A US revolution
By John Wight, Jan 1, 2008, 11:32
As the US election season draws ever nearer, the attention of political commentators, professional pundits and the corporate media is currently focused on which Democratic Party candidate will face off against the Republican choice to succeed George W Bush.
The progressive community in the US has likewise been focused on this contest to see who will lead the Democratic Party in 2008 elections. It is hoped that whoever wins this contest will lead them and the US people out of the darkness of a Republican administration, an administration, they observe, which has destroyed US standing in the world over the last eight years.
Whether it is the disaster that is the war in Iraq, whether the disrespect with which the current administration has treated the UN and international law or whether it is the astounding ignorance that it has shown in denying the irrefutable scientific evidence that climate change is the result of human activity, the common consensus among those who would happily label themselves “progressive” is that the only hope for the US in 2008 is a Democrat incumbent. Judging by the polls, this will be Hillary Clinton.
But there is a fly in the ointment. It is a word of caution arrived at via a cursory examination of recent US history – a history of war, military intervention, the subversion of human rights and democracy and economic imperialism which has been every bit as brutal and ignoble under Democratic Party administrations as under administrations led by their Republican counterparts.
Towards the end of the second world war, with Japan to all intents and purposes a defeated nation, then president Harry S Truman, a Democrat, ordered nuclear strikes against Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If this wasn’t enough, he also sanctioned the decimation of Korea and the deaths of 3 million people between 1950 and 1953.
It was a Democrat, JFK, who ordered the first US troops into Vietnam in 1963, who sanctioned an attempted armed intervention in Cuba and who initiated the embargo against the Cuban people which continues to this day.
It was Democrat Jimmy Carter, currently the world’s favourite ex-president, who initiated the doctrine of military intervention in the Middle East, who covertly provided sanctuary and funding to Pol Pot and his followers in Thailand, who poured millions into development of the neutron bomb and who sanctioned Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor in 1976, which led to the massacre of a quarter of a million East Timorese.
Then there’s Bill Clinton, that star of the Democrats, the man who, to the millions who recall his tenure in office with misty eyes and warm hearts, walks on water.
Tell that to the millions of single mothers forced to leave their kids at home while they went to work long hours to make ends meet under the Clinton welfare-to-work programme, which set in motion a transfer of wealth from poor to rich of which Ronald Reagan would have been proud.
Tell that to the Cuban people, who found their country further isolated as a consequence of the Helms-Burton Act penalising any US trading partner that also trades with Cuba, a law signed by Clinton in 1996. And tell that, finally, to the Iraqi people who saw their nation decimated for 13 years under US orchestrated, UN sanctions, sanctions in which half a million children perished, an infanticide which Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described as a “price worth paying.”
As for John Kerry, the so-called liberal from Massachusetts, he fought an election campaign in 2004 around his combat record in Vietnam, one of the most immoral and criminal wars ever waged, along with pledges to prosecute the war in Iraq even more vigorously than Bush. He also pledged to maintain US support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its repression of the Palestinian people.
Such is the human material in which so many who would describe themselves as progressive or liberal place their hopes for a new dawn in US politics.
But no-one anywhere should be under any illusions as to the true nature of this country which proclaims itself the land of the free.
The American revolution was not fought in the interests of liberty, as the official history would have us believe. It was fought in the interests of a white, property-owning class which decided that its continued prosperity would be better served by taking political power from the British.
After the successful colonisation of the continent’s indigenous population, which ended towards the end of the 18th century, and after solving the problem of slavery after the civil war by moving three million Africans from chattel slavery to wage slavery on the bottom rung of the economic ladder, where they remain to this day, the same ruling class turned its attention to the rest of the world.
The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 had already taken care of its neighbours to the south, but to the beneficiaries of an economic system predicated on expansion, this wasn’t enough.
This is why the first world war proved such a godsend. In its wake, as a gesture of appreciation for Washington’s belated help, the British allowed the US access to the Middle East for the first time.
The 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France carved up this imperial prize, handing control of Iraq’s oilfields to Britain, which brought the US in to share in the spoils as a junior partner. This arrangement lasted until after the second world war when, with Britain’s economy in tatters, the US assumed the mantle of imperial master over all.
The skilful and cynical use of repressive client regimes throughout the region post-WWII in Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Israel achieved two things – maintenance of US economic and strategic control and the illusion of non-intervention and influence.
At various times, the mask slipped, but, overall, it was a policy that worked to keep the flow of petroleum and petrodollars going without interruption.
Beyond the Middle East, US overt and covert military interventions have taken place in every corner of the globe. From Africa to south-east Asia, from the jungles of Colombia and Vietnam to the streets of Chile, US power has been utilised with the aim of forming a world in the service of the US ruling class and its economic interests.
In the US itself, this thirst for profits has created a society in which over 44 million men, women and children are without health care, in which 35 million are mired in poverty, in which over 2 million people, more than any other nation on earth, are in prison and in which juveniles can be legally executed.
Both Democrats and Republicans have labelled next year’s presidential election the most important modern history. In terms of stemming the tide of US imperialism and its savage consequences at home and abroad, it means nothing.
Meaningful change will require more than just a change of government in the US. It will require a change in the system of government.
It will require nothing less than a second American Revolution.