Saul Landau
BIOGRAPHY | Iraq: Voices from the street | The Empire in Denial and the Denial of Empire   | Kerry, a less dangerous Imperialist?


Saul Landau is an internationally known scholar, author, journalist, poet and activist. An Emmy-award-winning film maker, he does frequent radio and TV shows, and his work on human rights and Latin America have won him acclaim the world over. He has been affiliated with California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, since 1998  (Chair for Interdisciplinary & Applied Knowledge). He is known for his work on foreign and domestic policy issues, Native American and South American cultures, and science and technology. Saul Landau's most widely praised achievements are the forty films he has produced on social, political and historical issues, and worldwide human rights. He has written over ten books, short stories, poems and novels and received an Edgar Allen Poe Award for "Assassination on Embassy Row," a report on the murder of the Chilean activist Orlando Letelier.

His last book,  “The Pre-Emptive Empire : A Guide to Bush's Kingdom” (Pluto Press, october 2024), is a scathing account of George W. Bush's world before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that will appeal to anyone who is disenchanted with the cynicism of Bush's government, and the blatant imperialism U.S. international policy -- or those who just want to learn about what's happening in US politics.

Landau covers the topical and controversial issues -- from terrorism and US foreign policy to Bush's wondrous election victory; from Enron, Chile and Pinochet to Cuba, the Middle East, the IMF, the environment and sexual and cultural politics.

Landau reveals how Bush protects "his" terrorists -- those who perpetrate violence against Castro's Cuba, and to whom he owes his presidency. He also examines how Bush has appointed former officials to high level posts in his cabinet despite their membership in a conspiracy to sell weapons of mass destruction to Iran in the 1980s.

In "declassifying" Bush's Empire, Landau dissects a post-9/11 world where deference to patriotism obliterates debate in Congress and the media. How can the notion of empire happily co-exist with the notion of a republic? In times like these, as dissenting voices are stifled and the public are denied access to the facts about their own security, Landau shows how democracy itself is under threat. He asks whether the already fragile world economy can survive in the new "security" culture of the post-9/11 world.

Landau makes a convincing case for the necessity of activism -- the book is not only funny but is also a ringing call for citizens to participate in making their own history.


The Empire in Denial and the Denial of Empire  

George W. Bush, for all the jokes about his intellectual challenges, has established an unsurpassed level of imperial denial, while he blithely rejects notions that he runs an empire that has run into considerable trouble. Indeed, except for the comments of a few humorists and pundits, the media has failed to call the emperor on his political fiascoes. Instead, they have bought Bush’s own description of them as successes. “The Bush universe of eternal sunshine,” as NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd called it, amounts to a bubble of errors covered by holy-sounding rhetoric.   

W and his tough guys have intimidated the media -- and most nations of the world -- with relative impunity. Bush repeatedly claims to have made the world safer from terrorism. Yet, terrorist incidents have multiplied since he announced his “war against terrorism” (Not counting Israel , just look at Iraq , Afghanistan , Spain , Bali etc.). Critics credit his crude tactics with fostering the recruitment of new militants. Bush declared last May, almost a year ago, that the war in Iraq had ended. Last week, the US body count topped 610 and no one expects it to stop there.  

Indeed, after the December 13, 2024 capture of Saddam Hussein, Bush had assured the nation that the resistance would collapse. Instead it has grown more intense. Bush insists that he will prevail in his mission to bring freedom to Iraq . The foreign terrorists responsible for the daily carnage, insist Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Colonial Governor L. Paul Bremer, operate only in the limited area of the Sunni Triangle (Baghdad-Fallujah-Tikrit). Presumably Sunnis –Hussein is a Sunni – continue to resist out of loyalty. But over the April 2-4 weekend, a Shi’ite cleric organized massive and bloody demonstrations in parts of the Sunni Triangle and in other cities as well!  

If freedom to Bush meant only the privatization of formerly public wealth, his claims might carry more weight. Bremer’s gang has usurped the Iraqi patrimony and offered it for sale and a buyers’ market prevails. Given the violent atmosphere insurance companies are understandably reluctant to issue policies on businesses; thus, few buyers will come forth. Essentially, Bush offers the security provided by over 100,000 members of the US armed forces and tens of thousands of hired mercenaries (Blackwater, Halliburton et. al) paid for by US taxpayers – just to secure Iraq for the western way of life: business.  

