[Marxism] Pilger: Bush may be the lesser evil

Clinton Fernandes cfer at deakin.edu.au
Sun Aug 22 04:01:37 MDT 2004

August 23, 2004


[John Pilger's new book, Tell Me No Lies: investigative
journalism and its triumphs, will be published in October by
Jonathan Cape]

Most of the US's recent wars were launched by Democratic
presidents. Why expect better of Kerry? The debate between
US liberals and conservatives is a fake; Bush may be the
lesser evil.

On 6 May last, the US House of Representatives passed a
resolution which, in effect, authorised a "pre-emptive"
attack on Iran. The vote was 376-3. Undeterred by the
accelerating disaster in Iraq, Republicans and Democrats,
wrote one commentator, "once again joined hands to assert
the responsibilities of American power".

The joining of hands across America's illusory political
divide has a long history. The native Americans were
slaughtered, the Philippines laid to waste and Cuba and much
of Latin America brought to heel with "bipartisan" backing.
Wading through the blood, a new breed of popular historian,
the journalist in the pay of rich newspaper owners, spun the
heroic myths of a supersect called Americanism, which
advertising and public relations in the 20th century
formalised as an ideology, embracing both conservatism and

In the modern era, most of America's wars have been launched
by liberal Democratic presidents - Harry Truman in Korea,
John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson in Vietnam, Jimmy Carter
in Afghanistan. The fictitious "missile gap" was invented by
Kennedy's liberal New Frontiersmen as a rationale for
keeping the cold war going. In 1964, a Democrat-dominated
Congress gave President Johnson authority to attack Vietnam,
a defenceless peasant nation offering no threat to the
United States. Like the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the
justification was a non- existent "incident" in which, it
was said, two North Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked an
American warship. More than three million deaths and the
ruin of a once bountiful land followed.

During the past 60 years, only once has Congress voted to
limit the president's "right" to terrorise other countries.
This aberration, the Clark Amendment 1975, a product of the
great anti- Vietnam war movement, was repealed in 1985 by
Ronald Reagan.

During Reagan's assaults on central America in the 1980s,
liberal voices such as Tom Wicker of the New York Times,
doyen of the "doves", seriously debated whether or not tiny,
impoverished Nicaragua was a threat to the United States.
These days, terrorism having replaced the red menace,
another fake debate is under way. This is lesser evilism.
Although few liberal-minded voters seem to have illusions
about John Kerry, their need to get rid of the "rogue" Bush
administration is all-consuming. Representing them in
Britain, the Guardian says that the coming presidential
election is "exceptional". "Mr Kerry's flaws and limitations
are evident," says the paper, "but they are put in the shade
by the neoconservative agenda and catastrophic war-making of
Mr Bush. This is an election in which almost the whole world
will breathe a sigh of relief if the incumbent is defeated."

The whole world may well breathe a sigh of relief: the Bush
regime is both dangerous and universally loathed; but that
is not the point. We have debated lesser evilism so often on
both sides of the Atlantic that it is surely time to stop
gesturing at the obvious and to examine critically a system
that produces the Bushes and their Democratic shadows. For
those of us who marvel at our luck in reaching mature years
without having been blown to bits by the warlords of
Americanism, Republican and Democrat, conservative and
liberal, and for the millions all over the world who now
reject the American contagion in political life, the true
issue is clear.

It is the continuation of a project that began more than 500
years ago. The privileges of "discovery and conquest"
granted to Christopher Columbus in 1492, in a world the pope
considered "his property to be disposed according to his
will", have been replaced by another piracy transformed into
the divine will of Americanism and sustained by
technological progress, notably that of the media. "The
threat to independence in the late 20th century from the new
electronics," wrote Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism,
"could be greater than was colonialism itself. We are
beginning to learn that decolonisation was not the
termination of imperial relationships but merely the
extending of a geopolitical web which has been spinning
since the Renaissance. The new media have the power to
penetrate more deeply into a 'receiving' culture than any
previous manifestation of western technology."

Every modern president has been, in large part, a media
creation. Thus, the murderous Reagan is sanctified still;
Rupert Murdoch's Fox Channel and the post-Hutton BBC have
differed only in their forms of adulation. And Bill Clinton
is regarded nostalgically by liberals as flawed but
enlightened; yet Clinton's presidential years were far more
violent than Bush's and his goals were the same: "the
integration of countries into the global free- market
community", the terms of which, noted the New York Times,
"require the United States to be involved in the plumbing
and wiring of nations' internal affairs more deeply than
ever before". The Pentagon's "full-spectrum dominance" was
not the product of the "neo-cons" but of the liberal
Clinton, who approved what was then the greatest war
expenditure in history. According to the Guardian, Clinton's
heir, John Kerry, sends us "energising progressive calls".
It is time to stop this nonsense.

Supremacy is the essence of Americanism; only the veil
changes or slips. In 1976, the Democrat Jimmy Carter
announced "a foreign policy that respects human rights". In
secret, he backed Indonesia's genocide in East Timor and
established the mujahedin in Afghanistan as a terrorist
organisation designed to overthrow the Soviet Union, and
from which came the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It was the liberal
Carter, not Reagan, who laid the ground for George W Bush.
In the past year, I have interviewed Carter's principal
foreign policy overlords - Zbigniew Brzezinski, his national
security adviser, and James Schlesinger, his defence
secretary. No blueprint for the new imperialism is more
respected than Brzezinski's. Invested with biblical
authority by the Bush gang, his 1997 book The Grand
Chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic
imperatives describes American priorities as the economic
subjugation of the Soviet Union and the control of central
Asia and the Middle East.

