zal beschermen tegen een nieuwe 11 september. Het PNAC rapport zegt reeds dat de Amerikaanse publieke opinie geen steun zou verlenen aan deze globale militaire politiek tenzij ze wordt opgezweept door een cataclysme vergelijkbaar met Pearl Harbour, en dat is exact wat 11 september betekende.

Er wordt nu wel eens beweerd dat omwille van de mislukking van de oorlog in Irak de neo-conservatieven van de macht verdreven werden. Als Kerry verkozen wordt en zelfs als Bush herverkozen wordt is het toch weinig waarschijnlijk dat ze terug hetzelfde momentum zullen hebben als ze hadden na 11 september.

Ja, hun momentum werd gebroken door her Iraakse verzet. Ze zijn niet in staat geweest om naar andere landen te trekken. Ik ben er bovendien van overtuigd dat deze administratie geen politiek of plan heeft voor Irak, ze weten niet wat gedaan. Ze zullen er blijven vechten, meer troepen sturen, meer mensen doden, en blijven hopen dat ze gaan winnen. De kans om een marionetten regering tot stand te brengen is voorbij. Er is niemand die nog geloofd dat hun marionetten enige legitimiteit hebben. De politie die ze trainden en het kleine leger dat ze hebben opgezet weigeren nu al mee te gaan in deze oorlog tegen het verzet.

En wat denk je dan dat Kerry zal doen als hij verkozen zou worden.

Kerry verkoopt stoere praat, hij zegt dat er meer troepen moeten gestuurd worden, daarmee geeft hij het onderwerp terug aan de republikeinen. De democraten in de Verenigde staten hebben zoveel schrik om als softie bestempeld te worden waardoor ze gaan overcompenseren en soms erger zijn dan sommige republikeinen. Het was bijvoorbeeld een reactionaire republikein die voor het eerst probeerde om normale diplomatieke contacten met China te hebben : Richard Nixon. Er is geen enkel democraat die dat zou gedurfd hebben, ze zouden hem een sympathisant van communisten genoemd hebben, en weet ik wat nog allemaal. Dat speelt hier ook allemaal mee. Het zou nog kunnen dat Bush of Kerry troepen terugtrekken, dat behoort tot de mogelijkheden, al zullen ze niet volledig terugtrekken, ze kunnen niet zo maar die olie de rug toekeren, dat kunnen ze niet laten gebeuren.

Richard Nixon werd herverkozen in 1972 met een verkiezing die een aardverschuiving betekende en dat terwijl er 120 Amerikanen sneuvelden per week. De verliezen die we nu kennen raken slechts een heel klein deel van de bevolking en veel families van dode soldaten blijven Bush steunen. Als was het maar om zichzelf op te beuren, opdat hun zoon niet voor niets zou gestorven zijn maar voor de veiligheid van Amerika, ...

Wat belangrijker is is dat Imperialisme zijn momentum aan het verliezen is. Wie gaan ze nu aanvallen? Iran? Weet je wel hoe groot Iran is, dat wonen meer dan 55 miljoen mensen, en die zijn bereid om te sterven voor hun vaderland. Daar hebben ze massaal veel troepen voor nodig en dan is het nog niet eens gezegd dat ze het onder controle zouden kunnen houden. Ze weten echt niet wat hun volgende stap zal zijn, ze weten nog niet eens hoe ze het in Irak gaan afhandelen. Wat ze kunnen proberen is om enkel de oliebelangen te verdedigen met een beperkte troepenmacht en voor de rest het bestuur overlaten aan de één of andere soort van marionetten regering.

Als je zegt dat imperialisme zijn momentum aan het verliezen is, wil je dan zeggen dat het Amerikaanse imperialisme aan het einde van zijn Latijn is?

Neen, ik had het over de imperialistische oorlog. Na 11 september verklaarde Bush dat naar Afghanistan zou trekken en toen hij dat deed wist hij te vertellen dat dit eerste oorlog van de 21° eeuw was. In plaats van te verklaren dat er geen oorlog zou zijn in de 21°eeuw verklaarde hij trots dat dit de eerste was en ze publiceerden lijsten van landen waar ze zouden binnenvallen. Eerst waren het tien landen en dan kwam Cheyney met een lijstje van meer dan 40 landen. Ze hadden een visie over het tijdperk van de petroleum oorlogen, Bush riep zichzelf uit tot een oorlogspresident, omdat hij weet dat die steeds herverkozen worden.

Jij zegt wel dat het een oorlog om olie is, maar er zijn mensen die daar aan twijfelen, ze zeggen dat het eerder gaat om religieus fanatisme.

