The US says it is fighting for democracy – but is deaf to the cries of the Iraqis
By Noam Chomsky
02/11/07 “The Independent” — — There was unprecedented élite condemnation of the plans to invade Iraq. Sensible analysts were able to perceive that the enterprise carried significant risks for US interests, however conceived. Phrases thrown in by the official Presidential Directive from the standard boilerplate about freedom that accompany every action, and are close to a historical universal, were dismissed as meaningless by reasonable people. Global opposition was utterly overwhelming, and the likely costs to the US were apparent, though the catastrophe created by the invasion went far beyond anyone’s worst expectations. It’s amusing to watch the lying as the strongest supporters of the war try to deny what they very clearly said.
On the US motives for staying in Iraq, I can only repeat what I’ve been saying for years. A sovereign Iraq, partially democratic, could well be a disaster for US planners. With a Shia majority, it is likely to continue improving relations with Iran. There is a Shia population right across the border in Saudi Arabia, bitterly oppressed by the US-backed tyranny. Any step towards sovereignty in Iraq encourages activism there for human rights and a degree of autonomy – and that happens to be where most of Saudi oil is.
Sovereignty in Iraq might well lead to a loose Shia alliance controlling most of the world’s petroleum resources and independent of the US, undermining a primary goal of US foreign policy since it became the world-dominant power after the Second World War. Worse yet, though the US can intimidate Europe, it cannot intimidate China, which blithely goes its own way, even in Saudi Arabia, the jewel in the crown – the primary reason why China is considered a leading threat. An independent energy bloc in the Gulf area is likely to link up with the China-based Asian Energy Security Grid and Shanghai Cooperation Council, with Russia (which has its own huge resources) as an integral part, and with the Central Asian states (already members), possibly India. Iran is already associated with them, and a Shia-dominated bloc in the Arab states might well go along. All of that would be a nightmare for US planners and their Western allies.
There are, then, very powerful reasons why the US and UK are likely to try in every possible way to maintain effective control over Iraq. The US is not constructing a palatial embassy, by far the largest in the world and virtually a separate city within Baghdad, and pouring money into military bases, with the intention of leaving Iraq to Iraqis. All of this is quite separate from the expectations that matters can be arranged so that US corporations profit from the vast riches of Iraq.
These topics, though high on the agenda of planners, are not within the realm of discussion, as can easily be determined. That is only to be expected. These considerations violate the fundamental doctrine that state power has noble objectives, and while it may make terrible blunders, it can have no crass motives and is not influenced by domestic concentrations of private power. Any questioning of these Higher Truths is either ignored or bitterly denounced, also for good reasons: allowing them to be discussed could undermine power and privilege.
There is another issue: even the most dedicated scholar/advocates of “democracy promotion” recognise that there is a “strong line of continuity” in US efforts to promote democracy going back as far as you like and reaching the present: democracy is supported if and only if it conforms to strategic and economic objectives. For example, supporting the brutal punishment of people who committed the crime of voting “the wrong way” in a free election, as in Palestine right now, with pretexts that would inspire ridicule in a free society. As for democracy in the US, élite opinion has generally considered it a dangerous threat which must be resisted. But some Iraqis agreed with Bush’s mission to bring democracy to the world: 1 per cent in a poll in Baghdad just as the noble vision was declared in Washington.
Read the rest of it here.