‘I used not to use the word imperialism. I thought young people wouldn’t even know what it meant… Suddenly I find that everyone is using the words imperialism and anti-imperialism.’ George Galloway is spot on. The war in Iraq has meant that millions of people are asking questions about imperialism, questions that this excellent and timely handbook goes a long way to answering.
Military aggression by the US is not new. Since the Second World War, the US has invaded or bombed Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Grenada, Haiti, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. Nowhere has such US intervention brought a whiff of relief, let alone liberation, from poverty or repression. Conversely, the US has enjoyed rewards. It secured its long-sought control of a country crucial for the exploitation of the vast and largely untapped oil of Central Asia. It established military bases in Pakistan and every Central Asian state except Turkmenistan. And it used impoverished Afghanistan to show the world that it can ‘regime change’ whenever it wants.
Many questions are addressed in this book, such as the split between France and Britain. After the Suez fiasco in 1956, the British state resolved never again to get out of step with the US, whereas France was determined to build Europe as a counterbalance to US power. Differing economic interests also explain other splits in the UN. Before the so called ‘Iraq crisis’, contracts to develop nearly half the proven oil reserves in Iraq had been parcelled out to mostly non-US foreign companies. In 2002 some 3,000 Russian companies were doing business with Iraq and reportedly had acquired the rights to sell roughly 40 percent of Iraq’s oil on world markets.
Many other articles provide invaluable arguments–George Galloway shows that the Middle East ‘peace plans’ are simply attempts to ‘throw sand in the eyes of Arab public opinion’; Hassan Mahamdallie explains how imperialist states use racism to demonise and dehumanise the ‘enemy’; Chris Harman discusses national liberation and reminds us of Marx’s adage that ‘a nation which oppresses another cannot itself be free’.
The book also has wonderful illustrations and ‘fact files’ that on their own or in combination speak volumes. For example, the US has 15,000 nuclear warheads; its military budget is $379bn and its international aid budget is $25bn. The annual cost of providing healthcare and nutrition for the world’s population is $15bn; the US has almost 45 percent of the trade in major conventional weapons, and owns five of the top six arms defence companies.
However this guide is far from gloomy. Several contributors point to the mismatch between the US’s military might and its economic muscle, which means the empire is beginning to crumble from within. As its relative economic strength in the world continues to decline, it becomes increasingly prone to crisis.
But the main reason for cheer is the emergence of a mass and diverse worldwide anti-capitalist and anti-war movement, which, as Jeremy Corbyn says, has ‘changed the politics of this country’.
Anyone with any doubts about the virtues of US imperialism should read Dragan Plavsic’s piece on the Serbian Revolution that toppled Slobodan Milosevic. ‘Where the west brought colonial rule to Bosnia and Kosovo, the uprising brought democracy to Serbia. Where the west sanctioned ethnic cleansing, the uprising ethnically cleansed no one. Where the west failed to secure Milosevic’s overthrow with 78 days of bombing, the uprising felled him in days. Where the west brought death to hundreds of civilians, the uprising cost three lives.’
A Belgrade University student summed it up well in an interview with the BBC: ‘We did it on our own. Please do not help us again with your bombs.’
Women between revolution and counter-revolution
Animated film retells Anne Frank’s story
A pick of the highlights