With his ratings in the tank and desperately in need of a boost, not to mention a distraction from the sudden impotence of his administration, this week President Bush fell back on what worked so successfully for him in the past: fostering fear and promoting war.
Originally scheduled to mark the anniversary of 9/11, but postponed so that Bush and his cronies could ignore Hurricane Katrina, Bush delivered his latest pro-war screed to the ludicrously misnamed National Endowment for Democracy. A government-funded, semi-private organization (which happens to be free of Congressional oversight), the NED is a darling of the neo-conservatives and shares membership with the Project for a New American Century. Created by Reagan in the 1980s, ostensibly to promote “free market democracies” through “the magic of the marketplace,” the NED’s interests and practices are anything but democratic. As can be gleaned from its stated goals, the NED’s notion of “democracies” are countries friendly to U.S. corporate interests. If a country isn’t “democratic” enough already, the NED uses U.S. taxpayer money to subversively fund and instigate regime change.
Examples abound of the NED’s fondness for interfering with the elections and democratic processes (however imperfect) of other nations. In the 1980s, the NED funded militaristic and dictatorial candidates in Panama, as well as opposition candidates in such stable democracies as Costa Rica (the opposition candidate in Costa Rica also had the endorsement of that champion of democracy, Manuel Noriega). In the 1990 elections in Haiti, the NED provided significant funding to former World Bank official Marc Bazin in a failed attempt to oust the leftist Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Bazin, seen by most Haitians as a “front man for military and business interests,” received only 12% of the vote. Displeased with that result, the NED funded anti-Aristide groups, culminating in the violent political instability in Haiti that left dozens dead and ultimately resulted in Aristide’s exile.
In the 1990s, the NED supported Skender Gjinushi, speaker of the Albanian parliament and former member of the Stalinist Politburo in Albania. Gjinushi was a principle organizer of the unrest that led to the 1997 fall of the democratic government in Albania, not to mention the death of over 2,000 people. In Slovakia, the NED funded several initiatives that ultimately resulted in the defeat of Slovakia’s freely-elected government. The NED-backed “reformers” who took over in Slovakia were largely leading officials in the Communist regime of then-Czechoslovakia.
Additionally, and most notoriously, backed and funded the aborted coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002. Determined to install a pro-U.S.
leader in Venezuela, the NED funded a subsequent recall referendum and then forged exit polls declaring Chavez’ defeat. Venezuela, like Iraq, possesses huge oil reserves estimated at 78 billion barrels, making it the world’s seventh largest oil resource. Chavez, however, is staunchly anti-American and even publicly called Bush an “asshole.” The NED’s motivation to “democratize” Venezuela should be abundantly clear.
Regardless of how one feels about Chavez or Aristide or any other leader or government of a sovereign nation, it is antithetical to the principles of democracy to interfere with and influence the election processes of other nations. It is particularly appalling when the goal is not to foster democracy so much as to further enrich U.S. corporations.
At any rate, speaking before the NED, Bush preached to the converted his sermon of a never-ending and self-perpetuating war on terror. Invoking a romanticized vision of the 9/11 attacks (“… a proud city covered in smoke and ashes … a fire across the Potomac … passengers who spent their final moments on Earth fighting the enemy”), Bush once again pimped the war in Iraq as a glorious exercise, necessary for making America safe from the scourge of terrorism.
A nice thought, but completely without foundation. Aside from the fraudulence of Bush once again tying Iraq to 9/11, it was utterly false for Bush to claim that the invasion of Iraq was ever necessary for protecting America’s national security. In fact, all indications are that our glorious invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq have only managed to increase the threat of terrorism, not only to the U.S., but to the rest of the world, as well. By invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S. has managed to radicalize the Arab and Muslim worlds to join the terrorist cause. As revealed by a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the occupation of an Arab nation by non-Arabs has radicalized hundreds of previously non-militant Saudis, prompting them to join the anti-American insurgency in Iraq. In other words, in direct contradiction to Bush’s claim that “[t]he hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue,” the invasion and occupation of Iraq has converted non-militant Muslims to jihad and terrorism.
Bush attempted to refute this fact by reminding those who believe “that our presence in [Iraq] has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals,” that “we were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and Al Qaeda attacked us anyway.” Touche’.
That’s right. We weren’t “in Iraq” when Al Qaeda attacked on 9/11. We were, however, starving Iraqis through sanctions, and had been for a decade. Additionally, while we weren’t “in” Iraq, we were “in” Saudi Arabia, which we now know was particularly offensive to Osama bin Laden and a primary motivation for the 9/11 attacks. In addition to U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and other Muslims deeply resented the U.S. for staging a proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, relying almost exclusively on Muslims to do its fighting, and then abruptly abandoning Afghanistan and its “freedom fighters” once their purpose had been served. Thus, Bush is correct: terrorists’ hatred of the U.S. did not begin with Iraq. It merely grew.
In a similar vein, Bush argued that “Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet militants killed more than 180 Russian school children in Beslan.” While Bush’s facts may be right, his logic is specious. The horrible events in Beslan were carried out by Chechen terrorists as part of their war against Russian occupation of oil-rich Chechnya. Thus, while the atrocities in Beslan had nothing to do with Iraq, they also did not occur in a vacuum.
What was most notable about Bush’s speech to the NED was his tacit admission that his so-called war on terror is really a war for imperial dominance. Bush accused the terrorists of seeking to “overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.” Is that not precisely what the U.S. seeks and has long sought to accomplish both overtly through force and surreptitiously through groups like the NED? Does not the U.S. seek to establish a military-corporate empire that spans the globe?
How else to explain the hundreds of U.S. military installations around the world? How else to explain subversive groups like the NED, which deliberately interfere in other countries’ affairs with the goal of creating regimes friendly to U.S. business interests? What other explanation is there for orchestrating coups in oil-rich countries like Iran (successful) and Venezuela (unsuccessful)? What other explanation can there be for installing and/or supporting tyrannical regimes in Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Chile (to name but a few)? What other reason is there for the invasion and occupation of a nation that never did the U.S. any harm and had absolutely no proven ability to do so?
Why? Whether anyone really wants to admit it, the U.S. has committed and continues to commit such irrefutably undemocratic acts to establish and protect its hegemony. Its empire. How appropriate, then, that Bush celebrated his Iraqi venture before a crowd of like-minded champions of “free market democracies.” How appropriate, considering that both the speaker and his audience advocate spreading “democracy,” but only through such undemocratic means as war, coups, and illicit influence.
Ken Sanders is a writer in Tucson whose publishing credits include Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Common Dreams, Democratic Underground, Dissident Voice, and Political Affairs Magazine, among others.