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USA: REGIME CHANGE, OR SYSTEM CHANGE?

By Jacques Pauwels, author of

The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War,

James Lorimer, Toronto, 2002

That the USA is entangled in a vicious war in Iraq is
not the fault of President Bush, but of America'?s
economic system. Without wars, America?s unbridled
brand of capitalism can no longer function properly.
Every tenant of the White House is aware of this and
must act accordingly, and it does not matter at all if
his name is Bush or Clinton, or if his party
affiliation is Republican or Democrat.

In the United States, everything revolves around the
economy.  Theoretically, the economy may be defined as
the aggregate of all activities which purport to meet
the material needs of human beings. But in the
American economic system it is the other way around:
the economy is not there for the benefit of people,
people are there for the benefit of the economy. What,
then, is the purpose of the American economy? To make
super-rich Americans (like Bush) even richer and, more
specifically, to make it possible for US corporations
to achieve ever-greater profits. This is not a simple
task, and therefore the state must do something. (Yes,
the state, and this in the promised land of
laissez-faire!) The American state?s principal role is
in fact nothing else than the facilitation of the
?accumulation process,? i.e. the maximization of
profits. Here are some, but by no means all, of the
ways it can do so: by providing American industry with
easy access to sources of vitally important raw
materials such as oil, and by minimizing the cost of
these materials, typically at the expense of the
inhabitants (and the environment) of Third World
countries which are ?blessed? with such resources; by
keeping labour costs as low as possible; by ?priming
the pump? of economic demand by means of gigantic
state orders, thus maintaining production, prices, and
ultimately profits at high levels; by redistributing
the wealth of America to the advantage of the
super-rich and to the disadvantage of all other
Americans; and finally, by keeping the latter as
ignorant and as meek as possible, so that they do not
understand, and thus possibly challenge, the system.

In order to achieve these objectives, the state uses a
plethora of instruments. Warfare has revealed itself
to be eminently useful, and even indispensable, in
this respect; it is simply the nec plus ultra in terms
of instruments for accumulation purposes. That wars
are very good, even wonderful for business, is
demonstrated dramatically by the present conflict in
Iraq. First, this aggression put the huge Mesopotamian
petroleum resources at the disposal of the American
oil trusts. Second, the Iraqi market has been pried
open to American export products such as Coca-Cola and
Marlboro cancer sticks. Third, the Iraqis now have the
opportunity to slave away, in return for low wages,
for the benefit of the US corporations for whom the
country?s state-owned enterprises are being privatized
? in flagrant violation, incidentally, of all
principles of international law. Fourth, in the USA
itself employment opportunities will shrink, thus
driving wages down even further, as large firms will
be able to have their commodities produced by cheap
labour in sweatshops on the banks of the Tigris. (Yet
another case of ?outsourcing?!)  Fifth, the war has
brought about an explosion of present and future
military state expenditures, and supplying the
Pentagon with pricey martial toys is guaranteed to be
a bonanza for the giants of the American armaments
industry; armament is now more than ever before the
most profitable of all sectors of the US economy.
Sixth, the war also yields plentiful ?spin-off?
orders. in connection with the ?reconstruction? of
Iraq?s infrastructure, conveniently wiped out by
American bombs. The lucrative contracts will be shared
with countries that were willing accomplices in the
American attack on Iraq, but American corporations
such as Dick Cheney?s Halliburton are of course
receiving the lion?s share. Seventh, while the
super-rich owners and managers of America?s biggest
enterprises will pocket the abundant profits made
possible by the war, ordinary Americans will pay with
their taxes for the costs of the war. The costs of the
war are thus socialized, while the profits are
privatized: a perverse redistribution of the wealth of
America in favour of that tiny percentage of the
population which already owns most of the nation?s
wealth, but which expects to own an even bigger share
next year. Eighth, the war has proven to be a
brilliant opportunity to introduce repressive measures
such as the so-called Patriot Act, measures which aim
to restrict the rights of citizens and to intimidate
potential dissidents, in other words, to keep the
people meek. As for keeping the people ignorant as
well, it is generally known that in time of war the
American media line up unconditionally behind the
president in order to trumpet without any hint of
criticism even the grossest lies and the most
far-flung fantasies dispensed by the White House and
the Pentagon. It is wrong to think that ordinary
Americans are extremely naÔve, if not hopelessly
stupid, as Europeans tend to believe. They are just
incredibly poorly informed by their presumably ?free?
and ?independent? media.

As I have demonstrated in my book The Myth of the Good
War, it was the Second World War which revealed to
corporate America how wonderfully functional armed
conflicts can be for the purpose of making money. In
fact, by the time that war came to an end in 1945,
making money ? more particularly, achieving sky-high
profits ? had become unthinkable without warfare. This
is why after 1945 the USA has never ceased to fight
wars, a long ?cold? one against the USSR as well as
plenty of hot wars in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the
Persian Gulf, etc. Not all, but most, of these wars
were overtly or covertly unleashed by Washington. The
warmongering of Bush Jr. is therefore no exception to
the rule. It is the rule, the rule of the system. Only
wars can bring the super-rich of America the fabulous
profits that are the raison d?Ítre of the rugged
American economic system, a system sometimes pithily
summarized as ?profits before people?.  The USA may
soon have another president, but let there be no
illusions: America will continue to fight wars, even
with Kerry ? yet another scion of the super-rich elite
? in the Oval Office. Regime change, a changing of the
guard in the White House, is not good enough. For the
USA to stop going to war, it needs another economic
system, a system that puts people before profits.
 

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