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(DV) Petersen: Progressives and the Imperialist Line







Progressives and the Imperialist Line
by Kim Petersen
September 29, 2005

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It is generally known by readers of progressive media that (1) the US corporate media is part of the military-industrial complex, financial centers, and special interest groups, and (2) that said media is deeply entrenched within the political corporate duopoly of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Hence, the corporate media is, unavoidably, an abetting organ of imperialism through dissemination of propaganda and disinformation.


Since right-wingers have successfully co-opted supposedly left-wing political parties (examples are rife: Clinton’s neoliberalism under the sponsorship of the Democratic Party in the United States; Blair and the Labour Party in Britain; Chrétien and Martin with the Liberal Party in Canada; and most glaringly, Deng Xiao Peng’s obliteration of the people’s revolution led by the Communist Party in China), it would hardly be surprising that right-wingers have masterly encroached into progressive media. Indeed right-wing sources fund many progressive media. [1]


Having said that, a serious problem of method and principle arise when decidedly progressive writers and keen observers of the American Empire adopt the analytical methodology and vocabulary of imperialist decision makers and their think tanks. In addressing such a phenomenon, I must emphasize that it seems rather odd that at a moment such as this when reactionary, criminal forces control the West and when all progressive elements of society must harness their energy to confront the enemies of civilization sitting in Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa, and Moscow, I have to take on progressive writers.     


Take Ken Sanders for example. Sanders is a committed writer and his progressivism needs no verification; yet, his approach to political analysis is sometimes mired in analytical flaws and propagation of neocon lingo and thought. Of course, I don’t want to seem like I am singling out Sanders for refutation (in August I responded to a Sanders piece on patriotism and constitutional fidelity [2]), but when a writer trumpets specious views on a progressive web site that parrot imperialist dogma then such views bear revelation and must be confronted with counter-arguments. [3]  


As Sanders points out, Bush’s illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq did indeed open a Pandora’s Box. But Sanders referred to the “naive declaration” of “Bush and his apologists … that the invasion of Iraq will spread democracy and stability throughout the entire Middle East.” But this was hardly a “naive declaration”; it was a lie. The US has never been about spreading democracy. It has been about putting regimes in place that are subservient to US “elite” interests. The recent US-sponsored coup d’êtat in Haiti convincingly exemplifies the folly of believing the notion of the US as a committed supporter of democracy -- assuming that we are talking about Athenian democracy and not neocon democracy.


Next Sanders asserts (as Pepe Escobar did earlier [4]): “By most definitions and standards, Iraq is already in the throes of civil war.” Iraq is probably no more in the throes of civil war than the northern and southern halves of Vietnam were in the throes of civil war under US instigation. In addition, the whole concept of an Iraqi Shiite-Sunni confessional war has been a principle motor of the US policy for which it has spent a huge amount of time and money to plan and promote. It has been over two years that the US has been promoting that concept without much success although in the meanwhile it has become the ongoing rationale to continue occupying Iraq.


Sanders writes:


While our television screens are saturated by images of chaos and death in Iraq, the stories beneath the images are even more disturbing. Purely sectarian attacks, largely between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite populations, have been rising dramatically for months. According to Iraqi government statistics, such "targeted" attacks have doubled over the past 12 months.


It is an admission that Sanders is gathering his information from the corporate media. As well, Sanders cites “Iraqi government” statistics in support of his contention of “[p]urely sectarian violence.” Is Sanders insinuating that there is a body legitimately deserving of the moniker “Iraqi government”? Can a legitimate election take place under the aegis of occupation? Under terms dictated by the occupiers? Without the participation of a significant section of the populace?


If the government is illegitimate then what legitimacy can a constitution crafted by this government hold? None. It is a government that colludes with occupation forces. Consequently, the constitution is a collaborationist-produced parchment without legitimacy.


To buttress his contention of a Sunni-Shi’a split, Sanders states: “This new-found reluctance of Sunnis and Shiites to marry each other is just another indication of the increasing isolation and animosity between the two populations.” Why is the onus being placed on the occupied people for any slide into internecine warfare instead of upon the occupation forces that practice age-old divide-and-conquer tactics? This rationale serves the imperialist agenda well by deflecting attention from its malicious aims.


Sanders notes that it is post-invasion that the seeming sectarian rifts opened thereby pointing to the invasion and occupation as responsible. Nevertheless, why should ethnic or confessional differences in Iraq be any more violent than such differences in the US?


Sanders also interprets the refusal of Arab nations to send ambassadors to Iraq as a sign of distrust over proclivities toward Iran. Why is this? The refusal to send ambassadors might better reflect an unwillingness to confer legitimacy upon an Iraq under US occupation.


In the face of such unmitigated evil unleashed by capitalist and religious imperialists for the benefit of a wealthy few and the ruination and obliteration of masses of struggling people, it is eminently understandable that progressives respond powerfully. But progressives must keep a sharp mind as to what their words imply. For instance, what does Tariq Ali mean by his recent fancy statement: “The grammar of deceit utilized by Bush, Blair and sundry neocon/neolib apologists to justify the war has lost all credibility”? [5] Does he mean that the deceit ever had credibility? I don’t think so, but nonetheless, the implication is there.


While solidarity is foundational among progressives, there are many views to be expressed. Nonetheless, progressives must exercise due caution so as not to regurgitate the dogma of the imperialists.


Kim Petersen is Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at:

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[1] Charles Shaw, “The Gatekeepers Of The So-Called Left: Regulated Resistance: Part 2,” Investigating ‘new’ Imperialism, 3 May 2005.


[2] Kim Petersen, “Imagine No Countries,” Dissident Voice, 29 August 2005.


[3] Ken Sanders, “Pandora's Box,” Dissident Voice, 24 September 2005.


[4] Pepe Escobar has unquestionably bought into the imperialist dogma that a phantom figure named Abu Musab al-Zarkawi “is certainly the leader of Monotheism and Holy War, or al-Qaeda” in Iraq and that he leads an “all-out war” on Iraqi Shi'ites. He describes al Qaeda’s “agenda” in Iraq as “keeping permanent chaos and anarchy.” This is patently absurd. Is the Iraqi resistance supposed to calmly submit to the occupiers? What Escobar calls “permanent chaos and anarchy” (something of which the US and its junior partners are supposedly not guilty) is resistance that is a “means” to the agenda of ridding Muslim lands of occupying forces, ending the rule of corrupt collaborating regimes in Muslim lands, and the establishment of Muslim theocracies. “Welcome to civil war,” Asia Times Online, 16 September 2005.


[5] Tariq Ali, “The logic of colonial rule,” The Guardian, 23 September 2005.


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* Whose Salmon?
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Five
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Four
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Three
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Two
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part One
* Darwinian Survival of the Fittest Meets Wal-Mart and Hiroshima
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