Nos. 33 & 34, December 2002


Why this Special Issue: India as a Pillar of US Hegemony

From Colony to Semi-Colony

Towards Nationalisation

The Iran-Iraq War: Serving American Interests

The Torment of Iraq

Return of Imperialist Occupation
The Current Strategic Agenda of the United States

Home Front in Shambles

Military Solution to an Economic Crisis
US Declares India a Strategic Pillar

The Pages Ripped out by the US from the Weapons Report

Rehabilitating Colonialism

A flurry of articles and books has appeared in the US and UK making the case for, or simply announcing, a new type of colonialism, or direct rule by an imperial power. The authors, albeit intellectually pedestrian, are important and influential individuals. The sudden emergence of this ‘new’ doctrine is significant: it is part of an explicit attempt to prepare public opinion for mainly US plans in the near future.

The entire history of colonialism, since its emergence five centuries ago, has been marked by points of resistance by the colonised peoples to their subjugation and plunder; but it was the twentieth century that witnessed the great worldwide awakening of the colonial peoples, particularly in the wake of the Russian revolution of November 1917. The colonial powers responded with exemplary violence, even slaughter. A price in tens of millions of lives all told was paid by the Algerian liberation struggle against French rule, the Indian independence movement, the Chinese people’s war against Japanese occupation, the armed struggles of the Indochinese peoples against French rule and the Malay against British rule, the liberation struggles of the peoples of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, and many others.

At that terrible price, then, such struggles shattered the legitimacy of colonialism, and established the right of nations to determine their own future, free from force and imperialist intervention. The struggle took the whole century, with South Africa just in the last decade ending formal white settler rule. Before the Russian revolution imperialist powers had hardly needed to bother to justify or legitimise colonialism, but after World War I the League of Nations (the predecessor to the United Nations) felt obliged to set up a system of ‘mandates’, whereby various great powers would ‘guide’ territories which were deemed not yet ‘ready’ for governing themselves. Such disguises for colonialism, too, faced fierce opposition from those who were to be so ‘guided’. Finally, in the second half of the century, imperialism was forced to give up direct rule of the third world.

No doubt the imperialist powers quickly adapted to the new situation by greatly refining and expanding the system of indirect rule, or neo-colonialism, such as they already exercised over some other parts of the world. Indeed they could in many cases even intensify exploitation under such arrangements. But they were never reconciled to giving up the option of direct rule. Even when, as in Vietnam, the US sent in troops and effectively occupied the country, it felt compelled to set up a puppet regime in whose defence it claimed to be fighting.

Today, basking in the warm glow of its unchallenged global supremacy, the US has felt confident to set up near-colonial arrangements in certain countries. What else could one call the outcome of the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, where the administration of Bosnia is run by an appointed High Representative, not a Bosnian; the soldiers who guard the region are foreigners (Europeans and Americans); and police, judges, prison officers, even central bankers—are foreigners? The territory’s local police are financed and trained by the UN. Elections are organised and monitored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

After the NATO assault on Yugoslavia in 1999, the Bosnian set-up was replicated for Kosovo. In the wake of its invasion of Afghanistan, the US has installed a near-colonial arrangement in that country too. And now, as we shall see below, it appears that the US has plans for going even further in parts of West Asia, beginning with Iraq.

Justifying the new colonising mission
Hardly coincidental, then, that a group of influential apologists and ‘theoreticians’ for a new bout of colonialism has suddenly emerged. In the American media, they include Wall Street Journal editorial features editor Max Boot, Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby, Newsweek columnist Charles Krauthammer, and Atlantic Monthly essayist Robert Kaplan; in American academia, Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Charles Fairbanks, Harvard Professor of Human Rights Policy Michael Ignatieff, the head of the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, Stephen Peter Rosen, and Georgetown University Professor of Geopolitics and Global Justice G. John Ikenberry. In Britain they include prime minister Tony Blair’s foreign affairs adviser Robert Cooper, chief economic commentator of the Financial Times (London) Martin Wolf, and historian Paul Johnson.1

The theoretical justification, such as it is, provided by Cooper (and parroted by Wolf) is that advanced states face a threat from “pre-modern states” such as Afghanistan. The former can disregard the national sovereignty of the latter, since “The pre-modern world is a world of failed states. Here the state no longer fulfils Weber’s criterion of having the monopoly on the legitimate use of force...” Cooper includes vast vague swathes of the world in this category: “Some areas of the former Soviet Union.... including Chechnya. All of the world’s major drug-producing areas.... Until recently there was no real sovereign authority in Afghanistan; nor is there in upcountry Burma or in some parts of South America... All over Africa countries are at risk. No area of the world is without its dangerous cases....”

