PRODUCING THE PROPER CRISIS
a speech by Philip Agee, formerly of the CIA.
from Z magazine, Oct. 1990
On the eve of Philip Agee’s 20-city tour to campuses and community
groups throughout the U.S. the Nicaraguan foreign ministry revoked
his Nicaraguan passport preventing him from traveling freely. Jean
Caiani of Speak Out!, who organized his tour, is helping coordinate
a national campaign to regain his original passport which was
revoked in 1979 on the grounds that Agee’s writings and speaking
pose “a serious threat to the national security of the United
States.” Following is the speech that Agee planned to give at his
Sooner or later it had to happen: the fundamental transformation of
U.S. military forces was really only a matter of time.
Transformation, in this sense, from a national defense force to an
international mercenary army for hire.
With a U.S national debt of $3 trillion, some $800 billion owned by
foreigners, The United States sooner or later would have to find, or
produce, the proper crisis – one that would enable the president to
hire out the armed forces, like a national export, in order to avoid
conversion of the economy from military to civilian purposes.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, encouraged, it seems, by the Bush
administration, is the necessary crisis.
Not long after the invasion, I watched on Spanish television Bush’s
call to arms, when he said “our way of life” is at stake. For days
afterwards I kept watching and reading for news of the tens of
millions of people in this country, who would take to the streets in
joy, in celebration that their days of poverty, homelessness,
illiteracy and uncared-for illness might soon end. What I saw
instead, like most of you, was the Bush “way of life” – fishing,
boating, and golfing on the coast of Maine like any respectable
member of the Eastern elite. Bush’s military machismo of recent
weeks reminded me of what General Noriega said about Bush a couple
of years ago, before Bush decided to smash Panamanian nationalism
for the foreseeable future. You remember? Noriega told his deputy
in the Panamanian Defense Forces, who later made it public, he said,
“I’ve got George Bush – by the balls.”
When I read that, I thought, how interesting – one of those rare
statements that contain two revelations. Back in the 1970s, when he
was director of the CIA, Bush tried to get a criminal indictment
against me for revelations I was making about CIA operations and
personnel. But he couldn’t get it, I discovered later in documents I
received under the Freedom of Information Act. The reason was that
in the early 1970s the CIA had committed crimes against me while I
was in Europe writing my first book. If they indicted and prosecuted
me, I would learn the details of those crimes, whatever they were:
conspiracy to assassination, kidnapping, a drug plant. So they
couldn’t indict because the CIA under Bush, and before him under
William Colby, said the details had to stay secret. So what did Bush
do? He prevailed on President Ford to send Henry Kissinger, then
Secretary of State, to Britain where I was living, to get them to
take action. A few weeks after Kissinger’s secret trip a Cambridge
policeman arrived at my door with a deportation notice. After living
in Britain nearly five years, I had suddenly become a threat to the
security of the realm. During the next two years I was not only
expelled from Britain, but also from France, Holland, West Germany,
and Italy – all under U.S. pressure. For two years I didn’t know
where I was living, and my two sons, then teenagers, attended four
different schools in four different countries.
The latest is the government’s attempt to prevent me from speaking
in the U.S now. Where this will end, we still don’t know.
How many of you have friends or relatives right now in Saudi Arabia
or the Persian Gulf area? I wonder how they feel, so close to giving
their lives to protect a feudal kingdom where women are stoned to
death for adultery, where a thief is punished by having his hand
amputated, where women can’t drive cars or swim in the same pool as
men? Where bibles are forbidden and no religion save Islam is
allowed? Where Amnesty International reports that torture is
routine, and that last year 111 people were executed, 16 of them
political prisoners, all but one by public beheading. And not by
clean cut, with a guillotine, but with that long curved sword that
witnesses say requires various chops.
Not that Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait before the invasion, are any
different in terms of political repression than any number of U.S.-
supported allies. But to give your life for those corrupt, cruel,
family dictatorships? Bush says we’re “stopping aggression.” If that
were true, the first thing U.S. forces would have done after
landing, they would have dethroned the Gulf emirs, sheiks, and
kings, who every day are carrying out the worst aggression against
their own people, especially women.
