During the Kosovo war Blair aspired to play the part of Lady Thatcher to Clinton’s George Herbert Walker Bush, supplying the backbone when the Americans seemed to go all wobbly and urging the introduction of ground troops. But at least Thatcher for all her warmongering and her lecturing the US as if the American Revolution had never happened is a patriot: Blair is a man who so hates the concept of national independence from the former Yugoslavia to the Middle East that he is now embarked on a campaign to abolish his own country’s sovereignty by submerging it in the European Union.
Protesters shouted as Blair flounced onto the campus of the City of Bristol College: “How many Iraqi children have you killed?” The answer to this question varies, depending on how the measure of mass death is taken, but the most conservative estimate is around 600,000 and rising. This figure is arrived at by multiplying the estimated number killed by malnutrition and diseases brought on by the lack of essential items 5,000 children and old people per month by the number of years the sanctions have been in force. Naturally, the Western powers, or at least some of them, assert that Saddam is responsible for the cruel decimation of his own people after all, he insists to this day on Iraqi sovereignty over its “nineteenth province” (Kuwait), and recently compared the US and the NATO powers to Dracula.
IN DEFENSE OF VAMPIRES
This latest Iraqi epithet, I feel, is a slur on Dracula, and all the other vampires of human legend: they had to drink blood in order to survive, or so the story goes. Uncle Sam, however, is not gaining anything by starving Iraqi children to death and keeping Iraqi oil off the market. Or, at least, the American people have nothing to gain from such a perverse, morally inverted policy, one that stands common sense and common decency on its head. I know a couple of Californians who sure could use some of that Iraqi oil right about now, not to mention the freezing inhabitants of the former Yugoslavia, whose energy grid was bombed by NATO’s “humanitarian” warlords.
PLEASE SHUT UP
Two unidentified women and a man were arrested in the Bristol incident, and if the Tories are a bit slow to come to their defense then perhaps the rest of the world will take up their cause. I say: Free the Rotten Tomato Three and drop all the charges! After all, the protesters acted out of necessity: their goal was to prevent the Prime Minister from speaking, and thus continuing to embarrass both himself and the nation. Alas, the protest failed in this respect, as Blair wiped tomato off his back and spoke to Labor party bigwigs and business executives, defending sanctions on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had “committed an act of barbarism” when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Over half a million children murdered by US-British sanctions and they are the “barbarians”? Somebody tape Tony’s mouth shut before he starts a worldwide wave of Anglophobia.
Perhaps that tomato had its effect: the news that the Brits want out of the continuing air assault on southern Iraq certainly comes at a propitious time. While official denials are fast and thick, various “senior officials” are quoted anonymously as confirming that Bush will be met by British and Saudi demands for an end to the bombing campaign. “We want out,” said one British official: meanwhile the Foreign Office was continuing its fulminations against opponents of sanctions, termed “apologists for Saddam.” But with the changing of the guard in Washington, said a report in the Guardian, “the whole of U.S.-British policy towards Iraq is under review.” As the essentially Eurocentric foreign policy of the Clinton administration gives way to the petro-centric foreign policy of Team Bush, this seemingly obscure bit of diplomatic maneuvering begins to make some sense. For if the US is now embarked on a policy that puts oil, instead of Europe or America first, then the new focus of policymakers will be on the Middle East and the Caucasus, where ominous signs and alarming portents of the impending crises have already appeared.
IRAN LOVES DUBYA
The prospect of a Bush presidency has elicited a wide range of reactions in the Middle East, from fire-and-brimstone denunciations to declarations of friendship, and perhaps the two extremes are best represented by Iraq and Iran: while the former denies that any change in US-Arab relations will come with the new administration, in Iran Dubya’s election is being hailed as the beginning of a new era. The World-Tribune [January 8] reported the very interesting comments of Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani, in charge of European and U.S. affairs, who recently said.
“‘An impression which is taking a momentum in American circles is that the policy of inhibition has not born[e] expected results and that was the case while the American oil companies had intensified their pressures on the US administration to lift sanctions against Iran.’ . . . Ahani told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that Bush appears ready to launch confidence-building measures that would eventually allow US oil companies to invest in Iran. He predicted an intensified lobbying campaign by the US energy sector in the wake of a withdrawn bid by the Chevron company to develop the giant South Pars gas field in the Gulf. ‘By this goodwill gesture, the oil companies intend to convince the new administration to lift sanctions and open a door for resumption of Iran-U.S. economic cooperation,’ the minister said.”
