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We’ve Done It Before, So Why All The Shock? The War on Iraq in the Context of the Forces that Shape US Foreign Policy

...Two events are distantly critical to the decision of US planners to target Iraq for regime change: The 1958 revolution that overthrew the British-dominated monarchy, and the expropriation of British and US oil companies in the early 1970s. The first established Iraq’s nominal political independence; the second imbued the first with significance, by giving Iraq control over important economic assets. The constitution under Saddam Hussein held that "natural resources and the basic means of production are owned by the People." Oil revenue was used to "underwrite a handsome program of social supports, including free education through university" and medical care considered "the finest in the Middle East" (Workers World, August 20, 2005). The price of basic goods was subsidized, and a largely state-owned economy was used to provide jobs – and income – to millions of Iraqis. While not socialist, Iraq’s economy had many features of a socialist economy, and all the hallmarks of an economy advanced capitalist countries love to hate: restrictions on foreign ownership; preferential treatment of domestic firms; state intervention in the economy to achieve public policy goals; and limits on the sphere of private investment (...) The war didn’t begin in March 2003. In fact, it can be said to have continued uninterrupted from the moment the Gulf War began in 1991, shifting form and intensity in the interim, but never coming to a close...


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We’ve Done It Before, So Why All The Shock? The War on Iraq in the Context of the Forces that Shape US Foreign Policy

Stephen Gowans, What's Left

March 14, 2006

The last three years have not been kind to the US-led, British-assisted, and collaborator-facilitated occupation of Iraq. They’ve been less kind to Iraq and its people. The lies, deceit, and fabrications on which the United States based its attack, were obvious from the first, at least to anyone who didn’t need to believe in the rightness of all the US state does abroad. Now, these deceptions have been laid bare, though a rearguard action is being pursued to obfuscate the imposture by re-defining deliberate deceptions as unfortunate "intelligence failures."

The occupation marks not the end, but the continuation of a war on Iraq, which began, not three years ago, when US and British troops marched into Iraq as an invading force, but more than a decade ago, with the Gulf War. The war on Iraq has shifted form in the interim, from military assault, to economic assault through sanctions with results even more deadly than strategic bombing, and again to stepped-up military intervention, and now to low-level warfare and bombing raids to suppress uprisings against the continued presence of US, British and allied troops. The mass media in countries that have been at the center of this war prefer the term "war in Iraq," as if there’s a struggle between two sides or many sides, provoked by neither or by all equally. This is as much a deception as the bogus claims were that Iraq concealed banned weapons for use against "our friends, our allies and against us," as US Vice-President Dick Cheney warned.

"War on Iraq" draws attention to the reality that the conflict originates in a decision made by US policy makers to launch an unprovoked attack on Iraq, and to enforce an occupation by violence. In reality, there are two sides: The US, its British subaltern, and a collection of collaborators; and on the other side, the people of Iraq. The first side is that of the aggressor, responsible for initiating the war and enforcing and facilitating the occupation. The second side resists its oppression, by the means at its disposal.

Public opinion against the war, on a worldwide basis, is almost uniformly negative, with the greatest support for the war concentrated in the two principal aggressor countries, the United States and Britain. Elsewhere, minds have not been poisoned by years of indoctrination by the US (or British) mass media, schools and government into the cult of US (or British) moral authority (though they have been shaped by the mass media, schools and governments of their own country.) Outside these countries, the reasons invoked by the US and Britain for war on Iraq are rejected by majorities as blatantly spurious– as they also are by a substantial part of the US and British populations. But if justifications offered by Washington and London for waging war on Iraq are conspicuously self-serving and deceptive, what are the real reasons?

Many explanations have been advanced in the face of the obvious failures of the official US and British explanations to account for why a war is being waged on Iraq. Most are unifactorial; that is, they invoke a single factor or reason to explain why US forces marched into Baghdad. "It’s the oil," is emblematic of this class of explanation. Also, many alternative theories avoid reference to social or economic forces, (perhaps because anonymous forces are difficult to grasp and deal with), and dwell, instead, on the personal characteristics of central figures. The US president George W. Bush is said, for example, to possess a "drive for war" that impelled him to order an attack on Iraq and engineer public support for it. This theory simply infers a psychological trait (a drive for war) from a pattern of behavior (the waging of war), and offers the behavior as proof of the trait. The explanation is, in other words, circular; it explains nothing. Significantly, most alternative explanations, whether their proponents realize it or not, serve a conservative political function; they portray war on Iraq as deriving from the personal characteristics of central political figures, not systemic causes, and as being of an anomalous character rather than a recurrent feature of US foreign policy. This deflects attention away from the systemic origins of the war, and thereby defines the bounds of political action as limited to working for the electoral victory of parties and candidates who are judged to have more redeeming personal characteristics.

Here, in brief, are some of the more common explanations.

Explanation #1: The Bush administration sincerely believed Iraq’s government was hiding weapons of mass destruction; it saw what it wanted to; there was an intelligence failure.

Objection: Washington knew Iraq had destroyed its banned weapons. It was told so by Iraq’s weapons chief, after he defected. Washington hastily covered up the admission because a pretext for war was needed. The banned weapons line was the easiest to sell.

Explanation #2: Bush and his neo-conservative cabal hijacked the White House and are pursuing a plan to take over the world. If a Democrat had been elected president, none of this would have happened.

Objection: This is comic book fiction. It reduces politics to a Manichean struggle between saints motivated by selfless benevolence and villains inspired by evil. It’s the intellectual pabulum the US state uses to whip up support for war, and opponents of the war use to whip up opposition to it. Saddam is evil. Bush is good. Saddam is good. Bush is evil. (Or the usual formulation of many left-oriented Americans: Bush is evil. Saddam is evil.) Intentionally or not, it serves the political function of diverting attention from the impersonal social and economic forces that shape US foreign policy, focusing it instead on personalities.