Ja maar kijk naar kijk Irak in 1956 had je daar een democratische revolutie, met coalitiet van progressieven, nationalisten zelfs communisten. Ze hebben de -Britse en Amerikaanse Olie bedrijven buiten gesmeten en nationaliseerde de olie-industrie, dat was echt een goede revolutie, ze waren daar iets aan het opbouwen. De CIA die kon dat niet zo maar laten gebeuren en ze zijn Saddam Houssein gaan steunen. Ze hebben er alle progressieven en linksen vermoord, Saddam ging zelfs zover om de linker vleugel van zijn eigen partij te liquideren. Wat er nog overbleef waren rechtse nationalisten en militaristen die Irak beheerden en nu heeft deze invasie hen ook vermoord. Het waren rechtse nationalisten en militaristen, maar ze waren seculier, en nu zij vermoord zijn, wat blijft er dan nog over?? Er blijven allen nog fundamentalisten over, zijn worden de erfgenamen van het Iraakse nationalisme,de erfgenamen van het Anti-amerikaanse en anti-kolioniale gevoel, ze worden nu de helden van het verzet. En nu gaan we pas krijgen waar ze zogezegd tegen ten oorlog trokken. Ze zullen dat nu waarschijnlijk gebruiken om te verantwoorden waarom ze blijven. Eerst creëren ze het monster en dan gebruike je het om te verantwoorden waarom je moet blijven.

En is de PNAC een project van religieuse fanatiekelingen? Dat is een stelling die sommigen op het tribunaal verdedigen.

Een aantal mensen schijnen zo vijandig te staan tegenover elke vorm van klassen analyse dat ze in dat soort van dingen gaan geloven. Ik weet echt niet waarover die mensen het hebben. Natuurlijk zijn er religieuze fanatiekelingen, en wat dan nog. Denk je nu echt dat de mensen van PNAC een al te duidelijke laat staan Marxistische woordenschat zouden hanteren. En toch zeggen ze redelijk duidelijk dat de PNAC een agenda is voor de globale overheersing van het nieuwe vrije-markt kapitalisme. Ze hebben het niet gewoon over globaal kapitalisme maar over het ?Amerikaanse globale kapitalisme?. Nu er niet langer communistische landen zijn waarmee je moet concurreren moet je gaan concurreren tegen andere kapitalistische landen en regio's. Sommige mensen maken er hun levenswerk van om het Marxisme te verslaan, ze zeggen dan dat er meer is dan materiële belangen en dat ook ideologie of fanatisme belangrijk zijn. Maar natuurlijk is dat zo, er is geen enkele Marxist die dat ontkent. Het wordt alleen een beetje vreemd als dat soort mensen gaan beweren dat de materiële belangen en klassentegenstelling van geen belang zouden zijn. Ik begrijp dat niet zo goed. De materiële belangen en de ideologie zijn geen dingen die elkaar uitsluiten, ze vullen elkaar aan en soms zijn er verschillende dimenties aan één fenomeen, er is een sociale orde en een sociale structuur waar zeer veel variabelen bij komen kijken. We weten toch allemaal dat allerlei verschillende materiële, ideologische, psychologische, culturele, .... facetten een rol spelen. .

Denk je dat de Amerikaanse multinationals en bedrijfswereld de Bush administratie als een bedreiging ziet?

Ik heb daar eigenlijk geen bewijzen van gezien. Veel van hen doen het zeer goed in Irak, ze verdienen er bakken geld. Ik heb ook nog geen enkel van hen publiek horen zeggen dat het tijd is voor verandering. Bush heeft 144 miljoen $ om zijn campagne te financieren, en die kreeg hij voornamelijk van de bedrijfswereld. Er zijn sommige instellingen van establishement en gematigde republikeinen die verbazend genoeg tegen Bush zijn. De New York Times bijvoorbeeld is zeer kritisch ten opzichte van Bush, het zou met niet verbazen als zij Kerry zouden steunen. Ze vinden dat Bush net iets te ver gaat, teveel sociale voorzieningen ontmantelt, .... en dat het Amerika op een bepaald ogenblik onbeheerbaar gaat maken. Er zijn een paar mensen die Bush verlaten, Paul O'Neil, Richard Clarck, ... dat zijn republikeinen die publiekelijk kritiek maken.

