21 June 2003
Messianism seems to be the thing with the Bush government. A God-given mission to cleanse the world of evil, or ‘creative destruction’ as Michael Ledeen puts it. There are those who are making dark comparisons with the Third Reich but perhaps because of my background, upbringing or whatever you want to call one’s past, I have resisted the temptation to call the Bush clique a bunch of Fascists.
Yet some of the signs are there and when people start telling me that God, or whoever gave them a ‘mission’, I get very nervous. Yet there are real dangers in branding people like Bush or even Michael Ledeen, Fascists. Yes, it’s true, the Ledeen’s and Perle’s of the world, do have a mission but I suspect that it’s driven more by personal gain or ego than any overriding ideology such as that which drove the Nazis. A better model might be Mussolini, the original Fascisti but even here, one has to be careful. There is, after all, no comparison between post-WWI Italy and 21st century America. And in calling America Fascist, one runs the danger of not recognising Fascism when the conditions for it really do emerge.
Yes, it’s true the awesome power of the US is scary and its casual use of such power is indeed daunting, but to call it Fascist would be to not recognise the complexities of the world or of the US. I think one of the most important factors of the post Cold War world is that perhaps for the first time, it’s possible to see US imperialism for what it really is; an economic system driven by forces over which it has little control. I think that this has come as something of a shock to many people, who, like me, have been raised on a diet of unrestrained ‘development’ and increasing wealth which seems to have no end. And without a viable opposition, it’s drunk with its own power and all the more dangerous for it.
The US has been held up as a ‘model’ for the rest of us, something which we should all aspire to attaining. The fetish of production and profit is overwhelming, a drug which consumes both literally as well as metaphorically. And who can resist the allure of the ‘perfect’ life? The pursuit of happiness, achieved through one’s ‘individual’ struggle, through the survival of the ‘fittest’? Those who ‘fall by the wayside’ are, unfortunately ill-equipped to compete it would seem, but that’s ‘the breaks’ as they say. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Compassion and collective security, is reserved for the after-life, or church on Sunday morning.
The most scary thing about US imperialism is the unholy alliance between its myth-makers, its politicians and big business, personified by its mass media, which has, since the invention of the radio, film and television, woven out of its past of slavery, genocide and gangster capitalism, an image of mythological dimensions. A vision so overwhelming, so carefully crafted, that it sweeps up everything in its path, a giant media and communications vacuum cleaner, that sucks up everything and transforms it into a seductive and distorted reflection of itself. So complete is this process, through its application of the scientific method to the workings of human desires, that for most of us, it’s irresistible. Even the Taliban wore Nike sneakers and communicated via El-Jazeera satellite TV network, Nokias in the pockets of their Gucci-styled combat clothes. In order to reject the Western way of life, it was also necessary to embrace it. In a bizarre but totally recognisable reversal, the Taliban mirrored US imperialism’s own, messianic mission.
Is the US power elite and its professional classes of media manipulators and word-smiths, caught up in a myth of its own making, or is it simply a manifestation of its propaganda war? The history of ‘democracy’ in the capitalist world, is, when analysed in detail, a system that is used when more extreme methods are deemed unnecessary. As with Ledeen’s ‘creative destruction’, the democratic process can be conveniently dumped as and when necessary. We need look no further than the massive campaign to convince us that in order to preserve our ‘freedom’, it’s necessary to take it away, for our own good of course. And this is not some temporary phenomenon as the ‘war on terror’ has no observable conclusion. How could it, when the ‘enemy’ is invisible?
Yet this is not something new to imperialism, indeed it has a ‘pedigree’ that extends back to the beginning of the 20th century and given the right conditions, demonising the ‘enemy’ is a trademark of the US power elite. ‘Anarchists,’ ‘Reds,’ ‘Drugs,’ ‘Deviants,’ ‘Abortionists,’ and now ‘Fundamentalist Terrorists’ are the more obvious expressions. But perhaps the most enduring myth is that of the ‘Negro’; his ‘animal’ power and ‘naked’ and ‘uncontrolled sexuality’ that has its roots in slavery and the extermination of the ‘savage’ Indian. Who cannot fail to see the connections between the ‘Arab’ and the ‘Negro’? The constant referrals in the media to the ‘tribal’ roots, and the ‘love of guns’, in other words, that violence is intrinsic to ‘their’ way of life, as opposed to the civilised white man, his education and his technology. These images permeate every level of US society. From ‘Reefer Madness,’ ‘I Married a Communist,’ ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers,’ to ‘Black Hawk Down,’ on the one hand, to the National Rifle Association, the Klu Kux Klan, the Christian Fundamentalists and the ‘Survivalists’ on the other, US society reveals to us a deep schizophrenia, a malaise that comes from not recognising the reality of its own history.
