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Drop the Labels, Build the Antiwar Movement!
by Jared Israel (8-30-00)
The recently posted article "NATO Prepares New Balkan War," by Greg Elich, powerfully documents the steps the US is taking to prepare a new war in the Balkans. It's a wakeup call for anyone who doesn't want the US to be the new Rome. It confirms the warnings of other analysts. (1)
Because the article needs to be read dispassionately it is urgent to discuss a certain flaw which may offend some readers and encourage a mistaken attitude in others.
Political writers, even sharp ones like Greg Elich (1A), tend to hold onto habits of thought. And so we find Elich - and other writers too; Elich is not alone - paying obeisance to Right Wing/Left Wing totems of the Cold War past, and in so doing, unintentionally causing harm.
During the cold war, US intervention was sold based on political ideology. Everyone took sides more or less predictably, depending on where they were in the political spectrum. The Right tended to support intervention (based on anti-Communism) and the Left, to varying degrees, opposed it.
The big sea change occurred with Vietnam. The war in Vietnam came to be opposed by millions of Americans. Most started out conservative, but the war changed them. Remember the Oliver Stone movie, "Born on the Fourth of July"? The story of the transformation of Ron Kovic, on which this movie was based, was not unusual. Many GIs went to Vietnam to fight the Godless Communists and came back ready to kill the elite who had sent them there.
And it wasn't just GIs. The anti-Communist justification for foreign intervention turned many 1960s rebels to the Left.
By the same token, fervent anti-Communism prevented conservatives from opposing US policies such as the crushing of the Mossadegh government in Iran, which laid the basis for the triumph of Islamic fundamentalism in that tortured cuountry. Likewise conservatives missed the boat in Afghanistan, and so on.
Don Fedder, the syndicated columnist who opposes the US attack on Yugoslavia, says he has an extremely conservative background and had supported previous US interventions but now, seeing what the US has done in Yugoslavia, he will rethink his past positions.
What happened to Fedder and other conservatives who have turned anti-interventionist? Nothing happened to them. Rather some things have happened in the world, and the primary thing is: the Soviet Union disappeared and with it the Communist 'menace' which provided much of the emotional appeal of interventionism among conservatives.
But while the Fall of the Soviet Union clarified things for some on the Right, it muddied the thinking of some on the Left. Before the Fall, even anti-Communist Leftists could judge what was happening internationally by checking where the Soviets stood. After the Fall it was as if the Left had lost its direction.
At the same time, the Western elite, freed of the need to differentiate themselves from "The Russians," got cute. They adopted some Left-sounding rhetoric. They began to justify intervention by pointing to supposed "ultra nationalist policies" and "atrocities against minorities" and even the "oppression of women." This development was not, as some believe, a spontaneous process, proceeding without conscious effort from the simple fact of corporate control of the mass media. Rather it was a strategy, contrived by leading elements in Western society, as Diana Johnstone has elegantly documented in 'HUMANITARIAN WAR: Making the Crime Fit the Punishment' (2)
In the 19th century, Imperialist conquest was justified on religious grounds.
From 1945 to 1990 the justification was stopping Communism.
Now we are told we have to go on Humanitarian Rescue Missions on account of our enlightened principles. Ahh, principles; as always, they are eternal. We are mortal.
The excuses sound noble. Indeed, the Imperial excuses of a given period always sound noble; that's why they are chosen. But in reality the Western elite just wants to conquor other people's countries and steal their property and them. People are the biggest prize. The motive is greed. Not the greed of ordinary Westerners, who increasingly suffer from the new Globalization and who must, in the end, die in the new wars, but the greed of a small elite. (For instance, the upper classes may be buying mansions but lots of people in the US are calculating whether to pay the rapidly escalating utility bill or the rapidly escalating rent.)
People ask: "But what about those terrible governments and/or organizations? Are we supposed to sit idly by while they slaughter defenseless people in all those places?"
'All those places' are really quite different one from another; a little investigation would produce humility. Indeed, this latest 'white man's burden' presumes great knowledge, and knowledge is not the strong point of Western society, particularly the U.S.
