Elvis Costello called it the ‘New World Odour’, adding that it smelt even more malodorous than the old one. That was back when another George Bush proclaimed it, after another war with Iraq. Few had the heart to point out that most tyrants proclaim a new world order; Adolf Hitler himself did so amid the roars of men in uniforms at Nuremberg.
The New World Order – or Novus Ordo Seclorum (literally, New Order of the Ages) – is hailed presciently on the back of the one-dollar bill. It is being spread on a sea of bribery, bullying and bugging on the banks of the East River in scenes reminiscent of a conclave of The Sopranos. In the shadows is John Negroponte, George Bush’s ambassador to the UN and the former ‘point man’, in Honduras, for Ronald Reagan’s murderous Contra campaign in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The work of his henchmen in Central America – which involved the murders of bishops, priests and nuns, and the cutting of the throats of volunteers bringing inoculations and literacy to remote villages for the first time in Nicaragua’s history – earned the US a guilty verdict on a state-terrorism charge before the world court in The Hague. In response, the US derecognised the jurisdiction and began its long march beyond the reach of virtually all international regulation.
And look, there are others from the Iran-Contra scandal, that grisly imbroglio of drugs, guns and mad mullahs that almost got ‘the Gipper’ impeached: Elliot Abrams, Bud MacFarlane – egged on by the influential radio ‘Shock-Jock’, our old friend Oliver North, the shredder of evidence for peace. There, too, is Richard Perle, Prince of Darkness, who used to frighten even Reagan’s horses. And his fellow egg-head Paul Wolfowitz. And the biggest egg, Humpty Dumpty himself, Henry Kissinger from even longer ago, who drowned South-east Asia in chemical weapons in the 1970s, got himself back together again, casting an avuncular eye on the walls along the Potomac. The New World Order, in other words, is not new at all, but this may be its most infamous hour.
Bush’s White House is the Nixon-Reagan one all over again – without the former’s evil genius and the latter’s good nature. This truly is Nightmare on Elm Street and they know what you’ll be doing next summer. Picking up the pieces, hosing down the fires, mopping up the blood.
What most irks my pro-war parliamentary colleagues is the question I regularly put to them: how has it come about that a Labour government, a Labour government, is shuttling around in limousines, from capital to capital, in the service of a foreign power – acting, as the Wall Street Journal had it, ‘as America’s newest and brightest ambassador’? As we know, an ambassador is someone sent abroad to lie for his country. It really has come to something when the Prime Minister of Great Britain is sent abroad to lie for someone else’s country.
He is roving ambassador to the right-wing, born-again, Bible-belting fundamentalist crew which first turned Texas into the toxic execution chamber of the Western world, and has now, via a four-three vote in the Supreme Court and a lot of pregnant chads, given birth to a government which is a by-word for treaty-busting protocol, scuppering, agreement-wrecking international thuggery. All attempts by the world to rid itself of such plagues as landmines, proliferating small arms, pollution, chemical and biological weapons (I’m not making that last one up: the US has blocked new regulations on the basis that it would require them to allow UN inspectors to see their inventories) have been wrecked by the government now represented on the global stage by Tony Blair.
History will indeed judge Mr Blair for his decisively important appeasement of this scurvy crew; and not kindly. All of us acknowledge the special relationship between ourselves and the people of the USA. My own shelves at home groan with the weight of the works of, for example, Robert Frost and Robert Zimmerman. We just want a special relationship based on rather more than the one Miss Lewinsky had with President Clinton – one-sided, grotesquely unequal, and with the weaker partner always on their knees.
But we won’t have to wait for any history books to read all about what comes next. In the age of satellite TV the whole world will be watching every burning building, every smouldering corpse, incinerated in the name of God, morality and human rights by the least convincing televangelists since the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart went down for fraud. They say it will all be short and sharp. I say it will be a Bali in every street in every town and city in Iraq, and it doesn’t get much more jagged than that.
