logic of empire -
The US is now a threat
to the rest of the world
August 6, 2002
The US is now a threat to the rest of the world.
The sensible response is non-cooperation
There is something almost comical about the prospect of George
Bush waging war on another nation because that nation has defied
international law. Since Bush came to office, the United States
government has torn up more international treaties and disregarded
more UN conventions than the rest of the world has in 20 years.
It has scuppered the biological weapons convention while experimenting,
illegally, with biological weapons of its own. It has refused to
grant chemical weapons inspectors full access to its laboratories,
and has destroyed attempts to launch chemical inspections in Iraq.
It has ripped up the anti-ballistic missile treaty, and appears
to be ready to violate the nuclear test ban treaty. It has permitted
CIA hit squads to recommence covert operations of the kind that
included, in the past, the assassination of foreign heads of state.
It has sabotaged the small arms treaty, undermined the international
criminal court, refused to sign the climate change protocol and,
last month, sought to immobilise the UN convention against torture
so that it could keep foreign observers out of its prison camp in
Guantanamo Bay. Even its preparedness to go to war with Iraq without
a mandate from the UN security council is a defiance of international
law far graver than Saddam Hussein's non-compliance with UN weapons
But the US government's declaration of impending war has, in truth,
nothing to do with weapons inspections. On Saturday John Bolton,
the US official charged, hilariously, with "arms control",
told the Today programme that "our policy ... insists on regime
change in Baghdad and that policy will not be altered, whether inspectors
go in or not". The US government's justification for whupping
Saddam has now changed twice. At first, Iraq was named as a potential
target because it was "assisting al-Qaida". This turned
out to be untrue. Then the US government claimed that Iraq had to
be attacked because it could be developing weapons of mass destruction,
and was refusing to allow the weapons inspectors to find out if
this were so. Now, as the promised evidence has failed to materialise,
the weapons issue has been dropped. The new reason for war is Saddam
Hussein's very existence. This, at least, has the advantage of being
verifiable. It should surely be obvious by now that the decision
to wage war on Iraq came first, and the justification later.
Other than the age-old issue of oil supply, this is a war without
strategic purpose. The US government is not afraid of Saddam Hussein,
however hard it tries to scare its own people. There is no evidence
that Iraq is sponsoring terrorism against America. Saddam is well
aware that if he attacks another nation with weapons of mass destruction,
he can expect to be nuked. He presents no more of a threat to the
world now than he has done for the past 10 years.
But the US government has several pressing domestic reasons for
going to war. The first is that attacking Iraq gives the impression
that the flagging "war on terror" is going somewhere.
The second is that the people of all super-dominant nations love
war. As Bush found in Afghanistan, whacking foreigners wins votes.
Allied to this concern is the need to distract attention from the
financial scandals in which both the president and vice-president
are enmeshed. Already, in this respect, the impending war seems
to be working rather well.
The United States also possesses a vast military-industrial complex
that is in constant need of conflict in order to justify its staggeringly
expensive existence. Perhaps more importantly than any of these
factors, the hawks who control the White House perceive that perpetual
war results in the perpetual demand for their services. And there
is scarcely a better formula for perpetual war, with both terrorists
and other Arab nations, than the invasion of Iraq. The hawks know
that they will win, whoever loses. In other words, if the US were
not preparing to attack Iraq, it would be preparing to attack another
nation. The US will go to war with that country because it needs
a country with which to go to war.
Tony Blair also has several pressing reasons for supporting an
invasion. By appeasing George Bush, he placates Britain's rightwing
press. Standing on Bush's shoulders, he can assert a claim to global
leadership more credible than that of other European leaders, while
defending Britain's anomalous position as a permanent member of
the UN security council. Within Europe, his relationship with the
president grants him the eminent role of broker and interpreter
By invoking the "special relationship", Blair also avoids
the greatest challenge any prime minister has faced since the second
world war. This challenge is to recognise and act upon the conclusion
of any objective analysis of global power: namely that the greatest
threat to world peace is not Saddam Hussein, but George Bush. The
nation that in the past has been our firmest friend is becoming
instead our foremost enemy.
As the US government discovers that it can threaten and attack
other nations with impunity, it will surely soon begin to threaten
countries that have numbered among its allies. As its insatiable
demand for resources prompts ever bolder colonial adventures, it
will come to interfere directly with the strategic interests of
other quasi-imperial states. As it refuses to take responsibility
for the consequences of the use of those resources, it threatens
the rest of the world with environmental disaster. It has become
openly contemptuous of other governments and prepared to dispose
of any treaty or agreement that impedes its strategic objectives.
It is starting to construct a new generation of nuclear weapons,
and appears to be ready to use them pre-emptively. It could be about
to ignite an inferno in the Middle East, into which the rest of
the world would be sucked.
The United States, in other words, behaves like any other imperial
power. Imperial powers expand their empires until they meet with
For Britain to abandon the special relationship would be to accept
that this is happening. To accept that the US presents a danger
to the rest of the world would be to acknowledge the need to resist
it. Resisting the United States would be the most daring reversal
of policy a British government has undertaken for over 60 years.
We can resist the US neither by military nor economic means, but
we can resist it diplomatically. The only safe and sensible response
to American power is a policy of non-cooperation. Britain and the
rest of Europe should impede, at the diplomatic level, all US attempts
to act unilaterally. We should launch independent efforts to resolve
the Iraq crisis and the conflict between Israel and Palestine. And
we should cross our fingers and hope that a combination of economic
mismanagement, gangster capitalism and excessive military spending
will reduce America's power to the extent that it ceases to use
the rest of the world as its doormat. Only when the US can accept
its role as a nation whose interests must be balanced with those
of all other nations can we resume a friendship that was once, if
briefly, founded upon the principles of justice.