There is a corollary to this view for Americans: If you’re against the war on Iraq, you should vote for the Democrats (or for a third party candidate if the Democrat candidate hasn’t a chance of winning.) But the idea that a Democrat in the White House wouldn’t have used the resources of the US state to seek regime change in Iraq is so obviously wrong it’s hardly worth the effort to correct. It should be sufficient to say, for the moment, that the formalization of the policy of ousting Saddam Hussein’s government occurred during the Clinton presidency. US warplanes were busy during Clinton’s two terms in office dropping bombs on Iraq (and other places, as well.) And the Clinton administration kept the noose of sanctions tied tightly around Iraq’s neck, despite a horrendous toll in lives. Democrats as much as Republicans have been at the forefront of US war making. Hillary Clinton’s demands that the Bush administration take a tougher line with Iran, is ample testament to the bellicosity of Democrats, even liberal ones.

Explanation #3: It’s the oil. This comes in a variety of forms. The most common holds, incorrectly, that the United States is highly dependent on Middle Eastern oil, and that Washington engineered the take-over of Iraq to redress America’s putative oil vulnerability.

Objection: The problem with this theory is the premise. The United States is not particularly dependent on Middle Eastern oil, though it has become a received truth that it is. In fact, most of the oil the US consumes is produced domestically, or comes from Canada and Mexico. Which isn’t to say Washington wasn’t itching to get its hands on Iraq’s petroleum resources – just that oil vulnerability isn’t the reason Iraq was invaded. The real reason has to do with what most everything in the United States can ultimately be traced to: profits -- in this case, those of the US oil majors principally, (but not wholly.)

Explanation #4: The United States invaded Iraq because it is being ejected from its bases in Saudi Arabia and needs a place to set up new bases in the Middle East.

Objection: What this explanation doesn’t explain is why the US needs bases in the Middle East (which isn’t to say the US state isn’t compelled to expand its worldwide system of military bases, including to the Middle East, only that no explanation is provided of why.) Moreover, wouldn’t it have been easier to consolidate US domination of Saudi Arabia, where there’s already an established US military presence (if a military presence is critical), and which has larger reserves of oil than Iraq does (if a secure Middle Eastern oil supply is imperative)?

Explanation #5: Saddam Hussein was on the verge of selling Iraqi oil in Euros, rather than US dollars. This would have devalued US currency. Washington launched the invasion to stop him.

Objection: What this explanation doesn’t account for is why the United States carried out an unremitting war against Iraq for over a decade, before Iraq’s government ever proposed to sell oil in Euros. This would seem to be a matter of retaliation by Iraq, and therefore a consequence of US foreign policy, not a cause.

What’s amiss in all these explanations is their implicit assumption that the war on Iraq is an anomaly, and not part of a recurrent pattern of behavior that has marked US foreign policy since its inception. There’s a phenomenon in American political life that led Phil Ochs, in his song Cops of the World, to ask, "We’ve done it before, so why all the shock?" Ochs was referring to the tendency of many Americans to regard each example of US imperialism as a shocking departure from some imagined gold standard of American benevolence, forgetting that the most recent outrage was only one of many outrages that had been committed countless times before. According to many alternative explanations, the war isn’t another link in a long chain, but an unusual event that arose because the preferences of the current occupant of the White House lean toward war, or because the world is running out of oil and the United States needs to secure a reliable supply so Americans can continue to drive gas-guzzling SUVs, or because Saddam Hussein decided to threaten the value of US currency by selling Iraqi oil in Euros rather than dollars. The political implications of these views are that Americans should vote for politicians who don’t worship Mars, that the country should invest in alternative forms of renewable energy, and that Americans should replace their SUVs with fuel-efficient smart cars or cheap public transportation – in other words, actions that do nothing to address the social and economic roots of the problem (though they may have palliative effects.) It’s not surprising, then, that the attentions of those who are appalled by the direction of the United States, a direction guided by, and in the interests of, the country’s dominant economic class, are channeled into political action that is essentially non-threatening to the interests of that class. For this reason, the actions are tolerated – even encouraged.

Many people seem to forget, or perhaps never knew, that the United States, like other advanced capitalist countries, has been aggressively expansionist from the beginning. From the moment of its founding, it has been driven to extend its domain on behalf of the dominant economic group and has used force to do so. The logic of the US slave system drove the United States to annex Texas and wage war on Mexico. Later, the logic of capitalism drove the US state to acquire the Philippines, Cuba, Guam, Hawaii and Samoa as colonies and semi-colonies and dependencies, and to intervene militarily over and over again in Latin America to establish an effective suzerainty over the Western hemisphere. The same logic demanded wars be fought in the post WWII period, on north Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, as the weakening of Japan, Germany, Britain, and later the collapse of the Soviet Union, opened up space for the US to pursue profit-making opportunities for its corporations on a worldwide basis. (I use corporation throughout in its broadest sense, to include manufacturing, service, resource-extractive and financial corporations.) Countries that stood in the way, that nationalized assets owned by US corporations and closed their doors to further exploitation by US economic interests, were attacked, if not militarily, then in other ways. The same logic is behind aggression, by threat of military intervention, economic blockade, and the financing of internal subversion, carried out today against Cuba, north Korea, Belarus, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Iran – all countries which rank at the very top of the list of states considered by Washington to be economically "unfree" (that is, that block, limit or place conditions on US investment and exports.)

Viewed within the context of US history, and the social and economic forces which have shaped Washington’s foreign policy, the US aggression against Iraq can be seen to be part of this coherent whole, not an anomaly that has sprung from an immanent lust for power residing deep in the psyches of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, nor a consequence of a unique set of events arising out of a social-economic vacuum. This has important implications for understanding what realistic options are available to those who seek to change this recurrent pattern of war, of domination, and of spoliation of foreign countries. New personalities won’t do it, because personalities aren’t the cause. Third parties alone won’t do it, because third parties, as any other, are subordinate to the same systemic logic that has driven all parties in power, whether conservative, liberal, socialist and even communist (e.g. Yugoslavia) to pursue policies that facilitate the profit-making of the dominant economic class, including by the use of force to extort or secure opportunities from unwilling third countries. The solution is to step outside (to overthrow) the logic that compels this behavior, not to tolerate it or assume wrongly it can be tamed and harnessed.

The Lead-Up to the Invasion
Two events are distantly critical to the decision of US planners to target Iraq for regime change: The 1958 revolution that overthrew the British-dominated monarchy, and the expropriation of British and US oil companies in the early 1970s. The first established Iraq’s nominal political independence; the second imbued the first with significance, by giving Iraq control over important economic assets.