THE US-IRAN CONNECTION
The next day, Teheran was rocked by explosions, the result of a new bombing campaign purportedly set off by the Iraqi-backed Mujahadeen-Khalq: The London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat reports that, according to Iranian sources, the renewed terrorism was a message from Iraq that an informal ceasefire between the two countries had ended. As the Iranian minister so helpfully points out, several US (and, no doubt, British) oil companies are looking to Iran for lucrative franchises and likewise looking forward to the dismemberment of Iraq. The 8-year Iran-Iraq war, in which 1.5 million were killed, was inconclusive, and only stopped on account of US intervention on the Iraqi side. This time around, however, the Iranians think they have a new friend in Washington and, who knows but that some of their old friends from the days of Iran-Contra will stage a reunion in Washington presided over, perhaps, by secretary of state Colin Powell, who told congressional investigators that he didn’t know a thing about sending arms to the Ayatollah until it was too late to stop it.
COLIN POWELL, AND FRIENDS
But as I point out in my book, Colin Powell and the Power Elite, the General’s testimony that he was merely acting as then-defense secretary Caspar Weinberger’s “faithful Indian companion” simply doesn’t hold water. As Ollie North points out, Iran-Contra would never have happened without Weinberger’s knowledge and consent, and if the defense secretary knew then so did Powell, his lieutenant and protégé. Aside from Mr. Ahani’s boasting and his own sense of self-importance as a fount of inside information, there is no doubt much to what he says: with the re-entry of such old hands as Powell and Donald Rumsfeld a hawk on the Iraq question into key policymaking positions, old conduits are now reopened and the time for an overt US-Iranian alliance against Iraq is at hand.
THE BALKANS WRIT LARGE
Meanwhile, in Georgia in the former Soviet Union, not the former Confederacy tensions with Russia are on the rise, with the West’s favorite ex-Communist, Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet foreign minister who presided over the dissolution of the Soviet empire, crying foul over alleged Russian attempts to subvert his rule. The Russians claim the Georgians are obstructing their efforts to fight terrorism in the breakaway “republic” of Chechnya. In addition, both have an interest in the outcome of the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, with Russia accusing the Georgians of providing Azeris with aid and sanctuary on Georgian territory. The Georgians, for their part, demand the removal of Russian military bases from Georgian soil: the Russians are reportedly shipping aid to the Armenians via these bases. Bubbling just beneath the surface of all this intrigue is potentially the largest source of oil and natural gas in the world. The petro-centric policy that is driving US war preparations against Iraq is already operating in the Caucasus: clearly, the incoming administration will escalate a trend begun by the Clintonians. With its toxic mixture of ethnic and religious animosities, the Caucasus resembles the Balkans writ much larger, however, both geographically and in its potential dangers.
OUR TRANSYLVANIAN FOREIGN POLICY
Back to the Dracula analogy, because the Iraqis are on to something here. In response to the news that the US had poisoned half of the former Yugoslavia with depleted uranium, the official newspaper of the Iraqi government, Al-Iraq, declared:
“America is a country without roots which relies on terrorism as did Dracula who sucked blood from humans and pillaged their riches to impose itself as a great power. The leaders of this terrorist country commit the most atrocious crimes against humanity by using banned weapons of mass destruction, not only with the goal of extending its colonial hegemony but also exterminating humanity to impose its domination, as was the case with the Red Indians.”
ATTACK OF THE CORPORATE BLOODSUCKERS
America is a country that has severed itself from its republican roots and taken on all the accouterments the military forces, the bombastic self-regard, the pomp and circumstance of an empire. The real power behind the government is, indeed, rootless, in that the Money Power recognizes no boundaries and owes allegiance to no authority other than itself. This Money Power is, indeed, vampiric, in that it fastens itself on a victim Iraq, in this instance and literally sucks the sustenance out of it, growing fat on skyrocketing oil prices while Iraqi children shrivel and die. Big Oil profits from the government-created shortage: the end of Iraqi sanctions would mean that the profits would dry up which is why this administration will never lift them. As long as government is the instrument of corporate power in America, US foreign policy can never be peaceful. War is built into a system in which the two “major” (state-privileged) parties are up for sale to the highest bidder, and, insofar as we have a choice it is between a Eurocentric policy of “humanitarian” intervention versus a petro-centric policy of open aggrandizement. We are now in transition from eight years of the former to at least four years of the latter and all indications are that we are out of the frying pan and straight into the fire.