May 14, 2003

Why the left-turnabout on sanctions? Hypocrisy, thy name is Rahul Mahajan!

Remember how the sanctions were the equivalent of "genocide" committed by the Evil American Imperialists against the Oppressed Peoples of Iraq? Well, that was then, according to Rahul Mahajan, writing on AlterNet, and reprinted in Counterpunch and Commie Dreams, but this is now, and I quote:

"After five years spent working to end the sanctions on Iraq, I find myself in an odd position. I'm opposed to the current U.S. plans to end the sanctions."

Say what? So "genocide" is no longer genocide? Apparently so. As Rahul puts it: "The new situation is fascinating."

Well, uh, yes, it is, in the same way that a car wreck or a heart attack is fascinating: if only to observe how ugly reality can get. And how knee-jerk anti-Americanism, and not concern for the Iraqi people, motivates a certain section of the anti-war movement in this country and abroad.

Oh, but "actually, it's not so confusing," Rahul reassures us. You see, the evil U.S. refuses to set up a puppet government in Iraq "under neutral UN auspices rather than under those of an occupying power with clear plans for increased regional domination." Instead of making Kofi Annan and the UN bureaucracy the absolute dictators of Iraq, the U.S. is going to rule directly, set up permanent military bases, and use this as a platform from which to launch attacks on Iran and Syria.

While Rahul is right that Syria is definitely in the Bushies' sights, Iran is a different story altogether. The Iranians were cheering on the U.S. invasion, albeit not too loudly, which eliminated their deadliest enemy and chief regional competitor. Now we learn that they were all the while negotiating with the Americans in order to come to some kind of mutual understanding. Power politics, it seems, is a bit more complex than the "America, bad, everybody else, good" doctrine of the Third World Left.

The really telling example of U.S. perfidy, however, is Rahul's trope about how those dastardly Americans are also plotting "to force the Palestinians to acquiesce to the Israeli occupation through the latest 'peace plan.'" Give me a break, willya? The Bushies are going out on a political limb with this "road-map" business, which the Israelis are hopping mad about: "Force the Palestinians to acquiesce"? That has got to be a typo! He must mean force the Israelis to acquiesce. Or else why has their American amen corner gone ballistic at the mere prospect that the "road map" may lead to the creation of a universally-recognized Palestinian state?

The whole thing, avers Rahul, is a plot by the U.S. to "privatize, at least in part," Iraq's oil wealth, and "pay off American corporations" while planning the conquest of the Middle East. Military force can accomplish these goals, is the contention, but

"Some problems are the kind that can't be solved by bombs. Existing UN resolutions require Security Council approval for Iraqi oil sales and for disbursement of oil money to pay for other goods. Other countries may be leery of buying Iraqi oil without some clear understanding that what they're doing is legal, so the United States cannot simply declare those resolutions void by fiat, the way it declared war on Iraq."

What this boils down to is: who gets all that Iraqi oil? Rahul wants the UN to get it, and the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Dennis Miller cabal wants to reward "corporations like Bechtel that are closely tied to current and past administration figures in closed bidding processes with no foreign corporations allowed." The war, it turns out, was mostly a scheme so that" the United States will be able to use Iraq's money to pay off mostly American corporations." And that's not fair! Why not let some of the other nations – who, after all, just stood around and watched as the U.S. beat up the schoolyard weakling – in on picking the victim's pockets? Why, those greedy American imperialists!

What world do these lefties live in? Rahul complains that "the draft resolution being currently circulated would give the United States very open, explicit control over Iraq's oil industry and the money derived therefrom." This is uttered in a tone of outraged disbelief, but why don't "anti-imperialists" of the Left take their own rhetoric seriously? The U.S. imperialists are acting on the "principle" of might makes right, a doctrine well-known to their Soviet predecessors – and to Marx, one might add. Yet poor naïve little Rahul is shocked – shocked! Well, isn't that tough. The question is, now what? Rahul's answer, incredibly enough, is … more sanctions!

The whole campaign to lift the sanctions is a ploy by the U.S. to escape the alleged "legal obligation it shares with the United Kingdom." What obligation – what law? "Since they committed an illegal, aggressive war (with no Security Council authorization) against Iraq," Rahul writes, "they are financially responsible for the reconstruction. Iraq should not have to pay for its own reconstruction, especially since for years to come its oil revenues will be barely enough to meet the basic needs of its people."

