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A Catastrophic Decline in US Power is not in the Global Interest. Looking Beyond the US Presidential Elections


(Talk delivered at the United Service Institution, New Delhi on October 13, 2004)

Churchill once said: “when nations have had the power they have not always done right, and when they wished to do right they no longer had the power”.


Although this presentation will essentially dwell upon the current direction of US policy and some likely outcomes, it needs to be clarified at the very outset that putting the blame on the USA for all the world’s ills is not likely to make many of the seemingly intractable problems disappear. It has become facile to attribute the advent of global terrorism to ill-conceived US policies of earlier days. No doubt they contributed to the radicalization of Pakistan and the networks spawned by the Pakistan military machine - flush with Saudi funds, drug money and misappropriated US aid. Nevertheless, equal blame needs to be apportioned on the Pakistan and Saudi regimes for diverting hundreds of millions of dollars to the spread of Sunni orthodoxy. It is still continuing. Had the billions of dollars earned from the rise in oil revenues been expended for uplifting the lot of the Muslim world rather than for spreading anti-modern theology, the plight of the people of these countries would not have been as abysmal as it is today. Similarly, had the Pakistan-Taliban-al-Qaeda regime actually gotten down to improving the lot of the people of Afghanistan once they had consolidated their hold on the hapless country, instead of spreading terror around the world, a model Afghan state would have been a beacon for other Muslim countries.

However, the motivations of the prime movers were different. It was they who were attempting to usher in an imperium of the orthodox elements in the region, till they ran into the ambitions of the other super-imperialist of the new century, USA. (These aspects having been dealt with at length in the books, Dealing with Global Terrorism: The Way Forward and Global Security Paradoxes 2000-2020 will not be amplified further).

According to a former US Secretary of State, demography too played a not inconsequential role in adding to the decline in the Muslim world on account of the fast multiplying populations. The submissive role forced on women led to the population explosion. He went on to say: “generations of young people have grown up in these societies with a surplus of time on their hands and a deficit of productive occupations”. (George P. Shultz at the Kissinger Lecture delivered on February 11, 2004, at the Library of Congress). The irony cannot be lost. It is well-known that Iraq’s secular regime, in marked contrast to most of its neighbours, was laying emphasis on shunning religious extremism while giving women equal status and protecting the rights of its Christian and other minorities.

The caveats were essential to bring the discussion of US hegemony onto an even keel, it not being the intention to look at the coming US presidential election in a standalone manner, which, this time around, will be greatly influenced by events outside USA - both economic and geophysical - over which the superpower might be gradually losing control. The presentation not being an exercise in prognostication - of the outcome - will attempt to look at some of the fundamental issues that could shape US policies, regardless of which presidential contender sits in the White House in January 2005. The paper scans a few basic issues under the following heads:

- Hidden Aspects Behind 9/11
- The Changing Nature of Conflicts
- US-Pak: The Strange Relationship
- USA: The Dangerous Drift
- The Unanswered Questions
- Concluding Remarks


Around mid-July 2004, the Senate report on U.S. intelligence was released. Toward the end of July, the 9/11 Commission report was made public. Both focused on the same theme: the U.S. intelligence community failed to function effectively before the Sept. 11 attacks. Commenting on the shortcomings - wittingly or otherwise - they avoid bringing to light what has long been suspected in many circles in USA and the world.

The tantalizing question that emerges is: “what went wrong in the intelligence community”? The simplest explanation would be that the US intelligence services were not as remiss in their work as is made out to be. They were peripherally alive to the fact that a plot to carry out attacks in the US was in the offing. There were too many telltale signs strewn around. The Pakistan ISI hierarchy that hatched the plot and the small group in Washington in the know were aware of it. They felt that a “controlled” outrage in stateside USA could be their excuse to put into effect the US grand design for the Middle East.

