Global Rogue State

The opinion of the biggest is always the best

By Edward S. Herman

Z magazine, Febraury 1998


Dictionary specifications of "rogue" include three elements viciousness, lack of principle, and propensity to engage in unilateral action. This would certainly properly characterize Saddam Hussein's Iraq: viciousness and lack of principle were displayed, for example, in his attacking and using chemical warfare against both Iran and Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s; unilateralism in his assaults on Iran and Kuwait. But consider that the United States used chemical warfare on a far greater scale against Vietnam in the 1960s, and its overall attack on Indochina was as vicious and far more devastating than Iraq's on its local victims. As to principle, it should be noted that the U.S. aided Saddam Hussein during the 1980s and protected him from any international sanctions, finding his possession of "weapons of mass destruction" intolerable only after he stepped out of line and ceased to be of service.


Retail and Wholesale Rogues

The difference between the two countries in respect of roguery is that the U.S. is a superpower with global reach, whereas Iraq is a relatively weak regional power. The U.S., we might say, engages in wholesale roguery, whereas Iraq is a retail rogue. But nobody in the mainstream calls the wholesale rogue by such a name, any more than they would label it a terrorist state or sponsor of terror, no matter how close the fit. If a country is sufficiently powerful, it naturally assumes the role of global policeman, and as such it designates who are terrorists and rogues. This role is accepted and internalized not only by its own media, but by politicians and the media of its allied and client states. As La Fontaine pointed out in his fable "The Wolf and the Sheep," "The opinion of the Biggest is always the best. "

Under the rule of the Biggest, the law and rules of morality only apply to others, not to the ruler. This double standard rests on sheer power. It is effected through a variety of processes involving the mainstream media, which ignore or play down outrageous behavior and law violations by the ruler, but wax indignant at comparable or lesser enemy actions. Cuba's shooting down of a Cuban refugee plane which flew over its territory was excoriated by the media, but disclosure of multiple U.S. attempts to assassinate Castro caused neither indignation nor reflection on "who is the terrorist." When the global rogue justified terrorizing Nicaragua in the 1980s by the "national security threat" posed by that tiny power, and bombed Baghdad in 1993 following an alleged Iraqi plot to assassinate former president George Bush, on the ground of the right to "self defense," nobody important responded with laughter or indignation. The absurd rationalizations were reported "objectively" and the violent acts were accepted and normalized.


Misusing the UN and World Court

Nothing illustrates the global rogue's lack of principle and propensity to unilateralism better than its treatment of the UN and World Court. When the UN or Court have failed to serve its purposes, the global rogue has assailed them, refused to pay its dues (in violation of the law), withdrawn from UN organizations (UNESCO, ILO), and ignored a UN consensus or Court ruling. The U.S. has used the UN as a cover for its own agenda, but not allowed the UN to function where its positions were inconsistent with that agenda.

The most notable recent case of using (and misusing) the UN was the 1990-1991 assault on Iraq, and the sanctions imposed on Iraq which continue to this day. Here the U.S. was deeply upset over an illegal occupation in violation of the UN Charter. By the aggressive use of its power to coerce and bribe support (well described in Phyllis Bennis's valuable Calling the Shot), the global rogue was able to get the UN to give it a free hand to crush Iraq and keep it crushed thereafter-with a cumulative civilian death toll in the hundreds of thousands. The rogue actually violated the UN charter in implementing the UN resolution giving it a free hand, by resolutely refusing to consider any peaceful settlement and insisting on a military attack. Its use of weapons like uranium enhanced shells and fuel air bombs, the slaughter of large numbers of completely helpless and fleeing soldiers (along with many refugees), burying many of them in unmarked graves, and bulldozing sand over Iraqi trenches killing hundreds more, violated the rules of war, under UN cover.

With Iraq, the global rogue was teaching a lesson to a retail rogue who had crossed it. Clients of the global rogue are treated differently. South Africa, which illegally occupied Namibia, and used it as a jumping off place to invade Angola and support Savimibi, and also attacked and terrorized all the other front line states for several decades, was perhaps the number one retail rogue and terrorist state of the last half century. Its occupation of Namibia was condemned by the Security Council, General Assembly, and World Court from the late 1960s, and it was ordered to withdraw. But it refused to obey, and no attempt was made to force the termination of that occupation. The U.S. was "constructively engaged" with South Africa, and collaborated with it in its support of Savimbi and attacks on Angola and the front line states.

Another important case has been that of Israel, which occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, and although Security Council resolution 242 called upon Israel to withdraw, it has refused to do so for two decades, without penalty. Israel was also condemned for its collaboration with South Africa and maltreatment of the Palestinians in a long series of UN resolutions. But as the U.S. supports Israel, its occupation and abuses are beyond the reach of UN authority. The U.S. has vetoed some 40 resolutions condemning Israel, and successfully prevents any action constraining it or protecting its victims. The votes are usually in the order of 150 to 2, but this near unanimity cannot offset the power of the global rogue.

In the case of the World Court, the U.S. used it effectively against Iran and other states, but when the Court ruled in favor of Nicaragua in 1986, calling for U.S. reparations for the "unlawful use of force," the U.S. denounced and simply ignored the ruling. In a telling revelation of the subservience of the U. S. media to the global rogue's prerogatives, the New York Times editorialized in support of the U.S. refusal to accept the Court's ruling, calling the Court a "hostile forum." As regards the UN, also, the Times and its media conferee have followed the official agenda, finding the UN ineffectual and wrong-headed when not serving U.S. interests, but finally recovering its proper role, as in the Persian Gulf war, when it functions as a U.S. instrument.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, and virtual U.S. control of the Security Council, the U.S. now regularly bypasses the World Court, and, of course, the UN General Assembly, in carrying out its agenda. Thus it was not only able to use the UN as a cover for war and retribution against Iraq, it has successfully used the Security Council to impose sanctions on Libya for refusing to turn over to the U.S. and Britain two suspects in the bombing of Pan Am 103. Libya denies that the Security Council has jurisdiction and objects to any trial by the biased protagonists, but the World Court has deferred to the Security Council, so this U.S.-dominated body now has a free hand to designate rogues and terrorists. No client of the global rogue has been subjected to sanctions under this regime.


Global Rogue Aggressions

Ignoring both minor bombing raids and the numerous subversive efforts not involving military forces, since the end of World War II the United States has committed acts of aggression against Guatemala (1954), Lebanon (1958), the Dominican Republic (1965), Vietnam (1954-75), Laos (1964-1975), Cambodia (1969-1975), Nicaragua (1980-'990), Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989). I would argue that the Persian Gulf war was also a case of U.S. aggression, as the U.S. took advantage of Iraq's aggression against Kuwait to smash a regional power that had defied it. In short, the U.S. has been the number one international aggressor over the past 50 years.

In the case of the Vietnam War, the global rogue was able to ignore the 1954 Geneva Accords, place a puppet in power in South Vietnam, invade and bomb all of Indochina, killing as many as four million people over two decades, without the slightest interference from the UN or World Court. In the case of Panama, the rogue invaded in 1989 to capture its leader, Noriega, allegedly for drug dealing and authoritarian rule. But Noriega had been on the U. S. payroll for years while dealing in drugs and ruling by terror. The real reason for the invasion was Noriega's refusal to collaborate with the U.S. in its illegal attacks on Nicaragua. Again, the U.S. veto and overall power allowed this multi-leveled rogue operation to go forward without impediment.


Regimes of Terror

As noted, the U.S. has been able to label its targets and victims "terrorists" as well as rogues. Terrorist groups supported and sponsored by the U.S., like Savimbi in Angola, the Nicaraguan contras, and the Cuban refugee network-which has operated out of the
U. S.-are "freedom fighters," not terrorists, by right of sponsorship.

The CIA and U.S. military forces have been outstanding direct instruments of terror: William Blum in Killing Hope lists 35 individuals or groups known to have been targeted by U.S. agents in assassination attempts, some (like Castro and Kaddafi) repeatedly, and with quite a few successfully killed. Larger scale U.S. terrorism has been carried out by its military establishment, with vastly larger civilian casualties, and the establishment terrorism expert J. Bowyer Bell acknowledged that a legitimate question had been raised as to why the "use of American B-52s over Hanoi was an appropriate military exercise, while the Palestinian use of incendiary grenades in Rome was not. "

