Nuggets from a Nuthouse Elections, non-intervention, rule of law, and China


he U.S. establishment takes
a “pragmatic” view of the merits of elections, with approval
or disapproval depending on how well it “works,” as perceived
by the dominant interests. Call it “establishment relativism.”
We know that the right wing hates relativism, but there are some
relativisms that they can accept, mainly by playing dumb. When the
good guys win—and “good” means serviceable to U.S.
interests as seen by the corporate/political establishment—there
is endless generosity and looking-the-other-way in evaluating that
win. In Mexico, for example, when Salinas won by a fraudulent recount
in 1988 and Calderon won by probable fraud in 2006, there were no
serious complaints here. When Yeltsin won a true laugher in 1996,
helping consolidate the triumph of the looting oligarchs and death
of any possible meaningful democracy in Russia, there was positive
enthusiasm in this country. But when a Chavez or Hamas wins, pragmatism
calls for doubts about the honesty of the election (Chavez) and/or
questions about the threat to peace in a victory of “terrorists”

In the Chavez case, the doubts and threats of his electoral legitimacy
were so severe that the United States colluded in a coup in 2002
that was quickly reversed, but demonstrated the extremely obvious
fact that U.S. leaders are not about to respect election results
when the wrong party wins. Much fault was found with Chavez’s
further electoral victories, but it became very difficult to claim
unfairness with his solid majorities, no evidence of tampering,
and with the bulk of the Venezuelan media furiously anti-Chavez.
(Of course, for the U.S. establishment Chavez is showing his true
colors by possibly refusing to renew the license of a TV station
that openly supported the 2002 coup—an action for which a station
in the United States in an analogous situation would almost surely
have been closed down immediately and its top officers prosecuted
for treason.) 

The Hamas case is equally interesting. Instead of respecting what
seems to have been a quite honest vote, with the wrong party winning,
Israel began a brutal military assault on the Palestinians, arrested
Hamas legislators, and cut off funds owed the Palestinians. These
and other actions were designed to beat and starve the Palestinians
into ousting Hamas, but the Israelis were also using Hamas as an
excuse to crush any resistance to ethnic cleansing and to induce
a greater “voluntary” exit from the territory. The United
States and EU cooperated in this brutal process, the former along
with Israel also giving financial support and arms to Fatah in order
to strengthen the opposition to Hamas, and possibly encourage a
civil war—recall the U.S. and Israeli encouragement and support
of the Iraq-Iran war, with occasional explicit mention of the merit
of mutual killing between these problematic states. 

In this same time frame Israel was committing major war crimes in
a genocidal process in Gaza that violated Western “enlightenment
values” as well as all kinds of international laws and steadily
advanced their ethnic cleansing on the West Bank and in Jerusalem.
Despite this, in a historically unique action the EU actually imposed
sanctions on the victims of the occupation for voting the wrong
way. Hamas’s terrorist record and refusal to recognize Israel
is the rationale here. Israel’s vastly greater state terror
and steady law violations produce no negative actions and Israel’s
voting Ariel Sharon in as president in 2001—the butcher of
Sabra-Shatila and Qibya, whose terroristic killings exceeded that
of Hamas by a wide margin, and were greater than those of Carlos
the Jackal by better than 10-1—again elicited no complaints
or penalties. 

It is also of interest that in Palestine, Hamas opponent and Fatah
leader Mahmoud Abbas is calling for new elections, which Israel
and the United States support as they rush money as well as arms
to Abbas. There is no legal basis for such a call, but because the
election produced the wrong result a new election is pressed. On
the other hand, in Lebanon where, with Hezbollah representatives
leaving the government there is solid legal grounds for the calling
of a new election, the United States and its allies demur and oppose
the idea. It would very likely give Hezbollah more political power
and reduce that of a Western-supported client—so the attitude
toward an election to ascertain the people’s will is different
from the Palestine case.

Another interesting case of election pragmatics is the way the 2006
mid-term U.S. election is working out. Bush was free to escalate
the Iraq war after the 2004 election because he won and thus had
an election go-ahead. The Democrats and media put up little opposition.
In the 2006 election the Republicans lost heavily and both direct
verbal evidence of voter sentiment and poll results show that a
strong majority of the public want the United States out of Iraq
in two years or less. But the corporate/political establishment
does not want a quick exit. The same lobby that produced Western
support for Israel’s violent response to the Hamas electoral
victory, and that gives its imprimatur to Israeli apartheid and
ethnic cleansing, wants the United States to stay and even to broaden
the war to Iran. The result is that Bush, having just suffered a
crushing election loss, and with a popularity rating in the 28-31
percent range, is still able to “decide” and escalate
the Iraq war. The last election had a “bad” result from
the elite viewpoint, and it will therefore have little effect on
policy in the Middle East. After all, this is a democracy constrained
to work for the “national interest.” 

