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Buy One, Get One Free

Arundhati Roy | 22.05.2003 09:55

Penetrating analysis of US Imperialism by a troublesome native.

Here is a new ZNet Update for you...
> For this message, we mostly wanted to convey a new essay by Arundhati
> Roy, as well as news of her new South End Press book.
> About the book, in it Arundhati Roy examines democracy and dissent,
> racism and empire, and war and peace. The book highlights the global
> rise of religious and racial violence condeming militarism and
> nationalism.
> Fully annotated versions of all Roy's most recent essays, including
> her Lannan Foundation lecture from September 2002 and her January
> address to the World Social Forum in Brazil, are included in War
> Text of her May 13 address at the Riverside Church in New York City
> available at the website of the Center for Economic and Social
> Rights, and is included below.
> For more information on War Talk, please go to
> Buy One, Get One Free
> By Arundhati Roy
> In these times, when we have to race to keep abreast of the speed at
> which our freedoms are being snatched from us, and when few can
> the luxury of retreating from the streets for a while in order to
> return with an exquisite, fully formed political thesis replete with
> footnotes and references, what profound gift can I offer you tonight?
> As we lurch from crisis to crisis, beamed directly into our brains by
> satellite TV, we have to think on our feet. On the move. We enter
> histories through the rubble of war. Ruined cities, parched fields,
> shrinking forests, and dying rivers are our archives. Craters left by
> daisy cutters, our libraries.
> So what can I offer you tonight? Some uncomfortable thoughts about
> money, war, empire, racism, and democracy. Some worries that flit
> around my brain like a family of persistent moths that keep me awake
> at night.
> Some of you will think it bad manners for a person like me,
> entered in the Big Book of Modern Nations as an "Indian citizen," to
> come here and criticize the U.S. government. Speaking for myself, I'm
> no flag-waver, no patriot, and am fully aware that venality,
> brutality, and hypocrisy are imprinted on the leaden soul of every
> state. But when a country ceases to be merely a country and becomes
> empire, then the scale of operations changes dramatically. So may I
> clarify that tonight I speak as a subject of the American Empire? I
> speak as a slave who presumes to criticize her king.
> Since lectures must be called something, mine tonight is called:
> Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free).
> Way back in 1988, on the 3rd of July, the U.S.S. Vincennes, a missile
> cruiser stationed in the Persian Gulf, accidentally shot down an
> Iranian airliner and killed 290 civilian passengers. George Bush the
> First, who was at the time on his presidential campaign, was asked to
> comment on the incident. He said quite subtly, "I will never
> for the United States. I don't care what the facts are."
> I don't care what the facts are. What a perfect maxim for the New
> American Empire. Perhaps a slight variation on the theme would be
> apposite: The facts can be whatever we want them to be.
> When the United States invaded Iraq, a New York Times/CBS News survey
> estimated that 42 percent of the American public believed that Saddam
> Hussein was directly responsible for the September 11th attacks on
> World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And an ABC News poll said that
> percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein directly supported
> Al Qaida. None of this opinion is based on evidence (because there
> isn't any). All of it is based on insinuation, auto-suggestion, and
> outright lies circulated by the U.S. corporate media, otherwise known
> as the "Free Press," that hollow pillar on which contemporary
> democracy rests.
> Public support in the U.S. for the war against Iraq was founded on a
> multi-tiered edifice of falsehood and deceit, coordinated by the U.S.
> government and faithfully amplified by the corporate media.
> Apart from the invented links between Iraq and Al Qaida, we had the
> manufactured frenzy about Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction. George
> Bush the Lesser went to the extent of saying it would be "suicidal"
> for the U.S. not to attack Iraq. We once again witnessed the paranoia
> that a starved, bombed, besieged country was about to annihilate
> almighty America. (Iraq was only the latest in a succession of
> countries - earlier there was Cuba, Nicaragua, Libya, Grenada, and
> Panama.) But this time it wasn't just your ordinary brand of friendly
> neighborhood frenzy. It was Frenzy with a Purpose. It ushered in an
> old doctrine in a new bottle: the Doctrine of Pre-emptive Strike,
> a.k.a. The United States Can Do Whatever The Hell It Wants, And
> Official.