How can such feeble regimes pose a threat to the world’s most powerful countries? Cooper surmounts this awkward hurdle by arguing that such regimes “can provide a base for non-state actors who may represent a danger to the postmodern [advanced] world.... If they become too dangerous for established states to tolerate, it is possible to imagine a defensive imperialism.”

Interestingly, not only security conditions in the failed states, but even the failure of such states to follow economic policies promoted by the advanced countries appears to justify colonisation. Cooper frets that “the need for colonisation is as great as it ever was in the nineteenth century. Those left out of the global economy risk falling into a vicious circle. Weak government means disorder and that means falling investment” and thereby, presumably, chaos. Cooper calls for “A world in which the efficient and well-governed export stability and liberty, and which [world] is open for investment and growth”. (emphasis added) Martin Wolf describes a “failed state” as afflicted with, among other things, “inefficient economic policies aimed at favouring particular groups. High fiscal deficits, inflation, costly protection against imports and repression of the financial system...”.

According to Wolf, “If a failed state is to be rescued, the essential parts of honest government—above all the coercive apparatus—must be provided from outside.” (emphasis added) Cooper says that “The most logical way to deal with chaos, and the one most employed in the past is colonisation”. (emphasis added) But today, he acknowledges, it would require better packaging: “What is needed then is a new kind of imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan values.”2

The hub of the current colonial apologetics is in the US. Here there is not talk of a “defensive imperialism”. Rather, empire is a positive mission. Charles Krauthammer bluntly calls for a “new imperium”. Kaplan’s book Warrior Politics argues for a crusade “to bring prosperity to distant parts of the world under America’s soft imperial influence.” According to Kaplan, “There’s a positive side to empire. It’s in some ways the most benign form of order.” Ikenberry too sees America’s “imperial goals and modus operandi” as “benign”. Far blunter is former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who describes the main task of the United States in the preservation of its empire as being “to prevent collusion and maintain dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” (emphasis added)

Necessary to having an empire is the ability to declare that it is yours; so quite naturally the Americans are fed up with lingering inhibitions in this regard. “People are now coming out of the closet on the word ‘empire’”, says Krauthammer. “The fact is no country has been as dominant culturally, economically, technologically and militarily in the history of the world since the Roman Empire.” As John Bellamy Foster points out, in stark contrast to the past, when using the word “imperialist” would mark one as a leftist, now “U.S. intellectuals and the political elite are warmly embracing an openly ‘imperialist’ or ‘neoimperialist’ mission for the United States, repeatedly enunciated in such prestigious print media as the New York Times and Foreign Affairs.” The words “empire” and “imperialism” have regained academic respectability: Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Charles Fairbanks calls the US “an empire in formation”; Stephen Peter Rosen, head of the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, writes that “Our goal [that of the American military] is not combating a rival, but maintaining our imperial position, and maintaining imperial order.”

The brazenness is startling. In his article “The Case for American Empire”, where he calls for the military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Max Boot of the Wall Street Journal invokes the legacy of the British imperial past: “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.” The historian Paul Johnson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, envisages a sprawling direct empire:

“America and her allies may find themselves, temporarily at least, not just occupying with troops but administering obdurate terrorist states. These may eventually include not only Afghanistan but Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Iran and Syria. Democratic regimes willing to abide by international law [read: the will of the US] will be implanted where possible, but a Western political presence seems unavoidable in some cases.”

According to the apologists of US superpower politics, once American troops occupied a country, the earlier “terrorist state” presumably would no longer exist; so whence the continuing “obduracy” in those states? What is left unstated is that the people of the country might continue to resist, making American military rule “unavoidable”.

The US is evidently contemplating devising international legal instruments for legitimising such arrangements. Well-known establishment intellectuals of the breed cited above do not merely in some general way reflect the mood of the times or ruling class interests: they also reflect specific discussions with senior officials and politicians. Perhaps this explains the uncanny coincidence of their views. Wolf considers that “Some form of United Nations temporary protectorate can surely be created”; Boot wants to revive the League of Nations ‘mandate’ system; and Johnson chimes in:

“I suspect the best medium-term solution will be to revive the old League of Nations mandate system, which served well as a ‘respectable’ form of colonialism between the wars. Syria and Iraq were once highly successful mandates. Sudan, Libya and Iran have likewise been placed under special regimes by international treaty. Countries that cannot live at peace with their neighbours and wage covert war against the international community cannot expect total independence. With all the permanent members of the Security Council now backing, in varying degrees, the American-led initiative, it should not be difficult to devise a new form of United Nations mandate that places terrorist states under responsible supervision.”