Mainstream media haven’t quite said it yet, as far as I know, but
the evidence is mounting that George Bush and his entourage wanted
the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, encouraged it, and then refused to
prevent it when they could have. I’ll get back to Bush later, but
first, a quick review of what brought on this crisis. Does the name
Cox bring anything special to mind? Sir Percy Cox?
In a historical sense this is the man responsible for today’s Gulf
crisis. Sir Percy Cox was the British High Commissioner in Baghdad
after World War I who in 1922 drew the lines in the sand
establishing for the first time national borders between Jordan,
Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. And in each of these new states the
British helped set up and consolidate ruling monarchies through
which British banks, commercial firms, and petroleum companies could
obtain monopolies. Kuwait, however, had for centuries belonged to
the Basra province of the Ottoman Empire.
Iraq and the Iraqis never recognized Sir Percy’s borders. He had
drawn those lines, as historians have confirmed, in order to
deliberately deprive Iraq of a viable seaport on the Persian Gulf.
The British wanted no threat from Iraq to their dominance in the
Gulf where they had converted no less than ten sheikdoms, including
Kuwait, into colonies. The divide and rule principle, so well-
practiced in this country since the beginning. In 1958 the British-
installed monarchy in Iraq was overthrown in a military coup. Three
years later, in 1961, Britain granted independence to Kuwait, and
the Iraqi military government massed troops on the Kuwaiti border
threatening to take the territory by force. Immediately the British
dispatched troops, and Iraq backed down, still refusing to recognize
the border. Similar Iraqi threats occurred in 1973 and 1976.
This history, Saddam Hussein’s justification for annexing Kuwait, is
in the books for anyone to see. But weeks went by as I waited and
wondered why the International Herald Tribune, which publishes major
articles from the Washington Post, New York Times and wire services,
failed to carry the background. Finally, a month after the invasion,
the Herald Tribune carried a Washington Post article on the
historical context written by Glenn Frankel. I’ve yet to find this
history in Time or Newsweek.
Time, in fact, went so far as to say that Iraq’s claims to Kuwait
were “without any historical basis.” Hardly surprising, since giving
exposure to the Iraqi side might weaken the campaign to Hitlerize
Saddam Hussein. Also absent from current accounts is the CIA’s role
in the early 1970s to foment and support armed Kurdish rebellion in
Iraq. The Agency, in league with the Shah of Iran, provided $16
million in arms and other supplies to the Kurds, leading to Iraqi
capitulation to the Shah in 1975 over control of the Shat al Arab.
This is the estuary of the Tigris and Euphrates, that Iraq invaded
Iran to redress the CIA-assisted humiliation of 1975, and to regain
control of the estuary, beginning the eight year war that cost a
Apart from Iraq’s historical claims on Kuwait and its need for
access to the sea, two related disputes came to a head just before
the invasion. First was the price of oil. OPEC had set the price at
$18 per barrel in 1986, together with production quotas to maintain
that price. But Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates had long
exceeded their quotas, driving the price down to around $13 in June.
Iraq, saddled with a $70 billion debt from the war with Iran, was
losing billions of dollars in oil revenues which normally account
for 95 precent of its exports. Meanwhile, industrialized oil
consumers like the United States were enjoying the best price in 40
years, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Iraq’s other claim against Kuwait was theft. While Iraq was occupied
with Iran during the war, Kuwait began pumping from Iraq’s vast
Rumaila field that dips into the disputed border area. Iraq demanded
payment for oil taken from this field as well as forgiveness of
Kuwaiti loans to Iraq during the war with Iran. Then in July, Iraq
massed troops on the Kuwaiti border while OPEC ministers met in
Geneva. That pressure brought Kuwait and the Emirates to agree to
honor quotas and OPEC set a new target price of $21, although Iraq
had insisted on $25 per barrel. After that Hussein increased his
troops on the border from 30,000 to 100,000.
On August 1, Kuwaiti and Iraqi negotiators, meeting in Saudi Arabia,
failed to reach agreement over the loans, oil thefts, and access to
the sea for Iraq. The next night Iraq invaded. Revelations since
then, together with a review of events prior to the invasion,
strongly suggest that U.S. policy was to encourage Hussein to invade
and, when invasion was imminent, to do nothing to discourage him.