The constitution under Saddam Hussein held that "natural resources and the basic means of production are owned by the People." Oil revenue was used to "underwrite a handsome program of social supports, including free education through university" and medical care considered "the finest in the Middle East" (Workers World, August 20, 2005). The price of basic goods was subsidized, and a largely state-owned economy was used to provide jobs – and income – to millions of Iraqis. While not socialist, Iraq’s economy had many features of a socialist economy, and all the hallmarks of an economy advanced capitalist countries love to hate: restrictions on foreign ownership; preferential treatment of domestic firms; state intervention in the economy to achieve public policy goals; and limits on the sphere of private investment.

Henry Kissinger pseudonymously wrote an article in "the March 1975 issue of Harper’s, titled 'Seizing Arab Oil’" in which he "unabashedly outlined plans for a U.S. invasion to seize key Middle East oil fields to prevent Arab countries having control over the U.S.’s most vital raw material" (Linda McQuaig, "History will show US lusted after oil," The Toronto Star, December 26, 2004). Iraq was at the center of the plans.

Owing to the dangers of a possible Soviet response, Kissinger’s plan was never carried out. But after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, all kinds of possibilities opened up for the US. "Kissinger’s old idea was taken up by the Project for a New American Century, whose membership included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz" (McQuaig).

The Project members, some of whom would soon become key figures in the Bush administration, urged then President Bill Clinton to step up efforts already in place to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s government, "whose control over 'a significant portion of the world’s oil’ was considered a liability" (McQuaig).

The liability, however, wasn’t one of the US being dependent on Arab countries for access to a vital resource, but of US oil companies being cut out of the action. It’s widely believed that the US is highly dependent on imports of Middle Eastern oil, and that Arab control over the region’s petroleum resources leaves the United States in a highly vulnerable position. It’s true that production decisions made by oil-producing Arab countries can affect the price of oil on the world market, but the US depends on the Middle East for comparatively little of the oil it consumes. For the US, maintaining tight control over the Middle East isn’t crucial to ensuring US manufacturers and consumers have uninterrupted access to a vital resource. Half of the oil the US consumes is produced domestically. Of the remaining half, the bulk, 80 percent, comes from two neighbors, Canada and Mexico. And a significant part of the remainder comes from Venezuela, also close by. Only a small fraction comes from the Middle East, and most of that, from Saudi Arabia.

James Arlin, US ambassador to Saudi Arabia under Kissinger, told author and journalist Linda McQuaig that "the plan to take over Iraq [was] a revival of the old plan that first appeared in 1975. It was the Kissinger plan" (McQuaig). But the aim of the plan wasn’t to safeguard US access to vital oil supplies. In reality, Middle Eastern oil mostly flows to Europe, China and Japan. Instead, the aim was to carve out and reclaim investment opportunities for US-based oil companies in the Middle East, which would sell oil from the Middle East to Spain, France, Germany, China and Japan. Other US-based transnationals could profit too. If Iraq was turned over to the control of a Washington-selected puppet government, US engineering giants, like Bechtel, could snap up contracts to build Iraq’s infrastructure. American capital could invest in Iraq’s public utilities. Iraq’s military could be integrated into a US-led military alliance, to become a customer for war machinery produced by Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and other key Pentagon contractors, some of the largest and most influential corporations in the US.

In the summer of 2003, then US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was asked why Iraq, which didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, was invaded, while north Korea, which claimed to have a nuclear deterrent, wasn’t. One of the reasons is plain enough, though Wolfowitz didn’t mention it. North Korea’s claimed nuclear arsenal makes Washington think twice about a ground invasion; Iraq, on the other hand, was easy pickings. But Wolfowitz decided to draw attention to another reason. "Let’s look at it simply," he said. "The most important difference between north Korea and Iraq was that economically we had no choice in Iraq" ("Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil," The Guardian, June 4, 2003).

With Britain’s investments in Iraq having been nationalized after the revolution against British rule, and corporate America on the sidelines owing to Washington’s sanctions and Baghdad’s hostility, European transnationals were busily working deals in Iraq. The French oil giant, Total Fin Elf, landed a $4 billion contract to develop Iraqi oil. The Russian oil firms, Lukoil and Zarubneft, netted drilling agreements worth tens of billions of dollars. Scores of German firms inked deals to furnish Iraq with weapons and industrial machinery.

But the problem for the Russian, French and German companies that signed deals with Baghdad was that with Iraq crippled by sanctions, the country was in no position to become the bonanza of profits the European transnationals desperately wished for. But if sanctions were lifted, and Iraq was allowed to get back on its feet, the profits might start rolling in, with competition from their effectively frozen out British and American rivals held at bay.

Through the late 90s pressure to lift the sanctions started to build. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of them children under the age of five, died from otherwise easily preventable diseases that had spread unchecked as a result of the privations imposed by the sanctions regime. The political scientists, John Mueller and Karl Mueller, writing in Foreign Affairs, pointed out that sanctions had "contributed to more deaths during the post Cold War era than all the weapons of mass destruction throughout history"(Foreign Affairs, May 1999). The sanctions had become weapons of mass destruction themselves, "sanctions of mass destruction" the Mueller’s called them – far deadlier than the chemical weapons Iraq and Iran had lobbed at each other in the 80s, and deadlier than the invasion of Kuwait the sanctions were ostensibly meant to punish Iraq for.

What’s more, after years of UN inspectors supervising the destruction of Iraq’s banned weapons, it had become clear that Iraq had been effectively disarmed. Saddam Hussein’s weapons chief, and son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, told UN weapons inspectors and the CIA in 1995 that he had ordered the destruction of all of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. A transcript of his debriefing, obtained by Newsweek (March 3, 2003) has Kamel telling UN and CIA interrogators, "All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear – were destroyed" ("Missing From ABC’s WMD 'Scoop’, Star defector Hussein Kamel said weapons were destroyed," FAIR Action Alert, February 17, 2006, http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2825 ). The justification for continuing to uphold the sanctions regime had melted away.

