[R-G] Pilger: A rampant empire

Anthony Fenton fentona at shaw.ca
Fri Nov 10 22:21:24 MST 2006

Copyright 2006 People's Press Printing Society Ltd
All Rights Reserved
Morning Star

November 9, 2006 Thursday

LENGTH: 1888 words

HEADLINE: Feature - A rampant empire;
Britain's leading campaigning journalist. John Pilger lambasts the  
escalating attacks on democracy by the Bush and Blair administrations

BYLINE: John Pilger


On October 17, President Bush signed a Bill that legalised torture  
and kidnapping and effectively repealed the Bill of Rights and habeas  

The CIA can now legally abduct people and "render" them to secret  
prisons in countries where they are likely to be tortured. Evidence  
extracted under torture is now permissible in "military commissions"  
and people can be sentenced to death based on testimony beaten out of  

You are now guilty until confirmed guilty. And you are a "terrorist"  
if you commit what George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, called  

Bush has revived the prerogatives of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs -  
the power of unrestricted lawlessness. "America can be proud," said  
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the Bill's promoters, who stood with  
other congressmen, clapping as Bush signed away the US constitution  
and the essence of US democracy.

The historic significance of this was barely acknowledged in Britain,  
the source of these abandoned ancient rights, no doubt because the  
same barbarians' law is taking hold here. The great crime of Iraq is  
a moral tsunami that has left new Labour's vassals floundering and  
shouting their hopeless inversions of the truth as they await rescue  
by Washington.

"At a deeper ideological level," wrote the US historian Alfred McCoy,  
what is happening "is a contest of power versus justice.

"Viewed historically, it is a fight over fundamental principles  
reaching back nearly 400 years."

Not long ago, I interviewed Dianna Ortiz, a US nun tortured by a  
Guatemalan death squad whose leader she identified as a fellow US  
citizen. This was the time of Ronald Reagan, who was as murderous in  
central America as Bush is in the Middle East.

"You can't claim to be a democracy if you practise or condone  
torture," she said. "It is the ultimate test."

The US promised a democracy when the Civil Rights Act became law in  
1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year finally ended  
slavery. For the next decade, the civil rights movement joined the  
great popular movement to end the slaughter in Vietnam and Congress  
legislated to restrain the secretive parallel power of the CIA.

It was a fleeting intermission.

Under Reagan, the mythology of US democracy and "pride" was restored,  
perversely, when his corrupt executive ignited a lawless war in  
impoverished central America, causing hundreds of thousands of  
deaths, which the United Nations called genocide. The US became the  
only country ever to have been condemned by the International Court  
of Justice for terrorism for its role in Nicaragua.

"Let's drop the bullshit," a former senior CIA officer told me  
recently. "What matters is our national security interests, okay?"

"National security" is the euphemism for the forbidden word,  
imperialism, whose despotic power has accelerated under George W  
Bush. Secret presidential "signing decrees" that can overturn the  
rare opposition of an otherwise supine Congress are now normal  
practice, along with a gulag of secret prisons, described approvingly  
by Bush as "the CIA programme."

The US today is an extension of the totalitarianism that it has long  
sought to impose abroad. That unpalatable truth is unspoken, of  
course - in spite of his current "difficulties" over Iraq, corporate  
propaganda remains on Bush's side.

The search for an "exit strategy" may make "embarrassing" headlines,  
but the deliberate, systematic looting of billions of dollars of  
Iraq's resources has been quietly achieved, with an estimated $20bn  
"missing." The same silence applies to the class and race war at  
home, as the Bush gang kicks away the ladder that once led to the US  
middle class. Last January, 25,000 people applied for 325 jobs at a  
Wal Mart in Chicago.

Constitutional rights are formidable US myths. The US press is often  
put forward as constitutionally having the freest speech on Earth -  
and it does, theoretically.

Yet, during every period of internal repression, the press and  
broadcast journalism have played a compliant, Pravda role, backing  
imperial wars, indulging the lies of the "red baiter" Joe McCarthy,  
promoting phoney debates about phoney threats - Cuba, Nicaragua, the  
nuclear arms race - and the supercult of "anti-communism."

Bush's lies on Iraq and Afghanistan were merely amplified and  
promoted. Seymour Hersh and a handful of others stand out as  
honourable exceptions.

In 1991, at the end of the one-sided slaughter known as the Gulf war,  
the celebrated US TV anchorman Dan Rather told his national audience,  
"There's one thing we can all agree on. It's the heroism of the 148  
Americans who gave their lives so that freedom could live."

In fact, a quarter of them had been killed by their own people. Most  
of the British casualties were killed by the same "friendly fire."

Moreover, official citations describing how US soldiers had died  
heroically in hand-to-hand combat were fake. The hundreds of  
thousands of Iraqis who died during and in the aftermath of that  
"war" remain unmentionable - like hundreds of thousands who died as a  
result of the decade-long embargo. Like the 655,000 Iraqi "excess  
deaths" since the invasion of 2003.

The war on democracy has been successfully exported. In Britain and  
in other Western countries, such as Australia, journalism and  
scholarship have been systematically appropriated as the new order's  
management class and democratic ideas have been emptied and refilled,  
beyond all recognition.

Unlike the 1930s, there is a silence of writers, with Harold Pinter  
almost the lone voice raised in Britain.

The promoters of an extreme form of capitalism known as  
neoliberalism, the supercult responsible for the greatest  
inequalities in history, are described as "reformers" and  
"revolutionaries." The noble words "freedom" and "liberty" now refer  
to the divine right of this extremism to "prevail," the jargon for  
dominate and control.

This vocabulary, which contaminates the news and the pronouncements  
of the state and its bureaucracy, is from the same lexicon as arbeit  
macht frei - "work makes you free" - the words over the gates at  

For the British under Blair, the influence of this fake democracy has  
been catastrophic. Even if the convergence of the Labour Party and  
the Tories was historically inevitable, it was Tony Blair, the most  
extreme British political figure in living memory, who returned  
Britain to a full-time violent, imperial role, converting a fictional  
notion, "the clash of civilisations," into a possibility.

Blair has destroyed the power of Parliament and politicised those  
sections of the Civil Service and the security and intelligence  
services that saw themselves as impartial. He is Britain's president,  
lacking only the accompanying strains of Hail to the Chief.

Last installed by little more than a fifth of the eligible  
population, he is the most undemocratically elected leader in British  
history. Poll after poll tells us that he is also the most reviled.

Under President Blair, Parliament has become like Congress under Bush  
- an ineffectual, craven talking shop which has debated Iraq only  
twice in two-and-a-half years.

With one important exception, regressive measure after measure has  
been waved through - from the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to the  
Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, with their mandatory sentences and  
house arrests in the form of "control orders."

A Bill to abolish Parliament, as the innocuous-sounding Legislative  
and Regulatory Reform Bill 2006 might be known, removed parliamentary  
scrutiny of government legislation, giving ministers arbitrary powers  
and Downing Street the absolute power of decree. There was no public  
debate. How ironic that the Bill stalled in the House of Lords which,  
together with the judiciary, is now the loyal opposition.

In 2003, Blair worked the secretive royal prerogative - Orders in  
Council - to order an unprovoked, illegal attack on a defenceless  
country, Iraq.

The following year, he used the same archaic powers to prevent the  
Chagos islanders from returning to their homeland, from which they  
were secretly expelled so that the US could build a huge military  
base there. Last May, the High Court described the treatment of these  
British citizens as "repugnant, illegal and irrational."

On October 16 2005, Bush claimed that al-Qaida was seeking to  
"establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia."

This deeply cynical, calculated exaggeration - reminiscent of  
Washington's warning of "mushroom clouds" following September 11 2001  
- was repeated by Blair fresh from the embrace of Rupert Murdoch, the  
likely source of his future enrichment.

This is the message of liberal warmongers who have sought to be  
Tonier-than-thou and salvage their spent reputations by using big,  
specious words such as "Islamofascism."

They suppress the truth that al-Qaida is minuscule compared with the  
state terrorism that kills and maims industrially and whose cost  
distorts all our lives. British state terrorism in Iraq has cost more  
than £7bn. The real cost of Trident is said to be £76bn.

The premises of the best of British life that survived Margaret  
Thatcher have no place in this accounting. The National Health  
Service and what was once the best postal service in the world are  
denied subsidies uncorrupted by a rigged "free market."

Whether it is the accretions of the free-loading Blairs or the sale  
of 72 Eurofighters to the medieval regime in Saudi Arabia, complete  
with "commissions," or the government's refusal to ban highly  
profitable cluster bombs, whose victims are mostly children, blood  
and money are the essence of Blairism and its mutant liberalism.

In their 1996 new Labour manual, The Blair Revolution: Can new Labour  
deliver? Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle highlighted Britain's  
"strengths" under a Blair regime. These were the multinational  
corporations and "aerospace" - the arms industry - and the "pre- 
eminence of the City of London." Blood and money.

Of course, as in any colonial era, blood spilled is invisible. One's  
faraway victims are untermenschen - that is to say, they are less  
than human and have no presence in our lives. On June 11, BBC  
newsreader Fiona Bruce announced that prisoners in Guantanamo Bay  
were committing suicide. She asked: "How damaging is it to the Bush  

At the recent Labour Party conference, a cringe-making presidential  
occasion, Blair, wrote another leading television journalist Jon  
Snow, demonstrated "oratorical mastery and matey finesse." Indeed, he  
was "a leader for his time, in a time when Britain needed exactly  
such leadership."

Those who have peeled back the facades of the Blair and Bush gangs  
ought not to be despondent. The inspiring demonstration on February  
15 2003 may not have stopped an invasion, but the same universal  
power of public morality has, I believe, stalled attacks on Iran and  
North Korea, probably with "tactical" nuclear weapons.

This moral force is undoubtedly stirring again all over the world,  
including the US, and is feared by those who would contrive an  
"endless war."

However, if I have learned nothing else from witnessing numerous  
bloody contrivances, it is never to underestimate the stamina of  
rampant, rapacious empire and the dishonesty of its "humanitarian  
interventions." Millions of us, who are the majority, need to raise  
our voices again, more urgently now than ever.

This article appeared in the New Statesman.

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