A glance at the behaviour of the US during the last year confirms that Wolf, Boot, Johnson and their ilk reflect current official thinking.

Here the present regime was installed after a US-led invasion. The interim head of state was hand-picked by the US (having proved his credentials earlier as an employee of an American multinational and later an asset of the Central Intelligence Agency). The budget of the government consists of foreign aid. On January 29, the IMF’s assistant director for monetary and exchange affairs suggested that the country should abandon its currency and adopt the dollar instead as a “temporary” measure. The country’s central bank is run by the IMF and World Bank. Textbooks for the country’s schools are being prepared in an American university. The BBC is helping to set up media operations in the country.

An international force under American direction polices the capital. The Times of India (21/12/01) reported that the US and its tail the UK demanded the force “have an open-ended mandate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, allowing them to undertake coercive operations, make arrests and use force in situations other than just self-defence. Washington also wants the UN-mandated force to function under the overall control of the US army’s Central Command (Centcom). This would allow the force to dovetail its activities to the wider US military campaign in Afghanistan, which Washington says will continue even though Al Qaeda and the Taliban no longer control territory. As for duration, the US and Britain want an open-ended tenure rather than the early sunset clause favoured by Russia and France.... Mr Abdullah [foreign minister-designate], in fact, had told the UN Security Council the international force should have a Chapter VI mandate allowing it to use force only in self-defence. Under US pressure, however, Mr Karzai overruled Mr Abdullah and assented to the tougher Chapter VI mandate giving the force—which Britain declared unilaterally that it would lead — a freer hand.”

In March 2002 it was announced that the US was to help fund and train the new Afghan army. The assessment of the requirements of this force was carried out by the chief of staff of US Central Command.

Meanwhile the US continues war operations in various parts of the country without reference to the supposed government of the country. On December 4, 2001, Richard Haass, the director of the US state department’s policy planning staff, said he saw “no problem in us continuing the war even as the new interim authority goes about its business.”

On December 20, acting on information from a warlord, the US bombed a convoy of pro-Karzai village elders travelling to Kabul to attend Karzai’s inauguration. As the survivors scrambled up a hill towards two villages, the planes circled back and bombed the two villages, exacting a death toll of 42.

On December 29 the US planes bombed Qala Niazi village, slaughtering, according to a UN spokeswoman, 52 villagers. At this point defence minister Mohammed Fahim called for a halt to the US bombing. Village elders in eastern Afghanistan complained that hundreds of villagers were being killed. However, the following day the chairman of the interim government, Hamid Karzai, voiced his support for the bombing campaign. The US special envoy to Afghanistan said that while he regretted the civilian casualties (“War is a very imperfect business”), bombing would go on till the goals were met.

On January 30 US Special Forces killed 16 officials of the regime in a district and took 27 prisoner. The Afghan ‘government’, such as it is, protested that the victims were their own officials, including the district police chief, but the Pentagon merely reasserted that they were a legitimate target.

On July 1, 2002, apparently on the suspicion that Taliban leaders were attending a wedding at Kakarak in Uruzgan province, US planes bombed four villages, slaughtering over 60 innocent villagers, wiping out whole families in a night. In the morning, American forces entered the village, stormed the houses, tied the hands of men and women and did not allow people to help the victims or take them away for treatment or even cover the dead bodies, from which the clothes had been burnt off. Apparently for US military records, the soldiers filmed and photographed the dead bodies, including of the women. (See Marc W. Herold, “The massacre at Kakarak”, Frontline, 16/8/02)

The Kakarak episode put the Karzai regime under pressure. Hundreds of Afghans (half of them women) marched in Kabul to protest the killing—an unprecedented development. Karzai huddled with the commander of the allied forces in Afghanistan, Lt Gen Dan K. McNeill. The Afghan foreign minister called for a role for the Afghan ‘government’ in deciding about the air strikes”.

These pleas were ignored, the Pentagon defended its action, and the US continued its strikes. As one of the Kakarak survivors said to a correspondent, “Karzai is just a traffic cop working for the Americans.”

There could hardly be a more striking expression of the isolation and dependence of the present regime than ‘President’ Karzai’s decision in July to remove his earlier bodyguards and replace them with American troops. “We know there could be a great political cost from doing this”, said a western diplomat, “but that price, no matter how much, will be less than losing the president” (not attempting to hide that Karzai was his country’s property to “lose”). Karzai is not alone: a core of senior ministers has also adopted US bodyguards. In August the US announced that responsibility for Karzai’s security would now be taken over by the US state department diplomatic security service for at least a year.