The head of the Pakistan ISI, General Mahmoud Ahmed, gave instructions for the wiring of US $ 100,000 before the 9/11 attacks to Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker. General Ahmed, the paymaster was in Washington on 9/11 having a series of pre-9/11 top-level meetings in the White House, the Pentagon, the national security council, with George Tenet, then head of the CIA, and Marc Grossman, the under-secretary of state for political affairs. When Ahmed was exposed by the Wall Street Journal as having sent the money to the hijackers, he was forced to "retire" by President Musharraf. The US has not demanded that he be questioned and tried in court. Nor has the 9/11 commission made this recommendation in its report.

There was strong evidence of foreign intelligence backing for the 9/11 hijackers. The US government has been keen to cover it up. Was it because it had been in the know ab initio? Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, has averred: "I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted, not just in financing ... by a sovereign foreign government." In the same context, Horst Ehmke, former coordinator of the West German secret services, observed: "Terrorists could not have carried out such an operation with four hijacked planes without the support of a secret service."

It gives meaning to the reaction on 9/11 of Richard Clarke, the White House counter-terrorism chief, when he saw the passenger lists later on in the day: "I was stunned ... that there were al-Qaeda operatives on board using names that the FBI knew were al-Qaeda." It was just that, as Dale Watson, head of counter-terrorism at the FBI told him, the "CIA forgot to tell us about them".

The CIA did not forget to tell them. It was not an oversight. They had deduced that several people in Washington and Islamabad were in the know. General Ahmed was physically present, monitoring, according to some sources, the attacks, in a manner of speaking, in situ. Or so he thought. The scheme went awry. The complete collapse of the twin towers was not scripted. The agents who carried out the attack, not owing allegiance to the Pakistan ISI had their own agenda, once the Pakistanis had paved the way for them. What followed hardly requires elaboration. Another comment from USA on the 9/11 commission’s report, tends to corroborate what is being stated:

“ The 9/11 commission's report is insightful in tracing the failures - intellectual, moral and technical - that made the Sept. 11 attacks possible. What it does not explain - and what remains inexplicable - is why the Bush administration would believe that the attacks did not prove the need for an urgent overhaul of U.S. intelligence, but that business as usual would suffice. Whatever one thinks of Bush on other subjects, this decision remains unexplained and undefended”.

The answer is again very simple. No major overhaul was carried out because it was not an intelligence failure, as perceived by the rest of the world. The attack itself was not a surprise to the US establishment. It was a controlled exercise that got out of hand unknown to the abettors in Islamabad. Many of the inexplicable actions of the US establishment in the days that followed fall into place when looked at through the prism of the explanation just outlined. It focuses attention on the direct penetration of the governance process and the media networks by the military-industrial complex. At least thirty-two secretaries and other senior staffers of the present US Administration are former board members, consultants or shareholders of the largest armament industries and seventeen of them are connected to the key suppliers of the missile defence system. The oil lobby and the military contractors need no longer put pressure on the administration since they are the Administration. That is why, while three U.S. generals - Gen. Anthony Zinni, Gen. Joseph Hoar, and Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack Jr - stated recently that the U.S. occupation is failing in its objectives, President Bush continues to assert that he expects Iraq to become a democracy that will inspire other Middle Eastern countries to become democratic.

The difference between the ground reality in Iraq and the statements coming out from Washington is so marked that it is best explained by the observation made by the noted economist John Kenneth Galbraith: “Corporate power is the driving force behind US foreign policy – and the slaughter in Iraq”.


The world is witnessing a new pattern of warring. Each side now practices unprecedented savagery to the extent that the need for physical annihilation of the opponent supersedes the geopolitical imperatives of the two sides. The change did not come about suddenly. High technology and the shadowy nature of the opponent have played their part. Actually it is a continuum from the past of the genes programmed into the imperialist powers. A few examples from Iraq itself should suffice:

“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be good... and it would spread a lively terror..." (Winston Churchill commenting on the British use of poison gas against the Iraqis after the First World War).

From the statement just read out, attention is invited to the words ‘the moral effect should be good and it would spread a lively terror’. The words, uttered in the halcyon days of the Empire, as the British ventured into Mesopotamia after the defeat of Turkey in the First World War, provide a glimpse into the mind of the great English statesman, whose sentiment expressed over 80 years ago has apparently lingered. As envisioned by Churchill, the use of deadly, inhuman weapons – in the present case depleted uranium (DU) - did spread lively terror in Iraq - even if the rest of the world failed to see the ‘moral effect.’

