A wilful blindness: George Monbiot

George Monbiot continues to amaze me with his journalism – giving some of the best insights into current affairs that I can find anywhere. I would encourage you to read his article, but if you don’t have time, here is my synopsis.

The core argument that Monbiot is expressing is the question: Why can’t liberal interventionists – such as Blair – see what the agenda of the US really is?

Point by point he attempts to prove his case.

Firstly, he argues, the campaign in Afghanistan did bring about benefits to its people – but at a cost. He explains:

The Afghan regime changed, but so, in subtler ways, did the government of the US. It was empowered not only by its demonstration of military superiority but also by the widespread support it enjoyed. It has used the licence it was granted in Afghanistan as a licence to take its war wherever it wants.

He goes on

Those of us who oppose the impending conquest of Iraq must recognise that there’s a possibility that, if it goes according to plan, it could improve the lives of many Iraqi people. But to pretend that this battle begins and ends in Iraq requires a wilful denial of the context in which it occurs. That context is a blunt attempt by the superpower to reshape the world to suit itself.

I agree, the US will continue like any Empire does – with conquest, and campaigns to protect its interests in the name of self-preservation. He now cites an article by David Aaronovitch in which he claims that before Sep. 11, the Bush Administration had little interest in the Gulf region. Monbiot disagrees.

If Aaronovitch believes this, he would be well-advised to examine the website of the Project for the New American Century, the pressure group established by, among others, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, Elliott Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad, all of whom (except the president’s brother) are now senior officials in the US government.

Crucially,

Its statement of principles, signed by those men on June 3 1997, asserts that the key challenge for the US is “to shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests”. This requires “a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States’ global responsibilities”.

And to nail a coffin into the argument that this war is not about oil:

On January 26 1998, these men wrote to President Clinton, urging him “to enunciate a new strategy”, namely “the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power”. If Clinton failed to act, “the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard”. They acknowledged that this doctrine would be opposed, but “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council”.

And it went on:

While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” The wider strategic aim, it insisted, was “maintaining global US pre-eminence”.

Monbiot now goes on to explain the expansionism that is going on, with US forces being posted to even more areas of the globe.

Immediately after the attack on New York, the US government began establishing “forward bases” in Asia. As the assistant secretary of state, Elizabeth Jones, noted: “When the Afghan conflict is over we will not leave Central Asia. We have long-term plans and interests in this region.” The US now has bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Georgia. Their presence has, in effect, destroyed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which Russia and China had established in an attempt to develop a regional alternative to US power.

In January, the US moved into Djibouti, ostensibly to widen its war against terror, while accidentally gaining strategic control over the Bab al-Mandab – one of the world’s two most important oil shipping lanes. It already controls the other one, the straits of Hormuz. Two weeks ago, under the same pretext, it sent 3,000 soldiers to the Philippines. Last year it began negotiations to establish a military base in Sao Tome and Principe, from which it can, if it chooses, dominate West Africa’s principal oilfields. By pure good fortune, the US government now exercises strategic control over almost all the world’s major oil producing regions and oil transport corridors.

And so Monbiot asks:

Why do the supporters of this war find it so hard to see what is happening? Why do the conservatives who go berserk when the European Union tries to change the content of our chocolate bars look the other way when the US seeks to reduce us to a vassal state? Why do the liberal interventionists who fear that Saddam Hussein might one day deploy a weapon of mass destruction refuse to see that George Bush is threatening to do just this against an ever-growing number of states? Is it because they cannot face the scale of the threat, and the scale of the resistance necessary to confront it? Is it because these brave troopers cannot look the real terror in the eye?