September 30, 2004

Target Iran 2005
Will A Kerry Presidency Make A Difference?

By Stephen Gowans

I have yet to see a compelling case for backing either Bush or Kerry, but let me focus on Kerry, since he is often touted as an alternative to Bush, simply because he is not Bush and because he has the greatest chance of defeating the incumbent.

There have been very few pro-Kerry cases made. Most of what would be considered pro-Kerry arguments turn out to be anti-Bush diatribes that curiously never mention Kerry by name, as if doing so would reveal a truth so hideous the entire case against Bush would fall apart.

And while every once in a while you can come across genuine pro-Kerry stands, to call any of them compelling would be to indulge in that convenient twisting of words into unrecognizable forms that politicians, journalists, business executives and other con-men live by.

On the other hand, there's a mountain of cogent arguments against backing Kerry as an alternative to Bush, the mountain having quickly formed because it's no trouble to think of perfectly sound reasons why a Kerry presidency would produce more of the same.

Trouble is, all of the arguments, while together mountainous in size, are, in their effect, an anthill – and a tiny one at that. The stampede to Kerry among vigorous Bush haters hasn't abated. Indeed, it's kicked up so much dust it's hard to see the outline of the mountain anymore.

Part of the problem is that no one has offered a cogent alternative to wearing an "I hate Kerry but I'm voting for him anyway" pin, leaving anyone who didn't long ago cast his lot with the Democrats skewered on the horns of a dilemma.

Nader is an alternative, but isn't viable, observes William Blum. Kerry, though viable, is hardly an alternative.

It all seems hopeless, but the Bush-hating Kerry backers aren't prepared to throw in the towel. Not yet. To them a vote for Kerry is like Jim Kirk's "it's a long shot Bones, but it's our only hope."

Except the hope offered by Kerry isn't one of relief from over two centuries of US governments dispatching troops and tanks and bombers to beat poor and usually dark people into submission before plundering their land and resources and exploiting their labor, but of inviting France, Germany and Russia to come along to lend the plunder an international flavor.

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Harry Magdoff once calculated that "the United States had engaged in warlike activity during three-fourths of its history." That was in 1969. Three and a half decades later, nothing has changed.

Magdoff's colleague, Paul Sweezy, once added up all the people in the US employed directly or indirectly by the military and defense industry and all the people aged 25 through 64 who weren't working. He arrived at a number greater than the unemployment rate during the depths of the Great Depression.

You can quibble with the methodology, but the conclusion – that without its vast military expenditures the US economy would be in a permanent state of depression – can hardly be disputed. Add the millions warehoused in the country's vast prison complex – the US has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world – and the conclusion is all the stronger.

The US economy is incapable of sustaining its population without brobdignagian expenditures on prisons to soak up surplus population, and even vaster expenditures on the military to soak up surplus capital and unused industrial capacity. Bloated defense budgets in turn provide the means of dominating the world's markets, investment opportunities and sources of raw materials -- to soak up more surplus capital and more unused industrial capacity.

This is not inevitable, but is conditional upon the way the US economy is organized: as one regulated by markets (instead of a rational plan), impelled by the motive force of profit making (rather than satisfaction of human requirements), where industry is privately owned for private gain (rather than publicly owned for the common good).

But it is inevitable insofar as this arrangement remains intact. And nothing about the impending election will -- or can -- change it.

Indeed, the trajectory of US foreign policy will be unaffected by whether Bush is reelected and appoints an executive of a major US corporation to head the Pentagon or Kerry is elected and does the same (this practice being a hoary presidential tradition, emblematic of the central role played by the military in corporate America's affairs.) The direction is already set, and is consistent with the material interests of the circle in which Kerry and Bush and their would-be appointees travel and indeed are an integral part of: corporate America's elite. That this should be so, despite centuries of democracy, says something about the substance of this most revered of US institutions, which, in reality, is  a sham --  a dictatorship of those at the pinnacle of the corporate world in parliamentary form.

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Vincente Navarro, a health policy analyst with Johns Hopkins University, estimates that 100,000 Americans die every year because they cannot afford medically necessary treatment ("Losing sight of health priorities," The Toronto Star, September 12, 2004.) That works out to almost 3,000 people every day, about the same number who died in a single day, on 9/11. We shudder and mourn over the smaller tragedy, but dismiss, or never see, this vaster -- and readily preventable -- tragedy.

Health care was universal and free in the Soviet Union, as it was in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe, was in China before the country headed down the capitalist road, and is in Cuba today. That it was -- and that none of these countries suffered a health care 9/11 each and every day -- was an outcome of the way in which their economies, never as wealthy as those in the West,  were organized: on a planned basis to serve human needs, not the profit requirements of private corporations, like insurance firms and HMOs.

By comparison, in the wealthiest country in the world, the United States, free health care is out of bounds, as impossible as free education through university, guaranteed employment, cheap public transportation, and readily affordable living accommodations, all regular features of socialist countries.

