Crisis in the Middle East: U.S. Imperialism and the Gulf War

by Grover Furr

Originally published in The Montclarion, student newspaper of Montclair State College (now University), Thursday, September 20, 1990, p. 18.

The dispatch of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia is a disaster for students, workers, and the vast majority of the U.S. population. MSC should add its voice to the growing outcry from around the country: This war is against our interests.

The American mass media have acted as government propaganda agencies: as a Newsday columnist admitted, "The Media Became Cheerleaders for War."

Stopping aggression? The U.S. government supports Israeli occupation of parts of Jordan (since 1967) and Lebanon (since 1982). And what about U.S. invasions of Grenada in 1983, and Panama just last December? The truth is: no government on earth commits more aggression than the U.S.

Supporting democracy? The Emir of Kuwait is an absolute feudal dictator, more than 80% of whose subjects have no rights whatever. The same is true of the Saudi regime.

Protecting "our" oil supplies? It was U.S. oil companies, and U.S. allies like the Saudis, that raised oil prices. Meanwhile, American experts agree Kuwait was taken from Iraq by the British, and has been stealing Iraqi oil for decades, just as Iraq has charged (N.Y. Times, 9/30/90).

Why has the Bush Administration spread all these (and other) lies? To hide the truth - because, if the truth were known, the American population would angrily oppose him.

First: U.S. soldiers were sent to defend the profits of a few large American oil companies. We are all made to pay billions, and American soldiers likely to fight and die, so that obscenely rich companies may become even richer. The second purpose is to shore up U.S. influence abroad, declining in the face of European (especially German) and Japanese economic advances.

The use of military force abroad to defend the profits of private corporations is called imperialism. Imperialism is always disguised and justified by high-sounding phrases - "spreading freedom and democracy"; 'protecting our way of lift." Patriotism - a form of intense propaganda or brainwashing - is used to make us think that we are, somehow, obligated to pay and die for the profits of corporations that dictate U.S. government policies. Racism and anti-communism - more brainwashing - are used to teach us that workers, farmers, students and others abroad who oppose exploitation am our enemies. The truth is just the opposite.

The Bush Administration is telling us, in effect, that paying and dying for the oil company's profits is "in our interest." We've heard this lie before - during the Vietnam War. The truth is, these imperialist ventures bleed working people dry. Education, health care, housing, and other services art all cut back drastically to pay for war. Young men are sent to waste their lives to fatten some millionaires' purses.

Jobs are lost, too. When imperialism is successful corporations invest abroad to exploit the super-cheap labor and resources of foreign countries, creating unemployment at home. Unemployment and the threat of moving abroad push wages down. Taxes skyrocket to pay for war and weaponry. Though necessary to corporations who benefit from imperialism, these expenses are really stolen from the rest of us, because they drain resources which we ban produced and which we desperately need.

This is why the Vietnam War, though lost by the government and their corporate bosses, was a victory for us, the American people. Millions of U.S. jobs would have been lost if U.S. companies had been able to move abroad to exploit the very cheap labor of Southeast Asia But the waste in lives and treasure was enormous. The war caused the dollar's devaluation and recession during 1971-3. The steady decline in take-home pay and standard of living, the rise in tuition, the cutbacks in every area of social services all began because of the war, and continues to the present.

Now Bush & Co. want to do it all over again. Therefore "our" government is spending $2 billion or so a month - and is planning to do so for years (N.Y. Times, 9/3/90) - so American soldiers can die to defend a callous dictator and corporate profits. Bush asks us to support a policy which even if "successful" will lower wages and living standards for all but the rich.

It's Bush and the corporations that need war. What the rest of us need is an anti-war, anti-imperialist movement. An anti-war movement here would encourage Saudis, Iraqis and others to organize against their own oppressive tyrants. It would be the highest form of solidarity with rank-and-file American soldiers, who do nor want to die for Big Oil.

We must show how the Mid-East build-up is racist. The depiction of all Arabs as billionaires or terrorists blinds us to the fundamental truth: that our interests are the same as those of the populations of Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia, or Iraq. It reinforces the lie that people may be judged by their race instead of their class, and so contributes to building racism in the U.S;, which prevents the unity of black, latin and white in the fight for what we all need.

We must show how the Mid-East build-up is closely related to tuition hikes and cutbacks in the State Colleges. We must emphasize how imperialism hurts all workers by draining jobs and keeping wages down. We should hold meetings to discuss the war in every organization and in every class. Let students, faculty, and campus workers hear BOTH sides - the anti-war, anti-imperialist side as well as the government-corporate propaganda lint. Let everyone discuss and question. And let us demonstrate, march, hold teach-ins - use all forms or protest to undermine the government's war effort, in the recognition that is an attack upon us all.

Grover Furr English Dept.

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