The US and Britain, however, weren’t going to relinquish their grip on the noose they had wound tightly around Iraq’s neck. Kamel’s admission that Iraq had destroyed its weapons was hushed up (Newsweek, March 3, 2003). If sanctions were lifted, French, Russian and German firms would share in the bounty of Iraq’s oil economy, while American and British transnationals looked on enviously. It was clear to US planners what had to be done. Despite Iraq’s being crippled, wracked by war, and deprived of the means of defending itself from attack by the US, it had to be presented as a clear and present danger. A US-led war would be necessary to change the regime in Baghdad. The war would be said to be necessary to force Iraq to comply with UN demands that it disarm. A new government would be installed, with much fanfare about democracy and freedom. The new government would change Iraq’s laws to usher US and British corporations back into the county.

Beginnings of the War
The war didn’t begin in March 2003. In fact, it can be said to have continued uninterrupted from the moment the Gulf War began in 1991, shifting form and intensity in the interim, but never coming to a close. The period between the formal cessation of the Gulf War and the invasion of March 2003 was marked by sanctions and blockade, their object the same as that of the Gulf War: to bring down the regime of Saddam Hussein and replace it with a puppet government that would open the country to exploitation by US- and British-based transnationals. The outcomes, too, in terms of death and misery, were the same, if not greater in magnitude. Over a million Iraqis were estimated to have perished as a result of sanctions, enforced during the presidency of the Democrat, Bill Clinton, victims of hunger and water-borne diseases, easily prevented if Iraq had been allowed to rebuild the water and sewage treatment facilities US and British forces had deliberately destroyed.

During the Gulf War, coalition forces bombed Iraq's eight multi-purpose dams, destroying flood control systems, irrigation, municipal and industrial water storage, and hydroelectric power plants. Major pumping stations were targeted, and municipal water and sewage facilities were razed. These attacks were prohibited under Article 54 of the Geneva Convention. But illegal US attacks on civilian infrastructure had been carried out by US forces before, in other wars. In the war on north Korea, to name just one example, the US leveled north Korean dams, causing extensive flooding, even though dams, as civilian infrastructure, are outlawed as military targets. US compliance with international law and conventions and the rulings of international courts is notoriously spotty and invariably one-sided. The US does what it likes, when it likes, and complies with international law when there’s nothing to be lost. It can do this, because there is no overarching sovereign to enforce compliance, and because the information environment is controlled by the US state to make Americans believe the United States is an upholder of international law and all that is good.

The Gulf War attacks on Iraq’s civilian infrastructure were aimed at throwing Iraq to the mat. The straightjacket sanctions that followed were aimed at keeping it there. Accordingly, materials vital to the wellbeing of the population, chlorine for water treatment, for example, were blocked from entering the country on grounds they could be used to make chemical weapons. The consequences for the Iraqi population were grim, but they had been fully anticipated by US planners, and accepted. Washington knew sanctions would prevent Iraq from rebuilding, and that epidemics would ensue. But the results, said Bill Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright in a 1996 60 Minutes interview, were "worth it."

Writing in the September 2001 issue of The Progressive, Thomas Nagy, a George Washington University professor, cited declassified documents that showed the United States was aware of the civilian health consequences of destroying Iraq's drinking water and sanitation systems, and knew that sanctions would prevent the Iraqi government from repairing the degraded facilities. One document, written soon after the bombing, warned that sanctions would prevent Iraq from importing "water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals" leading to "increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease." Another listed the most likely diseases: typhoid, hepatitis A, diphtheria, pertussis, meningitis and cholera. As anticipated, disease ravaged the population, carrying off the weakest. At least a half a million Iraqi children died needlessly, by UNICEF’s estimates.

Fitting the Intelligence to the Policy
After more than a decade of sanctions, Washington made the improbable claim, at the point pressure was building to lift sanctions and a pretext to invade had to be found, that Iraq had reconstituted its weapons of mass destruction program. That a country that had been blockaded and harassed for over a decade could pull off such a feat was beyond belief, but no claim then, or since, as ever been shelved by Washington on grounds of absurdity. The techniques of mass persuasion, aided amply by the compliance of the mass media, ensure that obvious lies can be readily passed of as truths, and are, on an almost daily basis.

The passing of the war from one of slow strangulation with deaths coming in small numbers ever day, to renewed military intervention where deaths come all at once, began, not in March, 2003, with the unleashing of the terror bombing campaign dubbed "shock and awe," nor in October, 2002, when the US Congress authorized the Pentagon to launch a land invasion. The new phase of the war began secretly, without authorization from the US Congress and without the imprimatur of the UN, in May, 2002, soon after British Prime Minister Tony Blair privately pledged Britain’s full cooperation in the conquest of Iraq at a summit meeting with President Bush in Texas (Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2005). In May of that year, US and British pilots begin to fly secret bombing raids. The aim of the raids, which the British Foreign Office warned in a leaked internal memo were illegal under international law, was to weaken Iraqi air defense and provoke a reaction from Baghdad that could be used as a pretext for war (Times Online, June 19, 2005).

By the summer, Iraq had not reacted and Washington was left without its desired pretext for war. Bush decided he could delay no further and that a land invasion must go forward. On July 23, 2002, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, returning from a visit to Washington, told Blair that Bush "wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction.] But, said Dearlove, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." "The case was thin," "Saddam was not threatening his neighbors," and Iraq’s "WMD capacity was less than that of Libya, north Korea or Iran" (Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2005).