Rather than meeting human needs, the US economy is geared to meeting the profit-making requirements of large corporations. Hundreds of billions of dollars are plowed into wars of conquests, 9/11 mendaciously invoked as a justification, but the real reason is to plunder vital resources, markets and opportunities for investment, while keeping them out of the hands of competitors. The health care 9/11 doesn't matter. What matters is a potential profits 9/11.

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The Pentagon has appointed a panel managed by two defense industry executives to determine whether the US military is large enough to meet its anticipated missions. (Anticipated missions? Is there a martial game plan already drawn up, whose purpose is to ensure the US sticks to its tradition of robust militarism?)

That the defense industry would be asked to advise the Pentagon on whether the military is large enough says something about the community of interest among those who occupy decisive positions in the state and in industry. But more revealing is this:

"In assigning the project…last January, Michael W. Wynne, an under secretary of defense, wrote: 'Our military expeditions to Afghanistan and Iraq are unlikely to be the last such excursion in the global war on terrorism…we may need to effect change in the governance of a country that is blatantly sustaining support for terrorism." [My emphasis.]

The authors of the report conclude that the US military needs to expand if "we continue our current foreign policy of military expeditions every two years." [My emphasis.] Yugoslavia was bombed in 1999. Two years later, in late 2001, it was Afghanistan's turn. The invasion of Iraq followed two years after that, in the spring of 2003. Whose turn is it in 2005?

According to the report's authors, "Iran and North Korea are provocative. They very well might cause us to take military action." ('The Military: Panel Calls U.S. Troop Size Insufficient," The New York Times, September 24, 2004.)

The point of all this isn't that the US might be caused to take military action; it will take military action, and most likely against North Korea or Iran, though Iran seems to be the most likely next candidate, consistent with the current US foreign policy of military expeditions every two years, and the recurrent pattern of US foreign relations of being engaged in war making in three of every four years.

The proximal reasons for an attack on Iran are clear. An Iran that can enrich uranium for peaceful use in civilian reactors is also an Iran that has the capability of independently producing nuclear weapons. In the words of the New York Times, the balance of power in the Middle East would be threatened. In direct language: Iran would be in a position to challenge US and Israeli military supremacy in the region, a no-no, since US military supremacy has all manner of pleasing consequences for America's ruling class: securing access to critical petroleum resources; ensuring oil sales continue to be denominated in US dollars (thereby keeping a devastating balance of payments crisis at bay; in this regard, it should be noted that Iran has mooted a transition to Euros and Iraq did make the transition before the Anglo-American invasion made the matter academic); and making strategic competitors like France, Japan and China, which are net importers of oil and dependent on Middle Eastern sources,  dependent on the US for access to a critical resource.

It remains to be seen whether the military expedition will be carried out by the US or by Israel, the US proxy in the Middle East. My bet is that Israel will play the lead role.

Israel has already proved itself perfectly capable of stifling the military development of its neighbors to preserve its own top dog position in the region.  It bombed an Iraqi reactor in 1981, to prevent Baghdad from acquiring the capability of developing nuclear weapons, and its attacks on its neighbors are routine. Indeed, everything Iraq under Saddam Hussein was said to be, Israel is: a serial aggressor with weapons of mass destruction that regularly tramples international law, routinely defies the international community, and conducts a human rights horror show in the Middle East.

The crucial point is that anyone who can enrich uranium for use in a nuclear reactor can also enrich uranium for use in the development of nuclear weapons. This, Israel, which enriches uranium, is widely believed to have 200 nuclear warheads, and won't sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, knows well.

Israel is buying 5,000 smart bombs from the US, 500 of which are one-ton bunker busters. (Actually, it's receiving US military aid, courtesy of US taxpayers. The money never leaves the US. Instead, it flows directly from the pockets of ordinary Americans into the coffers of the US defense industry.) The bunker busters are entirely useless in Israel's ongoing repression of the Palestinians, but could be used to destroy Iran's subterranean nuclear facilities.

Would John Kerry, the candidate of the US Left, steer the ship of state away from this gathering confrontation with Iran? Given that military conquest, as a recurrent theme in US foreign policy would appear to be systemic, and not the anomalous policy of either this candidate or that, the answer is clear: of course not.

And since candidate Kerry is already on record as saying he will not allow Iran to travel down the path of acquiring the capability of independently producing nuclear weapons, (i.e., of enriching uranium, for peaceful purposes or not), there's no doubt about it. A military expedition will go ahead, like clockwork, undisturbed by whatever choice the US electorate makes in November. The game plan has already been written.

Kerry has also raised the specter of a north Korean-delivered nuclear 9/11, as absurd a scenario as ever there was, and as a blatant a case of fear-mongering as any George W. (yes there are WMDs in Iraq) Bush has been responsible for. Which should give you an idea of what the anticipated 2007 mission is.

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