One of the most dramatic features of the Bush-Blair drive to war–actually, "massacre" given the imbalance of forces– has been the split and struggle between governments and their citizenry. It might be argued that this ongoing struggle demonstrates that democracy works. But such struggles occur even in authoritarian systems, where there are frequent protests and strikes.
In democracies governments are supposed to represent the people, so that there shouldn’t be a need for massive protests to get the government to do what the public wants done. We shouldn’t see "democratic" governments trying furiously to drag their country into actions that people oppose–and that many oppose passionately- -even after being subjected to intense propaganda and disinformation.
The same split was evident in this country at the time the North American Free Trade Agreement was being debated (1993-1994). The
The Republicans are the extreme and undisguised business party; but the Democrats have in the past shown flashes of representing a broader constituency from which they derive most of their votes. But in this important case (and it is not unique)
Even with the media propagandizing furiously on behalf of NAFTA, polls continued to show hostile majorities. But in this plutocratic democracy, the corporate interest prevailed and the elite-class-money basis of
War is extremely useful to elites, not only for carving out opportunities for business abroad, but for its internal effects. As Thorstein Veblen explained 99 years ago, war provides "the largest and most promising factor of cultural discipline….It makes for a conservative animus on the part of the populace. During war time, and within the military organization at all times…civil rights are in abeyance; and the more warfare and armament the more abeyance."
And, crucially, war "directs the popular interest to other, nobler, institutionally less hazardous matters than the unequal distribution of wealth or of creature comforts." (The Theory of Business
Rightwing business administrations gravitate quickly to war and fear- mongering to help cover over their service to their principals (i.e., making income distribution more unequal): Immediately upon taking office in the early 1980s Reagan mounted a war on terror and on the "evil empire," and his clone George W. Bush has done the same two decades later. They have both pressed for soaring arms budgets to meet inflated or manufactured threats, and both have been given aid and comfort by the Free Press.
The public is more vulnerable to propaganda on a foreign policy issue like
Four-fifths of the U.S. public believe Saddam was involved in acts of terrorism against the United States (according to a December 2002 Tribune/WGN-TV poll), and a majority today fear him and think that this regional bully, who has been almost entirely disarmed and who the Bush gang is toying with like a Bengal tiger might play with a malnourished mouse, actually poses a military threat to the pitiful giant. This is the ultimate propaganda system at work.
But despite these irrational and manipulated fears, almost a third of the public (29 percent) remains opposed to the war and a solid majority (59 to 37 percent in a recent NYT/CBS poll) favors giving the UN and inspections more time.
On the basis of this opposition and these doubts a major peace movement has come into being to oppose the war–and it has come into existence and grown at a far quicker pace than during the Vietnam war. The February 15th demonstrations here and abroad were possibly the largest ever, to the consternation of the war party.
This peace movement could stop the war if it had any kind of support from the mass media in focusing on the illegality of the Bush plan, the serial lies used by the war party, its compromised position in prior support of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, the hidden agenda (oil, support of
The dichotomy between governments and people as regards the
Bush himself is a coup d’etat president, who garnered fewer votes than his main rival even with an immense treasure chest from his corporate backers and the illegal disenfranchisement of large numbers in
Throughout the world corporate and financial power has drained democracies of substance and made them plutocracies. It is a matter of course now to find that "democratic" leaders systematically carry out important economic, social and arms/war policies that their people disapprove. The people increasingly have no effective choices–all the "practical" candidates (i.e., those electable in a plutocratic political system, as Ralph Nader was not) offer little or no alternative and regularly betray their promises to ordinary citizens when they had campaigned with populist messages.
So the lineup of governments versus people across the globe in joining the Bush massacre program is entirely comprehensible. The "old
Many other Western governments have gone along with Bush-Cheney despite massive public opposition (polls show oppositional votes of 75 percent in
It is notable that even the Voice of America acknowledged on February 6 that the ten East European countries that endorsed Colin Powell’s position at the UN Security Council "are seeking to join the NATO alliance." It was implied that perhaps the desire to avoid jeopardizing entry might have affected their vote. It is well-known that the
The February 5 letter of the ten Eastern European governments most of whom hoped to get into NATO, which cited Colin Powell’s "convincing evidence" for war, was written BEFORE he gave his speech, and an earlier letter of eight European leaders on "United We Stand" (including Blair, Aznar, Berlusconi) called for support of the Bush position and "full compliance" with Security Council resolutions to "maintain credibility" (as regards
This letter by the eight had been organized by the Wall Street Journal to give a lift to the war party, and it was noted in the "news" column that this effort threatens to "isolate the Germans and French" and may "smooth a path to war" (Marc Champion, "European Leaders Declare Support For U.S. on Iraq," Jan. 30, 2003). Featured on the front page and with the letter reproduced along with photos/bios of these eight leaders on the editorial page, this is a pretty illustration of an integration of news and editorial operations in service to the propaganda needs of government.
This "parade of vassals" (as one European Parliament member called it) was greeted in the
The Journal piece touting the eight leaders’ support of the war notes deep in the article that those leaders all face "strong opposition to the war" at home, but this betrayal of their obligation to serve their people is a small aside for the paper as it celebrates the leaders’ service to the Bush war.
The moralist leaders of the vassal governments show a certain lack of independence of thought.
Mark Almond notes that "other prominent ex-communist apparatchiks across the region repeat oaths of fealty to
A major difference between the "old" and "new"
The people are fighting back everywhere against the DC Axis of Evil and its plans. The people’s surge on February 15 is a set-back for the war party. Even further pressure is needed, however, to stop the war machine. High priority should be given to pressing the media to cease their unquestioning service to the war-makers. With even a modest change by the mainstream media in the direction of fairness and openness to views that are held by the global majority, the tide could be turned.