> The war against Iraq has been fought and won and no Weapons of Mass
> Destruction have been found. Not even a little one. Perhaps they'll
> have to be planted before they're discovered. And then, the more
> troublesome amongst us will need an explanation for why Saddam
> didn't use them when his country was being invaded.
> Of course, there'll be no answers. True Believers will make do with
> those fuzzy TV reports about the discovery of a few barrels of banned
> chemicals in an old shed. There seems to be no consensus yet about
> whether they're really chemicals, whether they're actually banned and
> whether the vessels they're contained in can technically be called
> barrels. (There were unconfirmed rumours that a teaspoonful of
> potassium permanganate and an old harmonica were found there too.)
> Meanwhile, in passing, an ancient civilization has been casually
> decimated by a very recent, casually brutal nation.
> Then there are those who say, so what if Iraq had no chemical and
> nuclear weapons? So what if there is no Al Qaida connection? So what
> if Osama bin Laden hates Saddam Hussein as much as he hates the
> States? Bush the Lesser has said Saddam Hussein was a "Homicidal
> Dictator." And so, the reasoning goes, Iraq needed a "regime change."
> Never mind that forty years ago, the CIA, under President John F.
> Kennedy, orchestrated a regime change in Baghdad. In 1963, after a
> successful coup, the Ba'ath party came to power in Iraq. Using lists
> provided by the CIA, the new Ba'ath regime systematically eliminated
> hundreds of doctors, teachers, lawyers, and political figures known
> be leftists. An entire intellectual community was slaughtered. (The
> same technique was used to massacre hundreds of thousands of people
> Indonesia and East Timor.) The young Saddam Hussein was said to have
> had a hand in supervising the bloodbath. In 1979, after factional
> infighting within the Ba'ath Party, Saddam Hussein became the
> President of Iraq. In April 1980, while he was massacring Shias, the
> U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinksi declared, "We see
> no fundamental incompatibility of interests between the United States
> and Iraq." Washington and London overtly and covertly supported
> Hussein. They financed him, equipped him, armed him, and provided him
> with dual-use materials to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.
> They supported his worst excesses financially, materially, and
> morally. They supported the eight-year war against Iran and the 1988
> gassing of Kurdish people in Halabja, crimes which 14 years later
> re-heated and served up as reasons to justify invading Iraq. After
> first Gulf War, the "Allies" fomented an uprising of Shias in Basra
> and then looked away while Saddam Hussein crushed the revolt and
> slaughtered thousands in an act of vengeful reprisal.
> The point is, if Saddam Hussein was evil enough to merit the most
> elaborate, openly declared assassination attempt in history (the
> opening move of Operation Shock and Awe), then surely those who
> supported him ought at least to be tried for war crimes? Why aren't
> the faces of U.S. and U.K. government officials on the infamous pack
> of cards of wanted men and women?
> Because when it comes to Empire, facts don't matter.
> Yes, but all that's in the past we're told. Saddam Hussein is a
> monster who must be stopped now. And only the U.S. can stop him. It's
> an effective technique, this use of the urgent morality of the
> to obscure the diabolical sins of the past and the malevolent plans
> for the future. Indonesia, Panama, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan - the
> list goes on and on. Right now there are brutal regimes being groomed
> for the future - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, the Central
> Asian Republics.
> U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recently declared that U.S.
> freedoms are "not the grant of any government or document, but....our
> endowment from God." (Why bother with the United Nations when God
> himself is on hand?)
> So here we are, the people of the world, confronted with an Empire
> armed with a mandate from heaven (and, as added insurance, the most
> formidable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in history). Here
> are, confronted with an Empire that has conferred upon itself the
> right to go to war at will, and the right to deliver people from
> corrupting ideologies, from religious fundamentalists, dictators,
> sexism, and poverty by the age-old, tried-and-tested practice of
> extermination. Empire is on the move, and Democracy is its sly new
> cry. Democracy, home-delivered to your doorstep by daisy cutters.
> Death is a small price for people to pay for the privilege of
> this new product: Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (bring to a boil,
> oil, then bomb).
> But then perhaps chinks, negroes, dinks, gooks, and wogs don't really
> qualify as real people. Perhaps our deaths don't qualify as real
> deaths. Our histories don't qualify as history. They never have.
> Speaking of history, in these past months, while the world watched,
> the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was broadcast on live TV.
> Like Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the regime of
> Saddam Hussein simply disappeared. This was followed by what analysts
> called a "power vacuum." Cities that had been under siege, without
> food, water, and electricity for days, cities that had been bombed
> relentlessly, people who had been starved and systematically
> impoverished by the UN sanctions regime for more than a decade, were
> suddenly left with no semblance of urban administration. A
> seven-thousand-year-old civilization slid into anarchy. On live TV.
> Vandals plundered shops, offices, hotels, and hospitals. American and
> British soldiers stood by and watched. They said they had no orders
> act. In effect, they had orders to kill people, but not to protect
> them. Their priorities were clear. The safety and security of Iraqi
> people was not their business. The security of whatever little
> remained of Iraq's infrastructure was not their business. But the
> security and safety of Iraq's oil fields were. Of course they were.
> The oil fields were "secured" almost before the invasion began.
> On CNN and BBC the scenes of the rampage were played and replayed. TV
> commentators, army and government spokespersons portrayed it as a
> "liberated people" venting their rage at a despotic regime. U.S.
> Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "It's untidy. Freedom's
> and free people are free to commit crimes and make mistakes and do
> things." Did anybody know that Donald Rumsfeld was an anarchist? I
> wonder - did he hold the same view during the riots in Los Angeles
> following the beating of Rodney King? Would he care to share his
> thesis about the Untidiness of Freedom with the two million people
> being held in U.S. prisons right now? (The world's "freest" country
> has the highest number of prisoners in the world.) Would he discuss
> its merits with young African American men, 28 percent of whom will
> spend some part of their adult lives in jail? Could he explain why he
> serves under a president who oversaw 152 executions when he was
> governor of Texas?
> Before the war on Iraq began, the Office of Reconstruction and
> Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) sent the Pentagon a list of 16 crucial
> sites to protect. The National Museum was second on that list. Yet
> Museum was not just looted, it was desecrated. It was a repository of
> an ancient cultural heritage. Iraq as we know it today was part of
> river valley of Mesopotamia. The civilization that grew along the
> banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates produced the world's first
> writing, first calendar, first library, first city, and, yes, the
> world's first democracy. King Hammurabi of Babylon was the first to
> codify laws governing the social life of citizens. It was a code in
> which abandoned women, prostitutes, slaves, and even animals had
> rights. The Hammurabi code is acknowledged not just as the birth of
> legality, but the beginning of an understanding of the concept of
> social justice. The U.S. government could not have chosen a more
> inappropriate land in which to stage its illegal war and display its
> grotesque disregard for justice.
> At a Pentagon briefing during the days of looting, Secretary
> Prince of Darkness, turned on his media cohorts who had served him so
> loyally through the war. "The images you are seeing on television,
> are seeing over and over and over, and it's the same picture, of some
> person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it
> times and you say, 'My god, were there that many vases? Is it
> that there were that many vases in the whole country?'"
> Laughter rippled through the press room. Would it be alright for the
> poor of Harlem to loot the Metropolitan Museum? Would it be greeted
> with similar mirth?
> The last building on the ORHA list of 16 sites to be protected was
> Ministry of Oil. It was the only one that was given protection.
> Perhaps the occupying army thought that in Muslim countries lists are
> read upside down?
> Television tells us that Iraq has been "liberated" and that
> Afghanistan is well on its way to becoming a paradise for
> to Bush and Blair, the 21st century's leading feminists. In reality,
> Iraq's infrastructure has been destroyed. Its people brought to the
> brink of starvation. Its food stocks depleted. And its cities
> devastated by a complete administrative breakdown. Iraq is being
> ushered in the direction of a civil war between Shias and Sunnis.
> Meanwhile, Afghanistan has lapsed back into the pre-Taliban era of
> anarchy, and its territory has been carved up into fiefdoms by
> warlords.
> Undaunted by all this, on the 2nd of May Bush the Lesser launched his
> 2004 campaign hoping to be finally elected U.S. President. In what
> probably constitutes the shortest flight in history, a military jet
> landed on an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, which was
> so close to shore that, according to the Associated Press,
> administration officials acknowledged "positioning the massive ship
> provide the best TV angle for Bush's speech, with the sea as his
> background instead of the San Diego coastline." President Bush, who
> never served his term in the military, emerged from the cockpit in
> fancy dress - a U.S. military bomber jacket, combat boots, flying
> goggles, helmet. Waving to his cheering troops, he officially
> proclaimed victory over Iraq. He was careful to say that it was "just
> one victory in a war on terror ... [which] still goes on."
> It was important to avoid making a straightforward victory
> announcement, because under the Geneva Convention a victorious army
> bound by the legal obligations of an occupying force, a
> that the Bush administration does not want to burden itself with.
> Also, closer to the 2004 elections, in order to woo wavering voters,
> another victory in the "War on Terror" might become necessary. Syria
> is being fattened for the kill.
> It was Herman Goering, that old Nazi, who said, "People can always be
> brought to the bidding of the leaders.... All you have to do is tell
> them they're being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of
> patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way
> in any country."
> He's right. It's dead easy. That's what the Bush regime banks on. The
> distinction between election campaigns and war, between democracy and
> oligarchy, seems to be closing fast.
> The only caveat in these campaign wars is that U.S. lives must not be
> lost. It shakes voter confidence. But the problem of U.S. soldiers
> being killed in combat has been licked. More or less.
> At a media briefing before Operation Shock and Awe was unleashed,
> General Tommy Franks announced, "This campaign will be like no other
> in history." Maybe he's right.
> I'm no military historian, but when was the last time a war was
> like this?
> After using the "good offices" of UN diplomacy (economic sanctions
> weapons inspections) to ensure that Iraq was brought to its knees,
> people starved, half a million children dead, its infrastructure
> severely damaged, after making sure that most of its weapons had been
> destroyed, in an act of cowardice that must surely be unrivalled in
> history, the "Coalition of the Willing" (better known as the
> of the Bullied and Bought) - sent in an invading army!
> Operation Iraqi Freedom? I don't think so. It was more like Operation
> Let's Run a Race, but First Let Me Break Your Knees.
> As soon as the war began, the governments of France, Germany, and
> Russia, which refused to allow a final resolution legitimizing the
> to be passed in the UN Security Council, fell over each other to say
> how much they wanted the United States to win. President Jacques
> Chirac offered French airspace to the Anglo-American air force. U.S.
> military bases in Germany were open for business. German Foreign
> Minister Joschka Fischer publicly hoped for the "rapid collapse" of
> the Saddam Hussein regime. Vladimir Putin publicly hoped for the
> These are governments that colluded in the enforced disarming of Iraq
> before their dastardly rush to take the side of those who attacked
> Apart from hoping to share the spoils, they hoped Empire would honor
> their pre-war oil contracts with Iraq. Only the very naïve could
> expect old Imperialists to behave otherwise.
> Leaving aside the cheap thrills and the lofty moral speeches made in
> the UN during the run up to the war, eventually, at the moment of
> crisis, the unity of Western governments - despite the opposition
> the majority of their people - was overwhelming.
> When the Turkish government temporarily bowed to the views of 90
> percent of its population, and turned down the U.S. government's
> of billions of dollars of blood money for the use of Turkish soil, it
> was accused of lacking "democratic principles." According to a Gallup
> International poll, in no European country was support for a war
> carried out "unilaterally by America and its allies" higher than 11
> percent. But the governments of England, Italy, Spain, Hungary, and
> other countries of Eastern Europe were praised for disregarding the
> views of the majority of their people and supporting the illegal
> invasion. That, presumably, was fully in keeping with democratic
> principles. What's it called? New Democracy? (Like Britain's New
> Labour?)
> In stark contrast to the venality displayed by their governments, on
> the 15th of February, weeks before the invasion, in the most
> spectacular display of public morality the world has ever seen, more
> than 10 million people marched against the war on 5 continents. Many
> of you, I'm sure, were among them. They - we - were disregarded with
> utter disdain. When asked to react to the anti-war demonstrations,
> President Bush said, "It's like deciding, well, I'm going to decide
> policy based upon a focus group. The role of a leader is to decide
> policy based upon the security, in this case the security of the
> people."Democracy, the modern world's holy cow, is in crisis. And the
> crisis is a profound one. Every kind of outrage is being committed in
> the name of democracy. It has become little more than a hollow word,
> pretty shell, emptied of all content or meaning. It can be whatever
> you want it to be. Democracy is the Free World's whore, willing to
> dress up, dress down, willing to satisfy a whole range of taste,
> available to be used and abused at will.
> Until quite recently, right up to the 1980's, democracy did seem as
> though it might actually succeed in delivering a degree of real
> justice.
> But modern democracies have been around for long enough for
> neo-liberal capitalists to learn how to subvert them. They have
> mastered the technique of infiltrating the instruments of democracy -
> the "independent" judiciary, the "free" press, the parliament - and
> molding them to their purpose. The project of corporate globalization
> has cracked the code. Free elections, a free press, and an
> judiciary mean little when the free market has reduced them to
> commodities on sale to the highest bidder.
> To fully comprehend the extent to which Democracy is under siege, it
> might be an idea to look at what goes on in some of our contemporary
> democracies. The World's Largest: India, (which I have written about
> at some length and therefore will not speak about tonight). The
> World's Most Interesting: South Africa. The world's most powerful:
> U.S.A. And, most instructive of all, the plans that are being made to
> usher in the world's newest: Iraq.
> In South Africa, after 300 years of brutal domination of the black
> majority by a white minority through colonialism and apartheid, a
> non-racial, multi-party democracy came to power in 1994. It was a
> phenomenal achievement. Within two years of coming to power, the
> African National Congress had genuflected with no caveats to the
> Market God. Its massive program of structural adjustment,
> privatization, and liberalization has only increased the hideous
> disparities between the rich and the poor. More than a million people
> have lost their jobs. The corporatization of basic services -
> electricity, water, and housing-has meant that 10 million South
> Africans, almost a quarter of the population, have been disconnected
> from water and electricity. 2 million have been evicted from their
> homes.
> Meanwhile, a small white minority that has been historically
> privileged by centuries of brutal exploitation is more secure than
> ever before. They continue to control the land, the farms, the
> factories, and the abundant natural resources of that country. For
> them the transition from apartheid to neo-liberalism barely disturbed
> the grass. It's apartheid with a clean conscience. And it goes by the
> name of Democracy.
> Democracy has become Empire's euphemism for neo-liberal capitalism.
> In countries of the first world, too, the machinery of democracy has
> been effectively subverted. Politicians, media barons, judges,
> powerful corporate lobbies, and government officials are imbricated
> an elaborate underhand configuration that completely undermines the
> lateral arrangement of checks and balances between the constitution,
> courts of law, parliament, the administration and, perhaps most
> important of all, the independent media that form the structural
> of a parliamentary democracy. Increasingly, the imbrication is
> subtle nor elaborate.
> Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for instance, has a
> controlling interest in major Italian newspapers, magazines,
> television channels, and publishing houses. The Financial Times
> reported that he controls about 90 percent of Italy's TV viewership.
> Recently, during a trial on bribery charges, while insisting he was
> the only person who could save Italy from the left, he said, "How
> longer do I have to keep living this life of sacrifices?" That bodes
> ill for the remaining 10 percent of Italy's TV viewership. What price
> Free Speech? Free Speech for whom?
> In the United States, the arrangement is more complex. Clear Channel
> Worldwide Incorporated is the largest radio station owner in the
> country. It runs more than 1,200 channels, which together account for
> 9 percent of the market. Its CEO contributed hundreds of thousands of
> dollars to Bush's election campaign. When hundreds of thousands of
> American citizens took to the streets to protest against the war on
> Iraq, Clear Channel organized pro-war patriotic "Rallies for America"
> across the country. It used its radio stations to advertise the
> and then sent correspondents to cover them as though they were
> breaking news. The era of manufacturing consent has given way to the
> era of manufacturing news. Soon media newsrooms will drop the
> pretense, and start hiring theatre directors instead of journalists.
