US: it's money, not morals

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US: it's money, not morals

By Zanny Begg

With grave insincerity, US President Bill Clinton informed the world on March 25 that NATO had a "moral imperative" to intervene in Serbia to "defuse a powder keg at the heart of Europe". Clinton assured us that if Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is "not prepared to make peace", NATO would "limit his ability to make war".

Four weeks after NATO began bombing Serbia, Milosevic's ability to "make war" has changed little. The stream of refugees driven from Kosova has become a torrent. In the past 12 months, Serb-chauvinist thugs intimidated around 200,000 Kosovars from their homes. In the weeks after the bombing began, 500,000 Kosovars poured across the borders into Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia. The NATO bombing simply provided Milosevic with the pretext to escalate his policy of "ethnic cleaning" of Albanian-speaking Kosovars.

Clinton's claimed justification for this war is the preservation of peace and stability in Europe. The real motive is the same as in all the other wars that the US has engaged in since 1945: making the world safe for US capitalism.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Washington has found itself the unchallenged military power. There is no match for US military technology, with its nuclear weapons, stealth bombers and cruise missiles, and its army trained and steeled through countless military engagements.

But such an expensive fighting machine needs a moral justification — it needs bad guys. The end of the communist "evil empire" has left the US without the usual suspects.

Since 1990 the US has been involved in five major military operations: Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosova.

In 1990, the US discovered that is was morally wrong for a bigger country, Iraq, to invade a smaller one, Kuwait. The fact that the US (one of the largest countries on earth) has invaded Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, Mexico, Panama and many others was conveniently forgotten. The fact that many US allies (Israel, Indonesia and Britain) have invaded small countries (Palestine, East Timor and Ireland) was also swept under the carpet. Iraq was rich in oil, and the US government was in the mood for a war.

In 1993, Washington discovered a deep concern for world hunger. On December 9, 1800 US troops, armed to the teeth, stormed a beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, as part of "Operation Restore Hope". Their supposed brief was to ensure that food was distributed to the starving people.

Of course, the starving masses in Iraq, suffering because of the US war and the crippling sanctions imposed by the UN, never got such silver service. The fact that the US government pays farmers not to till land that could be used to grow food to feed the hungry was ignored. Similarly ignored was the fact that famine had stalked that region of Africa for years and the US had done nothing to intervene until it felt the political situation was going against it.

In 1994, the US inexplicably decided that it had a deep concern for the democratic process in Haiti. Although the US had backed the brutal Duvalier dictatorship until its collapse in 1986 and campaigned for the victory of the right-wing candidate in the 1990 election, when the elected government of Haiti was deposed in a coup a year later, the US discovered an interest in "democracy".

With UN approval, Washington landed 6000 troops to restore President Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide to "power". The US then used its "influence" to force the Haitian government to adopt IMF austerity policies.

In 1999, as NATO prepares to launch a ground war in the Balkans, the US is this time telling us that it is concerned for the plight of a persecuted national minority: the Albanian Kosovars. Washington refuses to show such concern for the Kurds, the Palestinians or the East Timorese. We are meant to ignore that it is the Kosovars who are suffering the most from NATO's "humanitarian mission" carried out in their name.

The reality behind each of these interventions is that the US, and its imperialist allies, are imposing their will on the rest of the world. The message is that any Third World government that US imperialism cannot buy or control will be intimidated into submission. Any threat to the economic interests of the US will be met with overwhelming firepower.

Revolutionary movements, as in Cuba, are singled out for special attention. But even Third World capitalist regimes which pursue a nominally independent line from the US are to be targeted, for example, Iraq. Political instability (such as in Somalia, Haiti or the Balkans) is an excuse for the US to intervene for its own interests.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, the US ruling elite has battled domestic opposition to military interventions abroad. Dubbed the "Vietnam syndrome", this anti-war sentiment has forced US rulers to proceed more cautiously than they would like to do.

To get around this, US military aggression has been given the fig leaf of UN endorsement. The wars against Iraq, Somalia and Haiti were carried out under the auspices of the UN. The intervention in Haiti was the first time a UN mission was carried out to "restore democracy" and the first time a US military intervention in the Americas was given approval.

Because the UN has an illusory veneer of "impartiality", the US government has consciously used it to garner domestic support for its interventions.

Since the end of the Gulf War, the US has felt increasingly confident to intervene militarily without UN approval. In December 1998, the US and Britain subjected Iraq to a massive 70-hour bombardment because it "breached" an agreement on UN weapons inspections. The endorsement of the UN Security Council was not sought because Washington knew it would not get it. The war against Serbia is being carried out by the US-dominated NATO alliance rather than the UN.

The US is waging an ideological war for its "right" to intervene in the affairs of Third World nations. Without a mass anti-war movement that can revive the "Vietnam syndrome", the US ruling class will feel confident to continue to pursue its aggressive foreign policy.

To build such a movement, we need to realise that the real "bad guys" are the US government and other imperialist rulers like Australia, who police a world system that creates hunger, ethnic tension, weapons of mass destruction and invasions and coups.