The decline of the American Century
The decline of the American Century
By K Gajendra Singh Al-Jazeerah, February 28, 2005
"When there is a general change of conditions, it is as if the entire creation had been changed and the whole world been altered." - Ibn Khaldun
"History is but glorification of liquidateers, criminals and robbers." - Karl Popper
BUCHAREST - It is the afternoon sun that dazzles onlookers though it is past its prime. That sums up the height of US power before last September 11. If the US nuclear planting of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without fear of retaliation was the acme of the American Century, then the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols of economic and military might, could be termed the begi! nning of the end of the American Century.
US President George W Bush's spontaneous call for a "crusade" and "Infinite Justice" neatly expressed the reality better than the later slogans, "war on terrorism" and "Enduring Freedom". At least the Muslim mbuttes all over the world now watching daily brutalities inflicted on innocent Palestinians and their persecution since the occupation of their land, illegal plantings of Iraq and now a threat of unjustified war without any casus belli are convinced that there is a Western crusade that calls for a jihad. Many even believe that the September 11 attacks were a Zionist conspiracy. To many, Osama bin Laden is a hero, as Che Guevara is to leftists. Al-Qaeda is popular among many Muslims, who are against the stationing of US troops on sacred Saudi Arabian s! oil. They despise oppressive US-supported regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.
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After having thoughtlessly helped create the monster of Islamic fundamentalism, the United States has now succeeded in arousing it, ranging the might of Islamic people and their faith against itself. Earlier, the poor and the deprived could find solace and action in communist and leftist ideologies and programs, but after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, many in the Islamic world have taken to extreme religious movements.
For the first time in history, war has been brought to US territory, making it dar ul harab (the house of war). Even a normal air accident now shatters the jangled nerves and morale of New Yorkers. Apart from bearding the Western lion in! its den, inflicting direct and collateral economic damage that may amount to as much as US$95 billion, September 11 globalized the feeling of insecurity and terror from which the United States had felt immune. Without much of a spiritual anchor, frightened New Yorkers indulged in "terror love" for comfort. Ten months on, erotic parties are still the staple diet of the middle clbuttes. University of Washington sociology professor Dr Pepper Schwartz says, "In times of upheaval and terror, people look for confirmation of life, and there is no more obvious antidote to rest than love. It happened between British women and American GIs during World War II, it happened in Korea and Vietn! am." Industries such as tourism, hospitality, travel and leisure, which hike up gross domestic products (GDPs) in the West, have been hit and will not recover easily.
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The US spends a staggering amount of money to defend itself. But the innovative guerrilla air attacks that stunned the US pierced forever the myth of homeland inviolability. Those who live in glbutt houses cannot be immune from stones. The tens of billions of dollars spent by the US government on agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) could not protect Americans. And there is no guarantee that they can in the future. Apart from killing ill-trained Taliban and planting to rest thousands of innocent civilians, the combined special forces of the United States, United! Kingdom and other allies have not been able to catch the main leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Rather, a war scare is being created in order to pour trillions of dollars into national missile defense (NMD) and other defense projects, which will only fatten the pockets of the military-industrial complex and the corporate interests behind it.
buttbuttins In some ways the Saudis and Egyptians who carried out the September 11 attacks are descendents of the buttbuttins who emerged in the 10th century against the tyrannical caliphs, the military and civil rulers in the Middle East. These dissolution persons even frightened the supreme Mongol warlord far away in Karakorum. He sent his brother Hulagu to destroy their bases in Iran's mountain stronghold of Alamut near the Caspian Sea. Lat! er, the 13th century Mamluk sultan, Baybars, destroyed their bases in Syria. Stories of martyred buttbuttins entering a paradise of beautiful women in gardens full of flowers and fruit trees with streams of water, honey and wine were products of fertile European imagination, a misconception that still persists in the West. Their real motivation was religious fervor and obedience to their sheikh's cause. The buttbuttins learned languages, the art of fighting, even posed as Sufis, waited for years, even decades, for the opportunity to knife the target and die happily. (1)
Throughout history, there have always been asymmetrical wars, with the only recourse of the weak to sacrifice his life against a powerful tyrant. Among Muslims, Caliph Ali's son Imam Hussein, his forces outnumbered, is revered for his sacrifice at Kerbala for his principles. Today, nations send their soldiers to die for co! untry or corporate interests in exchange for Purple Hearts and Distinguished Service Medals.