Principle of Non-Intervention 


.S. intervention in elections
in Palestine, Venezuela, Russia, Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, Nicaragua
(etc.) has been massive and so has intervention in the forms of
military and economic aid and direct military attack. There are
almost no holds barred, and almost nothing in the way of subversion
and military attack that the mainstream media won’t normalize.
After all we are WE, the good and necessary police in service to
global interests. It’s revealing that although the invasion-occupation
of Iraq was not only based on lies but was a classic case of aggression
in violation of the UN Charter, this is unmentionable in the media—WE
have aggression rights, by patriotic premise. 

Of course we still believe in the principle of non-intervention,
but as in the case of elections, with that special pragmatic-relativistic
touch. Thus the United States joined with seven Middle Eastern states
(Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE)
in January to issue a statement which affirmed, among other things,
that “disputes among states should be settled peacefully and
in accordance with international norms, and that relations among
all countries should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty
and territorial integrity of all states, and on the principle of
noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations” (“Gulf
Cooperation Council—Plus Two’s Ministerial Statement,”
U.S. Department of State, January 16, 2007). It is obvious that
this accolade to the principles of sovereignty and noninterference
was directed not against the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq or
a possible U.S.-Israeli military attack on Iran, but rather against
Iran and Syria, which have faced the U.S. charge that they are interfering
in the internal affairs of the newly liberated Iraq. Their interventions
in a struggle in a next door neighbor destabilized by an aggression
from across the ocean are illicit—the big and ongoing one from
a distant power is not only licit, it isn’t even intervention. 

Bush and his associates are now warning Iran on a daily basis against
intervening in Iraq. They ignore that Iraq is now supposedly a sovereign
state whose leaders are supposedly in charge of deciding who can
and who cannot intervene and do business in Iraq territory. 

This is not hypocrisy: it reflects that internalized belief that
the Global Godfather has an inherent right to straighten out the
world’s unruly children. His interventions are in a separate
class. When Paul Wolfowitz stated,“I think all foreigners should
stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq” (


July 22, 2003), he took for granted the Global Godfather’s
right to be at home anywhere within his domains. 

of Law 


he same point holds for
the rule of law. We believe in the rule of law and our leaders refer
to it regularly as something that we want to provide, along with
“stability.” But, as with non-intervention, the rule of
law doesn’t apply to us by our self-designated rights as the
most powerful, implicitly good, and self-appointed global police.
It might interfere with our bringing peace and stability everywhere.
The new classic is of course the invasion-occupation of Iraq, 2003-2007,
where we ran roughshod over the UN charter and hence over U.S. law
as well, given that the Charter is an international agreement that
becomes part of U.S. law. The same is true of the violations of
the international conventions against torture. The Military Commissions
Act tries to exempt U.S. officials from the reach of international
laws on torture, but it remains a constitutional issue as to whether
this can be done even in its application at home. 

Of course, if you are strong enough and your elite supports you,
the rule of law can be ignored simply by virtue of superior force.
Thus when the International Court found against the United States
in a case brought by Nicaragua in 1986, and called for reparations
for the “unlawful use of force,” the United States paid
no attention to the court ruling. And, importantly, the U.S. establishment
didn’t complain, but implicitly or explicitly sanctioned this
brazen refusal to abide by the rule of law. In a dramatic illustration,

New York Times

supported this refusal editorially, declaring
the International Court a “hostile forum” (“America’s
Guilt—or Default,” July 1, 1986)—a lie, and its editorial
larded with errors of fact and silly chauvinistic bias, but demonstrating
the paper’s own integration into the imperial enterprise and
resultant willingness to disregard mere matters of law (repeated
in 2002-2003 when the editors never mentioned the problem of UN
Charter prohibitions against aggression). 

The international community—that is, governments and international
institutions, as opposed to the world’s people—also accepts
and even supports the U.S. refusal to abide by the rule of law.
Not only did it do nothing to stop the Iraq aggression in 2003,
or to punish the aggressors, the Security Council soon gave its
sanction to the U.S. occupation in a classic case of rewarding the
villain. The Security Council also cooperates with the United States
in supporting Israel’s illegal occupation and massive ethnic
cleansing. And now it is helping prepare the ground for an Israeli-U.S.
attack on Iran by imposing sanctions and Chapter VII demands on
Iran. The rule of law internationally is dead in the water. 