An attempt was made to confer some sort of legitimacy on Karzai by arranging a loya jirga, a traditional assembly or parliament of delegates of the various tribes and communities in Afghanistan, to pick a new government. The delegates were carefully screened to exclude all troublesome elements. Nevertheless, at the affair itself, some 60-70 delegates walked out in protest at the proceedings. Some delegates pointed out that the number of participants was 1700, instead of 1550 ‘elected’ delegates as announced, and that among the extra, unelected participants were many warlords and their henchmen. “Many tribal delegates... expressed concern at the‘outside influence’ overshadowing the event. All were aware the American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, had been the first to announce the former king would stay out of government, after intense backroom politicking delayed the assembly opening by 24 hours. The king’s decision means Mr Karzai has no serious challenger as president. ‘This is not a democracy’, Sima Samar, the women’s affairs minister, said yesterday. ‘This is a rubber stamp. Everything has already been decided by the powerful ones.’” (Independent, 12/6/02; emphasis added)3

In Afghanistan the US was fortunate to find a country in the sort of “chaos” that, according to Cooper, justifies colonial take-over. The situation in Pakistan is very different; yet there too US behaviour smacks of the imperial ruler dealing with what Brzezinski terms “vassals”. This is not a new development, but since September 11 the situation has worsened dramatically:

“in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Mr Powell decided that Pakistan was bound to be the lynchpin if the US was to take on the Al Qaeda on its turf. He and Mr Armitage drew up a list of seven demands for Pakistan: Stop Al Qaeda operatives at the border, intercept arms shipments and end all logistical support for Bin Laden; blanket overflight and landing rights; access to Pakistan naval bases, air bases and borders; immediate intelligence and immigration information; condemn the September 11 attacks and curb all domestic expression of support for terrorism against the United States, its friends and allies; cut off all shipments of fuel to the Taliban [making it impossible to reach food supplies to about seven million without food] and stop Pakistani volunteers from going into Afghanistan to join the Taliban; break diplomatic relations with the Taliban and assist the US to destroy Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network.” (Times of India, 21/11/02, based on a new book by Bob Woodward).

Quite apart from the surrender of sovereignty in other respects, the directive to curb all domestic expression of support for “terrorism” against the United States constituted a takeover of Pakistani political life. As American airstrikes began on October 7, Pakistan was rocked by repeated protests against the assault on Afghanistan. The Pakistani government responded with vigorous repression. On October 9 police fired killing three protesters in Kuchlak town; on October 12 tear gas was fired at protesters in Karachi; on October 14 three persons were killed in firing on thousands of protesters at Jacobabad, where US forces were stationed (even as the Pakistani government denied their presence); October 15 witnessed a general strike in Pakistan against Powell’s visit; on October 23 the government was forced to seal off Jacobabad town to prevent an attempt by people to surround the base; on October 24 Karachi witnessed a stormy funeral gathering for 35 Harkat militants killed by a US bomb in Kabul; and Agence France Presse reported that an October 26 rally in the same city mobilised 50,000. By this point Musharraf, obediently implementing the American directive to “curb all domestic expressions of support” to the Taliban, had detained thousands nationwide, including most of the prominent political leaders opposing the US invasion of Afghanistan.

According to a poll taken in October 2001 by the American organisation Gallup, 83 per cent of Pakistanis said they supported the Taliban; 82 per cent termed Osama bin Laden a mujahid (a just warrior) and not a terrorist; and 75 per cent opposed Musharraf’s decision to allow the US to use Pakistani bases. (Asian Age, 16/10/02) In other words, Musharraf had to curb (in fact suppress) the expression of opinions held by the overwhelming majority of his citizens.

To help the US prosecute its so-called war against terror, Pakistan has signed a “defence” pact which allowed US forces to replenish their supplies via its territory, and to use its facilities for training, joint military exercises and other operations. Thanks to the invasion of Afghanistan, the US now has acquired four bases in the Pakistan—Jacobabad, Shamsi, Dalbandin, and Pasni (on the coast)—without any formal invasion of Pakistan.

The entire police, security, and intelligence apparatus of Pakistan is being openly subordinated to the US, and the loyalty of its personnel to the new masters is being checked. On December 3, immediately following the visit of George Tenet, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Pakistan’s law minister Shahida Jamil said that the US, EU and Japan were providing “professional training” to Pakistani security forces and will provide modern investigation facilities. The Asian Development Bank had promised a $350 million three-year concessional loan for “police and judicial reforms.” The Times of India reported (6/12/01) that “Mr Tenet’s visit will result in greater US intelligence and law enforcement presence in Pakistan to keep track of jehadi elements and organisations. Already, the FBI has been deployed at major Pakistani airports to monitor the movement of jehadis and terrorists.”

