A group of mainly Christian religious American peace activists addressed the US President in an open letter the day before his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, evoking both the language and non-violent vision of the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., together with their promise to make this President “worthy of the prize,” alluding to their estimation that late reverend had been worthy when he received this prize in 1964. Representing the so-called liberal and progressive wings of US politics, they encapsulated and exposed its political bankruptcy, both intellectual and practical, because as always, they never included the most salient point of his vision: the powers of the USA rejected it by assassinating him in 1967. Never having taken to heart nor, it seems, properly understood the reasons and implications of this rejection, they neither analyzed it critically nor developed effective means and methodologies of overcoming it. The question now is, where do the powers of the US stand today in respect of this vision and what are the composite parts of their vision?
The answer to this question came within the proverbial blink of an eye on a platform in Oslo at the Peace Prize celebrations which could not have been better suited to highlight the profound chasm between appearance and reality, or, what might be better termed in this particular case, the delusion of color. In a verbal dance of death, the “blessed” Übama repudiated this non-violent aggregation: the vision, the man who embodied it and the supporters of both. In its place, in a speech written by himself, he thundered a praxis of fire and brimstone upon the world, exhibiting a hubris of both spirit and intellect unsurpassed by any character in classical Greek literature in which this quality of over-wheening pride was first articulated. As the person chosen to wear the mantle of the power elite as per C. W. Wright, the revelation of his own personal übermania and the inherent duplicity of his promised rôle as Pied Piper leading America to change, should not have been suprising. The change envisioned and desired in all of the polls had been a change towards peace: the extrication of American troops and American engagement from the morass of killing fields in the Middle East and central Asia created and left by his predecessor. Obama the candidate had intimated that he tilted towards a more humane and socially conscious political milieu and praxis, with his victory swung by people of color, Blacks and Hispanics, his rejection of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright being swept out of public sight.
The “change” planned by Übama is not only not a change, but is more of the same with an expansion of the death machine, making it crystal-clear that his real political position is quite the opposite of that which seemed axiomatic in the light of the color of his skin (pun intended)! His elite backers knew that it was his very blackness which would trigger off a knee-jerk visceral reverse racist reaction: anybody black must, by definition, be a liberal with a social program certainly no less than the restricted one begun by Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” civil rights legislation and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of equality. This visceral reaction had not, nor has been set to rest, despite the recent records of Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Clarence Thomas, and now Ambassadress Susan Rice and others, all of whom stand behind, or have been co-opted to the program put forward by the President.
But what precisely is this program or this project? It does not constitute the explicit Democratic platform on which he ran, nor is it explicitly Republican and it is most certainly not the American dream. Yet, at the same time, it does include American Democrats and Republicans. This accounts for the bi-partisanship found in his own cabinet, and his method of doing business on the Hill. It is the project of those who have the money and control the government – the corporate-banking- military complex of which Dwight Eisenhower spoke, but too late and too weakly. It is rampant, imperialist monopolistic capitalism, the tentacles and ties of which are all and only elitist, both national and international in its outreach and composition with sufficient power to subvert populations of both the poor and the rich nations, including that of the United States and those belonging to the states comprising NATO, to its will and purposes.
Wearing a black skin, President Übama is able to articulate a tsunami doctrine of perpetual war serving only those capitalist interests, which, when proposed by John McCain, was taken to be the rantings of a madman. In terms of the historical development of the understanding of war, those whom Übama’s wars are targeting, are not, and cannot be considered legitimate war targets and in this respect, his doctrine must fail a priori for lack of legitimacy. War can only legitimately be conducted between armies, most often between the armies of states, excluding the phenomenon of civil war. Historically when an army attacks individuals in another state, this is taken to be an offensive action violating the peace and is a crime against peace. In fact, it is considered an illegitimate act of war, awarding the side which has been attacked the right to defense. President Übama did not cite an attack on the United States by another country’s army and hence the invalidity of all his arguments. But it is precisely because of the lack of legitimacy of the wars of his country and those of the lackey NATO nations, that the term “terrorist” was invented in an attempt to kosher the “treif”* of illegitimate wars. Historically a fighter struggling against foreign or colonial occupation for the liberation of his own country, was termed a guerrilla, a “small warrior” precisely because he did not have an army to do his fighting. Such are the fighters now in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and of course in Palestine. However, by not recognizing their legitimate stance, Übama presented a “justified” wars doctrine against the “terrorist”, which bears no relation to the “just” war theory, which is firmly embedded in the understanding that war is permissible only as a means of defense, that is, against a real and actual threat or action of an army attacking one’s country!
