The Anti-Empire Report takes
on Iraq Doubletalk
Diamond politics in Africa,
and cultivated US ignorance
by William Blum
Toward Freedom, Fall 2003
Confusing Power with Virtue
The words and actions of the Bush administration
have so often been labeled "Orwellian" that it's become
virtually a cliché. But one can't resist adding to the
At a July 1 White House press briefing,
a reporter asked spokesman Ari Fleischer: "The United States
just declared about 50 countries, including Colombia and six prospective
NATO members, ineligible for military aid because they won't exempt
Americans from the International Criminal Court. My question is,
why is this priority more important than fighting the drug wars,
integrating Eastern Europe?"
Fleischer replied: "Well, number
one, because the President is following the law. This is a law
that Congress passed that the President signed, dealing with what's
called Article 9S actions that would make certain that American
military personnel and other personnel who are stationed abroad
would not be subject to a court which has international sovereignty
that's in dispute."
So what do we have here? The Bush administration
drafts a law to serve its imperial and propaganda needs, pushes
it through Congress, and then, when the press expresses some skepticism
about the laws effect, the same administration justifies it by
saying: "Well, the President is only following the law."
As to the court's sovereignty being in
dispute, this is, of course, entirely centered in a city called
THE SANCTIONS GAME
For a dozen years, international groups
supporting the Iraqi people campaigned to have the UN (read US)
sanctions removed, sanctions which Clinton's National Security
Advisor, Sandy Berger, called "the most pervasive sanctions
every imposed on a nation in the history of mankind". Meanwhile,
the US insisted that the suffering of the population was not due
to the sanctions, but rather Saddam's lavish lifestyle. "People
of Iraq," said a Pentagon radio program broadcast into Iraq,
"the amount of money Saddam spends on himself in one day
would be more than enough to feed a family for a year."
Then Saddam and his regime were overthrown.
But the suffering continued in much the same ways. And then, with
their usual lack of embarrassment, Washington officials declared
that the sanctions are actually harmful and would have to be removed
in order to provide aid and rebuild the country.
RESISTANCE IS PREDICTABLE
US military commanders in Iraq have branded
the guerrillas as "subversives" and "terrorists."
Donald Rumsfeld says there are five groups opposing US forces-looters,
criminals, remnants of Saddam Hussein's government, foreign terrorists,
and Iranian-backed Shiites.
A US official there maintains that many
of the people shooting at US troops are "poor young Iraqis"
who have been paid between $20 and $100 to stage hit-and-run attacks
on US soldiers. "They're not dedicated fighters," he
said. "They're people who wanted to take a few potshots."
Other members of the Bush administration use terms like "well-trained
militants" and "professional operations."
What no US official dares to have cross
his lips is the idea that any part of the resistance is composed
of Iraqi citizens who don't like being bombed, invaded and occupied,
and are demonstrating their resentment. Does that thought at least
cross /< the minds of these officials? Or do they assume that
US moral authority is as absolute and unchallengeable as its military
EXCUSES FOR BAD BEHAVIOR
In July, the Bush administration also
agreed that Charles Taylor, president of Liberia, could and should
step down and leave the country, even though he was recently indicted
by a UN-sponsored court in Sierra Leone for "bearing the
greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity
and serious violations of international humanitarian law"
during Sierra Leone's civil war. This is in marked contrast to
consistent US government demands of recent years that all Serbian
officials indicted for similar crimes by the UN court in The Hague
be turned over to the court, or turn themselves in. No exceptions,
no going into exile, no mercy.
To show how serious Washington was about
this, it pressured the Yugoslav government to kidnap President
Slobodan Milosevic and hustle him off to The Hague. But that's
because the US had globalization designs on Yugoslavia's considerable
assets and required that Milosevic and his team be replaced with
others who would be more amenable to such an objective.
In 1998, President Clinton sent Jesse
Jackson as his special envoy to Liberia and Sierra Leone, which
is next door and was in the midst of one of the great horrors
of the 20th century. You may remember the army of mostly young
boys, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who went around raping
and chopping off people's arms and legs. African and world opinion
was enraged against the RUF, which was committed to protecting
the diamond mines they controlled.
Taylor was an indispensable ally and supporter
of the RUF and Jesse Jackson was a friend of his. Jackson wasn't
sent there to hound Taylor about his widespread human rights violations.
Instead, in June 1999, he and other US officials drafted entire
sections of an accord that made RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, vice
president of Sierra Leone and, according to the July 24, 2000
New Republic, gave him control over the diamond mines, the country's
major source of wealth.
