When the United States pummels tiny states like Grenada and Panama, the U.S. media and public have no apparent embarrassment at the imbalance of power and the bully-boy aspect of the incursions; in fact, there is pride at super-Goliath beating up the mini- Davids.
This rests in good part on the prior demonization of the victims, which makes each action a “just cause,” the self-appointed policeman doing his moral duty. But it also rests on a blind chauvinism that grips the populace as an irrational force whenever the United States is attacked or insulted and “our boys” go into action, causing large numbers to bring out the flags and yellow ribbons and rally behind their leader.
It is the same spirit that made it a no-no in this country for Bill Maher to suggest on ABC’s “Politically Incorrect” that sending off cruise missiles from many miles away from target was not “brave.” That was an intolerable insult to our fighting men and women.
It would also be intolerable to question whether the United States NEEDS a “coalition” to help it work over some small country. It didn’t resort to any in its attacks on Grenada, Panama, or Nicaragua, but it went to great pains to put up coalitions to assault Iraq in 1991, Yugoslavia in 1999, and now once again Afghanistan.
Nobody in the mainstream media asks: Wasn’t the U.S. military edge over these small adversaries already great enough to allow it to do the job without a coalition? Isn’t this overkill and superbullying?
Of course, an important part of coalition building by the United States is based on the desire to give the appearance that its unilateral actions really have wide support and that the actions themselves are collective. This fools the imperial liberals, who are anxious to be fooled.
Thus, Robert Kuttner writes complacently that “the White House is now pursuing a feverish multilaterialism…and may soon embrace yesterday’s conservative epithet ‘nation building’” (American Prospect, Nov. 5, 2001). Kuttner mistakes unilateralism with a nominal multilateral cover for a genuine multilateralism that would involve authority and decision-making beyond the boss. Kuttner also assumes for no reason whatsoever that post-war humanitarian intervention will be constructive and effective.
The record on postwar “nation-building” in Nicaragua and Kosovo are outside the orbit of his interest or knowledge; and although he is well aware of Bush’s unwillingness to spend money on nation-building at home, imperial faith causes this liberal Democrat to assume that even Bush will prove to be an overseas do-gooder.
In reality, the U.S.-organized coalitions to attack Iraq, Yugoslavia, and now Afghanistan, have been tightly controlled by the United States, with the help of its lap-dog British ally; the two, but mainly the United States, have done all the dirty work in Iraq, and they ran the bombing show in the Yugoslav war despite a supposed 19-member coalition (NATO) at work there; and the same is true in the Afghan war.
A few countries support the United States because its leaders truly believe in what it is doing, but many go along because of potential negative consequences of failing to line up behind the hegemon, and some leaders are bought. French president Mitterand admitted to taking part in the 1991 Persian Gulf war to assure membership in the “Club des Grands,” and Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema explained that taking part in the Kosovo war was essential for Italy to “count as a major country.”
It is sad to see Nelson Mandela also supporting the U.S. “war against terrorism” (“Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace [sic],” University of Maryland, Nov. 15, 2001), which I suspect he is doing partly in the Mitterand-D’Alema mold–to be an accepted member of the respectable state cohort.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if he has been sold by the saturation coverage of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, which reflects U.S. power and the global power of the U.S. media. If Mandela and many others were provided each day with pictures of dying Iraqi children, with Iraqi and other indignant descriptions of the U. S.-British refusal to allow Iraq to import equipment to make its water safe, his consciousness and indignation on that “terrorism” would be greatly elevated.
Similarly, if the media directed the same energy to interviewing Afghan refugees as they did Kosovo Albanians during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and focused on the damaging effects of the war on supplying food to a starving population, Mandela’s perspective might well alter.
It is sad also that Mandela can’t reflect on the fact that the United States held the African National Congress to be a terrorist organization in the 1980s, and that the CIA helped South Africa capture and imprison its terrorist commander, Nelson Mandela. What would he think of a Third World country that had gotten on THAT antiterrorist bandwagon?
It is well-known that Egypt had a multi-billion dollar debt forgiven for supporting the first Bush, while Yemen, refusing to go along on a Persian Gulf war vote, was told by a U.S. official that this would be “the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast,” followed shortly thereafter by its loss of a $70 million aid package. Currently, Pakistan has been given substantial payments for servicing the U.S. war, and Russia, Uzbekistan, and others as well are being paid off.
The U.S. mainstream media, however, speak of the emergence of these coalitions as a wondrous upsurge of support from the world community based on moral solidarity, not fear of retaliation, threats, or bribery.
That these coalitions represent and support extreme superbullying by the Great Powers is never hinted at–these are always moral ventures and just causes.
That the publics in many of these countries are unsympathetic to the war, not having been bought or coerced as their elite leaderships, is rarely mentioned. In short, the U.S. media are an integral part of a beautifully working war machine, serving their state with at least as much bias and enthusiasm as Serb broadcasting served its state, before it was bombed out of existence by NATO for war service.