Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 45
Politics in the Age of George the Great
Monday 27 October 2008, by#socialtags
"He acts as if his head was only made to hold his ears apart."
"I’ll come down and help you, I’ll rape you, I’ll scalp you."
“I’ve been struck by Lightning, Struck by Congress.”
It has been eight years since the putsch in Florida by the neoconservative Storm Troopers stole the presidential election and installed George W. Bush on the White House Throne. The dark days had begun and these dark days have not yet ended. The going after the country and the world with a meat cleaver has left an inordinate and indeed fearful trail of wreckage in its wake and more is yet to come with the seeds of spoilage for future generations now planted.
Indeed, it is difficult to think of any quarter, domestic or international, left untouched by the havoc brought to fruition in the Age of George the Great. Who would have thought, who could have imagined that such inordinate talent dwelt ensconced inside the scull of the former Governor of Texas? It is the great ineffable mystery of the Age of George the Great, who we have observed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. How do we unravel this inscrutable mystery?
High and low, East and West, rich and poor, Republican, Democrat, dictatorship, democracy, prince and pauper, have come face to face with the Dubya-ocracy. In the sordid end, even his own party has revolted against him. The presidential candidate of his own political party, Senator John McCain, will have nothing to do with him.
George W. Bush was installed in the White House in January 2001 as the front man for the neoconservative cabal, the men who envisioned a revolution, albeit a Right-Wing one, that would change the world. The men who waited, plotted, bided their time, in the secretive quarters of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) were now in power. Men such as Vice-President Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Nitze, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser (advisor to Cheney) and others, who believed in changing the world with a putsch, not from below, but from above and without regard for international law. Out with wishy-washy liberalism. Down with realism! Forward under the banner of the New Reich, the New Righteous Imperialism to ensure American super-hegemony far into the future age. The forging of an invincible Neo-Wilsonian drive for neoliberal “democracy”, the adamantine determination of the behind-the-scenes defacto President, Dick Cheney.
The sun would never set on the American Super Empire of Military Bases, as Chalmers Johnson has termed the American global neo-Roman Kingdom. The roughly one-thousand US military bases, which encircle the globe, and whose number has been steadily rising, constitute the land base of that Empire. The fear of a challenge from any quarter, the forging of the Bush Doctrine of Preventive War in September 2002, deceptively termed a policy of “preventive war”, set the tone. The adopting of the modus operandi of the Third Reich to invade other countries, to project power wherever there was even a perception of threat across the whole face of the earth, was at the heart of the Doctrine of George the Great.
To bring the people along, there was the instillation of fear in the American people. And whether through fortune, or a behind-the-scenes operation, yet unknown to all but a few, the events of September 11, 2001, unleashed the latent forces which lay in the breast of the Dubya-ocracy to be unleashed onto the world, to march to that glorious promised land and keep America Number One.
In fact, the rise and fall of the American Empire has been surprisingly rapid. The flare has burned too brightly, has burned out admittedly quickly, American post-war power declining in the wake of the attempt to secure the resources of South-East Asia by preventing the Peoples’ Revolution in Vietnam in the l960s.
The neoconservatives, undeterred, in the l990s, wished to seize the historical moment and breathe new life into the aging superpower on the Potomac. In doing so, in their overreach for ultimate power and empire, they would greatly hasten the decline of the remaining single superpower. Indeed, the historical revolutions of the mid Twentieth Century were not in vain. They had killed European imperialism and the Americans had not been able to breathe new life into its dead corpse even in the former French territories of Indo-China. The people would no longer tolerate colonial rule. But they would also not tolerate proxy colonial rule, concealed in the institutions of so-called global order and security, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, which had been exposed, and were hated by the working classes around the world, and held to only by the capitalist ruling business classes. And those who live on less than a dollar a day have no reason to fear communism.
