Readers interested in the United States' splendid commitment to freedom should consult Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcars’s remarkable book Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (Paradigm, 2006). It contains some very useful and learned reflections on the juvenile nature of the claim that Washington seeks democracy in the Middle East .
Forget the invasion of Iraq (opposed by the preponderant majority of the “liberated” Iraqis, curiously enough) for a moment. Focus just on a widely neglected topic – the United States ‘ continuing and longstanding close relationship with Saudi Arabia. On page 38 of Perilous Power, Achcar makes the following statement in response to a question from Chomsky about trade unionism in Saudi Arabia :
“Oh, [a labor movement] is unimaginable in the Saudi kingdom. It’s the most repressive kind of state. If ‘totalitarianism’ has any meaning, that’s totalitarianism there. Any attempt at organizing anything challenging the powers that be is repressed in the most terrible way. In the Saudi kingdom, people risk their lives and physical integrity for things that you would consider as trivial. It’s a country where you have special police whipping people found in the street at the time of prayer. It’s a society under total control…And that is a major ally of the United States and the single Muslim state that is courted by all the Western countries, because of its oil wealth. The United States knows that this very oppressive structure is the only guarantee that exists for the stability of the Saudi kingdom, and it also guarantees that the kingdom needs U.S. protection…I think Western public opinion, U.S. public opinion in particular, remains in a state of ignorance about that. People don’t realize who the staunchest ally of the United States in the Middle East really is and what it means.”
When Barack Obama worries that the Iraq fiasco will “become an excuse of us to ignore misery or human rights violations or genocide” in other nations, he mentions Darfur (Goldberg, p. 33) but not Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. friend that happens to possess the largest oil reserves in the world. When John Edwards accuses the U.S. of only “yapping” about democracy beyond Iraq – where he seems to think the U.S. has acted nobly ("we've done our part," he says), he too cites Darfur, not Saudi Arabia .
But, of course.
“How anybody can talk about democracy promotion by the United States with a straight face,” Chomsky says in Perilous Power, “is very hard to understand. Just in the same period as Bush’s pronouncement about democracy promotion,” Chomsky observes, “ Washington supported a military coup in Venezuela [in April of 2002] to overthrow the elected government. They had to back down because of the uproar in Latin America , which actually takes democracy more or less seriously” (Chomsky and Achcar, Perilous Power, p. 49).
Which reminds me: Obama dedicates a paragraph of his imperialist campaign book The Audacity of Hope to his disagreement with “left-leaning populists” like Venezuela ‘s Hugo Chavez.” According to Obama, such misguided actors wrongly think that developing nations “should resist America ‘s efforts to expand its hegemony” and – imagine! – “follow their own path to development.” Such dysfunctional “reject[ion] [of] the ideals of free markets and liberal democracy” will only worsen the situation of the global poor, Obama writes, conveniently ignoring a preponderance of evidence of showing that the imposition of the “free market” corporate-neoliberal “Washington Consensus” has deepened poverty across the world in recent decades (Obama, Audacity of Hope, pp. 315-316).
Obama is right to argue that the United States retains enormous responsibility for healing Iraq . Like other leading Democrats, however, he will not question the dominant U.S. doctrinal claim that “We Are Good” by acknowledging the United States ‘ central responsibility for causing Iraq ‘s misery. Neither he nor other leading Democrats will admit the United States' moral obligation to pay reparations for the crimes it has committed in Iraq . The top Democrats will naturally never acknowledge the dark petro-imperialist objectives that lay behind Orwellian “democracy” rhetoric regarding criminal United States policies within and beyond Iraq…
(The above is pasted in from the latest issue of my Empire and Inequality Report, which can be obtained by writing me at email@example.com)