Consider the following.
During the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, the U.S. sided with Iraq and
continued this policy right up to August 2, the day of the invasion.
In April, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East, John
Kelly, testified before Congress that the United States had no
commitment to defend Kuwait. On July 25, with Iraqi troops massed on
the Kuwait border, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met
with Hussein. Minutes of the meeting were given by the Iraqis to the
Washington Post in mid-August.
According to these minutes, which have not been disputed by the
State Department, the Ambassador told Hussein that Secretary of
State James Baker had instructed her to emphasize to Hussein that
the U.S. has “no opinion” on Iraqi-Kuwait border disputes. She then
asked him, in light of Iraqi troop movements, what his intentions
were with respect to Kuwait.
Hussein replied that Kuwait’s actions amounted to “an economic war”
and “military action against us.” He said he hoped for a peaceful
solution, but if not, he said, “it will be natural that Iraq will
not accept death…” A clearer statement of his intentions would be
hard to imagine, and hardly a promise not to invade. The Ambassador
gave no warning from Baker or Bush that the U.S. would oppose an
Iraqi takeover of Kuwait. On the contrary she said, “I have a direct
instruction from the President to seek better relations with Iraq.”
On the same day Assistant Secretary of State Kelly killed a planned
Voice of America broadcast that would have warned Iraq that the U.S.
was “strongly committed” to the defense of its friends in the Gulf,
which included, of course, Kuwait. During the week between the
Ambassador’s meeting with Hussein and the invasion, the Bush
administration forbade any warning to Hussein against invasion, or
to the thousands of people who might become hostages. The Ambassador
returned to Washington as previously scheduled for consultations.
Assistant Secretary Kelly, two days before the invasion, again
testified publicly before Congress to the effect that the U.S. had
no commitment to defend Kuwait. And, according to press reports and
Senator Boren, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, the CIA
had predicted the invasion some four days before it happened.
Put these events together, and add the total absence of any public
or private warning by Bush to Hussein not to invade, together with
no U.S. effort to create international opposition while there was
time. Assuming the U.S. was not indifferent to an invasion, one has
to act whether Bush administration policy was in effect to encourage
Hussein to create a world crisis.
After all, Iraq had chemical weapons and had already used them
against Iran and against Kurds inside Iraq. He was known to be
within two to five years of possessing nuclear weapons. He had
completely upset the power balance in the Middle East by creating an
army one million strong. He aspired to leadership of the Arab world
against Israel, and he threatened all the so-called moderate, i.e.,
feudal regimes, not just Kuwait. And with Kuwait’s oil he would
control 20 percent of the world’s reserves, a concentration in
radical nationalist hands that would be equal, perhaps to the Soviet
Union, Iraq’s main arms supplier. Saddam Hussein, then, was the
perfect subject to allow enough rein to create a crisis, and he was
even more perfect for post-invasion media demonization, a la
Qaddafi, Ortega, and Noriega.
Why would Bush seek a world crisis? The first suggestion came, for
me at least, when he uttered those words about “our way of life”
being at stake. They brought to mind Harry Truman’s speech in 1950
that broke Congressional resistance to Cold War militarism and began
40 years of Pentagon dominance of the U.S. economy.
It’s worth recalling Truman’s speech because Bush is trying to use
the Gulf crisis, as Truman used the Korean War, to justify what some
call military Keynesianism
as a solution for U.S. economic problems.
This is, using enormous military expenditures to prevent or rectify
economic slumps and depressions, while reducing as much as possible
spending on civilian and social programs. Exactly what Reagan and
Bush did, for example, in the early and mid-1980s.
In 1950 the Truman administration adopted a program to vastly expand
the U.S and West European military services under a National
Security Council document called NSC-68. This document was Top
Secret for 25 years and, by error, it was released in 1975 and
The purpose of military expansion under NSC-68 was to reverse the
economic slide that began with the end of World War II wherein
during five years the U.S. GNP had declined 20 percent and
unemployment had risen from 700,000 to 4.7 million. U.S. exports,
despite the subsidy program known as the Marshall Plan, were
inadequate to sustain the economy, and remilitarization of Western
Europe would allow transfer of dollars, under so-called defense
support grants, that would in turn generate European imports from
As NSC-68 put the situation in early 1950: “the United States and
other free nations will within a period of a few years at most
experience a decline in economic activity of serious proportions
unless more positive governmental programs are developed…”
The solution adopted was expansion of the military. But support in
Congress and the public at large was lacking for a variety of
reasons, not least the increased taxes the programs would require.