> As America's show business gets more and more violent and war-like,
> and America's wars get more and more like show business, some
> interesting cross-overs are taking place. The designer who built the
> 250,000 dollar set in Qatar from which General Tommy Franks
> stage-managed news coverage of Operation Shock and Awe also built
> for Disney, MGM, and "Good Morning America."
> It is a cruel irony that the U.S., which has the most ardent,
> vociferous defenders of the idea of Free Speech, and (until recently)
> the most elaborate legislation to protect it, has so circumscribed
> space in which that freedom can be expressed. In a strange,
> way, the sound and fury that accompanies the legal and conceptual
> defense of Free Speech in America serves to mask the process of the
> rapid erosion of the possibilities of actually exercising that >
> The news and entertainment industry in the U.S. is for the most part
> controlled by a few major corporations - AOL-Time Warner, Disney,
> Viacom, News Corporation. Each of these corporations owns and
> TV stations, film studios, record companies, and publishing ventures.
> Effectively, the exits are sealed.
> America's media empire is controlled by a tiny coterie of people.
> Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Michael Powell, the
> son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, has proposed even further
> deregulation of the communication industry, which will lead to even
> greater consolidation.
> So here it is - the World's Greatest Democracy, led by a man who was
> not legally elected. America's Supreme Court gifted him his job. What
> price have American people paid for this spurious presidency?
> In the three years of George Bush the Lesser's term, the American
> economy has lost more than two million jobs. Outlandish military
> expenses, corporate welfare, and tax giveaways to the rich have
> created a financial crisis for the U.S. educational system. According
> to a survey by the National Council of State Legislatures, U.S.
> cut 49 billion dollars in public services, health, welfare benefits,
> and education in 2002. They plan to cut another 25.7 billion dollars
> this year. That makes a total of 75 billion dollars. Bush's initial
> budget request to Congress to finance the war in Iraq was 80 billion
> dollars.
> So who's paying for the war? America's poor. Its students, its
> unemployed, its single mothers, its hospital and home-care patients,
> its teachers, and health workers.
> And who's actually fighting the war?
> Once again, America's poor. The soldiers who are baking in Iraq's
> desert sun are not the children of the rich. Only one of all the
> representatives in the House of Representatives and the Senate has a
> child fighting in Iraq. America's "volunteer" army in fact depends on
> a poverty draft of poor whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians looking
> for a way to earn a living and get an education. Federal statistics
> show that African Americans make up 21 percent of the total armed
> forces and 29 percent of the U.S. army. They count for only 12
> of the general population. It's ironic, isn't it - the
> disproportionately high representation of African Americans in the
> army and prison? Perhaps we should take a positive view, and look at
> this as affirmative action at its most effective. Nearly 4 million
> Americans (2 percent of the population) have lost the right to vote
> because of felony convictions. Of that number, 1.4 million are
> Americans, which means that 13 percent of all voting-age Black people
> have been disenfranchised.
> For African Americans there's also affirmative action in death. A
> study by the economist Amartya Sen shows that African Americans as a
> group have a lower life expectancy than people born in China, in the
> Indian State of Kerala (where I come from), Sri Lanka, or Costa Rica.
> Bangladeshi men have a better chance of making it to the age of forty
> than African American men from here in Harlem.
> This year, on what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 74th
> birthday, President Bush denounced the University of Michigan's
> affirmative action program favouring Blacks and Latinos. He called it
> "divisive," "unfair," and "unconstitutional." The successful effort
> keep Blacks off the voting rolls in the State of Florida in order
> George Bush be elected was of course neither unfair nor
> unconstitutional. I don't suppose affirmative action for White Boys
> From Yale ever is.
> So we know who's paying for the war. We know who's fighting it. But
> who will benefit from it? Who is homing in on the reconstruction
> contracts estimated to be worth up to one hundred billon dollars?
> Could it be America's poor and unemployed and sick? Could it be
> America's single mothers? Or America's Black and Latino minorities?
> Operation Iraqi Freedom, George Bush assures us, is about returning
> Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people. That is, returning Iraqi oil to the
> Iraqi people via Corporate Multinationals. Like Bechtel, like
> like Halliburton.
> Once again, it is a small, tight circle that connects corporate,
> military, and government leadership to one another. The
> promiscuousness, the cross-pollination is outrageous.
