A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
The Bush Administration is pushing aggressively forward on rewriting Iraq’s oil infrastructure to allow greater control and access to U.S. corporations for its oil under the ground, for exploration and production. I believe that's what’s keeping the Bush Administration in Iraq and pointed towards having the United States military remain in Iraq. -- Antonia Juhasz
* * *
Antonia Juhasz’s book, The Bu$h Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time, lays out the Bush Administration's radical economic agenda for global domination. It’s an extreme, unilateral and audacious plan, and one that has created violent opposition to America and Americans among many residents of planet earth. Her book explores the Bush Administration's plan to shape the world through a corporate globalization agenda, first in Iraq, then the Middle East with the proposed U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area, and ultimately as a cornerstone to the global Bush Doctrine of Pax "Profiteering" Americana.
Are our GIs dying for democracy or economic dominance in the world marketplaces?
Juhasz convincingly argues that it is the latter -- and that taxpayers are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a war that is about many things, but has the goal of multi-national corporation resource and marketplace expansion at its center.
* * *
BuzzFlash: In your new book, The Bu$h Agenda, you state that George Bush’s twin solutions to virtually every problem in the world are free trade and war.
Antonia Juhasz: Yes, that’s correct. One of the key problems of the Bush Administration that has not been addressed, and should be, is the Administration’s unique approach to corporate globalization with the audacious use of the U.S. military to advance very traditional free trade or corporate globalization policies. The war in Iraq is the most obvious and horrendous example of that under this Administration but that analysis isn’t limited to Iraq. It carries on throughout the rest of the Middle East.
BuzzFlash: You believe our foreign policy is driven by economic interests, not spreading freedom, even though, as a public relations tool, the United States says we’re trying to fight for freedom or spread freedom. As I understand your argument, the rhetoric of freedom is a nice tool to justify foreign policy.
Antonia Juhasz: Right. As many administrations have done before him, the Bush Administration uses the word "freedom" as a master stroke -- a term to encapsulate everything good and warm and fuzzy that Americans like to think that they are about. But in fact, I would say that the Bush Administration is only interested in spreading freedom for U.S. corporate interests and removing barriers to corporate access to countries across the globe. In that way the Bush Administration is following a very standard agenda that other presidents have followed before him.
I argue in the book that what makes the Bush Administration unique is its fairly unprecedented hybrid of corporate executives running the government. The members of the Bush Administration, including the President, have long histories as corporate executives, as do the leading members of the President’s Cabinet and people throughout the administration. The hybrid of corporate and government executives also makes the Administration’s view of the government as simply an extended arm of U.S. corporate interests. What makes the Bush Administration unique beyond that is its willingness to overtly use the U.S. military to advance those interests.
BuzzFlash: In your book you quote from a CIA report that was written in 2000, prior to the September 11th attacks, that predicted that global inequality will "foster political, ethnic, ideological and religious extremism, along with the violence that accompanies it." You say that this is not really new, that our current U.S. foreign policy actually dates back to World War II, correct?
Antonia Juhasz: Right. I spend a chapter explaining the history of corporate globalization policy, and its roots in U.S. foreign policy following World War II.
And the U.S. interest following the conclusion of the war was to create an economic system that would essentially foster growth through U.S. corporate access.
There is a belief in this mythical economic idea of a rising tide of wealth lifting all boats, or Reagan’s trickle-down economics -- that what was good for GM would be good for the world. Institutions were created, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and much later the World Trade Organization to advance those ideas.
I use the CIA quote to make clear that the ramifications of these policies have been well known for decades -- that they work very well to increase the wealth of the largest corporations, but they have devastating and detrimental effects on economies worldwide. The CIA, I believe, rightfully identified one year before 9/11, that these dramatic increases in inequality and shifting power to "the haves from the have-nots" have created greater instability and animosity around the world. It is certainly a contributing factor to the extremism that led to the September 11th attacks.
BuzzFlash: I interviewed Mike Scheuer, who was a former CIA analyst, and who, in fact, ran the CIA’s bin Laden unit. I asked him pointedly if he thought that extremism against the United States is perpetuated by our economic policy. He rebuffed that and indicated that the al-Qaeda hijackers were from the upper-middle class. They were engineers and doctors and pilots, and he felt that the attack had no real connection to an economic disparity in the Middle East.
I disagree with him. Although the al-Qaeda operatives that carried out the attacks individually may be in an upper-class bracket, the fostering ground that perpetuates extremism and terrorism is rooted in inequality. Is that a fair assessment?
