Arrogance of Power
George Szamuely
New York Press


I was in California last weekend speaking at the Second Annual Conference. Started in 1995 by two young Californians Justin Raimondo and Eric Garris as a website dedicated to resisting the American empire, now easily outshines the dreary foreign policy mags filled with the self-important vacuities of the Washington apparat.

The conference theme was "Beyond Left and Right" and for a good reason. When it comes to imperialism, there is much that left and right can agree on. Imperialism means government repression at home, violations of international law abroad, the exploitation of the weak by the strong and the destruction of different national cultures and traditions. Speakers ranged from Patrick Buchanan to my New York Press colleague Alexander Cockburn. Other participants included Chronicles editor Thomas Fleming, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia James Bissett and Lenora Fulani. This was no "neoconservative" gathering where speakers outdid one another in their abject groveling at the feet of "neoconservative" elders. Nor was this some corporate-funded Establishment get-together where the assorted Brzezinskis and Eagleburgers argue about whom to bomb next and where to make a buck (the two activities are usually one and the same). There were no lavish banquets at the Hyatt. lives off contributions from not terribly wealthy individuals who fear a U.S. government that professes so much benevolence, yet acts with so much malevolence.

No one in public life can match Pat Buchanan in eloquence on the subject of American imperialism. "A seething resentment of America is brewing all over the world," he declared, "and the haughty attitude of our foreign policy elite only nurses the hatred. Hearken, if you will, to the voice of our own Xena, Madeleine Albright: ‘If we have to use force it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see farther into the future.’ Now I count myself an American patriot. But if this Beltway braggadocio about being the world’s ‘indispensable nation’ has begun to grate on me, how must it grate upon the Europeans, Russians, and peoples subject to our sanctions because they have failed, by our lights, to live up to our standards?" Buchanan spoke of "hubris," "arrogance of power," "triumphalism," "America’s Brezhnev Doctrine," but he did not get into what’s behind this mad rush for empire. Cockburn had an answer, one that had been put forward more than 80 years ago by V.I. Lenin. Capitalism leads to imperialism. And, imperialism, in turn, leads to war.

Cockburn’s economic explanations have much to commend them. U.S. foreign policy exists to promote "market democracy." By "market democracy," the U.S. means a state that imposes no restrictions on the free flow of capital and goods from the U.S. The United States bombs and starves countries in order to make them safe for foreign investment. Recently Thomas Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Bosnia, was spluttering in outrage that there were still no McDonald’s in Sarajevo. "If you can’t get McDonald’s into a country you can’t get anything into a country," he mused. "I really do hope that we’ll all be eating McDonald’s burgers by this fall."

In the Caucasus, the United States is setting up satellite states, the better to plunder the oil riches of the Caspian. "Market democracy" there means being on the payroll of Bechtel, General Electric, Chevron and BP Amoco. Will this lead to war with Russia? Probably. Meanwhile, the bombing of Iraq goes on without remission. Sanctions remain in place with no one asking why–vaguely we recall some talk of "weapons of mass destruction." Yet Scott Ritter, former chief weapons inspector for UNSCOM, has said that "Iraq has been disarmed. Iraq today possesses no meaningful weapons of mass destruction capability." In any case, if there is one thing Saddam Hussein has learned it’s that you need "weapons of mass destruction" to survive in the world. Whoever rules in Baghdad will now be more determined than ever to get the Bomb. "Sanctions are the leverage the international community has to get the government of Iraq to comply" with its demands to disarm, U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham told the UN Security Council. By "international community," he means what Washington policymakers usually mean by the term: the U.S., its faithful poodle Great Britain and no one else.

Read George Szamuely's Exclusive Column

Archived Columns by George Szamuely from the New York Press

Arrogance of Power

Prison Love

Gore's Oil

Rough Justice

Race Race

Al the Coward

Intruder Alert

McCain's Money

Haider Seek

Out of Africa

Prosecute NATO

Villain or Victim?

Intervention, Immigration, and Internment

Home-Grown Terrorism

Who Benefits?

Laws of Return

Embassy Row

Selling Snake Oil

Chinese Puzzle

That Was No Lady, That Was the Times

The Red Tide Turning?

Pat & The Pod

United Fundamentalist States

Let Them All Have Nukes!

Liar, Liar

Gangster Nations

Puerto Rico Libre – and Good Riddance

Leave China Alone

A World Safe for Kleptocracy

Proud To Be Un-American

All articles reprinted with permission from the New York Press

According to UNICEF, half a million infants have died as a result of sanctions. Children under five are dying at more than twice the rate they were 10 years ago. Finally, after five years of watching innocent Iraqis suffering, the UN agreed in 1995 to institute an oil-for-food program that would permit Iraq to sell oil and use the revenue to buy food, medicine and other supplies. The UN would have to approve every Iraqi purchase. Needless to say, the U.S. has difficulties approving anything; they’ve held up more than $1 billion in contracts for equipment to rebuild Iraq’s electricity, oil and water industries. Thus, the sewage system is a disaster and there is no clean water. The International Committee of the Red Cross, in a December 1999 report, said that the oil-for-food program "has not halted the collapse of the health system and the deterioration of water supplies, which together pose one of the gravest threats to the health and well being of the civilian population." The former administrator of the oil-for-food program Denis Halliday stated, "We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral."

Why is the U.S. pursuing this extraordinarily cruel and vindictive policy against a power that today poses very little threat to anyone? Why is it inflicting so much suffering on innocent civilians? If the U.S. is so concerned about high oil prices, is it not time to let Iraq sell oil? The answer is that the war against Iraq enables the United States to maintain a military presence in the Middle East. And high oil prices is precisely what the U.S. has been looking for in order to get that Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline off the ground. That’s imperialism for you.

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