By NAT WEINSTEIN
Never before in a period of seeming stability has the world witnessed such a two-sided, tragicomic crisis as came to a head last month.
The president was impeached and is to be tried by the Senate on charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” At the same time, Clinton unilaterally launched another bombing attack on the long-suffering peoples of Iraq.
While the threat of such attacks had for eight years been kept hanging over Iraq’s head with the unanimous support of the bipartisan Congress, the timing surprised almost everyone. Also something of a surprise was the Clinton administration’s failure to seek approval from either the United Nations or from the Congress of the United States before ordering the attack.
That the bombing attack was carried out in violation of the U.S. Constitution, of course, was no surprise at all. Although the Constitution gives the power to make war only to the legislative branch of the federal government, that provision has been repeatedly violated since the end of World War II. (It is now, for all practical purposes, a dead letter.)
The timing of the latest assault on Iraq was obviously intended to delay and hopefully block Clinton’s impeachment. The sudden attack on Iraq put the Republican faction of the capitalist government in a bind. Republicans had been loudly critical of Clinton for not going ahead with his threatened bombing a few months earlier.
However, provoked by Clinton’s unilateral decision to launch the attack on Iraq, Republicans found themselves momentarily outmaneuvered and uncertain as to how to respond. They were clearly angered because he stole their thunder by outflanking them, as he has so often done, from the right.
The response of the Republicans was to career madly ahead with Clinton’s impeachment and, while denouncing the timing of Clinton’s attack on Iraq, nonetheless supporting it.
Then, while the Congress was shown debating whether to impeach or censure Clinton, national television played and replayed the tired-old arguments, pro and con, heard for most of the year.
And interspersed throughout were newsclips of the bombing of Iraq. Newscasters on rooftops and balconies were shown calmly reporting on damage beyond view, as eerily-lighted scenes were shown of bombs exploding over the Baghdad cityscape and anti-aircraft tracer bullets arcing harmlessly across the sky.
The two news events-impeachment and bombing-sharing the same screening was remindful of a surreal juxtaposition from an old art movie.
But what about Clinton’s so-called “high crimes and misdemeanors?” It suffices to say-after being inundated by it for nearly a year-just this: The trial of an American president for lying about a sexual relationship is nothing less than bizarre. Ordinarily, such scandals don’t go on and on while being covered in all the news media in excruciating detail, with voyeuristic focus on the most titillating sexual details.
After all, when capitalist philanderers are charged with an “immoral” sexual liaison, to lie their way out of their predicament is standard operating procedure.
As most intelligent people realize, these proceedings reflect the degeneration of American capitalist politics. Having no real differences to debate, the politicians are reduced to slinging mud at each other. Some issues are real, some false, but most are irrelevant-especially this most celebrated scandal.
Rationalizing the bombing of Iraq
There are few in the world today that still believe the rationalizations offered by President Clinton and his bipartisan capitalist government for their crimes against the peoples of Iraq.
Clinton blithely insists, as if it were the gospel truth, that after seven years of systematic and surprise inspections by American-controlled UN inspection teams, Saddam Hussein “still” has stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction” hidden somewhere in Iraq. Or if not, that he has the materials and equipment to produce such weapons in weeks or months.
This charge against this battered and starved neo-colonial country of some 23 million people is nothing less than an insult to normal intelligence.
The United States is the world’s mightiest military-industrial power. It possesses a destructive military force capable of destroying all life on earth many times over, while Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have reportedly failed to down one of the waves of bombers in the four-day assault.
(Weapons of mass destruction? The United States, yes, and then some. But Iraq? No!)
But more eloquent testimony to its mind-boggling hypocrisy is the U.S. capitalist government’s historical record. Since 1945, American imperialism has repeatedly used its awesome destructive force whenever and wherever on this planet it believed necessary for advancing its own commercial and political interests without the slightest regard for human life.
American capitalism atomized two cities in Japan after the country’s emperor had already sent a message of surrender to the president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, at the end of World War II.
The New York Times conceded many years ago that Truman lied when he rationalized the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as necessary “in order to save the lives of American GIs” (which would have been lost in a bloody island-to-island invasion of Japan). After all, the final surrender terms agreed to by Japan after the two cities were destroyed were essentially the same as that offered before the bombs were dropped
Nevertheless, The Times, along with the rest of the capitalist media, never stopped repeating Truman’s lying rationalization for mass murder as though it were the gospel truth.
There was, of course, a reason for American imperialism’s otherwise purposeless display of its awesome destructive power. It had nothing to do with saving American lives. It was intended, rather, to serve as a warning to the Soviet Union, to the workers of Europe-and to the colonial countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America-that the right of nations to self-determination would not be tolerated by the nuclear-powered military juggernaut in North America.
Since that time, American imperialism, acting as self-appointed world policeman, has wielded, or threatens to wield, death and destruction everywhere without the slightest regard for the lives of innocent women, children, and men.
The long list of countries demonized, invaded, bombed, and/or blockaded includes Iran, North Korea, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Panama, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and, of course, Iraq. And in no case were these acts of war preceded by so much as a declaration of war!
The bipartisan U.S. capitalist government had contrived to “legitimize” their crimes by acting under the “legal” cover of the United Nations.
Prior to the latest act of mass murder (last month’s bombing of Iraq) many nations had signaled their disapproval to the United States. However, when China, France, and Russia let it be known that they were opposed to such an attack on Iraq, Clinton could not fail to take notice since the three countries are members of the UN Security Council.
This fact explains why the Clinton administration failed to seek UN approval in advance of its latest assault on Iraq, as it had done many times before. Since China, France, and Russia, as members of this body, each had veto power over decisions by the Security Council, Clinton obviously judged that another American air assault would almost certainly have been blocked by at least one, if not all, of these three countries.
President Clinton, consequently, simply acted without authorization by the UN, gaining only one other imperialist power, Great Britain, as its criminal accomplice. And by so doing, he dealt what may prove to be a damaging blow to ongoing American hegemony over world capitalism.
The roots of the crisis
American capitalism has by its unilateral bombing of Iraq precipitated a deepening of the divisions within the major world imperialist powers. While this was not the first indication of rising conflicts of interest between American imperialism and its counterparts elsewhere, it is the most serious, so far.
The root of the growing problem is the unfolding crisis of overproduction. Capitalists everywhere fear, and with good reason, that the economic storms that swept from Asia to Russia, and is now roiling Latin America, will engulf the major industrial countries.
World imperialism is in a dilemma. On the one hand, united and coordinated military-political action is indispensable for dealing effectively with any challenge to its interests. And because swift and decisive action is often necessary, an understanding tends to be reached in which authority to act is centralized.
It is in the nature of such things that such a leadership role tends to be played by the strongest military and industrial power. Today, that is indisputably the United States.
But, it is also in the nature of things that whichever country is in such a strategic position tends to make sure that its own narrower interests get first consideration. That’s why China, France, and Russia, each for its own reasons, find themselves at odds with American imperialism’s perception of what is in the best interests of all.
An editorial in the Dec. 27 New York Times sheds considerable light on this matter. The editors write:
The French foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, proposes to deal with Saddam Hussein by rewarding his belligerence. Mr. Védrine would dismantle the present United Nations inspection program and replace it with one more acceptable to Iraq’s friends on the Security Council, then lift the embargo on Iraqi oil sales.
Firing Richard Butler, the chief weapons inspector, and allowing Iraq to replenish its treasury with billions of dollars in oil revenue, sounds more like a strategy for winning France new business opportunities in Iraq than for restraining Mr. Hussein. Russia would also like to see the Security Council lighten sanctions.
Any approach to Iraq that depends on Security Council unity is destined to be weak. … The United States and Britain may soon be left with no choice but to veto a move to reduce or lift sanctions, with the prospect of enforcing an unpopular oil embargo.
Clearly, this evidence of sharpening economic competition affecting each competitor in different ways is only symptomatic of the generalized problem precipitated by the Asian crisis. American and British imperialist interests happen at this time to be more closely aligned, at least on the matter of oil, but new alignments and realignments are in the cards since new developments can change the bases for existing alliances.
Currently, both the United States and Britain are more interested in keeping Iraq’s enormous capacity for oil production restricted for two other reasons besides vindictively punishing Iraq: First, the oversupply of this basic commodity reflects the generalized fall in commodity prices (and contributes to it significantly).
And second, both these countries have huge investments in the direct production and sale of oil. Thus, if oil producing facilities in Iraq, which has huge untapped oil deposits, are developed by France and other major industrial countries, it would further reduce oil prices, resulting in a further reduction in British and American oil profits.
In fact, a case can be made that the administration of President George Bush may have set up Saddam Hussein for a fall back in 1990. Iraq had complained to Bush through the American ambassador that Kuwait had been slant-drilling into Iraq’s vast oil deposits in its territory, and had refused to stop the illegal drilling or pay for the oil it was stealing.
Besides, the sheikhdom of Kuwait-before becoming a British protectorate at the end of the 19th century-had been loosely united with Iraq under the administration of the Ottoman Empire. Reportedly, Saddam Hussein sent a message to the Bush administration asking if he had any objections to Iraqi repossession of Kuwait.
The Iraqi government, as well as other sources, claim that the American ambassador, through whom they had communicated their intentions, reported that President Bush had okayed Iraq’s repossession of Kuwait.
Thus, entrapping Hussein to provide a pretext for shutting off the flow of oil out of Iraq’s huge oil reserves to keep its price from eventually collapsing would serve the interests of American and British oil corporations-and in the longer run, serve to delay the inevitable deflationary crisis now unfolding.
Even leaving aside the matter of falling oil prices, and even though the United States is an oil-producing nation and Britain owns many oil fields in its remaining neo-colonial empire, a higher price for crude would primarily benefit Iraq and all other underdeveloped neo-colonial oil-producing countries.
But it would, on balance, cut into the profits of the major industrial countries which turn crude into a multiplicity of products-plastics, rubber, paint, dyes, chemicals, etc., and the energy which power their industries. That is because what they would get in higher prices for their oil exports they would lose from the higher cost to their production of petroleum products.
This factor, moreover, plays a major part in the highly unfair trade relations between the countries whose major export is raw materials-which have relatively small amounts of human labor incorporated in them (labor power being the source of all value).
Thus, those whose major exports are labor-intensive industrial products have the far greater part of the bargain when traded for raw materials. That’s one of the main ways imperialism sucks the less developed countries dry. This factor plays a major part in the super-exploitation of the neo-colonial countries subjected to imperialist domination.
This complex mass of factors, moreover, lies at the heart of the wide-ranging conflicts of interest, primarily among the great imperialist nations, that have resulted in two world wars and many smaller wars in this century alone.
But at the same time that nations are driven toward a settlement of conflicting interests by military means, another war goes on within each capitalist nation-the war between the class of exploiters and the class of exploited. This class war exists and is sharpened by the dynamic of capitalist production for profit described above.
And finally, the future existence of civilization and even the human race itself will depend on the outcome of the war between the two main social classes that are objectively counterposed to each other by the profit system. This is no small matter.
In fact, nothing could be of greater concern since, in the age of nuclear and biological super-weapons of mass destruction, civilization is not likely to survive the next world war.
Only a socialist world, without borders, without social, economic and political injustice-based on democratically planned production and organized for the purpose of satisfying the needs of all humanity-can liberate the human race from the deadly logic of capitalism.