Antonia Juhasz: The baseline that I’m pointing to isn’t just the fact of inequality. I’m not arguing that poverty breeds terrorism. Rather what I’m arguing is people throughout the world witnessing and experiencing U.S. policy -- economic, political and military -- is seen quite clearly as solely advancing the interests of the United States, and it creates anger and hostility.
Michael Scheuer, whose book Hubris I quote from extensively in my book, made very clear in his assessments that he thought the invasion of Iraq was solely motivated by the economic interests of the Bush Administration. Scheuer felt very strongly that the policies of the United States in nations such as Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East are the root of terrorist activities against the United States.
The link that he’s failing to make, and that many people fail to make, is that economic policies are witnessed by people and experienced by people around the world as tools of imperialism. Just as the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia is witnessed as a tool of imperialism, so is the occupation of Iraq. There’s a distinction that I’m making which is not, as I said, that poverty breeds terrorism, but rather imperial economic policies breed terrorism.
BuzzFlash: On page 28, you listed three key documents that articulate America’s ambitions for empire. They are the 1992 "Defense Planning Guidance"; "Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Strategy Forces and Resources for a New Century" from 2000; and in 2002, the "National Security Strategy for the United States of America." As we speak, would you say that America is an empire? Have we reached that critical mass yet?
Antonia Juhasz: Certainly, and the reason I go into detail with those documents, which many authors have done before me and since, is to look at the economic elements of empire in those documents. They’re usually simply viewed as military documents, and the economic aspects are ignored. My focus is on the economic agenda that exists through the three documents, and how do they help us understand what the Bush Administration is up to right now.
Many people on the left talk about the Project for the New American Century. The reason why we do that isn’t just because it’s published some really blatant documents, but because a full sixteen members of the Bush Administration participated in the project. The leading members, Cheney, and now former leading members Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, and many other people who are core to the Bush Administration, participated in the project.
They made clear in their writings the United States is an empire similar to that of Rome, and that this type of empire is what they want to continue to have. The way to do that, they argue, is not only through an advanced military, but through the United States taking on the economies of countries around the world, opening up those economies and creating more access for U.S. companies.
BuzzFlash: The Bush Administration fervently believes that, without the United States as an empire, the world would somehow become uncertain and unstable, and that we’re actually doing a service to the world by being so dominant. Can you imagine in the future a more humble and equivocating administration, whoever is the next president, whose foreign policy is about equal sharing of power? Is that a real possibility or part of the solution?
Antonia Juhasz: Well, not one that’s being proposed by either party at the moment. The Democrats tend to put forward the idea of a more benevolent empire, whereas the Republicans put forward an aggressive and imperial empire, meaning an empire that seeks to spread its sway across the globe.
I certainly don’t believe in either version. I think the United States will be happier, and the world will be a happier place, if the United States is a partner to other nations and tries to seek out its harmonious role, as opposed to an imperial role. No leading party or leading candidate for president has put forward that vision.
I do think, in terms of the choice between two evils, it is far better for us, and for most people in the world, if the United States is thought to be a benevolent empire as opposed to an aggressive empire. The results of the Bush Administration and its policies have been to make the world, not just the United States, a far less safe place. The world is not going to be willing to spend another eight years with America continuing in that vein. So it’s certainly our responsibility to shift that vein as soon as we can.
BuzzFlash: Let me play devil’s advocate. The United States intervened in Somalia in 1992 and 1993 to stabilize the country amidst the horrific famine and the warring factions that took over the country. And the United States also intervened in the mid-nineties in the Balkans and fought the Kosovo war with air power to stop the atrocities. Although the Somali incursion turned out to be a debacle, and the Kosovo war ended relatively successful, would you agree that the interventions were noble?
Antonia Juhasz: Would I characterize them as noble? No.
BuzzFlash: Were there economic advantages to the United States intervening in Somalia or Kosovo?
Antonia Juhasz: There were certainly economic advantages to both. There always are. But the incursions are different for one very simple and important reason. Neither of them was a full military invasion and occupation to the extent that the war in Iraq has been.
There is an enormous difference in terms of cost of life, both for those on the receiving end and those on the giving end, when you talk about a full military invasion and occupation. And the loss of life in Iraq has obviously been profound since the invasion, and the loss of life for American soldiers has also been profound.
I believe that the scale of the invasion is unique because the economic goal is so much more profound in Iraq.
U.S. oil companies and U.S. administrations have wanted their hands on some of the world’s largest reserves of oil in Iraq for decades. Now, however, the war in Iraq has successfully altered and overturned Iraq’s economic infrastructure. I certainly believe that is the heart of this Administration’s agenda in Iraq, and this Administration’s agenda in the Middle East.