It is also highly relevant that the Bush administration has been
replacing the rule of law at home with the superior rights of the
executive, attacking a string of constitutional protections of individual
rights as well as the rights of legislatures and courts. This is
not a case of blowback from the disregard of international law abroad;
instead, the enhanced disregard abroad goes hand-in-hand with the
shrinking adherence to law at home. But the United States remains
committed to the rule of law—when protesters at home violate
local statutes or black ghetto residents are caught using marijuana
or Iran does not abide by some intrusive ruling of the Security
Council caving in to the U.S. program setting Iran up for a fresh
U.S. aggression. 

China’s Flexing Its Muscles 


n the nuthouse, any action
by the United States in the way of enhancing its military superiority
is treated by the mainstream media with great objectivity. There
might be a hint that it may cost a lot of money and doubts may be
raised about its urgency and even whether it will work (if it is
a new weapon). But it will not be treated as a possible serious
threat to other countries, destabilizing and promising a renewed
arms race, making war more likely, unaffordable in a world with
much poverty and major problems that call for large resources—in
short, insane. No. The media are objective, which means deeply irresponsible
and contributing to lunacy. (Years ago the

New York Times

had an almost regular annual column by Seymour Melman in which he
would list the foregone civil functions that were sacrificed by
a comparable list of weapons, with price tags noted. This apparently
was too painful—and enlightening—for the establishment
to bear, and was terminated some years back.) 

when the Bush administration announced its intent to make nuclear
weapons part of the regular war arsenal and improve them, and its
intent to prevent any challenges to U.S. military superiority by
the possible use of force, even naming countries, including China,
as potential threats to U.S. dominance, the media barely reported
these lunatic plans. They certainly never portray them as they should—in
a class with

Mein Kampf

and suffering from comparable lunacy. 

On the other hand, as China has substantially increased its military
budget in recent years, although from a very low initial level,
this has aroused concern in the U.S. military and political establishment.
China’s military budget has risen to one-seventh of that of
the United States (in 2006, $66 versus $441 billion), so obviously
this is a worrisome matter given that, as Donald Rumsfeld pointed
out in June 2005, “Since no nation threatens China, one must
wonder: ‘Why this growing investment…these continuing
robust deployments?’” Rumsfeld also mentioned that China
seemed to be preparing to “project power” in its neighborhood. 

Of course, China has no bases in North America, no fleets of warships
around the North American coasts, and no military alliances with
any country in North or South America. The United States has bases
all around China, fleets of warships off the Chinese coast, has
regular military exercises in that area, and has military alliances
with many countries in Asia. In February 2005 it formalized new
security ties with Japan that even announced a joint U.S.-Japanese
call for a solution to issues in the Taiwan straits. 

We are reaching here the limits of hypocrisy and the double standard.
China is a threat because it is getting armed to the point where
it might project power in its neighborhood and maybe even defend
itself sufficiently from some Global Godfather projecting power
everywhere, allowing it to constrain the Godfather a bit. China
is a threat to the Godfather only because of those possibilities—it
cannot threaten the Godfather directly. On the other hand, the Godfather
openly threatens China, has even listed it as a potential challenger
who will not be permitted to rise to an effective challenging level,
by implication through the use of force. The Godfather also threatens
China by its military deployments and alliances. This is only a
non-threat on the ludicrous ultra-chauvinist assumption that the
Godfather is good, generous, peace-loving and without any seriously
conflicting interests that might cause it to exercise force against

It is well-known to even casual observers that the rapid growth
of China has forced it to look aggressively for independent oil
supplies to meet its escalating needs and it is clear that it will
be competing with the United States in obtaining such supplies.
In that competition the possession of overwhelming force on one
side and serious weakness on the other could be costly to the weak.
And in that competition, the use of force might be helpful in obtaining
privileged access to limited oil resources. 

The China threat is an on-and-off-again phenomenon that has been
on the upswing in recent years, clearly not based on any real security
threat, but consistent with the imperial project of absolute domination.
It is also a windfall for the military-industrial complex and may
be cultivated in substantial measure to provide it with growing
and profitable markets and a raison-d’etre for its continued
massive absorption of budget resources. Actual violence is constrained
by the huge mutual dependence of the two economies, but who knows
what the future holds if China keeps growing and arming itself,
and if the rulers of the nuthouse need a diversion to mobilize the
population and give them continued power to rule and loot? 

Of course this all depends on whether the

New York Times

its media associates, the intellectual class, and the Democrats,
will go along with this Kafkasque pretence that the Chinese threaten
us rather than that we threaten them, and allow the Military Industrial
Complex and the Pentagon to continue to absorb vast resources
to kill on false pretenses—that is, to continue to make the
United States a genuine global menace and nuthouse. It also depends
on whether the U.S. public can finally arouse itself to fight for
its own and global interests—and sanity. Given the ready mobilization
against a not very dire Iran threat that we see moving forward today
it is not easy to be optimistic.

S. Herman is an economist, media critic, and author of numerous articles
and books.