An American war project

Published : Apr 25, 2003 00:00 IST



Interview with Samir Amin.

Samir Amin, Director of the Third World Forum, has been a consistent critic of neoliberal globalisation, particularly its relationship to the changing nature of imperialism, operating on a global scale. In this interview he gave V. Sridhar, by telephone from his office in Dakar, Senegal, he points out that though Iraq may be overrun soon, the Iraqi people will continue their resistance against the occupation forces. The Eqypt-born Amin predicts that the United States and its military allies will be drawn into a Vietnam-type war of resistance from the Iraqi people. Excerpts:

What is the significance of this U.S.-led war against Iraq?

Samir Amin: This war is not just against Iraq, not even just against the Arab peoples, or against the people of the region. It is also not a war against Muslims. It is a war against mankind. It is one of a long series of U.S.-planned wars, part of an overall criminal project. This project seeks to establish U.S. military control over the whole planet. This project, and the philosophy that sustains it, developed some years ago, even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It dates back to the 1980s, when the ideology of neo-liberalism attained supremacy, symbolised by the rise of Thatcherism in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the U.S. At the same time, the power of the Soviet Union was declining. The neo-liberal plan, to assume control on a planetary scale, was at that time written by people like Zbignew Brezinski. They said that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. would be the sole and unique hegemonic power. This plan gave itself about 20 years to establish total control over the rest of the world. The idea was to prevent any other country or society - particularly the major countries - from becoming independent actors in the global system.

Where does the war on Iraq stand in relation to this agenda?

The U.S. has chosen to start its project in the region extending from the Balkans to Central Asia, which includes the Middle East [West Asia], where Iraq is, for a variety of reasons. Why have they chosen this region? One reason is that this region is oil-rich. The U.S. knows that control over oil gives it the means to pressure its allies, particularly in Europe and Japan, which represent a triad. The access and control over oil will enable the U.S. to make super-profits. The U.S. is aiming to plunder the wealth of the region. Of course, the project does not stop here.

But this war is not only for oil. It also seeks control of West Asia because of its geostrategic importance. Look at the world map and you can see that it is exactly in the middle. It lies close to the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. Baghdad would be roughly equidistant to London, Johannesburg and Beijing. Control over the region will enable the U.S. to control the world, in particular three countries, China, India and Russia. That is the American vision and those in power there state this quite frankly. I would say that a junta is now in power in Washington. This group has acquired power through a dubious election and has quickly organised its own version of the Reichstag fire, on September 11.

How has the U.S. been able to start with this region in its effort to establish compete hegemony? One of the chief weaknesses of the Arab and Muslim societies, extending right up to Pakistan, is that they are all in a blind alley. All these countries are ruled by political dictatorships. These regimes also submit totally to the ideology of economic liberalism. Socially these countries have been disasters. Internally, the response or opposition to these regimes has also taken the form of political Islam, which is really a blind alley. This is why protests in the Arab and other countries in the region are so pathetically weak, when compared to those around the world. It is weak when compared to protests in Europe or even India...

But the protests here in India have also been weak...

Perhaps this is because of the India-Pakistan problem. Maybe it is because India itself is facing the danger of ideologies similar to political Islam - that of Hindutva.

However, this does not mean there is no opposition to the war. Societies in West Asia are boiling and the governments are losing their legitimacy. Nobody knows where all this will lead to. But one thing is clear: The American plan of using the ugly means of bombing the people of Iraq is not going to bring democracy to these societies. It is to bring in another type of dictatorship, replacing the present pattern, not only in Iraq but also in other countries of the region, Arab and non-Arab. The Americans want to replace these regimes with Islamic dictatorships, which will be allies of the U.S. The idea is to, in a way, revive the old alliance between U.S. capital and regimes of the Saudi Arabian kind, which is based on a conservative and reactionary strand of political Islam.

Why have there not been protests on the streets in the region?

The regimes in these countries are not allowing the people to protest. They do not even have the minimal norms of democracy. Repression has grown in these countries during the war.