His analysis says that "local wars" are merely the beginning
of a final conflict leading inexorably to world domination
by the US. "To put it in a terminology that harkens back to
a more brutal age of ancient empires," he writes, "the three
grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent
collusion and maintain security dependence among the
vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to
keep the barbarians from coming together."

It may have been easy once to dismiss this as a message from
the lunar right. But Brzezinski is mainstream. His devoted
students include Madeleine Albright, who, as secretary of
state under Clinton, described the death of half a million
infants in Iraq during the US-led embargo as "a price worth
paying", and John Negroponte, the mastermind of American
terror in central America under Reagan who is currently
"ambassador" in Baghdad. James Rubin, who was Albright's
enthusiastic apologist at the State Department, is being
considered as John Kerry's national security adviser. He is
also a Zionist; Israel's role as a terror state is beyond

Cast an eye over the rest of the world. As Iraq has crowded
the front pages, American moves into Africa have attracted
little attention. Here, the Clinton and Bush policies are
seamless. In the 1990s, Clinton's African Growth and
Opportunity Act launched a new scramble for Africa.
Humanitarian bombers wonder why Bush and Blair have not
attacked Sudan and "liberated" Darfur, or intervened in
Zimbabwe or the Congo. The answer is that they have no
interest in human distress and human rights, and are busy
securing the same riches that led to the European scramble
in the late 19th century by the traditional means of
coercion and bribery, known as multilateralism.

The Congo and Zambia possess 50 per cent of world cobalt
reserves; 98 per cent of the world's chrome reserves are in
Zimbabwe and South Africa. More importantly, there is oil
and natural gas in Africa from Nigeria to Angola, and in
Higleig, south-west Sudan. Under Clinton, the African Crisis
Response Initiative (Acri) was set up in secret. This has
allowed the US to establish "military assistance programmes"
in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Benin, Algeria, Niger,
Mali and Chad. Acri is run by Colonel Nestor Pino-Marina, a
Cuban exile who took part in the 1961 Bay of Pigs landing
and went on to be a special forces officer in Vietnam and
Laos, and who, under Reagan, helped lead the Contra invasion
of Nicaragua. The pedigrees never change.

None of this is discussed in a presidential campaign in
which John Kerry strains to out-Bush Bush. The
multilateralism or "muscular internationalism" that Kerry
offers in contrast to Bush's unilateralism is seen as
hopeful by the terminally naive; in truth, it beckons even
greater dangers. Having given the American elite its
greatest disaster since Vietnam, writes the historian
Gabriel Kolko, Bush "is much more likely to continue the
destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to
American power. One does not have to believe the worse the
better, but we have to consider candidly the foreign policy
consequences of a renewal of Bush's mandate . . . As
dangerous as it is, Bush's re-election may be a lesser
evil." With Nato back in train under President Kerry, and
the French and Germans compliant, American ambitions will
proceed without the Napoleonic hindrances of the Bush gang.

Little of this appears even in the American papers worth
reading. The Washington Post's hand-wringing apology to its
readers on 14 August for not "pay[ing] enough attention to
voices raising questions about the war [against Iraq]" has
not interrupted its silence on the danger that the American
state presents to the world. Bush's rating has risen in the
polls to more than 50 per cent, a level at this stage in the
campaign at which no incumbent has ever lost. The virtues of
his "plain speaking", which the entire media machine
promoted four years ago - Fox and the Washington Post alike
- are again credited. As in the aftermath of the 11
September attacks, Americans are denied a modicum of
understanding of what Norman Mailer has called "a
pre-fascist climate". The fears of the rest of us are of no

The professional liberals on both sides of the Atlantic have
played a major part in this. The campaign against Michael
Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is indicative. The film is not
radical and makes no outlandish claims; what it does is push
past those guarding the boundaries of "respectable" dissent.
That is why the public applauds it. It breaks the collusive
codes of journalism, which it shames. It allows people to
begin to deconstruct the nightly propaganda that passes for
news: in which "a sovereign Iraqi government pursues
democracy" and those fighting in Najaf and Fallujah and
Basra are always "militants" and "insurgents" or members of
a "private army", never nationalists defending their
homeland and whose resistance has probably forestalled
attacks on Iran, Syria or North Korea.

The real debate is neither Bush nor Kerry, but the system
they exemplify; it is the decline of true democracy and the
rise of the American "national security state" in Britain
and other countries claiming to be democracies, in which
people are sent to prison and the key thrown away and whose
leaders commit capital crimes in faraway places, unhindered,
and then, like the ruthless Blair, invite the thug they
install to address the Labour Party conference. The real
debate is the subjugation of national economies to a system
which divides humanity as never before and sustains the
deaths, every day, of 24,000 hungry people. The real debate
is the subversion of political language and of debate itself
and perhaps, in the end, our self-respect.

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