But the mass media finesses the problem, bypassing investigation and giving us conclusions concocted in concert with government agencies and government-connected PR firms, fictionalized propaganda; being fiction it transcends the limitations of diversity, as in comic books.
"Did you hear what happened in East Timor? It's just like that other place, Kosovo! And Tibet? That's just like the Congo!" The players may be different but everywhere the media miraculously discovers the same abuses and this uniformity of evil is convenient, for the media hawks a universal solution: Humanitarian Rescue. True, the propaganda is sloppy. It is hurriedly produced; it is modular in nature. If you study it, as we do at Emperors Clothes, it falls apart:
But sloppiness of construction is made up for by - repetition. We've got to save the Tibetans from China, the Albanians from Yugoslavia, the East Timorese from Indonesia, (5) the 'pro-democracy' forces (that is, the US-instigated invaders) from the Congolese government, and so on. Hidden behind the incessantly repeated fairy tales is a thread that does unite these markedly different situations: in each case, the offending nation is a target of certain Western elites who want to shatter the non-NATO world into bite sized pieces.That, and that alone, is what 'all those place' have in common.
Otto von Hapsburg was talking about the Balkans, but he could have been describing the general game plan of the Western elite when he said:
[FYI, according to Linguistics Prof. Peter Maher of Chicago, the above Otto is son of Kaiser Karl von Hapsburg, the one that got overthrown, and nephew of Franz Ferdinand von Hapsburg, whose assassination in Sarajevo was the excuse Austria used to start W.W.I. You see, they don't disappear. They regroup.]
All over the world, brave souls oppose the 'Humanitarians' but some of these brave souls are still attached to the Cold War past. These folks, people on the Right and Left who politically matured during the Cold War, cling to emblems. They comfort themselves that they have remained loyal to past principle but really it is only themselves whom they comfort.
And they are hard to budge. Like those Japanese Imperial soldiers they hold out, awaiting word from the Emperor. Worse, while they wait, they write. Worse still, their writing often includes good research and analysis - 'worse still', because the good stuff is mixed together with harmful Expressions of Loyalty to the Past. One does not want to reject what they write, but it comes with thorns.
Recently, www.antiwar.com posted an article by Stella Jatras, called "Srebrenica: Code Word to Silence Critics of US Policy in the Balkans" (3) It includes the following paragraph:
Is Mr. Holbrooke really praising the 'Viet Cong'? Or is Mr. Holbrooke aware that a giant chunk of the US, the so-called baby boomer generation, largely opposed the Vietnam War? Doesn't he toss in this remark in order to curry favor with the baby boomers by differentiating the attack on Yugoslavia from the war in Vietnam which occurred in the bad old days when, he implies, everyone was fighting over 'ideology'?
Actually Mr. Holbrooke is mistaken. The Vietnamese did not fight because they were ideological. Rather, they became ideological as they fought. The Communists grew strong in Vietnam just as they grew strong in China, by fighting real invaders.
Ms. Jatras' comment makes clear that she still supports the US policy in Vietnam, based on anti-Communism. Yet here she is today, writing critiques of US intervention. She establishes a familiar political star for herself by linking Holbrooke, salesman for 'Humanitarian' Intervention, with the 'Vietcong' and implies that the attack on Yugoslavia is a left-wing policy.
This does not hurt Mr. Holbrooke. Quite the contrary, it allows the defenders of US policy to argue, as they do indeed argue, that opposition to the attack on Yugoslavia is a right-wing plot. (4)
An identical phenomenon exists in the antiwar Left. A year ago the press broadcast a stream of atrocity stories targeting anti-independence militias in East Timor. (Isn't it interesting that despite the takeover of East Timor by UN troops nobody has yet found any bodies?) An Emperor's Clothes writer had an argument at the time with a Leftist friend. The Leftist said the US would never support intervention in East Timor. Our writer said the situation in East Timor was no longer the same as in the past, that the US and other colonial powers had a whole new attitude towards Indonesia. They wanted to break it up into bite sized pieces and only differed concerning who would get the biggest morsels. Therefore the rich countries would indeed invade and take control of East Timor (and nearby oilfields); moreover, they would do so at the instigation of - the U.S. (6)
"Never," said the Leftist friend. "No way will the US support the breakup of Indonesia. Indonesia is a client state."