There are also differences among the regimes in the Arab world... How is this reflected in their response to the war?

Each of these regimes has its specificities. But they are all undemocratic and they all submit to the neo-liberal ideology. The comprador bourgeoisie governs them all. They implement the prescriptions of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other agencies that serve the ideology of neo-liberalism. All these regimes are utterly incapable of facing the U.S. challenge.

But is not popular pressure on these regimes increasing after the war started?

This is what we hope will happen. I think people in these countries will exert more and more pressure on these regimes. But whether these pressures will be strong enough to compel these regimes to change course, or whether the pressure will lead to the fall of at least some of these regimes, remains to be seen. If there are changes in regimes, whether those succeeding them will be more pro-American, but under the banner of Islam, also remains to be seen. Speaking at the U.N., the French Foreign Minister warned the U.S. that it is starting a war without knowing the consequences. He warned the U.S. that there will be growing chaos and that the result of the war would not be what the Americans imagined it to be. He was right, much more realistic than any of the foolish people of the U.S. junta.

Is the war likely to be a catalyst for change... ?

I am not surprised - and people in the Arab world are not surprised either - about the spirited fightback of the Iraqi people. Despite their suffering at the hands of the regime led by Saddam Hussein for over 20 years, the Iraqi people are nationalistic. They are defending their country against the invaders. Whatever be the immediate results of the war, which is characterised by a gross imbalance of military forces, this war will not be over soon. Yes, the U.S. may appear to occupy the whole country militarily, but that does not mean the war will be over. It will move into a new phase, into something like the war in Vietnam.

What, in the nature of the Iraqi regime and society, explains the resistance mounted against a much more powerful enemy?

I do not think this resistance is mobilised by merely the power system in Iraq. I even feel that once the regime is destroyed by the U.S. military occupation, the Iraqi resistance will actually grow stronger.

After the U.S. occupies the whole country and destroys the regime, the resistance of the people to the U.S. will be even stronger. In some sense, the nature of Iraqi society is not different from that of any other in the South. If India were to be invaded by the Americans, you would, whatever be the nature of the national regime in Delhi, be willing to defend your land in the same way as it is happening in Iraq. That is something the U.S. junta is unable to understand. However much they bomb Iraq, the people will continue to resist. And, this resistance will echo throughout the world as it is already happening. Everywhere in the world, public opinion is decisively against the war. I am now in an African country. I can say that more than 90 per cent of the people of Africa are against this brutal war. The U.S. is going to be more and more isolated from the rest of the world. In this sense, the U.S. junta has already suffered a major political defeat as a result of this upsurge of world public opinion against it.

What will be the impact of the Iraqi resistance on other societies in the Arab world?

I do not know what form it will take, but the protests and solidarity with the Iraqi people will grow. This will put into question the existence of the regimes in the countries of the region.

Are there some countries where this may happen sooner?

That is difficult to say now. At least in Syria and Egypt - and in another important non-Arab country in the region, Iran - the growing strength of public opinion will demand the adoption of a more consistent anti-American position by their governments. Throughout the region there will be a greater polarisation of public opinion against the U.S.

You have said that the Arab world is not one. What are the different strands in the Arab world, and how is the war going to affect them?

Certainly the Arab world is not one. Even the vision of the popular classes (workers and the peasantry in particular) is limited to their local conditions of existence. But insofar as these countries are connected to the Palestinian issue, they are one. More and more people throughout the Arab world understand that U.S. support to Israel is absolute and unconditional. They also understand that the U.S. is establishing its military domination in the region through Israel. They view this as a danger. In that sense, the concept of the "Arab world" is a political one.

But it is a strong political concept in the circumstances. The so-called specialists on Iraq in the U.S. establishment cannot comprehend this. They overplay the differences among the Shias and the Sunnis. Of course there are differences among them, but they count for nothing in the face of an imperialist military invasion. Fundamentally, people believe that the Americans have no business to be in Iraq.

How have the television networks and newspapers of the Arab media covered the war?