So Truman’s State Department, under Dean Acheson, set out to sell
the so-called Communist Threat as justification, through a fear
campaign in the media that would create a permanent war atmosphere.
But a domestic media campaign was not enough. A real crisis was
needed, and it came in Korea. Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, in their
history of the 1945-55 period, “The Limits of Power”, show that the
Truman administration manipulated this crisis to overcome resistance
to military build-up and a review of those events show striking
parallels to the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990. Korea at the end of
World War II had been divided north-south along the 38th parallel by
the U.S. and the Soviets.
Five years of on-again, off-again conflict continued: first between
revolutionary forces in the south and U.S. occupation forces, then
between the respective states established first between the U.S. in
the south, then by the Soviets in the north. Both states threatened
to reunify the country by force, and border incursions with heavy
fighting by military forces were common. In June 1950, communist
North Korean military forces moved across the border toward Seoul,
the South Korean capital. At the time, the North Korean move was
called “naked aggression”, but I.F. Stone made a convincing case,
in his “Hidden History of the Korean War”, that the invasion was
provoked by South Korea and Taiwan, another U.S. client regime.
For a month South Korean forces retreated, practically without
fighting, in effect inviting the North Koreans to follow them south.
Meanwhile Truman rushed in U.S. military forces under a United
Nations command, and he made a dramatic appeal to Congress to for an
additional $10 billion, beyond requirements for Korea, for U.S. and
European military expansion. Congress refused. Truman then made a
fateful decision. In September 1950, about three months after the
conflict began, U.S., South Korean, and token forces from other
countries, under the United Nations banner, began to push back the
Within three weeks the North Koreans had been pushed north to the
border, the 38th parallel, in defeat. That would have been the end
of the matter, at least the military action, if the U.S. had
accepted a Soviet UN resolution for a cease-fire and UN-supervised
country-wide elections. Truman, however, needed to prolong the
crisis in order to overcome congressional and public resistance to
his plans for U.S. and European rearmament. Although the UN
resolution under which U.S. forces were fighting in the north, and
rapidly advanced toward the Yalu River, North Korea’s border with
China where only the year before the communists had defeated the
U.S.- backed Kuomintang regime. The Chinese communist government
threatened to intervene, but Truman had decided to overthrow the
communist government in North Korea and unite the country under the
anti-communist South Korean dictatorship.
As predicted, the Chinese entered the war in November and forced the
U.S. and its allies to retreat once again southward. The following
month, with the media full of stories and pictures of American
soldiers retreating through snow and ice before hordes of advancing
Chinese troops, Truman went on national radio, declared a state of
national emergency, and said what Bush’s remarks about “our way of
life” at stake recalled. Truman mustered all the hype and emotion
he could, and said: “Our homes, our nation, all the things that we
believe in, are in great danger. This danger has been created by the
rulers of the Soviet Union.” He also called again for massive
increases in military spending for U.S. and European forces, apart
from needs in Korea.
Of course, there was no threat of war with the Soviet Union at all.
Truman attributed the Korean situation to the Russians in order to
create emotional hysteria, a false, threat, and to get the leverage
over Congress needed for approval of the huge amounts of money that
Congress had refused.
As we know, Truman’s deceit worked. Congress went along in its so-
called bi-partisan spirit, like the sheep in the same offices today.
The U.S. military budget more than tripled from $13 billion in 1950
to $44 billion in 1952, while U.S. military forces doubled to 3.6
million. The Korean War continued for three more years, after it
could have ended, with the final casualty count in the millions,
including 34,000 U.S. dead and more than 100,000 wounded. But in the
United States, Korea made the permanent war economy a reality, and
we have lived with it for 40 years.
What are the parallels with the current Gulf crisis?
First, Korea in June 1950 was already a crisis of borders and
unification demands simply waiting for escalation.
