Fool's Crusade, conclusion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon May 19 19:33:46 MDT 2003

In this my final post on Diana Johnstone's "Fool's Crusade", I want to 
address some of the points made in her postscript, which despite being 
written before the war on Iraq is aptly titled "Perpetual War". To give 
these questions the proper attention they deserve, however, it is necessary 
to take a step back and look at some material covered in Chapter Four ("The 
New Imperial Model").

In her discussion of the Albanian lobby in the United States, Johnstone 
makes it clear that the Balkans policy was very much a bipartisan affair. 
Although the prime mover in this lobby was a Republican named Joseph 
DioGuardi, who was of partial Albanian descent, it also tapped into the 
Clinton campaign through the auspices of Ilir Zherka, an Albanian-American. 
Although the Clinton campaign was anxious to court the ethnic vote, no 
Serbs were invited to apply.

One of the most important lobbyists for the Kosovo cause, however, was a 
Croatian. Mira Radievolic Barrata, who went to work for Robert Dole in 
1989, was credited for pushing Congress to lift the arms embargo against 
Bosnian Muslims, a key demand of Joanne Landy, Danny "the Red" Cohn-Bendit 
and other rightward-lurching members of the 1960s generation. Among 
Baratta's biggest boosters in Washington were some names that are no doubt 
familiar to you: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Long 
before these characters had been identified as exclusively promoting 
Zionist interests worldwide, they had no problem raising support for the 
Muslim cause in Bosnia, whose field combatants included many of the same 
elements now demonized by the very same neoconservatives. As Perle himself 
was adviser to the Bosnian Muslims in the Dayton Peace Talks, one can only 
conclude that the only constant in all of this is dedication to US imperial 
interests, and not to any particular deity.

Although there has been emphatic denial in establishment quarters that 
material self-interest--especially related to oil--explained the wars 
against Yugoslavia and Iraq (less so in the latter case), it became very 
clear after the victory in the Balkans that long-term geopolitical 
interests were key. Nothing symbolized this more than Camp Bondsteel, a 
permanent base for US troops in Kosovo. This base dominates a strategic 
corridor in Kosovo guarding mountain passes and in close proximity to 
Thessalonika, a key Greek port.

As Johnstone puts it, Camp Bondsteel is a self-sufficient high tech 
enclave. Guess who supplies all the basics, including electricity, 
transport, fire department, etc. Brown and Root, a subsidiary of 
Halliburton, whose CEO was a guy named Dick Cheney. When George W. Bush 
chose to sign a bill that increased military spending by 1.9 billion 
dollars, guess where he chose to commemorate it. Camp Bondsteel, that's 
where. So those who yearn for a return to the good old days of a Democratic 
presidency might give careful consideration to the way that all this played 
out during Clinton's term in office. When it comes to defending US 
long-term imperial interests, it is strictly a bipartisan affair.

Furthermore, if something like Camp Bondsteel and the Albanian lobby 
represent the convergence of class interests between the two major parties, 
so does the NATO victory itself represent the affinity between Europe and 
the United States. This old boys club has been around since the 1500s 
practically. Except for some unpleasantries in 1914 and then again in 1940, 
the imperialists have always stood on the opposite side of the barricades 
of the colonized. The Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema summed up this 
relationship as follows:

"The crisis of Kosovo created new networks of relations. For example, the 
daily teleconferences between the Foreign Ministers of five countries: the 
United States, Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy. With Kosovo, we 
entered such a group. It isn't written in any official document, but in 
fact, around Kosovo was born a sort of Club. It's difficult to define the 
rules of membership in the noble circle of the great, there exists no statute."


Only the French foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, found himself capable of 
striking a discordant note. He warned that the bloodletting in the Balkans 
was disturbingly similar to the "civilizing mission" of nineteenth century 
French imperialists and to the "white man's burden" celebrated by Rudyard 
Kipling. It is no accident that the bourgeois intelligentsia, including 
figures such as NYU's Niall Ferguson, has begun speaking openly of the 
benefits of imperialism to the benighted denizens of the South.

In a very real sense, the clock has been turned back to this period. With 
the collapse of the Soviet Union, the old justification for imperialist 
intervention is no longer possible. Containing Communism has given way to a 
new set of rationalizations that were mobilized prior to October 1917. When 
the imperialists conducted "rescues" against the Mahdists, the Boxers or 
the Sepoys, the excuse was always about protecting innocent civilians and 
wiping out backward, atavistic revolts.

For those who have had a hard time figuring out why such a large swath of 
the left defected into the imperialist camp, we would remind them that 
history has a tendency to repeat itself--hopefully not in a Viconian sense.

In a January 5, 1898 article titled "The Struggle of Social Democracy and 
the Social Revolution," Social Democratic leader Eduard Bernstein made the 
case for colonial rule over Morocco. Drawing from English socialist 
Cunningham Graham's travel writings, Bernstein stated that there was 
absolutely nothing admirable about Morocco. In such countries where 
feudalism is mixed with slavery, a firm hand is necessary to drag the 
brutes into the civilized world:

"There is a great deal of sound evidence to support the view that, in the 
present state of public opinion in Europe, the subjection of natives to the 
authority of European administration does not always entail a worsening of 
their condition, but often means the opposite. However much violence, 
fraud, and other unworthy actions accompanied the spread of European rule 
in earlier centuries, as they often still do today, the other side of the 
picture is that, under direct European rule, savages are *without exception 
better off* than they were before.

"However much violence, fraud, and other unworthy actions accompanied the 
spread of European rule in earlier centuries, as they often still do today, 
the other side of the picture is that, under direct European rule, savages 
are without exception better off than they were before. Even before the 
arrival of Europeans in Africa, brutal wars, robbery, and slavery were not 
unknown. Indeed, they were the regular order of the day. What was unknown 
was the degree of peace and legal protection made possible by European 
institutions and the consequent sharp rise in food resources..."

Let's be clear about the division on the left that emerged with the wars in 
Yugoslavia, that continued with the recently concluded war in Iraq and that 
now figures in the Cuba petition controversies. It is fundamentally a 
problem of what was known commonly in the Marxist movement as 'social 
patriotism'. The tendency of some leftists, especially those who enjoy 
privileged positions as trade union bureaucrats, parliamentarians, 
professors and journalists, to tail end the foreign policy 
initiatives--including warfare--of their own bourgeoisie has been around 
since the earliest days of imperialism. Our task, of course, is to 
delineate clear class lines and mobilize working people and their allies to 
destroy this irrational system that threatens not only the people of the 
South but us as well. As Marx once said, as long as the Irish are unfree, 
the British workers cannot be free. Substitute Yugoslavia or Iraq for 
Ireland (still unfree) and the task remains the same.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list