The Arab media face a dilemma. They are compelled to show images of the war to viewers 24 hours a day. These images show that the war is against the Iraqi people and not merely against Saddam Hussein. They also show that the U.S. and British armies, particularly when they are in contact with the general population in Basra and other places, are behaving exactly like Israeli soldiers in Palestine. Images of killed civilians, destroyed houses and people terrorised by foreign forces are being seen on TV screens throughout the Arab world every day... The images are not accompanied by commentary. For instance, Jordanian television channels are not allowed to voice their condemnation of the U.S. So they just show the images of the war and its impact. In the print media, the condemnation is clear. There is direct condemnation of the U.S., particularly its attempt to gain absolute control of the Arab world. Much of the Arab media are clearly against the war. Of course, the media face pressure from their governments, but the balance of public opinion is so overwhelmingly and decisively against the war that not only the media but even the regimes cannot suppress them totally.

Is the resistance to U.S. domination in the region likely to be channelled along Islamic rather than secular forms? What are the implications if resistance takes an Islamic form?

This is a very important question mark in the region. The American plan does not visualise putting in place democracies in the region, but installing Islamic allies in power. The U.S. assumes that it will be able to maintain complete control over these Islamic regimes. I doubt whether the U.S. will succeed in this because these regimes will enjoy no legitimacy... People will not accept any regime that is close to the U.S. There will be Islamic anti-imperialistic actions but the resistance will also take other forms. The U.S. will try and restrict the oppositional space to Islamic elements to try and maintain a pretext for its presence in the region, citing the problem of "terrorism".

You hold the view that the current phase of imperialism is markedly different, in the sense that inter-imperialist rivalries are now a thing of the past. How would you assess the French and German response to the war?

I think the responses from France and Germany are credible, although I do not think we are moving into a situation of growing inter-imperialist rivalries. I do not think capital in France, Germany or the U.S. has any fundamental differences. I think the inter-penetration of monopoly capital represented by the transnationals from the U.S. and Europe is so great that they have a lot of common interests. I think the conflict is at the political level. The political culture of the European peoples, particularly in France, Germany and Russia, is very different from the political culture in the U.S. It is very clear - and visible - that public opinion throughout Europe is against the war. People in there are against the war, not merely because they are pacifists but also because there is a growing awareness that the U.S. junta is following a foolish, irresponsible, dangerous and criminal vision... They fear that this vision will result in the complete denial of democratic and human rights for people all over the world, and a total subversion of international law. It is this growing opposition from public opinion that the French and German governments reflect. I fully agree with the position taken by France, Germany, Russia and China. Even the smaller countries, which were under tremendous pressure from the U.S. in the Security Council, refused to succumb. Therefore, the ground is conducive for building an international front to revive the U.N. The U.S. has decided to kill the U.N., but there is now also an opportunity to revive it, based on the respect of international law.

You have spent many years in France. What is your assessment of the French position on the war? There is a view that they are merely bargaining with the U.S. for the rights to the oil fields in Iraq and the region...

Of course, France and Russia have material interests in Iraq. I do not think the French position has been decided by merely this consideration.

What is the mood in the Arab world?

At present, it is exclusively anger. It is too early to say whether this will crystallise into a positive political alternative and result in the democratisation of these societies. I have friends in Iraq who are in opposition to the dictatorship. They oppose just as much the U.S. invasion of their country. I have not been able to be in touch with them since the war began. Based on my reading of the Arab press, and on discussions with friends who know Iraq from the inside, I feel that the Iraqi resistance is likely to gain in strength. This war will not finish with the occupation of Iraq. It will take another form, of spontaneous guerilla resistance to the U.S. occupation. Iraq has a tradition of guerilla warfare. They have a rather long history as a courageous people - not afraid of death.

I have spent a long time in Vietnam in the company of their military commanders. They have always told me that the Americans are more comfortable while bombing or indulging in assassinations or killing civilians. I do not think the Iraqi regime will survive the war. I think Iraq will be more or less fully invaded. Baghdad is likely to fall, but thousands of people will die there. I do not know whether public opinion in the U.S. will be such that the war will stop at that point.

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