Revolutionary Worker #1180, December 22, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
On the ground, the people in Iraq are bracing themselves for the destruction of war. Everyone knows that waves of heavy attacks may come soon--targeting military sites, government ministries and palaces, and electrical facilities, while also hitting neighborhoods, shelters, and many ordinary people. The people look at their young men, their brothers and sons, and wonder how many will die as soldiers and defenders in the coming fight.
The guns and bombs of the U.S. are intended to reshape power and politics in the Persian Gulf. This is openly said from Washington: They swear there will be "regime change" in Iraq. They talk of occupation. The U.S. war-makers plan to install new rulers in Baghdad at gunpoint--to raise new forces to power, impose new policies on economics and production, decide the direction of Iraqi society and the surrounding region.
And as the war-makers prepare to attack, they claim this coming war will be a good thing--not just for U.S. interests, but even for the Iraqi people themselves. Those preparing the conquest of Iraq now call it "the liberation of Iraq."
Conquest Good for Iraq's People?
"America is the most magnanimous of all imperial powers that have ever existed."
Dinesh D'Souza, conservative columnist,
"In Praise of American Empire,"
Christian Science Monitor , April 26, 2002
"I would think that at the end of any action that we might take toward regime change, it would be an obligation for all of us to make certain that things are better for the people of the country and the people of the region."
Condoleezza Rice, White House National Security Adviser, August 15, 2002
"Toppling Saddam Hussein's regime could provide an opportunity to rebuild Iraq's over-controlled, looted and investment-starved economy, according to Middle East experts who spoke at a panel discussion in Washington September 26. ...Ariel Cohen, a research scholar at the Heritage Foundation, told the gathering, Saddam's removal from power would therefore provide an `excellent chance for Iraq to rebuild its economy' based on open markets and the privatization of its energy sector. "
U.S. State Department Website
"This is going to be a liberation of the Iraqi people, not a war against the Iraqi people."
Paul Wolfowitz, top war-planner and
Deputy Secretary of Defense,
October 4, U.S. News and World Report
Consider this: Leading members of the U.S. ruling class have formed the "Committee for the Liberation of Iraq" to push for war. Members include former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.)
McCain and Kerry have well-documented credentials as official "war heroes": John McCain was a navy bomber pilot in the Vietnam war, who conducted raids in "Operation Rolling Thunder" that pounded civilian areas of Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of people died from seven million tons of U.S. bombs--which flattened cities, devastated harbors, targeted river dikes, and pounded peasant villages in the countryside. Meanwhile Bob Kerry led a team of commandos into a small village in the Mekong Delta, rounded up the women, children and elders and opened fire until they were all dead. McCain and Kerry were given the highest medals and (eventually) high posts within the U.S. government.
When war criminals claim they are "liberators," honest people should look again at the rhetoric and what it really means.
The Reluctant Conqueror?
"For the most part, America is an abstaining superpower: it shows no real interest in conquering and subjugating the rest of the world, even though it can. On occasion the U.S. intervenes in Grenada or Haiti or Bosnia, but it never stays to rule those countries."
Dinesh D'Souza, "In Praise of American Empire"
"What are the methods of the U.S. imperialists in carrying out their domination of other countries, including through outright military aggression, invasion and occupation--and what have been and are the actual results, particularly for the masses of people, in country after country that has been a target and victim of such `liberation'? What typically (or at least frequently) happens with regard to situations of this kind is that the U.S. invades and occupies (contrary to its repeated claims that `we never seek to occupy other countries') and they pull together a motley group of people from that country and `expatriates' from there, who have been nourished in the U.S. itself and rally some sections of the local population who believe they see prospects for advancement under U.S. occupation-- and then the bourgeois media plays its role of packaging and repeatedly trumpeting this as a mass outpouring of support for U.S. aggression and domination, representing `liberation' for the people of the country... And then, we soon hear very little about what is going on in that country--except for the occasional `follow up' propaganda highlighting those strata, representing a minority of the people, who are prospering under and enthusiastic about what the U.S. imperialists (and their lackeys) have wrought; and, of course, the plight of the broad masses of people is covered up--or prettified on those few occasions when it is mentioned. (In this the U.S. imperialists count, among other things, on the philistinism and `short memory' of significant sections of the American people in the `land of short attention spans' which, as a matter of fact, these same imperialists consciously foster and promote in a thousand ways, including through the `popular culture' as well as, nowadays in particular, through the posture of the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief as a know-nothing good ole boy--which is partly pretense, `for mass consumption,' and partly seeking to make a virtue of necessity, of actual ignorance and philistinism, which really do seem to abound in this particular President.)
