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The Fork in the Road

Mike Whitney

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It may seem like a minor point, but there is a yawning chasm that divides “liberals-progressives” on the one hand, and “leftists-radicals” on the other. As the Iraq war devolves into even greater anarchy, these differences are bound to become even more apparent. One of the fundamental differences between the two is that liberals-progressives believe that it is possible to affect substantive change within the existing system. That simply is not the case, and Iraq will illustrate that point better than any long-winded treatise. The sad fact is that Iraq is the logical exponent of the system, not some fluke. An insightful observer could have predicted with mathematical certainty that America would arrive at this particular position at precisely this period of time. It was unavoidable.

Iraq's oil, and its strategic position, was always going to be a central goal of an expansionist, energy-hungry, capital driven USA empire.

Iraq’s oil, and its strategic position, was always going to be a central goal of an expansionist, energy-hungry, capital driven USA empire.

The last 50 years of foreign policy have not been an anomaly, but a concerted effort to co-opt, coerce and cudgel the world body to adopt the principles of unregulated personal accumulation. The defining moments of this recent history have not been expressions of magnanimity and good will but, rather, the many coups, interventions and wars that have revealed the underlying motives in American foreign policy. These may have served many in the USA well, but it has been an unmitigated disaster for the legions of people who live like “Sisyphus in a hair shirt” pushing the rock of daily survival up a steep hill. Basking in the shadow of American economic domination has offered slim rewards for these millions in the third world who suffer from an economic order that originates in Washington. Behind the fig leaf of democratic institutions, the capital generating wheels of industry have spun quite effectively, rewarding those who are clever enough to manipulate the system or who are fortunate enough to be born into the right family. Now, however, the Bush Administration has decided to abandon the many safeguards that have protected Americans from a fate similar to those in the third world and get down to the task of returning things to their “natural order”, which in the Bush lexicon means “oligarchy”. We?re all in the crosshairs now.

Many will take this is a tacit endorsement of Marxist communism. It is not, although a recent reading of the Communist Manifesto still provides an astute analysis of the “free market” tactics being employed by the Bush cronies in Iraq. All 192 publicly owned companies in Iraq are being sold to private USA industries, unemployment there is currently running at 70%, a flat tax of 15% has been arbitrarily initiated, and there are no restrictions on capital flows, which allow corporations to plunder with impunity. The Iraq experiment is doing a great deal to underline the veracity of Marx?s basic theories concerning the insidious nature of unrestricted capital, and the Bush corporate compadr?s have done little to disprove these judgments. Our position, however, is not that Marx was right, but that the aggregate affect of American power has been decidedly negative for the world and now poses a genuine threat to basic democratic institutions at home. Furthermore we believe that the current expression of this threat did not emerge from the ether, but is the nadir of a system whose destructive inclinations are now apparent to all.

This problem is systemic and not fixable with frayed bandages like Howard Dean. The Dean candidacy basically confirms the desperation and denial of the liberal mind-set. The most ardent of Dean?s supporters realize that his positions on the issues may be even farther to the right of Bill Clinton. However, they cling to him as though he was the only reed in a rushing river, thinking he will deliver them from the depredations of George Bush. It won?t be that simple.

The difference between Howard Dean, and what's needed for a change of course in the USA is wider than Howard is letting on.

The difference between Howard Dean, and what’s needed for a change of course in the USA is wider than Howard is letting on.

More than any president in the modern era, George Bush represents the venality and mendacity inherent in American political theatre. He symbolizes the marriage of government and industry into a seamless unit. Far from being the exception, he is actually the epitome of the hypocrisy, brutality and religious sanctimony that has embodied the office for the last half century. His presidency signals the final evacuation of the enlightened principles on which the country was founded.

This is not some simple “shift to the right”, but a flowering of basic themes that have been gaining momentum since World War 2. It?s not likely that ex-Vermont Governor Howard Dean, however well intended, will arrive on his white charger and set the clock back to the early 1950s. We?re stuck with George for a while.

And, just as the Bush presidency reflects the cumulative affects of a dubious modern history, so too, Iraq is the logical corollary of the policy decisions that have resulted in the vindication of open aggression.

Iraq is not a departure from the American dream, it is the American dream; unfettered, unmitigated, unalloyed raw power, lumbering around the dessert like a blind giant, flattening anything that gets in its way. All previous attempts to conceal this commitment to strength are gone. No need for covert operations or secret coups, just a steady diet of Goliath striding the globe snatching what he likes and dispatching the natives with disdain. Liberals think we?ll be able to turn this train around?they?re delusional. Bush has this baby headed for the rocks, so we?d better get used to the idea.

Much of this will be hashed out in Babylon. Already we?re hearing from Lt. Col. Scott Ross of the USA military?s Transportation Command (on the Col David Hackworth web site) that as of Dec. 23, his outfit had evacuated 3,255 battle-injured casualties and 18,717 non-battle injuries. “At least 10% of the total number of Joes that support the occupation effort has been evacuated back to the USA”, opines Hackworth.

10%!!! Now, that?s something you won?t hear in America?s “free press”.

The “no nonsense” Col. Hackworth assures us that this means that there will be a Draft; a bad thing for liberals, a good thing for leftists. The Draft is where “the rubber meets the road”, where dramatic social change becomes a real possibility.

'History will record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.' Martin Luther King, Jr.

’History will record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.’
Martin Luther King, Jr.

We shouldn?t be coy or oblique about Iraq. It is crucial that the mission fails and fails completely. Liberals have mixed emotions about this point, as well as whether or not we should stay and “finish the job”. Let?s be clear, the War in Iraq was an illegal, unprovoked act of aggression. Our continued presence there will not change that, nor can it be considered less than colonial when the USA refuses to allow the world community to put the administration of Iraq under its umbrella.

No, the job is finished when the last troop touches down on American soil and we start to systematically dismantle this military Goliath that is the source of all this mischief. Leftists should be keenly aware of the intrinsic problems related to maintaining military behemoth. Currently, the monster is being used as a resource gathering tool for corporate America. It is also being employed as big business? personal security apparatus, protecting pipelines and other privately owned assets around the world at taxpayer expense. There?s an obvious reason why Republicans invariably support a more robust military, it fits nicely into their plans enhancing wealth by force.

Until more people on the left see the direct connection between this “voracious battlewagon” and the predictable decline in social accommodations and civil liberties, it is unlikely that we will see a tectonic shift in the political order. Iraq may well turn out to be the tsunami-like-event that marks the end of the current epoch. With the grave environmental issues bearing down on us, and the disparity between rich and poor growing ever greater with each year, and the threats of terrorism and regional instability manifesting themselves throughout the world, we should be asking ourselves whether Iraq is the logical exponent of the current profit-driven system or simply an aberration brought on by the present administration?

The reality is that Iraq was perceived first and foremost as a market, and now, it?s a market that is open for business, courtesy of the USA War Machine. We should be wondering how many such “Grand Openings” the world can still handle?

Published Wednesday, January 7th, 2004 - 06:53pm GMT

Article courtesy of Al-Jazeerah

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