FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Washington Chooses Its Battles

Earlier in his reign, Barack Obama told an audience in Egypt that “America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”  Despite much evidence to the contrary, many people, especially Americans, believe this to be true.  Whether or not Obama is one of them I don’t know, but it’s not his opinion that matters.  It’s the opinion of the people of the world. And more importantly for the purposes of US anti-imperialists, the opinion of people in the US.  If Washington doesn’t act out of self-interest, then what does it act out of?  Altruism?  Their dependence on the machinery of death denies that argument–after all, killing healthy people living their own lives is not an altruistic act.

After Obama reversed his decision to end military tribunals and release the pictures of US torture, and the Democrats refused to close Guantanamo, liberal and progressive pundits in the media began wringing their hands asking how this could be.  After all, they say, this is the neocon agenda, not the agenda for change that Obama got elected on.  How can we change this?

What kind of hold do Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and the rest of the rabid rightwingers have on the liberals we voted for?  The question none of these handwringers have asked is a very simple, indeed, a very radical one.  That question is, is the foreign policy of Washington the same no matter which party is in power?  The reason why this question isn’t asked is as simple as the answer (which is of course, yes)–  it is not a policy, it is an economic and political system that incorporates both political parties, the media, the educational system, and the commercial life that is the US.

The accepted understanding since September 11, 2001 is that the events that day changed everything in the world.  The truth is the opposite.  Nothing changed at all.  Nothing, that is, except for the justification used by the Pentagon and Wall Street to continue their rigged game against the world.  Instead of communism or the yellow hordes, it became terrorism.

The war on drugs. This exercise in futility (if one accepts its premise that it is being fought to end the influx of illegal drugs into the US) hasn’t ended illegal drug trade and its accompanying murder and mayhem, but it has put US bases in regions where there were none.  It has also been used as part of the imperial struggle against national liberation and indigenous movements that are contrary to US interests–Sendero Luminoso in Peru back in the 1980s and 1990s to the narco-traffickers in Mexico of today.

The global war on terror hasn’t ended terror but has put bases in places where none were before–with the added attraction that they are in areas rich in resources and also encircle Russia and China–potential capitalist rivals.  In addition, it has strengthened Israel’s position in the Middle East, leading to further and more brutal oppression of the Palestinians while increasing the possibility of war with Iran.  On top of that we now have the selective bombing of  various Muslim and Arab countries in the name of supposed freedom struggles whose very alignment with Washington and its NATO surrogate make the possibility of real freedom less likely with each “Made In USA” bomb dropped or missile fired.  Meanwhile, Israel, that supposed beacon of freedom in the Middle East, continues to shoot Palestinian protesters at will.

The control of WMD. If nothing else has shown the vacuity of this policy, the war on Iraq has.  Initially undertaken to find and destroy WMD in Iraq, it soon became apparent in the weeks after March 20, 2003 that there were no such weapons.  Indeed, the previous administration had already forced the elimination of any such weaponry via its regimen of deadly sanctions, illegal flyovers and bombings and occasional missile attacks on Iraq.  Although US policymakers were concerned about WMD in Hussein’s Iraq, this concern had a lot more to do with the challenge they represented to Washington and Tel Aviv’s dominance in the region than they had to do with concern for proliferation of said weapons.  This is the case in the ongoing campaign of half-truths and threats against Teheran’s nuclear power endeavors.  In the 1990s, northern Korea went along with the program to end its nuclear weapons development with an understanding that the US and other nations would help them develop power that could not be converted into weapons.

Washington failed to uphold its end of the bargain under Clinton and Bush put the nation into Washington’s axis of evil.  Now, Pyongyang is testing the right wing government in Seoul while keeping DC at a distance.  The hypocrisy of this policy against WMD is laid bare by the complete and total refusal of Washington to address either the US or Israel’s nuclear weapons program at all.

The immigration battle.  US capitalism requires cheap labor.  An economy that exists because of its early dependence on slavery can not readily give up labor that comes cheap.  Since the end of slavery, immigrants have historically filled the lowest positions in the labor pool. They have also been subject to some of the worst violations of their rights since the time of slaves.  Indeed, today a whole system of prisons exist solely to lock up immigrants primarily because they are essentially excess labor.  As prisoners, they prop up another domestic part of the Empire–the prison system.

I am of the opinion, like many other folks, that prisons are the present day embodiment of the system of chattel slavery.  An unneeded and unwanted part of the population is put in chains and forced to work for meals and a minimal stipend, oftentimes because they have been convicted of a crime that was written with their demographic in mind.  Do the differences between the original penalties for crack cocaine and its powdered version ring any bells?  The other aspect to this labor arrangement is that it is the taxpayers who make up the difference.  Yes, even when the prisons are privately owned (a situation that creates another form of injustice), the taxpayers pay through the nose even while the owners make a profit.

There’s an argument that says the State needs enemies to justify its existence and, if it doesn’t have nay, it will create them.  The preceding list is a clear indication of that as far as the United States is concerned.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available in print and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

Limited Time Special Offer!
Get CounterPunch Print Edition By Email for Only $25 a Year!

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

June 25, 2018
Laura Flanders
National Suicide Point?
Ludwig Watzal
The Death of Felicia Langer
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail