1) Bush and American Utopianism:
Why Bush will fail in Europe
The President has an enormous political gulf to
bridge. The trouble is, he doesn't even know it's
Sunday February 20 2005
President George W Bush arrives in Europe this week in
the belief that the European Nato allies can be
persuaded to 'turn away from the disagreements of the
past' and open 'a new chapter' in transatlantic
relations, as Condoleezza Rice, on her European trip,
advised them to do. He is likely to go home without
the concessions he wants.
He wants more help from the Europeans in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and probably in other places yet to be
announced; European backing for American policy on
Iran (and Syria and Israel/Palestine); and no European
arms sales to China. Those are Washington's
priorities. There is a further list of secondary
issues, commercial as well as political.
His trip will fail because he and his administration
do not understand what really divides most continental
European governments from the United States today. At
the same time, Europeans are mostly unwilling to
confront these issues, because of the trouble with
Washington they imply. But, unacknowledged or not,
First is the definition of the crisis. Few Europeans
believe either in the global 'war on terror' or the
'war against tyranny', as Washington describes them.
American claims about the threat of terrorism seem
grossly exaggerated, and the American reaction
disproportionate and even hysterical. Three thousand
were killed in the Twin Towers, but most advanced
societies have already had, or still have, their own
wars with 'terrorism' sustaining losses
proportionately as severe: the British with the IRA,
Italians and Germans with their Red Brigades, the
Spanish with the Basque separatist Eta, and so on. It
has been a condition of modern political existence.
The American-led invasion of Iraq is widely regarded
in Europe as irrelevant to the reality of terrorism,
overwrought in scale and destruction, and perverse in
effect, vastly deepening hostility between the Western
powers and Muslim society. To most Democrats as well
as Republicans, 11 September was the defining event of
the age, after which 'nothing could be the same'.
Their imperviousness to any notion that this might not
be so astonishes many abroad. Many European believe it
is not the world that has changed, but the United
The second cause of transatlantic disagreement is the
American claim to global domination, and its hostility
to Europe's acquiring political or military power
commensurate with European economic power.
This claim rests on the argument that an international
system in which there is more than one major power is
no longer acceptable. Two years ago, Condoleezza Rice
told the International Institute for Strategic Studies
in London that 'multi-polarity' in the past had been
'a necessary evil that sustained the absence of war
but did not promote the triumph of peace'. As a theory
of political society, she said, it stands for rivalry
and competition. 'We have tried this before. It led to
the Great War ... '
This obviously is untrue. The simultaneous existence
of major as well as minor powers was the political
reality throughout modern history, despite efforts to
overturn it, most recently by Hitler and Stalin.
A traditional diplomacy of 'balance of power', meant
to keep the peace, failed in 1914, and in 1938 the
existing balance of power was deliberately destroyed
by a hegemony-seeking Germany - in part made possible
by an isolationist United States's refusal to
intervene in Europe's affairs.
Speaking in Paris last week, the Secretary of State
asked, 'why should we seek to divide our capacities
for good, when they can be much more effective united?
Only the enemies of freedom would cheer this
division.' The alternative she proposes is an
American-led international system that replaces Nato's
principle of equality and collegiality with hierarchy.
Nato today has an internal multipolarity. The treaty
requires consensus on actions, which means that
differences of opinion can block US initiatives. The
Bush administration refers 'coalitions of the willing'
to avoid this problem, although the fragility of the
Iraq coalition does not encourage its use elsewhere.
The third basic disagreement is that the US has
repudiated the system of absolute state sovereignty
that has governed international society since 1648,
and is the basis of modern international law.
This was an early casualty of the Bush
administration's National Security Strategy, announced
in 2002, which declared that preemptive attack had
become an American policy option in the war against
terror. The US then renounced, 'de-ratified', or
simply abandoned a series of treaty commitments. These
included Geneva standards on the treatment of
prisoners and the prohibition of torture. The US has
deliberately chosen to place itself outside the regime
of international law, to which all of the European
Union nations are committed.
The American claim to a dominating or hegemonic
position in international affairs is bipartisan. The
Clinton administration made it; the Bush
administration makes it; John Kerry made it during
last year's presidential campaign. It says that
America's power itself imposes a right or
responsibility to suppress terrorism, nuclear
proliferation, and 'rogue states', and to enforce
Any challenge to American primacy by another state, or
by the European Union, is perceived a cause of
international instability and therefore a potential
source of disorder or war.
This American role is avowedly benevolent, and in the
eyes of many Americans, certainly including President
Bush, it is of divine origin (Woodrow Wilson also
believed this). Within the present administration,
there are those who believe cosmic forces are in play
and responsible for America's emergence as the sole
superpower. The American belief in a divine commission
goes back to its religious origins in the 17th
century, and is not open to logical refutation. Even
secular interpretations of American destiny assert a
moral claim, expressed thus in the 19th century: 'The
United States has achieved the highest possible form
of political system and that this great system can be
extended to the rest of humanity ... Because America
is exceptionally good, it both deserves to be
exceptionally powerful and by nature cannot use its
power for evil ends.'
