Comments on the Iraq panel papers (Barham, Diamant and DuRand)

Steve Martinot
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I’ve read the three papers from the Iraq panel, and have a few suggestions. The first is that the title of the collection of papers should be changed. I fail to see how they actually address why is the US in Iraq. The question they actually address is what the US is that is now in Iraq, and what it had or has been that has made it that way. As far as why the US assaulted Iraq, John mentions Iraq’s oil reserves as a reason, and Cliff mentions what control of the oil will give the US hegemony with respect to Europe, but neither critique the structure of oil hegemony in the present international situation that would contextualize these two elements. There are a number of other points that pertain, such as the geo-politics of the invasion, the terrorism toward the world that the invasion manifests at the hands of the US as a political strategy, and its military and political relation to Israel. Ultimately, in the face of the US government lies about why it assaulted Iraw, something more direct and factual needs to be said about what the US was after, and what its motivations were (besides its general nature as an imperialist power).

The other thing, of course, is the use of the term “American.” What does it mean here? Does it refer to the society that is complicit with the crimes of the US invasion of Iraq? Does it refer to some ideal that somehow can’t seem to come out from behind the entire history of manifest destiny, interventionism, and impunity of violations of sovereignty and international law? What does “American” mean in terms of the US monopolar power trip? These are serious questions. He starts out by referring to the US war, the US government, and US power, and ends up referring to the American republic, and through that to the American people. What does “American” mean in this context? But Cliff knows my thinking on this. I am, however, asking new questions here. Greg starts out referring to “America’s impressionable age,” and “America” ostensibly being a beacon to the world. But he is being critical, and also somewhat sardonic (or even cynical) in his treatment of it. And he then moves over to referring to the US. He could just put “America” in quotes, with a note about what the word signifies against the two continents of the Americas. After all, he is positing a critique of Manifest Destiny.

But John uses “American” for a good part of the paper. So I would ask what he thinks it means when one is speaking in and from SMA. He is after all speaking about US society at the beginning, which he could name, and then refer to citizens, people, government, policies, etc. without his having to mention it again, and thus save himself from the chauvinism of its use.

Cliff addresses the question of hegemony, which involves both force and acceptance by those over whom the hegemony is exercised. And Cliff’s focus is on the question of the US dropping the figleaf, and no longer seeming constrained to cover up its illegal and imperialist deeds. But I get the feeling that Cliff thinks this has always been an option for the US ruling class, and it has simply thought it more useful to be diplomatic, and pretend to legitimacy and democracy in its foreign policy, for the purposes of the Cold War, imperialist hegemony, etc. But I think there is another question here that impinges. And that is the question, what is it that makes the US think it does not have to cover up its agressions, its legitimation of torture, its chauvinist irrationality, its insouciance over its mass murder, any more? In its refusal to make body counts, its refusal to publish economic statistics, its scorning of Kyoto, its sabotaging of the World Court, etc., what does all this imply? Is it just the desperation of capitalist crisis? Is there a truly terroristic strategy involved (remember the WTC)? Or is the US ruling class taking the idea of the 4th world war a lot more seriously than we are? Remember the theory of the 4th world war, expounded by many, but most significantly by Marcos? After the end of the 3rd WW (which ended with the collapse of the USSR), the 4th WW began in earnest as a war between the US government and the eurocentric structures of domination against the people of the world. Can the people of the world be defeated by anything other than terrorism? Is not the war on terrorism precisely the specific disguise for carrying on a war of terrorism against the people of the world? Isn’t that what the US ruling class learned from the war on drugs, that the “war on drugs” was the perfect cover for bringing massive amounts of drugs into the US as essential for the survival of the US economy, and for continued hegemony over the people of the US? The drug traffic is indispensible to the US. And now, too, we could argue that US state terrorism around the world is essential to carrying out its war against the people of the world. But this then would mark a real transformation in US global policy that we would be disguising from ourselves if we thought it only an extension of the way the US has always thought. Its terrorism has a common foundation with that which grounded Manifest Destiny, and its many wars, and Bretton Woods, etc. But we should not hide from ourselves the specificity of what it is doing now, pursuant to policies that it has developed only in the last 25 years.