According to an American news channel, Pakistan has signed a secret agreement with the US to allow hot pursuit of Al Qaeda fighters over the border with Afghanistan. The secret deal will allow US troops to hunt the fighters on the ground and fire on them from the air within Pakistan’s borders. (Times of India 21/12/01) In April the Pakistani press reported that US troops were operating in the country. This was denied by Pakistani officials. A foreign ministry spokesman said that when president Musharraf said there were “some (US) officials inside Pakistan for communicating purposes”, he was referring to “a few members” of the FBI. Meanwhile, in the US, officials acknowledged that US special operations forces were chasing Al Qaeda or Taliban in Pakistan.

In the past, even the Pakistani army had never policed the fiercely independent tribal areas of the northwest frontier, but had left it to the tribes themselves. However, the US now dictated otherwise. In May, the Pakistani paper The News reported Pakistani officials’ plea to US assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca that the US stop carrying out direct raids in tribal areas. They asked that Pakistani troops be used instead. It appears from a report of September 2002 that the Pakistani army is now carrying out operations in these regions “with the support of US agencies”, hunting for Al Qaeda/Taliban.

As the US presence grows in the region, Islamic militants have stepped up their attacks on foreigners in Pakistan. This in turn has provided an excuse for US agencies to expand their presence further. Whether after the March 19 bombing of an Islamabad church in which two members of American diplomats’ families were among those killed, the May 9 Karachi bombing in which French submarine engineers (but no Americans) were killed, or the car bombing outside the US consulate in Karachi,in the investigations into all of these incidents the FBI has been directly involved, inspecting the site and questioning suspects along with the Pakistani police.

Indeed they are now involved not only in “investigation” but even in hunting down suspects and making arrests within Pakistan. On September 14, 2002 Ramzi bin al-Shibh, claimed to be an important Al Qaeda leader, was arrested in Karachi in a joint FBI-CIA-Pakistani operation. “The FBI and Pakistani intelligence agencies are investigating them”, said senior police officer. “The FBI and Pakistan ISI had initially raided the place and arrested two suspects, but later the police were called out to help in the operation when other suspects present in the building retaliated.” (Asian Age, 15/9/02) Ramzi bin al-Shibh was then handed over to the US to be transported to their concentration camp in Guantanamo, Cuba. The same fate had some months earlier befallen another Al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah.

In the past, too, Pakistan had handed over Ramzi Yousef (suspect in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre) and Aimal Kasi (who shot two CIA employees in the US in 1993) without any formal extradition, which would require a legal process within Pakistan. However, the present traffic is on a much larger scale. On June 19, Amnesty International pointed out that Pakistan was “flouting its own laws and violating human rights by arresting and deporting hundreds of people from Pakistan in pursuit of the US-led ‘war on terrorism’”. Pakistan, said Amnesty, “is making arbitrary arrests and sending suspects back to their home countries to face possible torture and execution. The rule of law has been swept aside. Detainees are not treated in accordance with either Pakistani or international law. Human rights protection has been thrown out the window. Who is being held where is unknown. Detainees are cut off from family and lawyers and there are no official notices.”

Clearly, Pakistan is not preparing the lists of persons to deport. All this is being done under the direction of, indeed in the physical presence of, American agencies. The US, having kidnapped such persons from Pakistan with the help of the Pakistani state, thereafter keeps them in legal limbo and in appalling conditions in Guantanamo concentration camp, perhaps even torturing them with sophisticated means. When the US finds that it no longer has any use for some of them, it returns them like so much waste paper to Pakistan, with the comment that they could not be connected to terrorism. The US has similarly deported some of the Pakistani citizens whom it has detained within the US as part of its nationwide arbitrary round-up of Muslims. Pakistan accepts them all back without a murmur; not even the pretense of sovereignty or representation of its citizens is permitted.

The US is showing impatience with the Pakistani legal system, including the judiciary. The release of a Lashkar-e-Toiba leader by a Pakistan court on November 20, 2002, because he had been unlawfully detained, drew the warning from US state department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker that “Pakistani law enforcement agencies, just like law enforcement agencies around the world, must ensure that those responsible for terrorist crimes are brought to justice.” Presumably the necessary changes will be covered in the $350 million package for police and judicial reform.