De politiek van de PNAC is eigenlijk helemaal niet in het voordeel van Amerikaanse multinationals, toch niet op lange termijn. Ze willen controle verwerven over alle grondstoffen op de wereld, en over de alle volkeren van de wereld. Maar dat is een onmogelijke opdracht. The empire feeds off the republic. Dat was waar voor Rome, dat was voor Engeland, het Empire krijgt heel wat resources van het volk. Als het Empire ten oorlog trekt dan zijn zowel het volk van de verooveraar als de veroverde daar het slachtoffer van. Dat zie je vandaag zeer duidelijk in de Verenigde Staten, de lokale regeringen zitten allemaal diep in de rode cijfers. In Californië heeft die Arnold Sweinhund bespaard op de dienstverlening voor gehandicapte kinderen.. Hij bespaarde op de maaltijden voor ouderlingen die thuis willen blijven, voor sommige van die mensen is dat hun enige maaltijd van de dag. Je ziet hoe het Empire steeds meer nodig heeft om zich overreind te houden, het militaire budget moet om en bij de 600 biljoen $ bedragen. En waar komt dat geld vandaan, wel van ons natuurlijk, van de gewone mensen hun belastingen. Het empire vreet aan de republiek, ook vandaag is dat zo.

Je bent blijkbaar heel erg pessimistisch

Neen hoor. Het verzet in Irak vind ik hartverwarmend. Ik vind het spijtig dat er zoveel onschuldige mensen doodgaan, zelfs voor die jongen Amerikanen. Ik ontmoette een aantal van jongen soldaten die bij hun terugkomst heel gepolitiseerd raakten, en dan denk je : ?gelukkig dat hij het overleefde?. Hun visie enkel jaren gelden was nog dat ze hen na het andere en dan het volgende land zouden veroveren, ze zouden controle over alle grondstoffen verwerven, ... dat alles is nu wel even gestopt. De massale betogingen over de gehele wereld is iets waar ze rekening mee moeten houden. Al dat verzet ontnuchterde hen uit hun euforie.

Er bestaat een heel spectrum aan soorten kapitalisme, van het soort dat je in Denemarken vind tot de soort die je in Argentinië of wat is nu ook weer het meest achterlijke kapitalisme, Turkije, .... De USA eigenlijk wel ja, neem maar de USA. Dus zelfs binnen de grenzen van het kapitalisme is er ruimte voor allerlei soorten van hervormingen. --- even stilte---

Het verkiezingssysteem is anderzijds wel een echt misbaksel, dat is zo'n teleurstelling.

Vind je dan dat het geen zin heeft om veel energie te steken in de verkiezingen, maakt het enig verschil uit of het nu Bush of Kerry is die verkozen wordt.

Je zal mij niet horen zeggen dat de beweging nu al haar energie moet investeren in een verkiezingscampagne, maar ik ben het niet eens met die mensen die zeggen dat het allemaal niets uitmaakt.
Het maakt wel degelijk een verschil uit wie er verkozen wordt.

Zou je dan liever Kerry verkozen zien?

Hij is natuurlijk vreselijk maar ja, ik zal voor hem stemmen. Bush dat is een reactionaire van de ergste soort, hij steunt de fascisten, als hij het op zijn manier zou mogen doen dan zou hij de verkiezingen afschaffen de grondwet herschrijven,... Kerry is natuurlijk een afschuwelijk kandidaat, hij is nep, ... hij komt niet zeer sympathiek over, en ik denk zelfs dat hij niet eens in staat zal zijn om Bush te verslaan. Too bad.
Ik ben daar zeer ongelukkig over maar ik zal voor Kerry stemmen.

Kijk toen Reagan aan de macht kwam dan brak de hel los in El Salvador, de doodseskader kregen volop steun, .... ze hebben er de hele progressieve beweging vernietigd. Indien Cartner de verkiezingen had gewonnen dan was dat waarschijnlijk anders geweest. Ik weet wel het was onder Cartner dat ze de interventie in Afganistan zijn begonnen, en onder Clinton bombardeerden ze Joegoslavië, ... ik weet dat allemaal wel. Maar in de derde wereld zeggen ze dat het een verschil uitmaakt wie er aan de macht is. Toen Reagan aan de macht kwam voelden ze zich daar echt slecht bij, en ze hadden gelijk, kijk maar naar El Salvador, Nicaragua,...

Dat moet toch veel discussie veroorzaken binnen de vredesbeweging en onder progressieven. Mensen als Michael Moore die steken nu al hun energie in het verslaan van Bush.

