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imperialism & war

the spreading revolt against US hegemony

A third group are the so-called "born again" Christian fundamentalists, like Bush himself, Attorney General John Ashcroft and many others in America's "Bible belt", who profess to believe that God gave the Holy Land to the Jews.
Patrick Seale: The spreading revolt against U.S. hegemony
| Paris | 14/02/2003

There were two striking moments in Russian President Vladimir Putin's long interview on French television last Tuesday night at the end of his state visit to France. The first was when he said that Russia was, of course, part of Europe. "Look at the map! Look at our history!" he exclaimed.

"We are the heirs of Greece, of Rome, of Byzantium, we are the heart of Orthodox Christendom." (I am quoting him from memory and may not have recorded his exact words.) The second moment was when, in discussing the Iraq crisis, he declared that Russia's ambition was to see the emergence of a multipolar, rather than a unipolar, world.

Putin's remarks signal that, beyond the trans-Atlantic dispute over Iraq, we are witnessing a rebellion by major European states against the dominance of the United States, a dominance which has characterized international relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union a dozen years ago.

The notion that a single hegemon can dictate terms to the rest of the world and make war on whomever it pleases is being categorically rejected.

Common global aim

The rebellion has spread beyond Europe, seeing that China has expressed its support for the solemn joint February 10 declaration by Russia, France and Germany (read out at the Elysée Palace by President Jacques Chirac himself).

It states that the disarmament of Iraq, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions, is the common aim of the international community, but that "We are sure there is an alternative to war. The use of force can only be a last resort."

On the surface, the dispute is over how best to strip Iraq's President Saddam Hussain of his alleged arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The U.S. says that, because of Saddam's record of lies and deception, it must be done by force.

In this the U.S. has the backing of Britain's Tony Blair - its most loyal, some would say its most slavish, ally - but also of the leaders of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, and a clutch of newly-democratised Eastern European states.

In contrast, France, Germany, Russia and China, supported by much of world opinion, believe Iraq can be disarmed peacefully by the UN weapons inspectors, who must be given the time and resources they need to finish the job.

This is the essence of the so-called Franco-German plan, spelled out in a French working paper and circulated to the chief weapons inspectors and to members of the Security Council.

It calls for the "doubling or even tripling" of the UN weapons inspectors who now number 350; the recruitment of accountants and customs officials to examine Iraqi government records; the dispatch of an expanded team of armed UN security guards to protect the inspectors' premises and "freeze" suspect sites; the aerial surveillance of Iraq to monitor road movements around sites due to be inspected; the creation of a joint intelligence office in either Vienna or New York to collect and analyse information supplied by the intelligence services of UN member states; and the creation of a permanent co-ordination office in Baghdad to represent the chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohammad El Baradei.

The plan has been scornfully dismissed as a time-wasting irrelevance by the United States and Britain.

The dispute has split the European Union, threatened the cohesion of the Nato alliance and paralysed the UN Security Council. It has fed the flames of anti-Americanism in Europe and of anti-Europeanism in America. Volleys of insults are being fired across the Atlantic.

France, in particular, has been the target of a barrage of abuse from American right-wing pundits and columnists, who have accused it of ingratitude, of appeasement, and of a lack of moral fibre.

A New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, wants France voted off the Security Council, while Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online has depicted France as a nation of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," a phrase taken up with glee by many others. All in all, it is the worst quarrel inside the "West" for several decades.

The real roots

Two questions need to be asked. Can the European "rejection front" stop America's war against Iraq? And secondly, what are the real roots of the crisis?

The answer to the first question must, alas, be negative. It would take a miracle - or an act of statesmanship such as President George W. Bush seems incapable of - to halt and reverse the American war machine.

The military build-up continues inexorably, with over 130,000 U.S. troops already in place, and more on the way. Two formidable instruments of war are heading for the region: the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk has left its usual station in the Straits of Taiwan and is heading for the Indian Ocean, to join four other U.S. carriers within range of Iraq, while the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, which in 1991 launched the largest helicopter assault in history against Iraq, is also on its way.

Diplomatic warfare

The ill-tempered diplomatic warfare across the Atlantic, the anti-war axis inside Nato of France, Germany and Belgium, the massive anti-war demonstrations across the world on February 15, the inconclusive report of the UN inspectors to the Security Council, the more than doubtful evidence of Iraq's links to Al Qaida (in spite of Osama bin Laden's latest call to Muslims to join forces against the "Crusaders" in defense of Iraq) - none of this is likely to stop the Washington hawks who are determined on war. Early March remains the most likely date.

What then are the real roots of the crisis? Who is driving the rush to war? As most people have grasped by now, the "war party" in the United States is a coalition of three main forces.

* First are the so-called "neo-conservatives" or "neo-imperialists" who want to affirm America's global domination, and see off any potential rival. Led by Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, their fury at France is precisely because they feel that America's leadership is being challenged by a presumptuous military and economic pigmy.

However, the devastating terrorist attack on the U.S. of September 11, 2001 demonstrated that power alone could not guarantee security. The terrible fear of another mass-casualty attack has caused the Bush administration to develop a doctrine of "preventive war".

It is intended to pre-empt the possibility that a "rogue state", such as Iraq, might at some time in the future supply a terrorist group with weapons of mass destruction able to kill thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Americans.

This is the often-cited justification for the coming war, although the ambition to dominate the Middle East's oil resources evidently comes a close second.

* A second group consists of right-wing American Jews, close to Ariel Sharon's Likud party in Israel, who have achieved unprecedented power in the Bush administration. Several of them are themselves "neo-conservative" activists, but their principal concern would seem to be Israel's security, expansion and regional hegemony.

One of the most prominent is Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld's deputy in the Pentagon, but there are many others in influential positions inside and outside government, in think tanks, in the media and in lobbying organisations. Almost as one man, they are baying for war.

In Israel, Prime Minister Sharon (and the brutal men around him such as defence minister Shaul Mofaz, chief of staff Moshe Yaalon, Mossad chief Meir Dagan, and air force commander Dan Halutz) make no secret of their belief that the smashing of Saddam Hussain's regime will change the Middle East balance of power in Israel's favour, allowing them to complete the destruction of Palestinian society, of the Palestinian national movement and of its leader Yasser Arafat, with the ultimate aim of absorbing all, or at least a great deal more, of historic Palestine into the Jewish state.

The 'Likudniks'

* A third group are the so-called "born again" Christian fundamentalists, like Bush himself, Attorney General John Ashcroft and many others in America's "Bible belt", who profess to believe that God gave the Holy Land to the Jews.

David Frum, a former Bush speech writer responsible for the "axis of evil" speech, has written a book about the President, entitled The Right Man. "Of course," he writes in one passage, "the Palestinian Authority is the epicenter of world terrorism... Can we really suppose that we could begin the war against terror by creating an Arafatistan on the West Bank?"

This is just one indication of the way right-wing American "Likudniks" have hijacked America's "war on terror" to promote Israel's criminal agenda in the Middle East. It is a recipe for more violence against both America and Israel for years to come.

The writer is an eminent commentator and the author of several books on Middle East affairs. The writer can be contacted at:  pseale@gulfnews.com

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