1. THE NEO-CONSERVATIVE BID FOR POWER.
A lot more is going on than an effort at "regime change" in Iraq. The same effort is going on here. It is being waged by neo-conservative proponents of "corporate feudalism". They hate "New Deal liberalism", and have working for forty years to change it. With control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, they see a chance to undo it. But they don’t have long, so they’re working fast. In fact, the war in Iraq is part of their overall bid to seize power.
Their social vision is both simple and corrosive. They see a world divided between corporate "haves" and wage earning "have nots" – with a few comfortable middle class toadies to do their dirty work. Their global economic vision has actually been set forth in the recently published "National Security Strategy for the United States". What is interesting is the subject matter of some portions of this "strategy".
Consider the following, and ask yourself what it has to do with "national security"
A regulatory environment that is "pro business, pro entrepreneur and pro investment".
Minimal social spending.
Lower progressive tax rates.
These ARE NOT policies for the United States. They are policy goals for third world countries – as if their domestic social and economic policies were any of our business. These goals have little to do with with "national security", if "national security" is understood to involve the protection of the United States from foreign aggression. In fact, to the extent that these economic policies in foreign countries foster wage slavery and corporate exploitation, they may expose this country to hatred and contempt by the poor of the world – with a commensurate rise in the risk of global terrorism directed at the United States.
The goal of these policies is very simple. A low tax, low regulation and LOW WAGE global business environment. It is not a "national security strategy", it is a "corporate plunder strategy". They want that environment to be uniform around the world – including the United States. Which means, they are going to have to undo our own "safety net" and undermine our own wage scale.
This "pro-investment" environment already exists in places like Brazil and Argentina. It doesn’t exist in the US – at least not yet. But they have devised an elegantly simple strategy to establish such an environment in the US. That strategy is called "bankruptcy". Without reducing government spending, they have already cut high marginal tax rates, furthering the goal of lowering progressive taxes. This has opened huge budget deficits, which are projected to continue into the future. To aggravate this fiscal imbalance, they have also set about on an ambitious – and hugely expensive – foreign policy "revolution".
This is the context to understand the "war on terror", which is a convenient cover for this radical change in US foreign policy. But this change was envisioned before the 9/11 attacks – and the evidence shows that our invasion has little to do with any "war on terror". As early as January, 1998 the Project for a New American Century – the "epicenter" of this neo-conservative insurgency – wrote a letter to President Clinton urging "military action" against Saddam Hussein. That letter was signed by Elliot Abrams, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld – among others. Those four are all high level officials in the present administration.
More telling is a similar letter written to Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott just four months after the Clinton letter. The Clinton letter stressed the threat of "weapons of mass destruction" as the rationale for the invasion. Indeed, President Bush has used this rationale ad nauseum. But the letter to Gingrich and Lott doesn’t mention weapons of mass destruction and all. Instead it stresses the threat of Saddam "strengthening his position at home and in the region."
A terrorist attack on the US – or anywhere – using weapons of mass destruction would be suicide for Saddam Hussein’s regime. On the other hand, weapons of mass destruction – which he probably has – would serve as a deterrent. And indeed, in another document published by the PNAC, the worry they express concerns states like Iraq possessing a deterrent to "American intervention". They say nothing about any threat of terrorist attack, because they aren’t worried about it.
That document is called "Rebuilding America’s Defenses". It is a blueprint for greatly expanding US military capability, for "forward deployment" of US forces, for construction of a missile defense system and for other policies designed to "discourage" the rise of any military rival to the US.
It was adopted by the Bush Administration in its entirety in the National Security Strategy of the United States. That same document included the Bush Administration vision for the global economy, namely a "global corporate playground". The vision is clear. American corporations are to be given a license to plunder the world, with a greatly expanded US military providing the "security". To pay for this military "corporate empire", and to bring the US economy in line with the "global model" our "New Deal" infrastructure including Social Security and Medicare will have to go. Massive deficits and fiscal "irresponsibility" – aggravated by a huge military build up – will take care of that.
2. THE POLITICAL STRATEGY FOR SELLING CORPORATE FEUDALISM
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were tailor made to help sell this agenda. Naturally, Americans were behind the effort to hunt down those responsible, and in general to finance an international effort against terror. But that effort has been diverted to focus on regime’s like Iraq – who is a low level sponsor of terrorism, if he sponsors it at all. It has also fueled the building of an alarming expansion of the "National Security State".
In fact, the Bush Administration enjoyed great support in its "war on terror". That support was broad based in both international and domestic political arena. The Bush administration wants none of that. Almost immediately after announcement of the "war on terror", the right-wing propaganda "echo chamber" had swung into action. Any opposition to any of the administration’s proposals was – and continues to be – labeled as "disloyal", "unpatriotic" and even "treason". In fact, the country was united in a way that it hasn’t been in decades, permitting a broad based consensus sufficient to give the administration 90 percent of what it wanted, anyway.