> Consider this: the Defense Policy Board is a government-appointed
> group that advises the Pentagon. Its members are appointed by the
> under secretary of defense and approved by Donald Rumsfeld. Its
> meetings are classified. No information is available for public
> scrutiny.
> The Washington-based Center for Public Integrity found that 9 out of
> the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board are connected to companies
> that were awarded defense contracts worth 76 billion dollars between
> the years 2001 and 2002. One of them, Jack Sheehan, a retired Marine
> Corps general, is a senior vice president at Bechtel, the giant
> international engineering outfit. Riley Bechtel, the company
> is on the President's Export Council. Former Secretary of State
> Shultz, who is also on the Board of Directors of the Bechtel Group,
> the chairman of the advisory board of the Committee for the
> of Iraq. When asked by the New York Times whether he was concerned
> about the appearance of a conflict of interest, he said, "I don't
> that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it. But if there's work
> to be done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it."
> Bechtel has been awarded a 680 million dollar reconstruction contract
> in Iraq. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Bechtel
> contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaign
> efforts.
> Arcing across this subterfuge, dwarfing it by the sheer magnitude of
> its malevolence, is America's anti-terrorism legislation. The U.S.A.
> Patriot Act, passed in October 2001, has become the blueprint for
> similar anti-terrorism bills in countries across the world. It was
> passed in the House of Representatives by a majority vote of 337 to
> 79. According to the New York Times, "Many lawmakers said it had been
> impossible to truly debate or even read the legislation."
> The Patriot Act ushers in an era of systemic automated surveillance.
> It gives the government the authority to monitor phones and computers
> and spy on people in ways that would have seemed completely
> unacceptable a few years ago. It gives the FBI the power to seize all
> of the circulation, purchasing, and other records of library users
> bookstore customers on the suspicion that they are part of a
> network. It blurs the boundaries between speech and criminal activity
> creating the space to construe acts of civil disobedience as
> the law.
> Already hundreds of people are being held indefinitely as "unlawful
> combatants." (In India, the number is in the thousands. In Israel,
> 5,000 Palestinians are now being detained.) Non-citizens, of course,
> have no rights at all. They can simply be "disappeared" like the
> people of Chile under Washington's old ally, General Pinochet. More
> than 1,000 people, many of them Muslim or of Middle Eastern origin,
> have been detained, some without access to legal representatives.
> Apart from paying the actual economic costs of war, American people
> are paying for these wars of "liberation" with their own freedoms.
> the ordinary American, the price of "New Democracy" in other
> is the death of real democracy at home.
> Meanwhile, Iraq is being groomed for "liberation." (Or did they mean
> "liberalization" all along?) The Wall Street Journal reports that
> Bush administration has drafted sweeping plans to remake Iraq's
> economy in the U.S. image."
> Iraq's constitution is being redrafted. Its trade laws, tax laws, and
> intellectual property laws rewritten in order to turn it into an
> American-style capitalist economy.
> The United States Agency for International Development has invited
> U.S. companies to bid for contracts that range between road building,
> water systems, text book distribution, and cell phone networks.
> Soon after Bush the Second announced that he wanted American farmers
> to feed the world, Dan Amstutz, a former senior executive of Cargill,
> the biggest grain exporter in the world, was put in charge of
> agricultural reconstruction in Iraq. Kevin Watkins, Oxfam's policy
> director, said, "Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural
> reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of
> a human rights commission."
> The two men who have been short-listed to run operations for managing
> Iraqi oil have worked with Shell, BP, and Fluor. Fluor is embroiled
> a lawsuit by black South African workers who have accused the company
> of exploiting and brutalizing them during the apartheid era. Shell,
> course, is well known for its devastation of the Ogoni tribal lands
> Nigeria.
> Tom Brokaw (one of America's best-known TV anchors) was inadvertently
> succinct about the process. "One of the things we don't want to do,"
> he said, "is to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq because in a few
> days we're going to own that country."
> Now that the ownership deeds are being settled, Iraq is ready for New
> Democracy.
> So, as Lenin used to ask: What Is To Be Done?
> Well...
