The Logic of Empire
by George Monbiot
The Guardian (liberal), London,
England, Aug. 6, 2002
World Press Review, October
The Bush administration's escalating barrage
of bellicose rhetoric toward Iraq and its rejection of the international
Crimean Court have strained Washington's relations with its European
allies and unleashed a new wave of intense anti-American sentiment
in the European press.
There is something almost comical about
the prospect of George W. Bush waging war on another nation because
that nation has defied international law. Since Bush came to office,
the U.S. government has torn up more international treaties and
disregarded more United Nations' conventions than the rest of
the world has in 20 years. It has scuppered the biological weapons
convention while experimenting, illegally, with biological weapons
of its own. It has refused to grant chemical-weapons inspectors
full access to its laboratories and has destroyed attempts to
launch chemical inspections in Iraq. It has ripped up the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty, and appears to be ready to violate the nuclear
It has permitted CIA hit squads to recommence
covert operations of the kind that included, in the past, the
assassination of foreign heads of state. It has sabotaged the
small arms treaty, undermined the International Criminal Court,
refused to sign the climate-change protocol, and last month, sought
to immobilize the U.N. convention against torture so that it could
keep foreign observers out of its prison camp in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba. Even its preparedness to go to war with Iraq without a mandate
from the U.N. Security Council is a defiance of international
law far graver than [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein's noncompliance
with U.N. weapons inspectors.
But the U.S. government's declaration
of impending war has, in truth, nothing to do with weapons inspections.
John Bolton, the U.S. official charged, hilariously, with ''arms
control," told the Today show that "our policy...insists
on regime change in Baghdad, and that policy will not be altered,
whether inspectors go in or not."
The U.S. government's justification for
whipping Saddam has now changed twice. At first, Iraq was named
as a potential target because it was "assisting Al-Qaeda.
"This turned out to be untrue. Then the U.S. government claimed
that Iraq had to be attacked because it could be developing weapons
of mass destruction and was refusing to allow the weapons inspectors
to find out if this were so.
Now, as the promised evidence has failed
to materialize, the weapons issue has been dropped. The new reason
for war is Saddam Hussein's very existence. This, at least, has
the advantage of being verifiable. It should surely be obvious
by now that the decision to wage war on Iraq came first, and the
Other than the age-old issue of oil supply,
this is a war without strategic purpose. The U.S. government is
not afraid of Saddam Hussein, however hard it tries to scare its
own people. There is no evidence that Iraq is sponsoring terrorism
against America. Saddam is well aware that if he attacks another
nation with weapons of mass destruction, he can expect to be nuked.
He presents no more of a threat to the world now than he has done
for the past I0 years.
But the U.S. government has several pressing
domestic reasons for going to war. The first is that attacking
Iraq gives the impression that the flagging "war on terror"
is going somewhere. The second is that the people of all superdominant
nations love war. As Bush found in Afghanistan, whacking foreigners
wins votes. Allied to this concern is the need to distract attention
from the financial scandals in which both the president and vice
president are enmeshed. Already, in this respect, the impending
war seems to be working rather well.
The United States also possesses a vast
military-industrial comp]ex that is in constant need of conflict
in order to justify its staggeringly expensive existence. Perhaps
more importantly than any of these factors, the hawks who control
the White House perceive that perpetual war results in the perpetual
demand for their services. And there is scarcely a better formula
for perpetual war, with both terrorists and other Arab nations,
than the invasion of Iraq. The hawks know that they will win,
whoever loses. In other words, if the United States was not preparing
to attack Iraq, it would be preparing to attack another nation.
The United States will go to war with that country because it
needs a country with which to go to war.
[British Prime Minister] Tony Blair also
has several pressing reasons for supporting an invasion. By appeasing
Bush, he placates Britain's right-wing press. Standing on Bush's
shoulders, he can assert a claim to global leadership more credible
than that of other European leaders, while defending Britain's
anomalous position as a permanent member of the U.N. Security
Council. Within Europe, his relationship with the president grants
him the eminent role of broker and interpreter of power.
By invoking the "special relationship,"
Blair also avoids the greatest challenge any prime minister has
faced since World War II. This challenge is to recognize and act
upon the conclusion of any objective analysis of global power:
namely, that the greatest threat to world peace is not Saddam
Hussein, but George W. Bush. The nation that in the past has been
our firmest friend is becoming instead our foremost enemy.
As the U.S. government discovers that
it can threaten and attack other nations with impunity, it will
surely soon begin to threaten countries that have numbered among
its allies. As its insatiable demand for resources prompts ever-bolder
colonial adventures, it will come to interfere directly with the
strategic interests of other quasi-imperial states.
As it refuses to take responsibility for
the consequences of the use of those resources, it threatens the
rest of the world with environmental disaster. It has become openly
contemptuous of other governments and prepared to dispose of any
treaty or agreement that impedes its strategic objectives. It
is starting to construct a new generation of nuclear weapons and
appears to be ready to use them pre-emptively. It could be about
to ignite an inferno in the Middle East, into which the rest of
the world would be sucked.
The United States, in other words, behaves
like any other imperial power. Imperial powers expand their empires
until they meet with overwhelming resistance. For Britain to abandon
the special relationship would be to accept that this is happening.
To accept that the United States presents
a danger to the rest of the world would be to acknowledge the
need to resist it. Resisting the United States would be the most
daring reversal of policy a British government has undertaken
for over 6() years.
We can resist the United States neither
by military nor economic means, but we can resist it diplomatically.
The only safe and sensible response to American power is a policy
of non-cooperation. Britain and the rest of Europe should impede,
at the diplomatic level, all U.S. attempts to act unilaterally.
We should launch independent efforts to
resolve the Iraq crisis and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
And we should cross our fingers and hope that a combination of
economic mismanagement, gangster capitalism, and excessive military
spending will reduce America's power to the extent that it ceases
to use the rest of the world as its doormat.
Only when the United States can accept
its role as a nation whose interests must be balanced with those
of all other nations can we resume a friendship that was once,
if briefly, founded upon the principles of justice.