The sorry results of subcontracting the hunt for al-Qaeda and Taliban to Afghans and Pakistanis, instead of sending Rambos and James Bonds, is there for all to see. There are plenty of black-humor stories of these Rambos' and 007s' adventures in real life. Faced with an unknown and invisible enemy in hostile terrain, many US operatives have returned home unbalanced and unhinged. Yes, there have been few US casualties. As Richard Cohen of the Washington Post commented last January, "a virtually nonexistent US casualty rate is either a signal achievement or a debacle in the making. It the US was terrified of losing lives. It would fire off a missile on occasion or send planters screeching overhead, but it would not put men on the ground. To him bin Laden, the USA was a paper tiger. You name the place - Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Somalia - the United States had failed to finish the job. By reducing the cost of war to almost nil, the United States may have set the stage for yet more terrorism and bloodshed."
Cohen concluded: "America's war aims may well be compromised by America's reluctance to 'take casualties'." Bin Laden and his followers can survive on beans, but Western forces must have bottled water.
The technique of Mao Zedong's rural guerrillas of disappearing into the countryside when attacked, like fish in water, helped the North Vietnamese humiliate the United States in the 1960s and '70s. Similarly in the 4th century BC, when Alexander, sweeping everything in his wake, reached Oxus (near Bokhara), a delegation from the horse-riding Scythian nomads of the steppes up north warned him against further advance. The nomads, Alexander was told, unlike the Achemenian emperor and others, would not stand up and fight. They would disappear in the steppes and attack when least expec! ted. Just like the 3rd-millennium buttbuttins who struck on September 11.
Evolution of mercantile and corporate interests Magicians and priests ruled in early history. As tribes got better organized, power was shared and then transferred to warriors and kings, with priests and wise men as advisers. From the mercantilism of Genoa and Venice, if not of the Phoenicians or Miletians, merchants emerged as new power brokers in Europe. Ever since Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, Westerners, particularly Anglo-Saxons, have put almost total faith in the survival-of-the-fittest rule. With Cartesian thinking, apart from colonialism, imperialism and cultural orientalism, the West also evolved divisive nationalism, Marxism, capitalism, ideological totalitarianism - and now globalism, under the garb of economic deregulation and integration, creating a system akin to capitula! tion, granting sovereign power to foreign interests and expatriates. Capitulations undermined the Ottoman empire. China was one of capitulation's greatest victims. (2)
With the United States replacing Europe as the new focus of Western power, it believes there is nothing superior to human knowledge. In Greek philosophy, from which Western civilization derives, the idea of unwritten laws exists - which "live always and forever, and no man knows from where they have arisen". Western belief in an external moral universe to which men owe obedience has been changed to a rational secular alternative. The late English social historian, philosopher, and essayist Isaiah Berlin's advice that "solutions to the centr! al problems existed, that one could discover them and, with sufficient selfless effort, realize them on Earth" has been lost. Popular religious belief in the West still remains strong, but since the mid-20 century its elites have become secularized with radical autonomy and absolute freedom to do whatever one chooses - alone in the universe. There is general belief in the US that everyone has a price and can be bought. Happiness is a function of more cars, more white goods and higher gross national product (GNP). But the world is not made like that.
The American Century The American Century began in the early 20th century when European economic and military power, with Great Britain first among equals, started declining and was transferred to the American subcontinent - from the City of London to Wall Street. World War I announced the arrival of the new guy on the block, the United States, but it was not yet numero uno. That happened in World War II, when the stamp of brutal power was heard around the world as the United States dropped two nuclear plants on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at a time when no other world power had such a weapon.
By now there is enough evidence to believe that US authorities let Pearl Harbor happen. US president Franklin Roosevelt's son and confidant, talking of people "scorched and boiled and baked to rest", said that the atomic planting should continue "u! ntil we have destroyed about half the Japanese civilian population". General Leslie Groves, military director of the Manhattan Project, hastily rebuttured congressmen that radiation caused no "undue suffering" and that "in fact, they say it is a very pleasant way to die". In 1946 a US strategic planting survey concluded that "Japan would have surrendered even if atomic plants had not been dropped".
While the power of military preponderance remained with the United States, the Soviet Union arrived as a challenger with its own nuclear plant in 1950s. The Cuban face-off in 1962 between the two nuclear powers was a US victory on points, and soon the two sides, the capitalist world led by US and the Soviet Union, reached a nucle! ar stalemate, appropriately named MAD (mutual buttured destruction).
What has been described as the Cold War was almost like a simulated nuclear war, in which the two sides invested most of their economic strength. The USSR, a lesser economic power, lost the war by the end of the 1980s. Historically, however, prolonged wars between two well-matched enemies affect both adversely. It was the exhaustion caused by the prolonged wars between the Byzantine and the Sasanian empires, as well as plagues and famines, that allowed Islam, the new military power from the deserts of Arabia, so easily and quickly to carve an empire that stretched from the Atlantic to China. So after its Cold War victory, aided by a naive Mikhail Gorbachev and consolidated with the help of Boris Yeltsin and his coterie, it became appare! nt very soon that the capitalist system led by the US had started shuddering.
