Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive!
CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

State of the Union and the New Cold War

by Rahul Mahajan

Any who doubted the characterization of the war on terrorism as a new Cold War had only to listen to the State of the Union address, Bush’s most depressing speech since he launched his unlimited war with his address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

The following points, all stunningly reminiscent of the 1950’s and early 1960’s, are easily discerned from the text of the speech:

We are once again a beacon of civilization, on a higher moral plane than others, opposing absolute evil — not only did Bush refer twice to the “civilized world,” meaning us and our close allies, we also learn that Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, along with their “terrorist allies” constitute an “axis of evil.” In a stunning display of hypocrisy, Bush even indicted Iraq for attempting to weaponize anthrax, something the United States has been doing itself. Although couched in universalist terms — “the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice and religious tolerance” — this renewed, over cultural supremacism is no less odious than that of the supposedly bygone colonial era.

We assert as forcefully as we did in the days of fighting the “international Communist conspiracy,” that the war on terrorism allows us to intervene wherever we like, if we so choose — “some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake: If they do not act, America will.” Once again, any development anywhere is a threat to our national security, and “all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security.”

We need permanently higher military budgets in order to “defend” ourselves (with useless and expensive high-tech programs like missile defense and the joint-strike fighter, not with ways to defend against realistic terrorist attacks) — “My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades, because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high: whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay it.” Bush’s proposed new military budget is $379 billion, an increase of $48 billion over the already unexpectedly high 2001 budget — the increase alone is larger than any other nation’s military budget.

We are once again beset by internal enemies — “And as government works to better secure our homeland, America will continue to depend on the eyes and ears of alert citizens.” This is not yet at the level of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings and pamphlets on how to tell if your neighbor is a communist that characterized the 1950’s, but it is a significant step closer.

Our “economic security” is essential to our national security, so disagreements on economic policy and on how high corporate profit should be must be submerged to an artificial national unity. Congress must pass an energy policy that involves more drilling for oil in the United States, must give the president Trade Promotion Authority (popularly known as fast-track) in concluding “free trade” agreements, and must make the Bush tax cut permanent — all in the name of security.

We are called once again to sacrifice for a very particularly conceived “national good” — “My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime to the service of your neighbors and your nation.” The newly created USA Freedom Corps needs volunteers to help preserve our “homeland security.” The call for citizens to do some form of public service, in itself, is not a bad thing, but the choice to ask them to prepare for possible terrorist attacks instead of trying to provide education, housing, and social services to people who need them is about attempting to mobilize the time and energy of the people in the service of the existing power structure and about co-opting other kinds of popular mobilization.

In sum, the war on terrorism will involve more frequent military interventions, with less of an attempt to placate international sensibilities, and with the constant excuse of protecting American security. It will involve more overt appeals to Western cultural supremacy, although couched in universalist terms. It will involve more arms proliferation and a growth of military spending, and a lessening of democracy in this country, both in terms of the public’s ability to affect decisions and in terms of individual freedom to dissent from the course advocated by dominant institutions.

If this were the whole story, it would be a very depressing one. But excess inevitably produces a reaction and empires sooner or later overreach themselves.

This country has already seen an antiwar movement spring up with unprecedented speed, in the aftermath of September 11. Twin upcoming events, the planned protests at the World Economic Forum in New York, and the gathering of an estimated 50,000 people at the “alternative” World Social Forum (in its second year already far larger than the WEF) will signify the depth and breadth of resistance to the renewed projects of American imperial domination and domestic social control articulated in Bush’s speech.

If the power fantasies of the Bush administration are met with renewed and increased popular mobilization, the frightening world envisioned in the State of the Union address may not come to pass.

Rahul Mahajan serves on the National Boards of Peace Action and the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, and is a member of the Nowar Collective. He is the author of the forthcoming The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism, out in March from Monthly Review Press. He can be reached at rahul@tao.ca

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 26, 2016
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail