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NITA: The Imperishable Primacy of Interests

Sanders Research Associates
Not Important? Think Again

The Imperishable Primacy of Interests (Which ones, exactly?)

By Chris Sanders
13 February 2003

“They’ve got some crazy people over there…”

Thus spake Congressman John Murtha about the Pentagon, and truer words were never spoken. The occasion was a discussion about congressional opposition to the Total Information Awareness program headed by ex-rear admiral Dr. John Poindexter, Iran-Contra conspirator, and convicted and pardoned felon. “It’s not a program that snoops into American citizens’ privacy,” said the Pentagon’s spokesman. “Pull the other one,” we say. Congressional democrats are trying to restrict TIA’s ability to target American citizens. Good luck to them. While they are at it, they might try restoring the other constitutional rights that they withdrew so precipitately in October 2001. And they might well enquire more closely into the fact that the Justice Department wants to extend the Patriot Act just to make sure that they didn’t miss any rights that they failed to rescind in the October rush. Who is the target of the War on Terror anyhow; UBL, Saddam Hussein, or the American people? Or is it all of the above with France and Germany thrown in for good measure? As Samuel Johnson said, patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.


A new crime: Inciting Pacifism

The trans-Atlantic row that has erupted over the Iraq crisis is easily the most serious since Suez in 1956. In that year, President Eisenhower and his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles scuppered the Anglo-Franco-Israeli invasion of Egypt by the simple expedient of not financing it. It doing so they drove yet another nail into the coffins of the British and French empires and not coincidentally the markets drove sterling through the floor. Now it is the Americans who are wearing the imperial boots, and they are none too diplomatic about it. The UN faces “irrelevance,” Donald Rumsfeld equates Germany with Cuba and Libya, and Chancellor Shröder has been accused of trying “to incite pacifism.” France, it is said in Washington, must be “contained.” (See All News is Lies 10 Feb) If this is how they talk about allies, what must they be saying about their wives?

In side-by-side op-ed pieces for the International Herald Tribune, William Pfaff and William Safire take a look at the same events and come to predictably opposite conclusions. The Anglo-Americans are congratulating themselves, as does Safire in his article, on the isolation of Germany and France. This is demonstrated by the signature of eight European premiers of a letter that was originally touted by none other than the editorial page management of the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, the Journal was not slow to take credit for this piece of “diplomacy.” I am sure that Safire is right that this shocked the Germans, but then why wouldn’t it; that such a blatantly pro-Israeli organisation would be so openly intervening in the matter speaks volumes.

The incident also demonstrates the imperishable primacy of interests over sentiment. The Anglo-Americans clearly want control over the supply and distribution of world energy supplies. You can hardly blame them. The US, Britain, and Israel all share a critical need for access to Persian Gulf crude. Marginalizing the core European countries is just part of the execution of the policy. This is no more than, and indeed is exactly what the British Empire did so successfully for two hundred years.

The Franco-German position is also one with a long pedigree, and one that the continental pretender has lost in three world wars if you count Napoleon. Now Europe’s great vulnerability is the juxtaposition of its near total dependence on imported hydrocarbons against its inability to project the power to secure them. On the other hand, modern Europe has close relations with both Algeria and Libya. One can imagine these becoming a lot closer. For the smaller European peripheral states, the current imbroglio poses real problems. It is one thing to thumb your nose at Berlin and Paris. It is another, having joined the European currency area and depending on those capitals for credit, to do so too rashly.

For Pfaff points out a major truth that the likes of Safire will never acknowledge, and that is that Shröder is speaking for a majority of European public opinion. Indeed, this writer suspects that he is also speaking for a majority of American opinion too. In this sense, the Bush administration has already started to pay the price of its war without actually committing a single infantryman.


The real target?

A few days ago Iran admitted that it has extracted and processed domestically sourced uranium for its nuclear program. This is big news, not accorded nearly enough column inches of analysis, and reportedly a big surprise for intelligence analysts. The worry has always been that Iran would get hold of a Russian warhead. The revelation that they have their own source of fissile material changes things considerably. Israel’s nightmare has always been another nuclear capable state in its proximity that could neutralise its own nuclear capability. The US, dependent on foreign oil, and reliant on foreign bases and aircraft carriers to project power, would also be in a bit a pickle. It might, after all, not be able to dictate policy in the Middle East, but rather have to negotiate. Iran has also recently disclosed that it can manufacture solid fuel for a variety of missile types, thus ensuring that the message got across.

Pat Buchanan, no fool, points out in the link below that an Iranian or Arab bomb puts paid to the neo-conservative fantasies currently in vogue in Washington. To which we would add that Iran, not Iraq, is the prime candidate for possession of a weapon and the means to deliver it and that this might not be regarded as such a bad thing in all capitals. Neutralising a putative American global oil monopoly with an “OPEC Nuke” would be an inexpensive way to cut the US down to size. Both Russia and China have joined France and Germany in counselling patience and more time for weapons inspections in Iraq. The new lines of geopolitical competition could not be more clearly drawn.


The invasion has not started, but the bills are already arriving

And there will be other costs. The US balance of payments is in deep deficit on current account and getting deeper by the day. For the last few years it has been the surplus on the capital account that financed this, and much of that capital came form European pension and hedge funds. Now, as this story in the FT shows, the US is using the War on Terror as the chisel with which to force entry into the offshore funds market. Indeed, a lot rides on how the so-called Patriot Act is applied to the asset management industry, especially the private client end of it. This threatens the lucrative hedge fund business with the big chill; foreign managers and private bankers are going to be very loath to give up their clients to the American government. Indeed, if the rift within NATO opens much wider, it will be time to start wondering about the sanctity of cross border capital movements. It is the US and the US markets with the most to lose from this, but who knows what these people will do? It wouldn’t be the first time that they shot themselves in the foot. That is exactly how the euromoney markets got started in the 60s.


Don’t bother us with the facts

It doesn’t help that neither the US nor the UK is able to prove any of their assertions about the danger of Iraq. The fact is that both of their foreign intelligence services are on the record off the record as disagreeing with their political masters as to the facts of the Iraqi “threat.” And 10 Downing Street’s fantastically arrogant plagiarism of a student’s paper to flesh out its report on purported Iraqi links to Al Qaeda has turned a dangerous diplomatic offensive into a murderous farce. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Powell’s UN testimony on the subject seems to crumble a little every day under the hammer of fact.,0,4719222.story?coll=chi-news-hed


Stand by your man…

Thankfully, the War on Terror is not without humour. The Macarthur wannabe, General Tommy Franks, is under fire for using taxpayer money for the benefit of his wife. They travel together on military transport. His seat has four stars, hers four hearts. He is a down to earth sort of guy. He is so down to earth that she sits in on top-secret meetings. The obvious question is, if he needs her for briefings, why do we need him?

*** ENDS ***

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