Whither capitalism? By August-September 1998, the very bastions of capitalism were reduced to utter panic and incoherence after the collapse of the East and Southeast Asian economies, the decimation of the Russian ruble and the threatened fall of the Brazilian economy.
On September 8, 1998, the Washington Post under the headline "Rethink capitalism", "What is frightening about the world's current economic troubles is a sense that rules we thought we understood don't seem to apply now. Until a few months ago, we thought we knew what a developing country had to do to join the ranks of the wealthy. We thought we knew how a communist country could transform itself into a capitalist one. The general understanding was that as the! world became more connected, it also would become more prosperous. Now, with Russia and much of Asia having crashed, with Eastern Europe and Latin America imperiled and with much of Africa going backward, the certainties of only a year ago seem far from certain."
Other headlines around the same time were "Global capitalism, once triumphant, is in full retreat" (Robert J Samuelson in Newsweek) and "In Russia, the liberal Western model has failed" (Martin Malia in the International Herald Tribune). There were similar articles in the Council of Foreign Relations' magazine Foreign Affairs and other journals.
The situation remains confused. Perhaps, figuratively speaking, the introduction of computers, the Internet and globalization has brought about a concept akin to the theory of relativity in human economic phenomena and decision-making, over simple erstwhile "Newtonian" economics. Hence it is not easy to comprehend econometrics and tabulate it as before. ! By the end of the 20th century US corporate interests had acquired almost full control of world finance and power. The nominees of the armaments, energy and other sectors become presidents who promote their interests at home and abroad. Corporate interests bid for their candidate and the highest bidder gets his man in the White House. But even with a blind opening bid of nearly US$65 million, only legal jiggery-pokery, possible only in the US, could get George W Bush into the White House. This was despite the fact that the United States has perhaps one of the best judicial systems, in spite of the excesses of ambulance chasers and alimony and palimony lawyers.
While the American people were confused, scared and panicky after September 11, the Bush administration did not miss the chance to enrich it! s masters. As US economist Paul Krugman pointed out at the end of last year, the US Congress voted $15 billion in aid to airline companies but nothing for laid-off airline workers. Also there was almost nothing for the unemployed but $25 billion in retroactive corporate tax cuts, mostly to highly profitable companies.
Abroad, the charade of globalization, a distorted version of capitalism, enforces rapid capital movements for quick profits with no accountability, leaving weak national economies in disarray and shattered. It has played havoc around the world. The weapons used are the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the United Nations, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and now the World Trade Organization (WTO). The movement against the WTO, led by Western citizens, is getting stronger as shown in Seattle, Naples and elsewhere and, instead of being a celebration of a rich man's club giving orders to the developing world and its proletariat and serfs, it now has to meet in remote fortress-like places. But it has been overtaken by September 11, with the club members hiding behind the slogan of patriotism and the war against terror.
US leadership and lessons from history An astute analyst blamed the US debacle in Vietnam on a lack of moral and integrated leadership. The war was run like a managerial enterprise. There was no holistic or long-term planning. Leaders from the corporate and legal professions, sometimes ruthless and insensitive academics such as Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, came in for a f! ew years to manage Washington.
If a president gets a second term, he wants his name carved in history. Bill Clinton's rush for a solution exacerbated the situation between Israel and Palestine. Of course in the corporate world if things go wrong, one can close the company and retire with handsome benefits or start a new one. Until recently mighty Enron, now unraveled, was even threatening sanctions against India. The history of capitalist and corporate America is like that of any empire built by a line of brilliant rulers, say the Ottoman or Moghul empires. When dishonest grand viziers took over, the empires declined and fel! l. After Henry Ford and others built their empires, professional managers took over. But with the fraud and cheating by professional managers in Enron, WorldCom etc, America is slated for decline.
In history, when societies become rich and flabby they are reluctant to engage in bloody fights. The desert Arabs whose swords carved an empire became soft after lapping up luxuries from the conquered Byzantine and Persian empires.