But consensus isn’t what the "corporate feudalists" want. They want division. They see a golden opportunity to divide the country between "patriotic Americans" and "liberal traitors". They see a way to push the left into an untenable political position – the better to undo the hated liberal "social agenda". That is why they have not permitted the "era of good feeling" across the political spectrum to last. Using the war on terror, and "waving the bloody shirt" of the terrorist attacks, they have mounted a full scale attack on New Deal liberalism itself.
As cynical and disgusting as that political strategy is, it has been effective. Average Americans are not particularly politically savvy. They are likewise not especially well informed – as evidenced by the mistaken belief held by a majority of Americans that Saddam Hussein had anything at all to do the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The invasion of Iraq – which is not related to any "war on terror", but is the first salvo in a new American international order – has been sold as "protecting" Americans from the bogey man of an attack on the US using weapons of mass destruction. But its real purpose is to unite ordinary, politically unsophisticated Americans against what Ann Coulter recently called the "enemy within" – progressives – and at the same time to weaken the UN and other international institutions.
The strategy is working. 75% of people polled support the "war on terror". Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands protest the war, but their support by the "silent majority" is amazingly thin, and the Bush Administration knows it. Far from fearing massive opposition to its war plans, the Bush administration welcomes it. It is a chance for the neo-conservatives to show "patriotic Americans" what the "anti-American" left is really all about.
The start of the war doesn’t help the left any. Because American soldiers are now dying in the middle east. Whatever the risks of the war to the present international order, whatever risks to our standing in the world, whatever risks to actually provoking terrorist attack, the left is placed in a supremely difficult political position. "Ending the war" and withdrawing from Iraq is unthinkable to the political establishment, and to the "silent majority". It would mean a diplomatic and geopolitical disaster unparalleled in American history. The Bush Administration – and I expect any Democratic administration that replaced it – would have little political choice but to push the war in Iraq to a successful conclusion.
Right now, let me pour some cold water on your idealistic progressive head. If you believe this war is wrong – even morally wrong – you need to wake up and smell the coffee. The neoconservatives may indeed be "evil men". But they are very good politicians. They have put the United States, the general population and the left right where they want us. They are playing to win, and right now they are ahead of the game. We must be very smart about beating them.
3. THE LEFT’S COUNTER-ATTACK
If you are a liberal, and you are serious about defeating the neo-conservative corporate feudalists, it is time to get serious about "smart politics". This is not an appeal to "compromise", "accommodation" or "appeasement" of the right. The right can’t be appeased – as the servile attitude of the press currently demonstrates. No matter how much pro-war and pro-Bush bias the media shows, it will never be enough.
"Smart politics" isn’t about "compromise" it is about strategy. It is about how you oppose the right. What do you say? What questions do you ask? What form does your "direct action" take? It is also very much about timing, as well as about crafting a message that appeals to the uncommitted center.
As we speak, the right controls the "uncommitted center". This is simply a matter of "uncritical patriotism". There are a number of facts that lead the public to support Dubya’s "oil war", and to view progressive opponents of that war as "out of the mainstream" if not downright "disloyal". As you read them, resist the temptation to respond to them. Just take them in, and try to understand how they relate to the perceptions of "Joe Sixpack". We will get around to how to diffuse them, presently. The salient facts that lead the public to support Dubya’s oil war are as follows:
- Saddam Hussein is a real live bona-fide asshole. No one with any sense will mind if he is out of power in Iraq.
- The public believes that Saddam Hussein is connected in some way with the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon.
- The public believes that we really are – honest injun – going to establish "democracy" in Iraq, and that this is a war to "liberate" Iraq.
- The public is entirely ignorant of the geopolitical "grand strategy" of the neo-conservatives who have pushed this war.
- If the public understood that "grand strategy" many of them would not necessarily object to an "American global empire", because,
- The public doesn’t understand that we are talking about a "corporate empire" that will NOT benefit them, and indeed will be detrimental to their standard of living, because,
- The public has no idea about the neo-conservative’s true social and economic agenda for the US, and how the "grand strategy" relates to it.
- Finally, the public also does not understand the immediate risks and potential costs of both the immediate war, and the overall "grand strategy".
Now you can go out and find an "average citizen" and try to educate him. You can say something like,
"This war in Iraq is just the first stage in establishing US military dominance in the world. That military dominance is in order to protect and advance the "corporate global economy". The result will be a pauperized US workforce. The way they will accomplish this here is through tax cuts for the rich, which will create massive deficit spending that will everntually bankrupt the "New Deal". Their grossly expensive "Grand Strategy" only helps this process along – even as it advances their military agenda overseas."
