It's the economy, stupid
Source Louis Proyect
Date 04/05/31/13:07


By Jacques Pauwels, author of
The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War,
James Lorimer, Toronto, 2002

That the USA is entangled in a vicious war in Iraq is not the fault of
President Bush, but of America?s economic system. Without wars,
America?s unbridled brand of capitalism can no longer function properly.
Every tenant of the White House is aware of this and must act
accordingly, and it does not matter at all if his name is Bush or
Clinton, or if his party affiliation is Republican or Democrat.

In the United States, everything revolves around the economy.
Theoretically, the economy may be defined as the aggregate of all
activities which purport to meet the material needs of human beings. But
in the American economic system it is the other way around: the economy
is not there for the benefit of people, people are there for the benefit
of the economy. What, then, is the purpose of the American economy? To
make super-rich Americans (like Bush) even richer and, more
specifically, to make it possible for US corporations to achieve
ever-greater profits. This is not a simple task, and therefore the state
must do something. (Yes, the state, and this in the promised land of
laissez-faire!) The American state?s principal role is in fact nothing
else than the facilitation of the ?accumulation process,? i.e. the
maximization of profits. Here are some, but by no means all, of the ways
it can do so: by providing American industry with easy access to sources
of vitally important raw materials such as oil, and by minimizing the
cost of these materials, typically at the expense of the inhabitants
(and the environment) of Third World countries which are ?blessed? with
such resources; by keeping labour costs as low as possible; by ?priming
the pump? of economic demand by means of gigantic state orders, thus
maintaining production, prices, and ultimately profits at high levels;
by redistributing the wealth of America to the advantage of the
super-rich and to the disadvantage of all other Americans; and finally,
by keeping the latter as ignorant and as meek as possible, so that they
do not understand, and thus possibly challenge, the system.

In order to achieve these objectives, the state uses a plethora of
instruments. Warfare has revealed itself to be eminently useful, and
even indispensable, in this respect; it is simply the nec plus ultra in
terms of instruments for accumulation purposes. That wars are very good,
even wonderful for business, is demonstrated dramatically by the present
conflict in Iraq. First, this aggression put the huge Mesopotamian
petroleum resources at the disposal of the American oil trusts. Second,
the Iraqi market has been pried open to American export products such as
Coca-Cola and Marlboro cancer sticks. Third, the Iraqis now have the
opportunity to slave away, in return for low wages, for the benefit of
the US corporations for whom the country?s state-owned enterprises are
being privatized ? in flagrant violation, incidentally, of all
principles of international law. Fourth, in the USA itself employment
opportunities will shrink, thus driving wages down even further, as
large firms will be able to have their commodities produced by cheap
labour in sweatshops on the banks of the Tigris. (Yet another case of
?outsourcing?!) †Fifth, the war has brought about an explosion of
present and future military state expenditures, and supplying the
Pentagon with pricey martial toys is guaranteed to be a bonanza for the
giants of the American armaments industry; armament is now more than
ever before the most profitable of all sectors of the US economy. Sixth,
the war also yields plentiful ?spin-off? orders. in connection with the
?reconstruction? of Iraq?s infrastructure, conveniently wiped out by
American bombs. The lucrative contracts will be shared with countries
that were willing accomplices in the American attack on Iraq, but
American corporations such as Dick Cheney?s Halliburton are of course
receiving the lion?s share. Seventh, while the super-rich owners and
managers of America?s biggest enterprises will pocket the abundant
profits made possible by the war, ordinary Americans will pay with their
taxes for the costs of the war. The costs of the war are thus
socialized, while the profits are privatized: a perverse redistribution
of the wealth of America in favour of that tiny percentage of the
population which already owns most of the nation?s wealth, but which
expects to own an even bigger share next year. Eighth, the war has
proven to be a brilliant opportunity to introduce repressive measures
such as the so-called Patriot Act, measures which aim to restrict the
rights of citizens and to intimidate potential dissidents, in other
words, to keep the people meek. As for keeping the people ignorant as
well, it is generally known that in time of war the American media line
up unconditionally behind the president in order to trumpet without any
hint of criticism even the grossest lies and the most far-flung
fantasies dispensed by the White House and the Pentagon. It is wrong to
think that ordinary Americans are extremely naÔve, if not hopelessly
stupid, as Europeans tend to believe. They are just incredibly poorly
informed by their presumably ?free? and ?independent? media.

As I have demonstrated in my book The Myth of the Good War, it was the
Second World War which revealed to corporate America how wonderfully
functional armed conflicts can be for the purpose of making money. In
fact, by the time that war came to an end in 1945, making money ? more
particularly, achieving sky-high profits ? had become unthinkable
without warfare. This is why after 1945 the USA has never ceased to
fight wars, a long ?cold? one against the USSR as well as plenty of hot
wars in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Persian Gulf, etc. Not all, but
most, of these wars were overtly or covertly unleashed by Washington.
The warmongering of Bush Jr. is therefore no exception to the rule. It
is the rule, the rule of the system. Only wars can bring the super-rich
of America the fabulous profits that are the raison d?Ítre of the rugged
American economic system, a system sometimes pithily summarized as
?profits before people?. †The USA may soon have another president, but
let there be no illusions: America will continue to fight wars, even
with Kerry ? yet another scion of the super-rich elite ? in the Oval
Office. Regime change, a changing of the guard in the White House, is
not good enough. For the USA to stop going to war, it needs another
economic system, a system that puts people before profits.

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