Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Empire Moves and Co-opts in Mysterious Ways

by DERRICK O'KEEFE

Like so many, I’ve by now become used to my childhood heroes letting me down. I long ago accepted that hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, to whom I dedicated many an early adolescent hour of memorizing statistics –just ask me how many assists he had in 1985 –had become the prototypical corporate shill. So when the Great One’ described George W. Bush as a “wonderful leader” and a “great man”, I was basically nonplussed, having come to expect cliché and vapid, if not always reactionary, comment from the most interviewed Canadian in the world.

But the end of innocence with respect to my childhood rock band of choice, the ubiquitous Irish rock group U2, has been a more prolonged and painful process, which culminated last week –on Saint Patrick’s Day, in fact. On March 17, incoming head of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz and Bono had “enthusiastic and detailed” telephone conversations.

Wolfowitz, of course, was one of the key architects of the Iraq war and a long-time hawk and advocate of aggressive, empire-building policy by the United States. The well publicised chats with Bono were a transparent effort to soften up his image; a game Bono is apparently only too willing to play. A colleague of the rock star gushed:

Bono thought it was important that he put forward the issues that are critical to the World Bank, like debt cancellation, aid effectiveness and a real focus on poverty reduction. (CNN.com, March 18, 2005)

Though egomania and naivety may well lead him to believe that he can coerce Wolfowitz to implement more humanitarian policies, Bono’s de facto endorsement of this explicit advocate of imperialism is way beyond the pale. And it marked the culmination of my disillusionment with the politics of the man whose lyrics are permanently embedded in the heads of people my age, if not of people of all ages, so long has been their hold on the title of world’s No.1 band.

My first acquaintance with the humanitarian forays of U2 was seeing the band steal the show at 1985’s Live Aid, the massive rock concert organized to raise money for famine victims in Ethiopia. As Muchmusic endlessly replayed the concert through my pre and early teen years, Bono’s classic performance of Bad’ at that seminal concert became fused for me with the prevalent notion that the West needed only to pay more attention to the forgotten continent’.

This narrative of a helpless Africa for which the privileged white North had failed to bear the burden, though, forgets the numerous anti-imperialist struggles that fought against Western-backed coup d’etats and dictatorships. Even as a brutal war grips the Congo today, few remember that Patrice Lumumba, that country’s champion of independence and only elected leader, was killed at the behest of Belgium and the United States, and with the complicity of UN forces, paving the way for three decades of the Mobutu Sese Seko dictatorship.

So, too, was Thomas Sankara — whose inspiring revolution in Burkina Faso was just starting at the time of Live Aid — murdered and buried in a shallow grave in 1987; his memory and his legacy of striving for literacy, reforestation and social transformation in one of the world’s poorest countries is now largely buried in history.

Even before I was conscious of these African revolutionaries, Bono’s repudiation of his own country’s rebellious history was irksome. I remember distinctly a live video for Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ in which Bono comes onstage with a white flag aloft and screams, “Fuck the Revolution!” He follows this up with the assurance that “this is not a rebel song”, implying a pox on both houses, on the British troops that carried out the notorious massacre in Northern Ireland and on the Irish rebels that fought for reunification and an end to the British occupation.

This pacifistic flourish might even have been forgotten if not forgiven –along with the band’s misguided foray into techno with Zooropa’ –had it not been for Bono’s egregious and now consistent legitimizing of right-wing politicians. There was, of course, Bono’s serenade of Paul Martin at the Liberal leadership convention where the shipping magnate took over Canada’s top job from Jean Chretien.

Then, worse yet perhaps, there was his goodwill tour’ to Africa with Paul O’Neil of the Bush Administration, helping to pretty up the White House while the rest of the world was up in arms and in the streets over its illegal war on Iraq. Around this time, Bono even struck up a friendly acquaintance with the loathsome Jesse Helms.

Finally, then, in what would seem to be a pretty consistent devolution, comes the friendly chat with Paul Wolfowitz, no doubt a preview of future high profile efforts to rehabilitate the image of the World Bank and the war-monger now heading it up.

No point bemoaning too much Bono’s political trajectory, of course. In fact, several astute observers have already pointed out that Wolfowitz’s nomination will only help to accelerate a positive political trajectory already taking shape. For years, many have been arguing for greater cooperation and cross-pollination of analysis between the anti-corporate globalization and the anti-war movements. Frightening and surreal as it is, with the leading advocate of the Iraq war now the leading advocate of World Bank/IMF globalization, those dots are easier than ever to connect.

DERRICK O’KEEFE is an activist and founding editor of Seven Oaks Magazine. He can be reached at: sankara83@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]