RCP Chairman Bob Avakian, previously unpublished
"I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."
Major Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC, 1933
D'Souza claims the U.S. "shows no real interest in conquering and subjugating the rest of the world, even though it can." He gives some examples: Grenada, Haiti and Bosnia.
Okay, let's look at a more complete list of countries the U.S. has conquered or attacked at various times:
U.S. troops in Argentina, 1890; Marines in Chile, 1891; suppression of revolt in Haiti 1891; conquest of Hawaii 1893; occupation of Bluefields, Nicaragua 1894 & 1899; Marines in China 1894-95, in Korea 1894-96; Corinto, Nicaragua 1896; invasion of China 1898-1900; conquest of the Philippines 1898- 1910; conquest of Cuba and Puerto Rico 1898-1902; seizure of Guam 1898, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua 1898; Samoa 1899; conquest of Panama 1901-14; annexation of Panama Canal Zone 1914, Honduras 1903; Dominican Republic 1903-04; Korea 1904-05; Cuba 1906-09; Nicaragua 1907; Honduras 1907; Panama 1908; Nicaragua 1911; China 1911-41; Cuba 1912; Panama 1912; Honduras 1912; Nicaragua 1912-33; Mexico 1913; Dominican Republic 1914; Mexico 1914-18; Haiti 1914-34; Dominican Republic 1916-24; Cuba 1917-33; invasion of Soviet Russia to fight revolution 1918-22; Panama 1918-20; Honduras 1919; Yugoslavia 1919; Guatemala 1920; Turkey 1922; China 1922-27; Honduras 1924-25; Panama to suppress general strike 1925; El Salvador 1932; Philippines, New Guinea, North Africa, Solomon Islands, and China during World War 2; backed Greek counterrevolution 1947-49; backed counter-revolution in China 1948- 49; suppression of Huk rebellion in Philippines 1948-54; intervention in Puerto Rico 1950, Korea 1951-53, Guatemala 1954, Egypt 1956, Lebanon 1958, Panama 1958, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia 1960-75, Cuba 1961, Dominican Republic 1965, Guatemala 1966, Oman 1970, Iran 1980, El Salvador 1981-92, Nicaragua 1981-90, Lebanon 1982-84, Grenada 1983-84, Honduras 1983-89, Bolivia 1986, Panama 1989, Iraq Gulf war 1990-91, Somalia 1992-94, Yugoslavia 1992-94, Bosnia 1993, Haiti 1994, Liberia 1997, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, and Yugoslavia 1991.
One thought: This is not the record of a power that "shows no real interest in conquering or subjugating"! What aggressor in history has ever had more interest, more conquest, more subjugation!?
The U.S. accuses Iraq of "threatening its neighbors." But how many countries (including neighbors) has the U.S. threatened and attacked?
Dinesh D'Souza claims " On occasion the U.S. intervenes...but it never stays to rule those countries. "
Look at that list again. The U.S. has never left Panama, Cuba (Guantánamo!), Puerto Rico, South Korea, Guam, or Hawaii. The U.S. has major permanent bases in about 40 countries and a regular "military presence" in over 100. Ask the Nicaraguan people or the Haitians if the U.S. stops dominating, just because it imposes some pliant puppet government.
Case History: The Philippines
"God has...given us the spirit of progress to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth. He has made us adept in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples. Were it not for such a force as this, the world would relapse into barbarism and night. And of all our race, He has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America, and it holds for us all the profit, all the glory, all the happiness possible to man."
