Who’s Aims in What “Global War on Terror?”*
A slightly shortened version of the following speech was delivered at the Plenary Session of the 2008 Midwestern Meetings of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), hosted by the
A slightly shortened version of the following speech was delivered at the Plenary Session of the 2008 Midwestern Meetings of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), hosted by the
I’d like to start with a quote from one my moral and intellectual heroes – the great radical American historian Howard Zinn. “We who protest the war,” Zinn wrote last year, “are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable…It is not easy, in the corrupting atmosphere of Washington, D.C., to hold on firmly to the truth, to resist the temptation of capitulation that presents itself as compromise. Except for the rare few, our representatives are politicians, and will surrender their integrity, claiming to be ‘realistic.’ We are not politicians, but citizens. We have no office to hold on to, only our consciences, which insist on telling the truth. That, history suggests, is the most realistic thing a citizen can do.”
Fellow citizens, fellow American citizens, and fellow world citizens, these are urgent times and they call for solutions that go far beyond anything being proposed by any of our self-appointed saviors and messiahs from within the bipartisan governing and politician class.
STATE-TERRORIST ALLIES IN THE “WAR ON TERROR”
A “global war on terror” worthy of its name would involve confronting any and all sources of socially imposed terror in the world, including state and economic terror.
The Columbian regime receives billions of dollars in economic and military assistance from the
There’s been some debate between the Democrats and Republicans about a so called free trade agreement that George W. Bush the Worst President Ever wants with
Again the support is bipartisan. It’s hardly just Republicans who reflexively defend any and all terrorist outrages by
Another heavily sponsored
Ask the candidates if they intend to cut off assistance to the Saudis. And while you’re at it ask them if they intend to reverse
People are routinely terrorized by poverty and environmental collapse as well as direct physical assault. Just ask the 2 billion people who try to live on less than a dollar a day and who drink polluted water and live in regular fear of disease and disaster in sprawling shantytown super-slums on the desperate outskirts of the world capitalist system in nations like Mexico and Honduras and Nigeria where antipoverty and environmental activists are repressed by security forces who are often enough trained and equipped and funded by the United States. Your parents’ tax and global mutual fund investment dollars hard at work. Anybody hear read Mike Davis’s book Planet of Slums? Read it – it’ll blow your minds.
If I had more time I’d talk about
Our “global war on terror” involves the sponsorship of state, economic, and environmental terror the world over.
A U.S.-IMPOSED HOLOCAUST IN
And then there’s the
For some time now, Democratic Party leaders have been showing us their Orwellian souls saying that we’ve spent enough blood and treasure trying to help
His Holiness The Dali Obama says it more than any of them. My favorite Obama quote on our alleged “good intentions” in
This is holocaust-denial. The United States’ criminal assault has imposed a holocaust on Iraq, killing as many as 1.3 million Iraqis and causing the exodus and displacement of many millions more. And that’s just since March of 2003, after the sanctions we imposed killed a million Iraqis and after the vicious U.S. assault in the “first Persian Gulf War” – the one ordered by the current president’s father and for which Obama has recently offered great praise despite such things are the U.S. slaughter of thousands of surrendered Iraqi troops on the “Highway of Death” and the poisoning of Iraq with depleted uranium. As Tom Engelhardt noted on “antiwar.com” last January while the corporate media obsessed about some racialized campaign soap opera between Hillary and Obama, so-called “Operation Iraqi Freedom” has turned that country into “a disaster zone on a catastrophic scale hard to match in recent memory.” According to the respected journalist Nir Rosen in the December 2007 issue of Current History, “
The second way in which “
One of the great unmentionable secrets of
Nearly four years ago on the eve of the last great corporate-crafted presidential election extravaganza, The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations released an important survey showing that:
* 59 percent Americans thought the
* 72 percent of Americans thought the
* 58 percent of Americans thought the
* Just 20 percent of Americans thought it was the
In November of 2005, a Washington Post-ABC poll showed that 60 percent of Americans believed the
Large majorities of Americans support military de-escalation and cutting back the so-called “defense” budget. They support privileging domestic social expenditures over “defense” spending, the strong observance of international law, the sacrifice of
And none of it matters. Policy proceeds apace over and above the seemingly irrelevant opposition of the mere citizenry, costing us billions of dollars that might be spent rebuilding our social and ecological infrastructure and helping produce record-setting dividends ---- a veritable Profit Surge --- for the owners and managers of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Electric, General Dynamics, Blackwater Worldwide, Exon-Mobil, Conoco-Philllips, and Halliburton, who “hide in their mansions while young people’s blood flows out of their bodies and get buried in the mud” (Bob Dylan 1962).
The costs of empire and militarism are spread across the entire society. They fall with special force on the predominantly working-class soldiers who lose their lives, limbs, and sanity in a colonial oil war that actually increases Americans’ susceptibility to terrorist attack. The profits accrue to the privileged few, whose fortunate sons and daughters are exempted by class privilege from “service” in colonial struggle on the oil-rich periphery.
