Questions for Prof. Ismael Hossein-zadeh
Q1: Do you believe in the premise that the United States has been waging wars in the Middle East to sell its weapons and make profits through strengthening and empowering the military contractors? Is this what the late U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower had warned against in his farewell speech as the military-industrial complex? The military contractors have made remarkable profits through the wars the U.S. government has waged in the recent decades, but what is the overall impact of war and military spending on the U.S. economy and, therefore, the American people? Isn’t it going to be too costly and unaffordable for the U.S. government?
A1: The official U.S. military spending for the year 2014 stands at about $640 billion. This figure exceeds the combined expenditures of the other 10 largest military spenders in the world and is nearly 40% of the world’s total military spending. Although the official military budget already eats up the lion’s share of the public money (crowding out vital domestic needs), it nonetheless grossly understates the true magnitude of the military-security spending.
The reason for this understatement is that the official Department of “Defense” budget excludes not only the cost of military adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the like, but also a number of other major cost items: the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security; nuclear weapons research and development, testing and storage (budgeted in the Energy budget); veterans’ programs (in Veteran’s Administration budget); most military retiree payments (in the Treasury budget); foreign military aid in the form of weapons grants for allies (in the State Department budget); interest payments on money borrowed to fund military programs in past years (in the Treasury budget); sales and property taxes at military bases (in local government budgets); and the hidden expenses of tax free food, housing, and combat pay allowances.
After adding these disguised and misplaced expenses to the official Department of “Defense” budget, Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute concludes: “Therefore, I propose that in considering future defense budgetary costs, a well-founded rule of thumb is to take the Pentagon’s (always well publicized) basic budget total and double it. You may overstate the truth, but if so, you’ll not do so by much.”
The skyrocketing Pentagon budget has been a boon for its contractors. This is clearly reflected in the continuing rise of the value of the contractors’ shares in the stock market, which have trebled since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
But while the Pentagon contractors and other beneficiaries of war dividends are showered with public money, low- and middle-income Americans are squeezed out of economic or subsistence resources in order to make up for the resulting budgetary shortfalls. As the military-security spending is steadily escalating, over one hundred government program are eliminated or sharply reduced to pay for the increase. These include cuts in food stamps, in housing assistance for low-income seniors, home heating assistance to low-income people, grants for education and employment training, and many more.
Official macroeconomic figures show that, over the past five decades or so, government spending (at the federal, state and local levels) as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) has remained fairly steady—at about 20 percent. Given this nearly constant share of the public sector of national income, it is not surprising that increases in military spending have almost always been accompanied or followed by compensating decreases in non-military public spending, and vice versa.
Interestingly (though not surprisingly), changes in income inequality have mirrored changes in government spending priorities, as reflected in the fiscal policies of different administrations. Thus, for example, when from the mid 1950 to the mid-1970s the share of non-military public spending rose relative to that of military spending, income inequality declined accordingly. But as President Reagan reversed that fiscal policy by raising the share of military spending relative to non-military public spending and cutting taxes for the wealthy, income inequality also rose considerably.
Beyond the issue of class and inequality, allocation of a disproportionately large share of public resources to the beneficiaries of war and militarism is also steadily undermining the critical national objective of building and/or maintaining public capital. This includes both physical capital or infrastructure (such as roads, bridges, mass transit, dams, levees, and the like) and human capital or soft/social infrastructure such as health, education, nutrition, and so on. If not reversed or rectified, this ominous trend is bound to stint long term productivity growth and socio-economic development. A top heavy military establishment will be unviable in the long run as it tends to undermine the economic base it is supposed to nurture.
In March 2001, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued a “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” grading 12 infrastructure categories at a disappointing D+ overall, and estimating the need for a $1.3 trillion investment to bring conditions to acceptable levels. In September 2003, ASCE released a Progress Report that examined trends and assessed the progress and decline of the nation’s infrastructure. The Progress Report, prepared by a panel of 20 eminent civil engineers with expertise in a range of practice specialties, examined 12 major categories of infrastructure. The report concluded: “The condition of our nation’s roads, bridges, drinking water systems and other public works have shown little improvement since they were graded an overall D+ in 2001, with some areas sliding toward failing grade.”
