Bill Blum: Anti-Empire Report, No. 20

2005-04-20

Richard Moore

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Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 00:04:02 EDT
Subject:    The Anti-Empire Report, April 19, 2005
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                         The Anti-Empire Report, No. 20
                                    April 19, 2005
                                  by William Blum

Eastern European "revolutions"
In previous reports I've discussed why I thought that the
political uprisings in Eastern Europe of the past 18 months,
which have resulted in changes of government in Georgia and
Ukraine and the potential for the same elsewhere, have not
entirely been phenomena of spontaneous combustion.  I've
pointed out that in each case all or most of the usual
American suspects have been involved -- the National Endowment
for Democracy (and two of its wings: the International
Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for
International Affairs), the Agency for International
Development (AID), George Soros's Open Society organizations,
Freedom House, et al. 

I've received some criticism for this point of view from those
who believe that the people in each of these countries had
strong motivations for their demonstrations based on
legitimate grievances and didn't need "outside agitators".  I
don't question at all the existence of their grievances, but I
maintain that the demonstrators needed various sparks,
tutelage, and financing.  Consider what their most commonly
stated grievances have been --  unemployment, other economic
hardships, questionable elections, and government corruption. 
Does not each of these apply in full, overflowing measure to
the United States?  As one example, is there any parliament in
the world whose members receive more in bribes ("political
contributions") than members of the US Congress?  Are there
not millions of Americans who hate their leaders every bit as
much as the people in Georgia and Ukraine hated theirs?  If
it's not a majority of Americans who feel this way, neither
has it been majorities in Eastern Europe who have been rising
up.  Why don't we have an uprising here?  Why don't we choose
a symbolic color and throw the scoundrels out?  Perhaps all we
need are some wealthy outside agitators.  The old joke goes:
Why won't there ever be a coup d'état in the United States? 
Because there's no American embassy in Washington. 

The phenomenon is not new.  The United States made use of
paid-for street crowds and chaos for their first post-World
War Two regime change, Iran in 1953; neither is it new in
Eastern Europe, for the same tactics were employed by the
National Endowment for Democracy and Agency for International
Development in toppling governments in Bulgaria and Albania in
the early 1990s.{1}

Intelligence failure or imperial ambitions?
On March 31 the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of
the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction
delivered its report to the president.  The Commission
concluded that "the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in
almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq's weapons of
mass destruction.  This was a major intelligence failure.  Its
principal causes were the Intelligence Community's inability
to collect good information about Iraq's WMD programs, serious
errors in analyzing what information it could gather, and a
failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based
on assumptions, rather than good evidence."{2}

Many people, including members of the Commission, likely take
the above to mean that if "the intelligence community" [sounds
like a small town in New England] had only done its job better
it would have learned that Iraq didn't have an arsenal of WMD
sufficient to pose any kind of serious threat to the United
States and a lot of bloody horror could have been avoided.

That, however, is a highly questionable assumption.  It
presumes that the Bush administration actually went to war
because it genuinely believed that Iraq was both dangerously
armed and an "imminent" threat to use those arms against the
United States.  But the Bush administration knew perfectly
well that Iraq's military capability was nothing to be
particularly concerned about.  Here's Colin Powell, speaking
in February 2001 of US sanctions on Iraq: "And frankly they
have worked. He [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any
significant capability with respect to weapons of mass
destruction.  He is unable to project conventional power
against his neighbors."{3}  And here is Condoleezza Rice, in
July of that year, speaking of Saddam Hussein: "We are able to
keep arms from him. His military forces have not been
rebuilt."{4}

Cuba, the never-ending double standard
The European Union is once again admonishing Cuba to release
its "dissidents" from prison.  The United States is pressuring
the United Nations Human Rights Commission, currently meeting
in Geneva, to pursue this same goal.  Cuba's critics are
particularly upset that many of those arrested are journalists
and poets.  What they consistently fail to acknowledge is that
the arrests of these persons had nothing to do with them being
journalists or poets, or even being dissidents per se, but had
everything to do with their very close, indeed intimate,
political and financial connections to American government
officials. 