Senator Albert J. Beveridge, speech to the Senate, 1900
Just over 100 years ago, in February 1898, a U.S. battleship, the Maine , blew up in Havana harbor. This gave the U.S. a casus belli (a pretext) for a war they had long been planning. The U.S. Navy attacked in Spain's richest colonies. U.S. troops quickly defeated Spain and occupied Cuba and Puerto Rico. They swore they had come as "liberators." After all, they reminded everyone, the U.S. had been created by the first modern revolution waged by colonies against a monarchical power.
The U.S. said colonial people could not free themselves, and it was the job of the U.S. to help its "little brown brothers."
Filipino revolutionaries drove the Spanish army out of most of the Philippine Islands. The U.S. betrayed them. President McKinley claimed god personally told him that the Filipino people "are unfit for self-government." He added, "There was nothing left for us to do but to take them all and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them."
How quickly the argument turns from "the Philippine people can't free themselves" to "they can't govern themselves"!
In February 1899, the Filipino people rose in revolt against American occupation. The U.S. poured half its armed forces into the Philippines for three years to suppress the rebellion.
From Mark Twain's sharp pen: "We have pacified some thousands of islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining tens of millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket...and hoisted our protecting flag."
After 1898, the U.S. imperialists subjugated and stayed in the Philippines and the U.S. government and military ruled directly as a colonial power. Then they ruled indirectly through carefully picked, pliant neocolonial governments. Capitalists descended like locusts.
When Japan seized this choice colony in the 1940s, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur swore, "I shall return." And when he did--renewed U.S. domination brought the brutal Marcos regime, the entrenchment of harsh economic inequality, massive U.S. bases and continued U.S.-backed war against anti-government insurgencies.
And what about now? The U.S. government has taken advantage of this "war against terrorism" to return its troops to the Philippines, to target the Maoist revolutionaries of the New People's Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines, and to prop up a notoriously corrupt government--all to defend U.S. interests in this important region.
"Give Bayonets a Chance"?
" ` You can't impose democracy at the point of a bayonet' is another shibboleth... The problem with critics of U.S. force is that they are never willing to give bayonets a chance."
Dinesh D'Souza, November 2002
The U.S. government demands "regime change" in Iraq. The U.S. government insists it must decide who rules where. On the most obvious level, this insults any notion of national sovereignty. This crude colonial behavior boils down to "might makes right."
But, unfortunately, far too often, the notion of liberation-by-conquest has influence. It is sometimes said: "Saddam Hussein is a tyrant the Iraq people haven't been able to overthrow." Some people wonder: "Wouldn't a U.S. occupation be a fresh start? Won't it (eventually, perhaps) mean elections, and self-determination? And doesn't the U.S. pour financial aid into its conquered foes, rebuilding them, bringing them business, and modern methods? Won't it be better for women?"
Here is a brief sketch of U.S.-imposed "regime change" and what it brought:
Iran, 1953 --A large-scale CIA operation led to the overthrow of the elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, who had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. In his place, the U.S. installed the vicious Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. With massive U.S. backing, the Shah used naked police terror and torture to dominate the Iranian people, and loyally served U.S. strategic and economic interests in the region for 26 years. He crushed revolutionary forces in Oman, Dhofar and within Iran itself.
Guatemala, 1954 --A CIA-supported coup (named "Operation Success") produced the overthrow of the popular elected government of President Jacobo Arbenz, who had angered the U.S. by carrying out land reform that transferred some corporate land to farmers. The regime change installed Col. Carlos Castillo Armas, and an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people died or disappeared under the following U.S.-backed "strongmen" who came to power. Guatmala remained a country heavily dominated by U.S. corporations like United Fruit.
Congo, 1960: The popular anti-colonial leader Patrice Lumumba faced a systematic campaign of destabilization by U.S. and Belgian intelligence forces. Orders came for a "regime change." With U.S. backing, Colonel Joseph-Desiré Mobutu orchestrated a military coup and Lumumba was murdered in cold blood. Mobutu, in power for over 30 years with major U.S. backing, was one of the most corrupt tyrants in modern history. He fought any progressive change in Africa, and shamelessly plundered his own people.
