By John Pilger
In 1976, the Democrat Jimmy Carter announced “a foreign policy that respects human rights.” In secret, he backed Indonesia’s genocide in East Timor and established the Mujahedin in Afghanistan as a terrorist organization designed to overthrow the Soviet Union, and from which came the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It was the liberal Carter, not Reagan, who laid the ground for George W. Bush.
In the past year, I have interviewed Carter’s principal foreign policy overlords, Zbigniew Brzezinski, his national security adviser, and James Schlesinger, his defense secretary. No blueprint for the new imperialism is more respected than Brzezinski’s. Invested with biblical authority by the Bush gang, his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives, describes American priorities as the economic subjugation of the Soviet Union and the control of Central Asia and the Middle East. His analysis says that “local wars” are merely the beginning of a final conflict leading inexorably to world domination by the U.S.
“To put it in a terminology that harkens back to a more brutal age of ancient empires,” he writes, “the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” It may have been easy once to dismiss this as a message from the lunar right. But Brzezinski is mainstream.
His devoted students include Madeleine Albright, who, as secretary of state under Clinton, described the death of half a million infants in Iraq during the U.S.-led embargo as “a price worth paying,” and John Negroponte, the mastermind of American terror in central America under Reagan who is currently “ambassador” in Baghdad.
James Rubin, who was Albright’s enthusiastic apologist at the State Department, is being considered as John Kerry’s national security adviser. He is also a Zionist; Israel’s role as a terror state is beyond discussion. Cast an eye over the rest of the world. As Iraq has crowded the front pages, American moves into Africa have attracted little attention. Here, the Clinton and Bush policies are seamless.
In the 1990s, Clinton’s African Growth and Opportunity Act launched a new scramble for Africa. Humanitarian bombers wonder why Bush and Blair have not attacked Sudan and “liberated” Darfur, or intervened in Zimbabwe or the Congo. The answer is that they have no interest in human distress and human rights, and are busy securing the same riches that led to the European scramble in the late 19th century by the traditional means of coercion and bribery, known as multilateralism.
The Congo and Zambia possess 50 per cent of world cobalt reserves; 98 per cent of the world’s chrome reserves are in Zimbabwe and South Africa. More importantly, there is oil and natural gas in Africa from Nigeria to Angola, and in Higleig, southwest Sudan. Under Clinton, the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) was set up in secret. This has allowed the U.S. to establish “military assistance programs” in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Benin, Algeria, Niger, Mali and Chad. ACRI is run by Colonel Nestor Pino-Marina, a Cuban exile who took part in the 1961 Bay of Pigs landing and went on to be a special forces officer in Vietnam and Laos, and who, under Reagan, helped lead the Contra invasion of Nicaragua.
The pedigrees never change. None of this is discussed in a presidential campaign in which John Kerry strains to out-Bush Bush. The multilateralism or “muscular internationalism” that Kerry offers in contrast to Bush’s unilateralism is seen as hopeful by the terminally naive; in truth, it beckons even greater dangers. Having given the American elite its greatest disaster since Vietnam, writes the historian Gabriel Kolko, Bush “is much more likely to continue the destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to American power.”
One does not have to believe the worse the better, but we have to consider candidly the foreign policy consequences of a renewal of Bush’s mandate. As dangerous as it is, Bush’s re-election may be a lesser evil. With NATO back in train under President Kerry, and the French and Germans compliant, American ambitions will proceed without the Napoleonic hindrances of the Bush gang.
Little of this appears even in the American papers worth reading. The Washington Post’s hand-wringing apology to its readers on August 14, for not “pay[ing] enough attention to voices raising questions about the war [against Iraq]” has not interrupted its silence on the danger that the American state presents to the world. Bush’s rating has risen in the polls to more than 50 per cent, a level at this stage in the campaign at which no incumbent has ever lost.
The virtues of his “plain speaking,” which the entire media machine promoted four years ago—Fox and the Washington Post alike—are again credited. As in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Americans are denied a modicum of understanding of what Norman Mailer has called “a pre-fascist climate.” The fears of the rest of us are of no consequence. The professional liberals on both sides of the Atlantic have played a major part in this. The campaign against Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 is indicative.
The film is not radical and makes no outlandish claims; what it does is push past those guarding the boundaries of “respectable” dissent. That is why the public applauds it. It breaks the collusive codes of journalism, which it shames. It allows people to begin to deconstruct the nightly propaganda that passes for news: in which “a sovereign Iraqi government pursues democracy” and those fighting in Najaf and Fallujah and Basra are always “militants” and “insurgents” or members of a “private army,” never nationalists defending their homeland and whose resistance has probably forestalled attacks on Iran, Syria or North Korea.
The real debate is neither Bush nor Kerry, but the system they exemplify; it is the decline of true democracy and the rise of the American “national security state” in Britain and other countries claiming to be democracies, in which people are sent to prison and the key thrown away and whose leaders commit capital crimes in faraway places, unhindered, and then, like the ruthless Blair, invite the thug they install to address the Labor Party conference.
The real debate is the subjugation of national economies to a system which divides humanity as never before and sustains the deaths, every day, of 24,000 hungry people. The real debate is the subversion of political language and of debate itself and perhaps, in the end, our self-respect.
John Pilger’s new book, Tell Me No Lies: investigative journalism and its triumphs, will be published in October by Jonathan Cape.
—New Statesman, August 15, 2004