FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Naked Display of Imperial Power

by TARIQ ALI

 

The historic significance of the protests against the war in Iraq is that they have been unprecedented in size, scope or scale. This is the first truly global response to a political event: millions have come out on the streets of Western Europe, North and South America, Western Europe, the Far East, Australia and New Zealand and last week, the Arab street exploded with the largest spontaneous demonstration Cairo had seen since Nasser’s funeral.

What will be the effect of the war now raging in Iraq on the peace movement? Its fair-weather friends (symbolised in Britain by the pathetic and spineless figure of the Liberal leader Charles Kennedy) will naturally drop out, but the movement itself will grow in strength and determination. The US occupation of Iraq will necessitate a change in tactics, but the overall strategy of the global peace movement will not alter.

It is now obvious to a large majority of the world’s population that the real threat to peace and stability comes not from the depleted armouries of decaying dictatorships, but from the rotten heart of the American Empire or its regional satrapies (Israel, Britain). It is this new awareness of world realities that has radicalised a new generation across the globe. Those who accept the official justifications for the conflict simply cannot understand the resistance to this war. It has nothing to do with support for Saddam, but reflects a refusal to believe the untruths being spouted by Bush, Rumsfeld and Blair and their apologists in the media. Apart from the United States, few citizens elsewhere believe that the fiercely secular Ba’ath Party of Iraq has any links with Osama’s gang. As for ‘weapons of mass destruction’ the only nuclear stockpile in the region is situated in Israel. And even if Saddam Hussein had the capacity to acquire these weapons, an imperial princess had already pointed out that it would be a futile act.

In the January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs, for example, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice wrote: “The first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence‹if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration.”

Unusable in 2000, but now Saddam must be removed by bombing Iraqi cities and a land invasion before he gets them? Like many of the other pretexts for this war it doesn’t add up, thus fuelling a broad-based opposition.

What appears to have happened is that a Christian-Jacobin faction from the extreme-right of the Republican Party (backed by hard-core Zionists) has utilised 9/11 to capture the White House, the Pentagon and the Department of Justice. Their aim is the pursuit of a bold and audacious imperialist agenda of which the occupation of Iraq is seen as the first step. Iran and the Korean Peninsula are the next targets.

Its spokespeople, compared to the flatulent rhetoric of their New Labour toadies, are refreshingly honest: in order to preserve US hegemony they will use force wherever and whenever necessary.

European hand wringing leaves them unmoved. If the United Nations can’t be used as an instrument of US power it should be dumped without too much delay. And, one could argue from the other side, if the UN is genetically incapable of preventing pre-emptive strikes by imperial rogue states that openly violate its charter (leave alone ratifiying the occupation of Iraq and becoming an after-sales service for the Empire) then it is time to think of other more effective arrangements. The creation or strengthening of existing regional associations of nation states would be an obvious next step. Recently, the Organisation of American States isolated the US and refused to endorse any attempts to topple Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (another oil-rich state considering moving from the dollar to the Euro).

The antiwar movement was given a tremendous boost by the French-German decision not to back the war. This is the first occasion on which a disagreement between the inner core of the EU and the United States exploded into a public rift and helped polarise public opinion both in Europe and North America. Add to that the Turkish parliament (unlike the House of Commons) disrupted the war effort and the Canadian Prime Minister used strong language to denounce the conflict. The opposition of these states is limited (only Belgium refused to permit the use of its air space), but that it exists at all marks a turning point in European-US relations. If the US continues on this course then the EU will have to re-open a public discussion regarding its future. A fierce private debate is already taking place in France and Germany. The ramifications of the assault on Iraq will have global consequences and a resistance to the Empire is inevitable. Its timing is the only point of dispute. Where will this take the peace movement?

The model of what needs to be done by today’s dissenters was established in the last year of the 19th century. Mark Twain, shocked by the chauvinist reaction to the Boxer Rebellion in China and the US occupation of the Philippines, sounded the tocsin. The problem, he argued, was imperialism. It had to be opposed. His call led to a mammoth assembly in Chicago in 1889, which founded the American Anti-Imperialist League. Within two years its membership had grown to over half a million and it attracted some of the most gifted writers and thinkers of the United States (Henry James, Charles Elliot Norton, W.E.B. Dubois, William Dean Howells, Frederic Douglass, Jr, etc.)

Today, when the United States is the only imperial power, the importance of a global Anti-Imperialist League cannot be understate, but it is the US component of such an organisation that will be crucial. The resistance can only be political. The history of the rise and fall of Empires teaches us that it is when their own citizens finally lose faith in the efficacy of infinite wars and permanent occupations that the beast implodes.

The World Social Forum (which hosts the movement of movements every year) has, till now, concentrated on the power of multinational corporations and neo-liberal institutions. But Friedrich von Hayek, the inspirer of the “Washington Consensus”, was a firm believer in wars to buttress the new system. The World Social Forum should think of campaigning against the military presence of the US in 120 countries. Economics is after all only a concentrated form of politics and war a continuation of both by other means.

TARIQ ALI’s latest book, The Clash of Fundamentalisms is published in paperback by Verso.

Yesterday’s Features

Pablo Mukherjee
Watch Their Lips

David Krieger
Shock But Not Awe

Linda Heard
Winning Hearts and Minds Bush-Style

Imad Jadaa
The Beautiful Face of America

Adam Engel
Buckets of Blood

Patrick Cockburn
Kurds Unimpressed

David Lindorff
POWs, Torture and Hypocrisy

Robert Fisk
The Coup That Didn’t Happen

April Hurley, MD
A Doctor’s Outrage in Baghdad

Gloria Bergen
Chretien’s Shame

Reema Abu Hamdieh
The Smell of Death Surrounds Me

Website of the War
Iraq Body Count

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Women’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail