|Gunder Frank Contributions to Public Discussions
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2003 10:31:41 -0500
From: Andre Gunder Frank
Reply-To: Discussions on the Socialist Register and its articles
Subject: in re ZNet on DEMOCRACY (fwd)
yesterday at lunch i told Ali that i was thinking of writing an article on how the US is
the greatest force AGAINST democracy in the world. She said its not worth doing, because
its already been done. Here below is an example that proves her right. But i had a number
of other details to add, eg Patriot Acts 1 and 2, the first passed without Congress even
reading it, and the second so far withheld from Congress, to be pushed through in
anti-terrosim and pro war fever. The shredding of the Bill of Rights and the abrogation of
the Constitution. Canada, UK, Germany, France, et al are rushing to keep up with the US in
this regard at home. [Of all "western denocracies" the ""Mother of
Democrcy" in the UK is surely the most UNdemocratic and repressive of all - just ask
the Cahtolics in Northern Ireland].
I would expand on the author's mention of arm twisting blackmail vs governments that want
to follow the democratically expressed opinions of their people instead of doing what the
US wants, which cares a hoot in hell about democracy or its exercise. It did not support
the democratic opposition to Saddam Hussein in 1991. The US has run the UN with a half
century of carrots and sticks against every democratically elected and othewise client
government in the world to assure their votes on the most outrageous US propositions. When
some international porpositions were adoped anyway, the US first fought them and got them
watered down so it might sign, then refused to sign and or ratify, and/or abrogated them,
eg Kyoto, Internatinal Criminal Court, land mines, etc. And after Elanor Roosevelt wrote
the UN Declaratin of Human Rights, US governments have opposed to EVERY human rights
measure brought pefore an international assembly.
Apart from the questionable relevance of the arguments the author considers about post-WW
II Japan and Germany, if anyone can find even a single case of US intervention having led
to or resulted in any kind of democracy during the last half - or whole - century, I would
like to be informed about it. With a century's democratic batting average of 0.00, the
prospects for the next time are, well just about 0.00.
One relevant item I have never seen mentioned - except by me, are there any others i could
cite? - is the wholesale abrogation of any and all Democracy in the NATO war against
Yugoslavia. Not a single parliament was consulted in any of the NATO member states about
making that war. It also violated the constitutions of various member statees, eg USA,
Germany to start with. The Canadian Prime Minster went so far as to declare publicly that
he can NOT afford to bring this question to the Canadian parliament, because there would
be some opposing voicees - and that would give comfort to the Milosevic enemey. In other
words, 'we' are anxiuous and willing to give up all of our democracy at home to fight an
illegal war abroad. Moreover, his Defense Minister then stated that Canada would fight to
defend ''human rights'' wherever and whenever no matter what the United Nations and
international law had to say about it.
I would lay greater stress on internatinal law and institutions, the foundation and
expression of international democracy to the limited extent that we have any, all of which
have been discarded by the US, which has replaced them by the "Law of the West"
[that is a play on words! of two senses of the word West!!] forming vigilante posses to go
after self-defined criminals.
If democracy and international law, plus the Geneva Concentions, were designed to maintain
some semblance of civilized association and living, both domestically and globally, then
the wholsale abrogation of democracy also represents a rejection of civilization. The
cynical hypocritical Blair/Bush evocations of "" fighing to save
civilization"" are tantamount to the US Vietnam War policy and practice of ''we
have to destroy it to save it''. Alas they are having a hard time of it, because these
most precious fruits of civilization exist no more even to be destroyed, let alone to be
saved. Nor does democracy. RIP.
---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 17:35:02 -0500 From: Michael
Albert To: email@example.com Subject: Update & Commentary from ZNet Hello,
This is another ZNet Free Update Mailing. In wartime we are sending many more than usual.
As always, you can add and remove addresses at the top page of ZNet --
(1) The Stand for Peace and Justice statement with many ZNet writers as initial signers
has about 40,000 signers in only five days and the pace shows no sign of waning. Have you
signed it yet? If not, you can read the statement and add your name at
http://www.zmag.org/wspj/index.cfm More important, from that site you can also mail copies
to others, or you can print them for use in organizing work. Many people are asking their
organizations to print and/or link to the statement. Newspapers around the world seem to
be spontaneously doing so.
(2) Today's Free Update article is by Stephen Shalom and is titled War and Democracy. It
is from the April print issue of Z Magazine which is now online via www.zmag.org To
acccess the print edition online, however, you have to subscribe to the online version
which you can easily do so at the site. It is helpful to us if you do so, of course.
Regular updates to Znet more broadly are continuing multiple times daily, and use is
skyrocketing. We have made hardware changes that will keep pace, we hope.
And, finally, here is Stephen Shalom's article -- he is a ZNet Commentator -- we hope it
proves useful to you.
Iraq: War and Democracy
by Stephen R. Shalom
I support regime change. I support it around the world, including in Iraq, where a
dictator holds sway. The question, however, is whether we should support regime change by
the United States military and whether there is any reason to believe that a U.S. invasion
will lead to democracy for the people of Iraq, let alone for the wider region.
There are many good reasons to be skeptical that a U.S. military assault will result in
any sort of meaningful democracy. First, one only has to look at who the supposed agent of
this democratic flowering is to be: George W. Bush, who rules the United States
illegitimately, having stolen the 2000 election, and who presides over the most serious
assault on the basic democratic rights of the people of the United States in over half a
century. Second, one should look at the long record of U.S. foreign policy.
At the turn of the last century, during the debate over the annexation of the Philippines,
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge declared, if justice requires the consent of the governed,
"then our whole past record of expansion is a crime."
Woodrow Wilson proclaimed his devotion to democracy while sponsoring interventions in
Haiti, Nicaragua, and Mexico.
In 1949, the CIA backed a military coup that deposed the elected government of Syria.
In the 1950s, the CIA overthrew the freely-elected, democratic government of Guatemala and
blocked free elections in Vietnam.
In the 1960s, the United States undermined democracy in Brazil and in the Congo (the first
scrapping of a legally recognized democratic system in post-colonial Africa).
In 1963, the United States backed a coup by the Ba'ath party in Iraq-Saddam Hussein's
party -and gave them names of communists to kill.
In the 1970s, the CIA helped to snuff out democracy in Chile. As Kissinger told a
top-secret meeting, "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go
Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people." In 1981, vice-president
George Bush Sr. told Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, "We love your adherence to
Consider Indonesia, ruled by a dictator, Suharto, who killed more "of his own
people" than did Saddam Hussein (with U.S. arms and, again, with lists of names of
Communists to liquidate). In 1997, the year before the Indonesian people drove Suharto
into exile, Paul Wolfowitz told Congress that "any balanced judgment of the situation
in Indonesia today, including the very important and sensitive issue of human rights,
needs to take account of the significant progress that Indonesia has already made and
needs to acknowledge that much of this progress has to be credited to the strong and
remarkable leadership of president Suharto."
Consider the report written for Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu in 1996 by a
group of U.S. neoconservatives, many of whom hold prominent positions in the current Bush
war administration (Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser). This report
recommended restoring the Hashemite monarchy to power in Iraq.
There has been little acknowledgment of just how deep U.S. opposition to democracy has
been. So even a New York Times article by Todd Purdum in March, admitting that the U.S.
has not always been a champion of democracy, says the following: "The first President
Bush protested when a military coup overthrew the democratically elected leader of Haiti,
the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but was far less exercised around the same time when the
Algerian Army canceled the second round of elections that seemed certain to put an Islamic
fundamentalist regime in power."
Purdum is right about Algeria, but his account of Haiti is terribly misleading. In fact,
the U.S. had all sorts of ties to the coup plotters in Haiti and did all it could to
sabotage efforts to remove the junta.
There are other reasons to be skeptical about the democratic impact of this war: oil
contracts, bases, Kurds-plans are being made by the Bush administration on all these
matters, matters that even minimal notions of democracy would leave to Iraqis. Bush,
writes Thomas Powers in the March 18 New York Times, "will have virtually unlimited
power...far greater power, for example, than Queen Victoria's over India in the 19th
U.S. officials say the occupation will last at least two years. Powers notes that the U.S.
troops will remain until U.S.-Iranian differences "are resolved by diplomacy or war,
which ever comes first."
The claim that the U.S. wants to bring democracy to the region is preposterous. Imagine
what democracy in the Middle East today would mean. Is it conceivable that a Saudi Arabian
government that reflected the views of its people would be providing bases for
Washington's war? Would a democratic Egypt allow U.S. forces to transit the Suez canal?
Would democratic UAE or Qatar or Bahrain be aiding the U.S. war effort?
Consider Turkey: the U.S. was outraged at a parliamentary vote, which was consistent with
the views of 94 percent of population. (The cabinet had earlier been pressed by Washington
into approving a deal before details were even worked out, hardly a model of democratic
practice.) The Turkish military said it had avoided making a statement before the
parliament's vote because it knew that would be undemocratic, but after the failed vote it
didn't refrain from pressing for a reversal, with U.S. backing.
A February 26, 2003 classified State Department report was leaked to the Los Angeles Times
(March 14, 2003). The thrust of the document, according to a source, was "...this
idea that you're going to transform the Middle East and fundamentally alter its trajectory
is not credible."
"Even if some version of democracy took root-an event the report casts as
unlikely-anti-American sentiment is so pervasive that elections in the short term could
lead to the rise of Islamic-controlled governments hostile to the United States and
Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-
Bush refers to his "coalition of the willing" and many analysts have noted that
it is a coalition of the coerced and the bribed. But it's also a coalition of the
undemocratic. It is a coalition of governments whose views do not reflect the views of
their people-the basic, minimal definition of demo- cracy.
As Colin Powell proudly put it: "We need to knock down this idea that nobody is on
our side." Many nations share our view. "And they do it in the face of public
opposition." (NYT, March 10, 2003)
Britain, Spain, Italy: in all these countries overwhelming majorities of the population
are opposed to war. Nor are things any different in the "New Europe." In
Bulgaria, for example, the one Security Council supporter of the U.S.-UK-Spanish position,
a January poll showed 59 percent of the population opposed to war in any circumstances and
another 28 percent opposed to war without Security Council backing, with only 5 percent
favoring a unilateral war by the United States and its allies.
The only country in the world where a majority of the population supports war is Israel
and this is the one country that is not officially part of the coalition of the willing
(for fear it will drive some of the willing into becoming unwilling).
In the United States, there is no decisive voice for war. While the latest polls seem to
show majority support for war, the same polls show that 60 percent believe the U.S. should
take into account the views of its allies, more want the U.S. to take account of any UN
veto than don't, and 52 percent want the inspectors to be given more time (CBS/NYT poll,
March 7-9). A USA Today poll the weekend of March 15 says that 50 percent oppose war if
there is no UN resolution.
The CBS/NYT poll also shows that 62 percent think the Bush administration is not telling
the public important information it needs to know, but a plurality believe, contrary to
any evidence, that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11 terrorist
attacks. This poll data suggests considerable confusion, which is not surprising, given
the government lies, forgeries, plagiarism, and press self-censorship. (Would public
opinion be different if the U.S. press had given prominent attention to the U.S. spying on
the UN or the suppressed testimony of the Iraqi defector?) Democratic backing doesn't
automatically make a war right, but this will surely be one of the most undemocratic wars
Some have argued that U.S. policy has yielded democracy before, specifically in the case
of Japan following World War II. The analogy, however, is unconvincing.
First, U.S. policy makers maintained the emperor in power, planning to use his authority
to enhance their own control over Japan and to make sure that they determined the pace and
extent of change. This meant that criticisms of the emperor had to be suppressed. Thus, a
left- wing film critical of the emperor was banned by American officials in 1946. Anything
negative about the emperor was kept out of the Tokyo war crimes trial.
In the first few years of the occupation, some genuine democratic reforms were introduced
in Japan: there was land reform, unions were promoted, the new constitution included a
"no war" pledge, some right-wing militarists were purged, and some of the
zaibatsu, the corporate behemoths of the Japanese economy, were broken up. But these
reforms were carried out by New Dealers, the most liberal U.S. government in history,
while in Iraq we can look forward to rule by the most reactionary U.S. regime in more than
70 years. By 1948, as Washington came to realize that China was not going to become an
anti-communist bastion and that a powerful alternative was needed, U.S. occupation policy
in Japan underwent a "reverse course." Japanese economic power would now be
rebuilt as part of an anti-Soviet alliance and many of the early reforms were weakened or
repealed. War criminals were released. A threatened general strike was banned in 1947 and
over the next three years imposed laws severely weakening the labor movement. In 1949,
there was a mass purge of Communists, using regulations originally designed for ultra-
Japan's dominant conservative politicians were allowed to maintain their grip on power by
the U.S. Occupation authorities and were secretly bankrolled by the CIA through the 1960s.
The U.S. occupation lasted seven years (and two decades longer for Okinawa), but before it
ended U.S. officials took two more steps to consolidate Japan as Washington's key ally
against communism in Asia. First, the U.S. obtained military bases in Japan, which they
maintain to this day. Second, they got Tokyo to agree that it would not trade with the
Chinese mainland. For the latter to be feasible, U.S. policy makers determined that Japan
would need to seek what State Department planner George Kennan called "an empire to
the south." U.S. government officials frankly spoke of sponsoring a new "Co-
Prosperity Sphere." This meant U.S. subversion, counterinsurgency, and massive attack
to keep Southeast Asia in Washington's global economic system. Thus, the war purportedly
fought to defeat aggression and militarism in Asia led to U.S. policies of aggression and
militarism in Asia.
One final indication of the U.S. view of democracy is its attitude toward the UN: the
organization must follow U.S. orders or Washington will do what it wants anyway; that the
U.S. has the right to openly bribe other nations to secure their votes; that Washington
alone has the right to interpret UN resolutions; and so on.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says that he favors war despite the odds that
things will turn out horribly because he thinks it's worth the long-shot chance for
democracy. So even if the likelihood of democracy emerging is small, isn't that better
than nothing? Shouldn't we take the chance, even if there weren't many tremendous costs of
going to war, such as:
It will destroy the fragile institutions of international law built up over the last few
decades. (Already Turkey is saying that if the U.S. can intervene in Iraq to preventively
protect its national security, why can't Ankara?) It will increase recruiting for Al
Qaeda, as reported in a recent New York Times It will increase, rather than decrease, the
spread of weapons of mass destruction It places immense numbers of Iraqi civilians at risk
There are many grim predictions about civilian casualties from NGOs and internal UN
documents. Fred Kaplan on Slate is right that these are just guesses, with no solid proof.
But the rosy predictions of the Bush administration are no less guesses and there are
reasons to be concerned
Consider that a report in the London Independent, February 2, 2003, stated, "The
Ministry of Defence yesterday admitted the electricity system that powers water and
sanitation for the Iraqi people could be a military target, despite warnings that its
destruction would cause a humanitarian tragedy."
U.S. war games were reported (NYT, October 22, 2002) to involve 10 percent casualties
among the attacking force in urban warfare in Baghdad. Can one imagine how many civilians
the U.S. will put at risk to minimize the dangers to its own forces?
Bush has warned that Saddam Hussein has been interspersing troops and military targets
among the civilian population and that any harm would be Saddam's fault. But if Bush
intends to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam, then presumably he views them as
hostages, and who would want hostages liberated by U.S. cruise missiles and MOAB
So even if we were sure that war would bring democracy to Iraq, the costs would be too
high. But of course, we are not at all sure. While one doesn't know what the future will
bring, whether the U.S. will install some sort of democratic facade or keep General Tommy
Franks as the local proconsul, one thing is clear: there won't be real democracy for the
people of Iraq.
Stephen R. Shalom teaches political science at William Patterson University in New Jersey.
He is the author of numerous articles and books, most recently Which Side Are You On?
(Longman), a political science text book.
This message has been brought to you by ZNet (http://www.zmag.org). Visit our site for
ANDRE GUNDER FRANK