Neoliberal proponents of laissez faire economics tend to view government spending on public capital as a burden on the economy. Instead of viewing public-sector spending on infrastructure as a long-term investment that will help sustain and promote economic vitality, they view it as an overhead. By focusing on the short-term balance sheets, they seem to lose sight of the indirect, long-term returns to the tax dollars invested in the public capital stock. Yet, evidence shows that neglect of public capital formation can undermine long-term health of an economy in terms of productivity enhancement and sustained growth.
Continued increase in military spending at the expense of non-military public spending has undermined more than physical infrastructure. Perhaps more importantly, it has also undercut public investment in human capital or social infrastructure such as health care, education, nutrition, housing, and the like—investment that would help improve quality of life, human creativity and labor productivity, thereby also helping to bring about long-term socioeconomic vitality. Investment in human capital—anything that improves human capacity and/or labor productivity—is a major source of social health and economic vitality over time.
Sadly, however, public investment in such vitally important areas has been gradually curtailed ever since the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980 in favor of steadily rising military spending. The New York Times columnist Bob Herbert recently reported that some 5.5 million young Americans, age 16 to 24, were undereducated, disconnected from society’s mainstream, jobless, restless, unhappy, frustrated, angry and sad. Commenting on this report, Professor Seymour Melman of Columbia University wrote: “This population, 5.5 million and growing, is the product of America’s national politics that has stripped away as too costly the very things that might rescue this abandoned generation and train it for productive work. But that sort of thing is now treated as too costly. So this abandoned generation is now left to perform as fodder for well-budgeted police SWAT teams.”
Q2: With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States lost its biggest enemy in the world, and of course the raison d’être for its continued militarism and extensive spending on the war machinery. Do you think the United States needs to concoct a new enemy to be able to justify its high military spending and aggressive foreign policy? Is Iran serving that purpose for the White House and Pentagon?
A2: Since the rationale for the large and growing military apparatus during the Cold War years was the “threat of communism,” U.S. citizens celebrated the collapse of the Wall as the end of militarism and the dawn of “peace dividends”—a reference to the benefits that, it was hoped, many would enjoy in the United States as a result of a reorientation of part of the Pentagon’s budget toward non-military social needs.
But while the majority of the U.S. citizens celebrated the prospects of what appeared to be imminent “peace dividends,” the powerful interests vested in the expansion of military/security spending felt threatened. Not surprisingly, these influential forces moved swiftly to safeguard their interests in the face of the “threat of peace.”
To stifle the voices that demanded peace dividends, beneficiaries of war and militarism began to methodically redefine the post-Cold War “sources of threat” in the broader framework of the new multi-polar world, which goes way beyond the traditional “Soviet threat” of the bipolar world of the Cold War era. For example, General Carl Vuno, Chief of Staff of the US Army, told a House Committee in May 1989: “Much more complex [than any peril posed by the Soviet Union] is the threat situation developing in the rest of the world. . . . In this increasingly multipolar world, we face the potential of multiple threats from countries and factors which are becoming more sophisticated militarily and more aggressive politically.” Instead of the “communist threat” of the Soviet era, the “menace” of “rogue states,” of radical Islam, of “global terrorism,” and (more recently) of Russia and Iran would have to do as new enemies.
While these military planners were officially affiliated with the Pentagon and/or the White House, they also closely collaborated with a number of jingoistic lobbying think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs that were set up to serve either as the armaments lobby or the Israel lobby or both.
In a carefully calculated effort to redefine the post-Cold War world as a “more dangerous” world, a team of military planners and militaristic think-tanks produced a new military-geopolitical document in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union which came to be known as “Defense Planning Guidance,” or “Defense Strategy for the 1990s.” The document, unveiled by the White House in the early 1990s before the Congress, focused on “unpredictable turbulent spots in the Third World” as new sources of attention for the U.S. military power in the post-Cold War era: “In the new era, we foresee that our military power will remain an essential underpinning of the global balance . . . that the more likely demands for the use of our military forces may not involve the Soviet Union and may be in the Third World, where new capabilities and approaches may be required.”
The “Defense Planning Guidance” spoke about maintaining and expanding America’s “strategic depth”—a term coined by the then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. “Strategic depth” had a geopolitical connotation, meaning that, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the United States must extend its global presence—in terms of military bases, listening and/or intelligence stations, and military technology—to areas previously neutral or under the influence of the Soviet Union.