Second, less than six months before the war began Secretary of
State Dean Acheson publicly placed South Korea outside
the U.S. defense perimeter in Asia, just as Assistant
Secretary Kelly denied any U.S. defense commitment to
Third, the U.S. obtained quick UN justification for a massive
military intervention, but only for repelling the North
Koreans, not for conquest of that country. Similarly,
the UN resolutions call for defense of Saudi Arabia,
not for military conquest of Iraq – contrary to the war
mongers who daily suggest that the U.S. may be “forced”
to attack Iraq, presumably without UN sanction or
declaration of war by Congress.
Fourth, both crises came at a time of U.S. economic weakness
with a recession or even worse downturn threatening
Fifth, and we will probably see this with the Gulf, the
Korean crisis was deliberately prolonged in order to
establish military expenditures as the motor of the
U.S. economy. Proceeding in the same manner now would
be an adjustment to allow continuation of what began in
1950. NSC-68 required a significant expansion of CIA
operations around the world in order to fight the
secret political Cold War – a war against socialist
economic programs, against communist parties, against
left social democrats, against neutralism, against
disarmament, against relaxation of tensions, and
against the peace offensive then being waged by the
In Western Europe, through a vast network of political action and
propaganda operations, the CIA was called upon to create in the
public mind, the specter of imminent Soviet invasion combined with
the intention of the European left to enslave the population under
Soviet dominion. By 1953, as a result of NSC-68, the CIA had major
covert action programs underway in 48 countries, consisting of
propaganda, paramilitary, and political action operations – such as
buying elections and subsidizing political parties.
The bureaucracy grew accordingly: in mid-1949 the covert action arm
of the CIA had about 300 employees and seven overseas field
stations. Three years later there were 2,800 employees and 47 field
stations. In the same period the covert action budget grew from $4.7
million to $82 million.
By the mid-1950s the name for the “enemy” was no longer just the
Soviet Union. The wider concept of “International Communism” better
expressed the global view of secret conspiracies run from Moscow to
undermine the U.S. and its allies.
One previously secret document from 1955 outlines the CIA’s tasks:
“Create and exploit problems for International Communism.
Discredit International Communism and reduce the strength of
its parties and organization.
Reduce international Communist control over any area of the
world… specifically such operations shall include any covert
activities related to: propaganda, political action, economic
warfare, preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-
sabotage, demolition, escape and invasion and evacuation
measures; subversion against hostile states or groups,
including assistance to underground resistance movements,
guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, support of indigenous
and anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free
world; deception plans and all compatible activities necessary
to accomplish the foregoing.”
Another document on CIA operations from the same period said, in
“Hitherto accepted norms of human conduct do not apply…
long-standing American concepts of fair play must be
we must learn to subvert, sabotage, and destroy our enemies by
more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than
those used against us.
It may become necessary that the American people be made
acquainted with, understand, and support this fundamentally
And so, from the late 1940s until the mid-1950s, the CIA organized
sabotage and propaganda operations against every country of Eastern
Europe, including the Soviet Union. They tried to forment rebellion
and to hinder those countries’ effort to rebuild from the
devastation of World War II. Though unsuccessful against the Soviet
Union, these operations had some successes in other countries,
notably East Germany. This was the easiest target because, as one
former CIA officer wrote, before the wall went up in 1961 all an
infiltrator needed was good documents and a railway ticket.
From about 1949, the CIA organized sabotage operations against
targets in East Germany in order to slow reconstruction and economic
recovery. The purpose was to create a high contrast between West
Germany, then receiving billions of U.S. dollars for reconstruction,
and the “other Germany” under Soviet control.
William Blum, in his excellent history of the CIA, lists an
astonishing range of destruction:
“through explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other
methods, they damaged power stations, shipyards, a dam,
canals, docks, public buildings, petrol stations, shops,
outdoor stands, a radio station, public transformation…
derailed freight trains… blew up road and railway bridges
used special acid to damage vital factory machinery… killed
7,000 cows… added soap to powdered milk destined for East
and much, much more. These activities were worldwide, and not only
directed against Soviet-supported governments.
During 40 years, as the east-west military standoff stabilized, the
CIA was a principle weapon in waging the north-south dimension of
the Cold War. It did so through operations intended to destroy
nationalist, reformist, and liberation movements of the so-called
Third World, through political repression (torture and death
squads), and by the overthrow of democratically elected civilian
governments, replacing them with military dictatorships.
The Agency also organized paramilitary forces to overthrow
governments, with the contra operation in Nicaragua only a recent
example. This north-south dimension of the Cold War was over control
of natural resources, labor, and markets and it continues today, as
Anyone who thinks the Cold War ended should think again:
the east-west dimension may have ended with the collapse of
communism in Eastern Europe, but the north-south dimension,
which is where the fighting really took place, as in Vietnam,
is still on.
The current Persian Gulf crisis is the latest episode, and it
provides the Bush administration with the pretext to
institutionalize the north-south dimension under the euphemism
of a “new international order,” as he calls it.
The means will be a continuation of U.S. militarism within the
context, if they are successful, of a new multi-lateral,
international framework. Already James Baker has been testing the
winds with proposals for a NATO-style alliance in the Gulf, an idea
that William Safire aptly dubbed GULFO.
The goal in seeking and obtaining the current crisis stops short, I
believe, of a shooting war. After all, a war with Iraq will not be a
matter of days or even weeks. Public opinion in the U.S. will turn
against Bush if young Americans in large numbers start coming back
in body bags. And Gulf petroleum facilities are likely to be
destroyed in the process of saving them, a catastrophe for the world
economy. Nevertheless, press accounts describe how the CIA and U.S.
special forces are organizing and arming guerrillas, said to be
Kuwaitis, for attacking Iraqi forces. These operations provide the
capability for just the right provocation, an act that would cause
Hussein to order defensive action that would then justify an all-out
Such provocations have been staged in the past. In 1964, CIA
paramilitary forces working in tandem with the U.S. Navy provoked
the Tonkin Gulf incidents, according to historians who now question
whether the incidents, said to be North Vietnamese attacks on U.S.
ships, even happened. But Lyndon Johnson used the events as a
pretext to begin bombing North Vietnam and to get a blank check
resolution from Congress to send combat troops and escalate the war.
I think the purpose is not a shooting war but a crisis that can be
maintained as long as possible, far after the Iraqi-Kuwait problem
is resolved. This will prolong the international threat – remember
Truman in 1950 – and allow Bush to prevent cuts in the military
budget, to avoid any peace dividend, and prevent conversion of the
economy to peaceful, human-oriented purposes.
After all, when you count all U.S. defense-related expenses, they
add up to more than double the official figure of 26 percent of the
national budget for defense – some experts say two-thirds of the
budget goes for defense in one way or another.
The so-called national security state of the past 40 years has meant
enormous riches, and power, for those who are in the game. It has
also meant population control – control of the people of this and
many other countries. Bush and his team, and those they represent,
will do whatever is necessary to keep the game going.
Elitist control of the U.S. rests on this game. If anyone doubts
this, recall that from the very beginning of this crisis,
projections were coming out on costs, implying that Desert Shield
would last for more than a year, perhaps that large U.S. forces
would stay permanently in the Gulf. Just imagine the joy this crisis
has brought to U.S. military industries that only months ago were
quaking over their survival in a post-Cold War world.
Not six weeks passed after the Iraqi invasion before the Pentagon
proposed the largest arms sale in history: $21 billion worth of
hardware for defense of the Saudi Arabian throne. Very clever when
you do the sums. With an increase in price of $15 per barrel, which
had already happened, Saudi Arabia stands to earn more than $40
billion extra dollars during the 14 months from the invasion to the
end of the next U.S. fiscal year.
Pentagon calculations of Desert Shield costs come to $18 billion for
the same 14 months. Even if the Saudis paid all that, which they
won’t because of other contributors, they would have more than $20
billion in windfall income left over. O.K., bring that money to the
States through weapon sales. That, I suppose, is why the Saudi Arms
sale instantly became known as the Defense Industry Relief Act of
As for the price of oil, everyone knows that when it gets above $25-
30 a barrel it becomes counter-productive for the Saudis and the
Husseins and other producers. Alternative energy sources become
attractive and conservation again becomes fashionable. Saddam
Hussein accepted $21 in July, and even if, with control of Kuwait,
he had been able to get the price up to $25, that would have been
manageable for the United States and other industrial economies.