BuzzFlash: You’re saying that the war in Iraq was as much economic invasion as it was a militarily one.
Antonia Juhasz: Yes, the two most important chapters of my book cover the economic invasion of Iraq and the Middle East trade area and point to what I think are the heart of the problems. The Bush Administration is pushing aggressively forward on rewriting Iraq’s oil infrastructure to allow greater control and access to U.S. corporations for its oil under the ground, for exploration and production. I believe that's what’s keeping the Bush Administration in Iraq and pointed towards having the United States military remain in Iraq.
Iraq isn’t the end. One month after the invasion, the Bush Administration announced plans to expand the Middle East as a free trade area. That free trade pact is moving along quickly, with individual countries making deals with the U.S. out of fear of economic or military retribution. Included in those agreements are increased access to those countries’ oil.
The Democratic Congress is going to have to be forced to address these free trade agendas, both in Iraq and across the Middle East, and to reject them. The occupation of Iraq has to end, but not just the military occupation, also the corporate occupation. The United States cannot use the stick of the war to press its own economic agenda across the Middle East. The results will be just as devastating to the rest of the Middle East as they have been in Iraq, and, of course, reverberate back to the United States.
BuzzFlash: In Darfur, where there are egregious human rights abuses and genocide, the United States has done virtually nothing about ending those atrocities. Would you say that our inaction in Darfur is because Sudan does not offer us substantial economic gains or interests?
Antonia Juhasz: I think that Sudan is very complicated after all of these incursions. First of all, Sudan does have oil. It has oil that the United States would like to have access to, but has been shut out of having access to. Sudan also offers the Bush Administration continuous insider information, supposedly on al-Qaeda.
The Bush Administration appears to have been making quite a few deals with the Sudanese government, a tit for tat, and has stayed out of Darfur in any meaningful way. I in no way would advocate the U.S. military being involved in any response to what’s happening in Darfur.
The U.S. has stayed out, I think, because it’s trying to do this dance with Sudan, trying to gain access to intelligence and also trying to figure out some way to re-open U.S. access to Sudanese oil.
The United States, in particular Bush Senior, tried to do a similar dance with Saddam Hussein, and did that dance for many years, beginning with the Reagan Administration. The Bush Senior Administration, tried gaining U.S. access to the oil and getting contracts for U.S. oil companies but never got the big prize, which is Iraq’s oil under the ground. Now, as we speak, just in the wake of Hussein’s execution, the U.S. is about to get what they spent a lot of time trying to get to, which is Iraq’s oil under the ground.
BuzzFlash: There are many competing doctrines on how to control the world. One, you could say the Baker-Scowcroft doctrine, which is you tolerate oppressive regimes as long as there is relative stability for U.S. economic interests, versus, as you say, intervening in those countries and using imperialism to dominate them.
Right now, a lot of people feel that the United States should not intervene in other countries unless somehow our economic interests are impacted. But at the same time, being a progressive, it is difficult to watch atrocities around the world be glossed over. How do we come to terms with those two competing ideologies?
Antonia Juhasz: Well, frankly, there are many definitions of "intervene." And there are many ways to be a good liberal or progressive and seek resolution of atrocities around the world that have nothing to do with military invasion or occupations. There are options that have everything to do with international negotiation, international pressure, international legal means of influencing other governments, and governments that are acting outside of the realm of accepted legal norms, which is what is happening in the Sudan.
The United Nations, for all of its problems, of which there are many, particularly with the Security Council, is still the best body in place for such actions to take place. And peacekeeping forces, I believe, are still the best method when outside force is needed.
The problem that we’ve entered into with the rubric of the Bush Administration is -- and it’s somehow being accepted on the left -- that unless you militarily invade, you’re not doing anything. And that’s simply not, in my mind, the appropriate role for the United States to take anywhere.
However, the Bush Administration is clearly not doing anything in Darfur and it’s something that is not at all an imperial position to be taking on the left to seek resolution in the Sudan. But a unilateral approach by the United States isn’t something that I would advocate in response to any of the problems that we face.
BuzzFlash: Antonia, thank you for speaking with us.
Antonia Juhasz: Thank you very much.
Interview conducted by Senior Editor Scott Vogel.
* * *
The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, by Antonia Juhasz, a BuzzFlash premium.
Antonia Juhasz Bio (Institute for Policy Studies)
Antonia Juhasz Bio (Global Exchange)
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW