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The Bush gang's war on the world

October 25, 2002 | Pages 8 and 9

SHOOT FIRST and ask questions later. That's the basic idea of George W. Bush's foreign policy--as described in detail in the 12,000-word "National Security Strategy" document submitted to Congress in September.

Under the so-called "Bush Doctrine," the U.S. claims the right to attack any country without provocation--the real meaning of the Washington catchphrase "pre-emptive war"--and to use its military might to prevent the emergence of any competitor and defy any international law or treaty that gets in the way.

The Bush Doctrine is the blueprint for the massive extension of U.S. power--both military and economic--around the globe. And a new war on Iraq is the first stop. Here, Socialist Worker columnist SHARON SMITH reviews John Pilger's book The New Rulers of the World--and explains the background to the Bush Doctrine.

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JOHN PILGER finished his latest book The New Rulers of the World in February--six months before the Bush administration submitted its National Security Strategy document to Congress. Nevertheless, Pilger's book lays out the case against the Bush Doctrine, exposing both the U.S. government's real aims in the "war on terrorism" and the historic role of Western imperialism--the political and economic domination of the world's superpowers, enforced by military might. Pilger shows that the "war on terrorism" has provided a convenient cover for the U.S. to secure the aims laid out in the Bush Doctrine.

Since the dismantling of the former USSR--once a rival superpower to the U.S.--"[t]he U.S. enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence," the Bush Doctrine states bluntly. On this basis, the U.S. is reserving its right to enforce its will on the rest of the world and protect its national interests from any rivals--or even any regime that refuses to fully comply with its wishes.

Pre-emptive war and regime change are the preferred methods of the new world order, firmly established under the banner of the "war on terrorism." The coming war on Iraq, far from a distraction from the "real" war on terrorism, as some critics have claimed, is an integral component of the U.S. government's strategy to further its own global domination in the post-Cold War world.

As Pilger shows, even the war on Afghanistan--which seemed a response to the September 11 attacks--was actually planned well beforehand. "September 11 provided Bush's Washington with a remarkable justification," Pilger writes. "Pakistan's former foreign minister, Niaz Naik, was told by American officials in mid-July 2001 that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October. Secretary of State Colin Powell was then travelling in Central Asia, already gathering support for an anti-Afghanistan war 'coalition.'"

Pilger demonstrates convincingly that the world's superpowers--however pious the stated justification for military intervention--have always heaped death and destruction on the populations of the nations they conquer.

The Vietnam War killed millions of Southeast Asians, while the Gulf War killed up to a quarter of a million Iraqis. And more than 1 million Iraqis, half of them children under the age of five, have died since from U.S.-imposed economic sanctions.

As an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker, Pilger has traveled the globe since the Vietnam War, and the New Rulers of the World offers not only research and statistics, but interviews and personal narratives that give a human face to the suffering inflicted by the world's superpowers.

Pilger describes his own experience as a reporter in Vietnam, entering a village destroyed by B-52 bombers: "[T]he street had been replaced by a crater; people a hundred yards from the point of contact left not even their scorched shadows, which the dead at Hiroshima had left. There were pieces of limbs and the intact bodies of children thrown into the air by the blast; their skin had folded back, like parchment."

Thirty years after the end of the Vietnam War, pellet bombs--the earliest form of cluster bombs--"continue to kill and maim 20,000 people a year in Laos, a tiny country never at war with America, which was bombed as a sideshow to the destruction of Vietnam and Cambodia."

This history is now replaying in Afghanistan, where roughly 70,000 American cluster bomblets lie unexploded in Afghanistan--waiting to kill and maim Afghan civilians for decades to come. "This is the nature of the 'war on terrorism,'" argues Pilger. "The historical lineage is not in doubt. The same B-52s that destroyed much of Indochina bombed lines of civilians in Afghanistan, fleeing Konduz."

As Pilger writes in the book's introduction, "The narrative that links all four chapters is the legacy of the 'old' imperialism and its return to respectability as 'globalization' and the 'war on terrorism.'" The underlying motive for both "old" and "new" imperialist war is economic, and Pilger demonstrates how the U.S. benefited when it emerged from the Second World War as the world's main superpower.

"It was triumphant and unscathed America that fashioned the present global economy at a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944, giving America's military and corporate establishments unlimited access to minerals, oil, markets and cheap labor," he writes. "The World Bank and IMF were invented to implement this strategy. Their base is Washington, where they are joined by an umbilical cord to the U.S. Treasury. Their members' voting power is determined by wealth: thereby America controls them. The president of the World Bank is always an American."

In a candid statement, U.S. strategic planner George Kennan summarized the framework of U.S. foreign policy in 1948: "We have 50 percent of the world's wealth but only 6.3 percent of the world's population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period…is to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality…We should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization."

Pilger is critical of "the widely held belief among anti-globalization campaigners that…transnational corporate power has replaced the state and, by extension, imperialism." War and repression are the means by which the superpowers ensure their economic domination--and, as Pilger argues, the military enforcement of the global status quo has been strengthened since September 11. "America's economic wars are now backed by the perpetual threat of military attack on any country, without legal pretence," he writes.

This is the context in which the current war on terrorism must be understood. The actual motive for war on Afghanistan had nothing to do with September 11. "The search for Osama bin Laden is circus spectacle," Pilger writes. "The goal is the control, through vassals, of former Soviet Central Asia, a region rich in oil and minerals and of great strategic importance to competing powers, Russia and China. By February 2002, the United States had established permanent military bases in all the Central Asian Republics, and in Afghanistan, whose post-Taliban government is American approved."

Moreover, a significant U.S. military presence in Central Asia will provide a strategic "guardpost" for American control over Persian Gulf oil, as former presidential adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski argued in a 1997 book. And the planned "regime change" in the coming war on Iraq will put the U.S. in direct control over that country's oil resources--the second largest in the world.

To maintain its global dominance, the U.S. has inflicted mass destruction on a scale that makes Saddam Hussein look like "an amateur," as former UN humanitarian coordinator Denis Halliday put it.

The U.S. government has long ranked as the world's leading butcher. Its record of atrocities includes the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Korean War that killed 3 million, the devastation of Indochina in the Vietnam War, the mass killing of civilians in Iraq and now Afghanistan, the invasion of Somalia that left up to 10,000 dead, the invasion of Panama that left thousands buried in mass graves, and the U.S.-sponsored wars in Central America in which thousands were "disappeared."

And as Pilger says, the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan "were kindergartens compared with the world's leading university of terrorism at Fort Benning, Georgia," known until recently as the School of the Americas (SOA). There, the CIA trained generations of terrorists operating death squads and secret police throughout Latin America.

The U.S. has also offered a "safe haven" for terrorists such as former Haitian dictator Gen. Prosper Avril (flown to Florida by the U.S. government) and Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel Constant (living in New York), Chilean torturer and executioner Armando Fernandez Larios (lives in Miami), and Argentinian Adm. Jorge Enrico, leader of the 1970s "dirty war" (lives in Hawaii).

But Pilger is not a pessimist by any means. His experiences in Vietnam led him to become not only a committed opponent of imperialism, but a lifelong champion of the world's oppressed. "Contrary to myth, people are seldom compliant," he writes.

Fittingly, his book pays tribute to those "whose actions shame the silent and defy the myth of apathy" around the world--popular resistance movements from the Landless People's Movement in Brazil to the global justice movement in the West, whose struggles have exposed "[t]hat the real terror is poverty, from which some 24,000 people die every day."

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