Here’s another example of the same mindset:

American pilots bombing and strafing, with depleted uranium weapons helpless retreating Iraqi soldiers who had already surrendered, exclaimed:

" We toasted him…. we hit the jackpot….a turkey shoot….shooting fish in a barrel….basically just sitting ducks… There’s just nothing like it. It’s the biggest Fourth of July show you’ve ever seen, and to see those tanks just ‘boom’, and more stuff just keeps spewing out of them… they just become white hot. It’s wonderful." - (L A Times and Washington Post, February 27, 1991).

These campaigns mean a new type of warfare that substitutes firepower for manpower, airpower for infantry, and technology for reduced physical presence on the battlefield. It is still evolving. Should it succeed – in spite of the difficulties being faced by US troops at present - it could become the model for NATO's future strategy and lead to force restructuring in many countries. Going by the current setbacks in Afghanistan, Iraq and even Waziristan it would be an indication, however, that technological innovations cannot entirely replace the human dimension of warfare. Most experts are agreed that there is still the need for sufficient number of "boots on the ground."

The war on terror is leading to market forces now dominating the military scene, blurring the distinction between private and public armies, even countries as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wherever there is a shortfall in regular soldiers, private security agencies have been filling the gap. Nevertheless, they may still fall short of expectations when confronting stateless shadowy persons. Not being able to pin down the enemy or seize the initiative from the adversary results in more savage bombing and destruction of the infrastructure. At the end of the day it required a non-military person to see the fallacy of the proposition of mindless destruction with bigger and bigger bombs:

“… one point (is) perfectly clear. We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace!” – Michael Franti, Musician, Spearhead.

That being the case, peace in the neighbourhood is not likely to come about unless the spending priorities are reversed. For example, in Afghanistan, according to Christian Aid, the U.S. has spent $40 billion on military operations, while the international spending on aid is $4.5 billion. However, the NGO sector itself has long outgrown its charitable beginnings and is now a global player: recent estimates suggest that globally some 26,000 NGOs employ 19 million people and dispose of around $1 trillion in finance, much of it directly from governments.


The title of the paper is ‘What the US Presidential Elections do not Portend’. What they do portend, however, is a continued involvement with Pakistan, or elements in Pakistan whose interests have coincided with those of the Washington establishment for several decades. The Pakistan Army will continue to be a surrogate for US plans in the region for the foreseeable future, regardless of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and irrespective of Pakistan being the fount and epicenter of radical Islamist terrorism, as also the nerve centre of nuclear proliferation. None of these aspects alarm Washington to the same extent as they do the rest of the world, for the simple reason that several entities in Washington have always been in the know of what was happening in Islamabad. They have invariably manipulated the Pakistani military hierarchy for their own ends. The reverse proposition is equally tenable. An elaboration is required.

Within hours of General Musharraf’s announcement of AQ Khan’s pardon, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage praised Musharraf as “the right man at the right time”, adding that Pakistan had been “very forthright in the last several years with us about proliferation”! An official of the US State department clarified that it was for Pakistan to decide how to deal with AQ Khan. During his visit to Pakistan on 17 March 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the US government had decided to designate Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally. USA’s friends in the Commonwealth did their bit by getting Pakistan’s suspension from the Commonwealth (continued since Musharraf’s coup in October 99) revoked. Pakistan was complimented for progress made in restoring democracy and rebuilding democratic institutions!

Notwithstanding the above, Dr. Ronald McCoy, President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War speaking at the NATO Defence College Conference on ‘ Future Challenges for Non-Proliferation Instruments at Rome: 16 - 17 March 2004 stated that:

“ The revelation of A Q Khan's black market in nuclear technology is a wake-up call to the international community”.

