|Volume 20 - Issue 08, April 12 - 25, 2003
India's National Magazine
from the publishers of THE HINDU
An American war project
Interview with Samir Amin.
Samir Amin, Director of the Third World Forum, has been a consistent
critic of neoliberal globalisation, particularly its relationship to the
changing nature of imperialism, operating on a global scale. In this
interview he gave V. Sridhar, by telephone from his office in Dakar,
Senegal, he points out that though Iraq may be overrun soon, the Iraqi
people will continue their resistance against the occupation forces. The
Eqypt-born Amin predicts that the United States and its military allies
will be drawn into a Vietnam-type war of resistance from the Iraqi people.
What is the significance of this U.S.-led war against Iraq?
Samir Amin: This war is not just against Iraq, not even just against the
Arab peoples, or against the people of the region. It is also not a war
against Muslims. It is a war against mankind. It is one of a long series
of U.S.-planned wars, part of an overall criminal project. This project
seeks to establish U.S. military control over the whole planet. This
project, and the philosophy that sustains it, developed some years ago,
even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It dates back to the 1980s, when
the ideology of neo-liberalism attained supremacy, symbolised by the rise
of Thatcherism in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the U.S. At the same time,
the power of the Soviet Union was declining. The neo-liberal plan, to
assume control on a planetary scale, was at that time written by people
like Zbignew Brezinski. They said that after the fall of the Soviet Union,
the U.S. would be the sole and unique hegemonic power. This plan gave
itself about 20 years to establish total control over the rest of the
world. The idea was to prevent any other country or society - particularly
the major countries - from becoming independent actors in the global
Where does the war on Iraq stand in relation to this agenda?
The U.S. has chosen to start its project in the region extending from the
Balkans to Central Asia, which includes the Middle East [West Asia], where
Iraq is, for a variety of reasons. Why have they chosen this region? One
reason is that this region is oil-rich. The U.S. knows that control over
oil gives it the means to pressure its allies, particularly in Europe and
Japan, which represent a triad. The access and control over oil will
enable the U.S. to make super-profits. The U.S. is aiming to plunder the
wealth of the region. Of course, the project does not stop here.
But this war is not only for oil. It also seeks control of West Asia
because of its geostrategic importance. Look at the world map and you can
see that it is exactly in the middle. It lies close to the continents of
Africa, Asia and Europe. Baghdad would be roughly equidistant to London,
Johannesburg and Beijing. Control over the region will enable the U.S. to
control the world, in particular three countries, China, India and Russia.
That is the American vision and those in power there state this quite
frankly. I would say that a junta is now in power in Washington. This
group has acquired power through a dubious election and has quickly
organised its own version of the Reichstag fire, on September 11.
How has the U.S. been able to start with this region in its effort to
establish compete hegemony? One of the chief weaknesses of the Arab and
Muslim societies, extending right up to Pakistan, is that they are all in
a blind alley. All these countries are ruled by political dictatorships.
These regimes also submit totally to the ideology of economic liberalism.
Socially these countries have been disasters. Internally, the response or
opposition to these regimes has also taken the form of political Islam,
which is really a blind alley. This is why protests in the Arab and other
countries in the region are so pathetically weak, when compared to those
around the world. It is weak when compared to protests in Europe or even
But the protests here in India have also been weak...
Perhaps this is because of the India-Pakistan problem. Maybe it is because
India itself is facing the danger of ideologies similar to political
Islam - that of Hindutva.
However, this does not mean there is no opposition to the war. Societies
in West Asia are boiling and the governments are losing their legitimacy.
Nobody knows where all this will lead to. But one thing is clear: The
American plan of using the ugly means of bombing the people of Iraq is not
going to bring democracy to these societies. It is to bring in another
type of dictatorship, replacing the present pattern, not only in Iraq but
also in other countries of the region, Arab and non-Arab. The Americans
want to replace these regimes with Islamic dictatorships, which will be
allies of the U.S. The idea is to, in a way, revive the old alliance
between U.S. capital and regimes of the Saudi Arabian kind, which is based
on a conservative and reactionary strand of political Islam.
Why have there not been protests on the streets in the region?
The regimes in these countries are not allowing the people to protest.
