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A world turned upside down
As the US wages war on the forces it helped create, Bertie waffles, Castro urges calm and the ghost of Vietnam returns
Eamonn McCann, 11 Oct 2001
Tony Blair is wowing British Labour delegates with his version of ‘If I Ruled the World’, Samuel P. Huntington is roaring him on from the sidelines, and Osama Bin Laden is saying that if Blair and Bush don’t withdraw threats to attack Afghanistan, he’ll send a new flotilla of suicide bombers to crumple the US.
“I give them 48 hours to call off their dogs of war”, said Mr. Bin Laden. “Otherwise, we will strike with all our might. If innocent people happen to die, blame Bush and Blair”.
Leading commentators have praised Mr. Bin Laden’s “remarkable restraint... He hasn’t just lashed out” – although a number have warned that any prolonged delay in striking back at the US and its allies could be misinterpreted as a lack of resolve brought about by listening to the siren voices of liberal appeasement.
Whoops! Sorry. My mistake. Cancel all that. It wasn’t Osama Bin Laden at all. It was Ariel Sharon giving Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority 48 hours to end attacks on Israeli forces, else he’ll respond with “all the might we can muster”.
In a world turned upside down and inside out and then viewed through smoke and mirrors, it can be difficult from some angles to tell one thing from another. Perhaps, to save further embarrassment, I’ll revert to the rule of thumb which has served mainstream commentators so well for so long.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like an enemy of western capitalism, it’s a duck, and needs its neck wrung.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like an ally of western capitalism, it’s a swan with a neck to go “ah-h!” at.
There was a Kurdish chap on Questions And Answers the other night who understood this hardly rule better than any of us. He asked how come Kurds fighting for freedom in Iraq are guerrilla fighters whereas Kurds over the border fighting for freedom in Turkey are terrorists. I’m sure Minister Micheal Martin would have offered him an answer, but it was time for a commercial break.
Every world leader was required to make a speech setting out his or her considered response to the massacres. Bertie Ahern addressed a recalled Dail and made a speech so statesmanlike nobody can remember a thing he said. On September 22nd, Fidel Castro spoke to the people of Cuba on radio and television. Although the text was circulated through the news agencies and wire services, I am not aware of any outlet in these islands giving it coverage. Strange in a way, given that Cuba’s long stand-off with the US might have made Castro’s response – would he follow Russia in coming on board Bush’s “international coalition”? – a matter of some interest.
Here’s a couple of the things he said.
“It was an enormous error, a huge injustice and a great crime, whoever they are who organized or are
responsible for it. However, the tragedy should not be used to recklessly start a war that could unleash an endless carnage of innocent people.”
“After the shock and sincere sorrow felt by every people on Earth for the atrocious and insane terrorist attack, the most extreme ideologists and the most belligerent hawks, already set in privileged power positions, have taken command of the most powerful country in the world whose military and technological capabilities would seem infinite. Actually, its capacity to destroy and kill is enormous while its inclination towards equanimity, serenity, thoughtfulness and restrain is minimal.”
“The first victims of whatever military actions are undertaken will be the billions of people living in the poor and underdeveloped world with their unbelievable economic and social problems, their unpayable debts and the ruinous prices of their basic commodities; their growing natural and ecological catastrophes, their hunger and misery, the massive undernourishment of their children, teenagers and adults; their terrible AIDS epidemic, their malaria, their tuberculosis and their infectious diseases that threaten whole nations with extermination.
“President Bush has said: ‘The course of this conflict is not known; yet its outcome is certain. And we know that God is not neutral’. This is an amazing assertion. When I think about the real or imagined parties involved in the bizarre holy war that is about to begin, I find it difficult to make a distinction about where fanaticism is stronger.
“An objective and calm friend should advise the United States government against throwing young American soldiers into an uncertain war in remote, isolated and inaccessible places, like a fight against ghosts, not knowing where they are or even if they exist or not, or whether the people they kill are or not responsible for the death of their innocent fellow countrymen killed in the United States.”
“Whatever happens, the territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the American people and we will do everything within our reach to prevent such actions against that people. Today we are expressing our solidarity while urging to peace and calmness.”
Even those of us who don’t dote on Fidel can agree – a better class of chat than we had from our own leaders.
If you weren’t around for the Vietnam War, you’ve probably never heard of Samuel P. Huntington.
Huntington is back with a bang and a new book, The Clash of Civilisations And The Remaking Of World Order, in which he argues that the world is divided not between rich and poor or even democracies and dictatorships but between civilised and uncivilised peoples. It comes garlanded with extravagant endorsements from Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brezinski, reactionary-chic ideologist Francis Fukuama, etc. etc. It was a big hit in Washington in the months months before the terrorist strikes.
One clear pattern of thinking in US ruling circles – that the September 11th bombings marked the beginning of a war between civilisation, led by the US, and uncivilisation, represented by “Islamic fundamentalism” – had been inscribed, in advance as it were, by Huntington. That’s what makes recalling Huntington’s role in the ’60s relevant.
He’s remembered by some of us as the man who supplied the rationale for the carpet-bombing of the Vietnamese countryside in the 1960s. His argument was that since the Viet Cong were organically rooted in the Vietnamese peasantry, the only way to dislodge them was to remove the peasantry. “We can ensure that the constituency ceases to exist by direct application of mechanical and conventional power on such a scale as to produce a massive migration from countryside to cities,” he said.
What flowed from this was saturation bombing, napalm, Agent Orange, hundreds of thousands of deaths, maimings and deformities.
In the war between US democracy and Vietnamese communism, Huntington was impatient with those who refused to face up to the reality of US democracy. He stated: “To the extent that the US was governed by anybody, it was governed by the president acting with the support and cooperation of key individuals and groups in the executive office, the federal bureaucracy, Congress and the more important businesses, banks, law firms, foundations and media, which constitute the private sector’s ‘establishment’.
It was for the defence of democracy thus constitued that Huntington believed it imperative to slaughter peasant peoples into submission. Now, it seems, his hour has come round again.
George W. Bush says that “We Americans find it difficult to understand the minds of people who support terrorists like Bin Laden.” Why doesn’t he put down the funnies at breakfast sometime and ask his dad what was in his mind when he and Ronald Reagan sponsored, armed, financed and trained Bin Laden’s forces in the 1980s?