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The Bush Cabal and the Specter of Fascism
—An Argument for the Green Safe States Strategy
by Seth Farber, Ph.D, Manhattan Greens
"God told me to strike at al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did..."
—President George W. Bush, Ha'aretz, Thursday June 26, 2003
There is a heated debate in the Green Party. Should Ralph Nader run in the 2004 Presidential elections? If Nader declines to run should the Greens run another high-profile candidate? Should the Greens adopt a "safe states" strategy and avoid "taking away" potentially critical electoral votes from the Democratic candidate? Several months ago The Nation (Dec 2, 2002) published a front page article by journalist and former Green Party activist Ronnie Dugger in which, invoking the threat of a second term for Bush, he exhorted his friend, "Ralph, Don't Run!" Dugger further urged Green activists to abandon Third Party politics, and work for change within the Democratic Party.
At the other end of the Green spectrum Howie Hawkins, a founder of the Green Party, has consistently argued that the policies of Bush are virtually identical to that of Clinton and of most of the Democrats who have preceded him, and that therefore Greens should not be concerned with whether Bush is or is not reelected (or elected rather). On the spectrum between Dugger and Hawkins is activist/ author Ted Glick who has advocated a policy of strategic voting and campaigning, designed to ensure that the Green Presidential candidate does not "spoil" the Democratic contender's chances of defeating Bush (See Ted Glick, "A Green Party Safe States Strategy", Znet, July 1, 2003). Glick's strategy, which I endorse, is based on the premise that he assumes his readers accept: A Bush victory would be catastrophic. I will present an argument for that position here.
Most of those who believe, like Hawkins, that it does not matter whether Bush gets in again argue that there are no essential differences between the Democrats and the Republicans and that had Clinton or Gore been in office both their foreign policy and domestic repression agendas would have been almost identical to that of Bush. Is this true? Is Bush no more malignant or dangerous than his predecessors? I think this is a dangerous exaggeration that derives its prima facie plausibility from the moral equivalence of the Democrats and Republicans when judged by a higher standard of ethics which conflicts with the system-logic of corporate capitalism. For example, although Clinton did not initiate an actual war to remove Saddam, he defended and did not hesitate to continue — with no sign of moral discomfort — the unconscionable policy of economic sanctions that resulted (according to UNICEF) in the death of half a million Iraqi children between 1992-1998.
Clinton as President was an amoral servant of corporate power. However, unlike Bush he was not a fanatic. Bush and his closest advisers, the architects of his foreign policy (Vice President Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, No 2 and 3 at the Pentagon; the disgraced but still influential Richard Perle; Elliot Abrams, director of Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council, and their many ideological cousins at right-wing think-tanks) are out of their minds. The return to office in 2005 of Bush and his "cabal" (the term they use to refer to themselves) of deranged neo-conservative ideologues might very well in the transformation of the United States into a totalitarian country. The US government is already operating a concentration camp at Guantanamo for immigrants deemed terrorist suspects by the Bush junta, and detained without due process under the authority of the Patriot Act. The Bush/Ashcroft Patriot Act II, temporarily stalled, provides for stripping political activists of their citizenship, and thus their passports—without due process—thus enabling the Bush junta to pursue its imperialist designs without any public opposition. Noam Chomsky has identified the Bush cabal as right-wing extremists on the fringe of the foreign policy establishment—and he has warned that the implementation of their foreign policy strategies could lead to "the extinction of the species." ("Deep Concerns" by Chomsky, March 20, 2002 at Zmag.org)
Let us have no illusions about the Democrats. The primary goal of the American state — managed by the two major parties — in terms of "defense policy" has remained unwavering since the US inherited the British empire after World War II: To secure and preserve within "third world" countries conditions conducive to the prosperity of American multi-national corporations. The logic of the American empire was aptly expressed by George Kennan, head of US State Department planning staff, in Policy Planning Study 23, issued in 1948: "The US has about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3 % of its population. In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security." (Of course the benefits from this state of affairs are not shared equally by all Americans, but accrue primarily to the corporate elite.)
The US has succeeded beyond expectation in this task, although its success has required the creation of the largest war machine in history, and the continuous recourse to military force and brutal wars (including, routinely, war crimes like the bombings of civilian populations) in order to suppress what US policy makers have consistently identified in internal documents as the threat not of Communism but of nationalist movements in the "third world" which have been based on the dangerous principle that (in the words of a State Department record, circa 1945) "the first beneficiaries of the development of a country's resources should be the people of that country" (this is termed "economic nationalism")— rather than American corporations. (These quotes are cited in Noam Chomsky's Middle East Illusions) During the US war against the Vietnamese 4 million Southeast Asians and 60,000 Americans died in an effort on the part of the US government to suppress the threat represented by the envious Vietcong and their program of economic nationalism.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the US has become more aggressively and unilaterally imperialistic. Thus it is true, as Hawkins and others have argued, that to a large extent Clinton's foreign policies were precursors of Bush Jr.'s — both policies were to varying degrees products of the increased freedom of action for US imperialism made possible by the demise of the Soviet Union. The attack on Yugoslavia, for example, was a war fought to effect regime change (although the bombing did not succeed in achieving Milosevic's ouster) and to establish a new role and precedent for NATO which was originally a defensive alliance treaty that had lost its mandate with the demise of the Soviet Union, and thus should have been dissolved. Of course the specious rationale for the war—accepted by many liberals—was to prevent "ethnic cleansing." (See The New Military Humanism by Noam Chomsky.)