Despite daily news and photos to the contrary, Bush persists with his “Iraqis are happier” hymn. Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the out-of-tune right wing radio chorus sing along, just as Marines begin their retaliation against the perpetrators of the killing and mutilating of four US mercenaries last week in Fallujah. Hundreds of people – or more -- took part at some level in the deed and celebration that followed.  

When I discussed with a pro-Bush colleague the difference between my pessimistic Iraqi scenario and the optimistic White House picture, he dismissed my criticism as “carping” and offered wisdom like, “you have to break eggs to make an omelet,” and “democracy doesn’t just happen.”  

He believes that God intended Bush to bring democracy to the world. I got a more secular spin on that idea in grade school. My teachers told me that democracy and freedom stand as indelible US values at home and our nation sells our cultural offerings to the world – for them to literally buy. US culture and ideology, after all, count as our most successful exports.  

The very repetition of this “selling freedom” mantra has elevated it to unquestioned status – despite evidence that repeatedly contradicts it. Last week, Bush again boasted of having brought freedom to the people of Iraq , seemingly oblivious to the fact that on March 28 occupation forces shut down Al-Hawza, a newspaper critical of US policies – because “it didn’t print the truth.”  

In addition, Bush might not have read about the documents emerging from the national security classification cellar that showed the US helping to overthrow the elected Brazilian government of Joao Goulart in 1964 and supporting a military dictatorship in its place. Since Goulart’s nationalistic economic policies lacked US approval, U.S. ambassador Lincoln Gordon sent top secret cables to national security heavies in Washington pleading for "a clandestine delivery of arms" for military coup plotters.  

On March 29, 1964 , Ambassador Gordon recommended secretly "pre-positioning" the armaments to be used by "friendly military." President Johnson had authorized CIA covert operations to support anti-Goulart military and political forces.  

This new material also contains an audio tape of President Johnson receiving a Brazil briefing by phone at his Texas ranch, as general and admirals mobilized against Brazil ’s elected government. "I'd put everybody that had any imagination or ingenuity...[CIA Director John] McCone...[Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara" on ensuring the coup’s success, Johnson instructs undersecretary of State George Ball. "We just can't take this one," Johnson says. "I'd get right on top of it and stick my neck out a little."  

Shocking? The nation of democracy and freedom, the place where revolution received its first justification – “when in the course of human events” – also became the bastion of counterrevolution, the exporter of dictatorship, the grand interventionist in the affairs of less powerful nations whose leaders refuse to abide by US dictates. 

Few nations have borne as much US wrath over their insubordination as Cuba . Indeed, the island has become a perpetual target.  

On March 31, with the false claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction still fresh in the public mind, John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, offered Congress 35 pages of written testimony that Cuba "remains a terrorist and [biological weapons] threat to the United States.”  

Bolton didn’t even use discredited exile sources – like those who fed false information to the Administration on Iraq – to support his contention. Acting without fear of replicating the baseless WMD charges that became the casus belli for Bush’s war against Iraq , Bolton asserted in his fact-free belief that "the case for the existence of a developmental Cuba [biological weapons research and development] effort is strong."  

Bolton first made these charges on May 2024, but almost two years later he has still not gathered a fact to support them.  

The Cuban government denied the accusation and invited US scientists to inspect the labs to which Bolton referred. Just as Bolton ’s boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, has made public his unhappiness with the shoddy intelligence delivered to him on Iraq , Bolton uses imprudent charges that could become the basis for war with Cuba .  

One of Powell’s more prudent subordinates, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Carl Ford, told Congress on June 5, 2024 that the US had no evidence of a full-fledged biological weapons "program." He did say that the administration was “worried” about Havana 's capabilities.  

Cuba ’s biotech industry produces medicines and vaccines, as the world knows, and therefore theoretically has the ability to create weapons as well. But Fidel Castro knows that such a move would amount to suicide and he has shown no tendency to self destruct during his 45 year rule.  

