What Kind of Peace Do We Seek?
The following is an excerpt from one of my favorite speeches. It was the commencement address at American University given by John Kennedy in 1963. The context of the speech is important to the meaning. It was eighteen years after the most devastating war in human history (in which Kennedy fought), less then a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis in which we barely escaped nuclear catastrophe and probably the end of all mankind. I give this background because a lot of our Presidents speak of peace, not all of them have had such experiences with the consquences of war. Here is a brief excerpt (full text/audio link) :
"I have, therefore, chosen this time and place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth too rarely perceived. And that is the most important topic on earth: peace. What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time...
I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary, rational end of rational men. I realize the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war, and frequently the words of the pursuers fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task. "
Today we are fighting a costly and bloody war in Iraq. I very much doubt President Bush prefers to be at war, but he ultimately finds it necessary to acheive the kind of peace he envisions. What kind of peace does President Bush seek?
Do We Seek A Democratic Iraq?: Iraq already has a democracy, it has a government that was legitimately elected by the people.
Don't We Need to Stay and Make Sure It Succeeds?: Well if our goal is to see democracy take root, then we should only stay if we are wanted. We are not. Two surveys last month, one by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, another by the State Department; found overwhelming majorities of Iraq want the US out now. And they have for a long time.
But shouldn't we protect them from this mess we created?: A strong majority of Iraqi's support attacks on US troops, and an even larger majority believe the US presence causes more violence then it prevents.
What is wrong with these people! Don't they understand our noble intentions? Apparently not. When asked why they thought the US invaded Iraq, less then 1% said 'to bring democracy.' Most thought it was to take control of Iraq's oil and reorganize the region according to US interests.
So is President Bush lying about bringing democracy to Iraq? Well President Bush lies all the time. Constantly. But I believe he does want to bring a democracy to Iraq. Just not the kind of democracy we are thinking of. A real democratic Iraq would have all US troops leave. It would probably become closer with Iran. It would not be friendly with Israel. And it would oppose US policies in the region (as 90% of Middle Easterns do).
So what do we do if a democratic Iraq does something the US does not like, with the US react or just accept it? Well I cant predict the future. But as a student of history I can tell you what has happened in the past when a democractic country does something the US doesnt like. Here is a small list of hiLARIOUS examples that fulfil the laws of ACTION and
Iran - 1953
Action: After years of watching the British steal all their oil, the democratically elected Parliament of Iran nationalizes the oil industry, saying the oil belongs to the Iranian people, not the British Government.
Reaction: Churchill called Eisenhower for help, the CIA came in, overthrew the government, and installed a dictator who ruled with a reign of terror for the next 26 years.
Guetemala - 1954
Action: Recognizing most of the country is poor, landless farmers; and US corporations (mainly United Fruit aka Chiquita) own most of the land, the democratically elected government took 200,000 acres of land the United Fruit own (land they werent using and only 7% of their total land) and gave it to 100,000 landless peasants. United Fruit was given full compensation for the land based on the company's own estimated value.
Reaction: The US bombed the country and sent the CIA in to overthrow the government, replacing it with a brutal dictator (who gave the land back to United Fruit.) The new government had a different way of dealing with the hundreds of thousands of landless peaseants, kill them all.
Dominican Republic 1962-1965:
Action: Having been invaded by the US in 1905, 1912, 1924 and 1930 the Dominicans finally threw off the US installed dictator and elected a democratic government who was not a slave to US corporations.
Reaction: Seven months later the CIA overthrew that government and reinstalled a dictator. When the Dominican people overthrew their US imposed dictator AGAIN in 1965, the US said "Ah screw it" and outright invaded the island.
Action: The people of Chile elected a democratic government deemed unsuitable to US corporate interests
Reaction: On September 11th the CIA (working with US corporations who invested in Chile) overthrew the government and installed the murderous dictator General Augusto Pinochet, who decided to go about killing several thousand of his own citizens.
Action: After decades of rule under US installed dictators, the Haitian people elected a priest named Jean Betrand-Aristade, who's economic policies interfere with US profits
Reaction: A US back terror regime takes over and slaughters most of Aristade's party (Lavalas, mostly poor, defenseless people.) Aristade is told by the US if he follows their orders on economic policy he will be put back in. He agrees, the US invades and restores him to power.
Action: With the US imposed economic system leaving Haiti impoverished and one of the poorest countries on the planet, newly re-elected President Aristade starts some economic policies for the poor, widely popular among the Haitian people.
Reaction: The US invades, kidnaps Aristade, and sends him to Africa. A murderous regime is installed that, again, kills off most of the Lavalas party.
Action: The elected president of Venezuela (Hugo Chavez) begins a widely popular program that uses the country's oil profits to aid the country's impoverished majority instead of reinvesting them in US corporations
Reaction: The US backed a military coup that overthrew Chavez and installed a dictator. The coup lasted 2 days when the military government was overthrown and Chavez was restored to power. He currently enjoys an 80% approval rating and his programs of using oil profits to help the starving masses has spread elsewhere: When a group of Senators last year sent a letter to all the major oil companies asking them to use at least a small amount of their record profits to help impoverished Americans who faced record home heating prices in the winter. One company responded, Venezuela owned Citgo. Massachusetts took up the offer and now thousands of poor families (as well as homeless shelters, food banks, charities, etc.) receive discount heating oil so they don't freeze to death.
I could go on and on, and on. For those examples I was just focusing on US overthrowing democracies that challenge US dominance, but they usually do it with any country no matter the government (but if its not a democracy you can say your intervention is a 'liberation'!)
So thats why I dont think the US wants to install a real democracy in Iraq. The government isnt spending $300 bil (projected to cost $1 tril) so they can just leave and let Iraq ally with Iran, sell oil to China (using euros), challenge US/Israeli crimes in the Palestinian Territories, etc. etc.
How will they succeed in creating a client state? Who the hell knows. I dont think they know!
And the war drags on...
I'll end now with a quote from General Smedley Butler. Butler was a lifelong soldier in the US military. He won a couple medals of honor as well as a ton of other medals making him the most decorated marine in U.S. history. This is him (in the mid 1930's) reflecting on his lifelong career as a General in the U.S. Marine Corps, Hoo rah:
I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism...
I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket.
Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.