Current transatlantic conflicts are thus not mere
political disagreements. They derive from the nature
of the evolving relationship between the US and a
European Union that considers itself the sovereign
legatee of the European powers of the past, and has a
conservative commitment to the preservation of
The claim America now makes is that destruction is a
creative principle in politics as well as economics.
'Creative destruction' produces new order. This is a
form of Utopianism.
The American challenge is to the fundamental claim of
other nations to sovereign autonomy. In the immediate
future this is likely to be managed rather than
solved. Many European governments are undoubtedly
willing to accept Washington on Washington's terms, as
has Tony Blair's Britain.
Some, as already happens, will resist those terms and
attempt to develop a European mid-term or long-term
counter-power, which will not necessarily be military.
But throughout history nations and other political
forces have been disposed to challenge claims to
universal power. This is the source of current
tensions. It is the closest thing to a natural law
that history can offer. 'Stuff happens', whether
intended or not, to use Donald Rumsfeld's language.
Uneasy lies the crown, even for republics.
© William Pfaff.
2) Egyptians Hold Largest Anti-Mubarak Protest Yet:
3) Subject: Iraqi Oil Workers' Statement:
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 18:48:36 +0000
"We lived through dark days under Saddam Hussein's
dictatorship. When the regime fell, people wanted a
new life: a life without shackles and terror; a life
where we could rebuild our country and enjoy its
natural wealth. Instead, our communities have been
attacked with chemicals and cluster bombs, and our
people tortured, raped and killed in our homes.
Saddam's secret police used to creep over the roofs
into our homes at night; occupation troops now break
down our doors in broad daylight. The media do not
show even a fraction of the devastation that has
engulfed Iraq. Journalists who dare to report the
truth of what is happening have been kidnapped by
terrorists. This serves the agenda of the occupation,
which aims to eliminate witnesses to its crimes.
Workers in Iraq's southern oilfields began organising
soon after British occupying forces invaded Basra. We
founded our union, the Southern Oil Company Union,
just 11 days after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.
When the occupation troops stood back and allowed
Basra's hospitals, universities and public services to
be burned and looted, while they defended only the oil
ministry and oilfields, we knew we were dealing with a
brutal force prepared to impose its will without
regard for human suffering. From the beginning, we
were left in no doubt that the US and its allies had
come to take control of our oil resources.
The occupation authorities have maintained many of
Saddam's repressive laws, including the 1987 order
which robbed us of basic union rights, including the
right to strike. Today, we still have no official
recognition as a trade union, despite having 23,000
members in 10 oil and gas companies in Basra, Amara,
Nassiriya, and up to Anbar province. However, we draw
our legitimacy from the workers, not the government.
We believe unions should operate regardless of the
government's wishes, until the people are able finally
to elect a genuinely accountable and independent Iraqi
government, which represents our interests and not
those of American imperialism.
Our union is independent of any political party....
Our union has already shown it is able to stand its
ground against one of the most powerful US companies,
Dick Cheney's KBR, which tried to take over our
workplaces with the protection of occupation forces.
We forced them out and compelled their Kuwaiti
subcontractor, Al Khourafi, to replace 1,000 of the
1,200 employees it brought with it with Iraqi workers,
70% of whom are unemployed today. We also fought US
viceroy Paul Bremer's wage schedule, which dictated
that Iraqi public sector workers must earn ID 69,000
($35) per month, while paying up to $1,000 a day to
thousands of foreign mercenaries. In August 2003 we
took strike action and shut down all oil production
for three days. As a result, the occupation
authorities had to raise wages to a minimum of ID
We see it as our duty to defend the country's
resources. We reject and will oppose all moves to
privatise our oil industry and national resources. We
regard this privatisation as a form of
neo-colonialism, an attempt to impose a permanent
economic occupation to follow the military occupation.
The occupation has deliberately fomented a sectarian
division of Sunni and Shia. We never knew this sort of
division before. Our families intermarried, we lived
and worked together. And today we are resisting this
brutal occupation together, from Falluja to Najaf to
Sadr City. The resistance to the occupation forces is
a God-given right of Iraqis, and we, as a union, see
ourselves as a necessary part of this resistance -
although we will fight using our industrial power, our
collective strength as a union, and as a part of civil
society which needs to grow in order to defeat both
still-powerful Saddamist elites and the foreign
occupation of our country.
Bush and Blair should remember that those who voted in
last month's elections in Iraq are as hostile to the
occupation as those who boycotted them. Those who
claim to represent the Iraqi working class while
calling for the occupation to stay a bit longer, due
to "fears of civil war", are in fact speaking only for
themselves and the minority of Iraqis whose interests
are dependent on the occupation.