And though Iraqi women won’t have mobile telephones to leave messages of farewell for their families, their grief will be heard loud enough, where it will have most effect. And when the crusader army patrols every street in Iraq, they should know they will be as welcome as a pork chop at a Muslim wedding. Or, to put it another way, as welcome as General Sharon’s army in the alleyways of Gaza. Get ready for a daily breakfast-news diet of suicide operations, car bombs, drive-by shootings and snipers. Millions of Iraqis hate their President. Millions do not, though in the fog of propaganda they are always invisible on Fox TV or its printed equivalents here. But even those who hate President Saddam will hate Governor Tommy Franks just as much. Just wait and see.
The teenage scribblers who spin for the Prime Minister showed their juvenile delinquency in all its dangers last month when they told gullible journalists on his behalf that this will be a ‘six-day war’. The allusion was to the apparent triumph of the Israelis over the Arab armies in six days in 1967. They appear stunningly oblivious to the fact that, the day that war ended, the 35-year war between Israel and the Palestinians began – and rages still, on the highways to Haifa, in the gangrenous slums of Gaza, in the rancid refugee camps of Ramallah.
Of course, this ‘new order’ is not just aimed at Muslims. The US has forces in more than 100 countries around the world, and is on its way to full-scale occupation of Colombia and the Philippines. Upon the death of Fidel Castro, few doubt that a new Bay of Pigs will be mounted with American snouts in the trough. The slogan of the anti-globalisation movement – ‘You can’t have McDonald’s without McDonnell-Douglas’ – is materialising in the project for a new American century.
Power, of course has three dimensions: military, economic and cultural. Under Bush the US spends more on ‘defence’ (sic) than the next five countries put together. If he gets a second term, then by the end of it US spending on the military will likely be greater than all other countries on the globe put together. The star wars scheme, if implemented, will give the US ‘full spectrum dominance’ – land, sea, air and the heavens themselves. But on the second dimension the economic outlook is very different. The US economy ails badly, its confidence shot through, its consumers and stock-market investors in hiding behind booming sales of duct tape and gasmasks. Its indebtedness is as astronomic as its stellar military ambitions; and its rivals – Europe, China, even an improving Russia – will only grow economically more significant.
Especially in the light of the third dimension. While Hollywood and the Billboard 100 remain iconic connections between the world and the USA (which may be why most stars of stage and screen are so vocally against the Bushwhacker), ‘anti-Americanism’ is sweeping the world. The ugly sight of George Bush in bomber jacket in aircraft hangars, roaring like a bull before bloodthirsty young men and women who know little of the world but strain at the leash to get out and kill for their commander-in-chief, is the new face of America for billions. The burning buildings of Baghdad and Basra will be another.
Ironically, 11 September was a moment when a different America could have been born, an America which in its grief signalled that it had woken up to the swamp of hatred and bitterness which had bred these monstrous mosquitoes. Instead America’s leaders pretended they had emerged out of a sky unclouded by any American contributory negligence – and got ready to deepen the swamp.
The new imperialism will, I believe, collapse amid boycott, radicalisation, anti-capitalism and flames, which will burn most fiercely, though not exclusively, in the Muslim world. From Indonesia to Nigeria, from the Philippines to Bahrain, from Algiers to Baghdad, chaos and bloodshed and deadly danger will be the new order. And our own tall buildings will not be spared. In this new order I warn those on the streets: do not be British. Do not try to sell British goods. Do not hoist the British flag thinking your national self-image is the Beatles, the BBC and Bobby Charlton. You are seen as the tail of a stupid, huge and vicious dog.
The other week I addressed a large gathering of boys at Eton – members of the school’s George Orwell Society, a former Mr Blair who knew a little bit about imperialism. In his Burmese Days, Orwell’s hero Flory reminds us that, in the last analysis, empire is about stealing other people’s things.
Well, the natives won’t put up with it any more. After 11 September they know how to hurt us back. And even now they are nursing their wrath to keep it warm. So, let the ‘New Crusade’ for the new evil empire begin; there are many Saladins just itching to be born.
George Galloway is a columnist with the Scottish Mail on Sunday and Member of Parliament for Glasgow Kelvin.