Counterinsurgency wars designed to prevent historical change, to keep people’s democracies from emerging, was now understood as the central thrust of US neo-Wilsonian foreign policy. Colonialism was dead. Now neocolonialism was also being challenged in the turbulent 1960s. When President John F. Kennedy asked the new generation of American youth in his inauguration speech in 1961 to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”, he was inviting them to join not in the creation of a new fair and democratic world. He was asking them to become soldiers in the counterinsurgency wars to roll back the downtrodden people’s struggle for democracy. He was asking them to be soldiers and ambassadors of US global imperialism.
So when the neoliberal thrust to roll back national development and substitute “free market” neoliberalism emerged, the global revolt grew. Neoliberalism is actually the use of state power to ensure the capitalist accumulation of the ruling business classes. When the neoconservative cabal launched their campaign from Washington in the l990s, their target was the oil-gas heartlands of the Middle East. But the US had set its own trap for itself. There would be “Blowback”. Launching the Mujahideen insurgency to throw the Soviet troops out of Afghanistan in the l980s also created the forces which the new neoconservative revolutionaries ran up against. Economic degradation in much of the developing world, exacerbated by policies of the IMF, had alienated wide swaths of the global population from the so-called “Washington Consensus”.
But hadn’t Francis Fukuyama prophesied in the l990s that the age of liberalism had arrived and the last few hold-outs to the age of liberal democracy and McDonaldisation would quickly shuffle into line and it would all be history. “The End of History and the Last Man!” All it would take was a little shaking them up, the Sheikhs and the Saddams, Hizbollah and Hamas, and Condoleezza-isation, and they would all march off to the banks and the stock markets with their ears glued to their cell phones to the tune of American capital. The neoconservative storm troopers valued chaos above all else as the “kill or cure”. The regimes which did not satisfy their criteria would shape up or ship out and be tossed onto the scrap heap of history. They saw most of the regimes which the US had sponsored in the Middle East, since World War II, as coming under that rubric of “regime change”. And the criteria for success was to ensure the resources of the region, oil, capital, markets and anything else the super power needed, was to be available to them. They must bow down to the new global totalitarian agenda of neoliberalism, where states would rule in the interests of capital. Indeed, just as happens in Washington, and in which George the Great would break new ground, it would be “socialism for the ruling classes”. This was actually a form of fascistic corporatism, which George the Great would move sharply toward in the last years of his tenure in the White House.
AND so Wolfowitz and Feith plotted. George the Great scratched his head. Cheney, cautious and crafty and jealous of his power, peered out of his fox hole. When the smoke cleared from the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in September 2001, they were in business. The people were given to understand that the time had come to follow their Dear Leader, George the Great, and the people were warned by the White House to be careful about what they said. Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, ruminated about the sixty nations which he said would have to be straightened out, which the United States of America would have to go to war with in the “War on Terror”. A massive agenda of “regime change” was laid out mostly focused upon the oil and gas heartlands of the Middle East. The first… well the Wise Men in the White House couldn’t quite decide about that. Iraq or Afghanistan? Iraq had the oil. Maybe they should get Saddam first, but then their hidden agenda might look a little transparent with that approach, so they went after the Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001. Cheney certainly wanted to do Iraq first, although there was not the slightest link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda. The regime of Mullah Omar was quickly overthrown. General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan was told to cut his ties with the Taliban and get into line with Uncle Sam or be bombed back to the Stone Age by Richard Armitage, the US Deputy Secretary of State. One regime change down and 59 to go.
Saddam was Number Two for takeoff. But in the event, Saddam was actually irrelevant, except as a “talking point,” while the real agenda was put together behind the scenes. In the Neoconservative Weltenshuang, Iraq was first a stupendous prize with the third largest oil reserves, and secondly, a future geopolitical base for controlling the entire Middle East and Central Asia. The “Central Region” and the US military command, “Centcom”, had been set up specifically for this region. The people of the nation, the allies, people across the globe, and the United Nations, had to somehow be bamboozled so that the tanks could roll. The sordid history of the greatest lying operation in history and the deception perpetrated is now well known. Both the US and Great Britain had indisputable evidence from a high up official in Saddam’s government, who would later defect, that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction. This information was carefully concealed to the publics of the United States and Great Britain.