Doesn’t it strike you as really strange that a country that possesses more guns than any other country in the world, that is one of the only so-called developed countries to maintain the death sentence, that imprisons 20% of all African-Americans between the ages of 16 and 25, that professes deeply held Christian beliefs founded supposedly on ‘family values,’ is also the same country whose media industry makes literally billions out of ‘entertaining’ us with ‘sex,’ ‘violence,’ and endless expressions of the breakdown of society, from the family to the city, to the entire world. Whose mythological media creations have become the common currency of its political leaders, where politics imitates entertainment with everything from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Stealth’ held up as reflections of reality.
Yet of course, in spite of this overwhelming avalanche of imagery that permeates life from the Oath of Allegiance in the classroom, to the ikon of the Stars and Stripes, like all attempts at total control, it can never be total. Moreover, it can never be a permanent feature of life. Built on fear of loss and of the unknown and the uncontrollable, it has its limits. The very fact that there are millions of people in the US who refuse to be sucked into the maelstrom of ‘creative destruction’ and who still question, means that there is always hope. It is a fact that the overwhelming majority of African-Americans do not aspire to the values espoused by the dominant culture, and increasingly, as the programme of dismantling social and public services impacts on an ever-growing cross section of society across all fifty states, no amount of propagandizing will be able to hide the fact that in order to build the American Century, it means dismantling America.
What is important at this critical stage of life on this planet, is to understand that the ‘Apostles of the Apocalypse’ represented by the likes of Ledeen, reflect the interests of a powerful section of the political-economic elite dominated by oil, the technological-military industries and perhaps most critically, the media, by virtue of the central role that information technology plays. And whilst this clique which dominates the Republicrats has the upper hand in shaping US foreign policy, I think it’s very dangerous for us to confuse the ideologies or opinions of individuals in this clique with the larger objectives, which ultimately must respond to the realities of the world, rather than the obsessions of a handful of people.
Is it really a realistic objective for the US imperialists to invade and occupy Iran? After Iran comes, what? Such a policy has to end and importantly, it assumes a passive world, one that doesn’t put up an effective resistance over time. After all, it’s one thing to take on a place like Haiti or Panama or Grenada, install a puppet regime and then ‘retire’ to the sidelines, relying on ‘remote control’ and quite another to conquer and occupy one country after another. If it takes 350,000 troops and billions of dollars to occupy a beaten and bankrupt country like Iraq and then repeat the performance in a country three times the size and which is relatively intact militarily and economically, what will it take, 500,000 troops, 750,000? Even the vast productive power of the US economy has limits, and let’s not forget the people who have to do the fighting and their families. Were it a creep like Michael Ledeen sweating in the deserts of Iran, forever looking over his shoulder, perhaps he wouldn’t be so gung ho in his perverted desires to conquer the world.
The wet dreams of Ledeen and co are all well and good in the air conditioned comfort of a beltway office park and they make good copy but otherwise, they make no sense. They assume a world that conforms to their own twisted visions. In the meantime, the more realistic (if no less rapacious) objectives of other sections of the ruling political and economic classes, look on I suspect, in fear (and not just in America).
Which brings me back to the idea of America as a Fascist state. The Germany that Hitler took control of was literally bankrupt, not only because of the legacy of WWI, but through the global collapse of capitalism. The dominant economic forces of German capitalism were faced with a stark choice, either capitulate to the rising power of socialism or throw in their lot with the Nazi Party. The rest is history.
This doesn’t mean of course, that the policies of the Bush clique couldn’t bring US capitalism down and consequently the rest of us. There is always that possibility, in which case, in order to preserve the capitalist system, some kind of fascism maybe the only option for them, if we don’t stop them first. But the ruling elite are by no means omnipotent, indeed one could argue that they are extremely stupid and living in a self-delusionary world. But if I believed that this was the only outcome, I might as well give up right now. Why bother? But maybe the force is with me?”