Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Artist’s Burden

Never before has an award in an elitist cultural affair such as the Cannes Film Festival engendered so heated a public debate concerning the deserved nature of the accomplishment and the motives which underlie the honor bestowed upon it. Then again, Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ (F9/11) is a veritable cinematic tour de force, which by virtue of the provocative topic it chooses to explore and the array of cinematic techniques which are employed in the presentation and exposition of its theme, aims precisely to undermine artistic conventions and to subvert the prevailing consensus regarding the social function, or better yet the absence of one, assigned to contemporary art.
Bearing this in mind, one may reasonably claim that the gesture of handing Moore the award for having put together an overtly political film, is of greater importance than the very content of the film itself. The participation of F9/11 in the competing section of the Festival was not made subject to the perfunctory classification of films into the separate categories into which modern cinematic production is formally divided (i.e. political documentary, science fiction, etc.). The obvious consequence of such a formalistic approach to Moore’s work would have been to heavily constrain the film’s popular appeal by virtue of designating it as inappropriate for mass consumption and of interest only to a specific, politically conscious type of audience.
Furthermore, by receiving its award in an open contest against seemingly apolitical films, and by this we mean films with no overt political meaning and therefore with no direct bearing on the political process, it seems that the very preoccupation of Moore’s work with the issues and problems raised by ongoing developments in the field of politics is the principal object of praise by the organizing committee, the entertaining qualities of F9/11 notwithstanding. It is the activist approach of Moore as a filmmaker which receives recognition here and not merely the aesthetic quality of a work of art. Particularly so, when what we are presented with is a documentary which deals with the objective representation of reality, thereby inviting those who comment or deliberate upon its quality to express their own views and formulate their own interpretations of those sociopolitical events the film purports to bring into light. If F9/11 was meant to convey an unequivocal political statement, which it surely was, the award which it received in Cannes amounts to an indirect endorsement of this statement by the intellectual leadership par excellance of the world cinematic community.[i]
This brings us to the overriding question of the political reawakening that currently seems to be festering within the ranks of the American artistic community.[ii] Moore’s success in the revered Cannes Festival served to effectively redefine the established perceptions concerning the boundaries between the public domain of politics and the sphere of artistic activity. It demonstrated that, in times of crises, not only is the artist in a position to use his selected artistic medium so as to actively implicate himself in the interplay among conflicting political ideas, not only does he possess a moral right to engage in militant political action, but he also has a moral obligation to do so, an obligation which derives from the public aspect of his profession. No longer will Moore be viewed as a pariah among fellow filmmakers because of the unequivocally partisan content of his work. No longer will he be treated as an attraction (the exception to the rule) or will he be on the receiving end of condescending attitudes on the part of his fellow artists.
Apart from demonstrating that political involvement no longer constitutes a violation of the post-modern artist’s informal code of conduct, Cannes also situated protest art, of the type Moore is in the habit of making, at the vanguard of the process of transforming contemporary art into a socially responsive medium and attaching to it a sense of collective responsibility which it hitherto has lacked. In other words, it has allowed Moore’s brand of combative artistic documentation to heavily influence the general platform from which a movement of agitational, protest art may be expected to emerge in the future.
Furthermore, insofar as Moore’s work cannot but express the director’s commitment to a basic set of social and political values upon which he bases his critique of established authority, one may reasonably suggest that by honoring F9/11, a degree of approbation was extended to the underlying set of principles underpinning the ideological orientation of the work. In turn, such a bold initiative can be interpreted as confirmation of the fact that the ideological element which is inherent in the composition of all works of art not only constitutes an integral part of the process of artistic creation, but may also provide the point of departure from which the artistic merit of a particular work of art can be realistically evaluated.
To be sure, the tendency of contemporary art to adopt increasingly political and anti-authoritarian connotations can hardly be attributed solely to a spontaneous realization on the part of the individual artist of the moral requirements which are presupposed by his role as an active social subject. The truth is that the politicization of art and its new-found affinity for disobedience against political authority represents more a reflexive reaction against the Bush administration’s systematic campaign to place the sphere of artistic expression under a regime of strict governmental supervision and control. The anti-government stance adopted by many an artist in the aftermath of the Iraq war is a defensive posture, directed against a political power which infringes upon the basic democratic rights upon which the essence of artistic freedom rests, which up until now artists had taken for granted.
The saturation of the post-9/11 cultural environment with ultra-patriotic doctrines, the exaltation of unconditional obedience to the Presidential political authority as the supreme virtue of the good citizen in times of war and the spread of conformist, submissive attitudes as a norm by which artistic behavior can be effectively monitored and regulated, all constitute indirect forms of control, through which the artistic sphere is being slowly transformed into a propaganda industry. In the case of Moore’s F9/11, other types of control, more immediate and tangible than ideological indoctrination, were exercised in order to prevent the film from finding an outlet to the theaters. Once it became evident to the White House that the willingness of the original corporate producers (Disney, Miramax) to actively demonstrate their ‘patriotic sentiment’ by way of consciously submitting their product to self-censorship and refusing to go ahead with the distribution of the film could not be relied upon, the government opted for a more direct-action approach which included the threat of political and economic counter-measures against those companies who would resolve in favor of circulating Moore’s film in US cinemas.
In this respect, the Cannes award was a breakthrough in Moore’s struggle to bypass the informal embargo against F9/11 orchestrated by the US government and enabled the director to assemble a coalition of willing companies that would assist him in the distribution of the film. It was the Bush administration who first undertook to define anew the relationship between political power and artistic freedom. The Cannes award was merely a response on the part of the artistic community to the challenge presented to them by the US government.
Goddard’s objection that the political content of Moore’s documentary served only to obscure any attempt to realistically and soberly evaluate its artistic attributes is neither here nor there. For what Goddard has utterly failed to grasp is that what we speak of here is not the subjugation of artistic creation to political imperatives, but, on the contrary, the development of a distinctive genre of art which is socially conscious, is assertive and refuses to be cowed by political power and is not averse to struggling with controversial themes with a direct impact on the social and material conditions of our existence.
At the event that one hastily dismisses Moore as a polemicist or a propagandist, we are entitled to retort that in tumultuous and extremist times, when a tyrannical authority is at work, the effort for as possible an impartial and unbiased depiction of reality can become in itself a subversive activity. For instance, when a reporter chooses to adhere to the prerequisites of journalistic ethics and does not shy away from reporting a massacre perpetrated by his own government, the simple act of safeguarding one’s own professional integrity appears to acquire the dramatic meaning of a defiant gesture against tyrannical authority. After all, as has been pointed out by Charles Taylor, “’propaganda’ does not necessarily have to be composed of lies. Indeed, the most effective ‘propaganda’ is the truth, for in the long run the use of the truth will enable the propagandist to gain the trust of his audience”.[1]
If the journalist, or the artist for that matter, decides to hold his peace in the face of injustice, then not only is he culpable for having failed to act but he is also an accomplice to the crime which he has witnessed. This is a duty which both the artist and the journalist cannot ever afford to disregard and when either of them, due to repression or a personal proclivity for accommodationism, embark upon only a partial fulfillment of their social duty, it is the other’s task to intensify his efforts so as to unmask the powers that be and thus make up for the loss. This moral obligation not to ever fall short of the requirements of justice is what we call the artist’s burden.

[1] Ch. Taylor, Film Propaganda; Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, p.26 (Croom Helm; London, 1979).
[i] Contrary to what is taking place in the field of international politics, the intellectual leadership informally embodied in the presiding committee of the Cannes Film Festival, which included artists of both American and European origin, appears to have operated on the basis of a transatlantic consensus against President Bush’s counter-terrorist strategy. It seems that in the arts a degree of political consonance has been achieved between Europe and the US which is still characteristically absent on the political level of the transatlantic alliance.
[ii] One has only to recall the mobilization of the global artistic community in the turbulent period which preceded the US invasion of Iraq and the massive participation of various artists in the campaign of the anti-war movement. A recent article in the New York Times, describes the sense of “political awakening” experienced by the most progressive sector of New York’s artistic establishment and the virulent anti-Bush sentiments which accompany this new-found interest in electoral politics. To what extent this novel phenomenon represents an authentic manifestation of heightened political awareness among US artists, or is merely the product of a fashionable trend remains to be seen. As Williams writes, “It’s ‘fashionable’ to hate George Bush right now”. See Al. Williams, The Cutting Edge in Arts Is Discovering the Medium of Politics, New York Times, 09/07/2004.

The First Imperial Election

Forgive me if I do not shudder with expectancy as I await for the result of the 2004 US election. Contrary to what most pundits seem to believe, I do not consider this election as a milestone political event in US history. Or rather, I believe that its significance lies not in the stark set of conflicting choices it presents us with, but in the absence of any such meaningful choice altogether. It is also important in one other respect. Namely, as an illustration of the commanding heights to which the art of political engineering has progressed and of the manner in which the respectable science of political marketing has come to define the political process, mutating from a legitimate, modern-day method for the advertisement and promotion of ideas to an instrument used for the suppression of democratic debate, for mass deception and the manipulation of popular attitudes.
In the course of the last few months of the presidential campaign we bore witness to a well synchronized and concerted operation, truly magnificent in its scope, scale and effectiveness, of which the purpose was to defend the existence of an increasingly untenable power-sharing arrangement between the Republican and the Democratic Party and to use the looming crisis so as to artificially reenergize an outdated and frankly dysfunctional system of political representation. In spite of the ostensibly polarized atmosphere and the profound divisions which have split the American electorate into two opposing camps, I see the leadership of the two parties of the establishment as engaged in a collegial relationship, tacitly collaborating by means of the political message they expound, so as to fend off any challenges against their authority and to ensure the continuation of the imperial project. It is reasonable to assume that the political instincts of lifelong members of the political aristocracy like Senator Kerry, who have made a prosperous occupation out of the perpetual possession of public office, do not correspond to the aggressive grassroots sentiment that is found among their electoral base. The sharp rhetoric used by both candidates should not be interpreted as an indication of mutual antipathy among antagonistic elites. It rather represents an artful public relations stunt, a communicational attempt to placate feelings of animosity among the mass following of one party or the other, and to terrorize voting blocs into opting for one of two parties by way of exaggerating the threat which the other party represents.
The campaign for the restoration of the two-party system was completed in two separate phases. The initial phase involved the arrest and containment of the potentially centrifugal tendencies embodied in the presence of a vibrant, antiwar mass movement critical of both the Republican and Democratic position on the issue of war in Iraq. The moderate antiwar segment of the electorate had to be dissuaded from participating in the autonomous forms of political expression that had already been articulated in the protest movement milieu, as well as from possibly establishing an electoral alliance with independent recalcitrant candidates, such as Ralph Nader.
In view of the unconditional support to the war effort offered by the majority of Democratic Party delegates in both legislative chambers, it was natural that the capture of the antiwar vote should involve a sort of intra-party insurgency which was personified in the amazing rise and fall of Howard Dean. Consider the spontaneous, enthusiastic support which the Dean nomination received from a significant contingent of Democratic Party activists who were mobilized largely on account of Dean’s clear political stance and unequivocal denunciations of the war in Iraq. Now contrast this popular enthusiasm to the lukewarm, almost perfunctory, popular endorsement of Senator Kerry’s nomination. There was nothing spontaneous or random about the subsequent demise of Howard Dean’s campaign. Having performed his function as the Democratic Party vehicle through which the appropriation of the antiwar vote could be realized, Dean was cynically disposed of, finding himself at the center of an inimical public relations campaign which constantly questioned his ‘electability’ (another Orwellian term denoting the level of his commitment to the imperial project and to the role of acting as government caretaker for the corporate elite), his temperament (character assassination) and made use of carefully manipulated, as regards their timing and content, opinion polls to undermine the, hitherto surging, public faith in his campaign. His genuine popular appeal made him less controllable and not entirely dependent on big corporate capital. Let us not forget that in the initial stages of his campaign Dean made up for the absence of any substantial funding through an energetic grassroots campaign launched over the Internet, by and large organized and implemented by young party activists working voluntarily. For this reason he had to go.
The inner party coup was masterfully completed when Dean was obliged to publicly endorse Kerry’s nomination for the US Presidency, hence delivering his contingent of mild antiwar vote to the latter. Here was an antiwar candidate who in the past had consistently refused to meet with any representative or delegation of activists from the antiwar movement. Oh, the sublime oxymorons of Machiavellian politics! Alas, the spectacular last-minute upset did not bear fruit and, in the end, the nomination of the walking-talking paradox that is John Kerry, the statesman, proved to be tantamount to a political suicide for the Democrats.
The second phase of the strategy for the defense of the duopoly involved the attempt to prevent Ralph Nader’s independent candidacy from becoming any kind of factor in this election. Nader represented the real left-wing alternative for the presidency. He was an outspoken opponent of the emergency legal provisions of the Patriot Act and, were he to be elected, he had made a pledge not simply to revise certain aspects of the controversial counter-terror legislation, but to repeal it entirely. He put forward a bold program of comprehensive sociopolitical reform addressing themes such as the containment of unlimited corporate power, the reinstitution of affirmative action policies and the protection of minority civil rights. He was bold enough to publicly decry the pernicious influence of Jewish-American organizations over the formulation and implementation of US foreign policy as regards the Palestinian question and to declare his intention to review the close strategic partnership with Israel.[i] He was the only candidate to call for the immediate return of US troops stationed in Iraq and for an end to the illegal occupation. Unlike Kerry, Nader had repeatedly met with representatives of the peace movement, which had a formative impact upon the development of his positions on the issue of war, and in his official deliberations with Kerry he attempted to obtain some assurance that his concerns would be incorporated in the Democratic platform, possibly in exchange for withdrawing his candidacy from the presidential race. No such guarantee was offered by the Democratic nominee.
The contrast could not be more pronounced. Whereas Kerry positioned himself to the right wing of President Bush, projecting himself as a more capable commander in chief and a leader better equipped to achieve victory in the War on Terror, Nader absolutely refused to make any special mention to the issue of terrorism in his pre-election agenda, thereby implicitly suggesting that combating terror is a matter of conventional counter-terrorist methods, coordinated police activity and the timely collection of intelligence and does not constitute sufficient reason for declaring the country in a state of war or for maintaining the emergency legislation. Hence, Nader emerged as the counter-imperial, pro-democracy candidate par excellance by questioning the very rationale on which the establishment of the repressive imperial regime was founded.
In view of the above, it is understandable that Democrats would employ a wide array of tactics against Nader’s candidacy, ranging from defamatory attacks denouncing his ‘opportunism’ and avid private ambition, to the accusation of acting as a Republican proxy and being guilty of ‘treason’ to the Party, and the institution of formal legal measures aimed at preventing him from officially participating in the electoral process by invalidating his registration at the ballots.[ii] If not effectively controlled and managed, the Nader factor could eventually act as a catalyst for the radicalization of the electoral contest, by virtue of reinserting into the public discourse potentially combustible themes, such as the termination of the occupation in Iraq or the abolition of the Patriot Act and the newly founded Department of Homeland Security, which had been hitherto suppressed or excluded from debate, courtesy of a tacit agreement between the two major presidential candidates.
Those who claim that the Democrats were the only ones who stood to lose from the Nader candidacy, should ask themselves what was the reason for President Bush’s reluctance to admit Nader to the televised presidential debates. Was it because he was apprehensive of the possibility that Nader might not agree to a predetermined framework within which the discussion should be conducted and raise some annoying and discomforting questions to which the President was unwilling to venture a response? Apart from the obvious implications for Bush’s moral stature and political credibility, such an act should also tell us something of the quality of the Democratic opposition. The bipolar consensus was fully operative on this count, on the question of ‘managing’ the ‘Nader threat’ and obstructing him from gaining access to a mass audience on a nationwide scale.
This was essentially the first Imperial election in the sense that neither presidential candidate contested the notion of a War on Terror with its profound domestic implications, or questioned the necessity for perpetual overseas engagement and the wisdom of the military expeditions undertaken so far in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, the American people were faced with a choice between two competing visions of Empire. The one despotic, militarist, unilateral. The other benign, hegemonic, multilateral, but no less dependant on the occasional unfettered demonstration of US military prowess. The severing by the Democratic Party of any remaining ties to the organized labor movement and the accompanying abandonment of the traditional liberal agenda with its focus on social equality, racial equality and the redistribution of wealth, has ineluctably led to the homogenization of the political discourse which now serves as an increasingly standardized and conformist idiom of an interchangeable and closely integrated administrative elite, as opposed to a communicative device through which legitimate political concerns might be publicly expressed and debated. It is the sole responsibility of this elite technocratic group, whom I call the Party of Power (PoP), to sustain the uninterrupted function and stability the of the system, to shape, manage and refine the Imperial project and to create the necessary conditions for an orderly and peaceful transfer of political power from time to time. Through its participation in this process the PoP has acquired its own corporatist mentality and has developed a vested interest in the preservation and continuation of the status quo. That is to say, the common interest which the two Parties share in ensuring the continuation and durability of bipartisan administrative structures far exceeds their own private struggles for power and surrogate feudal antagonisms. It follows, that to be given a choice between the two constituent parts of the PoP is to be given no choice at all. For the nature of the system is such that even the necessity for a regular electoral process could be dispensed with and replaced by a dictatorship of technocrats, diligently carrying out their daily problem-solving duties, performing their secondary tasks of economic management and advancing through an ordinary succession of administrative promotions, if only for the fact that the veneer of democratic pluralism has to be upheld.

[i] See Nader’s press release to Abraham H. Foxman, the National Director of the ADL, entitled, Nader Writes to the Anti-Defamation League on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, in
[ii] No wander that the theme of a comprehensive overhaul of the electoral system rated highly in Nader’s official political program: “Our democracy is in a descending crisis. Voter turnout is among the lowest in the western world. Redistricting ensures very few incumbents are at risk in one-party districts. Barriers to full participation of candidates proliferate making it very obstructive, for most third party and Independent candidates to run. Obstacles, and deliberate manipulations to undermine the right to vote, for which penalties are rarely imposed, are preventing voters from voting. New paperless voting machines are raising questions about whether we can trust that our votes are being counted as they are cast. Finally, money dominates expensive campaigns, mainly waged on television in sound bite format. The cost of campaigns creates a stranglehold making politics a game for only the rich or richly funded. Major electoral reforms are needed to ensure that every vote counts, all voters are represented through electoral reforms like instant run-off voting, none-of-the-above options, and proportional representation, non-major party candidates have a chance to run for office and participate in debates, and that elections are publicly financed”. See the passage Electoral Reform that Creates a Vibrant, Active, Participatory Democracy, The in

Crimes of Occupation

In an attempt to protect the public image of the US military, General Mark Kimmit argued that while the torture and humiliation of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison represented an exceptional and isolated incident under Coalition rule, during the reign of Saddam Hussein such methods were standard practice. This is a poor argument indeed, since the US should not measure its respect for human rights and the dignity of the individual by comparing it with that of Saddam. One cannot assert his credentials as a democrat by evoking Adolf Hitler as a standard for comparison. The true measure of America’s respect for human rights will be judged with respect to the punishment exacted upon those who took part in the monstrosities. Only by meting out punishment which is just and proportionate to the appalling nature of the soldiers’ brutish actions, will the US military convince the rest of the world that it conducts its occupation of Iraq on the basis of a principled opposition to torture and ensure that such phenomena do not repeat themselves by making an example out of the soldiers currently under investigation.
In a situation marked by insecurity and protracted military conflict, justice will surely be subject to the exigencies of summary execution. As is the case with any occupying force who is confronted with the vicissitudes of an ongoing insurrection, the US military is obliged to act in many instances as if they were police, judge and jury all at the same time. Following the demolition of Iraqi governmental institutions and the dismantling of the Iraqi judicial system, the US military remains the sole overarching authority able to yield some power within Iraqi society. In their dealings and transactions with local authorities, American military personnel operate under the assumption that they are the source from which all law emanates and therefore are above and beyond its binding authority. Thus, some might be tempted to commit acts that they would not commit for fear of suffering the punitive consequences of their actions. A forceful reminder must be issued to US troops that as soldiers they are still subject to a strict ethical code of military conduct, the provisions of which will be upheld and implemented to the letter, particularly when transgressions involve members of a subjugated population. Occupied Iraq will develop into a realm of lawlessness and abuse of power will become the ordinary state of affairs, unless strict military discipline is maintained within the ranks of the forces of occupation.
Yet it is questionable whether the political will exists among the US ruling elite to bring such abuses to a decisive and definitive halt. In the post-Sept.11th American political culture, it is generally acceptable that the protection and preservation of the human dignity of a suspect should be treated as subordinate to the prerequisites of national security. Conditions in the Guantanamo prison camp is the practical application par excellance of this new doctrine which pervades the counter-insurgency efforts of US security services. Characteristically, a public debate has erupted in the US even regarding the legitimacy of torture as a method of extracting information from a suspect provided it might help preempt future terrorist attacks, thereby saving the lives of thousands of innocent victims. Given that apologists of military intervention in Iraq have repeatedly asserted that Iraq is at the forefront of the war on terror, it is unrealistic to expect GIs to refrain from the actions they have taken. Particularly in view of their government’s passionate defense of the application of similar practices in relation to the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo, on the grounds that intelligence, even if obtained by way of torture and intimidation, is vital for the protection of the freedom and security of the American people.[i] Of course, the Americans forget that coerced confessions are never entirely reliable.
There is also little chance that the events reported in Abu Ghraib represent a unique and isolated phenomenon. In its latest report on prison conditions in post-war Iraq, Amnesty International notes that a pattern has emerged from its interviews with former Iraqi detainees regarding the use of torture and the employment of other techniques of coercion in the interrogation of suspects by US military police.[ii] This should hardly come as a surprise given that the US occupying force is presently involved in a violent guerrilla struggle against the Iraqi armed resistance movement. So long as there are no signs of pacification in Iraq and US casualties continue to increase, torture is bound to be utilized as a counter-insurgency tactic in an effort to break the spirit of Iraqi resistance fighters and obtain intelligence that might prevent further attacks on US troops by insurgents. In the 50s, the French made extensive use of torture against Algerian militants as a means to suppress the Algerian movement for national self-determination and so did the British, the Portuguese and other colonial powers in their respective colonial possessions.
The demonization and de-humanization of resistance fighters by spokesmen of the Bush administration and the US civil administration of occupied Iraq is designed to facilitate psychologically and legitimize the execution of such barbarous and unlawful practices against captive Iraqi militants. Instead of distinguishing between Iraqi nationalist guerrillas resisting foreign occupation and Islamic terrorists operating abroad[iii], both Bush and Blair have sought to portray them as ‘remnants of the old regime’, ‘foreign terrorist elements’ and so on, thereby arbitrarily identifying Iraqi resistance organizations with the global networks of international Islamic terrorism. This attitude amounts to a moral mandate to US troops stationed in Iraq to employ whatever means necessary in their effort to thwart popular resistance to the occupation. The pounding of Falluja and the great number of casualties which the US offensive caused among the Iraqi civilian population (with President Bush’s personal approval) gets a similar message of blatant disregard for the loss of life across to US soldiers and shows how little value is accorded to Iraqi lives by the US administration and the officials of the Iraqi provisional authority.

[i] “In emails released by his family, Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, a guard at Abu Ghraib, says military intelligence used dogs to intimidate prisoners, leading to “positive results and information”. In one email he wrote: “We have had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break. They usually end up breaking within hours”. Sgt Frederick said that he queried some of the abuses: “I questioned this and the answer I got was: this is how military intelligence wants it done”. Another guard supports his claim that intelligence people controlled Abu Ghraib, as does the former head of military prisons in Iraq, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski”. In V.Dodd, Torture by the Book, The Guardian, 06/05/2004.
[ii] Eleftherotypia
[iii] As did Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats in a recent article for The Guardian.

Unwarlike Warriors

“You can all understand what the performance in war will be of a nation suffering from terror and despair”.
Osama Bin Laden, 28/09/2001[i]

Could it be that the formidable military strength of the United States is no more than a myth? The invasion and ensuing military occupation of Mesopotamia provides the ideal background against which the capability of the US army to act as an instrument for imperial expansion and domination can be measured. It may be stated with some certainty that the US army has proven unequal to the task of bringing about a restoration of law and order in post-war Iraqi society and has been largely ineffective in its efforts to suppress the native movement of armed resistance, both in terms of diminishing the latter’s operational capability and of eliminating its political appeal. Yet, the obvious deficiency of the US military apparatus lies not in its practical failures concerning the pacification of a subjugated nation, nor should it be associated with its incapacity of establishing a regime of strict military control over the vast mass of land which is Iraq. Such a range of difficulties was to be expected provided the absence of any significant post-war planning by Pentagon officials and the gross underestimation of the number of troops that would be needed for establishing control over the conquered territory.
Yet couldn’t this lack of foresight be the byproduct precisely of a patently false notion entertained by US political officials and decision-makers regarding the fighting ability of their armed forces and the quality of their performance in active duty? Indeed, would one be mistaken if he was to attribute such oversights not simply to the incompetence of the Pentagon civilians, but to an overestimation of the US army as a fighting force along with a parallel depreciation of the Iraqi people, of their consciousness as a nation,[ii] of their resolve to oppose the conqueror and their willingness to cooperate and coordinate their efforts so as to attain precisely this end?
Keep in mind, that in the case of Kosovo where the mobilization of the US military apparatus is deemed to have been exemplary in fulfilling its military and strategic objectives, no large-scale ground invasion of Serbian territory was undertaken, nor was there a protracted military occupation of hostile lands. It follows, that prior to the establishment of an American military presence in Iraq, the US army had remained virtually untested to the impact and pressure of actual combat conditions and therefore, it is through its manner of conduct of the Iraqi occupation that we may acquire some useful insights concerning its quality as a fighting force. Mind you, the purpose of the above suppositions is by no means to cast doubt on the technological supremacy of the US army, or on the advanced nature of its mechanical equipment. Rather, our objective is to point out the inefficiency of the human factor, or more appropriately, the deficit of proportionality which exists between the formidable technological capability of the US army and the military competence and skill of the human element (namely, GIs and elite forces) which operates and administers those technical paraphernalia of war in the battlefield. In fact, the case may very well be that it is due to the questionable reliability of US service-members as individual combatants, that the US military industry was obliged to invest so much in the development of an array of highly sophisticated weaponry and cutting-edge military hardware, most of which serve the purpose of eliminating, or severely limiting, the direct contact which takes place between two warring parties in the course of combat. One has only to recall the veritable terror which overcame US strategists when confronted with the possibility of having to launch a ground invasion against Serbia in the event that the air-strikes should prove insufficient to induce Milosevic’s government to relinquish Kosovo and their outright dismissal of such an eventuality as a largely untenable scenario. Once again, I have no intention of doubting the quality of training that US troops receive. However, I am quite convinced of their lack of resolve to fight, which is not necessarily connected with the level and effectiveness of a soldier’s training, their excessive sensitivity to the hardships of war and their unbefitting mindset which does not allow them to function properly during situations which are highly confrontational and expose them to serious and constant threats of physical injury. In fact, it seems to me that the US maintains a showcase army, a force to be admired from afar but never to be put into actual use.
The defects of character of the US military personnel are most in evidence in the proliferation of psychological disturbances and stress related disorders among the soldiers currently serving in Iraq. US soldiers have exhibited a surprising inability to cope with the pressures involved in their role as an occupying army functioning within an unfriendly environment. Few of those well-trained marines have proved capable of withstanding or absorbing the emotional hardships of uninterrupted surrogate warfare, which also entail the taxing impact of bearing witness to the passing away of comrades in arms, and have had recourse to army psychologists in order to obtain some measure of comfort and psychological support. Yet the insurgency in Iraq has shown no signs of subsiding and those troops who are experiencing emotional difficulties have hardly had the opportunity to take repose or abstain from the fighting, even though such a period of inaction and relaxation might be necessary for the restoration of their mental health and the preservation of their worth as fighting men. Needless to say, that such erosion from within might cost dearly to the occupiers, for it might lead to a general collapse of army morale, to the proliferation of phenomena of insubordination and lawlessness in the troops’ conduct (mutiny, application of excessive force, war crimes), finally to the deprivation of their ability to carry out orders in a composed and orderly fashion. In other words, the army’s ability to function properly would be impaired, which would cause it rapidly to disintegrate into a broken force.
To the above we should add that the abject psychological circumstances of US servicemen have not their root cause in a deteriorating military situation,[iii] nor can they be ascribed to a shifting balance of power between the indigenous resistance movement and the occupiers. Even if we accept that the resistance nuclei incorporate no less than 40,000 well-trained, active fighters, the established military ascendancy of the occupying army remains largely undisputed and its defeat or expulsion from Iraq cannot be accomplished by way of direct military confrontation alone. Furthermore, I suspect that an army sustaining casualties at the rate of two (marines) a day, may have reason to be annoyed or exasperated even by the constant harassment, yet it need not worry about losing a war. Particularly when, in a manner which is profoundly ruthless and cynical, it routinely uses its immensely superior firepower to inflict hundredfold casualties among the enemy and the civilian population in the course of reprisals and various military actions of pacification.[iv] It follows, that the source of anguish for US soldiers is not so much the course of the military situation itself, as it is their, most unwarlike, revulsion to the vicissitudes and strains associated with their engagement in a dirty and prolonged campaign of guerilla warfare.
The mental preparation which US forces underwent pending their military expedition in Iraq is yet another factor that might serve to illuminate the causes for their professionally reprehensible conduct in the battlefield. It seems that once the ideological myth of Iraqi “liberation” was emphatically dispelled in the minds of US troops by the hostile reception which they got upon entering the towns and villages of occupied Iraq, individual soldiers were no longer able to morally justify their intrusion of Iraqi sovereignty, except by unconsciously employing a psychological device of vilification of the local population, a vindictive mental disposition towards an ungrateful people who have no understanding of the US service member’s noble intent. The erection of such a fictitious mental construct represents an effort to reconcile the disagreeable nature of empirical reality with the propagandist notions imputed on the collective psyche of US soldiers by virtue of their prewar indoctrination with regard to the political objective of their invasion of Iraq. It is an unconscious function of the human brain which is necessary if the soldier is to retain his morale and, consequently, his ability to wage war effectively. However, to entertain such a distorted view of reality is tantamount to affording oneself a psychological warrant for applying heavy-handed tactics and for committing atrocities against an enemy who is no longer merely an official military rival, but instead has increasingly assumed the status and characteristics of a personalized foe. An added implication is that the distinction between armed combatants and unarmed civilians becomes one which the soldier no longer cares to make, if only for the reason that he chooses to perceive all members of the subjugated population through the self-constructed emotional narrative of betrayal which we discussed above.[v]
It would seem then that the fighting-spirit of US troops depends on the prior cultivation of a paradoxical feeling of acceptance by the very population whom they set out to conquer. Hardly a suitable motivation one might say, for an institution which, in the words of Michael Sawyer, purports to be the “Sword and Shield” of the rising Empire. Furthermore, as such ideological fictions continue to disintegrate, as they surely will, in the face of the army’s perpetual involvement in wars of aggression and imperial campaigns of military conquest and expansion, we may expect them to be substituted by a covertly racist mindset which will provide the necessary theoretical justification for the exercise of oppressive imperial rule over subject nations. In the case of the Arabs, this brand of racism might contain elements and connotations from the traditional doctrines of the biological racism of old. Yet, as far as the “official” doctrine of imperial expansion is concerned, the supremacist cultural trend which is currently emerging within the ranks of US statesmen and military functionaries, can be more accurately referred to as “constitutional racism”, or as “constitutional supremacism”[vi]. A supremacy that is, which does not derive from factors associated with race, natural selection, or even superior cultural standing, but from a nation’s constitutional form of government.

Case Study: The Death of Two Husseins

On the 21st of July, 2003, a significant contingent of US troops surrounded a two-story villa in the city of Mosul, following intelligence that Qusay and Uday Hussein, sons of the deposed dictator of Iraq, had found refuge in the building along with a small band of armed bodyguards. Despite the fact that only minor resistance was expected during the execution of the operation, the military unit assigned with the task received tactical support from a mechanized unit of armed vehicles as well as air-cover by offensive Apache helicopters. The disproportionate force applied by the US military for accomplishing the relatively modest objective of apprehending two fugitives protected by only a few loyal gunmen, might enable us to draw some useful inferences with regard to the US military presence in Iraq.
The deployment of such overwhelming firepower can only correspond to the fulfillment of one tactical objective, which is the avoidance of physical injury and loss of life on the part of the US troops participating in the operation. This mentality should not be confused with the rational calculus to which all military planners engage while planning an operation for the purpose of carrying out an assignment with the loss of as few men as possible, for in this case, the secondary tactical objective appears to override the primary, strategic one. That is, the concern of US military field commanders for the welfare and safety of their troops seems to take precedence over the successful execution of any combat operation which, in the incident under examination, was the extraction and detainment of the two sons of Saddam Hussein. The result of this approach was that the apprehension of the targets failed to materialize and the two fugitives were shot and killed in the process of their extraction. This is indicative of two more general trends which dominate the formulation of US military strategy in Iraq and elsewhere:
Firstly, US generals are acutely aware of the finiteness of the human resources at their disposal. Shortages of military personnel should be attributed primarily to the relatively small overall size of the US armed forces (a numerical shortcoming which is supposedly overcome by the excellent fighting skills of individual soldiers), their proliferation in military bases and installations all over the globe and the inefficiency of the system which the US army has in place for attracting fresh recruits to replenish its dwindling ranks of active fighters. The absence of a stable pool of reliable reservists which may be called upon to replace the existing divisions already stationed in Iraq, has caused American military commanders to be particularly apprehensive of the possibility of sustaining heavy casualties in the course of battle and to regard the preservation of the initial numerical size of their forces as their top priority, even at the expense of their tactical performance and effectiveness. This, in turn, has dire consequences so far as the formulation of a comprehensive strategy for defeating the ongoing insurgency is concerned, creating additional complications in terms of the US military’s relationship to the local population, which increases the hazards for American troops. For instance, had the purpose of the battle of Falluja simply been the capture and pacification of the city, instead of accomplishing these same ends in a way that would strictly minimize human losses on the American side of the conflict, the complete destruction of the city through constant and heavy bombardment could have been avoided and civilian casualties could have been kept at a low level. Furthermore, were we to take American claims about the formidable fighting skills of the individual US trooper at face value, we might expect that even a much smaller expeditionary force of infantry men along with support units for the provision of air cover, could have carried out the operation successfully and without running the risk of losing many men. Could it be then, that even US generals harbor doubts about the quality and effectiveness of the forces under their command?
Another consideration is the risk-averse nature of the personnel itself, which derives partly from military necessity as we have already pointed out, and partly from political considerations regarding the limited willingness of public opinion in the US to accept large-scale casualties among American soldiers as the inescapable consequence of any war effort. Unfortunately, wars can seldom be fought and won in accordance with the aim of upholding the rules of political correctness and avoiding to upset the humanistic sensibilities of the common man. Therefore, American generals tend to use two methods in their effort to reconcile two contradictory objectives, namely win the war in Iraq without provoking a public outcry and the concern of the citizenry at home. The first technique relies upon managing and controlling the flow of information from the front which are to reach the American public. Vigilant censorship, secrecy and a campaign of extensive disinformation, prevent US citizens from obtaining access to the facts and forming an independent perception of the conflict.[vii] These practices do not have the effect of familiarizing the American public with the harsh realities of war and prepare them for the possibility of future military campaigns. On the contrary, they are meant to prevent the conflict from disrupting in any way the daily lives of Americans, to immunize them against the negative effects of war, in short, to render the more destructive, emotionally taxing and unsettling aspects of the war effort ‘invisible’ to the wider American public.
Secondly, the application of the most barbaric counterinsurgency tactics which aim to shorten the time-span of the rebellion, by breaking the morale of the local population and causing disillusionment among ordinary Iraqis concerning the very purpose, viability and indeed desirability of the resistance movement. In other words, by increasing the costs of support towards the resistance, the forces of occupation aim at creating a rift between the local sympathizers and the militants, which eventually might serve to isolate the insurgents from the main body of Iraqi society.
All this considering, it is my view that the US occupying force has now entered the initial stages of moral and material disintegration. The symptoms are hard to miss. Mental and psychological exhaustion of the troops, unlawful and inhuman behavior towards POWs and enemy fighters and the conceptual failure of US policymakers to comprehend the nature of the enemy confronting them in Iraq, evincing from their ill-conceived designation of a broad nationalist uprising as a ‘terrorist’ campaign.

[i] From Anonymous, Imperial Hubris (Livani Publishing House, Athens), p.298.
[ii] The inability of Donald Rumsfeld to admit that not only there exists a nationalist element within the underground forces which compose the Iraqi resistance movement, but it also seems to be prevalent in terms of its active membership and the degree of popular support which it enjoys is particular instructive in this respect. It almost amounts to a denunciation or a denial to come to terms with the fact that there is such a thing as an Iraqi national consciousness, which has been severely traumatized by the occupation, at the same time as its energies were being animated by the presence of a foreign army on Iraqi soil and directed towards the end of its expulsion.
[iii] As was the case in Vietnam.
[iv] In the battle for control of Falluja for instance, the final count of American losses did not exceed the number of ten, while enemy fighters and the civilians who had elected to remain in the besieged city were subjected to an indiscriminate massacre by US troops and their native Kurdish auxiliaries.
[v] These rudimentary psychological remarks are drawn from the content of interviews with the US troops serving at the Iraqi frontline presented in Michael Moore’s powerful documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11”.
[vi] The reader should understand this concept as representing the exclusionary counterpart of the inclusive notion of constitutional patriotism.
[vii] Consider for example, the prohibition imposed by the Pentagon to live coverage by TV networks of the coffins of dead US soldiers returning from Iraq. Instead, of being honored as fallen war heroes, the deaths of these men are treated as an embarrassment to the Administration and as an undesirable, ugly reminder of the fact that there is a war going on. An overseas distant war it may be, but a war nonetheless.

Watching Mandela Dance

A torrent of contradictory emotions overtook me the other day, when I positioned myself in front of my TV and watched Nelson Mandela celebrate his seventy-something birthday. The veteran African leader seemed elated as he received an endless procession of distinguished guests who had come to attend a banquet at his honor. Yet, for some reason I felt rather disconcerted. I could not escape a feeling of uneasiness as I was struck by the conspicuous absence from the festivities of Mandela’s companions of old. I thought, “Whatever happened to his comrades in arms”? Why was none of them present in the feast? And if present is what they were, why was it that journalists who covered the event did not bother to come up with a single picture of any one of them? The coterie of Mandela’s new-found admirers seemed to me as a strange fellowship indeed. Among them was Bill Clinton, former US president and ravager of Yugoslavia. Next to him was Bono, the Irish pop-idol and self-appointed protector of Africa. Third came the ebonic Naomi Campbell, a celebrity top-model and… well, not a hell of a lot more. The luminous assortment was completed by corrupt African heads of state, decadent representatives of Western nobility and others of their ilk.
It suddenly occurred to me that what I was watching was not so much a solemn tribute to an ageing politician, as it was a glamorous upper-class affair. What business could an old revolutionary have in such an event? But the illustrious surroundings and expensive silverware, all trademarks of elite life-style, were not the main reason to cast an old revolutionary as the odd one out in such a gathering. Gradually it became apparent to me that it is by virtue of these highly-publicized, informal rituals that the new system of racism and exploitation obtains indirect legitimacy for itself. True, the celebration was an ostensibly non-political event. But political action is the instrument by which the oppressed seek to remedy their problems and correct the injustices inflicted upon them. By contrast, the symbolic meaning conveyed by such receptions is to signify that the time for struggle is past and that we have now entered into an era of social peace and harmonious racial coexistence. The point was being made that the modern enlightened rulers of this earth eschew racism and stand in solidarity with those who at one time fought against it. Non-political occasions of a public show of affection between former adversaries make for statements of political cooptation nonetheless. They amount to an active demonstration that reconciliation is now the norm, instead of the antagonisms and racial divisions of the colonial era. In fact, the dichotomy between colonialism and post-colonialism is the main theme defining the nature of the relationship between North and South in the New World Order. In the declarations of the global elite, a post-modern disposition of aversion for traditional forms of white oppression and exploitation against the global black underclass is constantly affirmed. The privileged strata of this earth magnanimously recognize the inhuman face of white oppression in Africa, thereby pointing to the qualitative transformation which the international system has undergone and the reorientation of the North-South relationship towards a humanitarian context of cooperation, compassionate financial assistance and humanitarian aid.[i] In accordance with this general trend of appeasement, Mandela, the sacred cow of the black liberation movement, with his impeccable revolutionary record and his path of martyrdom through the Afrikaner’s gulag, has been officially awarded the status of global elite member emeritus. With this gesture, the residual elements of a black power ideology must be made to appear obsolete and black consciousness must gradually succumb to the ideological force of the new paradigm of global hegemony.
However, even though Mandela’s struggle for liberation might be over, Africa’s struggle against Western domination continues. And, to all appearances, it will be fought by virtue of methods other than the ones Mandela had employed. Africa’s problems are too urgently in need of a solution for an activist to docilely condemn himself to fifty years of imprisonment in the hope of evoking some benevolent response in the hearts of his opponents. The degree of suffering and distress inflicted upon that sorry continent is gruesome enough to warrant the employment of any sort of tactics in the effort to put an end to it, short of waiting around for the Christian impulses of the perpetrators of this gross injustice to spontaneously awake and urge them into correcting it.
To be sure, there is a fundamental congruence between Mandela’s chosen method of political action and the current outcome of his struggle and, under this light, it would hardly seem surprising that directly upon his release from prison, the old African leader was granted admission to the ‘palace’. Integration had always been Mandela’s principal political objective. His vision of a free Africa was one in which blacks and whites would learn to coexist as racial equals in a culture of mutual recognition and respect. There was no provision for a substantial reform of the abject social condition of blacks in South Africa and the economic plight of the Negro population was allowed to continue unchallenged even after the collapse of the Apartheid regime.
No wander then that one can argue that the aim of integration has now been fulfilled and keep a straight face, even when confronted with the monstrous rate of global inequality which has produced the humanitarian disaster and misery that have become habitual companions in the (short) lives of the vast majority of Africans. For what better proof that integration is working may one require, than the white-man’s willingness to accept a Negro leader to the palace? After all, it is only wise on the part of the politically experienced transnational elite, in view of the mounting global inequality and the grave social tensions that surely lie ahead, to honor Mandela’s historical example and provide convincing a posteriori proof of his success and effectiveness as a political leader. By implication, the moral merit of Mandela’s strategy of pacifism is extolled and the ultimate practical benefits of passive submission to authority are thereby demonstrated.
Let no one believe that I am accusing Mandela of being a turncoat of the establishment. I dare not suggest that for a man who spent a good part of his life behind bars for the reason that he was not afraid to stand up for what he believed. Yet, it is precisely due to this fact that I would expect Mandela to keep his distance from his former captors and not exhibit himself as a symbolic figure in the service of official propaganda next to the likes of Bono, the arm-chair activist, and Clinton, the mass-murderer of the Serbian people. Either he is conscious of this or not, Mandela’s presence aside such an unflattering escort serves only to legitimize the actions and beliefs of his purported fun-club, and undermine his own credibility as a progressive political leader. In a way, I can’t help but feeling sympathetic towards Mandela. From a psychological point of view, his highly-publicized performances in the role of guest of honor in such illustrious festivities offer to the old man a false sense of victory. To refuse to attend would amount to an implicit admittance on his part that the struggle is not yet over and that all his years in jail have been, in the end, to no avail. However, there is one thing of which we can rest assured. His frequent appearances by the side of Clinton and company will have the opposite effect from that intended by the elites. People shall not automatically presume that Clinton is a fervent liberal simply because he had his picture taken consorting with Mandela. It is more likely they’ll infer that Mandela, as emblematic figure of the struggle against exploitation and racism, has outlived his usefulness. And insofar as the overriding aspiration of every Third World activist out there does not necessarily consist in sitting at posh dinner parties in the distinguished company of eminent guests, but is more likely to be associated with the aim of the complete eradication of poverty and disease from African societies, we can rest assured that modern-day activists will eventually be spurred to reject Mandela’s political legacy and adopt more aggressive and confrontational methods of action. For as we have already pointed out, it may be the case that Mandela’s journey to freedom has finally reached its destination, but that of Africa, and for that matter the world, has n
[i] As Bichara Khader writes, “the [contemporary] hegemonic plan of international industrial capitalism incorporates an array of means that it did not possess in the past: it can determine the orientation of dependent societies in an even more radical manner, insofar as this power is exercised through various forms of cooperation and exchange”. In The Greek Association for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, Cultural Imperialism (Gordios; Athens, 1997), p.131.

The New Old Left

Something is stirring within the parliamentary milieu of European social democracy. The comfortable consensus which buttressed the political and socioeconomic prescriptions of the “Third Way” seems in tatters as it comes under contestation both on street level, by the eruption of spontaneous grassroots protest movements and in the field of organized parliamentary politics, by a reinvigorated left-wing, inner-party opposition. More importantly, there seems to be an intrinsic connection between the militant disposition displayed by the working-class segment of the electorate and developments in the political establishment, as the popular demand for a socialist-oriented political force resonates within the halls and corridors of the headquarters of social-democratic parties throughout Europe. To be sure, center-left party leaders hardly appear to have attuned their outlook to social pressures and to have proceeded to a corresponding modification of their overall political position. Yet the culture of dissent is spreading fast within the ranks of party executives and a shift towards factionalism is already under way within left-of-center parties and coalitions. In certain instances, as in the case of the British New Labor Party, the tensions created by resurgent left-wing elements were so severe so as to preclude any possibility of peaceful coexistence within official Labor party structures, resulting in the summary expulsion or the spontaneous scission of those elements opposed to the official party line. In Germany, such drastic measures have been avoided only for a hybrid situation to be allowed to arise in which leading historical figures of the SPD such as Oscar Lafontaine, are conducting vigorous anti-government campaigns alongside an enraged mass of protesters mobilizing against the proposed overhaul of social security and the German welfare system. Finally, in France a considerable minority segment of the socialist leadership has publicly revolted against the prospect of a “Yes” vote in the referendum for the validation of the European Constitution, in the interests of liberty and the defense of democratic sovereignty.
To be sure, the aforementioned episodes involve different groups of actors and are attributable to an array of sociopolitical causes which vary in accordance with the national context within which parliamentary developments unfold. However, if examined together, these separate occurrings can be shown to encompass the individual aspects of a more comprehensive phenomenon, a generalized crisis of the center-left project on a pan-European scale. What is being questioned by the mobilization of European constituents and of some of their political representatives, are core ideological assumptions of the “Third Way”, such as the desirability of further market deregulation and the erosion of European welfare state institutions, the necessity for the pursuit of an ‘enlightened’ liberal imperialism abroad and the traditional commitment of social democrats to the process of European
The extent to which the position of social democrats has become untenable is best exemplified in the case of the German SPD, currently in government. Faced with the growing discontent of SPD supporters and the abysmal fall of his popularity, Chancellor Schroeder engaged in an amazing feat of political trickery with the obvious objective of desperately clinging on to power. While retaining his prime ministerial office, he resigned the post of General Secretary of the SPD in an effort to bring about a conceptual disengagement between his Party and his government in the mind of the average voter. Not only that, but, in effect, Schroeder attempted to usurp both the institutional roles of government and opposition for the sake of his party, by placing Franz Munterfering, a left-wing party apparatchik of well known, working-class origins, as head of the SPD, devolving to him the liberty of issuing frequent and sharp moral condemnations of the inequities generated and reproduced by the neoliberal economic model, while his center-left government proceeds to bring its program of radical reform of the German labor market into completion. In other words, while the executive is pursuing a plan of liberalization and Americanization of the tax system and of the regime of social security, Munterfering is left with the task of trying to reestablish contact with the disillusioned SPD power base. It goes without saying that until this moment the strategy seems to be failing and that the SPD continues to lose ground in all of its traditional electoral strongholds. So much so, that there are already signs of increasing political mobility at the left end of the political spectrum, with new alliances being forged between disgruntled SPD politicians such as Lafontaine and parts of the leadership of the German trade-union movement, with the aim of introducing an alternative, properly social-democratic combination in the upcoming general election. Given the propensity and willingness of the German electorate to experiment in their use of the vote by way of supporting unconventional and, ‘irregular’ even, parties and candidates, as evinces from the recent electoral victories of the NPD in East Germany, an impressive performance by the new, left-wing coalition with its emphasis on the values of social justice, equality and full-employment should by no means be ruled out.
One might argue that Lafontaine’s chances of electoral success far exceed those enjoyed by George Galloway’s RESPECT coalition in Britain. It is one thing to refer to the popularity of George Galloway as independent political figure and quite another to try and assess the electoral prospects of his new-founded political movement. RESPECT’s self-designation as the anti-war party par excellance seems not to captivate the imagination of the British electorate whose political concerns are of a more ‘pragmatic’ nature and whose callous inclinations appear to be largely the outcome of their pliability to deceptive public relations campaigns of political advertising. The Tory bogeyman is one more unfavorable factor for RESPECT as it serves to unify the Labor vote through insecurity and fear of its conservative archrivals. However, to suppose that RESPECT is contending with Labor for the same constituencies and the same portion of overall votes would be erroneous. As an anti-war party, RESPECT should aim primarily at the appropriation of the Muslim vote. This is a segment of the population upon which the impact of the Iraq invasion has been all the more violent and immediately felt, and which has been victimized by the new anti-terrorist legislation passed by Tony Blair’s government. Provided the task of securing the electoral support of ethnic minorities is fulfilled, RESPECT can then simply rely on the genuinely socialist content of its programmatic platform to augment its chances of a future electoral success. For we may safely assume that the global shift of electorates everywhere towards traditional, left-wing political models will persist, in proportion to the ravages visited upon social systems and communities worldwide by way of their subjection to the ‘naked’, coercive and unmediated rule of globalized capitalism. In other words, RESPECT need not go to the voters, for the voters will eventually come to it. Particularly in the UK, where such explosive issues as the renationalizing of the railway, the preservation of social mobility through the maintenance of access to higher levels of the educational system, and protecting the NHS are sure to play a decisive part in the next election. And in four years RESPECT will be in a far better position to address those popular concerns than it is at present.Whatever the case may be, it is surely a beneficial development that traditional social-democratic electoral formations are slowly reemerging from the ashes of the scattered Cold War Left. In this manner, democratic pluralism, whose extinction is the necessary byproduct of centrism, is safeguarded, and themes which were hitherto ‘outlawed’ from conventional political debate, such as the necessity of collective ownership of public goods, the defense of labor rights, the protection of civil liberties and of social security institutions can be reincorporated into the dominant political discourse after having, for a time, being dismissed by politicians as non-sustainable notions or, to borrow from the common parlance of neoliberal orthodoxy, as “obstacles to economic growth

Reconstructing Authority; Ideology and Political Culture in Empire

“An imperial democracy, ain’t no democracy at all”.
Mumia Abu-Jamal


For the past few months, a heated debate has been going on within Western academic and intellectual circles, concerning the new realities which have emerged in the international environment in the post-Sept.11 period. At the heart of the controversy lay themes such as the overwhelming military might of the US, the implications that this historically unprecedented military supremacy has for international conventions and for the evolution of the post-War, hegemonic international system as a whole. A new sense of urgency has been attached to the resolution of these conflicts of opinion in view of the decision of the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq militarily. On the one hand, there has been a contingent of intellectuals who have made their opposition to the war public on the grounds that it would disrupt the balanced function of the international system of hegemony by virtue of undermining the rule of law in the international sphere, marginalize consultative mechanisms as an effective instrument of collective decision-making and would set a precedent legitimizing preemptive military actions on the part of the US, or any other state for that matter. The response to these criticisms comes from a group of neo-conservative thinkers with close ties to the Bush regime, who have enthusiastically endorsed the necessity for military intervention in Iraq, not only due the pragmatic requirement for implementing the ‘disarmament’ of a pariah state (both questionable in its truthfulness and attainable through the use of peaceful means) but also relating the military campaign in question to a broader strategic shift in the formulation of US foreign policy. Drawing on the theoretical premises of American political mythology, these scholars have developed a defense of Empire, as a new state of affairs in international relations. Not only do they uphold the, largely given, right of the US to make use of its military capabilities in whichever way the US government might see fit, but they advocate its disengagement from conventional legal restrictions regulating the use of force in the international arena.
At the root of this assault on international legal norms lies a historical rehabilitation of the concept of violence as a reliable and efficacious instrument for the resolution of conflict. Neo-conservative ideologues such as Richard Perle, propose that the application of technological innovation to standing military techniques and procedures, has brought about such a revolutionary transformation of warfare so as to rehabilitate it as a viable method for the future conduct of US foreign policy.[i] In short, what has happened is, according to Perry Anderson, the creation of “a low-risk power-vacuum around American planning, in which the ordinary calculus of the risks or gains of war is diluted or suspended”.[ii] However, the rationalization of the conduct of war through the use of means provided by technology of military operations and the partial elimination thereof of its destructive aspects, represent for neo-conservatives only a means to an end. In fact, the new coercive potentialities made available by military-technological advances owe their importance to the overriding political objective which they may be used to serve, namely, the aggressive promotion of representative democracy worldwide. It is in relation to this end that the new technological systems of warfare were praised during the Iraqi campaign. Insofar as the US was able to come up with a circumspect selection of targets based on intelligence obtained through the use of satellite communication and surveillance systems, and neutralize those targets precisely and effectively by means of surgical, yet devastating, long-range missile attacks, war in Iraq resulted simply in the systematic undermining of the enemy’s defensive capabilities and not in the complete and irreparable destruction of the country’s infrastructure, which in the end, would be incompatible with the professed political objective of promoting democracy and the process of nation-building which the latter involves. For neoconservative hawks, this new type of war is indeed the extension of politics by other means. What is of importance here, is to note that the novel infatuation of the US government with violent methods (novel not in that it constitutes a significant break with past tactics, but in the overt and public espousal of its virtues) and the corresponding contempt it has shown for international legal norms, are justified by US officials not by arguing that war is ethical in-itself, but by stipulating its instrumental role in a political strategy for the worldwide advancement of democracy.
The most influential argument of the critics of this ideological, imperial approach contends that military preemption and the compromising of the foundational principles of international law do not conform to the pattern of moral international behavior with which a democratic state is expected to comply in its external relations. Some mild detractors of the war have denounced military intervention in Iraq as alien to the traditional American disposition of aversion towards imperialism and as a blemish on the impeccable international record of their peace-loving, democratic country. In this connection, the full ideological force of the imperial position is revealed since it becomes quite obvious that both the defenders and opponents of the war in Iraq, and, by implication, of the theoretical and practical conclusions drawn from it regarding the hegemonic status of the US within the community of states, are in agreement at least on one point, namely on the fundamentally democratic nature of the US regime. This is an a priori assumption and is as much the source of the support expressed for the Iraqi enterprise, as it is for the harsh denunciations issued against it.
It is the principal concern of this essay to put this commonly accepted truth under contestation, thereby transforming the ideological context in which the ongoing debate on the constitution of Empire is being carried out. For as Edward Said once wrote, “…there is no such thing as a merely given, or simply available, starting point: beginnings have to be made for each project in such a way as to enable what follows from them”.[iii] It is my firm belief that the domestic dimension of the Imperial project has hitherto been neglected by academic observers of the process.[iv] Yet, engaging in an analysis of internal developments may serve a dual function: a) it will help us develop a critique of the basic ideological narratives on which the Imperial project rests for its legitimation and which opposition discourses have hitherto either merely touched upon or largely left intact. Indeed, if one is to take President Bush’s public claims on the reasons that propelled him to launch the Iraqi invasion at face value, one is almost left with the impression that he is dealing with an administration comprised by Jacobin democrats with the President performing the role of a belated equivalent of Napoleon Bonaparte in his fervent desire to spread the values and ideals of American democracy beyond US borders. By taking issue with the systematic and organized assault on democratic rights and freedoms that is currently under way at home, we will be able to arrive at a better understanding of what Bush means when he talks about democracy and also we will acquire a more immediate awareness of the inherent incompatibility which exists between the defense and preservation of democratic institutions at home, and a policy of systematic imperial expansion abroad. b) it will enable us to comprehend the full extent of the civic transformation that is currently under way in the US, of the illiberal permutations in the political, administrative and legal structures brought about by the terrorist attacks of Sept.11th and the corresponding modifications made necessary by the above transformations as regards the formulation of strategy and the adoption of individual tactics of struggle of an aspiring movement of opposition. An obvious political implication ensuing from our analysis would be the radicalization of the movement, by way of demonstrating the necessity for a strategic shift of the forces of resistance away from the institutional political terrain and the concentration of their energies on an effort to construct autonomous forms of expression and political activity. It would also lead to a reevaluation of the movement’s existing network of political alliances as well as of the moral principles and practical requirements on which such affiliations are based. For instance, by exposing the fundamentally conservative character of the Democratic party movement activists would cease to regard it as a reliable institutional focus of opposition and would be encouraged to embrace more radical, anti-systemic practices as the movement’s principal method of political action.