The US plans to re-shape not only the administration of Pakistan but Pakistani society itself. It has demanded changes in, or the closing down, of the madrassas, the traditional Islamic schools which it now considers a training-ground of anti-American militancy. It was not an American aid agency but the US National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who announced on February 1 that “We are moving quickly with places like Pakistan, to help them improve their educational system.”

‘Reform’ extends to the political system as well. Musharraf’s farcical, rigged election — for a parliament he has the right to dismiss at whim—turned up an unexpected result. The pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid-e-Azam) did not win a majority, but the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a conglomeration of Islamic parties (headed by the same persons who had been detained during the invasion of Afghanistan), campaigning on an anti-US platform, won a large number of seats. Since no party won a majority, the MMA had to be considered as a partner in forming a government, but US intervention prevented it from assuming that role:

“Three weeks of heavy bargaining and behind-the-scenes activity have enabled President General Pervez Musharraf to split the Pakistan People’s Party and secure support for the PML (Q)-led government.... General Musharraf, according to Pakistan newspaper reports, along with the rest of the establishment had underestimated the influence of the MMA, assuring the Americans at one stage that it would not secure more than six per cent of the vote. The unprecedented results were a surprise to MMA leaders with the group emerging as a major factor in government formation. An initial move by Gen. Musharraf to accommodate the MMA in a coalition government was reportedly scuttled by the US with anti-American statements from its leaders from its leaders being received with great consternation in Washington. In the three weeks of fast-moving developments, the PPP also worked out an initial understanding with the MMA. Reports available here suggest that Ms Bhutto was invited for discussions with US interlocutors and after the meetings did not pursue this alliance.” (Seema Mustafa, Asian Age, 21/11/02)

The new brazen colonial attitude is equally on display in recent statements regarding Palestine. On June 25 the American president baldly called for the Palestinians to throw out the president of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, pending which they could not hope for a state of their own: “Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born. I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders not compromised by terror.... When the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbours, the United States of America will support the creation of a new Palestinian state.” Two days later, Bush warned that financial aid too was contingent on sacking Arafat: “I’ve got confidence in the Palestinians, when they understand fully what we’re saying, that they’ll make the right decisions... I can assure you, we won’t be putting money into a society which is not transparent and [is] corrupt, and I suspect other countries won’t either.”

The US secretary of state Colin Powell confirmed this was the official US stand: progress towards a settlement “must begin with reform within the Palestinian leadership. To move forward it is absolutely clear that the first step on the road map has to be reformed Palestinian leadership that can then bring the terror under control.” National security adviser Condoleezza Rice grimly warned Palestinians that they must be aware of the consequences of their choice: “The US respects the democratic processes, but if a leadership emerges that does not deal with terrorism, the US cannot deal with that... Until there is that change [along the lines desired by the US], a change that we are prepared to help actively bring about through international assistance, we are not going to be able to make progress on peace.”

Magnanimously, Powell said he would be “more than willing to consider” retaining Arafat as a figurehead above a prime minister with real power. Nor was this a casual remark: Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, later revealed that in a Washington meeting Powell and Rice proposed that the Palestinian parliament implement such a formula. “We were shocked during the discussions”, said Erekat, “that the American side is speaking about changing the law of elections.” The US, he said, was trying to delay the balloting in order to give time for this.

All this despite Arafat’s years of prostration before the US and meekness before Israeli terrorism. Indeed, in response Arafat desperately denied that Bush’s remarks referred to him, and wrote Powell a long letter describing the 100-day “democratic reform programme” he had introduced—even as the latter simply refused to meet him at all. The “reform” programme appears to have been drawn up in June by the chief of the CIA during a visit to the region on a “mission to reshape Palestinian security services into a body that can restore some order”. (Times of India 4/6/02)

As a first step, Arafat made changes in his cabinet, but these were contemptuously dismissed by the US. “You can say we are underwhelmed. This does not complete the process of what needs to be done” said a state department official. (Asian Age, 31/10/02) Washington was particularly annoyed that one of its favourites, interior minister Abdel-Razzak al-Yahya, was dropped.