By the mid-9th century the caliphs started recruiting Turkish nomad slaves from Central Asia for fighting. It was only a matter of time before the slaves took over and upgraded the minor office of sultan to the protector of hapless Arab caliphs. With the route to Turkish slaves blocked by Persians, the Ottomans recruited non-Muslim Christian Slav boys from the Balkans as "new soldiers" or Janissaries (Turkish yeniceri). The best among them ran the empire, but after a few centuries they became a law unto themselves. Soon the Janissaries were terrorizing not their Christian enemies in Europe but their own sultans, overthrowing and even killing some. They had to be destroyed, but it led to decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire. (3)
It is said that the secretive Shi'a sect of the Alawites, who allegedly believe in transmigration of soul, form about 12 percent of the Syrian population. While the majority Syrian Sunnis controlled trade, industry and politics, downtrodden Alawites became foot soldiers, slowly progressing through the ranks to become middle-level and senior military officers. Soon there were enough and, led by General Hafiz buttad, they took over Syria, which they still rule. When in the mid-1980s Sunnis end nearly 100 A! lawite officers in Hama, buttad's half-brother was sent there. He butchered more than 30,000 Sunnis, creating a new Hama Rule: "Rule or die".
US and European leaders are reluctant to risk soldiers in conflicts and wars, even for human intelligence. Fear of body bags - and what they would do to their popularity - sends shivers down their spines. Hence the use of missiles and stealth planters. (Rambos and James Bonds are for celluloid.) On the other side are Muslims like those who stunned the United States last September 11, determined to die for their cause. They are more dangerous than the machinelike robot persons from the West's special forces; even more than the cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who carry cyanide pills, giving them the easy option of avoiding torture if caught.
Both George W B! ush and his predecessor as US commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton, avoided military service in Vietnam - much like the Arab caliphs. When the draft became unpopular among whites, it was abolished; now more blacks join the US armed forces. They may not repeat what Alawites have done in Syria or the slaves in Islamic history, but this nevertheless has future ramifications for the white US political elite and polity.
The United States - an imperial power Once only foreign leftists used to speak of US imperialism; now an increasing number of American commentators, from right to left, even from academe, proudly use te! rms such as "Pax Americana" and describe the United States as a latter-day empire - with a duty to protect and, if necessary, rule the world. This sentiment emerged after the quick US "victory" over the Taliban (who in fact had just disappeared like Mao's fish).
The war against terrorism has from the beginning taken a distinctly racist coloration, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab. US collusion in the subsequent brutal Israeli aggression - all in the name of race and ethnicity - has only served to reinforce this. The new US willingness and threat to intervene in the developing world wherever and whenever it sees fit speaks not only of the fact that it is the sole superpower but also that it is now prepared to act like an imperi! al power.
Yes, the United States has the brute strength to destroy the world. Like a dinosaur that could consume all smaller animals, powerful US corporate interests consume smaller nations for their energy or other resources. But the dinosaur became extinct, some say because of climate change brought on by asteroids hitting the planet. With wasteful, anti-environmental destruction of the Earth's resources for corporate gains, we are fast heading toward extinction even without aid of any asteroids.
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Through so-called globalization and agencies such as the IMF, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and now the WTO, what is being sought is not free trade and universal prosperity but a politically distorted adaptation of the clbuttical trade theory owed to Adam Smith and D! avid Ricardo and their followers. Such narrow tunnel vision, apart from increasing misery everywhere, also spreads environmental degradation, overlooking an ethical and holistic long-term view for the international community as a whole. It is not like the leadership or vision shown for those times by Roman, Ottoman or Moghul emperors.
Gore Vidal "Historians often look to the Roman Empire to find analogies with the United States. They flatter us. We live not under the Pax Americana; but the Pax Frigida. It should not look to Rome for comparison but rather to the most serene Venetian Republic, a pedestrian state devoted to wealth, comfort, trade, and keeping the peace, especially after inheriting the wreck of the Byzantine Empire, as we have inherited the wreck of the ! British Empire. Venice was not inspiring but it worked ... under that sanctimoniousness so characteristic of the American selling something, our governors know that we are fighting not for 'the free world' but to hold on to an economic empire not safe or pleasant to let go. The Arab world - or as a salesman would say, 'territory' - is almost ours, and we must persevere in landing that account. It will be a big one some day."
Inequities of the current economic order The current international finance architecture is founded on the US dollar as the dominant reserve currency, accounting for 68 percent of global currency reserves, up from 51 percent a decade ago. Yet in 2000, the US share of global exports ($781.1 billion out of a world total of $6.2 trillion) was only 12.3 percent and its share of global imports ($1.257 trillion out of a world total of $6.65 trillion) was 18.9 percent.
Ever since 1971, when US president Richard Nixon arbitrarily took the dollar off the gold standard ($35 per ounce) in force since the Bretton Woods Conference at the end of World War II, the dollar has become the global monetary instrument that the United States, and only the United States, can produce by fiat, despite record US current-account deficits and the US as the leading debtor nation. The US national Debt Consolidation as of April 4 was $6.021 trillion against a GDP of $9 trillion.