If you tell someone that, you will be telling them the gospel truth, which they will never believe. They will ask you if you’ve left your tin foil hat at home. Making the public understand enough of this – they don’t have to accept all of it – to turn against Dubya and the neo-cons is going to require a process. The main reason for this is because your average member of the general public simply will not believe without being "prepared" that a group of "patriotic Americans" could possibly have such a corrosive agenda. They will have to be "brought along" until they are willing to accept enough of this scenario to vote against the Republicans.
How do you do that? You do it in stages, as follows:
- Begin to establish the "geopolitical strategy" for THIS war – not the overall stratey, which is to humiliate pour allies, delegimitize the UN, and establish permanent "forward deployment’ of US forces in the Middle East. This is already plausibe, since the media is beginning to report the existence of the Project for a New American Century.
- Establish the risks of the strategy.
Start with the "poor planning" for the present campaign. There is an order to these risks. 1. What if we lose [not very like, but terrible if it happens.] 2. What if it takes a lot longer. 3. What if we inflame the region and wind up with a military occupation for years [which the neocons actually want]. 4. What if the war widens to the whole middle east.
Move on to the long-term effects of destablizing the UN and Nato
- Hammer the economic risks like deficits, capital flight out of the US, making the Euro a "reserve currency" and others.
- Undercut the rationale for the war, including Iraq’s non-connection to the WTC attacks, its weakness, its lack of WMD, and the foolhardiness of ever using them against the US. This is worth discussing in some detail. You don’t start with this, because right now, nobody cares. Remember, Saddam is an asshole. OK, so he didn’t help with the WTC attacks, he’s still an asshole. Nobody gives a shit that they were "misled". Remember Clinton’s escapades? The right just couldn’t believe that nobody cared. But nobody did, because Clinton was "doing a good job" with the economy and the country in general. People are very "result oriented", and they are used to political chicanery. So you undercut the rationale and suggest that "we were lied to" AFTER you’ve scared the shit of out people about the RISKS. The risks set the proper context for outrage over being misled. Until people realize the gamble being taken with this nation’s security, they will feel no particular outrage over yet another group of politicians "lying" to the them. Lying to them isn’t such a big deal. Lying to them AND fucking things up is a different matter.
- Use the risks from the present war, to reinforce the many more risks for the long-range strategy. Eventually you WILL SEE a military rival, probably a revitalized Russia in alliance with "old Europe". You may eventually see war over the oil reserves around the Caspian Sea. In this hostile environment, you may see trade wars, withdrawal investment in the US economy, a shift to the Euro as the International "reserve" currency, and of course "jihad without end" in the Middle East. At this point, the public is not nearly as quick to accept "global empire" as a "good idea". Many might indulge their desire to "dream", but the real risks are much more apparent, and they are prepared to see this as truly reckless adventurism – which is exactly what it is.
- Now you’re ready to ask the really interesting questions. These guys are smart enough to appreciate at least some of these risks. Why don’t they care? For example, why are they willing to set out on a hugely expensive global military strategy, and slash the tax base at the same time? Are they that stupid? This is where public opinion diverges. Many people will simply conclude, "yes, they’re stupid" and leave it at that. That’s OK. They think the neo-cons are genuine idiots who have exposed the country to all sorts of unnecessary risks, and are bankrupting the treasury while they’re at it. That is not a public perception conducive to Dubya’s re-election. The rest of the public will say, "no, they’re not stupid, so they must be up to something else."
- With those people, it is now a simple matter to lay out the neo-conservative agenda for "global corporate feudalism", the destruction of the American public sector, and reduction of our wage earners to wage slavery, along with the rest of the world. "American global empire" is really "corporate global empire". They need a US government that furnishes the military muscle for this corporate order, but can’t afford to do anything else.
And just like that, you’ve accomplished a shift in public opinion from the right to the left. Instead of the left, it is right who will be "stigmatized" as a bunch of lunatics – which they are. The beauty of it is that "Joe Sixpack" can still hope for victory in Iraq? In fact, it becomes even more urgent – since we have taken a huge risk going in there. In other words, he hopes for victory, but doesn’t give the neo-cons any credit for it. Instead he blames them for exposing this country to such huge risks. This prepares him to accept the anti-war activists as having been "right". You have a progressive interpretation of the neo-conservative agenda. You have a basis to offer alternative policies, that are wage earner friendly and socially responsible. And you have a public willing to see the "patriotic benefits" to America from doing things our way. This is particularly strong, the stronger the public realizes how it has been manipulated by neo-conservative pseudo-patriots, who in fact want to erode the living standards of ordinary
THE MECHANICS OF COUNTER-ATTACK – BUILDING THE "ECHO CHAMBER"
The goal must be more than to defeat George W. Bush. Indeed, though one would be foolish to count on it, he may well beat himself. The left should not make the mistake it made when Clinton was elected, and assume that the country will just naturally move left. The neo-conservatives are a large, well-financed and determined movement, who will not just go away if George W. Bush is defeated. The left must prepare itself not only for the difficult task of beating George W. Bush, but of capitalizing on the political opportunity of his defeat, in order to permanently cripple the conservative movement, so that it will eventually die out.