Alles wat mensen nu doen in een progressieve richting moet je verwelkomen. Als er mensen zijn die al hun energie willen steken in het verslaan van Bush, dan moeten ze dat doen. De ?American liberals? die spreken tegenwoordig onze taal: ze zijn boos, ze haten Bush, ze zeggen dat het allemaal voor multinationals is, ze beginnen te radicaliseren. Daardoor beginnen ze ook in te zien dat het eigenlijk fundamenteel verkeerd zit. Ik denk dat dat belangrijk is.

http://www.indymedia.be/news/2004/04/83604.php


The Goals of US Global Interventionism

by Michael Parenti  

Testimony before the BRussells Tribunal, Brussels ,  16 April 2004  

The history of US Foreign policy, especially after World War II, is a history of bloody repressive interventions. Most Americans would be shocked to hear of it. The difference between what they think US rulers are doing in the world, and what those rulers actually are doing, represents one of the great propaganda victories of modern history. Here are some of the facts:

         US leaders profess a dedication to democracy, yet over the last 50 years the US national security state has been a key force in overthrowing reformist democratic governments in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece (twice), Argentina (twice), Haiti (twice), Bolivia, and other countries (these are all incomplete listings)---to be replaced with procapitalist military regimes that opened their markets, resources, and cheap labor to US corporate investors on terms completely favorable to the investors.

         US rulers have actively pursued covert actions or proxy mercenary wars against popular revolutionary governments in Cuba , Angola , Mozambique , Ethiopia , Portugal , South Yemen , Nicaragua , Cambodia , East Timor , Western Sahara , and elsewhere.

         US rulers have actively tried to subvert or otherwise destabilize reformist governments in Egypt , Lebanon , Peru ,  Iran (under Mossadegh), Syria , Zaire (under Lumumba), Jamaica , Venezuela , the Fiji Islands , and Afghanistan (before  the Soviets ever went into the country).

Since World War  II, US direct military invasion or aerial attack or both, using US armed forces, were carried out against Vietnam, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Somalia, and Iraq (twice).

         And look at the human costs:

● More than a hundred thousand have perished in Iraq over the last fourteen years of bombings, sanctions, invasion, and occupation.

         ● An estimated 10,000 were killed by the US military incursion in Somalia .

         ● Three million dead in Vietnam , with 200,000 missing.

         ● About a half million killed in Laos , and more than that in Cambodia .

         ● A million massacred in Indonesia and 300,000 in East Timor .

         ● Some 80,000 killed in El Salvador

         ● In Guatemala, it was belatedly acknowledged by President Clinton, 205,000 murdered by death squads and extermination programs by a Guatemalan army that was trained, equipped, and financed by the United States.

         ● Over a million perished in Mozambique and some two million in Angola in CIA sponsored wars of attrition.

         ● All through the Middle East ---in Turkey , Iraq , Iran , Egypt , Syria , Saudi Arabia , Palestine , and Lebanon ---popular movements have been crushed and autocratic rulers bolstered.

         And we should add the many millions more who suffered the loss of loved ones, and the misery of wounds and injury, bereavement, impoverishment, and pain, faced with the destruction of their economies and infrastructures, the loss of future happiness.

         US intervention in Africa is a story in itself. Through the World Bank, and the IMF,  US leaders have demolished African economies, including their public health and education sectors. Most African nations have sunk into a debt structure that leaves them in peonage to Western investors.  US leaders also have fueled eleven wars on the African continent, resulting in the death of some seven million people, with millions more facing starvation, and an ever deepening poverty. Washington has given arms and military training to 50 African countries (out of a total of 53), helping Africa to become the most war-torn region in the world.

The more war ravaged and poverty stricken are the African nations, the more ready they are to sell their labor and abundant natural resources at rockbottom prices to the United States and other Western interests. Almost 80 percent of the strategic minerals that the USA requires are extracted from Africa , including cobalt, platinum, gold, chromium, manganese, and uranium, ingredients needed to make jet engines, automotive vehicles, missiles, electronic components, iron, and steel.

         Africa also accounts for 18 percent of US oil imports (as compared to 25 percent from the Middle East), with new reserves yet to be tapped. According to the African Oil Policy Initiative Group (composed of representatives from the Bush Administration, the oil industry, Congress, and some foreign consultants), Washington intends to establish a regional military command structure in Africa “which could produce significant dividends in the protection of US investments.”

         In carrying out these interventions, US militarists have employed the most terrible methods, including cluster bombs, depleted uranium (used extensively in Iraq and Yugoslavia), and chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange used in about a dozen counties. In addition, they have encouraged drug trafficking: heroin in Afghanistan and cocaine from Latin America . And US rulers have supported death squads, assassination teams, and torturers against dissident leaders, labor organizers, clergy, students, teachers, peasant populations. They have used the financial grip of the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and other such agencies to impose merciless cutbacks, privatization, sanctions, and embargoes on debtor nations.