The thinness of the case hardly mattered. Intelligence could be readily fit to the policy, and lies could be told, on top of innuendo and sly suggestion. By August, Vice-President Dick Cheney was warning that "Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction" and that "there is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, our allies and against us" (Times Online, June 19, 2005). This was all duly reported, with hardly a jot of skepticism. Similar nonsense issued from the mouths of other Bush administration figures in the months that followed, amplified and passed along uncritically by a jingoistic media. On September 12, 2002, Bush said: "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." On October 5th: "We have sources that tell us Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons – the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have." The State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, was a model of prevarication. "Saddam Hussein has upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents," Bush warned. "Saddam Hussein has recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" and had "attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons productions." Iraq had "a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas." This was a farrago of half-truths, bald-face lies, and deliberately misleading insinuations crafted to present a crippled, war-ravaged and disarmed country as a clear and present danger. (Canada has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that can be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas too: its commercial aircraft and weather balloons.) The warnings built toward a critical date, February 5, 2003 – when US Secretary of State Colin Powell would present the US casus belli to the UN Security Council. The presentation, as Dearlove’s words adumbrated more than half a year before, was based on cherry-picked intelligence and outright falsifications fixed around a policy of war decided on long before. Picasso’s haunting painting Guernica, which hangs outside the doors of the Security Council chamber, was covered over for the occasion. The painting depicts the horrors of Nazi bombing of the Spanish village of Guernica, one of the first uses of bombing civilians as the main method of war, though not the first. "The first conspicuous peace-time demonstration of strategic bombing…was the bombing of the villages of Iraq by the first (British) Labour government in 1924." Bombing civilians was "a more economic way of punishing villages for non-payment of taxes than the old fashioned method of sending an expedition" (R. Palme Dutt, Problems of Contemporary History, International Publishers, New York, 1963, p. 62).

Torture Chambers
When, after the invasion, the team of US weapons experts sent to Iraq to find banned weapons failed to find any, George Bush increasingly turned to Plan B: depicting the deposed Iraqi government as a criminal regime whose ouster had been a humanitarian necessity. To reinforce this claim, Bush repeatedly referred to the "dictator’s rape rooms and torture chambers." What Bush didn’t point out was that the United States was exercising its own dictatorship in Iraq, that its troops were engaged in the sexual abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners, and that it was operating its own torture chambers, not only in Iraq, but elsewhere, in secret prisons in Eastern Europe and most notoriously on a strip of land the US had long ago effectively stolen from Cuba and was refusing to give up, Guantanamo. Guantanamo, a concentration camp, may yield to another prison as a shibboleth for the brutality of the US state’s treatment of political prisoners. That prison is the US prison at Bagram, in Afghanistan. With the US Supreme Court ruling that prisoners at Guatanamo must be given basic due process rights, the US has redirected the flow of prisoners to Bagram, where there are no due process rights. The conditions at Bagram are even more primitive than those at Guantanamo, with men penned in overcrowded cages (New York Times, February 26, 2006).

The horrors of Washington’s own torture chamber at Abu Ghraib, the US run prison in Iraq, were not hushed up, though not for lack of trying. Leaked photographs were flashed around the world: of blood-streaked cells; of the battered face of a corpse packed in ice; of guards threatening cowering prisoners with dogs; of hooded prisoners being forced to masturbate; of naked prisoners being forced to lie in a heap; of men being made to wear women’s underwear on their heads; of a prisoner "standing on a box and wearing a hood and electrical wires" (The Guardian, February 17, 2006). There are other images, which depict the cruel, brutal reality of occupation: The US soldier exonerating himself for desecrating the Koran, explaining that only a few drops of urine had splashed onto the Islamic holy book. The desecration was never intended, he said. He was only urinating on the head of a prisoner. The horrors of the US occupation seemed to be summed up in the words of one Iraqi who had been picked up by US forces and thrown into prison –and as is the practice--without charge: "The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house" (Abu Ghraib prisoner, cited in "What I heard about Iraq in 2005," London Review of Books, Vol. 28, No. 1, January 5, 2006).

Human Rights Watch, which presents itself as a neutral human rights watchdog, but is in reality connected to the US foreign policy establishment, functions, whether intentionally or not, to furnish the US state with human rights pretexts to intervene in countries that impose restrictions on US investment and exports. The group’s standard operating procedure is to provide fodder that can be used by Washington to justify military intervention in countries too weak to defend themselves, as crusades for human rights. It serves another function of upholding the fiction that the United States is the world’s champion of formal civil liberties by acknowledging US human rights abuses, but painting them as anomalies, regrettable departures that call into question an implicitly assumed American moral authority. Even so, while the organization’s indictments of US behavior serve the purpose of reinforcing the deception that the US is a defender of human rights, and not one of the world’s most zealous enemies of the exercise of any right that stands in the way of the profit-making activities of US corporations, its complaints against the US state are telling. "In the course of 2005, it became indisputable that the U.S. mistreatment of detainees reflected not a failure of training, discipline or oversight, but a deliberate policy choice," the group said. "The problem could not be reduced to a few bad apples at the bottom of the barrel" (New York Times, January 12, 2006). The US Navy’s general counsel foresaw the horrors that would be perpetrated by US occupation forces at Abu Ghraib two years before the US practices of torture and humiliation came to light. His conclusions were based on the fact that the US state was operating on the basis of "legal theories granting the president the right to authorize abuse despite the Geneva Conventions" (Washington Post, February 20, 2006). Last month, Robert Grenier, the head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center was sacked "because he opposed detaining al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogations and using forms of torture" (Times Online, February 12, 2006). Also last month, a UN Human Rights Commission report condemned the United States for "committing acts amounting to torture at Guantanamo Bay" and seriously undermining "the rule of law and a number of fundamental universally recognized human rights" (Times Online, February 15, 2006). The US state has adopted mistreatment and torture as a policy choice.

Embarrassed by the revelations of systematic abuse at Abu Ghraib, and persistent evidence that "battlefield detainees" were being tortured at the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, US legislators sought to impose restraints on the state, limiting the latitude of US government employees to practice torture, or what is euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation techniques." This didn’t sit well with the Bush administration, which wanted carte blanche to treat prisoners in any way it desired. Vice-President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter J. Goss asked the US Congress to exempt the CIA from the legislation banning "cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoner in U.S. custody" (Washington Post, November 2, 2005). In Cheney’s and Goss’s view, the CIA would continue to humiliate, degrade and torture Iraqis and others in US custody for resisting US domination and invasion of their homelands – that is, doing to the Americans what the resistance movements throughout Europe did to the Nazis.