1. War on Terrorism; the Enemy Within

It has often been stated that the single most important ramification of the Sept.11 attacks has been the shattering of the collective sense of security that has hitherto underpinned American theories of governance and popular common sense alike. The active refutation of isolationism by that very same political party which traditionally espoused it (Republicans), it in the form of the doctrine of preemptive strike can be understood in such terms, as the practical expression of the realization that the much vaunted American invulnerability, has lost its currency among US statesmen. In fact, the doctrine of preemptive attack can be viewed partly as a response to the violent exposition of this convenient illusion. If Americans cannot quietly inhabit their own international universe, safe in their physical solitude and protected by vast oceans on both sides, they must become actively involved in the conduct of international relations in a way that will allow them to shape global conditions so as to eliminate any potential threats to its security and interests. Given the natural preeminence of the US in the international realm deriving from a geographical position that has so far served to shield it from the ravages normally associated with relations among states (invasion, occupation, bombings) can no longer be sustained, then a new paradigm of dominance must be constructed, one based on unilateral tactics and military might. While the community of states before Sept.11 was organized around a de facto American hegemony with a semblance of pluralism and consultation, we now have at hand the construction of a de jure supremacy of the US, along with the concomitant reappraisal of the authority of transnational institutions reflecting the old balance of power.
To be sure, this new policy is two-pronged, and incorporates a domestic dimension along with the international one. In fact, it is quite impossible to arrive at a clear understanding of the one, without taking the other under account.[v] On the home front, two major developments have transpired that have served to define the post-Sept.11 political and intellectual environment. From the outset, the Bush administration has sought to promote a view of internal security that falsely identifies its attainment with the systematic erosion of democratic freedoms and the infringement of civil rights. Needless to say, this reductionist equation of ‘less freedom-more security’ begs the question, in so far as it negates what should be the principal function of the ‘War on Terrorism’, namely, to protect the democratic life-style and safeguard the foundations of democratic culture and the essential openness of American society. Bearing in mind that respect for civil rights is a fundamental principle to which all workable anti-terrorist strategies should adhere, we may begin to understand that Bush’s anti-terrorist campaign rather represents more an effort to consolidate elite political power within the US, than it does a comprehensive strategy for combating terror.[vi] The above claim finds unwelcome support in, a) the undemocratic nature of this administration, embodied in the manner by which Bush rose to power (Supreme Court appointment), b) the unprecedented unpopularity of the administration and of the President himself, in the period that preceded the Sept.11 attacks, owing to the latter’s inability to give effective articulation to the needs and interests of the vast majority of the American laboring masses, c) the almost complete absence of a positive, constructive approach to the problem of international terrorism (i.e., improving relations with Arab states, winning the battle for Muslim public opinion), to supplement the strategy of violent repression put into effect in Afghanistan and now promoted against Iraq. The immersion of Bush’s administration in upper-class politics and its steadfast loyalty to the pursuit of economic interests and goals set by the elite, are painfully demonstrated both by its economic policies and by the generic disdain it shows for the democratic process. One can think of no better indication of the government’s authoritarian tendencies, than the introduction of court-martials for the trial of suspected terrorists, or the abject conditions, contravening any notion of human rights, under which POWs from the Afghan war are held in Guantanamo prison camp. A shift towards an authoritarian frame of mind, can also be detected in the relationship, or rather the absence of one, between an ever spreading popular opposition to war and the political establishment, along with the biased and hostile treatment the anti-war movement has received by the US media.
By inaugurating a ‘War against Terrorism’, President Bush has effectively declared the US in a state of siege. We should not view this as a temporary measure introduced by the government in order to curb an imminent terrorist threat, for to launch ‘war on terrorism’ is to involve oneself in an abstract conflict against an illusive enemy, without a tangible definition of what a successful practical outcome should resemble. Under this light, the ‘War on Terrorism’ is not unlike similar public relations feats such as the ‘War on Smoking’, or the ‘War on Drugs’. It might last indefinitely, as the administration’s professed objective, namely the complete eradication of terrorism, is unrealistic enough so as to warrant a continuous engagement at all levels of American society. I therefore consider the War on Terrorism to represent much more than a concerted effort to improve homeland security. To the extent that it cannot be brought to a visible conclusion, and insofar as it postulates the restriction of liberty by means of profound legislative and governmental reforms as a precondition for attaining immunity from danger, I regard it as a stratagem pushed forward by the elites that will allow them to solidify their power over a potentially restless multitude, through the introduction of a new, despotic social contract. This new paradigm of sovereignty is congruent with the type of social contract advocated by Thomas Hobbes in his classic work Leviathan, which entails a conception of legitimate authority that rests solely on the latter’s capacity to protect its citizens from the evils inflicted upon them in the state of nature. However, no set of individual rights vis-à-vis the sovereign are recognized in Hobbes’ ideal state, the monarch’s sole obligation consisting in the protection of the citizenry from external enemies and from one another.

a) Whatever Happened to the American Left?

Internal unity is an essential precondition for the normal functioning of such absolute and supreme an authority and it does not seem out of place to suggest that such a power has slowly start to emerge in the post-Sept11 political landscape in the US. The bipartisan political establishment which has dominated American political life for decades now increasingly resembles an ideological monolith, as the Democratic Party has shed its past connections to the labor movement and has tacitly consented to a view on the limits of democracy and the political process as seen from the Republican-conservative point of view. To be sure, the current cooptation of the Democrats is not a recent phenomenon. What we are now witnessing is merely the culmination of an ideological retreat of the official American Left that can be traced back to the turbulent sixties and the formation of the radical student Left. As was the case in many industrialized societies at the time (France, Italy and so on), the dynamic eruption of new social forces and the spread of a novel culture of dissent among various social sectors, brought about an implosion of the political system, unable, or unwilling, as it was to broaden its scope and ensure that a constitutional method for empowering the masses and guaranteeing effective popular participation in democratic politics, could be implemented by virtue of democratic reforms.[vii] While Republicans assumed a hostile and overly-critical position towards the new social movements, perfectly in keeping with the Party’s conservative values and traditional focus on ‘law and order’ (i.e. Nixon’s electoral platform), the liberal credentials of the Democratic Party were severely compromised by the latter’s failure to endorse dissent on prominent issues of the time which formed the basis of grass-roots opposition to the establishment (Vietnam war). Not only did the Democratic Party refuse to incorporate such concerns into its electoral program, it also perceived such a radical critique of society as a threat to its position as a political power in the bipolar status quo. This attitude led to the abolition of the MFDP (Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party) from the Democratic National Congress in Atlantic City, as well as to providing Congressional approval for the Tonkin incident, a decision which effectively amounted to a declaration of war against communist North Vietnam.[viii] Through this reevaluation of the party’s political priorities, a message was sent both to movement activists that the Democratic Party was not a force for change, and to the White, conservative quota of the US electorate that Democrats could play the part of a reliable ally in the war against internal subversion. This sounds all too familiar in view of the current campaign of brutal repression the Bush administration claims to have unleashed against external and internal enemies. In this respect, Richard Rorty is completely mistaken in his assessment that the radical student Left of the sixties should somehow assume responsibility for the demise of the reformist left and the latter’s inability to play an active part in the ongoing political process. In connection with the ‘War on Terrorism’ and the impending invasion of Iraq, the Democratic Party has once more revealed its essentially conservative nature and has proved unable to provide an institutional focal point for the convergence of popular opposition to Bush’s imperialist policies. Instead, it subscribes to the official line of a besieged US, surrounded by internal and external foes bent on its destruction, without offering even a semblance of a rational evaluation of such claims. In the absence of an opposition current within the realm of constitutional politics, civil society has again emerged as the sole democratic outlet, through the mobilization of which the articulation of an alternative political vision is made possible.

b) Combating The Existential Foe

An additional insight to the changes that are currently reshaping the ideology of the US ruling elite might be found in a cursory examination of the paradigm of state power, expounded in the radical conservative theories of Carl Schmitt. Schmitt regarded liberal democracy as an ineffective form of rule, suffering from the debilitating effect of the doctrine of the formal separation of powers and from a sociopolitical disequilibrium, ensuing from the entrance of the multitude into politics through the introduction of universal suffrage. His contemptuous view of debate (the expression of democracy par excellance) as the art of avoiding harsh decisions, along with an outright rejection of social pacifism and mediation as the appropriate response to the Red menace of the inter-war period, drew Schmitt towards the irrationalism and heavy-handedness of the fascist doctrine of the state. In his analysis of the reasons which led to the fascist rise to power, Schmitt argued that fascism ultimately predominated not because of the compelling quality of its argumentation, but due to the plasticity of the images it employed, so as to whip up fear among the masses and foment their passions. Characteristically he writes, “Italian Fascism depicted its communist enemy through an abhorrent image, through the Mongolic countenance of Bolshevism; this image generated a greater impression and passions more intense, than did the socialist image of the bourgeois”.[ix] The Foe, who in Schmitt’s philosophy is conceived as the constitutive theoretical counterpart of any organized political authority, is attached with a transfixed, antithetical meaning. Political power is in this sense inherently confrontational and obtains its meaning and raison d’etre by virtue of a decision to oppose the designated Foe. A political battle waged along such absolute existential lines cannot be settled through processes of mediation and negotiation. In this context, conflict appears as the only authentic manifestation of politics and a sort of blind activism becomes the necessary modus operandi of the regime.[x] Under such circumstances animosity is in need of no prior justification and rationalization. The formative elements of an ontological distinction are located in the nature of the differing parts themselves, and not in the relationship that binds them together, or the manner through which they interact with one another. The cause of conflict is inherent in the agents who promote it and its shape and circumstances can only be revealed in the course of struggle.
Needless to say that such a genus of political practice, with its emphasis on battle as the only genuine form of political activity, can only be made to function in the context of an underlying repressive and illiberal intellectual milieu. The sense of polar opposition informing current American dogmas on foreign policy, alongside with the way in which the US has come to perceive the manner by which it interacts with the rest of the world after Sept.11, have led to a neoconservative resurgence in the field of synthesis and dissemination of culture. Relying on the support offered to them in a tacit or straightforward manner by the political establishment, at present almost exclusively under the control of the Republican Party, these intellectual trends have sought to consolidate a virtual monopoly over the interpretation and analysis of ongoing developments at the expense of academic freedom and open, democratic debate. In a partisan cultural environment defined by the struggle against the Schmittian ‘Foe’, in our case international terrorism, dissent is viewed as an unlawful, even treacherous occupation. The government expects the unconditional loyalty and full hearted support of all sectors of American society in its avowed struggle against the terrorist specter. Indeed such uncritical acceptance of official policy is posited as necessary if the US is to emerge triumphant from its struggle against the great ‘evil’ that threatens it. But before we go on to examine the cultural devices and the corporeal institutions set up to encourage the spread of this new brand of McCarthyism, we should first inquire into the essential aspects of the dominant neoconservative discourse, the fundamental assumptions upon which it rests, and the type of political culture it seeks to bring about.

c) Orientalism Revamped

The revival of the old Orientalist patterns of thought has been most instrumental with regard for the formulation of imperial ideology. Orientalist platitudes concerning the radical, ontological distinction between East and West which were once an integral part of Western European scholarly thought are now being reaffirmed both in the context of official foreign policy and that of conventional academic discourse. Such an intellectual enterprise is entirely congruent with the political project of establishing US hegemony on a global scale to which the American government seems committed, the latest strategic phase of which is the impending invasion of Iraq.[xi] In the monumental work of Edward Said, Orientalism emerges neither as a mere propagandistic abstraction, nor a set of purposefully constructed myths completely dissociated from the realities of Eastern colonial societies. It rather represents a piece of false consciousness inextricably bound to the close relationship of power and exploitation uniting the imperial powers to their subjects. It is a mental and psychological state of affairs internalized by Westerners for the dual purpose of dealing with the unknown and offering justification for European coercion of Arabs and the Biblical people in general. The current conjunction in foreign affairs finds the US confronted by a similar predicament. Conceptions of the Orient cannot be understood in isolation from the contemporary power relations that are beginning to take shape as a result of the US drive towards imperial rule. America is attempting to obtain a foothold in the Middle-Eastern region and the resurgence of Orientalism has its roots in precisely this process. As a system of knowledge, the principal function of which is to domesticate the image of Islam in accordance to American cognitive norms, Orientalism becomes an indispensable theoretical tool, laying out the conceptual framework for the independent manufacture and unqualified projection of a negative image that might serve as the focus of opposition against which the US government can direct its energies in the international arena. In short, it becomes identified as the official Foe.[xii]
The ‘Axis of Evil’ doctrine provides a most useful illustration of our argument. Those countries who are seen as partaking in this spurious league of rogue states have few elements in common amongst themselves, either in terms of their ruling ideologies and forms of government, the degree to which they constitute homogenous national units, or their geopolitical position and interests. The ‘axis’ which purportedly joins them together, exists only by virtue of their anomalous relations vis-à-vis Empire. Their resistance to American omnipotence is the lowest common denominator linking them to one another. It follows, that the prevalent views of these entities in the US, are formulated irrespective of their inherent political and ethnic characteristics, and solely through the prism of the perception Empire has of them.[xiii] This is what we mean by the independent manufacture and unqualified projection of the Foe. Furthermore, it becomes apparent that such an arbitrary notion of the enemy can be stretched indefinitely and abused at will, so as to incorporate the most heterogeneous of political entities and movements. So long as opposition to entrenched authority remains the sole negative criterion informing the official perspective of the US administration, such categorizations might provide the ideological pretext for the indiscriminate use of repression against virtually any political or social movement or state which, either impairs the social peace at home, or destabilizes the normal functioning of the new international, imperial order.