         These are not just lists of injustices that I have confected from my own imagination. All this is a matter of public record (although, to be sure, some portions of the public record is much less public than other portions).

         Now there is no “rogue state,” no “axis of evil,” no communist country that has this record of criminal aggression against other nations and peoples as perpetrated by US rulers.  But it is not enough to denounce these actions. We must also try to explain them.

     If we are to believe US rulers, they intervene to defend democracy, thwart aggression, fight terrorism, rescue a besieged nation, overthrow a corrupt and brutal tyrant, and the like.

How do we determine that this is true or false? The problem is we are debating intent or motive. But no one has ever seen an intent or motive. It is a nonempirical thing. Motive is always ascribed, inferred, or deduced.

       Of course there are empirical refutations of certain assertions of intent. When US rulers say they are attacking Iraq because of its links to al Qaeda or its weapons of mass destruction. This is a statement of motive that rests on empirical evidence or, in this case, nonevidence.

      When US rulers say they are bombing Yugoslavia to stop the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, we can note that the mass exodus from Kosovo began after the bombing started and that Albanian refugees say they fled because of the bombing. So again we have evidence that suggests something contrary to what the warmakers are professing. Or when US rulers say they bombed Yugoslavia because of the “genocidal slaughter” of 100,000 Albanians, with hundreds of victims dumped in the Trepca mines, we can point out that (a) the war began well before this information became public, (b) the 100,000 bodies were never found, not any in the Trepca mines or elsewhere, and (b) of the several thousand bodies found there usually was no determination of cause of death or nationality of the corpses.

      However, such a refutation might tell us that the original statement was mistaken or misleading but it does not demonstrate intent as such. How then do we decide who is telling the truth? We cannot run laboratory tests with history, but  we can observe repeatable patterns and consistencies. We can observe that any leader or political movement or nation that attempts to depart from the free-market global system, that pursues any kind of redistributive politics for the general populace, that attempts to use its land, labor, capital, natural resources, and markets in self-developing, self-defining ways is subjected to demonization, denigrated as a threat to regional stability, corrupt, oppressive, or just inexplicably “anti-American” or “anti-West.”

         There is nothing particularly original in this interventionist scenario. Again and again this or that leadership is designated an evil menace and the country a rogue state, then US leaders claim license to undermine that country’s government with sanctions, trade embargoes, economic sabotage, subversive destabilization, mercenary paramilitaries, or if necessary direct aerial attacks and invasion by US forces. This formula has been used for generations, most recently against Allende in Chile, Qaddafi in Libya, the New Jewel Movement in Grenada, Noriega in Panama, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Milosevic in Yugoslavia, the FARC guerrillas in Colombia, the Soviet-support revolutionary government in Afghanistan, Chavez in Venezuela, Aristide in Haiti, and Saddam in Iraq (who truly was an oppressor but one whom the US previously had supported for years).

  Look at the consistent pattern of US global interventionism. Since World War II the US government has given some $240 billion in military aid to train, equip, and subsidize some 2.3 million troops and internal-security forces in more than ninety countries, not to defend these nations from outside invasion-—since few have ever been threatened by attack from neighboring countries---but to protect ruling oligarchs and multinational corporate investors from the dangers of domestic insurgency.

      How can we determine the purpose of this military aid? By observing that, first, US-supported military and security forces and death squads in these various countries have been used repeatedly to destroy popular reformist movements and insurgencies within their own borders that advocate some kind of egalitarian redistributive politics. Second,  US sponsored forces have never been used to assist a popular reformist, let alone revolutionary, movement or government in any of these nations, not in Guatemala or Nicaragua, not in Palestine or Lebanon, not in South Africa or South Korea, not anywhere. Not in China ---until China opened its economy to massive private investment with millions of Chinese workers laboring without a contract, without protections, twelve-hour days for miserable pay. No friendship shown toward China until that country privatized and dismantled its public health system and other human services. And US rulers never assisted revolutionary Vietnam ---until it began doing the same as China . Nor was Libya shown anything but hostility until 2004 when Qaddafi promised to open the country to western investment.

         For additional consistent patterns look at the regimes that US rulers have supported: The ones most likely to win US favor are those that are integrated into the corporate-dominated, free-market global system, that leave their economies open to foreign penetration on terms that are singularly favorable to transnational, privatized, deregulated investment, that adopt a neoliberal mode of maldevelopment which starves out the public sector, mostly rightwing or rightward  moving client states, all deemed “pro-West” and “friendly toward America.” Some prime examples would be: Chile under Pinochet, the Philippines under Marcos , Zaire under Mobutu , Egypt under Sadat , Peru under Fujimora , South Africa under apartheid, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait under feudalism, Turkey , Pakistan , Nigeria and others under police-state autocracies.  How can US rulers claim to be propagating democracy with a record of support for regimes of that ilk?