Tick, Tick, Tick is the title of an article appearing in the October 2004 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. The article by Graham Allison talks of Pakistan becoming a nuclear time bomb, perhaps the greatest threat to American security today. The author does not talk of a nuclear exchange with India, but of the direct and immediate threat to US security from rogue elements within Pakistan, who could be embedded sympathizers from within the military establishment or of radical Islamist tanzeems in Pakistan that spawned the Taliban and have close links to al-Qaeda. He elaborates that Pakistan's nuclear complex poses two main threats: “the first, highlighted by Khan's black-market network, is that nuclear weapons know-how or materials will find their way into the hands of terrorists”.

For instance, in August of 2001, even as the final planning for 9/11 was under way, Osama bin Laden received two former officials of Pakistan's atomic-energy program - Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid - at a secret compound near Kabul. Over the course of three days of intense conversation bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, grilled Mahmood and Majid about how to make weapons of mass destruction. After Mahmood and Majid were arrested, on October 23, 2001, Mahmood told Pakistani interrogation teams, working in concert with the CIA, that Osama bin Laden had expressed a keen interest in nuclear weapons and had sought the scientists' help in recruiting other Pakistani nuclear experts who could provide expertise in the mechanics of bomb-making. CIA Director George Tenet found the report of Mahmood and Majid's meeting with bin Laden so disturbing that he flew directly to Islamabad to confront President Musharraf. This was not the first time that Pakistani agents had rendered nuclear assistance to dangerous actors. Pakistan's nuclear program has long been a leaky vessel; the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has deemed the country "the world's No. 1 nuclear proliferator."

Two theories are being currently presented by USA’s investigative reporters in explanation of the amazingly favourable treatment of Pakistan’s crimes of nuclear proliferation by USA. According to Seymour Hersh (“The Deal” in The New Yorker 8 March 2004), USA has agreed to accept Musharraf’s action in consideration for Musharraf allowing US troops to hunt for Osama bin Laden in the frontier areas of Pakistan where OBL is believed to be hiding. Musharraf is further stated to have offered to provide human intelligence for tracking down OBL.

According to the second theory presented by Jason Leopold (writing in South Asia Tribune) USA’s acceptance of Musharraf’s action was actually meant to shield Dick Cheney who had known of Pakistan’s proliferation activities for more than a decade and took no corrective action. According to Leopold, in 1989, Richard Barlow, a young Pentagon analyst had prepared a report for Cheney who was then working as the US Secretary of Defence in the Bush (Senior) administration. The report said that Pakistan had built the bomb and was selling nuclear technology and equipment to countries, which the US said were sponsoring terrorism.

Barlow’s report was politically inconvenient because its acceptance would have resulted in the cut-off of US aid to Pakistan and would have killed the $1.4 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Desperately wanting to sell the F-16s to Pakistan, Cheney dismissed Barlow’s report. Some months later a Pentagon official was told by Cheney to downplay Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities when he testified before the Congress. Barlow complained to his bosses at the Pentagon and ended up being fired.

Although USA and many other countries that are putting pressure on Iran have put the lid on the revelation late last year that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, had been selling nuclear technology and services on the black market, the enormity of the exercise has shaken the establishments of these countries to the core. As is nearly always the case the hidden part of this iceberg conceals much more. In spite of the need to keep supporting General Musharraf, it has become the number one agenda for disarmament lobbies worldwide. The head of the International Atomic Energy.

Agency has called it a "Wal-Mart of private-sector proliferation" - a decades-old illicit market in nuclear materials, designs, technologies, and consulting services, all run out of Pakistan. The Pakistani government's response to the scandal was hardly reassuring. Pakistan's official position remains that no member of Musharraf's government had any concrete knowledge of the illicit transfer - an assertion that U.S. intelligence officials in Pakistan and elsewhere have dismissed as absurd.

The scale of the proliferation activities – both the time scale and the mind-boggling extent - give an indication that in addition to the involvement of the military hierarchy of Pakistan, several Western intelligence agencies were in the know, if not at the highest levels, certainly at the operating level. The connections formed in the earlier periods of cooperation in Afghanistan in the 1980s ensured that knowledge. Following from it, an obvious conclusion is that the enormous sums that were paid did not go into the Pakistan treasury. These sums would be likely to have been shared by the top military brass of Pakistan, key intermediaries, and the clandestine agencies – hence the reluctance to allow anyone else to interrogate AQ Khan. The intelligence agencies were already using narcotics-related funds for activities that would not have received official funding from their respective governments. Cases have been coming to light regularly of the military-industrial complexes’ subcontracting the dirty work to mercenary-type agencies.

