28th April 21:05
What's Left ... Washington's war on terrorism is not misguided...they know exactly what they're doing
September 8, 2003
Washington's war on terrorism is not misguided...they know exactly what they're
By Stephen Gowans
If you don't want people to lash out at you violently, don't provoke them. If
you want to prevent terrorist attacks, don't make new enemies. Sound advice. But
And the Bush administration's approach to fighting terrorism is decidedly macho.
You won't find Bush's team addressing the grievances of the victims of US
foreign policy -- the bombing victims, the injured, the disabled, the bereft,
the dispossessed, the refugees. You won't find its members laying awake at night
worrying that some Afghans and Iraqis are so incensed at what the US has done to
them, their neighbours, their friends, and their family that they've sworn never
to rest until they exact revenge.
Instead, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice go along their way,
unconcernedly ordering the bombing of Afghanistan, building concentration camps
at Guatanamo Bay, ordering the assassination of terrorist suspects, invading
Iraq, threatening war on Iran and North Korea -- none of which address the
reasons why there's enormous resentment of the United States abroad, and all of
which do plenty to pile new layers of resentment on old, ensuring terrorism
becomes more likely, not less.
But Bush's supporters say talk of addressing grievances, and not making new
enemies, is nice, in a kind of ivory towerish sort of way -- but that's not how
it works in the real world. Terrorists only understand force. They must be
hunted down and crushed. "Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of
strength," the president says. "They are invited by the perception of weakness."
And addressing grievances is unmistakably a sign of weakness.
Liberals and progressives and the antiwar right say the Bush administration is
misguided. If only Bush and company could see that violence begets violence, war
and bombing beget terrorism -- and that war itself is terrorism.
But what if the Bush administration wasn't half as macho as its supporters
think, and not as dumb and misguided as its detractors believe? What if the
people who shape policy in Washington recognized that if you really want to
prevent terrorist attacks, you don't hand people reasons to plant bombs,
undertake suicide missions, or fly planes into office towers?
I'd say the Bush cabinet recognizes its martial foreign policy is inflaming
terrorism, not dampening it, but is using its "war on terrorism" as a cover for
the vigorous pursuit of a long-standing US foreign policy goal -- the expansion
of US influence abroad, driven, ultimately, by the need of constantly expanding
markets for US goods and investment (or more immediately, by the need to eclipse
the rise of potential regional hegemons like Russia and China, which rival US
firms for access to Asian markets, labor and resources.)
There are two reasons to believe this: One, US foreign policy has always, at its
heart, been economically expansionist. Two, the Bush cabinet recognizes that
Israel's handling of the Palestinians -- which parallels Washington's fight
against al-Qaeda and Iraq -- isn't dampening terrorism; it's making it harder,
more determined and more destructive.
Markets, markets, markets
The three most important aspects of US foreign policy are markets, markets and
markets. Given that the principal activity of the country is profit-making and
that its policy making center is dominated by banks and corporations, it would
be odd were it otherwise. Accordingly, George W. Bush's September 20, 2002
National Security Strategy -- nominally about safeguarding the physical safety
of Americans -- teems with references to free markets, open markets, free trade
and free enterprise (as in, we will "actively work to bring...free markets and
free trade to every corner of the world.") But then Bush is simply standing on
the shoulders of presidents before him, looking after the people presidents
always look after: those who own and control the economy, and who, by virtue of
their influence, own and control Washington, as well.
Howard Taft explained that US foreign policy "may well be made to include active
intervention to secure for our merchandise and our capitalists opportunity for
profitable investment." (1)
Woodrow Wilson said:
Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having
the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of
the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions
obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the
sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. (2)
It is a matter of no minor significance that the three countries that make up
the axis of evil -- pre-war Iraq, Iran and North Korea -- are all, or were,
closed in some way to US investment and goods on preferential terms.
Dwight Eisenhower explained, "A serious and ******** purpose of our foreign
policy [is] the encouragement of a hospitable climate for [private] investment
in foreign nations." 
And assorted defense secretaries and secretaries of state have talked about the
Pentagon as enforcing access for US capital to markets abroad and of
safeguarding the investments of US corporations and banks in potentially
unstable parts of the world.
Significantly, Marx and Engels, in their Communist Manifesto talked of "the need
of a constantly expanding market" which chases capital "over the whole surface
of the globe" encouraging it to "nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish
connections everywhere" -- an enduring description of the imperative that
underlies US foreign policy, as well as that of other capitalist countries.
The Bush administration may seem clueless when it comes to the consequences of
its own foreign policy, but it shows itself to be acutely aware of the
consequence of the fundamentally similar policy of Israel as regards the
US Secretary of State Colin Powell says, "We are always saying to our Israeli
colleagues, 'You have to consider the long-term consequences...and are you
creating more Hamas killers in the future by actions such as this which injure
innocent people?" (4)
"To kill one Hamas leader, but wound 9 children or 10 children in the course of
this, who will grow up to become Hamas leaders or Hamas killers later -- they
have to consider the long-term consequences of this policy." (5)
The parallels with Washington's own actions are obvious -- and unlikely to be
lost on Powell and his colleagues.
"You have to consider the long-term consequences -- and are you creating more
al-Qaeda killers in the future by actions such as the bombing of Afghanistan and
the bombing of Iraq which injure innocent people, far more than the Israelis
have ever injured?"
Whose interests matter?
Washington's war on terrorism has two outcomes: More terrorism in the future, as
the bombed, dispossessed and hardened, strike back. More influence over West and
Central Asia, and wider access for US capital to the regions' markets, natural
resources and labor. The former is accepted as a necessary evil, even desirable.
The more terrorism there is, the more Washington can expand its quest for wider
control, citing the need to deal with a growing terrorist menace.
While it may be cathartic to ridicule members of the Bush cabinet as boneheads,
it would be a mistake to assume those who shape policy in Washington are
misguided and unaware of what they're doing. On the contrary, they know exactly
what they're doing. Preventive war and regime change have put Washington in the
position of being able to embark on the project of making over Iraq and
Afghanistan into models of "free markets and free trade," which is to say
markets, labor and natural resources once formerly closed to US capital, are
being open on favorable terms.
More terrorism means the effort to fight terrorism must be redoubled, and fought
on new fronts. An Iranian front and a North Korean front await. Iran and North
Korea will also be made over into models of "free markets and free trade."
US military bases now dot former Soviet republics, hemming in Russia and China,
two strategic competitors which rival US capital for access to Asian markets,
resources and labor. New US military bases may, in the not too distant future,
be established in North Korea, bringing the US military right up to the border
For US banks and corporations the war on terror isn't a war that promises less
terrorism, but a war that promises new business opportunities and fatter
profits. It could hardly be said that the Bush administration -- tightly
connected to US financial and business circles -- doesn't know what it's doing.
It knows all to well what's it's doing. And it's succeeding.
1. Leo Huberman, "The Truth About Socialism," Lear Publishers Inc. New York,
1950, p. 95.
2. Micheal Parenti, "Against Empire," City Light Books, San Francisco, 1995,
3. New York Times, February 3, 1953, cited in Michael Parenti, "The Terrorism
Trap," City Light Books, San Francisco 2002, p.88.
4. "Bush administration warns Israel not to expel Arafat," The New York Times,
September 8, 2003.