Nevertheless there have been critical differences between the policies designed and implemented by the Bush junta and that of its predecessors. These policies are not an inexorable manifestation of the dynamics of imperialism—although Congressional Democrats' spineless acquiescence to these policies may create that impression. Remember that the prospect of a war on Iraq elicited the public expression in the Summer of 2002 of considerable initial opposition by representatives of critical sectors of the US ruling class. It was vigorously criticized by most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military and by the CIA, as well as by conservative Republicans who had been key policy makers under George Bush the Elder, such as Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, General Brent Scowcroft, General Wesley Clark and General Norman Schwarzkopf.
During this time there was a "deafening silence" (as a New York Times editorial put it) from the Democratic side of the aisle—with a few notable exceptions. Bush the Elder had succinctly and presciently stated the ruling class case against a war for regime change in 1998: "We should not march into Baghdad...To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us.... Assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerilla war, it could only plunge that part of the world into ever greater instability." (George H.W. Bush, A World Transformed, 1998).
To neutralize the impact of such powerful opposition, the Bush Junior cabal conducted a scare campaign based upon systematic deception about Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction—this campaign succeeded in procuring for Bush authorization to go to war by the US Congress (thanks to the spinelessness of the Democrats in both Houses), and of garnering at least shaky support for Bush's war from the American public. With the stamp of approval from the Congress and the cooperation of Tony Blair, the Bush junta cavalierly dismissed the warnings of the US policy elite and continued to move forward with its plan for war— despite the materialization in Fall, 2002 of strong opposition to the war from the governments of "Old Europe " and a massive unprecedented demonstration of opposition to the war by international public opinion, including a large minority of Americans who participated in what was recognized by the press as the largest anti-war protests in America since the war in Vietnam. Once the war on Iraq began, the Bush junta, with the help of "embedded" news reporters and the media, attempted (successfully) to engineer support for the war and Our Leader by inciting the baser jingoistic sentiments of the American people.
It is inconceivable that Clinton (who was known to take an opinion poll before he made any political decision) or Gore, typically a timorous politician, would have gone to war in the face of this kind of opposition. It is highly unlikely that any of the Democratic front-running candidates for President (unless one considers Lieberman a front-runner) would initiate a war under these kinds of conditions—although most of them were too cowardly or opportunistic at the time to oppose the great Patriot for fear of being impugned as un-American.
Why was the Bush junta so determined to go to war? Obviously a large part of the answer is oil and the control of oil. But this question cannot be answered adequately on the basis exclusively of abstract analyzes of capitalism. The answer requires in addition an examination of the backgrounds, the sensibilities, the ideology and the geo-political goals and strategies of those who comprise the Bush junta, as well as of the personal psychology of Dubya himself. The latter can only be a subject of speculation but the evidence seems to suggest that the zealous determination of Bush Jr to overcome all obstacles to war derived in part from his delusion that he has been chosen by God to be the Emperor of a new Pax Americana. We can speculate also that Bush-43's relationship with Bush-41 (Dad) is emotionally complicated, if not suggestively Freudian (even to anti-Freudians like me).
One can make more definitive assertions about the members of Bush's cabal: They are a closely-knit emotionally bonded group of super-hawks who share the same ideology of "neo-conservatism," (thus they are frequently referred to as "neo-cons") who went to the same universities, have the same mentors (the late Senator Scoop Jackson, philosopher Leo Strauss, Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, etc.), work for the same think tanks, and have been trying desperately to get back in power since the days when many of them held highly influential positions during the first term of the Reagan Administration. Most of them are very smart rabidly pro-Israel right-wing Jews who support the Likud Party (the Party of Ariel Sharon) and have expressed in the past their opposition to the Oslo Accords, or to any kind of peace settlement with the Palestinians, and who regard all the Arab governments as enemies of Israel which should be deposed. (Perle and Feith were advisers to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the mid-1990s.) The immense influence of the neo-cons stems largely from its alliance with right- wing Christian fundamentalists who constitute Bush's mass base; these fundies are right-wing Zionists for reasons relating to their strange interpretation of Biblical prophecies.
We know that not only are the neo-cons not worried about —as Bush the Elder and his advisers were— the prospect of a war with the Arab world (including the governments that are US allies), but they are enthusiastically hoping for it! Norman Podhoretz, one of the two or three founding fathers of the neo-conservative movement, eagerly exhorted his readers in his magazine Commentary to embrace "World War IV, the war against militant Islam."(WWIII was the Cold War — "won" by Reagan.) Podhoretz stated, "We may willy nilly find ourselves forced to topple five or six or seven more tyrannies in the Islamic world [including Arafat's Palestinian Authority]." Richard Perle is even more poetic, "We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq... this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now." Veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery succinctly captured the essence of the Bush cabal's geo-political design:" It does not dream only about an American empire, in the style of the Roman one, but also of an Israeli mini-empire, under the control of the extreme right and the [Israeli] settlers." (Emphasis added. See Avnery article.)
Many aspects of the agenda of the Bush cabal have now become official policy and are codified in Bush's speeches and several critical documents published by the Bush Administration. The US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was first released in partially unclassified form in January 2002, indicated contingency plans for the potential first strike use of nuclear weapons against at least seven named states, including five non-nuclear states. Bush's National Security Strategy in September, 2002 shed all remnants of "multilateralism," discarded deterrence as a defense policy, and put all nations on warning: This is the age of the American Empire, and any country which seeks to acquire power to rival the United States will be risking attack "We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively...:[T]he president has no intention of allowing any nation to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago. … Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing or equaling the power of the United States." The word "preemptively" is a misnomer—the correct word is aggressively. These insane policies would give pause even to Dr Strangelove.
The Bush junta is in a politically weak point position now—for the first time since September 11. However if they succeed in getting into power again they may be as rabid as they were in their prime before the war; there may be no way to stop them from implementing a domestic agenda that will turn the US into a police state, and a foreign policy agenda that is likely to include a "preemptive" war upon Iran or Syria and/ or Saudi Arabia (in the name of fighting terrorism) and the use of tactical nuclear weapons such as "bunker-busters" (the Bush Cabal has been itching to cross the nuclear threshold). We can also expect a spiraling arms race extending to the remote reaches of outer space itself—since the cabal is opposed to all non-proliferation treaties, which are designed to control the development and spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. This attack on the Arab world will undoubtedly greatly increase the incidents of terrorist attacks upon Americans and may well lead to the realization of the neo-con wet-dream of a fourth World War. The policies advocated by the Bush cabal represent a major liability to any genuine counter-terrorism effort to protect Americans.
Most progressives are aware, if only instinctively, that the Bush cabal represents a singular danger to humanity. If the Green Party goes ahead and runs a high profile candidate on the basis of Hawkins' recommendations of trying to get as many votes as possible regardless of whether this helps to get Bush re-elected, it will create a backlash that will destroy the reputation of the Green Party among progressives. If the Bush cabal does get in again there is every reason to fear it will engineer the conditions that make it possible to immobilize if not destroy the American left. On the other hand, the Green Party should wait until after the Democratic nomination before publicly committing itself to strategic campaigning. In that way we can increase the leverage of progressives within the Democrat Party(to pressure the Democrats to explicitly repudiate Bushism) by keeping alive until the deadline the threat of a defection of anti-Bush Democrats to the Green Party. After the nomination the Green's candidate's (Nader?) role should be primarily to use the election as an occasion to keep our radical vision before the public as much as possible— and thus hopefully to nudge the public discourse to the left.
I expect that some Greens will be convinced, or are so already, that Bush indeed is a greater danger than the person who will be his rival for the Presidency. Yet they may not be able to force themselves (even in a close election, even if they are in a swing state) to pull the lever (or touch the screen) for a Democrat, who after all is at best a lesser evil and will not be actuated by the moral idealism of Noam Chomsky, or Nader, or Cynthia McKinney, or Dennis Kucinich for that matter. Many Greens are "recovered" Democrats who, having broken the habit of lesser evilism, fear falling off the wagon again. How can one ask them to vote for evil? Could one have asked Martin Luther, a former Catholic monk who left the monastery after years of struggling to achieve sanctity by his own efforts until he was finally "saved" by the grace of God and after he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, to recant and bestow his benedictions upon the Catholic Church?
It may seem like an act of moral sacrilege to many Greens to vote for a servant of imperialism like John Kerry or Howard Dean or John Edwards. Yet if enough progressives do not vote for the Democratic candidate in 2004, we may be facing a threat of far greater immediacy and magnitude than we have ever imagined.
References on Neo-Conservatism
• Uri Avnery, “The Night After,” Counterpunch, April 10,2003 (online).
• Kathleen and Bill Christison, “The Bush Regime Dual Loyalties,” Counterpunch, December 13, 2002.
• Patrick Seale, “A Costly Friendship,” The Nation, July21/28, 2003.
• Paul Buhle, “Bush’s Extremist Jews,” Tikkun, May/June, 2003.
• Patrick Buchanan, “Whose War?” in The American Conservative, March 29, 2003.
• Stephen Sniegoski, “The War on Iraq; Conceived in Israel,” The Last Ditch (found at http://www.thorn walker.com/ditch/snieg.conc2.htm)
• Seth Farber, “The Inevitability of the War on Iraq and the Gospel of George W.Bush,” August 9, 2002, Lew Rockwell.com.
• For Howie Hawkin’s argument, see his article in this issue or contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A shorter version of this article appeared in the print version of S/R; editing changed the author's argument. At his request, the full version replaces it here. —js
[orig 6 sep 03, corrected 22 sep]