2. The Rise of the New McCarthyism

The fundamental character of American political culture is being increasingly subjected to change and is transformed from a field operating by virtue of the free circulation and contestation of ideas, into a closed system for the ideological construction of formal and absolute truths. These core concepts, namely the existential dichotomy between Friend and Foe, the role of unmediated global hegemon attributed to the US by hawkish factions of the internal political spectrum, along with the aspiration, demonstrated in action, for imposing an enlightened Imperial order over the international community of states, are ideas which combine to render us with the theoretical substratum of neoconservative political theology. Such self-referential ideological narratives are impervious to the force of criticism and rational argumentation. In fact, it might be suggested that the defining feature of all theological discourses is the latter’s ability to defend their core beliefs not by way of completely overruling the validity of arguments arrived at through the process of reasoning, but by allowing for the restricted use of logic so as to more effectively demonstrate the truthfulness of the central tenets of their faith.[xiv] However, in this context, the operations of reason are not left unimpaired to determine the final outcome and content of theory. In theological systems faith provides a yardstick by which to assess the value of a given argument. This is essentially a coercive practice insofar as conformity with the exigencies of faith is posited as the necessary prerequisite for the acceptance, or exclusion, of a rational proposition.[xv] Unconventional views are thereby expelled from the totality of ideas that constitute the official dogma and the independent reasoning which produced them is cast in the mould not of the politically neutral category of ignorance or intellectual ineptitude, but that of heresy, which is heavily laden with political meanings and connotations.
Our inquiry into the ideological forms and mechanisms through which established truths are produced, while competing doctrines are marginalized, might help us to reach at an understanding of the ties linking the generation of formal knowledge to the interplay and arrangement of power relations in society. The unearthing of such a nexus is particularly useful in connection to our examination of the ongoing transformative shifts taking place within the political culture of post-Sept.11 America. It seems quite clear that under Bush’s neoconservative rule, the artificial liberal space available for the exchange and diffusion of concepts related to government authority and policy has been severely restricted. By studying the theological aspects of neoconservative political discourse, we aim to show that under Bush, access to forums of legitimate political discussion is limited to those thinkers and commentators who vocally and unconditionally espouse the fundamental myths of neoconservative ideology referred to above. This marks a qualitative shift towards a more despotic, undemocratic model of cultural hegemony. Political problematique is exhausted in a superficial preoccupation with form, while being prohibited from getting involved with matters of substance. Of course, such an intellectual community exists by virtue of a clear-cut demarcation of its boundaries and trajectory of themes and cannot but perform the role of an official spokesman for the regime. A recurring recourse to stereotypes and the rise of conformism is bound to occur in the context of this illiberal intellectual environment. Yet, we should point out that the generalization of conformist attitudes was a development which predated Sept.11th.[xvi] We would go so far as to suggest that the systematic effort to curtail intellectual rights and freedoms in the US could not have been carried through, if the basic faculties of men as rational, self-governing human beings had been safeguarded from the debilitating effect of postmodern theory, with its attack on the meaning and originality of human action. The qualitative leap of which we have spoken should thereby be sought elsewhere. Namely in the promotion of a McCarthyist mentality which willingly extends the limits of action that can be taken to counter dissent, so as to include the bludgeoning and intimidation of dissidents, as well as taking up legal action against them.[xvii]
The legal persecution of dissidents finds legitimation in the practical and ideological exigencies associated with the outstanding conditions of military conflict. It should come as no surprise then, that President Bush has openly proclaimed his commitment to waging a ‘war on terrorism’ which, while giving rise to a state of emergency at home, does not incorporate a definite chronological or practical purview beyond which this campaign might be thought to have been brought to a successful conclusion. Legal coercion is the institutional dimension of authority, complementing the exercise of coercion on the ideological level in times of war.
I feel that a cursory examination of the methodology employed by entrenched academic opinion in their effort to maintain their state-affiliated monopoly in the production of knowledge is in order here. A habitual practice reserved for the disciplinary treatment of deviant political attitudes is to divert the focus of discussion away from the actual substance of an argument, emphasizing instead the ‘hidden’ political motives that impelled one to adopt a critical or unorthodox position. If we wed ourselves to the belief that cultural hegemony constitutes a basic institutional mechanism by which the maintenance of internal political order is facilitated, it becomes evident that no sooner is dissent expressed, than it is immediately invested with a political meaning. It follows that in a situation when war is upon a society, ideological identities and statements assume a characteristic sharpness that makes ideology an active factor in the conduct of conflict (maintaining morale, providing intellectual safeguards against internal subversion), and criticism will become marginalized and even criminalized.
This marks a qualitative shift in the methods and mechanisms by which the dominant culture cultivates and maintains its position of ascendancy vis-à-vis alternative cultural movements. In the consensual environment of representative democracy, cultural hegemony rests on the power to determine the boundaries and framework within which legitimate intellectual and political debate takes place. Yet, coercive as it may be, this model of hegemony relies for its operation on internalized obedience. By contrast, the repressive cultural paradigm denies even the legitimacy of this intellectual debate. While the consensual model conceives of the qualified exchange of ideas as its basis of authority, the repressive paradigm views it as a threat for the foundations of its power which rests on unconditional support and ‘organic’ identification with the objectives promoted by the elite. While the former is willing to ascribe even a limited amount of value to popular perceptions as a guide for the formulation of policy at the elite level, the latter reveals a fundamental mistrust of public opinion and of democratic procedure on the part of the elites.
Dissidents were previously treated with what we might call discrete opprobrium; they were dismissed as merely eccentric thinkers keen on instigating controversy, as respected colleagues upholding a required level of professionalism who are nonetheless simply in error, or vehemently denounced as outright opportunists whose work violates the principle of disinterested scientific research, which liberal science professes to uphold.[xviii] In fact, the limited appeal of their ideas was perceived as a type of token opposition, affirming the enduring power of established beliefs and discourses. Under the novel intellectual norm, deviations from the official interpretations of events are not viewed paternalistically as simple manifestations of scholarly naiveté or exhibitions of immature peevishness on the part of critics, but rather as an open threat to public order and the enforced conformity of views upon which the latter rests. This distinction is a material one since it points directly at the heart of the new paradigm of sovereignty. A pattern of legalized oppression emerges when the free exposition and exchange of ideas becomes an object for judicial inquiry. The USA Patriotic Act represents a significant step towards this trend of stifling democratic debate in the US and outlawing criticism. Official, legal incursions upon the formerly limited autonomy enjoyed by academics in the pursuit and exercise of their profession have become habitual to such an extent, that academics were led to publicly air their apprehensions through the newsletter of their official organ, the American Studies Association (ASA).[xix]
What does this tell us then about the character of the new regime in-the-making? If one looks at those scholars who have as of late become the objects of smear campaigns or legal persecution in the US, he would most likely opine that such brutish counter-measures are completely disproportionate to the real nature of the alleged threat.[xx] Such intolerance towards any instance of autonomous thought that might contradict the official line is indicative of a more profound transformation of the American political system. It shows that elite opinion has come to the understanding that no longer has the establishment the ability to withstand alternative points of view and absorb independent criticism. The neoconservative project currently underway does not rest on popular consent in order to obtain legitimation for its exertions, either domestically or internationally. Akin to totalitarian states of the past, its authority emanates from, a) its unlimited capacity for coercion. The project for homeland security commands an inexhaustible array of agencies and organizations, the scope of which aims inwardly at the protection and preservation of order and national security. The FBI, CIA, NSA are only the cream of an apparatus for domestic repression that would put even Stalinist Russia to shame, b) the systematic cultivation of fear among its citizenry on the pretext of ever-impending terrorist attacks and of omnipresent surrogate terrorists, whose evil dexterity allows them not only to endlessly escape the net cast upon them by US security services, but also to sustain a miraculous - under the circumstances - level of operational capability that might permit them to engage in offensive actions on US soil.[xxi] The intended effect to be induced from this regime of terror at home is most eloquently described in the words of the political prisoner / scholar Mumia Abu-Jamal, referring to the Bush administration’s efforts to convince the American public about the pressing need to invade Iraq militarily: “Yet, for millions of Americans, who gather their news from the common corporate basket of the major networks, their fear leads them to accept what their reason could not. And more than anything else, fear is driving the common people of this nation to endorse what Dr. Nelson Mandela has called ‘a holocaust’ in that region of the world”,[xxii] c) the sheer power of Image. In a 1976 theoretical statement issued by the leading revolutionary organization of the Black underground, we read: “One such factor that sets our struggle [for black liberation] apart from other struggles is the profound influence of organized technology on our consciousness, social relationships, and behavior. […] We are told what to buy, what to eat, whom to hate, and what to love, by rulers and controllers of an exploitative system”.[xxiii] It is this immense power of organized information technology that can even determine consciousness that has been put to use by the elites. The unqualified reiteration of government propaganda has increasingly become the main occupation of what was once principled investigative journalism. A forced jingoistic consensus is being imposed on all sectors of society through the treatment of the Sept.11 events as a taboo subject, thus reserving for the government a virtual monopoly on the interpretation of the latter and the exclusive right to devise policies on the basis of this official interpretation.[xxiv] The reproduction of Orwellian political vernacular by the media creates the space where a virtual inversion of established definitions is being carried out that serves as a justification for aggression. Hence, we are pounded with such absurd premises as ‘peace depends upon a stalwart resolve to go to war’, ‘we may bomb a people’s homeland, but we have no quarrel with the people itself’, ‘our enemies do not hate us; they love us’ and so on. As we have already seen, alternative conceptions are either discredited in McCarthyist fashion, suppressed (as in the underreporting of the activities of the anti-war movement), or openly persecuted as ‘suspect’ and unpatriotic. This collusion of the major information networks with the government, is accomplished either through the individual commitment of journalists not to neglect their ‘patriotic duty’ at times of war, or by means of executive coercion exercised by corporate headquarters from top to bottom.
We thus begin to comprehend why it is that the mere exercise of one’s rational faculties on matters of the intellect might be deemed a threat for the totalitarian order. Totalitarian regimes rest primarily on theological bases. The predominant body of knowledge is transmitted to society directly from the source of official authority, by means of vertical, hierarchical structures of dissemination and mediation. In this manner the production and reproduction of knowledge is inextricably bound to the political authority that gave rise to it and any attempt to approach this body of revealed truth with a critical disposition, automatically translates into an attempt to question the source of authority from which official truths emanate. In the absence of the artificial intellectual sphere within which the exchange of differing opinions assumes a regular and orderly character, namely civil society, a scholar’s occupation with alternative explanatory models becomes a manifestation of disorder, an irregularity that needs to be remedied.
To be sure, what is required of the intellectual is not simply to refrain from criticism. ‘Apolitical’, disinterested scientific research is also out of the question, since totalitarianism has no use for positivistic research claiming to maintain a veneer of objectivity. The essence of totalitarian rule lays in the gradual subordination of all fields of human endeavor to the ‘Great Cause’ the regime purportedly espouses, whether it be the battle for the revival of a past heroic ethic, the regeneration of forsaken national magnitude or the global struggle against imperialism. Indeed, it is involvement in such grandiose political projects, which supplies the very raison d’etre of a totalitarian regime.[xxv] Furthermore, concepts that are ostensibly neutral or value-free can provide the theoretical framework for the development of alternative systems of thought. Having said that the monopoly on the production of knowledge constitutes the ideological underpinning of any totalitarian apparatus, we realize that an active espousal and propagation of conventional wisdom is postulated as the one necessary prerequisite for embarking upon legitimate intellectual activity. This amounts to the application of the Friend / Foe antithesis on the spiritual level. Truths imparted by the regime must either be accepted unconditionally, or analyzed within a certain orthodox framework. As in the inquiries of medieval theology, independent reasoning is to be encouraged only insofar as it does not overstep the boundaries of faith and does not undermine confidence in the transcendental, inner truth of the belief-system.

3. Carl Schmitt and the Legal Revolution

Here I wish to take repose for a moment and proceed with a clarification of argument that might avert the possibility of my position being misconstrued in any way. A line of reasoning appears throughout this essay that could be perceived as basing its evaluation of the oppressive aspects of the current condition on a contradistinction with the attributes of the liberal democratic paradigm, thereby implying that a past democratic order guaranteeing a certain degree of freedom has been superseded by a totalitarian one. Yet, I feel I have went to great pains so as to demonstrate clearly that such a distinction is untenable. In fact, at the heart of my argument lays the identification of a direct line of continuation between the consensual paradigm that emerged at the wake of the Cold War and the model of authority that is currently on the ascendant. To speak of qualitative shifts in the methods by which governmental power is being exercised in the US is not to speak of a shift similar to the demolition of the Weimar Republic by the dictatorship of the Nazi party. We are rather trying to point at changes that pertain to the internal dynamic of a particular system of government and which are transforming the very nature of the system itself. The material difference here being that whereas the imposition of the Nazi despotic form of rule presupposed the effective abolition of the Weimar constitutional order, the imperial paradigm of authority does not call for the immediate suspension of the US constitution. There is no rupture, no radical break. Only the gradual evolution and crystallization of processes that have been long set in motion.[xxvi]
Indeed, the constitutional myth will be perpetuated if only for the purpose of providing an ideological veneer for the systematic accumulation of real political power among elite economic and political circles. It is this use of the Constitution as a theoretical tool mystifying the real source of political power which constitutes the ideological underpinning of the American system of government, past and present. Quite apart from acknowledging the disturbing array of obstacles hindering the implementation of rights ingrained in the US Constitution deriving from a capitalist society which operates on the basis of enormous social inequalities and an amazing concentration of wealth, one can also reason that constitutions are subject to amendment according to circumstance and with the full cover of legality.
Such a process of radical Constitutional reform constitutes the central pillar of the domestic political strategy of the Bush administration.
This strategy can be better understood and its implications for American democracy appreciated in their full extent, if viewed with regard for Carl Schmitt’s formulations on the classical political subject of Sovereignty. To be sure, one is so struck by the consistent similarities between the theoretical schema drawn by Schmitt and the evolving political trends inside the US that we may hypothesize about the extent to which policy makers in the white House are not only familiar with Schmitt’s writings but have also espoused, even unconsciously, the main thrust of his ultra-conservative ideas. In his treatise on Sovereignty, Schmitt attempts to resolve the question of the sovereign authority in a democracy through reference to the state of emergency. Rather than discussing a concrete historical situation in which the constitutional order is being abolished in favor of a form of emergency government by decree, Schmitt treats the state of emergency as a general notion, which refers not to exceptional situations of sociopolitical unrest but embodies the founding principle of the edifice of constitutional legality.[xxvii] According to Schmitt, the attribute par excellance of the sovereign is his ability to make decisions and invest those decisions with the binding force of law. Whereas in the framework of the rule of law the ability to arrive at such decisions is significantly inhibited by the compulsory search for systemic equilibrium owing to the effective division of powers, the extraordinary political circumstances which are typical of any state of emergency, indeed, without them a state of emergency would be little more than an irrelevance, constitute the appropriate backdrop against which the problem of sovereignty appears in its true colors. The state of emergency comes about as the necessary outcome of the breakdown of the status of orderliness. It amounts to the essential admission that new sociopolitical forces have made their appearance that cannot be controlled and marshaled into the institutional devices which guarantee regularity and the smooth functioning of the political system. What is required from the Schmittian sovereign is to restore this regularity, to reinvent a new political order that shall replace the old, defective one.[xxviii] Hence, it is understood that at the basis of any organized form of political life lays the sovereign decision by virtue of which the rules and limits of government are created. That all political systems are created ex nihilo is demonstrated by the fact that virtually all democratic Constitutions incorporate legal provisions which attempt to set out as clearly as possible the exact circumstances under which recourse to the original source of sovereignty is taken so that some semblance of order may be restored that will allow for the application anew of some sort of legal administrative canon. This the regime does in self-defense and in so doing, it implicitly asserts its right to existence beyond the scope of its legal personality.
Schmitt thus arrives at a positive definition of sovereignty as opposed to the negative conceptions of the sovereign which we find in the work of such liberal thinkers as Kelsen and Krabbe. While the preoccupation of positivist legal science with the criterion of normality allows only for conceiving the state of emergency as the negation of the constitutional status quo and for this reason designates the latter as an improper object of knowledge (the very criteria for regular observation resulting to knowledge are by definition absent from the exception), Schmitt identifies the state of emergency as the exceptional situation par excellance where the essentially positive character of sovereignty manifests itself in the emergency project for reconstructing authority. It must be noted that neither this process of radical reorganization of the basis of authority, nor the actual institutional forms through which power is exercised can come about as a result of activity that takes place outside the given political framework. The ancestry of the new regime will not be traced in any sort of violent takeover of the state, nor will it fashion its position in the annals of history through referring back to its glorious victory against the old order. Schmitt writes that the absolute sovereign exists “outside the normally extant legal order yet at the same time belongs to it, insofar as the responsibility falls to him for deciding on whether the force of the Constitution can be suspended in toto”.[xxix] The chief ideological myth of the oppressive model of authority is in fact this; that the new order is no more than a continuation of the democratic status quo. That it represents a modification of sorts, a necessary measure of self-defense, democracy’s vigilant response to the dangers that encircle it. Without this linear connection Empire is revealed for what it really is, namely a parasitic apparatus of coercion that has severed its links with the social organism, its only relationship to it being one of brutal domination.
It evinces from the above that the transformations of the forms and networks of power that are currently under way should not be regarded as simply an internal problem of the US, a strategy the scope of which extends no further than the physical borders of the latter. The superpower status of the US along with the predatory, imperial designs it has shown to entertain with respect for Iraq, do not allow us to remain indifferent to the domestic manifestations of ‘Bushism’. On the contrary, the fundamental interdependence between the articulations of domestic and foreign domination should be recognized. Both strategies form part of a broader, large-scale political project aimed at the effective reorganization of the structures of national and supranational authority so as to bring it more in tune with the exigencies and aspirations of global capital. It represents the elite solution to the problem of hybrid authority which arises as a logical consequence of the contradiction between a globally integrated economy and a political environment still fragmented into individual national states. Such a fusion bringing the national and international aspects together in a unified structure of command can only be accomplished through the adoption of increasingly authoritarian methods at home, and will obtain imperial connotations abroad for it is an enterprise essentially lacking in both legitimacy and popular support. Indeed, its purpose and rationale derive solely from the voracious appetites of the transnational elite who have found in US military capacity, with its awesome firepower and its unprecedented capabilities for swift deployment on a global scale, the apparatus of coercion necessary for global governance.[xxx]
How then should we respond to this colossal enterprise for the reorganization and extension of imperial command? Should we join the ranks of those liberals or ‘worthy progressives’ who continue to take issue with individual policies implemented by the Bush administration while at the same time overlooking the ‘objective’, systemic causes which have paved the way for the rise of this peculiar brand of reactionary neo-conservatism. To no avail do dissenters concentrate the main thrust of their criticisms against the tactics and initiatives undertaken by shadowy White House lobbyists and advisors. The crux of the matter is not the occasional lack of resolve or political will on the part of this administration or the next.
One of the principal faults in the strategic outlook of the anti-war movement has been precisely this; namely that its attacks have been largely directed against the reactionary nature of this administration and not of the political system as a whole.[xxxi] Proof of this assertion need not be merely argumentative. They can be empirically validated in the way in which Bush rose to power in spite of being a minority president, as well as in the tenuous resistance he encountered by Congress and Senate alike, in prosecuting his bellicose plan of a military invasion of Iraq. Were the New American Century a strategic vision confined to the minds of merely a handful of fanatics situated at the extreme right-wing fringe of the political spectrum, one would expect that the proper institutional mechanisms would have been put in operation to oppose such imperialist propensities. Yet we have seen no such power struggle to take place with regard to the Iraqi crisis. In my view there can be only two explanations for this fact. Either the ideal of Empire has seeped into the mainstream of political thought in the US, although one should not expect to find any overt recognition of it in the electoral platforms of the two parties, and an effective, albeit implicit bipartisan consensus has been reached concerning its practical feasibility and desirability as an end. Or we should treat Congressional inaction in the face of the mounting threat of war as an indication that the democratic control and accountability of governmental power can no longer be attained through the operation of institutional mediums. No matter which claim one chooses to endorse I think that my position can still be made to hold. The fact remains that the internal dynamics of the regime are the problem at hand, not the individuals that man it.