They do not even have the minimal norms of democracy. Repression has grown
in these countries during the war.
There are also differences among the regimes in the Arab world... How is
this reflected in their response to the war?
Each of these regimes has its specificities. But they are all undemocratic
and they all submit to the neo-liberal ideology. The comprador bourgeoisie
governs them all. They implement the prescriptions of the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund and other agencies that serve the ideology of
neo-liberalism. All these regimes are utterly incapable of facing the U.S.
But is not popular pressure on these regimes increasing after the war
This is what we hope will happen. I think people in these countries will
exert more and more pressure on these regimes. But whether these pressures
will be strong enough to compel these regimes to change course, or whether
the pressure will lead to the fall of at least some of these regimes,
remains to be seen. If there are changes in regimes, whether those
succeeding them will be more pro-American, but under the banner of Islam,
also remains to be seen. Speaking at the U.N., the French Foreign Minister
warned the U.S. that it is starting a war without knowing the
consequences. He warned the U.S. that there will be growing chaos and that
the result of the war would not be what the Americans imagined it to be.
He was right, much more realistic than any of the foolish people of the
Is the war likely to be a catalyst for change... ?
I am not surprised - and people in the Arab world are not surprised
either - about the spirited fightback of the Iraqi people. Despite their
suffering at the hands of the regime led by Saddam Hussein for over 20
years, the Iraqi people are nationalistic. They are defending their
country against the invaders. Whatever be the immediate results of the
war, which is characterised by a gross imbalance of military forces, this
war will not be over soon. Yes, the U.S. may appear to occupy the whole
country militarily, but that does not mean the war will be over. It will
move into a new phase, into something like the war in Vietnam.
What, in the nature of the Iraqi regime and society, explains the
resistance mounted against a much more powerful enemy?
I do not think this resistance is mobilised by merely the power system in
Iraq. I even feel that once the regime is destroyed by the U.S. military
occupation, the Iraqi resistance will actually grow stronger.
After the U.S. occupies the whole country and destroys the regime, the
resistance of the people to the U.S. will be even stronger. In some sense,
the nature of Iraqi society is not different from that of any other in the
South. If India were to be invaded by the Americans, you would, whatever
be the nature of the national regime in Delhi, be willing to defend your
land in the same way as it is happening in Iraq. That is something the
U.S. junta is unable to understand. However much they bomb Iraq, the
people will continue to resist. And, this resistance will echo throughout
the world as it is already happening. Everywhere in the world, public
opinion is decisively against the war. I am now in an African country. I
can say that more than 90 per cent of the people of Africa are against
this brutal war. The U.S. is going to be more and more isolated from the
rest of the world. In this sense, the U.S. junta has already suffered a
major political defeat as a result of this upsurge of world public opinion
What will be the impact of the Iraqi resistance on other societies in the
I do not know what form it will take, but the protests and solidarity with
the Iraqi people will grow. This will put into question the existence of
the regimes in the countries of the region.
Are there some countries where this may happen sooner?
That is difficult to say now. At least in Syria and Egypt - and in another
important non-Arab country in the region, Iran - the growing strength of
public opinion will demand the adoption of a more consistent anti-American
position by their governments. Throughout the region there will be a
greater polarisation of public opinion against the U.S.
You have said that the Arab world is not one. What are the different
strands in the Arab world, and how is the war going to affect them?
Certainly the Arab world is not one. Even the vision of the popular
classes (workers and the peasantry in particular) is limited to their
local conditions of existence. But insofar as these countries are
connected to the Palestinian issue, they are one. More and more people
throughout the Arab world understand that U.S. support to Israel is
absolute and unconditional. They also understand that the U.S. is
establishing its military domination in the region through Israel. They
view this as a danger. In that sense, the concept of the "Arab world" is a
But it is a strong political concept in the circumstances. The so-called
specialists on Iraq in the U.S. establishment cannot comprehend this. They
overplay the differences among the Shias and the Sunnis. Of course there
are differences among them, but they count for nothing in the face of an
imperialist military invasion. Fundamentally, people believe that the
Americans have no business to be in Iraq.