To this travesty of real defense, he had no hesitation in repeating the mantra of “spreading peace and democracy”, which, as manifested in both Iraq and Afghanistan, provides proof of its own duplicity. Cobbled together with the lie of the “terrorist” and the imaginary forces therein incorporated, a cover story is woven to provide the justification for imperialist monopolistic capitalists. They need to control governments so that their interests and not the needs of the peoples are served. They need to pursue wars through those governments in pursuit of a physical, political and economic redivision of the world enabling their domination of, access to, control over and distribution of resources, raw and manufactured, and their markets.
What everyone has been loath to recognize to date, is that the wars this president is describing constitute the first phase of the Third World War, which began almost immediately with the fall of the USSR. The First Gulf War was its opening salvo and it has never ended, while other arenas have been added to it. This Third World War is being conducted by the US/NATO for the control of energy resources and their distribution in the US, Europe and Asia. The enemies are Russia and Iran and down the line, China. Korea is put in for good form, but is mentioned only because of its geographical relationship to China. But, on the other hand, why not take whatever can be gotten? It is not for nothing that Iran is being tainted and targeted with the same propaganda used against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. A new map of the Middle East shows the proposed southern border of Iran removed some hundreds of miles to the north of the Persian Gulf, resulting in an obvious loss of natural resources. Russia is being surrounded by NATO bases armed with missiles directed towards its strategic assets – both human, manufactured and geo-physical.
The struggle for domination of resources set off the First and Second World Wars, and the so-called Cold War limited the fields of the West’s armies only in the Middle East and Central Asia until the moment that the USSR was no longer a counter-force in that part of the world. However during that Cold War, the US and its allies were not idle: the US did not hesitate to invade Korea and Vietnam, nor did it hesitate in engineering South American and Indonesian coups. The entire African colonialist liberation movements were undermined by the same interference, Angola and the Congo being extreme examples, but such interference need not have been much more than the withholding of credit for army and civilian needs from the new governments in order to co-opt them into implementing policies favoring Western capitalist interests, rather than serving their populations by taking care of their genuine needs. At the time, Libya refused to play this game – and we know what happened. It was attacked from the air and the Lockerbie disaster was laid at its doorstep, requiring the Libyans to pay billions in reparations resulting in ultimately reigning in President Gaddafi’s tone.
At the same time, and an integral part of the world outlook of this power elite, is the fact that war itself, without any reference to its aims and purposes, is a very very good and profitable business for these elites – but, of course, only for them! For those who promote such wars there is no absolute “lost war”, there is no “failure”, there is no “mistake”. It is true that the control or resource pursued might not be accomplished or acquired, but that does not detract from the “collateral” benefits of war itself. The army itself is an ending source of endless funding, while the private corporations, free to act without oversight, (hopefully only in the short-term) only benefit themselves. This reintroduction of the condottieri, or mercenaries, only fuels the desire for even more wars. The profits run right through all the war activities per se: the actual conduct of the war – each bullet, missile, tank, plane, bomb or mine is money in someone’s pocket. With the destruction of the material infrastructures in the areas of combat comes the need for reconstruction. Because the multi-national corporations are enormous combines, often monopolies or at least part of cartels, those destroying are those who get the contracts to rebuild. The control over the natural resources becomes a sine qua non. The latest headlines tell that the Iraqi oilfields are on the auction bloc and some combine is going to make a killing!! The Afghani invasion is already in its eighth year and you better believe that it is not only the Afghanis who are making a killing from the poppy fields and while the TAPI – Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – pipeline for natural gas and future oil transportation is being defended by the US/NATO soldiers and mercenaries posted there, the civilian population undergoes a decimation and destruction having nothing to do with “democracy” or “terrorism”! Pakistan has been drawn into the loop and the drones are a terrific income for some while blasting the social fabric into smithereens! But this death and destruction is not a factor at all in the reckoning by these elites of their gains.
Most American liberals and progressives do not have the intellectual tools to understand the line-up of power both within the United States and abroad. Their appeals to government to serve the people only indicates the paucity of their understanding as to where power lies and how it is wielded, and their pleas resemble not much more than Oliver Twist’s begging for more! Their reliance on the formal structure of government for an understanding of power is doomed before it begins, because liberalism as a political philosophy does not have the capacity to break the code of power centers and power distribution within the politico-economic structures of capitalistic society. Just the fact that finance is casually, or maybe even heatedly, referred to only as “Wall Street”, hides the actual activities of the banks which exert almost immeasurable control over the economy and hence the government. Liberalism has provided the most impenetrable cover for capitalism, justifying the latter for the “freedom” it offers. But the social correlate of neo-liberalism removes the well-being of human beings, that is life, from the political economic equation almost completely, while elevating the lifeless artefact of money to the supreme value. That such an inversion of traditional values has brought about an impoverishment and immiseration of tens of millions of Americans and hundreds and millions of other peoples is neither a surprise nor an illogical conclusion within the current framework.
The thoughts and theories of Marx, Hilferding, Luxemburg, Lenin, Gramsci, their colleagues and their heirs, which were developed in response to capitalism, can help us analyze the present situation of rampant imperialist monopolistic capitalism. We must of course recognize that we live in a vastly different world, in which commodification has become the cancer poisoning the world, but the principles driving capitalism then do not differ from those of today. Their theories might not be sufficient for today’s world but at least we may begin by using their observations, understandings and tools of analysis in order to build the kind of analysis and critique necessary to expose and then attack US capitalism. Capitalism itself has no tools for self-criticism: its political system hides the manipulation of the real powers “behind the throne” so to speak, while concealing economic reality from its citizenry. Super-capitalist America is a warning to others who are either treading the same road or intend to embark upon it. Essentially it involves the dismantlement of government as an institution serving the citizenry, thus making way for the conversion of social life into a savage jungle where vulnerable human life is trashed everyday, while the super rich gather into their armed enclaves, protecting themselves from the historically recently-created impoverished lumpenproletariat.
The choice of Barak Obama for president rested on emotions manipulated by those in power and a poignant attempt to overcome the heritage of racism and its attendant deprivations, suffering and unhappiness by those who experienced its workings on a daily basis. He was not voted in as President to become the Commander-in-Chief of the Army – that is a by-product of the position of President of which most people are completely unaware. He was voted in to return the work of government to serve the general population at large. He was voted in to administer a change from a war economy to a civilian needs-based economy and to govern in favor of the American people. The cynicism behind these last elections will never be fully known, but at the very least, people should finally understand that racism and reverse racism are two identical sides of the same coin! What counts in government is not personality and color, but the political, economic and social program promoted. Having now learnt that President Blessed Übama has no intention of either promoting or serving a progressive social program, the question now is how to start working against this present administration as well as preparing for a serious critique of the structures of the American government. The Constitution is no barrier to plutocracy, and in fact it has only aided and abetted it. America truly needs change as candidate Obama promised, but the change that is needed is not the destruction of the commonweal and the population, but rather a revolution of structures and values of capitalist America.
* The term “treif” is a Yiddish term that is a corruption of the Hebrew word “teref”, which means “torn” and originally referred to animals which had suffered wounds or lacerations and therefore did not fall into the category of animals permitted to eat, i.e. they were not kosher. Its usage, however, is generic and means anything that is either not kosher per se, or is tainted and thus impure.
Lynda Brayer is an Israeli human rights lawyer and political activist. She can be reached at [email protected]