Broader designs
Palestinians are facing today what much of West Asia will face tomorrow. American plans for the region are sweeping. According to a report in the Washington Post, the Bush administration plans to launch a project for “promoting economic, education and political reforms in West Asia”. It would include funds for training political activists and journalists. The Post said the September 11 attacks gave voice to advocates within the administration who favoured “democracy-building” programmes in West Asia. “It’s this whole change in the parameters of how we look at West Asia, that it’s no longer off limits” said a senior state department official. “The state of affairs in these countries has to be a matter of interest to us.” (“U.S. to Seek Mideast Reforms; Programs Aim to Foster Democracy, and Education,” 21/8/02)

As we have discussed elsewhere in this issue, the dominant section of the Bush administration, led by vice-president Cheney, has plans to reshape the entire region:

“As the Bush administration debates going to war against Iraq, its most hawkish members are pushing a sweeping vision for the Middle East that sees the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq as merely a first step in the region’s transformation.

“Cheney revealed some of the thinking in a speech in August when he made the administration’s case for a regime change. He argued Hussein’s overthrow would ‘bring about a number of benefits to the region’ and enhance US ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.‘When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace,’ he told the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.” (“Iraq War Hawks Have Plans to Reshape Entire Mideast”, Boston Globe, 10/9/02)

Among the proposals being discussed (and reported in the American press) are the invasion of Iran and Syria (two regimes which have not yet buckled to the US), the takeover of Saudi Arabia, an American ally with a US military base, and Egypt, whose leaders are the US’s most faithful servants in the region. Meanwhile, Israel has serious plans to drive the Palestinian population of the occupied territories into neighbouring Jordan, ruled by an American client Hashemite monarchy. Jordan might also be one of the routes through which the US would launch the assault on Iraq. As a bribe, Jordan might be given some figurehead status in Iraq (a member of the Hashemite family ruled over Iraq till he was overthrown in 1958).

We have discussed these proposals elsewhere in this issue. These remain proposals, not final decisions. Here we mention them to indicate the massive expansion of direct imperialist occupation being contemplated.

No doubt this is occasionally clothed as spreading ‘democracy’ in the region. While Bush has stated quite bluntly, and ad nauseam, that “It is the stated policy of this government to have a regime change in Iraq.” Condoleezza Rice says the US will then be “completely devoted” to the reconstruction of Iraq as a “unified, democratic state”.

By “democracy” she means American military dictatorship, as revealed by a remarkable article in the New York Times (11/10/02), which is worth quoting at length. All pretenses are dropped:

“The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein, senior administration officials said today. The plan also calls for war-crime trials of Iraqi leaders and a transition to an elected civilian government that could take months or years.

“In the initial phase, Iraq would be governed by an American military commander, perhaps Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of United States forces in the Persian Gulf, or one of his subordinates....

“In contemplating an occupation, the administration is scaling back the initial role for Iraqi opposition forces in a post-Hussein government. Until now it had been assumed that Iraqi dissidents both inside and outside the country would form a government, but it was never clear when they would take full control. Today marked the first time the administration has discussed what could be a lengthy occupation by coalition forces, led by the United States.

“Officials say they want to avoid the chaos and in-fighting that have plagued Afghanistan since the defeat of the Taliban. Mr. Bush’s aides say they also want full control over Iraq while American-led forces carry out their principal mission: finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction.

“Asked what would happen if American pressure prompted a coup against Mr. Hussein, a senior official said, ‘That would be nice.’ But the official suggested that the American military might enter and secure the country anyway, not only to eliminate weapons of mass destruction but also to ensure against anarchy....

“For as long as the coalition partners administered Iraq, they would essentially control the second largest proven reserves of oil in the world, nearly 11 percent of the total.

“Administration officials said they were moving away from the model used in Afghanistan: establishing a provisional government right away that would be run by Iraqis. Some top Pentagon officials support this approach, but the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and, ultimately, the White House, were cool to it. ‘We’re just not sure what influence groups on the outside would have on the inside,’ an administration official said. ‘There would also be differences among Iraqis, and we don’t want chaos and anarchy in the early process.’....

In a speech on Saturday, Zalmay Khalilzad, the special assistant to the president for Near East, Southwest Asian and North African affairs, said, ‘The coalition will assume... responsibility for the territorial defense and security of Iraq after liberation. Our intent is not conquest and occupation of Iraq. But we do what needs to be done to achieve the disarmament mission and to get Iraq ready for a democratic transition and then through democracy over time.’

“Iraqis, perhaps through a consultative council, would assist an American-led military and, later, a civilian administration, a senior official said today. Only after this transition would the American-led government hand power to Iraqis. He said that the Iraqi armed forces would be ‘downsized,’ and that senior Baath Party officials who control government ministries would be removed. ‘Much of the bureaucracy would carry on under new management,’ he added.

The course of this new colonising mission, however, is unlikely to run smooth, for three reasons.