'Indonesia is a client state'? The problem lies with the word: 'is'. Indonesia 'was' a client state, but 'is' no longer. True, the West helped bring Indonesian leader Suharto to power and true, the West (especially the US) instigated the crushing of an earlier East Timor movement, which unlike today's secessionists was truly 'independent' as in 'independent of connections to colonial powers.' Therefore the earlier movement was not supported by UN occupation forces, organized behind the scenes by Richard Holbrooke at a US-dominated UN. Indeed, the earlier movement was crushed partly through the efforts of the same Mr. Holbrooke.(7)
(Just by the way, the new Ambassador to Indonesia is none other than former US special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard. Before the Balkans, he was assigned to - Colombia! Do we detect a certain pattern?)
Holbrooke has not changed. Rather, the world has changed due to the elimination of the Soviet 'menace'. That event freed the US and Germany to pursue Imperial designs which had to be suppressed or disguised while the West and the Soviets competed for the allegiance of the Third World. With the Soviets around, the West needed buffer states like Yugoslavia and Iraq and other powerful nation states like Indonesia as a bulwark against Communism. But no more. Now the US and German elites and their satellites need something different. They need to intensively exploit new areas, and the destruction of nation states facilitates their goal. This intensification of theft, coupled with polices designed to destroy nation states, has a name: Globalization. (8)
That, by roundabout route, brings us to Greg Elich's excellent article.
Eight times in his article Mr. Elich refers to Yugoslav people or organizations he accuses of aiding the US attack on Yugoslavia as "Right-wing." Perhaps the most striking example is his discussion of the assassinations of Yugoslav officials. He argues that these terrorist attacks have been organized by Western covert agencies. We have no quarrel with this accusation. We agree. The evidence is overwhelming.
Then follows Mr. Elich's statement of Loyalty to The Cold War Past.
Describing one of the alleged assassins, Milivoje Gutovic, Elich says:
'Right-wing'? Actually one of the criticisms of Vuk Draskovic, the big man at Serbian Renewal, is that he changes his politics with his pants. Serbian Renewal is notable not for its 'Right-wing' stance but for its intimate relations with US Imperialism, a relationship shared with most of the rest of the so-called ''democratic opposition" (e.g., with Mr. Djindjic, now the ally of Mr. Kostunica.)
Meanwhile, one of the strongest Serbian opponents of US domination is the Radical Party, part of the governing coalition. The Radicals are way over on the political Right.
Gets a bit confusing, doesn't it?
In Croatia the officially Left wing Mesic is in bed with Germany and the US. (He can't make up his mind who's more attractive.) German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, fervent supporter of the bombing of Yugoslavia, is a leader of the Leftwing Greens. The French Communist Party supported the attack on Yugoslavia. In the US the Democrats, officially to the Left of the Republicans, hosted Agim Thaci, the murderous fascist who leads the KLA/Kosovo Protection Corps, hosted him at the Democratic Convention.
One could argue that the French Communists aren't real Communists and that Fischer is a traitor. One could argue that Holbrooke is not a true conservative. One could argue many things but when it comes to building an anti-interventionist movement shouldn't we dispense with labels and judge people and parties based on where they stand regarding the goals of the movement?
Like his opposite number, Ms. Jatras, Mr. Elich is not simply wrong on the merits. His use of "Right-wing" as a curse (applied only when he disapproves of the person or group so labeled) is harmful. First, it gives readers the false impression that Mr. Elich attacks Serbian Renewal and other bedfellows of US covert services because of his ideological agenda. This is not true. He is motivated by opposition to US intervention and he is scrupulously honest. But by creating the false impression that he is attacking Serbian traitors, like Draskovic and Djindjic, because their politics differs from his, Elich lowers his credibility and trivializes their offense. That is, he reduces the charge from "taking-US-bribes-in-return-for-serving-up-one's- country-on-a-plate" to "having the wrong politics."
