As [Nobel Laureate] Harold Pinter said of unmentionable crimes: â€œIt never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasnâ€™t happening. It didnâ€™t matter. It was of no interest. [The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. Itâ€™s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.â€]
The current economic crisis, with its threat to jobs and savings and public services, is the direct consequence of a rampant militarism comparable, in large part, with that of the first half of the last century, when Europeâ€™s most advanced and cultured nation committed genocide. Since the 1990s, Americaâ€™s military budget has doubled. Like the national debt, it is currently the largest ever. The true figure is not known, because up to 40 per cent is classified â€œblackâ€ – it is hidden. Britain, with a weapons industry second only to the US, has also been militarised. The Iraq invasion has cost $5trn, at least. The 4,500 British troops in Basra almost never leave their base. They are there because the Americans demand it. On 19 September, Robert Gates, the American defence secretary, was in London demanding $20bn from allies like Britain so that the US invasion force in Afghanistan could be increased to 44,000. He said the British force would be increased. It was an order.
In the meantime, an American invasion of Pakistan is under way, secretly authorised by President Bush. The â€œchangeâ€ candidate for president, Barack Obama, had already called for an invasion and more aircraft and bombs. The ironies are searing. A Pakistani religious school attacked by American drone missiles, killing 23 people, was set up in the 1980s with CIA backing. It was part of Operation Cyclone, in which the US armed and funded mujahedin groups that became al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The aim was to bring down the Soviet Union. This was achieved; it also brought down the Twin Towers.
On 20 September the inevitable response to the latest invasion came with the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. For me, it is reminiscent of President Nixonâ€™s invasion of Cambodia in 1970, which was planned as a diversion from the coming defeat in Vietnam. The result was the rise to power of Pol Potâ€™s Khmer Rouge. Today, with Taliban guerrillas closing on Kabul and Nato refusing to conduct serious negotiations, defeat in Afghanistan is also coming.
It is a war of the world. In Latin America, the Bush administration is fomenting incipient military coups in Venezuela, Bolivia, and possibly Paraguay, democracies whose governments have opposed Washingtonâ€™s historic rapacious intervention in its â€œbackyardâ€. Washingtonâ€™s â€œPlan Colombiaâ€ is the model for a mostly unreported assault on Mexico. This is the Merida Initiative, which will allow the United States to fund â€œthe war on drugs and organised crimeâ€ in Mexico – a cover, as in Colombia, for militarising its closest neighbour and ensuring its â€œbusiness stabilityâ€. Britain is tied to all these adventures – a British â€œSchool of the Americasâ€ is to be built in Wales, where British soldiers will train killers from all corners of the American empire in the name of â€œglobal securityâ€.
None of this is as potentially dangerous, or more distorted in permitted public discussion, than the war on Russia. Two years ago, Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian Studies at New York University, wrote a landmark essay in the Nation which has now been reprinted in Britain.* He warns of â€œthe gravest threats [posed] by the undeclared Cold War Washington has waged, under both parties, against post-communist Russia during the past 15 yearsâ€. He describes a catastrophic â€œrelentless winner-take-all of Russiaâ€™s post-1991 weaknessâ€, with two-thirds of the population forced into poverty and life expectancy barely at 59. With most of us in the West unaware, Russia is being encircled by US and Nato bases and missiles in violation of a pledge by the United States not to expand Nato â€œone inch to the eastâ€. The result, writes Cohen, â€œis a US-built reverse iron curtain [and] a US denial that Russia has any legitimate national interests outside its own territory, even in ethnically akin former republics such as Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia. [There is even] a presumption that Russia does not have fully sovereignty within its own borders, as expressed by constant US interventions in Moscowâ€™s internal affairs since 1992 . . . the United States is attempting to acquire the nuclear responsibility it could not achieve during the Soviet era.â€
This danger has grown rapidly as the American media again presents US-Russian relations as â€œa duel to the death – perhaps literallyâ€. The liberal Washington Post, says Cohen, â€œreads like a bygone Pravda on the Potomacâ€. The same is true in Britain, with the regurgitation of propaganda that Russia was wholly responsible for the war in the Caucasus and must therefore be a â€œpariahâ€. Sarah Palin, who may end up US president, says she is ready to attack Russia. The steady beat of this drum has seen Moscow return to its old nuclear alerts. Remember the 1980s, writes Cohen, â€œwhen the world faced exceedingly grave Cold War perils, and Mikhail Gorbachev unexpectedly emerged to offer a heretical way out. Is there an American leader today ready to retrieve that missed opportunity?â€ It is an urgent question that must be asked all over the world by those of us still unafraid to break the lethal silence.