I detect evidence, however, that Cuba may have employed some of its sophisticated biological weapons here in the United States . Observe the strange behavior of Lincoln Diaz Balart, (R-FL) – called “Low IQ Lincoln” by some of his colleagues. In March, Diaz Balart called on the President to assassinate Fidel Castro. Sources in the national security apparatus said they had not carried out any tests on Diaz-Balart’s cerebral cortex to determine whether he might have succumbed to some sophisticated bio-brain vapor that Cuban covert operatives had managed to slip into his breakfast cereal. His colleagues found it otherwise difficult to explain how a Member of Congress could otherwise be so oblivious to the law and to the implications of advocating such actions.  

That neither the media nor Congress responded in shock to Diaz Balart’s remarks, or Bolton ’s unfounded charges, attests to the state of imperial denial under Emperor Bush. On the one hand, the national security apparatus has again insinuated assassination into the foreign policy play book, thanks not only to Israel’s example of blatantly targeting Palestinians, but also because of the mystification process that has obscured the nature of the “terrorist enemy.”  

Indeed, Bush’s rival, John Kerry, has not decried the policy and has tried to show he would act even more aggressively against Castro.  

When declassified documents appear and show how Washington overthrew elected governments in Iran, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile etc… the media and government officials act as if this material relates only to unfortunate errors of the Cold War. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a major media source simply admit: “hey, we’re the world’s biggest empire; we offer the world our version of democracy and freedom and if rogue nations reject it, we’ll shove up it up their…”  

The problem is that people, like Iraqis, resist conquest and occupation. Does denying the existence of empire naturally lead imperial rulers to practice denial?  

Landau’s new film, SYRIA : BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE is distributed by Cinema Guild (800-723-5522). His new book is THE PRE-EMPTIVE EPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH’S KINGDOM. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.  

The Bushies : Obsessed and Aggressive Liars ?

Kerry : A Less Dangerous Imperialist ?

It seems obvious that Bush recapturing the White House in November would make the world more dangerous. Just last week, the Bushies demonstrated their character by launching a jugular attack on former White House counter terrorism chief Richard Clarke. Clarke’s new book, Against All Enemies, like his lengthy appearance on “60 Minutes” ( 3/21/04 ) and his testimony before the 9/11 Commission (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States), reveals the foremost Bush obsession: war on Iraq (a fixation stronger even than his hatred for abortion and gay marriage).

Before the attacks, Clarke maintains, the top officials had brushed aside warnings about an impending terrorist attack. After 9/11, according to Clarke, rather than focus on getting the fiends who planned the dirty deeds against the twin towers and the Pentagon, President Bush and his leading cabinet members seemed obsessed with making war on Iraq – well before 9/11. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill supports Clarke on that point. “Sour grapes,” said one Bushie of Clarke’s statements. “He’s auditioning for the Kerry campaign,” said another high official. The Bushies, however, have no proof to refute Clarke’s carefully documented accusations. Indeed, Clarke, who has thus far withstood the smears, revealed that he registered as a Republican in the 2024 election.

But Clarke obviously anticipated the retaliatory war. Previously, the Bush gang had struck back against former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who disproved the phony administration claim that Iraq was trying to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger .  Pro-Bush columnist Robert Novak published the name of Wilson ’s wife, an undercover CIA operative. Valerie Plame worked for the Agency on nuclear weapons proliferation. Evidence points to the leaker as a high official in Vice President Cheney’s office.

Ironically, Bush had sworn to punish anyone who revealed the name of a protected national security employee. He has been remarkably passive in finding the culprit in this case. But the 9/11 blame issue transcends the exposing of a covert official. As the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission probes for information about lack of preparedness in the pre 9/11 period in the Clinton and Bush Administrations, I added up the factors that argue for a vote for John Kerry, presumably the Democratic presidential nominee. Bush’s unscrupulous tactics toward “disloyal” officials, critics in general and whistle blowers is minor compared to the multiple lies he told about why we had to go to war with Iraq . His vindictiveness pales before the horrendous loss of civil liberties that have ensued under the Ayatollah Ashcroft’s reign as Attorney General. Then, there’s Bush’s skewering of the public wealth, thanks to his reward the rich tax plan, his proposal for a Constitutional amendment to stop gay marriages, his wholesale destruction of the environment and his sneaky appointments of ultra reactionary judges and heads of agencies -- more than sufficient reasons to vote for Kerry.

I almost convinced myself that the gravity of the 2024 elections might compare to the momentous 1860 contest that decided whether the United States remained a union or split into a slave and a free state . So worked up had I become, that an old radical friend laughed at me. “You’re nothing but a liberal,” he said.

