Masters and slaves

Liberty of property, freedom to invade

George Bush's second presidential term officially began last week, with a lavish inauguration ceremony. There was a series of opulent banquets, balls and glitzy events which, according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, cost a cool $40 million total. In addition, the federal government and District of Columbia shelled out something like $20 million. Rituals performed, celebrations over, money spent, Bush has now been recrowned the elected monarch of the United States. Most attention has focused on his inauguration speech, delivered outside the Capitol building. With John Kerry sitting only a few feet behind him, in the traditional display of class solidarity expected of defeated presidential candidates, Bush outlined his plans for a still more activist, aggressive, foreign policy - that is, US imperialism's continued quest for 'full spectrum dominance'. Obviously, Bush's speech marked a further rejection of traditional Republican isolationism and its 'realist' foreign policy approach strongly associated with his father, who famously distrusted "the vision thing". The march of the neo-cons continues. We were exposed to a bellicose address, shot through with the usual religiosity and biblical terminology, Bush's fundamentalist inclinations being made all too apparent. The central mission, or crusade, of the US, insisted Bush, was "ending tyranny in our world". In full-rhetoric mode, he proclaimed: "We have lit "¦ a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world." Though he did not mention it by name, of course, this "fire of freedom" has been lit in Iraq, which has been wrecked by the tornado of US-UK conquest and occupation. US imperialism has presided over total social breakdown and a descent into barbarism. Whole towns and cities have been bombed and battered into submission. Most notably Fallujah. Violence and mayhem racks the country, as the January 30 'general' election looms. In a new report by the Human Rights Watch, The new Iraq - torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Iraq custody, we read that arbitrary arrest, extortion, beatings, torture, etc by the imperialist-trained Iraqi police is "routine". Here we have 'democracy', US-UK style. Or, in Bush-speak, "we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation", which, "across the generations", has "proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave" - unless, that is, they happen to be a nation which defies the will of the US and thus deserves to be pulverised. And now there are excited whispers in neo-con circles and their outlets of "targeted" air strikes on suspected nuclear sites in Iran, backed up by selective commando-style raids. Imperialism will not tolerate Iran (as opposed to Israel) acquiring a nuclear weapon - so kiss goodbye the "imperative of self-government". Communists denounce warmongering directed against Iran. Such threats only help to shore up the regime of the mullahs, giving them easy material with which to launch an 'anti-imperialist' propaganda offensive and cohere support. The Iranian people, like the Iraqi people, should have the right to self-determination - free of the mullahs, free of imperialism. Clearly, the Iraq elections are to be run in a manner, and under conditions, which are designed to produce the results George Bush and US imperialism wants. The chances of them actually reflecting the genuine will, and democratic aspirations, of the Iraqi people are negligible. Large areas of the country are beyond the remit of the Allawi government and even in those areas formally controlled by his interim government - or, for that matter, the Kurdish nationalist parties - nothing resembling democratic conditions exists, making a mockery of the idea of any sort of meaningful election campaign. As part of his speech, Bush solemnly intoned: "For a half-century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire. We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion. The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." This is the worst hypocrisy imaginable. Under the guise of "liberty" and "freedom", post-World War II US imperialism ruthlessly attempted to impose its will on virtually every corner of the world. In the case of Korea and Vietnam, this took the form of a brutal, full-on military assault, leading to carnage and mass slaughter. Communism had to be 'rolled back'. Or, in the case of Latin America, it took the shape of sponsoring and supporting innumerable coup attempts, and propping up one blood-soaked dictator after another - Cuba, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Grenada, Paraguay, Colombia, etc. Here we have the "shipwreck" of decades of anti-communism, which attempted, as a gut instinct, to strangle any move to wrestle power and privilege away from the ruling classes. Democracy - real democracy, that is - was never on imperialism's agenda, then or now. Theirs is the "freedom" to invade, the "liberty" of property. Genuine communists, unlike pseudo-communists who prattle on about the 'progressive' nature of the United Nations and the such-like, have no illusions in imperialism - it has absolutely no 'civilising' role to play. Indeed, imperialism, as a truly world system, can bring nothing but barbarism and bloodshed to our planet. However, not everyone agrees. For some liberal commentators, Bush's words ignited hope of a more caring, 'compassionate' imperialism, which, topsy-turvy style, is contrasted to the 'heartless' anti-imperialist left. For Nick Cohen of The Observer, a keen supporter of the Iraq war, and imperialism's current-day adventures in general, Bush has become transformed into a democratic warrior: "In the long-run the only solution is for the global move towards democracy to get moving again. In these strange times, the only person who believes that this is possible or desirable is George W Bush "¦ And was feared and hated by right-thinking people the world over for saying so" (January 23). Not for the first time, and no doubt not for the last, Cohen demonstrates his moral and intellectual surrender before the warmongering agenda of the US neocons. There is a world of difference between what Bush says and what he does. He will only support "liberty in other lands" to the extent that it serves the interest of US capital and imperialism - no more, no less. Cohen would have his readers believe that opposition to US, and UK, imperialism in Iraq, and elsewhere, somehow implies automatic support for reactionary political islamists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who denounces the "evil principles of democracy". However, Cohen is able to get away with this nonsense, almost week after week in his column, by cherry-picking his way through the statements issued on the Iraq war by the Stop the War Coalition and the SWP/Respect, selecting out the more dubious or ambiguous formulations which inch towards support for reactionary anti-imperialist forces and then - hey presto - presenting these views as the collective wisdom of the entire 'right-thinking' left. Of course, this a dishonest method long practised by his fellow Observer stable-mate, one time Eurommunist and now professional red-watcher, and baiter, David Aaronovitch - only laced with a lot more cynicism. In the same issue of the paper, Aaronovitch writes: "Since September 11 the most bizarre alliances have come into existence. The very far left and the very far right have effortlessly coalesced in their identification of Israel and Zionism as the true animating spirits of the war for democracy, in their flirtation with 9/11 conspiracy theories and in their support for the peculiarly murderous 'resistance' in Iraq" (January 23). We can only expect more garbage like this in the coming period. Communists shall continue to call for the defeat of US-UK imperialism and for the Iraqi working class to arm itself - politically and militarily - in order to win leadership of the battle against imperialism, while maintaining a firm political independence from the forces of reactionary anti-imperialism. Paul Greenaway