         Earlier I said we cannot test history as in a laboratory situation. But sometimes the force of events does put intent and motive to the test. Thus for decades we were told that the US needed enormous military budgets and military bases around the world to contain the Soviet Communist Menace that threatened to encircle and devour us. US militarism supposedly was only an innocent necessity to contain Communist aggression. Some of us argued otherwise, saying that if the Soviet Union were to disappear the United States would still pursue a policy of imperialist domination.

         Then history made its own laboratory test, removing a variable from the equation. The Soviet Union did disappear and what do we have?  The US military budget is bigger than ever and growing at a faster rate than ever; all the Cold War weapons programs were continued; almost all the military bases abroad were kept open and new ones have been established in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East; and the US has pursued interventionist wars more violently and frequently than ever.

         We often encounter what I call the “other variables” argument: US policy is not motivated exclusively by narrow material considerations, we hear; there are other factors such as culture, ideology or broader strategic considerations. The western intellectual world is overpopulated by people whose primary dedication is to deny or at least diminish the importance of material interests by conjuring these other considerations at every opportunity.

But who said that material interests are the only thing that motivates political protagonists? To show that something is central or very important does not oblige us to prove that it is the one and only factor. And why are we to assume that other factors such as culture, ideology, ethnic identity, or morality are themselves separate and apart from material forces.

Culture is mediated through a socio-economic structure, and therefore is often shaped by dominant material interests. It is not something mutually exclusive of economic forces. To the assertion that military intervention is not motivated by narrow economic interests but by broader strategic interests, I would ask: What in the world is so narrow  about material interests? They consume much of the necessity of life and society. Whole populations and nations have been wiped out in the pursuit of ruling class wealth. The planet’s ecology itself has been put at risk because of the capital accumulation of a fossil-fuel driven world economy.

And why should strategic interests be considered broader?  What in fact is a strategic interest? A nation has a strategic interest in a region because the region has some value to it or because the region has entrée to another area that has value. And what often gives it value is its economic resources or class control considerations.

Consider Iraq . There are three basic reasons why the US ruling class supports the invasion and occupation of that country, the same three basic considerations that dictate US interventions elsewhere.

First,  Iraq was not part of the global free-market system. It had the temerity to be a self-defining and self-developing nation not completely a “pro-West” client state. Worse still, its economy was completely publicly owned, causing US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to damn it as a “Stalinized economy.” There is now a special commission in Iraq whose sole task is to privatize the economy. So billions of dollars in public capital are now being privatized, including hotels, utilities, refineries, factories, media, air routes, and-—need I say it---oil wells. Billions in public capital that had been created by the Iraqi people and belonged to them is being stolen away and “sold” at token prices to large private investors or contractors. So the Iraqi people are being made to pay much of the cost of their own oppression.

Second,  as a self-defining country that was seeking an alternate path outside the US-dominated corporate global system, Iraq was feared as a potential regional power, one that could coalesce with other nations in the area. But the goal of US globalism is to prevent the emergence of any regional or competing superpower that would challenge US hegemony. The goal is to keep the rest of the world relatively poor, dependent, and weak, to impose the Third Worldization of everywhere, including Europe and North America .

Third, there is the age-old imperialist interest of colonial plunder. Iraq has the second largest reserve of oil, some 113 billion barrels of fine quality crude, which at today’s prices is worth upwards of $4 trillion. I submit that $4 trillion is not a “narrow” economic interest but an enormously broad and powerful one.

All three of these explanations are somewhat different but interrelated and mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive. The presence of one does not dilute or refute the other. All three explain the war against Iraq . It was not a war against weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, or to unseat Saddam Hussein. There were no weapons of mass destruction, no Iraqi links to al Qaeda terrorism, and Saddam has been captured, yet the Americans continue to occupy the country and kill its inhabitants.

Nor are moral considerations and ideological postures mutually exclusive of material considerations---except in the minds of those whose preoccupation is to demonstrate that Marxism is “reductionist.” All rulers, all movements, all nations believe in their own virtue. No ruling empire stands naked in its ruthless expropriation, all adopt a self-justifying ideological gloss. But this is no reason for discarding the class-power realities of imperialist aggrandizement.

US policy, we hear from its defenders, is not motivated by a crass materialism but by an elevated moral and humanitarian dimension. Let’s look at one manifestation of that morality in action.