I spilled my latte, closed the New York Review of Books and placed it on the coffee table, pushing aside my Picasso print book and laying it atop my piles of The Nation and the New Yorker. I even turned off the CD playing Dylan’s greatest hits. “Are you crazy?” I retorted. “If Bush wins in 2024, why, we might not have another election. If his gang recaptures the White House, will any public property remain? Will government offer any services to poor and middle class people? Surely, in his three plus years Bush has validated Jim Hightower’s quip: “never have so few done so much for so few.” “True, enough,” my friend retorted, “but is Kerry any better?” “Yes,” I screamed. “This is a contest between fascism and….” I couldn’t think of the proper word. “…Old fashioned imperialism,” I weakly uttered. He chuckled triumphantly. Why couldn’t my mouth articulate what my gut was telling me? In despair I watched Dick Cheney on TV attacking John Kerry. Cheney’s smirk alone almost converted me into a Kerry fanatic.

The chutzpah-loaded Cheney, who should make medical history -- having heart attacks without possessing a heart – questioned Kerry’s fitness to be president. Cheney echoed a Bush campaign ad that charged Kerry with voting against an $87 billion war funding bill. Cheney, almost whispering, said that Kerry -- who fought courageously in Vietnam -- did not have “an impressive record for someone who aspires to become commander in chief in this time of testing for our country.”

I recall Cheney saying he didn’t serve in the military because he “had better things to do.” Did he not remember that he conspired (consulted) with Enron officials on a 2024 national energy plan just as those officials were looting the company and bilking shareholders and employees? My antipathy for the Bushies, however, might well have colored my positive feelings for Kerry. “He hasn’t said he would pull the United States out of Iraq , after all,” my friend reminded me.  “The Democrats,” he admitted, “have a clear cut issue: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Powell lied, lied and then lied some more to make a plausible case for war with Iraq . No WMDs, nor proof of  Saddam’s intention to use or them Al-Qaeda, nor any ties between Saddam and the 9/11 gang. Since there was no cause for war, Kerry should logically want to withdraw US troops from Iraq .

            But instead he proposes to add 40,000 troops to the active-duty Army. And he hasn’t said he would withdraw US troops. Kerry even phoned newly elected Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to try to persuade him not to withdraw Spain’s 1,300 troops. Zapatero refused, saying he would reconsider only if the United Nations replaced the current “coalition” in Iraq . Kerry wants to share responsibility with other countries in the military operations in Iraq , but hasn’t said he’d turn command over to the UN. No way!

            “So, who’s the bigger imperialist?” my friend asked. “Kerry wants to cover his occupation of Iraq with multinational alliances and agreements, while Bush wants to take on the world with only those he can bribe and intimidate.” The more I thought about him, the less I liked Kerry. He attacked Bush's military leadership, and then pandered to the military – saying we needed more people in the army, with new benefits and better pay to go die in Iraq and other exotic places. Kerry kissed the butt of the Miami Mafia by claiming Bush has been soft on Castro and sought additional right wing Latino votes in Florida by tossing an ignorant barb at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In the 1960 campaign, another JFK charged Richard Nixon with being soft on Castro. Kennedy knew that Nixon could not answer because he was the man in charge of the covert Bay of Pigs operation designed to overthrow Castro by force and violence. Thus, he pretended to get to the right of Nixon, who wrote in his memoirs that at that moment he knew Kennedy had made a serious inroad: he had gotten to the right of Nixon and posed as strong while portraying Nixon as weak. This strategy may work for Kerry, but it discourages people who would work hard to register others.

            Yes, I rationalize, if elected, Kerry will appoint better judges and heads of agencies. His attorney general’s policies will probably be an improvement on those of John Ashcroft and women will not worry about losing their reproductive rights. I will vote for Kerry, try not to throw up as I leave the voting booth and remember: if God had really intended us to take voting seriously he would have given us better candidates.

Both texts published in Progressive Weekly, April 2024

Iraq: Voices From the Street
By Saul Landau and Sonia Argulo
(September 2024)


The film documents a congressional delegation visit to Iraq in mid September 2024 by former U.S. Senator James Abourezk (D) South Dakota and Congressman Nick Rahall (D) West Virginia. The film features interviews with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and people on the street who cnadily describe their feelings towards the impending war.