How have the television networks and newspapers of the Arab media covered
The Arab media face a dilemma. They are compelled to show images of the
war to viewers 24 hours a day. These images show that the war is against
the Iraqi people and not merely against Saddam Hussein. They also show
that the U.S. and British armies, particularly when they are in contact
with the general population in Basra and other places, are behaving
exactly like Israeli soldiers in Palestine. Images of killed civilians,
destroyed houses and people terrorised by foreign forces are being seen on
TV screens throughout the Arab world every day... The images are not
accompanied by commentary. For instance, Jordanian television channels are
not allowed to voice their condemnation of the U.S. So they just show the
images of the war and its impact. In the print media, the condemnation is
clear. There is direct condemnation of the U.S., particularly its attempt
to gain absolute control of the Arab world. Much of the Arab media are
clearly against the war. Of course, the media face pressure from their
governments, but the balance of public opinion is so overwhelmingly and
decisively against the war that not only the media but even the regimes
cannot suppress them totally.
Is the resistance to U.S. domination in the region likely to be channelled
along Islamic rather than secular forms? What are the implications if
resistance takes an Islamic form?
This is a very important question mark in the region. The American plan
does not visualise putting in place democracies in the region, but
installing Islamic allies in power. The U.S. assumes that it will be able
to maintain complete control over these Islamic regimes. I doubt whether
the U.S. will succeed in this because these regimes will enjoy no
legitimacy... People will not accept any regime that is close to the U.S.
There will be Islamic anti-imperialistic actions but the resistance will
also take other forms. The U.S. will try and restrict the oppositional
space to Islamic elements to try and maintain a pretext for its presence
in the region, citing the problem of "terrorism".
You hold the view that the current phase of imperialism is markedly
different, in the sense that inter-imperialist rivalries are now a thing
of the past. How would you assess the French and German response to the
I think the responses from France and Germany are credible, although I do
not think we are moving into a situation of growing inter-imperialist
rivalries. I do not think capital in France, Germany or the U.S. has any
fundamental differences. I think the inter-penetration of monopoly capital
represented by the transnationals from the U.S. and Europe is so great
that they have a lot of common interests. I think the conflict is at the
political level. The political culture of the European peoples,
particularly in France, Germany and Russia, is very different from the
political culture in the U.S. It is very clear - and visible - that public
opinion throughout Europe is against the war. People in there are against
the war, not merely because they are pacifists but also because there is a
growing awareness that the U.S. junta is following a foolish,
irresponsible, dangerous and criminal vision... They fear that this vision
will result in the complete denial of democratic and human rights for
people all over the world, and a total subversion of international law. It
is this growing opposition from public opinion that the French and German
governments reflect. I fully agree with the position taken by France,
Germany, Russia and China. Even the smaller countries, which were under
tremendous pressure from the U.S. in the Security Council, refused to
succumb. Therefore, the ground is conducive for building an international
front to revive the U.N. The U.S. has decided to kill the U.N., but there
is now also an opportunity to revive it, based on the respect of
You have spent many years in France. What is your assessment of the French
position on the war? There is a view that they are merely bargaining with
the U.S. for the rights to the oil fields in Iraq and the region...
Of course, France and Russia have material interests in Iraq. I do not
think the French position has been decided by merely this consideration.
What is the mood in the Arab world?
At present, it is exclusively anger. It is too early to say whether this
will crystallise into a positive political alternative and result in the
democratisation of these societies. I have friends in Iraq who are in
opposition to the dictatorship. They oppose just as much the U.S. invasion
of their country. I have not been able to be in touch with them since the
war began. Based on my reading of the Arab press, and on discussions with
friends who know Iraq from the inside, I feel that the Iraqi resistance is
likely to gain in strength. This war will not finish with the occupation
of Iraq. It will take another form, of spontaneous guerilla resistance to
the U.S. occupation. Iraq has a tradition of guerilla warfare. They have a
rather long history as a courageous people - not afraid of death.
I have spent a long time in Vietnam in the company of their military
commanders. They have always told me that the Americans are more
comfortable while bombing or indulging in assassinations or killing
civilians. I do not think the Iraqi regime will survive the war. I think
Iraq will be more or less fully invaded. Baghdad is likely to fall, but
thousands of people will die there. I do not know whether public opinion
in the U.S. will be such that the war will stop at that point.