We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign
occupation forces and their military bases. We don't
want a timetable - this is a stalling tactic. We will
solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our
country and we can take care of ourselves. We have the
means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create
our own democratic society.
· Hassan Juma'a Awad is general secretary of Iraq's
Southern Oil Company Union and president of the Basra
Oil Workers' Union email@example.com
Leave our country now February 18, 2005
4) Asian Times on US Intrigue vis-a-vis Clerics:
US fights back against 'rule by clerics'
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - Given the widespread Sunni boycott of Iraq's
January 30 elections for a National Assembly, with
voting concentrated among the Kurdish north and
Shi'ite south, the polls served more as a referendum
to prove Shi'ite and Kurd strength.
This can be seen in the results of the polls released
on Sunday, with the Shi'ite-dominated United Iraqi
Alliance capturing 48% of the vote and the Kurdish
Now it emerges that there is a strong movement in
southern Iraq for the establishment of autonomous
Shi'ite provinces as a precursor to introducing
vilayet-e-faqih (rule by the clergy) in the whole
Of these calls for autonomy or federalism, the most
disconcerting for US authorities is the call for
religious rule. Already, leading Shi'ite clerics in
Iraq are pushing for "Islam to be recognized as the
guiding principle of the new constitution".
To head off this threat of a Shi'ite clergy-driven
religious movement, the US has, according to Asia
Times Online investigations, resolved to arm small
militias backed by US troops and entrenched in the
population to "nip the evil in the bud".
Asia Times Online has learned that in a highly
clandestine operation, the US has procured
Pakistan-manufactured weapons, including rifles,
rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition,
rockets and other light weaponry. Consignments have
been loaded in bulk onto US military cargo aircraft at
Chaklala airbase in the past few weeks. The aircraft
arrived from and departed for Iraq.
The US-armed and supported militias in the south will
comprise former members of the Ba'ath Party, which has
already split into three factions, only one of which
is pro-Saddam Hussein. They would be expected to
receive assistance from pro-US interim Prime Minister
Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord.
A military analyst familiar with strategic and proxy
operations commented that there is a specific reason
behind procuring arms from Pakistan, rather than
acquiring US-made ones.
"A similar strategy was adopted in Afghanistan during
the initial few years of the anti-USSR resistance [the
early 1980s] movement where guerrillas were supplied
with Chinese-made AK-47 rifles [which were procured by
Pakistan with US money], Egyptian and German-made G-3
rifles. Similarly, other arms, like anti-aircraft
guns, short-range missiles and mortars, were also
procured by the US from different countries and
supplied to Pakistan, which handed them over to the
guerrillas," the analyst maintained.
The obvious reason for this tactic is to give the
impression that the resistance acquired its arms and
ammunition from different channels and from different
countries - and anywhere other than the United States.
Asia Times Online contacts said it is clear that
Pakistan would not be the only country from which the
US would have procured arms. And such arms could not
be destined for the Iraqi security forces because US
arms would be given to them.
For the Americans, the situation in southern Iraq has
turned into a double-edged sword. Iraqis there fully
embraced the elections - even if they had to be
convinced by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to do so -
and this participation was welcomed as a sign of
democracy taking root in the country.
But with Shi'ite religious parties emerging as the
strongest power, no sooner were the elections over
than voices were raised for the creation of an
autonomous southern Iraqi region, and for
People from different walks of life from Basra and
other southern provinces can be heard on television
and radio channels demanding a federal system in which
southern Shi'ites could govern their oil resources for
Notably, Ahmad Chalabi, a leading secular Shi'ite
candidate in the Iraqi elections, has called for
autonomy for the Shi'ite south, which contains some of
the world's largest oil fields. Chalabi, a former US
favorite who fell out with Washington after the 2003
invasion, said the move would ensure a fairer share of
wealth for a region that provides the bulk of Iraqi
revenue but receives only a fraction of state
spending. The mainly Shi'ite southern provinces of
Amara, Nasiriya and Basra are Iraq's poorest, Chalabi
Observers say this is the beginning of a new era which
could climax in a movement for vilayet-e-faqih , a
compulsory part of the Shi'ite faith that is
intertwined with the concept of imamat or leadership
(all Muslims under one leader). The difference between
a caliph and an imam is that a caliph can be anyone
accepted by Muslims, but an imam must hail from the
Prophet Mohammed's family and be a recognized
religious authority (clergy).
Already, members of the Da'wa Party, many of whom were
taught in Iran, have taken over mosques in Basra, and
members of Hezbollah have heavily infiltrated the
Shi'ite population, in addition to Iranian
intelligence and members of the Pasdaran-i-Inqalab
(Iran's Revolutionary Guards) to pave the way for
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia Times
Online. He can be reached at
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