Instead, because of this crisis, it’s gone over $35 a barrel and
even up to $40, threatening now to provoke a world depression. With
talk of peaceful solutions, like Bush’s speech to the UN General
Assembly, they will coax the price down, but not before Bush and
others in the oil industry increase their already considerable
Ah, but the issue, we’re told, is not the price of oil, or
preservation of the feudal Gulf regimes. It’s principle. Naked
aggression cannot be allowed, and no one can profit from it. This is
why young American lives may be sacrificed.
Same as Truman said in 1950, to justify dying for what was then, and
for many tears afterwards, one of the world’s nastiest police
states. When I read that Bush was putting out that line, I nearly
When George Bush attacks Saddam Hussein for “naked aggression”, he
must think the world has no knowledge of United States history – no
memory at all.
One thing we should never forget is that a nation’s
foreign policy is a product of its domestic system.
We should look to our domestic system for the reasons why Bush and
his entourage need this crisis to prevent dismantling the national
First, we know that the domestic system in this country is in
crisis, and that throughout history foreign crises have been
manufactured, provoked, and used to divert attention from
domestic troubles – a way of rallying people around the flag
in support of the government of the day.
How convenient now for deflecting attention from the S&L
scandal, for example, to be paid not by the crooks but by
ordinary, honest people.
Second, we know that the system is not fair, that about one in three
people are economically deprived, either in absolute poverty
or so close that they have no relief from want.
We also know that one in three Americans are illiterate,
either totally or to the degree that they cannot function in
a society based on the written word.
We also know that one in three Americans does not register to
vote, and of those who register 20 percent don’t vote.
This means we elect a president with about 25 percent or
slightly less of the potential votes. The reasons why people
don’t vote are complex, but not the least of them is that
people know their vote doesn’t count.
Third, we know that during the past ten years these domestic
problems have gotten even worse thanks to the Reagan-Bush
policy of transferring wealth from the middle and poor
classes to the wealthy, while cutting back on social
Add to this the usual litany of crises: education, health
care, environment, racism, women’s rights, homophobia, the
infrastructure, productivity, research, and inability to
compete in the international marketplace, and you get a
nation not only in crisis, but in decline as well.
In certain senses that might not be so bad, if it stimulates, as in
the Soviet Union, public debate on the reasons. But the picture
suggests that continuation of foreign threats and crises is a good
way to avoid fundamental reappraisal of the domestic system,
starting where such a debate ought to start, with the rules of the
game as laid down in the constitution.
What can we do? Lots. On the Gulf crisis, it’s getting out the
information on what’s behind it, and organizing people to act
against this intervention and possible war. Through many existing
organizations, such as Pledge of Resistance, there must be a way to
develop opposition that will make itself heard and seen on the
streets of cities across the country.
We should pressure Congress and the media for answers to the old
question: During that week between Ambassador Glaspie’s meeting with
Hussein, “What did George know, when did he know it, and why didn’t
he act publicly and privately to stop the invasion before it
happened?” In getting the answer to that question, we should show
how the mainstream media, in failing to do so, have performed their
usual cheerleading role as the government’s information ministry.
The point on the information side is to show the truth, reject the
hypocrisy, and raise the domestic political cost to Bush and every
political robot who has gone along with him. At every point along
the way we must not be intimidated by those voices that will surely
say: “You are helping that brute Saddam Hussein.” We are not helping
Hussein, although some may be.
Rather we are against a senseless destructive war based on greed and
racism. We are for a peaceful, negotiated, diplomatic solution that
could include resolution of other territorial disputes in the
region. We are against militarist intervention and against a crisis
that will allow continuing militarism in the United States. We are
for conversion of the U.S. and indeed the world economy to peaceful,
In the long run, we reject one-party elitist government, and we
demand a new constitution, real democracy, with popular
participation in decision-making. In short, we want our own glasnost
and restructuring here in the United States. If popular movements
can bring it to the Soviet Union, that monolithic tyranny, why can’t
we here in the United States?