Policy prescriptions of these self-fulfilling prophecies were unmistakable: having thus portrayed (and subsequently created) the post-Cold War world as a place fraught with “multiple sources of threats to U.S. national interest,” powerful beneficiaries of the Pentagon budget moved with remarkable speed to ensure that the collapse of the Soviet Union would not affect the Pentagon’s budget.
To carry out the thus-outlined “National Security Strategy” of the post-Cold War world, militaristic U.S. planners need pretexts, which often means inventing or manufacturing enemies. Beneficiaries of war dividends sometimes find “external enemies and threats” by definition, “by deciding unilaterally what actions around the world constitute terrorism,” or by arbitrarily classifying certain countries as “supporters of terrorism,” as Bill Christison, retired CIA advisor, put it.
Q3: Some U.S. foreign policy commentators and analysts believe that the War on Terror which President Bush launched following the 9/11 attacks was planned and sketched several years earlier, and that the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001 were only a pretext for the United States to militarily intervene in the Middle East and set a permanent foothold in the region. Is this belief something which you also agree with?
A3: Against this backdrop—the collapse of the Soviet Union, the “threat of peace dividends” to the interests of the military-industrial complex, and the consequent need of the beneficiaries of war dividends for substitutes for the “communist threat” of the Cold War era—the U.S. government’s approach to the heinous attacks of 9/11 as an opportunity for war and aggression should not have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the vicious needs of militarism. The monstrous attacks were treated not as crimes but as “war on America.” Once it was thus established that the United States was “at war,” military buildup and imperialist aggressions followed accordingly. As the late Chalmers Johnson put it, the 9/11 tragedy “served as manna from heaven to an administration determined to ramp up military budgets.”
Champions of the U.S. wars of choice had already labeled “unfriendly” governments such as those ruling in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea as rogue and/or supporter of terrorism, which required “regime change.” Before the 9/11 attacks, however, such demonizing labels were apparently not enough to convince the American people to support U.S. wars of preemption. The 9/11 tragedy served as the militarists’ coveted pretext for such wars—hence, the regime change in Iraq, to be followed by similar changes of “unfriendly” regimes in many other countries in the region and around the world.
Q4: Where does the Israeli lobby stand in the U.S. military expeditions in the region? Do certain elements in the Israeli governments, the members of the Israeli-allied think tanks and advocacy groups push the U.S. government toward new wars and military interventions? Were they involved in motivating the Bush Jr. administration to invade Afghanistan and Iraq?
A4: Although the unconditional support for Israel’s geopolitical designs in the Middle East is detrimental to the overall national interests of the United States, the interests of the military industrial complex tend to converge with those of expansionist Zionism over war and military adventures in the region.
Just as the beneficiaries of war dividends, the military-security-industrial complex, view international peace and stability inimical to their interests, so too the militant Zionist proponents of “greater Israel” perceive peace between Israel and its Palestinian/Arab neighbors perilous to their goal of gaining control over the “promised land.” The reason for this fear of peace is that, according to a number of the United Nations’ resolutions, peace would mean Israel’s return to its pre-1967 borders, that is, withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But because proponents of “greater Israel” are unwilling to withdraw from these occupied territories, they are therefore afraid of peace—hence, their continued attempts at sabotaging peace efforts/negotiations.
By the same token, these proponents view war and convulsion (or, as David Ben-Gurion, one of the key founders of the State of Israel, put it, “revolutionary atmosphere”) as opportunities that are conducive to the expulsion of Palestinians, to the geographic recasting of the region, and to the expansion of Israel’s territory. “What is inconceivable in normal times,” Ben-Gurion pointed out, “is possible in revolutionary times; and if at this time the opportunity is missed and what is possible in such great hours is not carried out—a whole world is lost.”
Echoing a similarly evil sentiment that the dissolution and fragmentation of the Arab states into a mosaic of ethnic groupings is possible only under conditions of war and sociopolitical convulsion, the notoriously hawkish Ariel Sharon likewise pointed out on March 24, 1988, “that if the Palestinian uprising continued, Israel would have to make war on her Arab neighbors. The war, he stated, would provide ‘the circumstances’ for the removal of the entire Palestinian population from the West Bank and Gaza and even from inside Israel proper.”