Indian leaders and government officials are invariably surprised by the soft treatment meted out to Pakistan by US officials. They do not realize that in many respects Washington and Islamabad were, and still remain, hand in glove. Richard Armitage and Gen. Colin Powell have both been recipients of awards from the Pakistan government – a fact seldom mentioned these days.


The Economic Perspective

“ The main problem with fiscal policy is that politicians can easily make themselves temporarily popular by cutting taxes and increasing public spending while running up massive public debts, leaving repayment to the future. This trick can last a few years, but sooner rather than later budget deficits and growing public debt force a painful policy reversal. Yet a cynical politician can buy himself re-election and perhaps be in retirement when the crisis arrives”. (The Economic Times, 14 January 2004, Lessons from US fiscal profligacy by Jeffrey D Sachs). He goes on to say: “There are two vital lessons for other countries. The first is that the looming US budget deficits will sooner or later limit America’s international power. Americans supported the Iraq war only because they didn’t have to pay for it with increased taxes. When Americans are forced to choose between foreign adventures and higher taxes, they will be much less likely to support expensive military operations abroad. Indeed, the US will be deeply divided internally as the public grapples with the fiscal mess left by Bush”. In a similar vein historian Niall Ferguson had remarked that American military might cannot translate into imperialism, as historically defined, because no successful imperial power has ever been so pitifully dependent on foreign money. It may not be known that total US defence spending dwarfs the official defense budget.

The $401.3 billion defense budget for 2004, signed by President Bush in November 2003 is huge indeed, as many commentators have noted. The "official" sum, however, greatly underestimates total U.S. defense spending. Add together all defense-related spending by federal agencies and the tab amounts to about $754 billion – a good 88 percent more than $401.3 billion - according to Robert Higgs, senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review.

" Lodged elsewhere in the budget, other lines identify funding that serves defense purposes as surely as - sometimes even more surely than - the money allocated to the Department of Defense," writes Higgs in an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle. "On occasion, commentators take note of some of these additional defense-related budget items, such as the nuclear-weapons activities of the Department of Energy, but many such items, including some extremely large ones, remain generally

In arriving at his $754 billion calculation for total defense spending for 2004, Higgs added to the $401.3 the amount of spending on homeland defense by agencies other than the Department of Homeland Defense, estimates of foreign military financing (including development funds that free up the defense budgets of recipient countries), spending by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the interest costs of past years' defense spending, as well as the supplemental spending bills to fund the occupation and reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq.

" Although I have arrived at my conclusions honestly and carefully," Higgs writes, "I may have left out items that should have been included - the federal budget is a gargantuan, complex, and confusing document. If I have done so, however, the left-out items are not likely to be relatively large ones. 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."


In December 2001, George W. Bush abrogated the ABM Treaty. By New Year's Day 2005, half-dozen interceptors could come up in Alaska and four more in California. In 2005 ten more will be added in Alaska, ten will be added at a third site not yet determined, and ten will be placed at sea, the beginning of a ship-based mobile defense. And this is just the beginning.

It is axiomatic that excessive military spending on the part of the remaining superpower will propel the world to newer heights of militarism, bringing in its wake greater destruction. Here’s what a celebrated American economist, well known in this part of the world, thinks about it: “Civilised life, as it is called, is a great white tower celebrating human achievements, but at the top there is permanently a large black cloud. Human progress dominated by unimaginable cruelty and death. ……Mass slaughter has become the ultimate civilised achievement”. (Extract from The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Truth for Our Time, by JK Galbraith).

Not many people seem to be listening, certainly not the people who matter in the USA. In 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote that “retaining planetary superpower status by the USA can be summed up by three great geostrategic imperatives: 1) avoiding collusion between vassals and keeping them in the dependency justified by their need for security, 2) fostering the obedience of the protected, 3) preventing the ‘barbarians’ from forging aggressive alliances. By stating that she will henceforth act “before the threat becomes manifest”, is to say that before the reality of the threat may be demonstrated, America expects others to accept her word as law. The doctrine of ‘dissuasion’ or containment is hence forsaken. (World Affairs, Vol 7, NO 4, October-December 2003. United States and Europe by Alain De Benoist).