Second, he offends. Offending is like slapping; it is not necessarily inappropriate; it depends on circumstance. But why slap here? What's the gain? Since some Leftists support intervention and some oppose it, and ditto with some Rightists, why insert this 'Right-wing' thing all the time? What is the difference between this and Ms. Jatras equally mistaken argument about Holbrooke being a Leftist? This insistence on labeling people instead of pointing out what's wrong with what they say and do encourages readers to identify with those who have been labeled. Does Elich want conservatives to identify with Gutovic? Does Jatras want Leftists to identify with Holbrooke?
This labeling promotes disunity among people beginning to question US Imperial policy; we can't afford it because we need all the unity we can get in order to build a movement to combat US attacks on other countries.
Ironically, Elich and Jatras agree about Srebrenica, about the probability of renewed US aggression against Yugoslavia and about the need to build a movement. On these important questions, they're right on target..
Doesn't this suggest a principled basis - a post-Cold War principle - for our movement? Isn't the key question in the world today the question of national sovereignty? Do smaller or poorer countries have the right to exist without US and European (read: German) interference, or do they not? Do Imperial forces have the right to decide which nations can live and which must die?
The interventionists seem quite capable of uniting, whether they are conservative like Fox in Mexico, or semi-liberals like Gore in the US, or socialists in Croatia or fascists gangsters in the KLA.
Why not us?
Jatras and Elich understand that national sovereignty is under attack. Of course, there are legitimate disagreements, profound disagreements between Right and Left. But a specific movement must be defined by a specific agreement, by a common goal, not constantly atomized by the insertion of Statements of Loyalty to Old Totems. The privilege of providing leadership is earned by sensitivity to the needs of the antiwar movement and this means shelving some comfortable trappings from the past.
Let us insist that the US and Germany get their Hands OFF Yugoslavia, and as well get their damn hands off Columbia, Cuba, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, the Congo, Venezuela and Iraq. No more mercenaries, no more bribed officials, no more economic warfare disguised as aid, no more covert agents disguised as CARE workers, no more subsidized media and NGO leaches teaching the natives how to live. No more sanctions. The US has imposed deadly sanctions on 70 countries. By what right? No more friendly UN/NATO troops. No more instigated 'civil wars' and subsidized Islamist terrorists and humanitarian shakedowns. No more Kangaroo Tribunals. No more assassinations.
No more bombs,.
No more humanitarian bombs.
Put those who ordered these crimes on trial.
-- Jared Israel
(1) A number of analysts have warned that NATO is planning a new attack 0on Yugoslavia. See, for example
(1A) The Greg Elich article, discussed above, can be read at www.emperors-clothes.com/articles/elich/newwar.htm For other articles by Mr. Elich, go to www.emperors-clothes.com/artbyauth.html and click on 'E'.
(2) The new justification for intervention is analyzed in 'HUMANITARIAN WAR: Making the Crime Fit the Punishment' by Diana Johnstone at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/Johnstone/crime.htm
(3) Stella Jatras article "Srebrenica: Code Word to Silence Critics of US Policy in the Balkans" can be read at http://www.antiwar.com/orig/jatras3.html
(4) Supporters of US policy in Yugoslavia do in fact argue that opposition to the attack on Yugoslavia is a right wing plot. See for instance Brad Blitz's argument in 'Unveiling Similarities: Anti-Serbism & Anti-Semitism'. at www.emperors-clothes.com/articles/debates/Blitz.html
(5) On East Timor see 'Duplicity in East Timor
and Death by Euphemism...'
by Blagovesta Doncheva at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/doncheva/donch2.htm
(6) Also on East Timor, see "A Lie In the Ointment?" by Jared Israel at http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/ointment.htm
(7) Concerning the many faces of Mr. Holbrooke's stand on East Timor, see Will the Real Richard Holbrooke Please Stand Up? by Jared Israel at http://emperors-clothes.com/misc/holbrooke.htm
(8) On the many-sided assault on nation states, see the interview with Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, 'The IMF & World Bank Just Two of the Instruments for National Destruction' at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/chuss/instru.htm
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