The view that war would “provide the circumstances” for the removal of Palestinians from the occupied territories is premised on the expectation that the United States would go along with the notion and would, therefore, support Israeli expansionism in the event of the contemplated war. The expectation is by no means outlandish or unusual, as the beneficiaries of war and military spending in the U.S. do, indeed, gladly oblige, not so much for the sake of Israel or the Jewish people as for their own nefarious purposes—hence, the de facto alliance between the military-industrial complex and the Israel lobby.
Because the interests of these two powerful interest groups converge over fomenting war and political convulsion in the Middle East, an ominously potent alliance has been forged between them—ominous, because the mighty U.S. war machine is now supplemented by the almost unrivaled public relations capabilities of the hardline pro-Israel lobby in the United States. The convergence and/or interdependence of the interests of the military-industrial complex and those of militant Zionism on war and political convulsion in the Middle East is at the heart of the perpetual cycle of violence in the region.
The alliance between the military-industrial complex and the Israel lobby is unofficial and de facto; it is subtlely forged through an elaborate network of powerful militaristic think tanks such as The American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century, America Israel Public Affairs Committee, Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Forum, National Institute for Public Policy, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and Center for Security Policy.
In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, these militaristic think tanks and their hawkish operatives in and around the government published a number of policy papers that clearly and forcefully advocated plans for border change, for demographic change, and for regime change in the Middle East. For example, in 1996 an influential Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, sponsored and published a policy document titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” which argued that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should ‘make a clean break’ with the Oslo peace process and reassert Israel’s claim to the West Bank and Gaza. It presented a plan whereby Israel would ‘shape its strategic environment,’ beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad, to serve as a first step toward eliminating the anti-Israeli governments of Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.”
In an “Open Letter to the President” (Clinton), dated 19 February1998, a number of hawkish think tanks and individuals, representing the military-industrial complex and the Israel lobby, recommended “a comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” Among the letter’s signers were the following: Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, David Wurmser, Dov Zakheim, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, William Kristol, Joshua Muravchik, Leon Wieseltier, and former Congressman Stephen Solarz.
In September 2000, another militaristic think tank, called Project for the New American Century (PNAC), issued a report, titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” which explicitly projected an imperial role for the United States the world over. It stated, for example, “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in [Persian] Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” The sponsors of the report included Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and William Kristol, who was also a co-author of the report.
The influential Jewish Institute for the National Security Affairs (JINSA) also occasionally issued statements and policy papers that strongly advocated “regime changes” in the Middle East. Its advisor Michael Ladeen, who also unofficially advised the Bush administration on Middle Eastern issues, openly talked about the coming era of “total war,” indicating that the United States should expand its policy of “regime change” in Iraq to other countries in the region such as Iran and Syria. “In its fervent support for the hardline, pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian Likud-style policies in Israel, JINSA has essentially recommended that ‘regime change’ in Iraq should be just the beginning of a cascade of toppling dominoes in the Middle East.”
In brief, the evidence is overwhelming (and irrefutable) that the raging chaos in the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe/Ukraine is not because of the “misguided” policies of the United States and its allies, as many critics and commentators tend to maintain. It is, rather, because of premeditated and carefully-crafted policies that have been pursued by an unholy alliance of the military-security-industrial complex and the Israel lobby in the post-Cold War world.
Q5: The White House officials regularly blast the other countries for sponsoring terrorism and violating human rights. This is while many critics of the U.S. foreign policy opine that it’s Washington that promotes terrorism and has been violating the essential civil liberties and personal freedoms of its citizens. Who is making the right and defendable argument? What’s the reason why the United States politicians usually direct the finger of accusation at the other countries to blame them for sponsoring terrorism and violating the rights?
A5: Imperialism has always used pretexts such as civilization, democracy, human rights, and other similarly lofty values in order to justify its aggressions and conquests.
In its early stages of development, capitalism promoted nation-state and/or national sovereignty in order to free itself from the constraints of the church and feudalism. Now that the imperatives of the highly advanced but degenerate global finance capital require unhindered mobility in a uniform or borderless world, national sovereignty is considered problematic—especially in places like Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Bolivia, and Libya (under Gaddafi) that are not ruled by imperialism’s “client states.” Why? Because unhindered global mobility of capital requires doing away with social safety net or welfare state programs; it means doing away with public domain properties or public sector enterprises and bringing them under the private ownership of the footloose-and-fancy-free global capital.