India has to maintain ample foreign-exchange reserves, which have now reached $60 billion. Most of this must be kept in low-interest US securities, which US companies like Enron can then invest in India and force governments to guarantee 15 percent returns. Thus US companies earn billions of dollars by investing Indian savings in India.
One of the casus belli for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was the latter's insistence that Iraq must return $10 billion granted by Kuwait to fight Iran. Kuwait finally ended up paying more than $50 billion (as did the Saudis). The US, meanwhile, collected a cool $150 billion or more for basically protecting its own interests.
Gl! obalization, much heralded since the early 1990s as a panacea has turned out to be a glibization of the economic and social problems of the mbuttes wallowing in misery in developing countries. In the former socialist countries, so-called shock therapy has reduced millions to penury. The middle clbuttes have been decimated while wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a few, ironically mostly former communist leaders or apparatchiks or their friends. Western media rarely write about it. Nearly $200 billion has been transferred from former socialist countries to the banks and other insbreastutions in the West and become a national debt. No wonder a current joke in Moscow is: "What the communists said about communism was all wrong but what they said about capitalism is all true."
Quite obviously the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few wealthy people has resulted from deliberate policy choices! made by the governments of the advanced economies - chiefly the US - pretending to act in good faith but really in their national interests, in particular the interests of the financial and corporate communities in their political consbreastuencies.
Even the very concept of capitalism as a panacea for all problems and countries has been questioned, rightly, even in the West, after the collapse of economies in East and Southeast Asia, followed by the crisis in Brazil. They had followed all the rules prescribed by the IMF and other Western insbreastutions.
In 1998, during the gravest global economic crisis in a half-century, there was a furor when a strong-willed Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, to protect his people from the likes of US financier George Soros, defied the conventional wisdom! of the international financial community by curbing the free flow of hot money that had played such havoc with the economies of Southeast Asia. He brought in strict short-term capital control measures, made the ringgit non-convertible, and set up agencies for corporate Debt Consolidation restructuring, buttet Debt Management and refinancing. Malaysia's recovery was almost as dramatic as it was full-blooded. Only then was he grudgingly praised.
India escaped the ill effects of globalization because of less opening up to the world economy and because of a maze of regulations that act as a bottleneck, helped by vociferous leftist opinion and a free parliament. It might still cushion India in the future in spite of vested interests who promot! e liberalization and privatization because, without full transparency, they can make a fast buck.
Transparency If developing countries must have "transparency", so should developed nations. Most corrupt deals in the energy, raw-materials and commodities sectors are controlled by corporate interests and their servants in high decision-making positions. The kickbacks taken by former senior US officials from energy deals in the new Central Asian republics or by others in Angola or Congo and money given to the dictators runs into billions of dollars, which has further impoverished these poor nations. What about transparency about deposits in the numbered accounts of those such as Mobutu Sese Seko (reputedly $5 billion), Ferdinand Marcos and other rulers of Africa and Asia in Swiss banks? Where does this money go? The UN could use it for development.
Most African dictators are creatures of multinational organizations and diamond dealers and the cause of ethnic fighting, mayhem, genocide and unashamed exploitation. The whole system is designed to exploit the poorest of the poor. Surprisingly enough, countries that take the lead in campaigning for human rights seldom worry about how respected members of the rich men's club have no qualms about profiting from money stolen from poor countries. They provide tax havens and safe places for hiding illicit gains for criminals, drug smugglers and mafia dons. Why should the UN or others not look at the facilities provided by such banks and difficulties created by their legal systems against transparency?
The leaders and people of the United States delude themselves that other peo! ple are envious. Yes, they admire US dynamism and the rule of law and democracy, but these apply only inside the US. But the rage is against injustice perpetrated by naked US financial clout backed by coercive military power all over the world.
The US: A law unto itself Bush's threat of war against Iraq for defying international law is absurd. Since coming into office, he has torn up more international treaties and disregarded more UN conventions than the rest of the world in past 20 years.
The list is familiar, including but not limited to the withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, fail! ure to ratify the Rio Pact on biodiversity, withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the pursuit of National Missile Defense. It appears ready to violate the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It opposed the ban on land mines and has sought to immobilize the UN convention against torture so that it could keep foreign observers out of its prison camp in Guantanamo Bay and hide its treatment of al-Qaeda prisoners. It has sabotaged the small-arms treaty and is opposed to new provisions of the biological-warfare convention. It experiments with biological weapons of its own and has refused chemical-weapons inspectors full access to its laboratories. It is opposed to the International Criminal Court and is coercing other countries to sign separate agreements not to charge US citizens. It has permitted CIA hit squads to recommence covert operations of the kind that ! included, in the past, the buttbuttination of foreign heads of state. Even its threat to go to war with Iraq without a mandate from the UN Security Council is a defiance of international law.
