Swans Commentary » swans.com October 23, 2006  



Get This: Imperialism Is Bipartisan


by Aleksandar Jokic





(Swans - October 23, 2006)  
Some polls suggest voter interest in the run-up to the midterm elections is at its highest point in years. Should it be? One phrase politicians love to use in describing why they are running is "to make a difference." However, could any difference materialize as a result of voting in the current two-part political system? The answer is not really, because there is no real difference between the parties, particularly when US corporate interests and the US imperium are concerned.

Against the Bush Regime

Paul Craig Roberts concludes "The War is Lost" by stating:

Before America can preach democracy to the world, we must first rescue American democracy from the Bush regime and re-establish government accountability to the people.

One can read similar statements elsewhere. For example, Antonia Juhasz, in her book, The Bu$h Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, writes the following:

The individual Middle East Free Trade Area agreements are paving the way for a radical, thoroughly U.S.-centric corporate globalization agenda for the Bush administration to carry from country to country in the Middle East and then well beyond. The president has forced into acquiescence the growing wave of criticism against these economic policies, both within the United States and abroad by linking them to the defeat of terrorism. It is economic imperialism in its truest form: Governments the world over are forced to adopt economic policies that benefit the growth and power of one nation with a threat of military action if they do not accede, all in the name of "world peace." (p. 290)

While pronouncements like these certainly could seem appealing to all who are angry, for whatever reason (and there are many), with the Bush administration, oversimplifications harm the clarity and substance of legitimate and otherwise persuasive political and economic criticism. The danger lies in misidentifying the sources of the US foreign policies (such as "spreading democracy") and in misplacing the responsibility for the consequences of such policies.

There is Only One Party in the United States

When one realizes that the title of Ms. Juhasz's book is in fact a colossal misnomer, one can better appreciate the dangers. "Invading the world one economy at time" is and has been for some time the US agenda or, which amounts to the same, the agenda of a few dozen Anglo-American Big Oil and banking old money oligarchs who own the political establishment of the country. Another reason why there is nothing new in these policies is the fact that they are an exact replica of the free-trade dogma of the 19th century British Empire that lead to its practice of "cannibalizing the economies of increasing parts of the globe in order to survive." The quote is from William Engdahl's A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, a book that describes in solidly footnoted detail how it happened that just a handful of Anglo-American families could amass untold wealth and unprecedented power, including the ability to get their and other countries to wage war to support their private interests:

During the course of the Versailles talks, a new institution of Anglo-American coordination in strategic affairs was formed. Lionel Curtis, a longtime member of the secretive Round Table or 'new empire' circle of Balfour, Milner and others, proposed organizing a Royal Institute of International Affairs. ...The same circle at Versailles also decided to establish an American branch of the London Institute, to be named the New York Council on Foreign Relations, so as to obscure its close British ties.

Thus, under the leadership of the Council on Foreign Relations, US foreign policy came to be based on the synergy between control over oil and control over finance, with government, intelligence agencies, and the military playing a supporting role to the banks and the oil cartels.

No surprise, then, that the practice "of invading one (or a few) economies at the time" has been playing out no matter who the president was or from which of the two identical (as far as imperialism is concerned) political parties he hails: when it comes to US foreign policy, the elephant and the donkey are equally a hyena. The imperial project of Pax Americana is bipartisan. The inimitable Gore Vidal puts it thusly:

[t]here is only one party in the United States, the Property party ... and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt -- until recently ... and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.

If Vidal's "one party" claim were true, one would want to know what exactly explains this fact. Why are the two parties in reality one party? But before considering this question let us first explore two examples that suggest that Vidal's thesis is extremely plausible:

Continuity of Policy Across Political Parties

The United States is building an enormous embassy in Baghdad and a base so large it eclipses Kosovo's Camp Bondsteel, which had been the largest foreign US military base built since Vietnam (it is so big, I am led to understand, that it is better visible from space than the Great Wall of China).

Obviously, it is under President Bush that this construction in Iraq is taking place. However, who conquered the land where Bondsteel was built in the first place? The name is: Bill Clinton. The party: Democratic. In addition, did Clinton engage in the process called: "invade the world one economy at the time"? Yes he did, and in particular the socialist and self-sustainable economies, such as Rwanda and Yugoslavia, by way of proxy aggression and direct aggression respectively. It should strike us as peculiar that a president from the "left" side of the spectrum, i.e., Democrat side, is engaged in a policy that critics call "the Bu$h Agenda," should it not? Was Clinton then the Bush (or Bu$h) before Bush? Indeed, the practice stretches back even further.

In each case, of course, the crime against peace (the supreme international crime, according to the Nuremberg court) is committed for the sake of "world peace," and when we end up owning everything and everyone, this is imperialism "in its truest form." However, it is important that we make clear that this is not new to the Bush administration. In fact, Bush is an amateur compared to Clinton when it comes to concealing this imperialism. Clinton was and continues to be a better manipulator of the public; thus, in my mind, the most gruesomely misguided political bumper sticker of all times reads: "No one died when Clinton lied." Of course, people died when the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant was bombed in Sudan (Operation "Infinite Reach" killed one, wounded 10, and deprived hundreds of thousands of Sudanese and Africans of medication). People died when he lied about Bosnia, about Racak, the pretext for starting to bomb Yugoslavia in the operation "Merciful Angel," i.e., about "impending genocide" in Kosovo that now in 2006 (after Slobodan Milosevic defended himself successfully in The Hague) is no longer an indictable offence at the ICTY. Those were real bombs released upon then-Yugoslavia (a country no longer in existence), though some were banned by international convention. How else did the U.S. get in the possession of the land to build Bondsteel in Serbia?