This explains why the corporate media, political pundits and other mouthpieces of imperialism are increasingly talking about Western powers’ “responsibility to protect,” by which they mean that these powers have a responsibility to protect the Venezuelan, Syrian, Cuban, Iranian, or Libyan citizens from their “dictatorial” rulers by instigating regime change and promoting “democracy” and “human rights” in their countries. It further means that, in pursuit of this objective, the imperialist powers should not be bound by “constraints” of national sovereignty because, they argue, universal democratic and/or human rights take primacy over national sovereignty considerations. In a notoriously selective fashion, this utilitarian use of the “responsibility to protect” does not apply to nations or peoples ruled by imperialism’s client states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other client states in the Persian Gulf, North Africa and the Middle East.
The purported US/NATO support for human rights as grounds for “humanitarian intervention” tends to be narrowly focused on purely cultural issues such as life style and identity politics, that is, the politics of race, gender and sexual orientation. As such, they are largely devoid of basic economic needs for survival. Even a cursory comparison with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms (UDHRF) reveals some fundamental shortcomings of the US-type human rights standards. Human rights according to UDHRF include basic economic or survival needs such as:
“The right to work … to protection against unemployment … to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. . . . Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, and housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. . . . Everyone has the right to education. . . .”
Human rights a la USA does not include any of these basic human needs—all the nauseating propaganda of championing human rights notwithstanding. This shows that the alleged defense of human rights and democracy as the basis for regime change is patently hypocritical: what is defended is not human rights but the right to establish the neoliberal model of capitalism worldwide.
Q6: How do you see the efforts made by the United States and some of its regional allies to fight the government of President Assad in Syria? There are researchers who have put forward evidence showing that the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant was financed and supported by the United States when it was not yet separated from Al-Qaeda. Is that true? Is the U.S.-led coalition against the ISIL a sincere movement aimed at eradicating the terrorist group?
A6: As I pointed out in a recent article on this issue, the coalition’s purported fight against ISIS is essentially akin to a parent’s trying to discipline a disruptive or disobedient teenage child. No matter how harsh the punishment for the child’s unruly behavior may be, it will not include killing him. ISIS is simply too useful to the nefarious interests of the coalition members—and of the beneficiaries of ward-dividends in general—to be eliminated.
The dark force of ISIS is apparently an invincible and unstoppable war juggernaut that is mercilessly killing and conquering in pursuit of establishing an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In reality, however, it is not as out of control as it appears. It is, indeed, carefully controlled and managed by its creators and supporters, that is, by the United States and its allies in the regions—those who now pretend to have established a coalition to fight it! The U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other allies in the region do not really need to fight ISIS to (allegedly) destroy it; all they need to do to extinguish its hellish flames is stop supplying fuel for its fire, that is, stop supplying it with funds, mercenaries, military training and armaments.
There are many ways to show the fact that, in subtle ways, ISIS benefactors control its operations and direct its activities in accordance with their own geopolitical interests. The most obvious way is to pay attention to its purported mission: to dismantle the corrupt and illegitimate regimes in Iraq and Syria and replace them with a “pure” Islamic state under the rule of a “pious caliphate.” Despite this professed mission to fight the dictatorial regimes that have tarnished Islam, however, ISIS does not question the most corrupt, dictatorial and illegitimate regimes in the region—such as the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Jordanian regimes that fund and arm its operations.
Turkey’s overriding interest in Syria is not so much against ISIS as it is against the Syrian Kurds, as well as the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad; because the rabidly anti-Kurd regime in Ankara fears that the weakened regime of Assad may not be able to do away with the self-governing Kurds in Kobani and the surrounding Kurdish areas. The Turkish regime is concerned that if the Kobani Kurds succeed in fending off the ISIS forces, their success and their experience of self-government in the Kobani region, may serve as a tempting model of self-rule for the 15-million Kurds in Turkey. The Turks are also concerned that the success of the Syrian Kurds against ISIS would thwart their long-harbored ambitions to occupy and/or annex the oil-rich Kurdish region in Northern Syria—hence their insistence on a buffer or no-fly zone in that region.
This helps explain why the Turkish regime insists that the overthrow of the Assad regime must take precedence over the fight against ISIS. It also explains why it is feverishly trying to prevent the Kurdish volunteers to cross its border with Syria to help the besieged Kobani defenders against the brutal ISIS attack—in effect, helping ISIS against the Kurds. The inaction or half-hearted action of the United States in the face of the preventable slaughter of the Syrian Kurds, which makes it complicit in the carnage, can be explained by its political horse-trading with Turkey in exchange for the Turks’ collaboration with the pursuit of its imperialistic interests in the region.
The U.S. approach to ISIS would be better understood when it is viewed in the context of its overall objectives in the region—and beyond. That overriding objective, shared and reinforced by its client states, is to undermine or eliminate “the axis of resistance,” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and, to a lesser extent, Shia forces in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Achievement of this goal would also be achievement of another, even broader, goal: undermining Russia’s influence and alliances in the region and, by extension, in other parts of the world—for example, its critically important role within both the Shanghai Cooperation Council (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).
To intervene in order to achieve these goals, the U.S. and its allies need pretexts and/or enemies—even if it means inventing or manufacturing such enemies. Without ISIS, resumption of U.S. military operations in Iraq and extension of those operations into Syria would have been difficult to justify to the American people. A year or so ago, the Obama administration’s drive to attack Syria was thwarted by the opposition from the American people and, therefore, the U.S. congress. The rise of ISIS quickly turned that opposition to support.
Viewed in this light, ISIS can be seen as essentially another (newly manufactured) instrument in the tool-box of U.S. foreign policy, which includes “global terrorism,” the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s nuclear technology, Al-Qaeda, and many other radical Islamic groupings—all by-products of, or blowbacks to, imperialistic U.S. foreign policies.
Q7: You once talked of the “global war on 99%” and wrote in an article that the U.S. support for the anti-government opposition in such countries as Venezuela, Syria and Ukraine resembles an effort to topple the popular governments and bring to power neoliberal, neo-conservative regimes supportive of the United States and its policies. Do you consider the U.S. government’s policy of imposing economic sanctions against Iran an effort in the same direction? Overall, what’s your evaluation of the U.S. sanctions regime against such countries as Iran, Cuba and Syria in the recent years? Is it a tacit movement for realizing the ultimate goal of regime change in these countries?
A7: The official rationale (offered by the U.S. and its allies) that the goal of supporting anti-government opposition forces in places such as Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela is to spread democracy no longer holds any validity; it can easily be dismissed as a harebrained pretext to export neoliberalism and spread austerity economics. Abundant and irrefutable evidence shows that in places where the majority of citizens voted for and elected governments that were not to the liking of Western powers, these powers mobilized their local allies and hired all kinds of mercenary forces in order to overthrow the duly elected governments, thereby quashing the majority vote.
Such blatant interventions to overturn the elections that resulted from the majority vote include the promotion of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2004 and 2014), Rose Revolution in Georgia (2003), Cedar Revolution in Lebanon (2005), Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (2005) and the Green Revolution in Iran (2009). They also include the relentless agitation against the duly elected governments of the late Hugo Chavez and now his successor Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, of the Castro brothers in Cuba, of Rafael Correa Delgado in Ecuador, of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and of Evo Morales in Bolivia. It also helps explain why they overthrew the popularly elected nationalist governments of Mohammad Mossadeq in Iran, of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, of Kusno Sukarno in Indonesia, of Salvador Allende in Chile, of Sandinistas in Nicaragua, of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti and of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.
In Iran, ever since the 1979 revolution, which significantly undermined the U.S. influence in Iran and elsewhere in the region, the United States has been on a “regime change” mission in that country. Its efforts in pursuit of this nefarious goal are rather well established. They range from instigating and supporting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, to training and supporting destabilizing terrorist organizations to attack Iran, to constant war and military threats, to efforts to sabotage the 2009 presidential election through the so-called “green revolution,” and to systematic escalation of economic sanctions.
So, the real driving forces behind economic sanctions and wars of regime change need to be sought not in the alleged “spread of democracy,” or “defense of human rights,” but in the imperatives of expansion and accumulation of capital on a global level. Socialist, social-democratic, populist or nationalist leaders who do not embrace neoliberal economic policies, and who may be wary of having their markets wide open to unbridled foreign capital, would be targeted for replacement with pliant leaders, or client states.
Interviewed by Kourosh Ziabari, Fars News Agency (English)