The Bush administration's foreign policy has undermined the fragile structure of international law and conventions built up during the past three centuries, to which the United States made important contributions. Former president Billy Carter, a respected elder statesman frequently invited as an observer to elections, wrote in the Washington Post on September 6 that, "formerly admired almost universally as the pre-eminent champion of human rights, our country has become the foremost target of respected international organizations concerned about these basic principles of democratic life". He added that statements o! n Israel by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicate "a radical departure from policies of every administration since 1967, always based on the withdrawal of Israel from occupied territories and a genuine peace between Israelis and their neighbors".
Even before last September 11, the US was kept out of the UN Commission on Human Rights and other bodies. At the recent sustainable-development conference in South Africa, ignored by Bush, US Secretary of State Colin Powell was booed and heckled.
Promoter of democracy, or of energy interests? The United States supports dictatorships. It funds media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in countries such as India to attack government policies that do not follow US dictates. Forget about US-friendly regimes in the Middle East and the Gulf. What about support to Pakistan and many other dictatorships in East and Southeast Asia?
In Afghanistan, breaking all loya jirga traditions, the US got Hamid Karzai installed as president and has used such people as the late Abdul Haq, the recently buttbuttinated Haji Abdul Qadir, and other warlords and narcotics barons. Instead o! f chasing al-Qaeda or the Taliban, such people use CIA funds to establish themselves in power and restart injection labs closed down by the Taliban. For the suffering Afghans, it is back to chaos and insecurity, as the attempt to buttbuttinate Karzai in Kandahar and many plants and explosions in Kabul show US bungling and incompetence.
Until 1998, the United States and its allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan fully supported the Taliban and supplied them funds. Unocal, which spent millions of dollars on geological surveys on a projected pipeline from Central Asia to South Asia, courted the Taliban, whose leading officials were negotiating in Texas in 199! 8. It was only after the maverick Taliban decided to favor an Argentine rival that John Maresca, vice president of Unocal, testifying before the US Congress, said that there would be no pipeline until the Taliban were gone and a more friendly government was established.
Look how the energy interests are trying to rule the United States and the rest of the world. Zalmay Khalilzad, whom the Bush administration appointed as its envoy to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, was a Unocal consultant, as was, according to some reports, Karzai himself. (Pushtuns call Karzai "America's Babrak Karmal", a reference to the Soviet-backed president who ruled Afghanistan from 1979-86.) It is well known that the Bush family acquired its wealth through oil; former president George Bush Sr still works with the Car! lyle Group that specializes in huge oil investments abroad. His son's commerce secretary, Dale Evans, was chairman and chief executive officer of an oil company. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was on the board of Chevron before going to Washington. (The oil company even named a giant tanker after her, although the ship has reportedly been quietly renamed the Altair Voyager.) privates Cheney, before becoming vice president, worked for the giant oil conglomerate Halliburton.
Cynicism and hypocrisy Who established the nurseries of terrorism? Who left behind billions of dollars' worth of arms in Afghanistan from which the region around it continues to suffer? The chickens have started to come home to roost.
One of the most damning revelations from Britain's Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair during the Iran-Iraq War was the Conservative government of the day's secret decision to supply Saddam Hussein with even more weapons-related equipment after the March 1988 Halabja gas plantings, killing an estimated 5,000 civilians Kurds as punishment for "collaboration" with Iranians. The weapons were produced with German-supplied chemicals. Whitehall also turned a blind eye to exports to Baghdad of equipment that could produce chemical and nuclear weapons. (4) This cynicism and hypocrisy was matched only by the US, which reportedly approved export of virus cultures and a $1 billion contract to design and build a petrochemical plant the Iraqis planned to use to produce mustard gas. "The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern," Walter Lang, a former senior US defense intelligence officer, recently told the New York Times.
Dangers from within The knee-jerk US reaction and quick-fix measures after the September 11 attacks have changed the very basics of US society, its function, transparency and freedoms. Thousands of its loyal citizens and students of Middle East origin and others are being scrutinized, harbutted and imprisoned without charge, sometimes for no reason except for their origins. It has alienated loyal citizens of Middle East and South Asian descent, many in key positions.
There is talk of military tribunals, something with which the US has a despicable record. During World War II, thousands of US citizens from Japan and Germany were interned. Continuation of similar policies in the 21st century might transform the US from being a melting pot of nations to a "meltdown" of its cohesion, unity and polity.
