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Kerry Langer: Drain the swamps where terror breeds

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Article by keza which was published in The Australian (25 September 2006),20867,20469179-7583,00.html

An anti-Vietnam war protester calls on her left-wing comrades to ditch Noam Chomsky and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and to support the Bush policy of exporting democracy to the Middle East


GRIPPING a book by Noam Chomsky, Hugo Chavez crosses himself and calls George W. Bush the devil - at the same time vowing solidarity with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Strange times indeed when Chomsky can be embraced by supporters of Islamo-fascism in their struggle against the US as Great Satan.

On the home front, the cacophony of voices bewailing and predicting disaster, instability and civil war across the Middle East has reached fever pitch. "Left" opponents of the war have allied themselves with many on the Right who initially supported the war but subsequently became panic-stricken at the reality of the radical changes unleashed by neo-con policy.

In the 1960s and '70s I played an active role in the Vietnam War protest movement. In that war I was on the side of the National Liberation Front and, with thousands of other Australians, I celebrated when the US was defeated.

For the same reason that I opposed the US in Vietnam I supported its overthrow of the fascist regime in Iraq. The genuine Left has always hated fascism and supported the spread of progress, democracy and modernity.

There is a deep misunderstanding of the radical strategic change spearheaded by Bush. This is the result of consistent attempts by the Bush administration to describe the new policy in misleading, lowest common denominator terms as a war on terror. But capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and individual terrorists was never what this war was about. The reality is that in order to eliminate terrorism, the US has no choice but to attack the underlying forces of reaction and oppression that create it.

On the website that I write for ( we have characterised US policy by using the metaphor draining the swamps. Eliminating individual mosquitoes is a losing battle, it's necessary to drain the swamp that breeds them. The same applies to ridding the world of terrorism.

From this perspective, it becomes clear that there are self-interested and historical reasons to explain why the most far-sighted members of the US ruling elite are pushing for a democratic Middle East. Their old policy of maintaining stability in the region by propping up the worst dictatorships had become a liability. In the 21st century their interests as a relatively declining power are clearly tied to the spread of globalisation and modernity.

This is why the US went into Iraq - not just to topple a brutal tyrant, but to launch a historically necessary democratic revolution intended to trigger change across the entire region.

Many on the Right supported the overthrow of Saddam but imagined the easy installation of a pro-American democracy there. They were taken by surprise when it turned out that neo-con policy was to turn things upside down by completely dismantling the Baathist infrastructure. When this unleashed an anti-democratic counter-revolution which provoked an upsurge of sectarian violence, they despaired. And when the Iraqis elected a strongly Islamist government they interpreted that as a defeat. "What's going on?" they ask. 'Clearly Bush doesn't know what he is doing."

However, the US cannot simply impose democracy in the same way that it used to impose puppet governments. This is an entirely different scenario. It's not possible to just march in and establish a democratic culture. Having devoted decades to maintaining the Middle East as a stagnating swamp, rife with backward, fundamentalist and anti-Western ideology, democratisation requires a complete destabilisation of the old order.

The initial stages necessitate the inclusion of some quite reactionary, fundamentalist groups and will continue to result in elected governments that are neither strongly secular nor pro-American. This chaotic and painful process is the only way to undo the damage, move toward democracy and defeat terror. As with all revolutions it's not a dinner party.

Rather than attempting to win support for their actual policy, the neo-cons have attempted to unleash this cascade of change to the point of no return. After launching the war with the false claim that it was all about weapons of mass destruction they have continued to duck and weave. Given the minuscule chance of having convinced Congress to fund such a revolutionary chain of events, this makes real-world sense. Fortunately things have gone so far that even a Democrat president is likely to have no choice but to stay the course.

The establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is a central task. Propping up Israel at the expense of the Palestinians is a policy that they can no longer afford.

Bush is the first US president to have talked seriously of the necessity for a Palestinian state. Quite cleverly, he has managed to create the perception that he is the most pro-Israel President in history while at the same time also insisting that Israel must withdraw from both Gaza and the West Bank.

Due to the continuing (very careful) US rhetoric about the necessity to defend Israel against terrorism, many from the Right who supported the war have not yet caught on to this. However if we look at what is really happening, we can see that Ehud Olmert (and previously Ariel Sharon) has been cleverly maneuvered into reframing victory as "an end to terrorist attacks on Israel" rather than as a continuation of their hegemony over the occupied territories.

Despite the election of Hamas, all indications suggest a majority of Palestinians want a cease-fire with Israel and support the so-called prisoner's document (a statement by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails calling for a Palestinian state behind the 1967 borders). Hamas will have to bow to this and engage in an unfolding peace process.

As in Iraq, the end game will be complex and confusing. But if we interpret events in the light of what we can see the US must do, rather than falling for the rhetoric emanating from both sides, the trend is clear.

Those who oppose current US policy have failed to look beyond the superficial appearance of things to see the deeper reality. The pseudo-Left opposition is driven by a backward-looking victim mentality focused on complaining about how bad things are rather than on how to change them. Objectively they are united with the conservative Right, which is similarly beset by doom and gloom due to not yet having come to terms with the very limited options available to the last superpower.

Quite simply: It's no longer possible for the US to hold back the spread of democracy and modernity across the planet. This is something that we on the Left should celebrate, support and take advantage of.

Kerry Langer, a Melbourne writer, was a Vietnam War protester in the late 1960s and early '70s. She is a regular contributor to

We've started a discussion here for people who came to Last Superpower because of this article.

Also, you can go to our discussion 'Spelling out the 'Draining the Swamps' theory", or you can read the original 'Draining the Swamps' argument we had with Noam Chomsky in  September 2002.

You can also visit our main forum and browse all our discussions.

Created by keza
Last modified 2006-09-29 08:37 AM

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