by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 38, No. 7, Ramadan, 1430)
If paranoia has become the official dogma of US domestic policy, militant unilateralism and hegemonic tendencies born of a sense of raw power have taken hold of Washington’s foreign policies. In this new crusade the US brooks opposition from no one, friend or foe. The hardened warriors of the cold war era who dominate Bush’s inner circle have declared that they will strike unilaterally and without provocation (euphemistically called "pre-emptive strike", a phrase that comes straight out of the zionists’ lexicon) any country that they deem poses a threat to US interests. This has been repeated ad nauseam by a wide array of American officials, from Bush and his vice president Dick Cheney, all the way down to the superhawks who control the Pentagon.
This is a target-rich field that can be mined by the tribe of warriors at will. Today Iraq is being targeted; should they succeed against Iraq, then Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia can all consider themselves high up on the list. Hitler’s ghost has also become a useful ally in this never-ending war. Whenever there is any desire to demonize someone, this corporal of the Austrian army, who rose to the rank of Fuehrer in the Third Reich, is trotted out. In the eighties, colonel Mu’ammar Qaddafi was equated with Hitler; in the early nineties, Saddam Hussein of Iraq won this dubious distinction until Bush Senior’s lust for blood was sated. Hitler was then retired until it was time to demonize Usama bin Ladin. He was wanted "dead or alive,", but preferably dead. When he proved too elusive, Bush told his people on March 13, "Osama is not the issue. I do not wish to personalize the war against terrorism." Really?
During the preceding months, Usama had been projected as America’s enemy number one and hardly a day passed without some titbit of news about him making headlines on American television. Presumably, after the experience of Tora Bora last December and the failed attempts in Gardez and Khost in Afghanistan in January and March, Usama had to be dropped. That is when Saddam came back into the picture. The Americans tried desperately to link Saddam with the September 11 attackers, but failed. Then the allegation that he was manufacturing weapons of mass-destruction was constructed, ignoring statements by former UN weapons-inspectors to the contrary. But for America’s warriors no truth can be allowed to get in the way of a convenient policy. Even America’s allies have recoiled from Washington’s belligerence.
Exploiting the Americans’ patriotic jingoism, Bush and company are exploiting the memory of September 11 to advance a wholly different agenda. Even the annual commemorations were conducted not with the sobriety that they deserved but as a circus. Weeks before the anniversary, US television stations were showing graphic footage of the carnage to whip up raw emotions. September 11, 2001, was and is presented as the greatest tragedy to befall mankind. In one sense it really was unique; as Professor Christopher Dewdney of York University, Toronto, put it: "America had its front teeth knocked out by a sucker punch from hell" (Toronto Star, September 7, 2002).
For the first time in history mainland America had received a direct blow, something the rest of the world had experienced repeatedly for decades at America’s hands. Yet others’ grief has no relevance when Americans are in pain. In fact, for Muslims, September 11 has been a daily occurrence for many years: in Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, India, Algeria and Chechnya in particular. According to official US figures, the final death toll in the September 11 attacks was 2,823, nearly 500 of them citizens of other countries.
Let us consider this number in light of some realities of life in America. Each year, ten times as many people die of gunshot wounds, yet nobody has ever heard any government official declare war on the American gun lobby. How about the estimated 8,000 to 9,000 people who die every month in Iraq because of the US-led sanctions imposed 11 years ago? According to UN figures, since 1991 some 1.5 million Iraqis have perished from lack of food, clean drinking water and medicines. The people of Iraq have no say in government policy or who rules them, yet they are the ones paying the price. It must also be borne in mind that the wherewithal for the chemical and biological weapons that the US is accusing Iraq of producing was provided by Washington itself. This, however, was done when Saddam’s army was killing Iranians; it was considered permissible because he was targeting Muslims.
Israel’s record is equally grim. It is the only country in the Middle East that has chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, yet it receives accolades from the US and cash – billions of dollars every year – in aid. Its treatment of the Palestinians is atrocious; even Israelis are at last beginning to tire of the crimes being committed in their name by their government. What all this shows is that the US and Israel are not constrained by moral or ethical considerations. America flouts the UN Charter as well as international law, which it was instrumental in formulating. Naturally, these were not drafted to benefit Muslims; their real purpose was to preserve the gains of the victors of the second world war. Now they are seen as inhibiting America’s global agenda of militarism and total domination, so America has no use for them.
There is, however, one problem that bothers America’s warmongers: lack of cash to wage war against Iraq. Since most of the Arab regimes have said that they oppose such an attack, they cannot be expected to pay for America’s war in the same way as they did in 1991. Even Saudi Arabia, for decades treated as America’s cash cow, has publicly distanced itself from the war option. One need not take Saudi pronouncements too seriously, but it is true that the Saudi regime is concerned about reactions in the Arab street. In the kingdom itself the regime is facing growing opposition because of its inability to do anything about the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians, as well as the continuing assaults on civilians in Afghanistan. There is also much sympathy in the kingdom (as there is elsewhere in the Muslim world also) with Usama’s articulation of grievances against the US and Israel. Because of all this, the Saudi government has been careful not to show too much public support for US policies.
The Americans do not, however, give up easily. The Rand Corporation report dated July 10, but leaked on August 6, gives hints to the US establishment’s thinking. The report depicted Saudi Arabia as a "source of evil" and supporter of "terrorism." It is worth bearing in mind that American think tanks are essentially sounding boards for the establishment’s views. Such reports are floated to provide the government "plausible deniability" while getting its message across. Since the report was leaked, Saudi officials have been at pains to project themselves as friends of the US. Uncle Sam, however, is not satisfied with mere pronouncements; he wants proof, in this case in the form of cash for the forthcoming attack on Iraq.
It is also interesting to note that last month lawyers, representing about 400 families of victims of the September 11 incidents, launched a one-trillion-dollar lawsuit in New York to recover losses from Saudi Arabia, Usama bin Ladin and a host of Saudi charitable and governmental organizations. Given that Arab governments and individuals have some US$1.2 trillion invested in the US, half of which is Saudi money, the figure named in the lawsuit raises interesting questions. Does the US have its eye on Arab money invested there? At the very least, a lawsuit, even if eventually unsuccessful, will take years to work its way through the courts. During that period lawyers could obtain court injunctions to prevent the money from leaving the US. There are reports that individual Saudi investors have transferred an estimated US $30 billion from the US in the last year. This is a minute proportion of the total amount invested, but American officials are worried by the trend, especially in view of the growing economic crisis in the US. September 11 has also been a contributory factor; now corporate scandals have shown how unstable the American economy is. Investors’ confidence has been shaken and foreign capital, which was the mainstay of the American economic miracle, is fleeing the country. There are fears that the American economic bubble may be about to burst.
It is in this climate of economic uncertainty that American policy-makers turn to war to solve their domestic problems. Long before September 11, there were warnings of an impending economic crisis; the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon diverted public attention from this temporarily, but the reality is now sinking in. During Bush’s presidency 1.6 million jobs have been lost in the US, and more layoffs are on the way. For most Americans, the economy is now the number one priority, rather than the "war on terrorism". For the Bush warriors, war is the best way to keep people’s attention diverted from the real issues.
During his presidential campaign, Bush made an interesting statement: "If we act arrogantly, other people will hate us; if we walk humbly, they will respect us." It is true that this was probably written for him by someone else, but it seems that his advisors have thrown caution to the four winds. So can they really blame others for hating them and their acts?