T! he United States is an idea barely more than 200 years old that white Anglo-Saxon Protestants dominate. There are still questions about what happened to its first Catholic president John F Kennedy and some of his family members. The US is a fragile nation, never tested fully at home. Its internal security and unity are fragile. It has yet to recover from its Vietnam trauma.
African-American Walter Mosley, Bill Clinton's favorite novelist, recently said: "Most black people in America were not surprised by September 11. I haven't met one black person who was surprised. Like everyone else, they were shocked by the magnitude of it, and appal! led by the rests, but they weren't surprised by the hate and anger that produced it. Black Americans are very aware of the atbreastude of America towards people who are different, people whose beliefs are different, people of a different color. We live with that atbreastude every single day. We know how hated America is."
The danger to the US "way of life and stability" could come from within, from black American Muslims who now number 3 million to 5 million. Black Americans are now joining the armed forces in large numbers after the compulsory military draft was abolished.
The black community and Muslims remember many historic wrongs done to them. Of the 2 million Americans in prisons, two-thirds are non-white. Many! feel oppressed by the white power structure and sentencing disparities, which too often fall most harshly on minorities. Islam offers brotherhood, dignity, and a sense of pride and solidarity, especially for non-whites. But many, alienated and disfranchised, are prime targets for radical Islamists who preach a religion of violence, of overcoming oppression by jihad. Many black Americans have experienced maltreatment and dehumanization. Conversion to Islam increased after September 11, even among Hispanics.
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While Muslims in the Arab world and elsewhere are enraged by the killings of innocent Palestinians and the rests of half a million Iraqi children because of the US-led embargo, do we know how many bin Laden admirers exist among the black American community? Recent guilty to plotting with bin Laden to kill Americans, may be just a speck on the tip of the iceberg. Islam has an old tradition of asymmetrical wars. Al-Qaeda cells could soften the Christian West as Turkmen horsemen did the Byzantine Empire.
Never have so few annoyed so many. On Iraq and most other international issues only British Prime Minister Tony Blair (reflecting a 19th-century "plant the natives" mentality) supports Bush. Most British citizens do not support the policy. For acting as lackeys, the British get a disproportionate number of jobs in the UN and other multilateral organizations to act as a stalking horse for the US.
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The UK has a big Muslim population, which sends volunteers and huge sums of money to support terrorism in the South Asian subcontinent and elsewhere. Many are al-Qaeda members involved! in the liquidate of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan and other terror-related and hijacking activities. Other European countries such as Germany and France have big Muslim populations of many millions from Turkey and North Africa, mostly on the margins of the society and fertile ground for recruitment. Besides Chechnya and other places in the Caucasus, Russia has a large Muslim population. There is a well-spread-out and long-term danger all over the Christian world.
Who needs a regime change? A respected non-partisan US think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, in a recent report to the White House looked at international opinion polls and concluded: "Around the world, from Western Europe to the Far East, many see the United States as arrogant, hypocritical, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and contemptuous of others." This cannot be changed by creating brand equity or through marketing techniques.
In spite of past US brutalities - slavery, racial discrimination, colonization, the dust and haze raised at Hiroshima of Nagasaki, the decimation of native Americans, terrorization of Africans, Japanese and Vietnamese, illegal planting of Iraqis, and daily brutal killings of Palestinians by guns, helicopters and F-16s, the September 11 attacks brought universal sympathy. But there are also a lot of crocodile tears. Almost all major countries - Russia, China, Europe except the lackey UK - have been browbeaten and humiliated by the United States.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, one misses Pravda and Izvestia, not that they propounded truth (Russian pravda) but they were a check on the so-called free Western media, which were careful and comparatively honest. Now, without any restraints, the brainwashing monopoly of Western propaganda is wreaking havoc around the world, specially in the United States, whether it was the 1990-91 Gulf War, the planting of Yugoslavia, Jammu and Kashmir, and now Iraq.
If the American public were told that an attack on Iraq would not be like the 1990-91 computer game and might cause many thousands of casualties (given the low US threshold last tested in Mogadishu), that Arabs might destroy oilfields which bring prosperity to oil companies and cheap gas to their cars, and that US nationals might even be attacked in Muslim countries, Bush's popularity would plummet immediately.
