Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy
(Buy One, Get One Free)
By Arundhati Roy
With the immense power that the government now wields, the United States is effectively the "New American Empire." The news that is fed to the American public is nothing but a collection of lies distributed by the corporate-controlled media. A New York Times/CBS News poll reported that 42% of Americans accepted that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks, yet there was no evidence for this. () George Bush generated a frenzy that not invading Iraq would be suicidal for America, yet Iraq was a just a "starved, bombed, besieged country" at that time. Paranoia led the US government to form the Doctrine of Pre-emptive Strike, to invent a threat that did not exist. In fact, weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found in Iraq, though that was the initial justification for invading the country.
Despite the lack of evidence of possession of nuclear weapons or links to the Al Qaeda network, Bush claimed that Iraq needed a "regime change" to free the people from the rule of their "homicidal dictator." However, forty years ago, the US and England openly supported Saddam Hussein and even provided him with the materials to manufacture nuclear weapons. Then the US government supported Iraq's war against Iran for eight years, including the 1988 gassing of Kurdish people - offenses that were then spun into reasons for invading the country. () If these crimes were horrendous enough to warrant a difficult and costly attempt at assassinating Saddam Hussein, why aren't those who facilitated his crimes being held accountable?
The media has revealed that the impoverished Iraqi cities that had just undergone extensive bombing attacks were left in complete anarchy once the US invaded. US and British armed forces stood helplessly by as Iraqi stores, offices, and hospitals were pillaged by thieves. Though the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) notified the Pentagon of 16 Iraqi sites to be protected during the war, the only site that was protected was the Ministry of Oil. () Worldwide news stations televised the scenes of horror, but the US government viewed the chaos as an expression of the newly found freedom of the liberated Iraqis.
When the US invaded Iraq, several European nations that had refused to support the war in the UN Security Council, including France, Germany, and Russia, suddenly offered their support, hoping to maintain their oil contracts. Polls showed that less than 11% of the population of any European country supported a war carried out "unilaterally by America and its allies", but many democratic countries such as England, Italy, Spain, and Hungary all supported the American invasion. () The citizens of these nations and others - over 10 million people on 5 continents - marched in worldwide protest of the war several weeks before the US invaded.
In first world countries, politicians, media tycoons, corporate moguls, and even judges have all managed to undermine the checks and balances of the modern democracy. In the US, Clear Channel Worldwide controls 9% of the market through its 1,200 channels. When hundreds of thousands of Americans publicly demonstrated against the war in Iraq, Clear Channel, whose CEO contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bush's campaign, organized pro-war rallies and then covered them as breaking news.()
Under the Bush administration, states cut $49 billion in public services, health, welfare benefits, and education in 2002, and plan to cut another 25.7 billion dollars this year, which totals $75 billion. Bush's initial proposal in Congress to finance the war cost $80 billion. Those actually fighting the war are the poor, not the rich - only one member of Congress has a child fighting in Iraq. Furthermore, Bush claims that Operation Iraqi Freedom is meant to return Iraqi oil to its people, but it's actually going to huge corporations like Bechtel, Chevron, and Halliburton. () Nine of the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board are associated with corporations that were awarded defense contracts worth $76 billion between 2001 and 2002. For instance, Jack Sheehan, a retired Marine Corps general, is also a senior vice president at Bechtel. Company Chairman Riley Bechtel is on the President's Export Council. George Shultz, former Secretary of State, who's also on Bechtel's Board of Directors, chairs the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Bechtel, which contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns, has accepted a $680 million government reconstruction contract in Iraq. ()
The Bush administration has been priming Iraq for the process of "liberation", or more appropriately, "liberalization." They plan to model the rebuilt Iraqi economy after America's. The US government is also rewriting Iraq's constitution based on America's trade laws, tax laws, and intellectual property laws. The government has invited American corporations to "to bid for contracts that range between road building, water systems, textbook distribution, and cell phone networks." The US government put Dan Amstutz, former senior executive of the world's leading grain exporter, in charge of agricultural restoration, a move which Oxfam policy director Kevin Watkins likened to "putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission." The two men in charge of managing Iraqi oil have worked for Fluor, which has been accused of exploiting black South African workers during apartheid, and Shell, which is notorious for destroying the Ogoni tribe's lands in Nigeria. ()
The US may be able to defend its borders, but it cannot defend its economy, which is intertwined with markets all over the world. The traditional boycott targets - Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds - are already being planned on the Internet, but now government agencies, the British DFID, British and US banks, Merrill Lynch, and American Express are being taken into consideration. Activists could turn America's economic sanctions against them and impose People's Sanctions on every corporation with a contract in Iraq, just as activists overcame institutions of apartheid in South Africa.
Tyler, Patrick E., "Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas", New York Times, 8/18/2002
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