In its report, Rebuilding America’s Defenses,  the Project for a New American Century suggests that the United States might see fit to develop biological weapons that “can target specific genotypes” in order to “transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.” Here indeed is a perfect example of ruling-class morality and self-justifying ideology. In the hands of others, biotech weapons are instruments of terror; in our hands they are useful instruments of virtue. How righteous is the sword of our Lord. If ever you want to detect the evil intent of the aggressors, just listen to their professions of virtue and morality.

But please note that their ideological stance, while working with an effect of its own, offers nothing that challenges and much that conveniently supports the politico-economic interests of US global capitalism.

 

Michael Parenti is a political scientist and historian who has authored 18 books and 250 articles. His most recent books are The Assassination of Julius Caesar  (2003) and Superpatriotism (2004).


Project for a New American Century

by Michael Parenti  

The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is an American  right-wing think tank that has exercised an inordinate influence over US imperialist policy. A lengthy report of September 2000 titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses lays out PNAC’s vision for US global control, including a huge boost in military spending, an unwillingness to be bound by the restraints of international law,  and a dramatic expansion of a US military presence and use of force around the world.[1]  This is exactly the course that the White House has pursued.

Not only did the PNAC report serve as a blueprint for the Bush Administration, but many of PNAC’s members became White House policymakers, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of State John Bolton. Numerous other PNAC members came to occupy important posts in the Bush Administration, mostly in the Defense and State Departments.[2]

The goal of the PNAC plan is to take full advantage of America ’s unparalleled ability to maintain the United States “as the world’s preeminent power.” The intent is anything but defensive. Every means of coercion and domination is to be assiduously pursued. “The goal,” concludes Gregory Elich, “is nothing less than to expose the entire globe to the threat of US aggression while depriving relatively well-armed nations of the means of defense. . . .”[3] 

The PNAC report bemoaned the fact that US public opinion might not go along with a totalistic global policy unless it felt compelled to do so in response to “some catastrophic and catalyzing event---like a new Pearl Harbor .” In another of those seemingly fortuitous happenings that work so well for the plutocracy, the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon served as just such a catastrophic catalyst. The White House seems to have done nothing to prevent the attacks despite any number of warnings. [4]   The disaster of 11 September 2001 served US rulers well. Like another Pearl Harbor indeed, it mobilized public opinion behind US global objectives. After 9/11, and in keeping with the PNAC plan, Bush took a number of momentous steps:

● First, he announced a “war on terrorism,” inviting all the nations and organizations of the world to get in lockstep behind his administration, declaring: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Heretofore all other countries were to be categorized as either cooperative  (accepting US hegemony) or adversarial (not letting US leaders have their way in all things). Any recalcitrant nation ran the risk of being targeted for US attack.

● The White House then declared that it would not be bound by any previous treaties or accords. International law was now nothing but an irksome restraint that the world’s only superpower would brush aside whenever it wanted.

● Bush announced the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The nuclear arms race was to resume, and the USA would win it handily by establishing total domination of land, air, sea, and outer space.

● Bush removed the United States ’s signature from the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. The court was a wonderful step taken by many nations to prosecute leaders and operatives of any nation who violated the human rights of others. Instead US leaders pressured various countries to grant immunity from prosecution for all US governmental and military personal.

● The White House announced its right to wage preemptive war against any nation it disliked. Various countries were fingered as being on Uncle Sam’s hit list—some of the same ones as listed in the PNAC plan: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Syria for starters.

● War was pursued in Afghanistan , and major military bases were established in several other Central Asian states.

● A war of conquest was launched against Iraq . The PNAC plan, published a full year before the September 2001 attacks, shows that the Bush Administration had intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was still in power.

● The White House embarked upon a massive escalation in military spending, with  $176 billion allocated in just the first six months of the war against Iraq . Given the enormous deficit that resulted from this kind of spending and tax breaks, Republicans called for cuts in the domestic budget, specifically such frivolous luxuries as health care for the elderly, disability assistance, environmental regulations and protections, old-age pensions, and public education. So the Empire feeds off the Republic.

   The PNAC plan also envisions a strategic confrontation with China , and a still greater permanent military presence in every corner of the world. The objective is not just power for its own sake but power to control the world’s natural resources and markets, power to privatize and deregulate the economies of every nation in the world, and power to hoist upon the backs of peoples everywhere---including North America ---the blessings of an untrammeled global “free market.” The end goal is to insure not merely the supremacy of global capitalism as such, but the supremacy of American  global capitalism by preventing the emergence of any other potentially competing superpower or, for that matter, any potential regional power such as Iraq .