BEDTIME STORIES FOR THE BEWILDERED HERD
So let me re-frame the question, fellow world citizens. What are the aims of the
All the claims of the governing class as to why they invaded are laughably false. They are fairy tales – bedtime stories for the bewildered herd. We all know about the WMD lies and about the related false claims that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 and al Qaeda. Those claims were totally ridiculous.
But the WMD/9-11 lies were only the first deception. They were quickly transcended. Another Big Lie says we’re there to prevent ethnic violence and genocide. Never mind that the
The biggest Lie of all has never been remotely challenged by our supposed liberal media or by the Democratic Party and its leading candidates. According to this powerful uncontested story, the real reason for the occupation of
The Dali Obama says Bush got carried away with dreams of exporting a “Jeffersonian democracy” to
This is a childish or cynical thing to claim to believe. It is contradicted by the fact that the U.S. invaders immediately put huge swaths of the Iraqi economy up for “free market” sale to multinational corporations – something most Iraqis would have completely rejected if they’d been asked. It is contradicted by the fact that the
The “Jeffersonian democracy” fairy tale is contradicted by the facts that the preponderant majority of Iraqis have wanted
BLOOD FOR OIL, BLOOD FOR EMPIRE
Let’s move off government and media fairly tales and get to the real reasons. The standard answer to the question on the left is summed up in one word: OIL. “No blood for oil.” Remember that? I chanted it along with 9,999 other people two nights in a row in
“It’s all about the oil.”
To which I say, “Yes, but….”
By which I mean, yes, it was and is about the oil. But two qualifications. First, you have to be clear what you mean when you say oil. There’s more than one way to skin the oil cat. Second, it’s about other stuff too.
I don’t have time to do the “other stuff” right now. I’ve only got a half hour here. Ask me in the Q and A if you want. It’s important. It has to do with the top-down domestic class war and the profit interests of the leading military corporations .
Anyone who doubts that oil was a significant factor should recall the behavior of
“Oil" is the main reason that a rapid and thorough
I want to be very clear about this being bipartisan. You all need to register this. I don’t care if the next president is Mad Bomber McCain, War Hawk Hillary, or His Holiness Himself. I don’t care what they say in the debates and speeches they expect you to forget as you watch American Idol or American Gladiators or as you work 3 jobs trying to pay off your student loans. Read my lips. They are not really actually going to leave
And it’s because of oil. But what about the oil? There’s a segment of the American elite that likes to speak in what it thinks are candid terms about how the War is actually about the oil. Alan Greenspan says it. Ted Koppel says it. There are other examples. But what they mean when they say this is very different than what serious left thinkers like Noam Chomsky and David Harvey mean when they say it. Koppel and Greenspan and their ilk want us to think the
Sorry. No. That’s complete nonsense. This leaves out the imperial nature of the
As a critical part of the imperialist so-called “U.S. global war on terror,” “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was launched as an effort to use America's last unchallenged form of world dominance — its near monopoly over globally projectable state violence — to establish U.S. control over the global oil spigot, and thus over the global economy, for another fifty years.
At the same time, U.S. planners know very well that modern armies and navies depend heavily on petroleum and that controlling Middle Eastern oil is a way of limiting energy access for potential global military rivals—the Chinese, above all.
As James Cipher argued last June in the marvelous Marxist journal Monthly Review, "U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf should not be seen as all about oil but also, and more importantly, about capitalism and geopolitical domination—that is, [capital] accumulation, militarism, and (informal) empire. Oil is a ‘strategic resource'—the single most important energy resource—and its control has long been central to
Control, by the way, is very different than extraction and sale. One of the mistaken judgments you often hear is that the occupation has been a failure because the Americans haven’t gone in there and drilled that country’s oil fields and put billions of new gallons of Iraqi crude on the world market to break the power of OPEC.
That is complete total nonsense and if you want to know why just remember that if anyone exercises more influence than the military corporations on the Bush administration it’s the oil companies. As Greg Palast shows in his book Armed Madhouse, the big oil companies’ primary interest is in suppressing oil production to boost prices and profits. "The oil majors ha[ve] a better use for Iraqi oil than drilling it," Palast says. The “better use” is "not drilling it." Consistent with their longstanding profit-protecting policy of restricting production, "big oil has done its best to keep Iraqi oil buried in the ground to keep prices in the air."