4. A Return to Legality?

Should we then assign ourselves the task of safeguarding bourgeois legality and providing a defense for the institutions of representation? Should we align ourselves politically with those civil society pressure groups, such as ATTAC, and lend our support to the reformist platform which they advocate? Not exactly. In my view, no purpose can be served by reproaching Bush for his transgressions on singular issues; his insensitivity to racial injustice (assault on diversity, color-blind policies on education, opposition to affirmative action), the ‘arrogant’ manner in which he conducts himself in his transactions with other nations, including friends and allies.[xxxii] There can be no talk of recapturing the forsaken democratic ideal of our institutions, or of reviving the post-war social contract by propping up the defunct welfare state. The new model of capitalist development under the aegis of globalization allows for no such digressions. The causes for this are structural, rather than political. Commendable as the efforts to fight neo-liberalism may be, they represent an attempt to constrain the internal dynamics of the economy, instead of harnessing its potential for the people’s benefit.[xxxiii] More importantly, they fail to offer recognition to the fact that globalization has spawned a novel capitalist class, a transnational elite with which real political power presently resides. The leaders of ATTAC insist on looking at globalization as a neo-liberal conspiracy. They view it as a process which can be reversed and therefore mistakenly stress the need for a reform of transnational economic institutions, instead of their complete abolition.
A similar point holds equally true for our analysis of representative government. For it was the bankruptcy of parliamentary democracy owing to the intrinsic practical flaws of the principle of the delegation and representation of interest, that have brought this impasse upon us to begin with. Three tendencies in particular can be distinguished which are indicative of the latent authoritarianism of the liberal creed and can be said to have paved the way for the advent of reaction, in the form of Bushism:
a) the traditional liberal distrust of the cognitive abilities of the masses and of their ability to engage into creative political action.[xxxiv] The depreciation of the potential which resides in collective political praxis, has given rise to the notion of the professional politician. According to elitist liberal theory, the practice of government in a modern, industrialized society is a complex task which requires a high level of technical sophistication and training on the part of government functionaries. It is better that the masses do not interfere with this process, except from the periodical casting of votes through which they may indicate their preference of one group of elite functionaries over another. Schumpeter may consider this as sufficient safeguard against the possibility of government by the technocratic elite turning into tyranny, yet his theoretical schema is replete with philosophical justifications and practical guidelines for the imposition of precisely that. Not only is the scope for democratic participation severely limited in the context of Schumpeter’s elitist system, but he goes even further by asserting that this is indeed a desirable state of affairs, for he states that the ignorance and immaturity of the populace prevents them from making informed, rational choices on political matters. The obvious implication of his position is that since the masses have neither the intellectual depth, nor the capacity to decide on what is in their interest, they should concede this right to rulers who are better equipped in this respect. What is more, the people are divested from even the most rudimentary means of acquiring some knowledge of the political process and, in consequence, of measuring the choices being made on their behalf, since the issues involved in technocratic government are placed irredeemably beyond the reach of their primitive intellect. In this manner the initial raison d’etre of Schumpeter’s system becomes the sine qua non condition for its existence. A thorough refutation of Schumpeter’s claims falls outside the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that one cannot reproach the people about their ineptitude and ignorance of political affairs, without affording them the opportunity for a direct involvement in the process of government, which would enable them to acquire immediate experience and knowledge of the methods and practices of administration. Conversely, I hope to have shown that the elitism of the liberal model restricts the scope for popular participation in politics and fosters the growth of paternalistic attitudes, which, if taken to their logical extreme, ineluctably lead to Fascism.
b) the myth of civil society. According to orthodox liberal theory, civil society represents the domain in which the individual can exercise his will and pursue his economic interests, independently and without interference from the government. In this respect, liberalism is deemed to afford the individual with a greater degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the government than any other political system. Yet, certain legitimate objections might be raised concerning both the quality of freedom enjoyed by the individual in this seemingly apolitical sphere of activity and the trajectory of aims and purposes that this notion of freedom encapsulates. Firstly, the apolitical character of civil society is in my view, largely a chimera. In fact, I maintain that insofar as civil society relies on the legal structures and political power of the liberal state to support and vouchsafe its existence and not on any form of autonomous popular power, its relationship to the power structure cannot but be one of dependency and domination. This raises the question of the trajectory of freedom. Our interpretation of the meaning of the ‘apolitical’ should go further than any conventional liberal definition dare take us. In other words, we should not understand the apolitical civil society simply to mean a sphere of activity which has no direct bearing upon the political process as such and exists independently of and in a relationship of total neutrality to competing political factions and interests. An extended definition should include the necessity that any form of activity which takes place in civil society must remain indifferent and apathetic towards political affairs, or, at best, should engage in political activity which does not deviate from the norm of the liberal status quo and does not pose a credible challenge against its authority. The autonomous character of civil society is annulled, and the fact of its total dependency upon state power thereby forcefully asserted, the moment that one of the above terms is violated. The historical example of the Nation of Islam (N.O.I.) is particularly instructive in this respect. Being as it is a religious formation, the N.O.I.’s trajectory of aims and activities are confined to the sphere of civil society and should therefore normally fall under the protection of the constitutional provisions on matters of faith that apply for other groupings of religious worship in the US.[xxxv] However, its emphasis on programs aiming at the economic self-help of Afro-American communities and its role as a grass-roots movement acting as a focal point for Black Nationalism in the US, has brought to bear upon it the full force of the repressive apparatus of the state.[xxxvi] Under this light, a general principle can be stated according to which the formative criterion determining the degree of freedom conferred upon the agents of civil society, is the attitude the latter adopt towards the political establishment. In short, not only is the claim disproved that civil society is a free, apolitical sphere of individual activity, but, on the contrary, it appears to be one of the main disciplinary institutions of liberal democracy, under the direct rule and control of government. The implication of this assumption is that such an artificial construct, relying exclusively on governmental power for its survival, can be revoked at will by the elites, if the need arises.
c) the spread of a culture of conformism. I think it safe to assume that the main focus of opposition against which the poststructuralist discourses of the 1970s developed was that vision of emancipation projected by that genus of radical, social theory which based itself on the traditional Enlightenment ideas of progress, rationality and so on. In their effort to develop a critique of traditional, mostly Marxist, projects of liberation, poststructuralist thinkers such as Foucault, Lyotard and Derrida attacked the very possibility of constructing ‘grand narratives’; that is to say, large-scale political programs aimed at completely abolishing or reforming the existing institutional framework with a view for eliminating all forms of oppression and exploitation from the social realm.[xxxvii] As a result of the predominance of poststructuralist discourses in the years following the turbulent 1960s, the popular appeal of revolutionary politics has been severely undermined in post-industrial society and a strong sense of impotence against institutionalized power has been inexorably impressed upon the collective psyche of the masses.[xxxviii] What is more, the progressive project has fallen into disrepute due to the theme which consistently runs through all aspects of poststructuralist discourse that all theoretical systems which postulate human liberation to be their ultimate objective are prone to some form of totalitarian tendency which their professed aim serves to conceal. Hence, if all possibility for the articulation of meaningful political criticism is thus dismissed, the rise of conformism and the reproduction of stereotypical patterns of thought and action is all that necessarily remains.[xxxix]
It follows then from the aforementioned observations that liberal democracy in its post-industrial, historical manifestation is an elitist form of government with hardly any links to the historical democratic traditions of ancient Greece and the Enlightenment. The evolution of American democracy into its contemporary oppressive variant offers empirical evidence for our claim. Not only has the American system of government proved unable to evolve towards the direction of even greater democratization by grasping the positive potentialities latent within the crisis that it underwent during the 1960s and 1970s, but it has failed even in the task of safeguarding those democratic rights and liberties that were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, considered by the Founding Fathers of the American nation as the moral foundation from which the rationale and legitimacy of the anti-colonial struggle and their quest for an independent United States were drawn.
Insofar as representative government serves to obstruct the multitude form gaining any substantial access to the power process, so long as it restricts political participation and promotes the self-interested, private individual as the ideal type of citizen, insofar as it cultivates a notion of politics as craft, demanding specialized skills possessed only by professional politicians, it can have but the following outcome; first, the virtual disappearance of the public sphere and the spread of a culture of passivity, which having reached immense proportions, has now undermined the very foundations upon which the legitimacy of the democratic form of rule rests.[xl] Second, the growth of a relationship of excessive reliance and dependency of the masses upon the given institutional framework, accentuated by the ahistorical perception of the state as something external to society, and therefore permanent and immutable. Incapable of generating conceptual frameworks and value-systems of its own, the multitude increasingly identifies its values, hopes and aspirations with those upheld and dictated by the system. Such an inability to distinguish between the interests of the community in a broader sense on the one hand, and that of the oligarchic state apparatus on the other, marks a radical departure from classical democratic ideas on government while bringing us closer to the ‘organic’ conception of the State advocated by Fascism.[xli] And third, the gradual loss of the intellectual instruments by which the multitude may exercise effective control over the designs and actions of its rulers. The consequence of this tendency is twofold. First, questions of how we are to achieve the greater degree of autonomy and freedom are viewed as falling outside the scope of the vocation of politics. Indeed, the very meaning of those terms escapes the vast majority of citizens who conceive of freedom in purely negative terms. Furthermore, the modern state has accomplished not only to wrest political power from the hands of the people but it has attached to the political process so unfavorable a connotation that it has become a source of personal dignity and satisfaction for the average man not to associate himself in any way with politics.[xlii]

5. Bush ‘Leads’

One recurring theme has received considerable emphasis in official statements and remarks made by members of the Bush administration and by scholarly apologists of its policies, from Sept.11th onwards. Neoconservative theoreticians have focused on the theme of leadership in an effort to provide an alternative basis of legitimacy for a regime in crisis. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that in want of a strong democratic mandate and in the absence of a clear expression of solid popular support, the Bush administration has relied exclusively on the management of the post-Sept.11th crisis in order to gain a degree of approval from the population. It must be noted that this tacit approval is in fact a democratic oxymoron, insofar as it has less to do with a genuine popular sentiment on which the Bush government based its electoral victory and more with a subsequent endorsement of Bush’s methods and tactics in the course of the terror crisis. This becomes all the more evident given the almost exclusive attention that has been given in the agenda of the Bush administration to matters of national security and foreign policy, largely at the expense of urgent domestic issues such as the economic recession or the question of racial equality.
The shift away from the institutional resources embedded in the democratic system which guarantee its responsiveness to the needs of the social body and provide it with a certain degree of legitimacy has brought about a corresponding modification of governmental practices away from the democratic principle of collective responsibility and a novel emphasis on the merits of strong patriarchic models of leadership. It is safe to argue that in the aftermath of Sept.11th, the US have evolved towards an increasingly centralized model of presidential democracy which not only stresses the role of the Head of State as political authority supreme in the system, but also operates on the assumption that such concentration of power is indeed preferable to its dispersion throughout the sociopolitical spectrum. Such notions on government are particularly appealing in times of turmoil and crisis, when they have the effect of providing psychological comfort and a false sense of security to a distressed, frightened population.
The attacks of Sept.11th provided Bush with an opportunity to remake his image and obtain a following among a population who had initially rejected him, personally as a candidate and had disapproved of his proposals for an investment boost through an extensive program of tax-cuts. It has been suggested by some, albeit implicitly, that the government was aware of the threat of the attacks on the WTO even before they occurred. On my part, I do not wish to argue that State officials had any previous knowledge of the atrocities or that they allowed them to take place with a view for gaining some political advantage from the turmoil that would ensue. However, I am fairly confident of the fact that the strategic response of the Bush government to the terrorist challenge was designed less to mitigate and contain the consequences which terrorism had on American society and more as a means to perpetuate and stabilize its pernicious impact upon the function of American institutions.
There can be no doubt that the decision to take the US to war was in essence a political decision. That is, it represents a conscious strategic choice made by policy-makers, imposed upon the American people not by the force of events, but through a carefully calculated selection of the option of war over an alternative set of appropriate strategic responses to the threat of international terrorism. Involving the US in a seemingly unending conflict made it possible for Bush not simply to invert the largely negative impressions of him created in the course of numerous public relations blunders that he committed during his electoral campaign. The effect of the War on Terrorism is far more serious than a mere public relations stunt. What Bush and his team of advisors have accomplished since Sept.11th is to have situated the Presidency at the center of the networks of power that comprise the US state apparatus, by altering the institutional balance of power in favor of the executive branch of government. In short, Bush did not embark on the war on terrorism so as to increase his popularity or divert attention from the subservience of his government to the vested interests of big capital. He did so in order that he won’t have to do these things.
Our claim will be illuminated further by briefly examining the President’s role with respect to the recent Iraqi war. The institutional power struggle that took place between the Presidency and the legislative instruments of the US democratic system ended with the defeat of Congress and the “serial surrender of the constitutional power to declare war, [which] has passed wholly into the President’s hands”.[xliii] The pragmatic nature of this strategic shift is reflected on the neoconservative articulations that have been produced to account for the necessity of such a change. In the context of the war on terrorism the relationship between the American people and its President has been redefined on the basis of Bush’s role as war-time leader. The conduct of battle does not rest on the practices of debate, mediation and consultation so central to the democratic creed. Instead, it requires a great amount of resolve on the part of the leader to make decisions and embark on policies not necessarily well received by others. He does not debate these policies. He proceeds to enforce them even in the face of opposition, for he possesses the spherical perception of events, the overall strategic pattern which his critics lack. This monopoly of knowledge makes his claim to leadership legitimate and his authority unquestionable.
In connection to the Iraqi war such notions on leadership were employed by neoconservative apologists of this neo-imperialist venture to respond to the overwhelming anti-war sentiment among the population. Under this prism, any expression of popular opposition to government policy is interpreted not as an indication of the misconstrued or reactionary nature of the latter. On the contrary, it is taken as revealing the intrinsic burdens of leadership, as confirmation of the fact that certain decisions might be necessary, albeit unpopular. Consequently, it becomes an attribute of the great statesman to withstand public pressure and carry on with a predetermined course of action even when faced with dissent from his peers and opposition from his people. In this manner, popular attitudes articulated in mass movements and pressure groups are denied their value as a criterion according to which the success of a government’s performance can be measured. I am not suggesting here that the old Marxist fiction should be revived which held that there was such a moral entity as ‘the people’ which could be relied upon to determine through its professed preference which political strategy or political party was truly working-class or progressive.[xliv] What I am trying to show is that this ideal and pure image of the people has been inverted in neoconservative mythology to render us with the traditional conservative conception of the people as mob, as an ignorant, irrational mass, indeed a threat which needs to be managed and contained.
As of necessity, the President and the extent of his authority becomes subject to ideological mystification, his image as an elected occupant of public office bound by clearly defined legal restrictions on his power, is distorted by attaching to it a mythical dimension deriving from his role as chief strategist in the struggle against terrorism. Insofar as established power has developed a form of rule which in many ways departs from classical democratic practices, it follows that it cannot but function on the basis of a system of self-legitimation, a power-paradigm that finds its ethical justification in itself. It could not be otherwise since the people have ceased to be the agent of political power and have been assigned with the role of its passive subject instead. The President becomes a moral entity, not merely a devoted servant of society but the exponent of some notion of the ‘greater good’, the obvious difference being that while in the first instance a generally accepted definition of the greater good is already at work, in the second the President takes it upon himself to advance his own conception of what constitutes common good in accordance with his own personal vision. He thereby becomes the setter of the political norm, which can by definition aim solely at enabling him to accumulate further powers, given that such is the prerequisite for carrying out his appointed task.
Such an Imperial Presidency cannot be occupied by a man of modest but respectable virtues, a conventional statesman of distinguishable yet mortal talents. This President may not admit to defects neither of character, nor of political foresight. The gigantic public relations operation presently carried out by the US mainstream corporate media, with all of their despotic power of persuasion has as ultimate objective to create an artificial image of Bush as the man of steel, the untiring persecutor of the enemies America, the fearless cowboy who does not shriek in the face of sacrifice. In short, a transformation from elected President to spiritual Leader of the Nation is slowly being completed. Other candidates can compete for winning the Presidency but none to acquire a similar ethical mandate from the American people. There exists as much difference between the two, as existed in the distinction between Adolf Hitler’s official title of Reich’s Chancellor and that of Furher of the German Volk. The former referred to the formal position of a state functionary, one of power but legally codified power nonetheless. The latter describes a spiritual connection between the German people and its leader, an oath of allegiance more powerful than any display of approval manifested in electoral results.
Even within the monolith of Nazi Germany the daily affairs of state were conducted under a semblance of normality, of cooperation between individual sectors of government and Hitler, the Chancellor. As Rector in the University of Heidelberg, Heidegger could debate and consult with Hitler on matters of academic policy, on the nature and quality of National Socialist education and so on. Hitler’s military chiefs could always object to one of his ambitious military plans or another, albeit it was due to their failure to do so on occasions that mattered most, that humanity was made to pay the terrible toll of lives lost in World War II. Yet, when Hitler the Fuhrer spoke, all kept their quiet. The fuhrerprinzip was the real source of Hitler’s power. It is no accident that one of the first actions of Hitler as Fuhrer was to replace the old oath of allegiance that every officer in the German Reichswehr was obliged to take on appointment, with an oath pledging unconditional loyalty to Hitler personally. Seventy years after Hitler rose to power in Germany, a similar tactic was employed by US army commanders in Iraq. A pamphlet circulated among troops stationed in the Middle East awaiting to march on Baghdad, specifying the soldiers’ “Christian Duty in Time of War”. In it, GIs were urged to “Pray that the President and his advisers will be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics”. Other suggestions for prayer included that, “the President and his advisers will be safe, healthy, well-vested and free from fear” and that they “will recognize their divine appointment”![xlv] Alas, even now it seems that Hitler is not without his admirers.

6. The Political Sociology of Bushism

a) Evangelical Christians

“War produces many terrible things. But amazingly, it also produces good things. It points out the difference between good and evil. It underscores the fact that nothing in this world can be counted on to produce peace and love, aside from the gracious hand of a loving God. It reminds us that life in this world is precarious at best. God allows war to drive men to their knees and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior”.