> We might as well accept the fact that there is no conventional
> military force that can successfully challenge the American war
> machine. Terrorist strikes only give the U.S. Government an
> opportunity that it is eagerly awaiting to further tighten its
> stranglehold. Within days of an attack you can bet that Patriot II
> would be passed. To argue against U.S. military aggression by saying
> that it will increase the possibilities of terrorist strikes is
> futile. It's like threatening Brer Rabbit that you'll throw him into
> the bramble bush. Any one who has read the documents written by The
> Project for the New American Century can attest to that. The
> government's suppression of the Congressional committee report on
> September 11th, which found that there was intelligence warning of
> strikes that was ignored, also attests to the fact that, for all
> posturing, the terrorists and the Bush regime might as well be
> as a team. They both hold people responsible for the actions of their
> governments. They both believe in the doctrine of collective guilt
> collective punishment. Their actions benefit each other greatly.
> The U.S. government has already displayed in no uncertain terms the
> range and extent of its capability for paranoid aggression. In human
> psychology, paranoid aggression is usually an indicator of nervous
> insecurity. It could be argued that it's no different in the case of
> the psychology of nations. Empire is paranoid because it has a soft
> underbelly.
> Its "homeland" may be defended by border patrols and nuclear weapons,
> but its economy is strung out across the globe. Its economic outposts
> are exposed and vulnerable. Already the Internet is buzzing with
> elaborate lists of American and British government products and
> companies that should be boycotted. Apart from the usual targets -
> Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds - government agencies like USAID, the British
> DFID, British and American banks, Arthur Andersen, Merrill Lynch, and
> American Express could find themselves under siege. These lists are
> being honed and refined by activists across the world. They could
> become a practical guide that directs the amorphous but growing fury
> in the world. Suddenly, the "inevitability" of the project of
> Corporate Globalization is beginning to seem more than a little
> evitable.
> It would be naïve to imagine that we can directly confront Empire.
> strategy must be to isolate Empire's working parts and disable them
> one by one. No target is too small. No victory too insignificant. We
> could reverse the idea of the economic sanctions imposed on poor
> countries by Empire and its Allies. We could impose a regime of
> Peoples' Sanctions on every corporate house that has been awarded
> a contract in postwar Iraq, just as activists in this country and
> around the world targeted institutions of apartheid. Each one of them
> should be named, exposed, and boycotted. Forced out of business. That
> could be our response to the Shock and Awe campaign. It would be a
> great beginning.
> Another urgent challenge is to expose the corporate media for the
> boardroom bulletin that it really is. We need to create a universe of
> alternative information. We need to support independent media like
> Democracy Now!, Alternative Radio, and South End Press.
> The battle to reclaim democracy is going to be a difficult one. Our
> freedoms were not granted to us by any governments. They were wrested
> from them by us. And once we surrender them, the battle to retrieve
> them is called a revolution. It is a battle that must range across
> continents and countries. It must not acknowledge national boundaries
> but, if it is to succeed, it has to begin here. In America. The only
> institution more powerful than the U.S. government is American civil
> society. The rest of us are subjects of slave nations. We are by no
> means powerless, but you have the power of proximity. You have access
> to the Imperial Palace and the Emperor's chambers. Empire's conquests
> are being carried out in your name, and you have the right to refuse.
> You could refuse to fight. Refuse to move those missiles from the
> warehouse to the dock. Refuse to wave that flag. Refuse the victory
> parade.
> You have a rich tradition of resistance. You need only read Howard
> Zinn's A People's History of the United States to remind yourself of
> this.
> Hundreds of thousands of you have survived the relentless propaganda
> you have been subjected to, and are actively fighting your own
> government. In the ultra-patriotic climate that prevails in the
> States, that's as brave as any Iraqi or Afghan or Palestinian
> for his or her homeland.
> If you join the battle, not in your hundreds of thousands, but in
> millions, you will be greeted joyously by the rest of the world. And
> you will see how beautiful it is to be gentle instead of brutal, safe
> instead of scared. Befriended instead of isolated. Loved instead of
> hated.
> I hate to disagree with your president. Yours is by no means a great
> nation. But you could be a great people.
> History is giving you the chance.
> Seize the time.

Arundhati Roy


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  1. You can also listen to her give this address — Dannyboy
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