U.S.-protected clients have also been in the forefront of world terrorism: the massacre of some 600 civilians by the Salvadoran army at the Rio Sumpul river in 1980, the killing of over 600 by South Africa in the Kassinga refugee camp in Angola in 1978, and the Phalange-Israeli massacre of over 1,800 Palestinians at Sabra-Shatila in 1982, each equaled or exceeded the collective total of the Western favorites-the PLO, Baader Meinhof gang, and Red Brigades. These are just single episodes by regimes that did a lot of killing. U.S. sponsorship of the National Security State in Latin America, and of regimes like those of Marcos, Mobutu, the Shah of Iran, Suharto, and the Greek colonels, involved the support of serious state terrorism on a global scale. "The real terror network," described in my book of that name (South End, 1982) was a creation of U.S. policy for its own backyard, designed to get rid of obstacles to market expansion and U.S.-amenable rule by terror. It is the genius of the Western propaganda system that, in the face of this reality, the U.S. was and is today portrayed as the steadfast opponent of "terrorism."

Economic Terrorism


The economic rules of the game also apply mainly to others, not to the Biggest. During the 1980s, when the Japanese auto industry was badly out competing that of the U. S ., quotas were imposed by the U.S. in a protectionist system that was applied also in the steel and other industries. This was the same period in which the U.S. was engaged in "aggressive unilateralism," bullying other countries into opening their markets on the ground of sacred free trade principles.

Far more gross has been the U.S. use of food warfare and trade/investment boycotts against political targets like Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, and other states that cross it. These boycotts have caused serious hunger, disease, and death in the victim countries, although it is often hard to separate the effects of food warfare from those of U.S. direct and proxy military operations. In Nicaragua in the 1980s, the two together helped reduce household real incomes by some 50 percent, contributing to widespread malnutrition, a weakened health care system, and eventually the desired ouster of the Sandinista government. The U.S. policy of "destructive engagement" with Cuba has also substantially affected the Cuban standard of living and health conditions. The American Association of World Health recently reported that food warfare against Cuba "has contributed to serious nutritional deficits, particularly among pregnant women, leading to an increase in low birthweight babies. In addition, food shortages were linked to a devastating outbreak of neuropathy numbering in the tens of thousands." Caloric intake fell by one-third between 1989 and 1993, and curtailed access to water treatment chemicals and medicines has also taken a heavy toll.

The U.S. boycotts of Cuba and Iran and threats to retaliate against foreign companies doing business with them-a form of secondary boycott-violates the global trade rules that the U.S. helped put together, but it exempts itself, usually on the ground of "national security," and its power allows it to get away with self exemption. The mainstream media, so indignant at the Arab secondary boycott of companies doing business with Israel after the 1967 war, make no comparisons and berate the U.S. allies for disloyalty to the Biggest.

Other countries are also expected to make national economic adjustments to reestablish equilibrium that the Biggest doesn't choose to make. A large U.S. trade deficit, for example, could be reduced by policy changes by either the U.S. or by Japan and other major allies. Japanese and European expansionary policies would increase their incomes and prices, and thus enlarge their imports from the U.S. and reduce their exports. On the other hand, the U. S. deficit could be reduced by U.S. contractionary policies that would curtail U. S. imports and increase U. S. exports. The U.S. may expect others to carry out painful contractionary policies, but it naturally does not entertain the possibility that it should be subject to similar pain. From 1945 until today the U.S. has expected the foreign countries to do the adjusting.

Possibly the most important form of economic terrorism carried out by the global rogue has been its contribution to the ongoing aggressive imposition of the neoliberal model of economic life on peoples everywhere. The U.S. has not been alone in pushing this program, which has the support of the community of transnational corporations across the globe, as well as many states whose governments are in thrall to this powerful community. But the Biggest, home of a sizable fraction of transnationals and effectively dominating the IMF and World Bank, has been the leader. The imposition of this model has stripped countries of autonomy and weakened the ability of national majorities to organize and seek change through traditional political processes. It has been associated with a massive upward redistribution of income and wealth and immense misery to the hundreds of millions of losers in the new class war.

Such abuse of power and exploitation by imperial top dogs is not new, as the earlier reigns of Britain and Spain make clear. What is new, however, is the hypocrisy in the exalted self-image of the U.S. as the redeemer nation, bringing "democracy" to the world, as it fights against "protectionism" and the demon retail terrorists and rogue states, constructed to provide its sense of exoneration and purity.

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