The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is
to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. 
During the period of the Cuban revolution, the United States
and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon
Cuba damage greater than what happened in New York and
Washington on September 11, 2001.  In 1999, Cuba filed a suit
against the United States for $181.1 billion in compensation
for victims of (at that time) forty years of aggression.  The
suit accuses Washington policies of being responsible for the
death of 3,478 Cubans and wounding or disabling 2,099 others. 
Cuban officials delivered the papers for the suit to the US
Interests Section in Havana, but the Americans refused to
accept them.  The Cuban government then took its case to the
United Nations, where it has been in the hands of the
Counter-Terrorism Committee since 2001.  This committee is
made up of all 15 members of the Security Council, which of
course includes the United States, and which may account for
the inaction on the matter.

Would the US ignore a group of American dissidents receiving
funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with
known leaders of that organization in the United States?  
Would it matter if these American dissidents claimed to be
journalists or (gasp) poets?  In the past few years, the
American government has arrested a great many people in the US
and abroad on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a
lot less evidence to go by than Cuba had with its dissidents'
ties to the United States. 

The US has of course also arrested numerous American
dissidents at anti-war, anti-globalization, anti-School of the
Americas, and other demonstrations, many sentenced up to
months in prison with concurrent physical and psychological
abuse. 

Inflammatory history textbooks
Japanese school textbooks have again come under emotional
attack from South Korea and China, both victims of brutal
Japanese imperial policy before and during the Second World
War.  Critics, including North Korea as well, have long
complained that Japanese history texts have consistently
denied the country's wartime aggression.  On April 5, the
Japanese Education Ministry approved a new edition of a text
already in use, which critics say further distorts the past
and portrays imperial Japan as a liberator rather than an
occupier of its Asian neighbors.  They point out that the text
shuns the word "invasion".{5}

When, it has to be wondered, will the scores of victims of US
imperial aggression begin to complain about American history
textbooks?  As one example, the last I knew, in the pages of
these books, the United States never "invaded" Vietnam.  Will
future American history texts speak of the US "liberation" of
Iraq and Afghanistan?  Is there any current textbook that
conveys to the minds of young Americans the god-awful
consequences of Washington's roles in Indonesia 1965, Greece
1967 or Angola 1975, to name but a few?

Frances Fitzgerald, in her study of American history
textbooks, observed that "According to these books, the United
States had been a kind of Salvation Army to the rest of the
world: throughout history, it had done little but dispense
benefits to poor, ignorant, and diseased countries. ... the
United States always acted in a disinterested fashion, always
from the highest of motives; it gave, never took."{6}

Economics 101 revisited
When California had its "energy crisis" in 2000-2001, very
little of what I read about it made much sense to me; the
articles just didn't explain in one understandable step after
another exactly what was happening and why.  The reason for
this, I later concluded, was that the writers were largely
analyzing the situation in textbook fashion, Economics 101
cause-and-effect stuff, the scientific method.  It was only
after the criminal, manipulative role of Enron and other
corporations was revealed that the picture began to come into
focus for me.  This is but one example of why, over the years,
I've come to the conclusion that the underlying reasons for
economic phenomena and/or the explanations presented for them
derive from the following: 50% of them are political or
ideological in nature, 20% fraud and "legal" manipulation, 20%
psychological, 10% scientific; the percentages are of course
rough estimates. The current campaign for social security
reform, though presented in economic terms, is actually
motivated by political and ideological considerations.  The
rise or fall of the stock market from day to day is an example
of the psychological factor, though each day Wall Street
issues an official explanation in economic terms.  We're told
that the recent great rise in the cost of oil is a classic
example of the law of supply and demand, as immutable as the
law of gravity.  I, however, remain skeptical.  For here and
there in various cities of the Middle East and Europe and
North America, a relative handful of men, some of them oil
company executives, have seen that the time was right to make
decisions to satisfy a particular desire of theirs: to become
even richer.