In an interview to the BBC in London in September 2003 this writer had spoken about the psychological disorientation taking place among the US troops deployed in Iraq, a good six months or more before the Abu Ghraib incidents came to light. The psychological stress engendered in tens of thousands of young soldiers could be far more damaging in the long run than the physical casualties being suffered in Iraq. What is more, when they return their discontent will diffuse through the bloodstream of American civil society generating secondary stresses not anticipated at this juncture, perhaps deliberately so. No longer will returning soldiers be welcomed as heroes in joyful parades in small towns scattered across America.

There will be no ‘yellow ribbons’ on the trees leading into town. In all probability the soldiers would prefer to slink back into anonymity. Fearing this discontent could be a major calculus in the decision of the US administration to postpone large-scale troop rotation from Iraq till after the US presidential election. President Bush told reporters at a press conference several months ago that U.S. troops would remain in Iraq indefinitely.
Neither of the leading presidential candidates has clearly articulated a plan to bring home U.S. troops. People in USA and outside would want to know whether they would be merely exchanging a Republican version of the war in Iraq for a Democratic one should George W. Bush not win a second term. Meanwhile, more than 4,000 scientists - including 48 Nobel Prize winners - have accused the Bush administration of distorting and suppressing science to suit its political goals. “The administration has undermined the quality and independence of the scientific advisory system and the morale of the government’s outstanding scientific personnel,” they said in a letter. It would be pertinent to recall that Richard Nixon was re-elected at the height of the resistance to the Vietnam War. George McGovern, the antiwar candidate was defeated in a landslide.

Nixon was elected on the basis of his appeal to white supremacy, which still remains strong among the majority of whites in the US. The Republicans have been exploiting that sentiment successfully ever since. Elections didn't stop the Vietnam War. It was the anti-Vietnam War movement that stopped the war in spite of the electoral results. Should something similar happen now in the US and UK, the world and the US would be better served. Besides the US military stuck in Iraq, as the institution of the military seems to be rotting internally, there are two players who will most probably determine the outcomes in Iraq: the international anti-war movement and the Iraqi resistance. The latter has the dominant role because they now have the battlefield initiative and staying power. The central paradox for the Bush administration, as one writer put it is: “They are now in a situation where it is ‘politically impossible’ to leave, but it is militarily impossible to win”.

In the aftershock of 9/11, the U.S government has entered a new arms race, redirecting up to $10 billion toward biodefense research. Officials have justified this biodefense push as a necessary evil in the shadow of what a CIA report has called the "darker bioweapons future." It is a "modern-day Manhattan project" whose ramifications are being overlooked by an uninformed public. By frantically pursuing research that could potentially change the face of biological science as is currently known another Pandora’s box is being opened. A growing number of microbiologists, with relatively poor oversight, could actually be paving the way for the next generation of killer germs.

In October 2003, the National Academy of Sciences released a little-noticed report warning that "the government has no mechanism to prevent 'the misuse of tools, technology, or knowledge base of this research enterprise for offensive military or terrorist purposes.'" In 2003, close to half the total US government discretionary expenditure was used for military purposes. A large part was for weapons procurement or development. Nuclear-powered submarines run to billions of dollars, individual planes to tens of millions each. Such expenditure is not the result of detached analysis. From the relevant industrial firms come proposed designs for new weapons and to them are awarded production and profit. In an impressive flow of influence and command, the weapons industry accords valued employment, management, pay and profits in its political constituency, and indirectly it is a treasured source of political funds.

The gratitude and the promise of political help go to Washington and to the defence budget; and to foreign policy or, as in Vietnam and Iraq, to war. That the private sector moves to a dominant public sector role is apparent. Given its authority in the modern corporation it was natural that management would extend its role to politics and to government. Once there was the public reach of capitalism; now it is that of corporate management. In the US, corporate managers are in close alliance with the president, the vice-president and the secretary of defence. Major corporate figures are also in senior positions elsewhere in the federal government; one came from the bankrupt and thieving Enron to preside over the army.