Dr. Edward Hindson, ‘God, Satan and War’

There are two important misconceptions we first ought to dispel before we begin to understand the phenomenon of the American religious right. In the first place we should refrain from making comparisons between the post-war model of European Christian Democracy and that of American religious conservatism. The Christian Democratic parties which dominated political life after World War II in Germany, Italy and elsewhere were the products of a political compromise reached between antagonistic social forces and reflected a basic agreement concerning the general rules and framework within which political activity would be carried out. In addition, the fact that Christian Democratic parties emerged as the hegemonic force in post-war European politics meant that they were entrusted with the responsibility of preserving the political consensus which enabled the newly-founded democratic system to operate effectively. By implication Christian Democrats assumed the role of a responsible party of government, as was the case in Italy and Germany, defending thereby the secular political order to which the post-war settlement had given rise. An internal ideological transformation took place that enabled Christian Democratic parties to adapt their politics to the requirements of the democratic system. A moderate political line was introduced so as to allow Christian Democrats to forge alliances with other parties, execute political maneuvers as well as to keep the more extreme religious elements within the party under control.[xlvi] Indeed, the very fact that the Catholic Church saw in the emergence of a distinct Christian Democratic political tendency the only institutional vehicle available for the defense of its economic and social interests, is proof that the Vatican could no longer exercise its influence upon society directly within an essentially secular framework, where the separation of Church and State had become an institutional reality.
On the other hand, no such occasions of experimentation of organized religion with forms and models of democratic representation are encountered in the history of American Protestantism. Religious conservatism, a tendency representing some 46% of the overall US population,[xlvii] has not sought to establish any independent political formations taking part in the political process and interacting regularly with other political parties. This development was not without repercussions for both the two dominant parties in the US and for the internal constitution of pressure-groups of a religious denomination. In want of an alternative political outlet, the religious concerns of the Christian electoral constituency have been incorporated in the electoral platforms of Democrats and Republicans alike. Both parties have purported to draw inspiration from Christian principles in formulating their visions for society, while individual party leaders have declared themselves devout Christians in an effort to identify themselves politically with this vast religious-oriented segment of the US electorate. Former president Jimmy Carter had publicly affirmed his strong religious commitment by declaring himself a born-again Christian, while George W. Bush in pursuing the Republican presidential nomination of 2000, stated that “Jesus was his favorite political philosopher”.[xlviii]
One might be tempted to suggest that such declarations are purely nominal professions of faith aimed at advancing the potential for electoral success of one candidate or the other, but at the same time we cannot imagine that the support of Christian groups has no impact whatsoever on the formulation of official party programs as well as actual government policy. A fact that is all the more accentuated by the nature of evangelical interest groups in the US, the considerable economic and political power which they possess and the extremist, medieval theology which they embrace. By acting as a powerful pressure group external to the US political system, religious conservatism has maintained an indirect degree of involvement in party politics and has tried not to adjust its pursuits and ideology to the requirements of democratic pragmatism, but in an historical inversion of the European model, has sought to adjust the system to its own conception of what the latter should be. In short, evangelist leaders are engaged in a continuous attempt to ‘convert’ the American political system along with American society as a whole.
The very notion of a pressure group’s mode of operation brings us closer to an understanding of why this has come about. It is only natural for an interest group, far from pursuing any kind of compromise regarding its interests and its dominant set of values, to remain rigorously attached to the central ideological tenets that comprise its distinct worldview and try to achieve the most comprehensive application possible of these values on the social sphere. In other words, whereas active participation in democratic politics has fostered a rather tolerant, modernized version of religiously-oriented politics in the Continent, the pressure-group system in the US has given rise to a precisely opposite politico religious trend, marked by intolerance, a strong sense of exclusivism and fundamentalist ideological beliefs.
Characteristically we may refer to the remarks made by prominent leaders of the Christian Right at the wake of the attacks of Sept.11th. In a TV show hosted by fellow-evangelist Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority coalition, “blamed the attacks on, among others, ‘the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians’”.[xlix] Such comments are illustrative of the obscurantist beliefs which inform the fundamentalist worldview of evangelical Christian leaders. A further indication comes from the positions they have voiced on actual matters of public policy. As far as education is concerned, the Christian Right has gone further than most Christian political movements in its definition of what constitutes a proper Christian, public education, by lashing out fanatical attacks against the secular educational curriculum. Darwin’s theory of evolution has come repeatedly under fire from Christian coalition leaders who have demanded, and in some States got, its exemption from official educational courses.
Many formal positions of the Christian Right vis-à-vis important issues of both domestic and foreign policy derive their ideological legitimation from literary, fundamentalist interpretations of the Scriptures and the Holly Bible. Apart from the political reasons discussed above, an additional explanation for this tendency can be found in the theological nature of American Protestantism. The brand of religion which the original settlers brought with them from Europe into the New World was Puritanism, an extreme, purist theological creed embodying the individualist concept of divine predestination for all human beings and calling for the application of a rigid and absolute moral code of human conduct so that the good, ‘clean’ life could be achieved.[l]
This was a religious movement that had openly questioned the legitimacy of the King of England on religious grounds and was persecuted by the established Church on account of such criticisms. By arrival on the New World the Puritans proclaimed America their ‘Promised Land’, a place where they would be free to practice their fundamentalist religious beliefs and build the City of God upon earth. I am not suggesting here that the Puritan dogma has managed to withstand the corrosive effect of time and has somehow retained its original spiritual élan that animated its 16th century adherents and its potency as a social force among the American Protestants of today. Yet, it must be understood that for all its individualism, Puritanism conceived of religion in much broader terms than as a mere private profession of faith. It taught that the fulfillment of the word of God was as much a matter of the morally correct ordering of the community, as it was a matter of private exertion, thereby seeking to extend religious control over all spheres of human activity.[li] And albeit religious influence has weakened in the sense that present-day believers do not necessarily uphold the principle of ascetic conduct in their daily lives, the historical impact of Puritanism in shaping the major intellectual trends that dominate mainstream political culture in America should not be underestimated. For instance, the doctrine of Manifest Destiny by virtue of which 19th century, American expansionism was endowed with a higher, providential dimension and was presented almost as a moral responsibility imposed upon the US by a superior external will working in accordance with some divine plan, is merely the translation into the field of international relations of the Puritan doctrine of predestination of the individual. Similarly, military victory and conquest became for US statesmen the ultimate criterion by which the correct moral character of an imperialist, expansionist venture could be affirmed, in the same manner as material wealth and individual prosperity was interpreted by the Puritans as a sign of one enjoying the favor of divine providence.[lii]
The residual effect of Puritan religious concepts upon mainstream political discourse may be explained in terms of the differences between the mode of historical development of modern European society on the one hand, and that of the US on the other. Whereas in Europe the movement for modernity evolved against the background of a constant and relentless struggle against the archaic forms of social and ideological domination sustaining the power of the Old Regime, a conflict adequately captured by the historical formula of ‘capitalism versus feudalism’, the US did not experience such historical convulsions. The work ethic incorporated in the brand of religion preached by the Puritans was in perfect harmony with the aims of capitalist accumulation and development espoused by the young, enterprising and assertive US bourgeoisie. It follows that while the rise and consolidation of European modernity presupposed the abolishment of religious authoritarianism and the limitation of the role of the Church within the narrow boundaries of the private sphere of the individual, in the States the two projects, capitalist development and religious instruction were complementary and indeed supported one another. Hence religion occupied a position of central importance in the social construct of American modernity and was able to insert its ideological input into various intellectual, political and social manifestations of the newly-founded American republic.
The strong Protestant upbringing of individual political leaders along with the critical electoral weight of the religious conservative group of voters, owing to the objective class and racial divisions affecting the social composition of the US electorate with the implication of dividing the latter into an active and an inactive segment, are additional factors contributing in the maintenance and perpetuation of a strong religious presence into the milieu of mainstream political culture.[liii] Depending on their electoral clout, Evangelical Christians have always been able to exercise their influence upon the formation of elite political opinion. Their related interests and conservative values always found adequate representation in the positions expressed in party electoral platforms, particularly those propounded by the Republican Party. Yet, the contemporary level of direct involvement of Evangelicals in elite politics is virtually without historical precedent. A recent convention of the Christian Coalition of America began with a “videotaped benediction straight from the Oval office”.[liv] Pat Robertson, the coalition’s founder, is a one-time presidential candidate, while one of the main Republican speakers in the convention, Tom DeLay, has recently assumed the influential office of majority leader of the House of Representatives. The institutionalized power of Evangelical Christians is far greater now than it ever was in the past. This fact cannot but be reflected in the regressive political tendencies exhibited by the Bush administration in relation with its treatment of domestic issues and in the aggressive, imperial stance it has adopted in the field of international relations.

[i] Characteristically, Perle writes that the newly-acquired capability of the US to collect intelligence regarding the accurate location of legitimate targets and destroy those targets with detailed precision and devastating effectiveness, “means that politically we can use force in a way that would not have been possible if we had to create a Dresden [in terms of the levels of destruction and the rate of human casualties]”. In R.Perle, Lessons of Operation Iraqi Freedom
[ii] In P.Anderson, Force and Consent, p.6, New Left Review, Sept.-Oct. 2002.
[iii] In Ed.Said, Orientalism; Western Conceptions of the Orient (Penguin; London, 1995), p.16.
[iv] The Nation
[v] For instance, one cannot examine American insistence on a military intervention in Iraq, irrespective from the financial ties connecting the Bush administration to the powerful business-oil sector which supported the latter’s rise to power and, arguably, exerts a considerable amount of influence on the formulation and implementation of policy. As Adam Zagorin wrote in Time magazine, “[Oil] Industry resources tell TIME that oil-service companies like Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Halliburton as well as construction giant Bechtel Group could split contracts worth up to 2$ billion for getting Iraq’s infrastructure back in shape. US and European oil conglomerates will scramble for rights to exploit Iraq’s oil deposits. But the Europeans are worried that the US might see the postwar period as payback time for their governments’ foot dragging on the war”. In A.Zagorin, The Spoils of War, p.26, Time (Feb. 17, 2003).
[vi] In his outline for a “principled response” of liberal democratic states when confronted with the terrorist menace, Paul Wilkinson writes: “no surrender to the terrorists and an absolute determination to defeat terrorism within the framework of the rule of law and the democratic process”. In P.Wilkinson, The Strategic Implications of Terrorism, p.13 (
[vii] In his analysis of this trend towards participatory democracy, Richard Rorty derides the demand for greater participation as by and large utopian. He concedes that the old reformist Left is presently bankrupt, yet his professed solution towards the revival of a left-wing alternative in American politics is the espousal of a legalistic strategy of piecemeal reforms, in accordance with the norms of constitutional order. Not surprisingly he calls for abandoning any notion of ‘power to the people’ that gave the student radical left its revolutionary impetus during the 1960s, and for a renewed trust in benevolent initiatives coming ‘from the top’. However, Rorty’s appeal to pragmatism is in the face of current events, utterly misconstrued. His law-abiding stance in relation with constitutional order, begs the question since it is by constitutional means that Bush’s repressive strategy is put into effect. To rely on the constitution and the prescribed framework of political activity, entirely misses the point, for it is constitutional liberties that are under severe attack and it is us who need to protect them. The constitution shall amount to little more than a dead document, if its spirit fails to animate all aspects of American society and of the American way of life in general. Only at the event that a powerful and vibrant cult of ‘civic virtue’, in the Machiavellian sense, is at work in society and only if the idea is firmly embedded in the people’s minds, that the defense of freedom is a responsibility which rests solely with them rather than any judicial authority, and requires their ever-present vigilance, can Constitutional gains be safeguarded from attempts to neutralize them or render them devoid of meaning. Once we adopt this perspective on things, Rorty’s exhortations to put our trust in the elites, seems ill-thought and even naïve. It is the increase of elite power that the masses should guard against, particularly so when it comes to the US where gigantic corporations seem to be firmly in control of the political process. How one can expect the elites to guard the interests of the masses, if pressure is not brought to bear on the establishment by way of organizing the masses into a movement for the purpose of protecting these very same interests? For my part, I consider this line of thought as the finest specimen of political pragmatism, relieved from the defeatist connotations of Rorty’s position. For further reading of Rorty see, R.Rorty, Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Polis; Athens, 2000), pp.53-131.