   This is not our conjecture. In so many words, the PNAC  inspired reactionaries who populate the White House say so themselves.

 

Michael Parenti’s most recent books are The Assassination of Julius Caesar and Superpatriotism. For more about him, visit www.MichaelParenti.org  

[1] Gregory Elich, “Imperial Enterprise: War Mongers Run Amuck,” Swans, March 17, 2003 , www.swans.com. 

2 Other PNAC members in top positions in the Bush Administration: Richard Perle, Eliot Cohen, Devon Cross, Stephen Cambone, Richard Armitage, Lewis Libby, Don Zakheim, and William Kristol.

3 Elich, “Imperial Enterprise .”

4 Michael Meacher in Guardian ( UK ), 6 September 2003 ; also Daily Telegraph ( UK ), 16 September 2001 ; and Newsweek, 20 May 2002 .


To Kill Iraq, the reasons why.

May 2003 (updated)

In October 2002, after several days of full-dress debate in the House and Senate, the US Congress fell into line 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 gave varied and unpersuasive reasons to justify the "war"---actually a one-sided massacre--- against Iraq. They claimed it was necessary to insure the safety and security of the Middle East and of the United States itself, for Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear missiles. But as of 1998, UN inspection teams determined that Iraq had no such nuclear capability and actually had been in compliance with yearly disarmament inspections. And, as of February 2003, UN inspection teams found little to support Bush's case for aggression, despite Colin Powell's slide-show shenanigans before the United Nations.

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? 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 terrorist 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 waged death squad terrorist campaigns in scores of countries, and how they 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 Halabja was committed by the Iranians, not the Iraqis (New York Times, 24 January 2003). 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, El 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 democrat, left-progressive, and communist 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 "deranged." 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 think 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 everywhere-including 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 primarily 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 base-although much of its fertile land is 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). 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 intermittent bombings and severe economic sanctions did achieve a kind of counterrevolutionary rollback from afar.

Soon after the overthrow 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 had many problems but was still relatively prosperous, with some 80 percent of it publicly owned. (Whether this qualified Yugoslavia as a socialist country in the eyes of all leftists is not the question. It was all too socialist for US policymakers.) 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, deindustrialized, and opened to Western corporate penetration on terms that are completely favorable to the investors. We see this happening most recently in Serbia. The US corporate media have ignored Serbia since Milosevic was arrested and the democratically elected parliament-with a first-time Socialist Party majority-was overthrown. Under the new "pro-West" government, everything in Serbia is now being privatized at garage sale prices. Human service, jobs, and pension funds are disappearing. Unemployment, inflation, and poverty are skyrocketing, as is crime, hunger, homelessness, prostitution, and suicide.

Judging from what has been happening in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, 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 emerge. 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 in order to 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 battering by US military forces 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 $35 a barrel, Iraq's supply comes to almost $4 trillion dollars. But not a drop of it belongs to the US oil cartel; it is all state owned. Baghdad has offered exploratory concessions 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 were interested in doing with Iraqi oil---given the glut and slumping price of crude during the late 1990s---was keep it off the market for awhile. As the London Financial Times (24 February 1998) reported, oil prices fell sharply because the agreement between the United Nations and Iraq that would allow Baghdad to sell oil on the world market "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 posed 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." Direct control and ownership of Iraqi oil will be the surest way to keep it off the world market when the price is not right, and the surest way to profit from its sale when oil prices rise substantially---as they have since the 1990s.

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, now reemerged as the party of patriotism, national defense, and strong military leadership to gain 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 US "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 (or more), 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.

War also becomes an excuse to further circumscribe our civil liberties, such as they are. The siege psychology fostered by perpetual war makes dissent all that much more "unpatriotic." Under newly enacted repressive legislation almost any critical effort against existing policy can be defined as "giving aid and comfort to terrorism." Contrary to the established myth that capitalism fosters democracy, the moneyed class has always opposed the broadening of popular rights and has always shown itself hostile to any kind of democratic activism and militancy.

Political democracy has historically been a weapon used by the people to defend themselves against the abuses of wealth. So it was in the ancient Greek and Roman republics and so it remains to this day. Consequently, the plutocrats wage war not only against the public sector and against the people's standard of living, but also against the very democratic rights that the populace utilizes to defend or advance its economic well-being.

Liberal intellectuals are never happier than when, with patronizing smiles, they can dilate on the stupidity of George W. 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 (Verso): and the 7th edition of Democracy for the Few (Wadsworth). And most recently, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome, published by The New Press.