There are many questions that remain unanswered. The ones uppermost in people’s minds could include the following:

- The Outcome of the US Presidential Election


Taking up the first question the realization dawns that the absence of ethics and morality in governance is also being globalised at an accelerated pace. It is radically re-shaping the attitude of governments to the people who elected them. It is the major outlays that decide – for individuals, societies and nations – the pattern of returns, confirming the wisdom of the old adage, ‘as you sow, so you reap’. Hence, if the leading nation of the world is spending over half a trillion dollars on its military systems, when it is the strongest nation in the world, the resultant cannot but be heightened militarism.

The pattern is no longer restricted to the military-industrial complex. Till a few years ago an enlightened leadership in the United States could have given the lead for reversing nuclear proliferation. Being the lone superpower it should still, on the face of it, be in a position to take the lead. What is the ground reality, however? An enlightened leader with the attributes required to reverse the dangerous decline might not find it possible today to come to the fore and win election to the office of the President of the United States. The interests that have taken an iron grip over the Washington establishment, the media and wealth formation will simply not allow such a species to co-exist. A few hard facts should suffice to confirm the observation:

The two principal contenders for the White House in the coming elections were both agreed - and still agree - on the need for the Iraq invasion in spite of the 9/11 Commission report and exposures of deliberate falsifications that took place at the highest levels of governance.

Extrapolating from these positions in the run up to the US presidential election it can be stated that a significant percentage of Americans still support the decision to invade Iraq, again, in spite of the wide dissemination of the 9/11 Commission report, the rise in US casualties and the near-universal condemnation of the US policies in Iraq.

A look at the board members of media companies is revealing. In America a large number of the directors of NBC, CBS and ABC all have common involvement with Rothschild/Rockefeller/Morgan companies, as well as being members of the Council on Foreign Relations and Trilateral Commission. In Britain, the Daily Telegraph is owned by the Hollinger group, whose advisors and directors include Henry Kissinger, Lord Carrington, Brzezinski and Lord Rothschild. The current chairman of N.M. Rothschild, Evelyn de Rothschild, is on the board of the Daily Telegraph. A former board member, Andrew Knight, is now executive chairman of the 'rival' News International, which runs The Times and the Sun, and which is funded by the Oppenheimers and the Rothschilds. Regulatory bodies such as the Press Complaints Commission also have links with the same people e.g. the chairman Lord Wakeham who is a director of N.M. Rothschild. (The Media by Ivan Fraser and Mark Beeston).

A handful of media barons have a stranglehold on the global media. The extent of the media holdings of Rupert Murdoch and the influence that a single individual wields in shaping the global discourse and, what is more important, the public position on that discourse hardly needs elaboration.

Private military companies (PMC) - mercenaries in plainer language – manning the occupation administration’s front lines are now the third-largest contributor to the war effort after the United States and Britain. They will be even less amenable to civilized restraints in the countries where they are deployed.

Star Wars is no longer a futuristic theory. Sometime this summer, the US will station 10 missile interceptors in Alaska and California, with more to follow soon. The Pentagon has spent $16 billion on the project, with major funding increases on the way.

The statement made a short while ago by the Democratic contender should set at rest any doubts as to the future of US policies: “I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military”. - John Kerry.

Coming to the question of Iraq it would be pointless reiterating that the USA has made a mess of it and is deeply mired without an exit strategy. Britain played an equally perfidious role in goading the US administration into the Iraq folly. In the process it ended up by accelerating the schisms in the Atlantic Alliance. Whether Tony Blair wins the next elections or is defeated at the polls is not the issue, as is being made out to be. There are deeper underlying issues that now confront the world when planet-destroying technologies are proliferating. Can the defeat of the incumbents in the USA and UK be sufficient recompense for unimaginable chaos and suffering brought on by the whims and fancies of just two individuals in temporary control of the levers of power. Would the world be able to sustain follies of this nature in future? Therefore, the questions before the world.