Gagging Supporters of the Resistance

The British government introduced legislation banning British residents from "glorifying terrorism." Given the practice of equating the use of violence against an aggressive state as terrorism, and the use of violence by aggressive states against weak countries as human rights crusades, rebuilding failed states, and other covers for imperialism, the legislation amounts to the gagging of those who would speak in favor of the use of violence in self-defense and pursuit of national liberation. The British House of Commons voted in favor of the legislation not long after Abu Hamja al-Masri, a Muslim cleric, was sentenced by a British court to seven years imprisonment for promoting racial hatred, for speaking in favor of resistance to Anglo-American domination of Afghanistan and Iraq and the Anglo-American-backed Zionist oppression of Palestinians. This amounted to rank hypocrisy, coming at a time Western governments were defending, on grounds of freedom of speech, crudely racist anti-Islamic cartoons, which promoted hatred of Muslims by depicting them uniformly as suicide bombers. A cartoon that first appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and was republished throughout the world, showed Mohammed wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb, implying that terrorism is deeply rooted in Islam, indeed, springs from Islam’s prophet. A German newspaper published a cartoon portraying the members of the Iranian soccer team as suicide bombers. The defense of the cartoons on grounds of free speech by the same Western governments that have established or contribute to the occupations of the predominantly Islamic countries of Iraq and Afghanistan was disingenuous. Western countries do not recognize freedom of speech as an absolute. Some of them, for example, impose sanctions on those who deny the Holocaust, or stereotype Jews in hateful ways. David Irving, a favorite of neo-Nazis, was sentenced on February 20 to three years in prison for violating an Austrian law banning the denial, minimization, approbation or justification of the Holocaust. Irving had called the Holocaust into question in speeches he delivered in Austria in 1989. In 2004 alone, 724 people were charged under the law (Times Online, February 20, 2006). Some 158 were convicted between 1999 and 2004 (Times Online, February 21, 2006). Similar laws apply in other Western countries. One need look no further than al-Masri’s conviction and imprisonment, or beyond this conspicuously meaningless sentence offered by Tony Blair in defense of his government’s "glorification of terrorism" gag law, to see that absolute freedom of speech is a fiction: The new law, said Blair, "will allow us to … say: Look, we have free speech in this country, but don’t abuse it" (New York Times, February 16, 2006). That is, we have free speech, so long as you don’t say anything we don’t like.

Limits on free speech can be practical, if not formal, de facto, if not de jure. Those who advocate revolutionary socialist views are denied the apparatus of the mass media to broadcast their views. The reasons are clear. Their views are against those who own and control the media, and the owners of the media aren’t going to provide a platform for the promotion of views that are inimical to their own interests (though on occasion a platform will be provided to token, non-revolutionary, leftists, to create the illusion that the mass media are balanced and free.) Advocates of revolutionary socialism, then, have a formal right to free speech, at least in times of stability, when the ideological hegemony of the ruling class is secure, but haven’t a meaningful right to free speech in practice. (Formal rights to free speech are often denied those who challenge the ideology of the dominant class, when the hegemony of dominant class’s ideology is insecure, as in the inter-war period.) Since the costs of owning the mass media are prohibitive, and only within reach of major corporations and ruling class family fortunes, an effective right to free speech is exercised only by the dominant class and those who share its views and can be counted on to address its interests. Significantly, those who wish to depict Muslims in crudely racist, stereotypical ways, have, as evidenced by the broad publication of these cartoons, both formal and effective rights to free speech. It is no accident that depicting Muslims as suicide bombers is consistent with the interests of imperialist states to dominate the petroleum rich countries of Western Asia. If you believe Islam to be dangerous, you’ll probably back a war against an Islamic state, as a matter of self-defense.

The key, in these discussions, as in discussions of democracy and human rights, is to ask: Democracy, human rights or stirring up trouble for what class or group? Clearly, anyone who pronounces favorably on the armed resistance of Iraqis or Afghans is not stirring up trouble for the resistance movements of these countries, but for the people who have set the spoliation of Iraq and Afghanistan in motion and stand to benefit from it.

One other thing that probably wasn’t expected after Bush pointed to "the dictator’s rape rooms and torture chambers": that a post-invasion Iraq would produce blemishes as ugly as the stories told about the horrors of Saddam. The Iraqi police run secret underground prisons, in which detainees are beaten, tortured and starved. Police special units are authorized to pluck Iraqis off the streets without warrants or court paperwork, and to cart them off to unofficial jails situated throughout the Iraqi capital (New York Times, November 17, 2005). Washington expresses shock, but the shock is disingenuous. This is exactly what US forces have been doing: making arrests, throwing suspected members of the resistance into Abu Ghraib, where they can be detained indefinitely without charge and subjected to torture, humiliation and sexual abuse – or worse. What’s more, US forces do this on a worldwide scale, jetting into foreign countries, kidnapping people off the street, flying them to Guantanamo, or Kandahar, or Bagram or secret prisons in Eastern Europe, or handing them off to foreign governments that will use torture techniques even more gruesome than the ones the US will permit itself. Thousands of people have been disappeared, thrown into concentration camps or liquidated under extrajudicial execution orders. In Iraq alone, the US is holding 14,000 political prisoners (New York Times, March 7, 2006). The pledge that "American military officers will inspect hundreds of detention centers and embed with Iraqi police commando units … to halt widespread abuses" (New York Times, December 14, 2005) can hardly be comforting to Iraqis. The point of the pledge, however, isn’t to comfort Iraqis, but to reinforce the ideology that has been instilled in Americans by their schools, media and government that the US state doesn’t do things like that, and if it does, it does so only with the greatest of justifications and the gravest of reservations.

Buying the Media and Elections

Corporate forces in advanced capitalist countries can uniquely dominate the mass media, because only they have resources sufficient to buy newspapers, radio and TV stations, publishing companies, and movie studios and to hire public relations firms to shape the news in ways that serve their interests. The class of corporate owners and billionaire investors can also dominate electoral contests, by using their wealth to tilt the electoral playing field in their favor. They can press their considerable resources into service to finance pro-business candidates and political parties, underwrite NGOs that promote political goals that serve pro-corporate ends, and hire public relations and polling firms to persuade the public to vote for its candidates and policies. In instances where corporate America’s considerable influence fails to shape electoral outcomes suitable to its own interests, it can use its resources to undermine or overthrow popular choices, and to legitimize the reversal of electoral outcomes through its domination of the mass media. In short, the class of corporate titans and billionaire investors can shout louder, and do more to shape electoral contests, than anyone else. Because the upward flow of wealth allows them to readily dominate the media and electoral arena, members of this class favor a "free" press and "free" elections, for while these institutions function as mechanisms of domination, the adjective "free" disguises their true character and therefore does not provoke the psychological resistance that a press and elections understood to be subordinated to ruling class interests would call forth.

