Know Thine Enemy




S

ometimes
the fates line up right and you get a day that really says something
about the world. March 16, 2005 was one of those days. Paul Wolfowitz,
the neocon who masterminded the Iraq War, was named head of the
World Bank. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that
Italy would begin withdrawing its troops from Iraq in September.
The Democrats finally stuck one arm out of the grave and announced
that if Senate Republicans vote to end the filibuster, the Democrats
would block every piece of legislation in the chamber, essentially
deadlocking the Senate. 


What
these three events emphasize is that politics is about who’s
on your side and who isn’t; that you’d better know the
difference if you’re going to win. 


First,
Wolfie to the World Bank. At first blush, it may seem bizarre to
install a life-long defense theorist as the head of a development
bank. What brings it back to reality, of course, is that the World
Bank is as much about developing the third world as the Iraq war
is about freedom. The World Bank funnels money from taxpayers to
giant corporations (does it ever go the other way?) to build mostly
unnecessary projects in developing countries, keeping those countries
in permanent hock to the industrialized world in the process. It’s
a nifty little project if you’re a multinational. 


But
avoid the temptation to exhale the big sigh and exclaim, “Well,
at least Wolfie can’t start any more wars.” While it is
somewhat fashionable to blame the war, the occupation, and the whole
damn mess on any number of things, such as Paul Wolfowitz —neoconservative,
Zionist, evil genius—the fact remains that this was a war to
serve Wolfie’s corporate puppet masters and it doesn’t
help to confuse who holds the strings. 


On
to Berlusconi’s announcement that Italy will quit Iraq come
September. Did the multi-billionaire (recently certified the 25th
richest person in the world by

Forbes

) and multi-indicted
Italian prime minister suddenly find a conscience? Hardly. Seventy
percent of Italians want their three thousand troops home in the
wake of a “friendly fire” incident that saw U.S. troops
shoot an Italian intelligence officer who was escorting a hostage
to freedom, and Berlusconi has elections to think about. 


Italian
troops are coming home because the Italian people want them to and
they put themselves in the streets, in demonstrations numbering
in the hundreds of thousands, to demand an end to Italy’s role
in the occupation. Those in the antiwar movement in the U.S. should
heed this example, that massive demonstrations, getting people directly
involved in politics—not cordial meetings in the halls of power—are
the real way to force the hand of  governments.



Finally,
we turn homeward for the latest plot twist in the ongoing saga of
the pathetic Democratic Party. Surrender after surrender followed
the 2004 election, from abortion rights to the bankruptcy bill to
$80 billion in funding for the war. Even their tepid defense of
Social Security, arguably the most successful government program
ever and the crown jewel in the Democrats’ miserly record,
concedes that the mythical crisis exists and puts everything on
the table—except, of course, taxing the rich to maintain benefits
and the retirement age (or, heaven forbid, raise benefits and lower
the retirement age). 


Then
came the news that the Democratic Party had finally stood up. Was
it over the war? Social Security? The minimum wage? Hah. Harry Reid,
newly-minted minority leader of the Senate, stood on the steps of
the capitol with nearly all his Democratic colleagues and announced
they had found, after all this time, an issue they would go to the
mat over—protecting the sacred filibuster, which allows 40
Senators to hold up any piece of legislation indefinitely. If the
Republicans went ahead with their plan to change Senate rules to
abolish it, the Democrats would withdraw their consent from even
the most trivial of Senate business, effectively shutting it down. 


You
mean they could have done this all along? Over the war, tax cuts,
the bankruptcy bill, Alaska oil drilling—any of it? Well, thank
you, Harry Reid, for showing us that the Democratic Party does have
a backbone. They’re just not on our side. Red States and Blue
States, Old Europe and New Europe, Democrats and Republicans, neocons
and the rest of us; it’s easy to see the wrong divisions in
society when the real one, those who have the wealth and the vast
majority of us who don’t, is deliberately obscured. 


We
can’t afford to hop back and forth between the different camps
or accept false offers of reconciliation from their side. Reconciliation
begins when they give up their guns and give us their wealth; in
other words, reconciliation means surrender. 


The
question for those of us who want to see a better world isn’t
which side of power and wealth to align with, but to find the people
out there who are disgusted by this system of war, poverty, and
inequality and who are itching for a fight.



 





Michael Smith
is a freelance writer