What was the Clinton administration's
interest in all this? It's been suggested that the US had to deal
with the RUF since they more or less militarily controlled the
Koidu Diamond Mine area. Exploitation contracts for the area were
held by two Clinton cronies, Jean Raymond Boulle and Robert Friedland.
There was also Maurice Tempelsman, Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright's paramour at the time. His Antwerp, Amsterdam and Tel
Aviv diamond marts arranged for Sierra Leone diamond sales to
Tiffany and Cartier.
Take the children out of the room. What
follows is a kind word about Saddam Hussein:
During his reign, when the war with Iran
and US bombings and sanctions made it feasible, the Iraqi people
had free education all the way through university and medical
school, free medical care, regular food packages for those in
need, women's rights superior to anything in the Arab world, and
religious toleration for Christians and other non-Muslims.
THE IGNORANCE FACTOR
There are all kinds of intelligence in
this world: musical, scientific, mathematical, artistic, literary,
and so on. Then there's political intelligence, which might be
defined as the ability to see through the bullshit which every
society, past, present and future, feeds its citizens from birth.
Polls conducted in June showed that 42
percent of respondents believed Iraq had a direct involvement
in what happened on September 11. Most of them were certain that
Iraqis were among the 19 hijackers; 55 percent believed that Saddam
Hussein had close ties to al-Qaeda; 34 percent were convinced
that weapons of mass destruction had recently been found in Iraq
(7 percent weren't sure); and 24 percent believed Iraq had actually
used chemical or biological weapons against US forces in the war
( 14 percent were uncertain).
"If Iraq had no significant WMD and
no strong link to Al Qaeda, do you think we were misled by the
government?" Only half said yes.
One can only wonder what, besides a crowbar,
it would take to pry such people away from their total support
of what the Empire does to the world. Perhaps if government agents
came to their homes, seized their first born, and took them away
screaming? Well, probably not, if the government claimed that
the adored first born had played soccer with someone from Pakistan
who had a friend who had gone to the same mosque as someone from
Afghanistan who had a picture of Taliban leader Mohammed Omar
on his wall.
Many US citizens, whether consciously
or unconsciously, actually pride themselves on their ignorance.
It reflects their break with the overly complicated intellectual
tradition of "old Europe." It's also a source of satisfaction
that they have a president who's no smarter than they are.
All this is bad news for the anti-war
movement, which needs to enlarge its ranks. "Mit der Dummheit
kampfen Gotter selbst vergebens," wrote Schiller. "With
stupidity even the gods struggle in vain."
A QUESTION OF SCALE
On several occasions, I've been confronted
with the argument that powerful countries have always acted like
the US, so why condemn it so much? I respond that since one can
find anti-Semitism in every country, why do we condemn Nazi Germany
so much? It's a question of magnitude, is it not? The magnitude
of US aggression puts it in a league all by itself, just as the
magnitude of the Nazis' anti-Semitism does.
Cuba received heavy criticism recently,
from various shadings of leftists as well as those to the right,
for its sentencing a number of "dissidents" to prison
because of their very close political and financial connections
to US officials. Critics say that Cuba shouldn't have over-reacted,
that these people weren't really guilty of anything criminal.
Personally, I think that the Cuban trials
were too quick and some of the sentences were too long. But we
have to keep in mind that, before the US invaded Iraq, there was
extensive CIA and US military liaison on the ground with Iraqi
dissidents and lots of propaganda to soften up the population-
propaganda beamed into Iraq with the indispensable help of other
The US has been on a ferocious rampage
of bombing, invasion, taking over countries, and threatening the
same to others. The US ambassador to the Dominican Republic declared:
"I think what is happening in Iraq is going to send a very
positive signal, and it is a very good example for Cuba."
Speaking of Fidel Castro, an advisor to
Florida Governor Jeb Bush said: "The administration has taken
care of one tyrant already. I don't think they would vacillate
about taking care of another one." In this same period, there
was a wave of violent hijackings involving Cuban planes and boats.
Can Cuba be expected to ignore all this?
Is Washington's work with Cuban dissidents to be seen as a purely
harmless undertaking? Not done for a purpose? How can Cuba not
feel extremely threatened, even more than the usual threat of
the past 44 years? How can they not take precautionary measures?
"The causes of the malady are not
entirely clear but its recurrence is one of the uniformities of
history: power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great
nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is
a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility
for other nations-to make them richer and happier and wiser, to
remake them, that is, in its own shining image."
Former US Senator William Fulbright, The
Arrogance of Power ( 1966)
William Blum is the author of Killing
Hope US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue
State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, and West-Bloc Dissident:
A Cold War Memoir. He calls the Anti-Empire Report "an occasional
newsletter of questionable rantings and ravings. For more, visit
www. killinghope. org.
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