Mechanisms of domination are portable, and can be transferred to other countries. If corporate America can hide its influence over the information environment and electoral outcomes through the illusion of a "free" press and the illusory democracy of the ballot box, it can likewise be expected to transplant the same illusions to the countries the state has conquered on its behalf. In addition, it will foster the illusion of sovereignty, by granting nominal political control to the conquered population, while exercising effective political control through a military presence and economic domination of the country’s land, labor and resources. It will also funnel financial assistance and support to political parties and candidates that can be counted on to actively promote the interests of corporate America within the country, thereby tilting the electoral playing field in its own favor just as is done at home. These same mechanisms, then, though adjusted to the circumstances of occupation, can be seen in the Anglo-American military domination of Iraq. In place of direct corporate control, there is control by the US corporate class’s representatives in Iraq, the Pentagon and US State Department.

"Psychological operations," observes former US Army spokesman Charles Krohn, "are an essential part of warfare, more so in the electronic age than ever. If you’re going to invade a country and eject its government and occupy its territory, you ought to tell people who live there why you’ve done it" (New York Times, December 11, 2005). The Pentagon secretly operates Iraqi newspapers and radio stations (New York Times, December 11, 2005), shaping editorial content to counteract the negative publicity of the Abu Ghraib scandal, and, more broadly, the scandal of the occupation. US Army psychological operations groups pay journalists to write opinion pieces in Iraqi newspapers to justify the US occupation, while Iraqi TV stations are offered handsome fees to run US Army-written news items, with the understanding that the items’ authorship remains undisclosed. A "U.S. Army National Guard commander acknowledged that his officers 'suggest’ stories to [a local Iraqi TV] station and review the content of the [station’s programs] in a weekly meeting before" they’re aired. The staff at the TV station is paid by the US military to run the items. The US military’s contribution remains anonymous (Washington Post, December 26, 2005). "The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country"-- that is, the country the US destroyed (Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2005). USAID, the US government agency that funnels money to fifth column organizations in countries whose governments impose restrictions on US investment and exports, and accordingly are targets for destabilization and possible military intervention by US forces, has distributed tens of thousands of iPods through a third party to Iraqi citizens. The iPods have prepackaged messages extolling the US and its occupation of Iraq. The origin of the iPods is not disclosed (New York Times, December 11, 2005). The Pentagon hired a contractor named Lincoln Group to place news items favorable to the US in Iraqi media. The private company has about a dozen Iraqi journalists on its payroll, selected on the basis of previous sympathetic coverage of the American occupation. The company also hires Iraqis posing as free-lance journalists to sell articles to Iraqi newspapers ghostwritten by US psychological operations specialists. But Lincoln Group doesn’t limit its scope to journalists alone. "Told in early 2005 by the Pentagon to identify religious leaders who could help produce messages that would persuade Sunnis" to "participate in national elections and reject" the resistance, the contractor "retained three or four Sunni religious scholars to offer advice and write reports for military commanders on the content of propaganda campaigns" (New York Times, June 2, 2005).

This is the practice of controlling the information environment, and isn’t all that difficult to do if you have the money to buy radio and TV stations, newspapers, journalists and the people’s leaders – something the US has in abundance and which it uses around the globe to shape the information environment to the interests of US corporations. It is no different from how corporate interests of every advanced capitalist country dominate the information environment of their own countries. It’s simply a continuation of war, within countries, of class, between countries, of national oppression and resistance, by other means. Iraqi journalists who write or place pro-occupation articles on behalf of the US state, or religious scholars who advise the US military on propaganda campaigns, are as much a part of the collaborationist apparatus as members of Iraq’s police and military are. They are, too, indistinguishable from the inaptly named "independent" Cuban journalists who take money from Washington to write articles whose aim is to encourage the overthrow of Cuba’s socialist system and the return of the island to a position of political and economic subservience to US corporate interests. The status of collaborationist journalists and clerics as legitimate targets of the resistance is no different from that of the Iraqi police or military, which is why the US has taken pains to conceal the identities of its Iraqi quislings.

War by Other Means

If journalism is simply war by other means, it follows that a good battlefield commander would not only want to strengthen his own forces, by buying newspapers, radio stations and TV stations, and buying journalists’ by-lines to pass off ghostwritten material, but also by weakening the opposition’s forces. One way to do this is to funnel money and support to the opposition’s enemies to drown out the opposition’s message with one that provides you greater latitude to pursue your goals. For example, during the Cold War, the US sought to elevate the appeal of social democracy among left-oriented Western Europeans, because social democracy was a preferable, non-revolutionary, and manageable alternative to Communism. The US secretly funded social democratic scholars, subsidized social democratic and anti-Communist authors, including George Orwell, whose Animal Farm and 1984 was covertly backed by the CIA, and saw to it that social democratic political parties flourished (see for example, Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, The New Press, 1990). The US state did this, not because it is sympathetic to social democracy, but because it wanted to weaken the appeal of the Communists, and channel leftist sentiment into safe, non-revolutionary avenues. Similarly, to weaken support for national liberation movements that take up arms to drive occupying forces out of their country, as, for example, Hamas has done in Palestine, support, aid and legitimacy may be given to groups that profess to seek the same goals, but in ways that involve compromise, negotiation and moral suasion, to be pursued from a position of weakness.

Another alternative is more direct: target media outlets for destruction that stand in the way of monopolizing control of the information environment. No mass media outlet has done more to challenge Washington’s and the US media’s tendentious presentation of the Anglo-American intervention in the Middle East than Al Jazeera. It is a regular thorn in the side of Washington as US statesmen and PR consultants struggle to define the blatant plunder of Iraq on behalf of US corporate interests as desirable, not only for the people of the United States, but for the people of Iraq. From the American perspective, Al Jazeera’s inflammatory reporting does nothing to pacify Arab anger, but only makes it burn more intensely, and fans the fires of the resistance. There is some evidence that US forces have taken pot shots at journalists who fail to report the news in a manner congenial to US interests, but Washington hasn’t given the order to take out its Al Jazeera bete noire – though the silencing of the TV network, by force, has been considered. According to a leaked British government memo of a conversation between Bush and his British subaltern, Blair, the US president talked about "bombing Al Jazeera’s studios in Qatar" (New York Times, November 23, 2005).