The goal is build a political infrastructure for positive change. Building a political infrastructure is nothing more difficult to understand than building an organization to communicate a political message. At the end of the day, that is all the right-wing has done.
The task before the left right now is very simple. Everyone on the left needs to get on "the same page". We have the people. We have the motivation. All we need is the message. The immediate message is to stop the neo-conservative "corporate feudalist" agenda. Liberal activists must be educated in general about that agenda, and about the specific details of how that agenda is being advanced. In this way, as individuals and smaller organizations go about their work, they can fit themselves into the task of delivering that larger message, as they see fit.
Once the activist left is organized around the central message, the hard job of swaying broader public opinion begins. This translates into influencing media coverage of events, and in direct encounters with right wing activists. Both of these are important. Understand this right now. At bottom, we are engaged in a "public relations" campaign. The fact that our ideas, our vision and our agenda are better – which isn’t hard to do – does not diminish the challenge of communicating that vision and that agenda to a largely ignorant – though not stupid – public.
The first task is learning how to engage the right. You are not trying to convince the right, you are trying to discredit the right. The strongest weapon you have to prove to the general public the corrosive agenda of the right, are the words of right-wingers themselves. If you tell the public what the right is about, the public has a choice about whether to believe you. If the right tells the public what they are about, the public must believe it.
The beauty of it is that the the right will tell the public exactly what their true agenda is. Their "spin doctors" and PR consultants are very good at putting a "happy face" on a corrosive social agenda. Their activists are very good at repeating the "talking points". Once you have poked a few holes in the "official propaganda", either with reason or with demonstrable facts, the conservative activist will "belly up" every time. That is experience talking. I’ve seen them do it.
So you have to learn the tactics of "pressing" the right. The easiest way to do it is to simply ask them, preferably with questions that point to a contradiction in their "talking points". I am in the process of preparing some questions and other materials designed to expose their contradictions.
Once you have developed your "evidence" in the form of admissions from the right – and their writings, position papers, things they write to themselves are another excellent source for this – you are ready to present your information to the media. This should be done first in a thematic way. In other words, you have your "theory of the case" – which I have already outlined regarding the true agenda of the right. The information you gather from the right should be designed to prove your case. Don’t waste time arguing about things that don’t matter.
You present your information to the media in a coordinated effort designed to demand their attention, and demand to know why they aren’t covering your story. Why does over half the country believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11? Why is no one publicizing the push for "regime change" in Iraq years before 9/11? Why isn’t the news media asking why the administration is hostile to a commission to study 9/11? Why isn’t the news media concerned about the dramatic erosion of relations between the US and our allies? Why isn’t someone focusing on the potential economic consequences of the "Bush doctrine"? Why is no one asking the basic question, "how to you pursue an expensive military build-up and cut taxes on the rich at the same time"?
You present evidence of the right’s agenda to the media with questions like, "did you know so many conservatives were hostile to social security and Medicare"? "Did you know that many conservatives support export of jobs to places like Indonesia, where they pay people 24 cents an hour?" "Did you know some conservative supporters of George W. Bush openly call for genocide of Muslims?" "Did you know some conservatives even defend child labor?"
Do conservatives really believe these things? Yes, they do. I have seen their published comments with my own eyes. How do you think I know what they’re up to? Anyone who has not spent very much time debating right-wingers on their own turf would be both amazed and shocked at just how ugly and hateful the conservative really is.
Once the left understands the agenda of the right, understands the emphasis of our message, and understands the tactics of pressing the right, and pressuring the media, the organizations are in place, ready to go. There are dozens and dozens of online activists, for example. There are blogs, mailing lists, and concerned progressives all over the internet. It is a simple matter to hook them up with information, arguments and opportunities to participate, to echo the central message.
The right is out to establish a "global corporate empire", at the expense of both American and third world wages and living standards. Far from being a "war on terrorism", the war in Iraq is an effort to remake the international order, in order to facilitate corporate domination of that order. You can go to whitehouse.gov and look at the National Security Strategy of the United States. Its all right there. There are any number of other documents, and there are plenty of conservatives out there who will be glad – if pressed – to verify what it means. All that is needed is for YOU to publicize it, press the right about it, and explain it to a press and public who are oblivious of this "grand strategy". The public will turn against it, once they understand its implications.