South Vietnam, 1963 --The U.S. propped up the reactionary President Ngo Dinh Diem until popular uprisings made the situation unstable. President Kennedy ordered a "regime change" and the CIA murder of Diem. A series of U.S.-backed generals came to power, including the murderous Generals Ky and Thieu--who were notorious for their torture chambers and for their deep involvement in drug trafficking. Various puppet regimes served as a cover for U.S. aggression by "inviting" their masters to invade. Millions of Vietnamese died during the 10 years of war, however they succeeded in defeating the U.S. attack and driving the U.S. puppets into exile.
Indonesia, 1965-- The popular government of anti-colonial leader Sukarno was overthrown by a CIA-organized military coup. In the "regime change," General Suharto came to power. It is estimated that at least a million communists and other people were murdered in the army's U.S.-endorsed bloodbath. Indonesia today remains dominated by imperialism.
Chile, 1973-- The CIA orchestrated a massive campaign of destabilization against the elected leftist government of Chilean President Salvador Allende. With the support of President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, General Augusto Pinochet staged a military coup. Thousand of people were massacred and tortured in the bloodbath that followed. For 17 years, Chile became a showcase of rightwing economics and plunder.
Afghanistan, 2001: After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. military crushed the fundamentalist Taliban government and imposed a "regime change"--flying in their agent Hamid Karzai from the U.S., after he had served them for years as a negotiator for the Unocal oil company. In the following year, the U.S. media shows the world a few new schools for girls, and pro-U.S. praise from the Afghani westernized upper class elite. Meanwhile, the people in Afghanistan have sunk deeper into suffering--from the destruction of the U.S. attack, the continued rule by feudal warlords, and the added mistreatment by occupying troops.
Dominators Can't Be Liberators
"People are coming out of the closet on the word `empire.' "Charles Krauthammer, conservative columnist, New York Times
"Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs [riding pants] and pith helmets."
Max Boot, Wall Street Journal editor, "The Case for American Empire," 2001
"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist-- McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell-Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."
Thomas Friedman, liberal pro- imperialist columnist, "A Manifesto for the Fast World," New York Times Magazine , March 28, 1999
There is no "good" imperialism.
If it is in the interests of the U.S. to impose direct colonial domination, that is what they try to do. And the Bush administration has openly floated the idea of imposing U.S. General Tommy Franks as the new colonial governor of a conquered Iraq. If it is in the U.S. interests to gather some loyal servants and form them into a supposedly "independent" pro-U.S. government, then they will do that--as they have done in Afghanistan with Karzai.
After a war, the U.S. may put in "aid"--but such aid is repeatedly subsidy for U.S. corporate and military penetration. It builds up pro-U.S. government institutions and transportation for extracting wealth. It builds up an internal banking system and infrastructure so profits can be pooled and exported. It builds up a U.S.-style educational system so a pro-U.S. elite can be fattened and utilized. And it is used by public relations campaigns to make U.S. imperialist rule look like it is "developing the country."
But in any case, when and wherever the U.S. military conquers, it is U.S. capitalist- imperialist interests that then rule.
And fundamentally, in the most profound, sweeping and historical way, those interests are against the interests of the people. It means that the self-determination of the people is thwarted and suppressed, their revolutionary movements are targeted, their interests and highest aspirations denied.
A U.S.-occupied Iraq can never be a "liberated" Iraq. It would become a base area for U.S. plans for that whole region--a base for troops, for intrigues, for new threats against the Palestinian people and neighboring countries like Iran. The stability the U.S. says they'll impose is the stability of their order and their domination.
The "free economy" of the U.S. means plunder by major capitalist corporations. The "freedom and democracy" the U.S. proclaims (over and over) translates into the rule of corrupt, brutal governments propped up by U.S. money and guns. The promise of progressive social change (like the liberation of women) fades as the U.S. occupiers quickly make alliances with local reactionaries and help defend the old order.
Imperialist conquerors can never be "liberators."
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