The invasion and the resistance it predictably engendered have dramatically stifled
CALL FOR REVOLUTION
Going forward, as the politicians like to say, I have five recommendations:
1. Be skeptical about getting too involved in 9/11 conspiracy theories. Ask me why if you want in the Q and A.
2. Avoid Obamania. Look, I like to make a little fun of it all, but it’s a big deal. It’s going to be huge on your campuses next fall and you’re going to have to know how to deal with it in a productive and tactically astute way. If you want more details ask me in Q and A and I’ll give three of the 25 ways in which His Holiness is in fact NOT antiwar and how he Clings to the Guns of Empire. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote to block the GOP and “for” Obama if you live in a contested state. Wherever you live, we need to know how to work with and through the whole Obama trip in a constructive way. It offers some opportunities. He’s raising and surfing a bunch of expectations he’s not going to deliver on, and that’s very important.
3. Please stay relentlessly alert to the critical distinction between opposing the war on pragmatic grounds and resisting it on principled grounds. Never let go of the difference between opposing it because it was a strategic but well-inteded imperial mistake and resisting it because it is a vicious imperialist crime.
4. Avoid what the Boston sociologist Charles Derber calls “the election trap:” the belief that meaningful long term progressive change can be achieved by going into a voting booth for 2 minutes once every 1460 days.
5. Call for revolution. I say this for two reasons. The first reason and this is my personal sense...I’ve been around watching this country and world and society for a while now and I have the very distinct impression that we cannot meaningfully attain democracy, peace, racial and gender or any other kind of justice or ecological sustainability under the inherently perverted priorities of the capitalist profit system. The second reason is more “pragmatic.” History shows again and again that big and meaningful reforms --- and we need reforms --- are only attained when elites are convinced that the cost of changing is less than the cost of not changing. The change only comes when the governing class believes you’re ready, willing, and able to burn down the house.
My friends, we are not politicians, we are citizens. American citizens by birth but world citizens also and above all. Vote or abstain next November but beware of The Election Trap and the false promises of candidates and elected officials. Vote however you wish or not at all but never sacrifice your integrity for the corruptions and fascinations of power. Only your determined, persistent, informed, militant, and egalitarian activism every single day and not just once every four years can bring about the real change, the actual transformation, the popular and democratic revolution that is required.
Thank you very much.
Veteran radical historian, journalist, and speaker Paul Street (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005), and Racial Oppression in the Global Metropols (NY: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007). His next book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Paradigm), will be released this summer.
1. [Left out for time’s sake]: the invasion certainly reflected Republican and White House electoral calculations. And beyond seeking to distract the U.S. citizenry, the "war" (one-sided imperial aggression) was launched to more directly advance the top down class warfare that the White House, Republicans, and their Democratic enablers were determined to wage against the "homeland" (a lovely and revealingly colonial word) populace. As Frances Fox Piven noted in her 2004 book The War At Home, war is "a domestic as well as global power strategy" — one that is designed to "pave the political way for policies that are plundering Americans" in the interests of the rich. Besides directly lining the pockets of leading investors and managers in the giant "defense" firms like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, war provides a useful cover of mass fear and illusory national unity for "implementing the domestic business agenda": tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, deregulation, union-busing, environmental pillage, pension-raiding, and the like. As the great senior radical historian Gabriel Kolko reminds us, "the profit lust of these ever-lurking high-tech Masters of War is a ubiquitous underlying x factor" behind all U.S military policies. "It must be taken into account," Kolko notes, "that the arms manufacturers have power, strategic lobbies in Washington, contribute heavily to politicians who need campaign funding, and gain financially whether America wins or loses its wars.”
Today, as always in the age of the Pentagon system, "war" supplies the useful state-capitalist function of diverting government priorities away from social needs and towards the selfish interests of the privileged few. Beneath disingenuous "free market" rhetoric disseminated to de-legitimize an undesirable (for elites) direction of public resources to the broad populace, the "business community" has long (since at least the Great Depression) understood that government must play a central role in sustaining the system of private profit. It makes a critical distinction, however, between left-handed government service to social needs and right-handed government investment in the wasteful and destructive missions of militarism. The first form of government activity interferes with the authoritarian prerogatives of investors and managers and is therefore eliminated as a functional policy option by the super-influential business elite. The second form is welcomed by the domestic power elite because it provides no challenge to business rule while diverting public resources to dominant private interests. It offers added "benefits" to the American ruling class. It encourages the manufacture of mass fear and mindless nationalistic conformity while legitimizing the use of coercion against those who dare to criticize existing social hierarchies and doctrines at home and abroad And it underpins a global empire whose costs are generally distributed over the entirety of American society, but whose profits "revert to a few within” This has been covered repeatedly by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky among others. The “left” v. “right hand of the state” terminology belong to the late left sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.
Throughout the so-called “US global war on terror,” the U.S. government has been using the notion of a permanent terror crisis to terrorize the U.S. populace and to encourage it cower under the supposedly protective umbrella of the National Security State while it assaults our civil liberties and moves to drastically accelerate the drastic over-concentration of wealth and power in a nation where the top 1 percent already owned 40 percent of the nation’s net worth before the beginning of the Bush reign.
Also in the category of relevant “other stuff” is the fact that they opened up much of