Beware US-Sponsored ‘Democracy and Freedom'

Addressing the Asia Society in Washington on the eve of his visit to India and Pakistan , George Bush declared, “mobs must not be allowed to dictate the future of Asia ”. He was referring to the protests over the Prophet cartoons, but he undoubtedly meant the kind of ‘mobs' which protested against US wars of aggression and US' killer economic policies as well. Well, if we translate the Bushspeak, we can easily hear his real sentiments and his unsaid words: “Mobs must not be allowed to dictate the future of Asia …that must be the prerogative of Emperor Bush and the US Viceroys (Ambassadors)”.

In the same speech, Bush waxed eloquent about how “the United States and India are working together to support democracy around the world”. When US Presidents speak of ‘democracy', red lights and danger signals ought to flash: it is usually a sure sign of impending war, plunder, assassination, military coups or rigged elections. Consider one of the latest examples of ‘democracy' as sponsored by the US : Condoleeza Rice has promised, “We are going to work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom in their country”. The fatal footfall of an impending ‘Operation Iranian Liberation' can be heard by all.

Towards this, the US has announced an 85 million dollar program to promote ‘democracy' in Iran . What's the money going to be used to do? Round the clock US propaganda in Farsi, for one, as well as funding organisations outside Iran with “direct ties” to what the program calls “eligible groups and people” including trade union groups and opposition candidates, inside Iran. The program is quite sensitive to the fact that the cash shouldn't flow directly from US coffers to the ‘eligible' suitable boys in Iran ; they have been warned that the recipients of such funds are likely to be seen as “ traitors who receive money from the enemy to undermine Iran 's national interest”.

All this US concern for their aspirations for democracy and freedom must seem like a joke to Iranians, when they recall how in 1953, the CIA along with the British, overthrew the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh, after which the Shah of Iran came to power, resulting in 25 years of repression and torture. Marcos in the Philippines and Suharto in Indonesia are just two Asian examples of bloody mass murderers and dictators who have been best buddies of the US; about Suharto, a senior official of the Clinton administration declared in 1995, “He's our kind of guy!”

On the same day that Bush made pious remarks about democracy at the Asia Society, an article appeared in an online journal, which recommended a return to the ideas of the Cold War US policymaker George Kennan. The article opens with the remark:

“Sixty years ago, on February 22, America faced a difficult geopolitical situation. We had just won World War II against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, but the smoke had barely cleared from those conflicts when we realized that a new enemy loomed dead ahead: Soviet Russia. Confronted by an increasingly ominous Stalinist threat, Americans, who had been hoping for peace, found themselves preparing yet again for war. And so it is today. We won in Iraq , but now we must face Iran .” ( James Pinkerton, ‘Kennan's Comeback', TCS Daily, 22 February )

“Where are my ancestors? Whom shall I celebrate? Where shall I find the raw material? My first American ancestor, gentleman, was an Indian - an early Indian; your ancestors skinned him alive, and I am an orphan.” – Mark Twain , New York Times, 1881

The article goes on to talk about how the US is rediscovering the virtues of George Kennan's recommendations, and quotes Condoleeza Rice paying tribute to Kennan on his death in 2005, “He was one of the great architects of an American foreign policy at the end of World War II that is largely responsible for the great gifts of freedom that many people enjoy today, that is largely responsible for many of the alliances that the United States enjoys today”.

It is quite illuminating to take a look at what “great gifts of freedom” and pearls of wisdom Kennan left behind, which presumably inspire Bush, Rice and company to promote ‘democracy' in Iran . In 1948, Kennan candidly diagnosed the US condition and made some sound and enduring policy recommendations:

‘Making the World Safe'… for Corporate Greed

“I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall-Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism...I helped make Honduras ‘right' for American fruit companies in 1903. I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914...I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Down Brothers in 1909-1912, I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American Sugar Interests in 1916.” - Major General Smedley Butler, author of War as a Racket , in a speech in 1933

“We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population...In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction... We should cease to talk about vague and ...unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts . The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

What a clear exposition of the US ' own ‘enlightened self-interest'! We can be sure that in their own policy rooms, when safely free from the compulsion to deliver bytes on TV, Bush and his cohorts are just as clear headed about their “national objectives”, which are, as Candid Kennan points out, bound to be at odds with human rights, democratisation and the like, since their primary concern is to maintain , through “straight power concepts”, a position of obscene and unjust disparity. In 1907, former US President Woodrow Wilson's declared:

“Our industries have expanded to such a point that they will burst their jackets if they cannot find a free outlet to the markets of the world...doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down...even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process...”

  Clash of Civilisations?

“The US ' idea of what constitutes torture is not the same as ours and doesn't appear to coincide with that of most civilised countries.” - A senior Judge of the British High Court, Lawrence Collins, in the context of human rights violations at the US Detention Centre at Guantanamo Bay .

This, from the same man who called for a war to “make the world safe for democracy”! Wilson 's words go a long way towards explaining how , in the first place, the US came to possess the disproportionate proportion of the world's wealth that Kennan talks about – by “battering down” the doors, and outraging the sovereignty, of “unwilling nations”! And there is remarkable consistency and continuity in US policy down the ages: witness the battering of Iraq for oil! ‘Making the world safe' for US corporations, and peddling imperial hegemonistic designs fuelled by corporate greed as ‘democracy' – these have always underwritten US foreign policy objectives.

Newsweek has expressed the hope that Bush's visit to India will “alter the strategic landscape, bringing India firmly and irrevocably onto the world stage as a major player”. This is a view that the Indian ruling establishment too is peddling. The ominous signs of US' growing interventionism in Asia are on the wall. But Manmohan Singh fondly fosters the notion that India will remain safe from these designs, as long as we remain obedient and loyal ‘partners' of the US project. The notion that India can pursue her own ‘self-interest' while acting as a US stooge in South Asia, all along without endangering her own democracy and sovereignty, is a suicidal one. Such an illusion can only be maintained by those who have received sufficient imperial ‘enlightenment' as to believe that the British Raj was actually an example of ‘good governance'!

Meanwhile, in USA 's own backyard, Latin America , which bore the worst brunt of a century of the most brutal imperialist repression from the US , is fighting back. Defying US imperialism, Venezuela and Bolivia have joined Cuba in offering a new model of national development that does not involve obedience to US economic, political and diplomatic dictates. It is these models and these struggles that ought to inspire us in India , as we tell Bush to Back Off, and warn his Indian agents to desist from turning India into a lackey of US imperialism.