On Michael Ignatieff's latest NY Times Magazine article


Posted to www.marxmail.org on January 30, 2005


Dear Professor Mike


I am beginning to get the same kind of perverse pleasure out of reading your war whoops in the NY Times Magazine section that I used to get from reading Max Lerner on the Vietnam War in the NY Post during the 1960s or A.M. Rosenthal on Central America in the 1980s. Despite being much younger than Lerner or Rosenthal you really seem to have mastered the kind of pomposity and sanctimoniousness that comes with advancing years and power in the opinion-making class. It is good for a chuckle like watching the elderly George Jessel in a soldier's uniform.


Although I am afraid that pointing out your errors in your latest offering -"The Uncommitted" http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/30/magazine/30WWLN.html would be an exercise in futility comparable to recommending chess openings to a chimpanzee I will do so anyhow. Since your article snipes at the antiwar movement whose members participate on the same Internet forum as me it deserves a reply--at least to make the record.


To begin with you state that no other election in human history has been threatened by a campaign of violence as has today's election in Iraq. I can understand why you might have a blind spot on questions such as these -as did your predecessor A.M. Rosenthal but the electoral process in Nicaragua was marked by systematic violence and intimidation far greater than what is occurring in Iraq today. Contras based in Nicaragua and funded by US tax dollars singled out Sandinista candidates for attack. In addition the entire country was basically intimidated into voting for a US-backed candidate in 1990. Unless the lever was pulled for Chamorro more war and economic blockade was threatened. In countries such as Nicaragua Haiti and Cuba US military interventions were mounted repeatedly in the 20th century in order to reverse the people's will manifested through free elections. You seem only interested in violence prior to an election when in fact the US military has wrought systematic violence far in excess of the Iraqi insurgency when election results were not to its liking. Perhaps the most striking example was when the USA took part in an expeditionary force consisting of more than 21 invading armies when the people of the USSR had the temerity to vote for Bolshevism in 1917. The counter-revolution cost the lives of millions of Russian peasants and workers to the great satisfaction of your ideological forefathers we might add.


You continue "Establishing free institutions in Iraq was the best reason to support the war--now it is the only reason--and for that very reason democracy has ceased to be a respectable cause." This statement encapsulates the utter mendacity of Wilsonian imperialism which you are a grand master of articulating. Put simply a foreign occupation army can never be the instrument of democracy. Democracy must be achieved internally not at the point of a bayonet wielded by outside military powers. In fact the entire history of the USA and its junior partner Great Britain in the region has been to support dictatorship against democracy. The British ruled Iraq with an iron fist in the 1920s and even considered the use of poison gas against pro-democracy rebels. In the more recent past the CIA backed Saddam Hussein as he jailed and tortured leftwing and trade union opponents. I can certainly understand why despite all this evidence you would suspend all critical judgments with respect to the Anglo-American alliance now trying to maintain rule today. It goes hand-in-hand with the obtuseness of your President the ineffable Larry Summers.


You state that "antiwar ideologues can't support the Iraqis because that would require admitting that positive outcomes can result from bad policies and worse intentions." It depends on which Iraqis you are talking about. Yesterday the NY Times quoted Ahmed al-Kauai a pro-Sadr cleric: "Ayatollah Sistani has his political statements and we have our own. We won't be voting." Does this mean that al-Kauai and others that think like him are enemies of democracy? The May 20 2004 Financial Times reported that Sadr was the most influential Iraqi after Sistani in a poll that showed a sharp decline in US support.


"Saadoun Duleimi head of the centre said more than half of a representative sample - comprising 1600 Shia Sunni Arabs and Kurds polled in all Iraq's main regions - wanted coalition troops to leave Iraq. This compares with about 20 per cent in an October survey. About 88 per cent of respondents said they now regarded coalition forces in Iraq as occupiers."


The poll revealed that "Respondents saw Mr Sadr as Iraq's second most influential figure after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani the country's most senior Shia cleric. About 32 per cent of respondents said they strongly supported Mr Sadr and another 36 per cent somewhat supported him."


Now Professor Mike you say that you favor democracy. If 88 percent of the Iraqi people tell pollsters that they regard the US and British as occupiers it would appear to me that the best way to respect democracy is to leave the country at once.


In any case you know that this is not about "freedom". It is about oil. The USA never invades a country to allow free elections to take place. It invades in order to protect vital economic interests. As Smedley Butler once said:


"It may seem odd for me a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short I was a racketeer a gangster for capitalism.


"I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.


"I helped make Mexico especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of raceteering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.


"During those years I had as the boys in the back room would say a swell racket. Looking back on it I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."


Yours truly


Louis Proyect