Whether this was a joke, or whether Bush was serious, is unclear. But nobody should think a military strike on a media outlet that contradicts Washington’s propaganda agenda is beyond the capability of the US state. When Democrat Bill Clinton was president, NATO not only talked about bombing an overseas TV network, it did so. During the alliance’s 1999 terror bombing of Yugoslavia, Serb Radio-TV challenged NATO’s self-serving take on the war. Since this was intolerable to NATO’s leaders, NATO warplanes attacked the building housing the network’s broadcast facilities. NATO said the Serb media -- that is, that part of it not celebrated as "independent," though funded by the US, Britain and Germany as a conduit for pro-NATO views -- was spreading "propaganda," similar to the charge the White House levels against Al Jazeera today. Blair, a link to the aggressions against both Yugoslavia and Iraq – and a social democrat who’s living proof you don’t need to be a neo-con to jackboot around the world -- vigorously defended the violent silencing of Serb Radio-TV as necessary to counteract Yugoslav propaganda.

The Elections

The International Mission for Iraqi Elections, a monitoring group based in Jordan, reported that the December election had been corrupted by vote rigging and that "some additional fraud in all probability went undetected," but concluded, according to the New York Times, that the election was "an impressive display of democracy under difficult conditions" (New York Times, January 20, 2006).

The group’s conclusions about vote rigging were largely beside the point. The fact that the election was held under a military occupation in which the US was pulling the strings behind the scenes, and secretly blanketing the media with pro-occupation, pro-US and pro-election messages, is sufficient to discredit it. But the conjunction of the finding that fraud was perpetrated with the conclusion that the election was nevertheless an "impressive display of democracy" is interesting for what it says about how the same set of facts can co-exist with diametrically opposite conclusions (an impartial observer might conclude, on the basis of the Mission’s findings, that the election was far from an impressive display of democracy.) Which conclusion is advanced is a political decision, tied to a particular political or economic interest.

Evidence of vote rigging and electoral fraud, even the claim of fraud, is sufficient for the mass media and Western governments to call into question the election of regimes the United States and Britain have an interest in deposing and replacing with governments more congenial to the profit-making interests of their transnational corporations. If the anti-US corporate class candidate is expected to win, the standard procedure is to loudly announce in advance that electoral fraud is imminent, and later to point to election results that favor the targeted regime’s candidate as confirmation of the prediction. If, on the other hand, the pro-US corporate class candidate wins, his victory can be said to represent the triumph of the people’s will, despite attempts to steal the election. The strategy is one of: heads I win, tails you lose. The presidential election in Yugoslavia in 2000 was dismissed by the Western media, whose governments had spent the preceding decade trying to crush Serb socialism, as fraudulent even before the first vote was cast. When Slobodan Milosevic received more votes in the preliminary round than the candidate backed and financed by NATO, no further evidence was said to be necessary to demonstrate that a fraud had occurred.

Some degree of fraud, vote rigging and chicanery is inevitable in any election, including those in the United States, most famously in Florida in connection with the election of George W. Bush to his first term as president. What matters is not whether fraud occurs, but whether it’s widespread and systematic, or marginal and random. Some degree of marginal and random fraud is an inevitable feature of any election, including the most scrupulously conducted ones.

Even so, low level, randomly occurring fraud, can be turned from mole hill into mountain by governments intent on fomenting insurrection or a "color" revolution in a state that has become a target to be folded into an imperialist country’s orbit. In these cases, the reports of monitoring organizations about elections being marred by vote rigging will be used to call for the ouster of the undesirable candidates. Candidates who win elections in Third World countries who are prepared to remove restrictions on foreign investment, allow repatriation of profits, and to open up markets, even if they have come to power in elections corrupted by wide-spread and systematic fraud, will be said to have received a mandate to govern in elections that, "though marred by some irregularities, were essentially fair, even impressive displays of democracy." The conclusion, then, about whether an election is fair or not, is politically determined, and reflects the interests represented by the person making the conclusion.

The United States has an extensive history of intervening in the elections of other countries to promote conservative, pro-investment and pro-US regimes, and to block the election of economically nationalist, socialist and communist governments that threaten the profit-making opportunities of US transnationals. It is also an inveterate organizer of coups, both soft and hard, to bring down governments that fail to promote the economic interests of US corporations, and is a keen architect of programs to reverse electoral outcomes deemed to be inconsistent with the interests of the US ruling class (William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Global Interventions Since World War II, Common Courage Press, 1995; Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, Common Courage Press, 2005).

In recent years, the United States has: launched a concerted effort to block the return of the leftwing Sandinista party to power in Nicaragua (New York Times, April 5, 2005); set up a multi-agency taskforce to funnel money to "foundations and business and political groups opposed to" the Chavez government (New York Times, April 26, 2005); financed opposition groups in Georgia and Ukraine that instigated "color" revolutions (New York Times, May 29, 2005) which paved the way for pro-Russian governments to be replaced by governments committed to facilitating the profit-making activities of US transnational corporations; taken "a page from the playbook" on Ukraine and Georgia to channel money to fifth column groups in Iran which seek to replace the current economically nationalist government with one more amenable to US investment and economic domination (New York Times, May 29, 2005); pledged millions of dollars in funding to media and opposition groups (New York Times, December 17, 2005) seeking to oust the Lukashenko government in Belarus, whose crime has been to turn "Belarus into a miniature version of the Soviet Union itself, with a state-run economy" (New York Times, January 1, 2006). Terry Nelson, the national political director of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, is running the campaign of the US-selected opposition candidate, Aleksandr Milinkevich, in Belarus’ presidential election. The campaign’s own polling, paid for by the International Republican Institute, shows

:: Article nr. 21566 sent on 15-mar-2006 06:13 ECT


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