First we are told that the evil U.S. is intent on building "permanent bases," and then we are lectured that the Americans have an "obligation" to rebuild an entire nation – yet how, exactly, will that be done without setting up permanent American bases? Indeed, how will it be done without Americanizing Iraq? The American conquerors of Iraq are supposed to pay for everything, and control nothing – a proposal that could exist only in the Bizarro World parallel universe inhabited by all too many leftists, where reality is inverted and he who pays the piper doesn't call the tune.

There are apparently no limits to the illogic induced by anti-Americanism, a delusionary doctrine in which Washington is – and must be – the root of all evil.

What trips up the phony anti-imperialism of the pro-UN left in this instance is that the U.S. invokes international law – embodied in UN resolutions – as a rationale for the war with at least as much justification as the UN fetishists of Rahul's sort invoke it to prove the war's illegality. The UN Security Council approved Gulf War I, and imposed the sanctions, to begin with. Indeed, it was an American President, the present Emperor's father, who declared that the first attack on Iraq was the herald of a "New World Order" – and made a point of his internationalist piety by going to the UN Security Council before putting the question to the U.S. Congress.

The United Nations is itself an agent of foreign domination over subject peoples; look at Bosnia and Kosovo, where the ethnic cleansing of Serbs and the eradication of all political rights was ratified by UN overlords. The big debate in the West is not between the proponents of an American Raj and the defenders of national sovereignty, but over which band of bureaucrats (or gang of profiteers) will have control of the loot. On the grounds that anything is better than the Americans, the amateur anti-imperialists of the Left side with the UN – but there is an alternative. Unfortunately, their ideological blinders prevent many on the Left from seeing it.

The sheer absurdity of the left-turnabout on sanctions underscores the inherently nonsensical internationalism that is the emotional and political core of left-consciousness. Workers of the world, unite: militant idealists who find such slogans attractive are likely to find irresistible a crusade to "make the world safe for democracy." What is their chief concern? Not America, not their home city, town, or state, but the world! The evil of war requires a large canvas. Dangerous idealists are nearly always global in their aspirations.

The pathetic rationalizations uttered by our friend Rahul – "the way that the sanctions work is not the way they used to" – would be funny if the issue wasn't serious. Yeah, they sure don't make draconian economic sanctions the way they used to, if the Iraqi people really won't be harmed at all by them, as we are assured. But then, was the anti-sanctions movement dead wrong all along – did tens of thousands not die because of them? "In the long run," writes Rahul,

" the sanctions must be lifted because they impose a highly inefficient foreign control of the Iraqi economy, causing the collapse of local economic activity and requiring money that should be spent internally to be spent on foreign corporations. In the short run, there is no compelling reason to lift them in the absence of a legitimate Iraqi government that has the right to make choices about how Iraq's oil wealth is to be used for the benefit of the Iraqi people."


"In the short run, f*** the Iraqi people – just as long as we get revenge on the U.S. by any means necessary. Who cares if the Iraqi economy collapses, the bad guys profit, and ordinary people suffer – none of these are 'compelling' enough reasons to stop pompous fools like myself from determining what is best for the Iraqi people."

Anti-Americanism is the anti-interventionism of fools. And it is rooted in anti-capitalism. Why are what Rahul describes as the "state oil companies" run by Saddam Hussein and his mafia-like family sacrosanct? Why shouldn't they be privatized? And why not allow foreign ownership? I'm shocked – shocked! – at Rahul's "xenophobia."

Okay, that was a bit too easy, I know. Plenty of left-oriented activists, notably the widely-respected Voices in the Wilderness, oppose this nutty pro-sanctions position. Let's file this under "It just goes to show…" – as in "It just goes to show how crazy the Left can be if it takes some of its more untenable principles too seriously" – and move along.

But one important point needs to be made. As the embodiment of the one and only successful libertarian revolution in history, the United States is by its very nature a potentially liberating force in the world. The idea that no good could possibly come of this war is obviously wrong. But it is not far off the mark, either, and needs only to be amended: Nothing good for the U.S. can come of this war. All the benefits, such as they are, will be reaped in Iraq, by the Iraqis, while we pay and pay, in human lives and treasure looted from the private incomes of Americans. We spread liberty – or some deformed version of it – abroad, and nurture tyranny at home: that is the price of our rulers' internationalism, and we'll be paying it for some time to come.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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