Secondly, when it comes to Bush's crimes against peace described as "war on terror," they represent a simple continuation of what a democratic president, Jimmy Carter, inaugurated on July 3, 1979. Carter on this fateful day secretly authorized $500 million to create an international terrorist movement that would spread Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia. The result, in Zbigniew Brzezinski's words, was "a few stirred up Muslims" -- meaning the Jihadists and the Taliban. Some like to call the current trouble with "terrorism" a blowback, suggesting that what we now have is the result of some fundamentally misguided policies put in place by some previous (incompetent?) administration. It is interesting, however, that the very term "blowback" first appeared "in a classified CIA post-action report on the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, carried out in the interests of British Petroleum."

If one is wondering what the CIA is doing acting on behalf of British Petroleum, which is not even an American company, it is worth consulting Enghdahl once more to recognize that there is in fact no differentiation within Anglo-American global oil interests. He writes that after the Achnacarry Agreement, the "Seven Sisters" [made up of Esso (Standard Oil of New Jersey, now Exxon), Mobil (Standard Oil of New York), Gulf Oil, Texaco, Standard Oil of California (Chevron), Royal Dutch Shell, and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (British Petroleum)] "were effectively one institution," and that with it, "British and American oil majors agreed to accept the existing market divisions and shares, to set a secret world cartel price, and end the destructive competition and price wars of the last decade." He says that since this 1927 agreement, "the Anglo-American grip over the world's oil reserves has been hegemonic," and that "threats to break that grip have been met with ruthless response..." Engdahl's A Century of War documents a number of instances throughout history where this ruthlessness was displayed on a global scale.

But returning to the notion of "blowback," it is worth pondering if back in 1953 the young CIA was already smart enough to invent this term to express concern about "unintended consequences of covert operations," how difficult it would be for the mature CIA in the 21st century to invent the practice of politically expedient fake blowbacks? Could it be that there is continuity (across administrations and "party" lines) in pursuing Pax Americana (by all means, illegal and immoral)?

There is No Remedy

The inevitable conclusion regarding opposition to "Bush regime" is that the critics of imperialism ostensibly coming from the left are apparently capable of criticizing Pax Americana only as something which is supposedly part of just the Republican agenda, and even more narrowly construed as the Bush agenda. Why are they doing this? One may surmise that if these talking heads were to become "equal opportunity critics," call things as they are, consequences might follow. Perhaps there would be no speaking engagements, and TV interviews would wither away. What else would they lose? Thus, while Juhasz's book makes good points she is constantly on tour speaking, but by misplacing blame, in fact she (as many others), ends up aiding and abetting the U.S. in pursuing its imperialist "globalization."

I understand that being a critic with integrity may push one out of all markets, empty one's niche of supporters, and shrink one's corner of relevance. While the latter is unfortunate, I still prefer the former (integrity).

Consequently, if rescuing "American democracy" (or restoring government accountability to the people) is the goal, it is not enough to rescue it from the "Bush regime." It also must be rescued from Democrats who are equally invested in the imperial project just as Republicans are. Furthermore, as far as the goal of "democracy to the world" is concerned, the best thing for America, American people, and the world is to leave "democracy" up to the world.

These are lofty goals contemplated from the perspective of what is good for not only Americans but also for the peoples the world over. It is another question whether these goals could be accomplished at all. Here are some reasons for doubt:

The calls such as one from Paul Craig Roberts to "rescue American democracy from the Bush regime" have two straightforward interpretations. On the "soft" reading, this is a simple appeal to vote for Democrats come next rounds of elections. This, however, will take us nowhere given that the imperial project is bipartisan in nature. On a more "hard-line" understanding, since the US Constitution provides "for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union," this may be an invitation to organize a quasi-revolution that would remove by force an administration that is continuously violating the Laws of the Union. This is unrealistic, however. The Founding Fathers could not have possibly envisaged a US government controlling the armed forces with such destructive powers that no Militia could defeat.

It appears, therefore, that the imperial project with its bipartisan support is firmly entrenched no matter whether the "Bush regime" or some other regime, Republican or Democrat, is in place.

The Ultimate Cause: Private Ownership of National Interest

In the end, two fundamental question remain unanswered: Why exactly is the US foreign policy bipartisan, why is there only one party in the United States? Could it be the case that just as there is nothing "Federal" about the US Federal Reserve, which is a private enterprise (that possesses no reserves, by the way) or nothing "English" about the Bank of England, which is another private enterprise, that there is nothing "National" in the awesomely important National Interest, which could also be just another private enterprise (perhaps of the very same people as above). It is sometimes said that the U.S. is run by its "East-Coast Elite." However, what is so called would presumably be (part of) American elite, as, after all, the "East Coast" is a part of the U.S. But American elite they are not, for they do not act for the good of their nation since they (mistakenly) think that all nations are theirs (to toy with).

Naturally, if this hypothesis is correct, those who would want to "rescue" American democracy and "re-establish" government accountability are given a clear method to accomplish this. Eliminating the grotesque wealth of a very few persons (through for example something like nationalization) who because of their privileged position have the ability to print money or control interest rates and so on, and to exercise full control of the government (that is, both parties), intelligence agencies, and the military would at once eliminate the "private ownership of national interest." Deprivatizing or recollectivizing national interest would reestablish democracy and political competition would once more become something other than the battle of the clones.

However, the outlined scenario may be more utopian than the Bolshevik Revolution, and certainly the hope would be that American democracy could be rescued without the multiple repeat of the fate that befell the Romanovs.


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About the Author

Aleksandar Jokic is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University. He is the editor of War Crimes and Collective Wrongdoing, Lessons of Kosovo: The Dangers of Humanitarian Intervention, and author of an important essay, "Genocidalism," dealing with (geo)political abuses of the concept of "genocide" impacting current international order.



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Published October 23, 2006