First, as in earlier colonialism, the present mission is aimed not only at intensifying the plunder of third world countries, but at denying other imperialist countries space at the feeding trough (this we have discussed elsewhere in this issue).

Secondly, as James K. Galbraith writes, “There is a reason for the vulnerability of empires. To maintain one against opposition requires war—steady, unrelenting, unending war.” Galbraith points out that the current prosperity of the US “does not mean that we have the financial or material capacity to wage continuing war around the world. Even without war, Bush is already pushing the military budget up toward $400 billion per year. That’s a bit more than 4 percent of the current gross domestic product. A little combat—on, say, the Iraqi scale —could raise this figure by another $100 billion to $200 billion. A large-scale war such as might break out in a general uprising through the Middle East or South Asia, with the control of nuclear arsenals at stake, would cost much more and could continue for a long time.” (“The Unbearable Costs of Empire”, American Prospect, 18/11/02) In the middle of a grave recession with no end in sight, such a development could have a profound effect on the American economy.

Thirdly, as the American empire spreads, and its physical presence sprawls across the globe, it finds it increasingly difficult to focus on and crush the multiplying points of resistance. An alert piece in the Christian Science Monitor (9/10/02) picks up the trend even now:

“as the US gears up to expand Washington’s ‘war on terror’ to Iraq, a series of fresh attacks against US forces... underscores the risk to growing US military deployments.

“From Kuwait and Afghanistan to South Korea and the Philippines, US forces have been recently targeted in ways that seem to bear out, even if partially, fresh promises by Al Qaeda and its supporters to continue their war against America.

“Even before an Iraq strike, US forces seem to be coming under increasing fire even in nations that are strong allies. In Afghanistan, US forces continuing their operations in the east of the country, especially around the former Taliban and Al Qaeda stronghold of Khost, have been hit by frequent gun, rocket and mortar fire.

“US soldiers conducting pursuit operations across the border in Pakistan—a key US ally throughout the Afghan campaign—are also reported to have come under rocket fire in recent months.

“US troops deployed in the Philippines last spring to help the Manila government overcome Abu Sayyaf guerrillas.... last week, a bombing conducted by a man on a motorcycle killed one American soldier and wounded 23 people outside an open-air restaurant and karaoke bar near a military camp occupied by US and Philippine troops in the city of Zamboanga, some 500 miles south of Manila.

“In Korea, where 37,000 US troops are deployed, an angry mob last month briefly abducted an American soldier and forced him to make apologies in a university stadium, over an incident last June in which two Korean girls were accidentally run over by a US armored vehicle.

“Such incidents are growing as US forces expand operations to include deployments in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and even to Djibouti and Yemen.”

History does not, cannot, repeat itself; for all the actors and the political context have changed in the course of historical developments. The enduring legacy of the great anti-colonial struggles is the anti-imperialist consciousness of the people of the world, who refuse—whatever the weaknesses of their organisation—to submit to subjugation.

1. See Cooper, “The Post-Modern State”, in Mark Leonard (ed.) Reordering the World: The Long-Term Implications of September 11, Foreign Policy Centre, London (Cooper’s chapter is reproduced on; Wolf, “The Need for a New Imperialism”, Financial Times, 9/10/01; and Paul Johnson, “Colonialism and the war against Piracy”, Wall Street Journal, 10/10/01. Boot, Brzezinski, Kaplan, Ikenberry, and Rosen are quoted in John Bellamy Foster, “The Rediscovery of Imperialism”, Monthly Review, November 2002, who in turn cites Philip S. Golub, “The Dynamics of World Disorder: Westward in the Course of Empire”, Le Monde Diplomatique, English internet edition September 2002. Krauthammer and Fairbanks are quoted in “It Takes an Empire’, Say Several US Thinkers”, Emily Eakin, New York Times, 1/4/02, which also quotes Boot and Kaplan. (back)

2. Here is Blair doing the packaging to the Labour party conference in October: “I believe this is a fight for freedom not only in the narrow sense of personal liberty but in the broader sense of each individual having the economic and social freedom to develop their potential to the full... The starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, those living in want and squalor from the deserts of Northern Africa to the slums of Gaza to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan: they too are our cause.” (back)

3. Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US citizen, was earlier, like Karzai, an employee of the Texas oil company UNOCAL. That company, in its drive to lay a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and perhaps India, had funded and backed till 1998 the Taliban’s drive to conquer Afghanistan. Khalilzad is now the US special envoy for West Asia and Southwest Asia. Evidently he was not an elected delegate to the loya jirga, but participated in the role of viceroy, as it were. (back)



Next: Appendix One - US Declares India a Strategic Pillar


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