Primitive emotions
A sad tale about Ahmad and Mazari Ayubi, a married couple in
Afghanistan.  They're first cousins.  "There is a saying in
our country that a marriage between cousins is the most
righteous because the engagement was made in heaven," says a
prominent Afghan doctor.  Ahmad and Mazari have had eight
children.  All but one of them are paralyzed from the neck
down and mentally retarded or have already died from the same
brain disorder.  Ahmad has now agreed to Mazari's request to
stop having children.  A remaining source of tension between
them is whether to agree to the marriage of their healthy son,
age 13, to his first cousin, the 10-year-old daughter of
Ahmad's brother.  This match was arranged by Ahmad's mother
before her death and is pushed by Ahmad's brother, who keeps
insisting that "even if all our grandchildren come out sick, I
will not make my mother unhappy in her grave."{7}

My first reaction upon reading the brother's remark was to
think: "Oh the hell with all of them, they're too hopelessly
primitive to get upset about, it's better this way, maybe the
whole damn breed will die out.

My second thought was this: There are probably lots of American soldiers in 
Afghanistan and Iraq, part of military machines that have killed well over a 
hundred thousand people and disabled yet more in those two woeful lands, 
soldiers who know that what they're part of is maddeningly stupid and cruel, but
who reason -- "even if we kill everyone and destroy everything, I will not make 
my mother country unhappy in its time of need; I will not betray the confidence 
she placed in me."

Another entry into the Hypocrisy Hall of Fame
According to a US Senate report, from 1985 through 1989, the
United States provided "Iraq with 'dual use' licensed
materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical,
biological, and missile-system programs, including: chemical
warfare agent precursors; chemical warfare agent production
facility plans and technical drawings ... [and] chemical
warhead filling equipment."{8}

None of the American businessmen who exported these materials
has ever been prosecuted.  But it turns out that in 1989 the
United States asked the Netherlands to extradite Frans van
Anraat, a Dutch businessman, for exporting chemicals to Iraq
which were allegedly used by the Iraqi government to produce
some of the poison gas used against Kurds and Iranians.  This
is now in the news because van Anraat -- who had lived in Iraq
from 1989 to 2003, when the US invasion began -- is currently
being prosecuted in the Netherlands.  The case is seen as a
landmark because it would be the first time a businessman has
been prosecuted for war crimes by a national court.  Mr. van
Anraat may have made some mistakes, but none so foolish as to
not be living in the United States when he was a chemical
exporter.

Some questions for God
Word from Rome was that the favorite to become the new pope
had been Cardinal Giusseppe Sicola of Italy.  But his
candidacy failed because other cardinals were reluctant to
have a Pope Sicola.

I would love to have been in heaven to see the pope's face
when he discovered that there was no God.  As some people
would love to see my face in heaven as I was confronted by
God.  The difference is that John Paul would be terribly
shocked, while I would be thrilled, although I'd have a number
of questions to ask the Lord:

        1) Who do you admire more -- the believer who goes to church
        and does good deeds because he hopes to be rewarded by you or
        at least not be punished by you, or the atheist who works to
        enhance human rights because that's the kind of society he
        wants to live in and not because he'll be judged in some
        future life by you?
        
        2) Do you recognize al Qaeda as a faith-based initiative?
        
        3) Why did you allow John Paul to work against liberation
        theology in Latin America?
        
        4) How did this world become so unbearably cruel, corrupt,
        unjust, and stupid?  Did it reach this stage by chance, by --
        you'll pardon the expression -- evolution, or did you plan it
        this way?  Or did the devil make you do it?
        
        5) Is it true that if you wanted us to go naked, we wouldn't
        have been born with clothing on?

NOTES
{1} See Killing Hope (below), chapter 51
{2} www.wmd.gov/report/transmittal_letter.html
{3} State Department press release, February 24, 2001
{4} CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, July 29, 2001
{5} Washington Post, April 6, 2005
{6} Frances Fitzgerald, "America Revised" (1980), pp.129, 139
{7} Washington Post, April 17, 2005
{8} "U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual Use
Exports to Iraq and their Possible Impact on the Health
Consequences of the Persian Gulf War, Senate Committee on
Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with Respect to Export
Administration", report of May 25, 1994, p.11 in stand-alone
report or p.239 in Senate publication S. Hrg. 103-900

   William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
   <www.killinghope.org >

   Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.
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"Escaping The Matrix - 
Global Transformation: 
WHY WE NEED IT, AND HOW WE CAN ACHIEVE IT ", somewhat current draft:
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