However, the USA must be obliged to conform to global norms of conduct as enshrined in the UN Charter, in letter and spirit. It must adhere to the BTWC and ratify the Kyoto Protocol as well as the ICC convention. It must put a stop to the militarisation of space.

Failing which, all countries, allies and non-allies must cut off bilateral dialogues and abrogate, in a phased manner, their special relationships with the superpower. There is no other way to restore sanity to a world hurtling toward self-destruction.

The limits of ‘superpowerhood’ stand exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same is applicable in the economic sphere. Without support from NATO, the UNSC and its G8 allies America simply cannot go it alone. It is these others who underpin US power, led lemming-like on account of the deferential attitudes fostered during the long years of the Cold War. The moment they decide to remove their shackles, without necessarily upsetting the applecart, the US will be more amenable to a reasoned dialogue.

The situation in Iraq has provided the world an opportunity to restore the primacy of the UN. It can also become an enabling environment for overdue UN reform, provided individual nations stop making private deals with the US.

The ruling elite in India, Japan, Germany and Brazil must not hanker after a permanent UN Security Council seat. At this critical juncture they must come together to force general reform of the UN. Together they represent a formidable force in the world forum that cannot be ignored for long.


The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El-Baradei, has opined that, “Unless we are moving steadily toward nuclear disarmament, I’m afraid that the alternative is that we’ll have scores of countries with nuclear weapons and that’s an absolute recipe for self destruction.” Given current US policy for maintaining a nuclear arsenal for the indefinite future, threatening non-nuclear countries, and doing research into new types of usable nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament appears to be a distant dream, thus making proliferation a more likely nightmare. (Democratizing Money: An Outline for Staving off a Monetary Train Wreck by Arjun Makhijani. Science for Democratic Action, Volume 12, Number 1, December 2003).

More than a decade after the USSR, Russia is drifting into a new arms race with the US. It’s incredible that America spends more on nuclear weapons than when the Cold War peaked. Sadly, Moscow is responding by diverting scarce resources to modernize its nuclear forces. Under President George W Bush, the US has aggressively started asserting its narrowly defined interests, not heeding world opinion or traditional American foreign policy priorities.

Today only two entities threaten each other and the world with the threat of weapons of mass destruction, these being the superpower USA and its principal adversary the shadowy radical elements out to hit USA wherever they can. At least for the next ten to fifteen years the nuclear exchange at the lowest kiloton yields is more likely between these two adversaries. This period becomes the window of opportunity to effectively roll back the nuclear peril. The cataclysmic holocaust that could have resulted from an exchange between the two superpowers during the Cold War decades when the doomsday clock in New York came close to one minute to midnight can be practically ruled out for at least the next decade or two.

However, as far as the planet is concerned, the bigger danger to planetary decline stems from massive deforestation, species extinction, breakdown of the inter-species genetic barriers, global warming and, most importantly, the likelihood of the pursuance of the capitalist consumption patterns by the developing world, being propelled by the forces of globalization into this mould at a self-energizing pace. If the remaining virgin forest tracts disappear and the capitalist consumption patterns become the norm for the bulk of the human race the damage to the Earth would be far more than a suitcase bomb or a few low yield nuclear bombs going off.

It is above all the U.S. public that must appreciate that at the end of the day the course that America takes in the coming years will depend largely on how the USA deploys its wealth. For example, should it persist with the planet-destroying star wars programme, with outlays of tens of billions of dollars, leading up to possibly half a trillion dollars or more over the life of the programme, then America will surely get firmly sucked into the negative spiral of decline and decay. The rest of the world would be dragged down as well. Today unbridled capitalism, which has become the handmaiden of environmental degradation, nuclear proliferation and the militarisation of space, has turned into a ‘rogue’ process. In other words, it is a runaway process that might no longer be amenable to control.

The global community must now push the US towards ratifying most of the global protocols that the US has walked out of, or opposed against the wishes of the vast majority of the world’s nations. If anything, it should have been the frontrunner for adhering to the Kyoto protocol and the commitment given by the P-5 for collectively moving towards universal nuclear disarmament.

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