The weapons of mass deception, not just for the invasion and occupation, but to the present day, more than five-and-a-half years later, have been deployed upon the global population. And a trillion dollars has been spent and eventually this figure will be at least three trillion dollars of new debt, as we know from the study of Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes on the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This inordinate war crime, both wars being illegal under international law, has been the centrepiece of US politics in the Age of George the Great! A catastrophe of world historical dimensions. Now retired General Tommy Franks, who led the troops across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq in March 2003, says that the US is on target in the programme to achieve its goals in Iraq. He is correct, of course. The US will continue to occupy the country, attempt to secure the oil and geopolitical interests and will ensure the rule of a pro-US puppet government. The USS will pursue plans to keep at least 50 strategic US military bases in the country as long into the future as long as they are deemed to be useful to US imperialism in the region. The US will contract out and control the oil resources and essentially rule the region from the banks of the Euphrates, where the biggest US embassy compound in the world has been built, to the tune of some one billion dollars.
At the same time, keeping to US tradition and values, both Afghanistan and Iraq have been devastated. The way the US “saves” a country is by destroying it. Going back to l991, the support of the Mujahideen warlords in Afghanistan led to Taliban rule after the Soviets had been expelled. In Iraq, perhaps three million Iraqi were dead. Another three million were internally displaced or in exile. Baghdad and many other areas were divided and ethnically cleansed and even the occupation is yet in peril in this present degree of relative “fragile” peace. The most wise and honest point out that neither the war in Iraq or Afghanistan can ever be won, as such. Commander David Petreaus has predicted that perhaps the war in Iraq may never be said to have been “won”. The British Ambassador in Kabul, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, has said that the NATO effort against the Taliban there is “doomed to fail” and is only making things worse. Britain’s most senior commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, Commander of the 16th Air Assault Brigade, has said “We’re never going to win this war” and need to lower the insurgency to a manageable level that can be handled with the Afghan Army.
Yet, from the American side, more troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, whether it is from George W. Bush, Barack Obama or John McCain in future. In Iraq, the present troop strengths of around 140,000 active military are to be maintained through at least 2009. Washington is said to have agreed to a very tentative time line of withdrawing American troops by 2011, but this number is fudged, according to “conditions on the ground”. Who would man the 50 or so American bases to remain in place in Iraq? These plans are also likely to be elusive. Besides, we know that the number of mercenary private security personnel in Iraq is about equal to the number of active military, perhaps more.
IN both wars, there has been a spilling over into neighboring countries, Iran, Pakistan, Kashmir, and indeed, the larger region of Lebanon, Israel and East Africa. And in spite of all the trumpeted bragging about the “success of the surge strategy in Iraq” no one can see the end of either war. The attempt to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan has clearly failed and it has become clear that the war is not “winnable” by Western NATO forces. The British, not to forget the Soviets, who have had more historical experience in the region, understand that imperialism cannot easily be clamped onto the warlords. In Iraq, the American forces have just been holding their breath that the Sunnis and Shias will not begin fighting again untill after the November presidential election in the US. The northern Kurdish region of Iraq under the Kurdistan Regional Government continues to move toward independent rule, while moving to exploit the oil resources. Cross border attacks has, over the last year, brought Turkey into the war, with air strikes, and is likely to keep it there.
Nor did George the Great so much as seriously engage with the problems of Palestine during his tenure. There were some token manoeuvrings in the last years of his rule. Indeed, the most significant act of his Administration in the region was the unleashing of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, in which Israel was decisively defeated by the Hezbollah.