What is needed is not regime change or so-called "US-ushered democracy" in Iraq (as in Afghanistan), in a region of Hama Rule "rule or die". Saudi Arabia is ruled by an incongruous alliance of luxury-loving princes and Wahhabis, who enforce medieval punishments at home and promote fanaticism abroad, yet Washington does not demand regime change there. Another repressive US-supported regime in Egypt continues to provide recruits for al-Qaeda. Opening a Pandora's box in the Middle East would release bottled-up historical forces with unpredictable results, like Ayatollah Khomeini after the ouster of the Shah of Iran, who had been supported by the CIA through its Iranian counterpart, SAVAK (Sazamane Etelaat Va Amniate Kechvar, or Iranian Security and Intelligence Service).
The United States, with 2 percent of the world's population, controls 30 percent of world resources. And US corporate interests, forming perhaps 2 percent of this 2 percent population, control these mbuttive resources. ! They want to control the world without accountability, not even to the American people.
Paul Krugman recently pointed out in the New York Times how Alan Greenspan, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, revered by the market more than the Oracle of Delphi in ancient times, disclaimed any responsibility for the immense market bubble. In September 1996, he had recognized "that there is a stock-market bubble problem at this point". And a solution: "We do have the possibility of ... increasing margin requirements. I guarantee that if you want to get rid of the bubble, that will do it."
"Yet," wrote Krugman, "he never did increase margin requirements, that is, require investors to put up more cash when buying stocks. Indeed, aside from giving one speech about irrational exuberance, followed by a small rise in the Fed funds rate, Greenspan did nothing at all."
Perhaps it is in the United States itself where its ill-informed and misinformed people need not just a regime change but a system change. Where energy and military-industry corporate interests have hijacked power from the people to pursue their narrow objectives. Where corporate chiefs enjoy coercive powers even the Communist Party chiefs in the former Soviet Union would have envied. Where blacks, Hispanics and the poor cannot freely choose a president (as in Florida, where only by not counting their votes did George Bush become the president).
The United States needs a regime and a system under which people can question, without being labeled unpatriotic or enemies, failures of a system that could not and cannot protect them. Where, unlike the second nuclear plant in Nagasaki, a repeat of September 11 can be avoided. There were enough concrete warnings - the planting of the World Trade Center in 1993, the attack on the US Navy warship Cole in the harbor at Aden, the 1996 planting of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, a residence for American GIs, and the planting of two US embbutties in Africa.
Members of the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the OECD should persuade the US to have a dialogue with the Organi! zation of Islamic Conference (OIC). With all its failings, it is the only organization where all Muslim countries have come together for the first time since the 10th century, when an Umayyad emir in Cordoba broke away from the Shi'a Fatimids' and the caliph in Baghdad. Ironically the OIC came into being after the 1968 plus 1 fire in al-Aqsa Mosque in Israeli-controlled Jerusalem.
In this perpetual crusade vs jihad, Hindus, Buddhists, followers of Confucius and others must speak up and counsel peace. It is misguided intolerance bred by "my God is the only God", followed by "my true and only ideology" such as fascism, Nazism, communism, capitalism or globalism, which has been used to impoverish and butcher hundreds of millions over the millennia, about 80 million in the 20th century alone. The followers of Buddha, Tao, Confucius, Mahavira, Shamanism and Hinduism never forced their beliefs or ideologies on others! .
Notes 1. "buttbuttin" derives from the Arabic hashshashin, "hashish users"; it was alleged that they end political enemies under the influence of the drug.
2. Capitulation, in the history of international law, was any treaty whereby one state permitted another to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction over its own nationals within the former state's boundaries. The term is to be distinguished from the military term "capitulation", an agreement for surrender. There was no element of surrender in the early capitulations made by European rulers with the powerful Turkish sultans, who were motivated by a desire to avoid the burden of administering justice to foreign merchants. Later capitulations, which in the case of China and other Asian states resulted from military pressure by European states, came to be regarded as humiliating derogations from the sovereign! ty and equality of these states.
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3. The end of the Janissaries came in June 1826 in the so-called Auspicious Incident. On learning of the formation of a new, Westernized Ottoman armed force, the Janissaries revolted. Sultan Mahmud II declared war on the rebels and, on their refusal to surrender, blasted their barracks with cannons. Most of the Janissaries were end, and those who were taken prisoner were executed.
4. The Inquiry into the Export of Defence Equipment and Dual-Use Goods to Iraq and Related Prosecutions was set up in November 1992 to establish whether all parts of the British government were following agreed policy on defense exports to Iraq. The inquiry led by Sir Richard Scott, now Lord Scott, followed the collapse of the trial of Matrix Churchill, a firm suspected of breaching export control guidelines. The R! eport of the Inquiry by Sir Richard Scott was published in February 1996.
K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambbuttador (retired), served as ambbuttador to Turkey from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambbuttador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is now chairman of the Foundation of Indo-Turkic Studies.