[viii] For an interesting analysis of the conservatism displayed by the Democratic party on the question of racial discrimination in the US see the monumental work by S.Carmichael & Ch.Hamilton, Black Power; The Politics of Liberation in America (Cape LTD; London, 1968).
[ix] In C.Schmitt, The Meaning of the Political (Critical Editions; Athens, 1988), p.17.
[x] It is no accident that according to Brady Kissling, a former US diplomat who resigned in protest of the unilateral tactics followed by the current US administration, the inner presidential circle in Washington is dominated by hardliners, whom Kissling, rather euphemistically calls ‘doers’. Namely, men of action, driven by a warlike mentality that dismisses consultation and negotiation as a waste of time and effort. In Eleftherotypia, pp.18-9, 08/03/03.
[xi] It should be noted here that the connection between the new imperial doctrine and traditional Orientalist discourse, extends further than incidental ideological affinity. One of the chief ideologues of President Bush’s heavy-handed treatment of Arabs in general is Bernard Lewis a leading Orientalist thinker and a pro-Israeli advocate. Lewis is a member of the President’s inner circle and his influence in the inception and formulation of the basic principles of Bush’s foreign policy, particularly as regards the Middle East, has been tremendous. Lewis has also taken up the role of a fervent apologist for a US military intervention in Iraq, since he feels that there can be no reasoning with Arabs. They will only respond to “resolute will and force” and due to their backwardness are incapable of achieving a regime of self-government on their own. For Lewis, external intervention by a progressive Western power is the only means available for the modernization of the Arab world to be accomplished. For further details about Lewis see L.Andoni, In the Service of Empire, Al-Ahram Weekly (No. 616, 12-18 Dec. 2002).
[xii] As Edward Said writes in connection to late 18th century Orientalism, “Taking the late eighteenth century as a very roughly defined starting point Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient­-dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as s Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient”. In Ed.Said, Orientalism (Penguin Books; London, 1995), p.3.
[xiii] The ongoing ‘war on terrorism’ is underlined by a similar negative notion of what constitutes terrorist activity or not. How can one claim that the prevailing view of ‘terrorism’ as such, is a useful analytical category when it lumps together radical Islamists with Basque separatists, Italian Marxists with Palestinian freedom-fighters? Particularly so, when such an identification is used by the US government as a guiding principle for the formulation of internal and external policy. Again, opposition to the status quo is the sole arbitrary criterion in accordance with which this campaign of global repression has been inaugurated. Evidence for our assertion can be found in the fact that under the official perspective there is slim possibility for a guerrilla movement to be recognized as legitimate. Indeed one might go so far as to claim that within the formal doctrine the conceptual equipment for arriving at such a justification and legitimation of a popular movement of armed resistance does not exist. Under this light, the logic behind the ‘war on terrorism’ is oppressive and monolithic.
[xiv] A similar claim is equally valid as regards the method applied in the synthesis and compilation of Nazi historiography. E.H.Dance has observed that national socialist historians did not rely upon the crude manufacture of lies in order to arrive at a partisan version of historical events. They rather engaged in a circumspect and selective recording of events that could be employed in support of the official historical point of view, simultaneously suppressing those facts that might militate against Nazi claims. For a useful discussion see, E.H.Dance, History the Betrayer: A Study in Bias (London; Hutchinson, 1960), pp.55-6.
[xv] As G.Leff writes in his examination of the constraints upon reason which are inherent in the structures of theological thought, “Clearly an outlook which is founded upon a guiding set of assumptions cannot claim to be unconcerned with where the argument leads or uncommitted to certain fundamental propositions”. In G.Leff, Medieval Thought, St. Augustine to Ockham (London; Penguin Books, 1978), p.11.
[xvi] Arran Gare views the spread of conformism as a byproduct of the prevalent status obtained by the postmodern cultural paradigm in post-industrial Western societies. For an exposition see A.Gare, Post-Modernism as the Decadence of the Social Democratic State, in Democracy & Nature, vol.7, p.91 (March 2001).
[xvii] Reactionary circles employ a variety of forms of action in order to silence opposition forces. Their repertoire includes the setting up of informal, ostensibly private organizations charged with the task of effectively policing the academic community and defining the limits of legitimate intellectual debate. Such organizations are Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch, a pro-Zionist, anti-Arab association with clear ties to the Republican ruling elite. His aim is to ensure the conformity of the debate that takes place in academia, with the official line adopted by the government in relation to the Palestinian question. Professors whose views might conflict with official claims are singled out by Campus Watch, their names aggregated in ‘black’ lists, charges of anti-Semitism leveled against them. All types of activity are encouraged in an effort to suppress their opposing views, ranging from their ousting from academia to e-bombing and threats of physical violence. The Anti-Defamation League performs a similar function with respect for the so-called revisionist historians who seek to offer an alternative historical account of the Jewish Holocaust and of the conventional assumptions underlying the formal presentation of this tragedy by mainstream historians. At this point, we should call attention to the fact that these oppressive projects find their common denominator in their defense of established views concerning the real historical role of Jews, which in turn, forms an integral part of the mythology of the Zionist movement. Thus the political nexus is revealed between the interests of Zionist political circles and the articulations of US ruling ideology. This is a question to which we intend to come back later in this essay.
[xviii] David Irving, the best known of all revisionist historians, has been repeatedly in the receiving end of such high-handed attitudes on the part of the intellectual establishment. Radical historians, particularly ‘holocaust deniers’, have continually suffered the scorn of mainstream intellectuals and a refusal to engage in discussion with them, to contest and evaluate their unconventional positions. This is in all actuality a totalitarian practice since it aims at the total annihilation of the dissident thinker, the complete negation of the ontological status of the controversial writer as an intellectual. At the same time, it reinforces the standing definition of ‘intellectual’ and galvanizes its cohesion against those who aim at undermining the conventions on which this definition rests. Such tacit attitudes are complemented by the banishment of the dissident from elite literary clubs and societies and by organized boycotts aimed at preventing the contested writer from finding publishing outlets for his work. The following extract from a David Irving speech is quite instructive in this respect: “You see, even on the Adolf Hitler biography I took a very independent line, a line which had my agent Max Becker very alarmed when I published that book. He said: You realize you are going to lose a lot of money by claiming that Adolf Hitler didn’t know what was going on, in short, that Adolf Hitler didn’t know about Auschwitz and so on. He said, well, the first thing is that you’re going to lose the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Readers Digest, the Sunday Times in England is going to cancel, you’ll lose the Military History Club, and so on. And he was right: all the way down the line, we lost every single one of those contracts, every single one of those publishers cancelled the deal”. These remarks were delivered at the 1983 International Revisionist Conference and can be found at
[xix] See US Scholars Attack Campus ‘Intimidation’, P.Curtis, in The Guardian, 17/02/03.
[xx] Characteristically we may refer to those academics whose only crime has been to adopt an independent train of thought on questions such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Their names are usually found in the ‘black lists’ issued by Campus Watch, which has gone so far as to suggest that many of those commentators are either implicitly pro-terrorist, by virtue of the position they are assuming, or active foot-soldiers, directly in the service of terrorist organizations. Another instance of the spread of the repressive norm throughout the cultural-intellectual spectrum is the price paid by actor Martin Sheen for his vocal and intransigent opposition to war in Iraq. Sheen has emerged as one of the emblematic figures of the swelling anti-war movement in the US with his active participation in demonstrations and his fiery speeches directed against the Bush administration. However, it seems that his independent political stance could not be tolerated by the corporate mass media, who, from the outset of the Iraqi crisis, have thrown their full weight behind Bush’s machinations of war. Sheen lost his protagonistic part in the awarded series where he played the President of the US. The most recent casualty of this undeclared domestic war was Peter Arnett, ousted by a major American television network because of declaring ongoing US military operations in Iraq a failure so far. The loss of the sense of an intellectual ‘middle ground’ in which a non-partisan comment on unfolding events might be articulated is a typical trait of the non-democratic, illiberal society. Totalitarian states have no use for independent researchers. They need propagandists.
[xxi] Of course, anyone who is even remotely familiar with the operational history of underground armed groups and with the dialectic between armed struggle and resistance, would be in a position to affirm that when the full force of the repressive apparatus is applied to them, offensive campaigns are little more than leisure for such groups. The military confrontation becomes the dominant element dictating the terrorists’ agenda and armed groups are left to play a purely responsive role to the initiatives of the state apparatus. In short, they are to busy trying to regroup and survive the onslaught.
[xxii] Making ‘Reasons’ For War, Mumia Abu-Jamal, p.2 [at].
[xxiii] Message to the Black Movement, Coordinating Committee Black Liberation Army, [at].
[xxiv] The government has refused to grant access to information concerning the Sept.11events even to the judicial sector. It has escaped many commentators that an independent judicial investigation is yet to be carried out in relation to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The only version of what transpired in that fateful day still remains that provided to us by governmental quarters.
[xxv] Having received the rectorship of Heidelberg University by the Nazis, Martin Heidegger went on to elaborate his views on the role and educative mission that the university was expected to take on under the National Socialist order in a speech delivered at Heidelberg in 1933. He told his audience that, “A fierce battle must be fought against this situation in the National Socialist spirit and this spirit cannot be allowed to be suffocated by humanizing, Christian ideas that suppress its originality […] University study must again become a risk, not a refuge for the cowardly. Whoever does not survive the battle lies where he falls. The new courage must accustom itself to steadfastness, for the battle for the institutions where our leaders are educated will continue for a long time. It will be fought out of the strengths of the new Reich that Chancellor Hitler will bring to reality. A hard race with no thought of self must fight this battle, a race that lives from constant testing and that remains directed toward the goal to which it has committed itself. It is a battle to determine who shall be the teachers and leaders at the university” [at]. I should point out here that while I am trying to indicate the commonalities between the archetypal totalitarian regime of Nazism and the developments that are currently taking place in the US, I am nevertheless by no means suggesting that the slightest resemblance exists between the sheer power and originality of the philosophy that drove the Nazis forward to their crusade and the intellectual degradation and stagnation imposed on academics and the populace by Bush’s brand of reactionary republicanism.
[xxvi] In an article that appeared in the British newspaper The Observer, Will Hutton argues that the surge of neo-conservatism we are currently witnessing in US politics is but the acceleration of trends “in America that had been crystallizing since the 1970s” (In W.Hutton, The Tragedy of this Unequal Partnership, The Observer, 30/03/03). Hutton is quite right in suggesting that the rise of conservatism has been a gradual process rather than an abrupt development. However, the flaws in his perspective become evident once he identifies the Democratic Party as an alternative center of power that may challenge contemporary Republican supremacy. It is my firm belief that were bipartisanship a workable scheme for power sharing, Bush would have had come across far greater resistance in the realm of institutionalized politics in his effort to push his agenda for war. We should then either infer that a monolithic uniformity of views exists among the ranks of the US political class which allows Bush to pursue his neocolonialist policies unchallenged, or that the traditional administrative mechanisms that offer a set of institutional constraints and checks on the otherwise unlimited power of government no longer function properly. Either way, the Democratic Party should be viewed not as part of the solution but rather as part of the problem.
[xxvii] “From the following it will be inferred that by speaking here of a ‘state of emergency’ we must refer to a general notion of statecraft, not to any particular obligatory decree or the occasional state of siege”. In C.Schmitt, Political Theology, ch.I, p.17 (Athens; Leviathan, 1994).
[xxviii] “In its absolute form, the state of emergency can be said to have arisen at the event, and only then, when that situation needs to be created anew in which legal prescriptions can be once again applicable”. Ibid. p.28.
[xxix] Ibid., p.18.
[xxx] Recently an article has appeared in The Nation stressing the conflict which is sure to arise between the interests of global capital and US imperial ambitions. It is argued that the normal function of the global economy is bound to be destabilized by “one nation’s overwhelming military power”. I feel that such a view rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of two important elements of the situation we are presently confronted with. First, the writer seems to take at face value the liberal claim that the free market operates as an autonomous instrument regulating human affairs in its own accord and irrespective of man’s deliberate mediation. This claim is patently false as it has been shown by critics who point out that the market relies on political power in order for the social conditions necessary for its smooth operation to be created. For instance, contractual agreement which is the normal form of association in the context of the free market would be superfluous if the political power did not exist that would actively intervene to oversee its fulfillment. Secondly, I hope to have demonstrated already that US imperialism has little in common with traditional 19th century forms of colonial expansion and exploitation. US nationalism in my opinion is but a political rallying-cry, an ideological tool employed for the purpose of creating cohesion in a society otherwise torn apart by centrifugal economic forces and by the atrophy of its political institutions. It is not an end-in-itself, nor has it produced a worldview where the direct exercise of domination of foreign peoples through some form of military rule is posited as the manifest destiny of the US. The rationale behind the military occupation of Iraq is, I think, far more complex than that. It has to do more with opening up new vistas for multinational corporations to extend their activities, than it does with imposing US military rule in the region of the Middle East. Let us not forget that according to neo-liberal millenarianism, to secure the conditions for the expansion of the global market, is to be carrying out God’s will upon this earth. For an exposition of the contrary point of view see, Military Globalism, W.Greider, The Nation, 13/03/03.
[xxxi] Not surprisingly, this opportunist perspective does not differ in substance from the one voiced by Robin Cook in the dramatic speech he gave in the House of Commons in the course of a stormy debate concerning Britain’s involvement in the illegal war against Iraq. Having announced the reasons which had led to his resignation from his position as leader of the House of Commons, Cook concluded with an all too emotional appeal to fate, exclaiming that things might have turned out different if Al Gore had been the victor of the 2000 US election. Of course, such an exhortation overlooks the fact that the Clinton administration prosecuted its ‘humanitarian’ war against Yugoslavia, showing little respect for international institutions and the rule of law. In fact, the case of Yugoslavia is frequently cited by Republican ideologues in defense of their boss’s aggressive policy towards Iraq.
[xxxii] Critics should rather call attention to the inescapable realities of US power and the systemic complications it presents before us. I believe Mumia Abu-Jamal said it better when he wrote that, “An Empire has, nor needs, allies. It is sufficient to Itself. It has subject powers. It has vassals. It does not have, nor tolerates equals. The Bush doctrine is replete with threats for the rest of the world, to keep that way” [MAJ, Analysis of Empire, at]. It should follow from this that the effective way of countering the imperial pretensions of the Bush regime is by offering a realistic strategic analysis of the overwhelming military strength of the US, the repercussions which it poses for the function of the international system of states and the political strategies through which such power can be mitigated and contained by other nations. Instead of complaining about the unilateralism of the Bush administration and trying to appeal to the magnanimous quality in the characters of Bush and his aides by pleading with them to take an interest in the inalienable rights of states and the integrity of international law, we should come to terms with the fact that American arrogance is intimately related to the perception Americans have of their position in today’s world, as the de facto, ‘benevolent’ leaders of the community of states. Under this light, unilateralism is revealed to be not a tactical, but a strategic choice. Only then shall we be able to construct a viable alternative to Empire, when a practical demonstration of resolve is made on the part of the international community to show that US imperialism will not be tolerated and will be met with energetic resistance. Perhaps, this alone would offer a more convincing illustration against the pitfalls of unilateralism, than any theoretical analysis could ever deliver.
[xxxiii] The anachronistic nature of the reformist critique of globalization appears more forcefully when it gives in to parochial impulses which call for the renewal of the powers of the nation state, thus failing to grasp, and effectively positioning itself against the potential for the development of a new internationalism, emanating from global tendencies towards a greater amount of economic integration and interdependence. See, for example, the debate which took place in the first national conference of the German section of the anti-globalization movement ATTAC, as covered by the World Socialist Web Site [at].
[xxxiv] Making little effort to conceal his disdain for the political talents of the multitude, Joseph Schumpeter, a leading theoretician of elitist democracy, described the masses as “generally weak, prone to strong emotional impulses, intellectually unable to do anything decisive on their own and susceptible to outside forces”, in D.Held, Models of Democracy, p.167 (Cambridge; Polity Press, 1987). Suffice it to say that what Schumpeter identifies as the inherent and eternal defects of human nature, in fact amount to the paralyzing effects of an undemocratic, elitist system of government upon the mental condition of the masses. Rather than being the presupposition of Schumpeter’s elitist political process, they are its product.
[xxxv] To be sure, there is a good deal of Muslim religious organizations in the US which have been allowed to exist in harmony both with the US government and other religious formations. The American Muslim Mission (AMM) is one such group the historical course of which might provide us with useful insights into what has been required of the group so that it may achieve its present rehabilitated status in the American community of worship as a respectable religious association. An offshoot of the radical, black-nationalist Nation of Islam of the 1960s, the AMM has had to shed its ties with its radical past and root out all aggressive, black-nationalist ideological tenets from its official theological doctrine, so that it could finally be “accepted by orthodox Muslims as legitimately Islamic and one with the fold of Islam”, in J.P.Gudel & L.Duckworth, Hate Begotten of Hate, p.4 (Christian Research Institute Journal, 27/01/03). The importance of the historical path trodden by the AMM is twofold; first, it illustrates the ideological transformation that were deemed necessary by the group’s leader, Wallace Deen Muhammad, if his group was to escape the campaigns of state repression (COINTELPRO) directed against the AMM’s precursor, the NOI. Second, it offers a demonstration of the ideological and political pressures that are active within civil society and ensure that the forces which operate in this seemingly apolitical sphere will not overstep the boundaries delineated for their activities by the state. The NOI has hitherto retained its orientation on black-nationalism and the struggle for black self-determination and for this reason it has been marginalized both in religious terms, labeled as ‘heretic’ by orthodox Muslims, and in terms of its political perspective, dismissed as ‘extremist’ by the US government. The nexus between political power and the function of mainstream religious organizations as defenders and guarantors of the status quo is on this count exposed to its full extent.
[xxxvi] For a well-documented history of the NOI’s encounter with vicious state repression see the Nation of Islam & US Government Counterintelligence [at].
[xxxvii] For an exposition see A.Garre, op.cit., pp.91-9.
[xxxviii] The abstract definition which Foucault gave to power, locating it in the totality of a diffuse and multilayered web of disciplinary and coercive relations, the physical center of which is impossible to pinpoint within the social realm, inescapably generates a concept of emancipation as a private affair, namely, liberation on the micro-level from mental forms of oppression and assigns only secondary, if any importance whatsoever, to the collective struggle against the coercive and exploitative institutions of capitalist society [see M.Foucault, The Microphysics of Authority (Ypsilon; Athens, 1991)]. For Foucault, relations of oppression come first, the material conditions of oppression follow. The impossibility of constructing a comprehensive political strategy of liberation along the lines proposed by Foucault’s conception of power appears here in its full force.
[xxxix] The rise of political correctness in US political parlance is the culmination of this exact trend. It does not represent, as Richard Rorty presumes, a political victory against bias of left-wing literary circles in the US. Its wooden language rather symbolizes the stifling of the internal evolution of concepts within the intellectual environment of the American Left and its compromise on the level of practical politics.
[xl] Suffice it to say that numerically speaking, the current President of the US was in fact defeated by his Democratic rival in the 2001 presidential election, as the sum total of votes which Bush received was less than that of Al Gore. The paradox becomes even greater when one calculates the percentage of the votes not cast due to trends of widespread abstention from the electoral process. Virtually fifty-sixty percent of the population refused to offer legitimation to the bipartisan system through their participation in elections. That limits Bush’s popular mandate to a mere 20-30%, leaving the overwhelming majority of the population (70%) without even any sort of formal representation in government!
[xli] “And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people”. B.Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism, p.2 [at].
[xlii] Scarcely will one find a complementary view of politics and of those involved in it among common folks in liberal democracies. As a rule people tend to attribute to politicians adverse qualities such as self-centeredness, dishonesty, corruption and so on. The reason why such discontent has hitherto not ensued in an open rebellion against the system and a demand for its replacement by another, can be found in the common conviction alluded to above that the conquest of freedom is not a goal to be fulfilled by means of collective action carried out in the realm of politics, but it is largely a personal matter (i.e. freedom from bias, dogmatism, sexual liberation) pertaining to the private domain where the individual is the main actor. To this we should add the notion systematically cultivated by the official ideology that liberal democracy, in spite of being far from perfect, is the best political system ever-invented and that the future of humanity is bound to the development of democracy world wide insofar as no rational alternative model of government exists. After all, wasn’t this the crass rationale behind Thatcher’s neoconservative ideology of T.I.N.A. (There Is No Alternative)? It goes without saying that such a definitive ideological premise is open to a number of criticisms. It is sufficient to mention two of them in passing. In the first place it does not follow logically from the fact that capitalism has outlasted the system of existing socialism, that all efforts to construct a viable socialist alternative to market economy should be abandoned. On the contrary, the era of Soviet communism could be seen as merely an episode, a historically bound experience, albeit a disappointing one, in the ongoing struggle to liberate mankind from suffering and exploitation. Instead of rejecting socialism altogether, we should rather try and draw lessons from the Soviet collapse, by evaluating the historical conditions in which it emerged and examining the distortions on socialist content and form that appeared therewith. And even if we were prepared to concede, which indeed we are, that Soviet communism failed, it by no means follows that the failures of communism amount to capitalism’s success. Instead, we should rather adopt a perspective which deals with two failed sociopolitical systems, the capitalist and the socialist. The fact that capitalism is still with us can be interpreted either as an indication of its vivacity and dynamism as a social model, or, in view of the amount of social discontent it generates, as proof of the effective and intelligent use it makes of techniques of social control and domination.
[xliii] In American Tragedy, J.Schell, The Nation, 20/03/03.
[xliv] The traditional leftist notion of the People as incorruptible and inherently virtuous emanates from the philosophical humanist position of the Enlightenment which held that man is innately good, capable of applying reason for the acquisition of desirable ends and naturally disposed towards the society of others. Politically speaking, the idea of the People is rooted in Rousseau’s classical democratic concept of the General Will. Yet history tells us that the working class did not always fulfill those romantic expectations. Contrary to the claims of leftist historiography Nazi Germany was not merely a regime exclusively founded upon a ruthless and efficient system of state terror. It enjoyed genuine popularity among the masses of German workers as well as among the ranks of the ‘decadent bourgeoisie’. Also the story of the rise of Italian Fascism shows most convincingly that the instinct of the masses is far from unmistakable in selecting the political force behind which it decides to throw its weight.
[xlv] [at].
[xlvi] The most obvious historical example that comes to mind is of course that of the ‘Historical Compromise’ between the Italian Christian right and the Communist Party of Italy, concocted as a power-sharing scheme between the two dominant forces of Italian politics at the time. Its aim was the diffusion of the multidimensional social crisis that had infested Italian capitalism in the period from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. During these turbulent times it became evident to the Italian ruling class, largely comprised by members of the Christian Democratic party, that social peace could not be attained without working out some sort of compromise with the communists that would allow them to enter the governmental coalition for the first time after World War II. Other seemingly external political strategies of the DC, which purportedly aimed at expanding the boundaries of DC hegemony while enabling the latter to remain at the center of its system of political alliances, served also an internal disciplinary purpose by allowing the Christian Democratic leadership to stem the more extremist, clerico-fascist or Catholic-populist currents within the party. See D.Sassoon, Contemporary Italy, ch.14, p.238 (London; Longman, 1997).
[xlvii] In Bush and God, R.Balmer, The Nation, 27/03/03.
[xlviii] Ibid., p.1.
[xlix] In M.Engel, Meet the New Zionists, p.4, The Guardian, 28/10/03.
[l] For a classical exposition see M.Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London; Ruskin, 1962).
[li] Max Weber informs us of “the Puritan aversion to sport”, or of the fact that the “theater was obnoxious to the Puritans”, and notes that the Puritan would always decide “in favor of sober utility as against any artistic tendencies” (Ibid., p.167, 169).
[lii] “Our aggression was implicitly defined as compulsory – the product not of our own wills but of objective necessity (or the will of God)”. In N. von Kreitor, American Political Theology, p.2 [at].
[liii] There are obvious economic constraints and class limitations at work within the seemingly universal community of US voters which condition the behavior of the latter and determine the level of participation of each segment of the electorate in the political process. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants are among the most committed and politically-conscious electoral groups comprising, along with American Jews, the conservative bloc of the US political establishment. By contrast, the capacity of disenfranchised racial minorities, such as the Afro-American community, to bring their pressure to bear upon the electoral system is severely hampered by virtue of social and economic obstacles which prevents US Negroes from exercising their electoral duty with systematic frequency and the appropriate degree of political awareness. Consequently, the vast majority of Afro-Americans either consciously choose to abstain from the electoral process in want of any notion of meaningful representation of their interests, or remain indifferent to elections, caught up in their economic problems and their daily struggle for survival. Under such conditions it is only logical that the electoral weight of Afro-Americans steadily diminishes while at the same time the ability of religious conservatives and Jews to influence and shape the formation of policy increases.
[liv] M.Engel, op.cit. p.3.