The fiction that Osama bin Laden is the driving force of evil in the world has grown ever more threadbare around the world and even in the minds of Americans. There has been a lot of silly babbling in the presidential debates from McCain and Obama about bin Laden and who is going to murder him, but this seems increasingly absurd with the real terrorism scourging Americans coming from the financial terrorists on Wall Street. In any event, one cannot wipe out “terror” by murdering an individual. As for George the Great, he said years ago that he really did not worry or even think about bin Laden. Smart man! Why should he? It is the role of the people to fear bin Laden as a distraction from what is really going on. They should not be given a chance to think about their real problems, like losing their house, keeping their job, sending their children to a university, or having some financial security and medical insurance.
On the home front, in the America of George the Great, the people have been abandoned to the vicissitudes of the market, while in true neoliberal fashion, the state has been rolled out only when capital was in peril. “Socialism for the ruling classes, free market capitalism for the masses” was inscribed upon the White House banner. This is really a type of corporatism, of course. Max Kaiser, the economic commentator on Al-Jazeera TV, has called it “financial fascism”.
George the Great, shortly after taking power in 2001, cleared out the US Treasury of more than a trillion dollars, doled out to his rich business friends, for helping to pay for his way into the White House. Recalling his trillion dollar gift to the capitalist elite, as his Presidency began, it is surely fitting that he again open the Hog Trough for another trillion dollars plundering of the national treasury with holiday trimmings as he prepares to exit the White House. The difference is that the National Debt has now reached $ 9.85 trillion by October 2008, his last year in office. The national debt stood at $ 5.72 trillion on the day that George the Great took office. Indeed, the American Ship of State was being kept afloat by the flood of dollars from China, Japan and the Gulf states. Another trillion dollars would have to be borrowed to help pay for the bankers greed in the financial crises. Indeed, the trillion dollars for the two wars had been funded mostly by dollars the US did not have in supplementary off-budget funding. The national debt ceiling was raised to $ 11.3 trillion as the banks began to give up the ghost.
George the Great had not got the Hogs out of the Dollar Creek. The Dollar Creek was so crowded that the dollars dried up, the banks collapsed and then the stock markets began to crash. As an experiment in neoliberalism in the real world it was instructive. ‘One capitalist kills many.” Marx was certainly right about that. A herd of them can easily collapse the entire global financial system.
THE orgy on Wall Street grew more wild and frenzied as George the Great’s White House went down in the flames. When Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced that AIG insurance company was being bailed out to the tune of some $ 80 billion, the executives reportedly threw themselves a party for something over $ 400,000. It emerged in Senate hearings that Richard Fuld, former head of the Lehman Brothers, had received some $ 480 million from the bank over eight years. The US people were angry but the Masters of the Universe were unrepentant. Mr Fuld defended himself and refused to address the question of whether such greed was “fair”. Banks can be robbed with a gun or from the inside. The people had been robbed with a fountain pen and once again were “struck by the Congress”.
In America, the decline of the Empire was beginning to be felt and even cut deeply. The massive bloat of running the economy on the so-called defence industry, the military industrial intelligence complex, borrowing massive amounts of dollars to float the defense industry, big defence corporations in America, such as Raytheon, TRW, McDonnell Douglas, CACI, Lockheed Martin, Blackwater, and on and on. After September 11, 2001, Rumsfeld proceeded to privatise the Central Intelligence Agency, to a considerable extent so that some sixty per cent of US intelligence became farmed out to private corporations to the tune of 40 billion dollars a year. Much of it was wasted, of course, as government employees left the military and the CIA to work in private companies. War was also partially privatised with as many “contractors” as soldiers working in Iraq for such firms as Halliburton, Blackwater, Kellog Brown and Root (KBR) and so on. The country sank deeper and deeper in debt as the rulers scrambled to preserve and expand the Empire.
The Americans were defenceless against the “defence industry”, quite possibly their real number one enemy.
Increasingly, the bulk of the American population lived off cheap goods from China and other emerging areas of the world and often went without jobs. The youth were pushed into the military just to live and get some money for education. The working class suffered. The economy was not generating enough jobs at home. Americans could be seen living under freeway bridges and in shopping carts in California.
George the Great not only hit the rest of the world, he hit his own people, like a devastating earthquake. Some countries had fared better than others, to be sure, countries which had partially insulated themselves from linkages with the global neoliberal economy. The pivotal criteria for success was becoming that of keeping George the Great as far away from the home shores as possible. The dread threat was that George the Great would target one’s country to “bring democracy”. It was a constant threat, and enough to strike deadly fear into the hearts of any population anywhere on the face of the earth. Home Security in the US meant keeping Osama bin Laden as far away as possible. Home Security anywhere else in the world meant keeping George the Great as far away as possible.
But somehow, the White House just didn’t get it. Here he was, George the Great, willing to lend a helping hand to anybody in the world, he was ready to come down and help them. He’d even get rid of their dictators, or get them a new and better one, or install “democracy” if they were only willing to give him a chance. But somehow, people around the world just didn’t trust George the Great any more after he did the Iraqis such a big favor and got rid of Saddam.
George the Great even sent his old Texas advisor, Karen Hughes, around the world as his own roving Ambassador for Public Diplomacy, pointing out to the ungrateful populations that they should “love America”. Why keep on hating American freedom, democracy, liberties and McDonald’s fries when George the Great had done so much to help out other countries? George even sent the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy around and produced all those coloured revolutions, the Rose Revolution, the Velvet Revolution, the Orange Revolution. Just pick your colour, he told the people in those former communist countries, and we’ll have a team down there by tomorrow evening to get right down to bringing democracy your way!
GEORGE THE GREAT was very confused and bothered about the bewildering ways of the world in foreign parts, however. First, some of the former Eastern European countries and former Soviet Republics went in for putting all their eggs in the American basket, but it seemed that the rest of the world was just too suspicious of George the Great and Dick, especially Dick. Some countries seemed to get tired of this “democracy bringing” pretty quick. Somehow people just liked to make democracy on their own, but George the Great could never quite figure out why that was. Didn’t the US have a long and great record of bringing “democracy” to people around the world? They should let him show them what democracy was all about. Surely, a man from Texas should know about that!
But one thing that George the Great did know for sure was that he was a “free marketeer”. He believed in the free market and when he saw a country that was acting a little bit socialistic, like helping out the people by giving them a job or letting them go to the hospital and get health care, even when they did not have money, he started scratching his head again. George the Great just didn’t like that attitude and wanted to do something about it. Sometimes other countries put some rules and regulations on American companies, there in those foreign countries, putting restrictions on American capital. It’s true that this was popular, and the local people liked it, even voting big majorities for the leaders doing it, but that didn’t make any difference to George the Great. George was “The Decider”. That was the name he had given himself, and he liked it.
One leader he especially had problems with was Hugo Chavez down there in Venezuela. Chavez got ideas from Fidel Castro and started spreading them to other leaders in Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and other countries. What was worse, Venezuela had a lot of oil, and so didn’t need so much help from Washington. George the Great spent quite a lot of thinking about this problem and even got the military to remove Hugo Chavez from power for a while, but he came right back, with the help of the people. George the Great’s stooge politicians, in the new “democracy” which he tried to install in power, ran away in just a few hours when the people rushed onto the street and surrounded the Presidential headquarters with around a million people. The new puppet government put out the lie that Chavez had resigned. But when the military found out the truth, soldiers chased the imposters out of the Presidential headquarters and Chavez was brought back to the people to a hero’s welcome. The New York Times, which had praised the coup as “democratic,” was embarrassed by the whole affair. Huge Chavez came to the United Nations in New York and called George the Great “the Devil”. This was great relief from the boring speeches normally given by visiting heads of state like, well, like George the Great. When Hugo Chavez held up Noam Chomsky’s book, Hegemony or Survival, the book shot to the number one bestseller on Amazon.com the next day.
But anyway, Iraq was keeping George the Great pretty busy and he had to keep an eye on Validimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, since they were trying to keep all their oil and gas to themselves and he thought they ought to at least share it with his oil and gas Texas friends. And also they didn’t like his nice friend in Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.
Along about the middle of his last year in office, the markets and Wall Street started getting shaky. Banks began to collapse. George the Great knew why. His friends on Wall Street had been pulling more tricks over the last few years than card sharks in a crooked casino. The American economy had weakened with all the jobs exported overseas, with NAFTA, and imports from all the cheap labor countries. The people lacked medical insurance and when they had to go to the hospital often lost their house, because they didn’t have money to pay the mortgage.
The banks and big corporations were sitting on huge piles of cash with no good place to invest it. So they invented new schemes. Loaning money for homes and making equity loans, and then packaging these loans and selling them as securities to investors around America and the world. When the schemes unravelled, the banks began to collapse, first just one or two, then like a string of falling dominoes. It spread to Europe. George the Great was unlucky that it happened just a month before the Presidential election in 2008. It was sure to hurt the Republicans in the election. But anyway, nobody on the Republican side ever talked about George the Great, unless it was to say that they didn’t have anything to do with the guy, hardly knew who he was, certainly didn’t like his policies, and was not like him in any way, shape or form and that they had never agreed with him or anything in the least. And if any Democratic candidate pointed out that what they said was just exactly what George the Great had said, they firmly denied it and if it sounded the same, that is, if they had used the exact same words, they really meant something entirely different from what it sounded like. To put it simply, there was no Republican candidates to be found, high or low, East or West, North or South, who bore any resemblance whatsoever to a “Republican”. They were entirely a New Breed altogether! Either that, or they were the old fashioned type that existed before George the Great came along and changed the brand. And if anybody wanted to know what they really were, well, they were “Mavericks”, which included under that rubric, “Hockey Moms”, “Pitt Bulls with lipstick”, “Vietnam War Heroes”, and, of course, “Tax cutters” and even those who believed in “global warming”. Who needs taxes, when the National Debt is only $ 10.5 trillion and there are only two wars being fought for $ 15 billion a month? Who needs taxes when China is still buying US Government bonds?
GEORGE THE GREAT was lonesome and some called him a “lame duck.” But others pointed out that he was not a “lame duck.” He was a “dead duck”.
Nevertheless, the Great Dead Duck managed to get a trillion dollars out of the US Congress to bail his rich friends out of the financial crisis on Wall Street just before the election. George the Great, looking very serious, pointed out that it was the only way that the “free market system” could be saved. A big dose of “socialism for the rich” can go a long way toward greasing the wheels of the “free market system” and anyway, George the Great, Free Market Duck that he was, pointed out that he was only doing it for the people, and not Wall Street. Of course, it was the people who would have to pay for it, but not doing anything would be a lot worse, according to George the Great. But the people kept losing their houses and some showed up at the pawn shops to sell their gold teeth just for a little cash.
Of course, all these bailouts, which then spread to Asia and Europe, had nothing to do with socialism, but were corporatist measures, a form of financial fascism to squeeze more blood, sweat and tears from the working classes, more surplus value. People had gone around saying that the ideas of Karl Marx were no longer relevant in the New Glorious Political Economy in the Post-Modern Era. But, surely Karl Marx was having the last laugh. His analysis of the laws of motion of modern capitalism, written a century-and-a-half ago, envisioned such economic crises. George the Great, in the last months of his tenure in the White House, had demonstrated that he was no ordinary President. He was highly talented. He had brought the Mighty United States of America to its knees and planted a terrific blow upon every nation and people on the globe. George the Great will long be remembered across America and around the world. The Eighth Wonder of the World will soon be gone, but not soon forgotten.
Eddie J. Girdner is a Professor of International Relations at Baskent University in Ankara (Turkey) and the author of USA and the New Middle East, New Delhi, Gyan Publishing House, 2008.