Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Arrogance of Empire

Here's my latest article for the The Guardian's Comment is Free website.

What do you make of the latest news from Serbia?

The Serbian foreign minister surprised reporters last Friday when he said that his country would accept any US administration that "did not include members of the ultra-nationalist Republican party".

According to Mr Draskovic, the Republican party should be precluded from office, regardless of the level of public support, on account of its belligerent foreign policy stance and the fact that its leader, George Bush, who launched an illegal war against Iraq in 2003, is a "war criminal".

The Serbian foreign minister also cited provocative pro-war statements of several leading members of the party, including John "Bomb Iran" McCain and Dick Cheney.
The US, faced with pressure from other European countries over the presence of Republicans in government, is set to cave in and remove members of the party from all public offices.

Well of course, the above didn't happen. But what did happen last week was that the US undersecretary of state, Nicholas Burns, said the US would welcome "any democratic government in Serbia that doesn't include the Radicals" (the country's largest party). The EU enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, echoed the US line, saying that "good progress in forming a new reform and Europe-orientated government" (ie one without Serbia's most popular party) was "good news".

Why is it acceptable for the US and EU to dictate to other countries which parties should or shouldn't be included in government, but not for other countries to do likewise? By what authority do the US and EU act? It can't be from moral superiority: when it comes to contravening international law, war-mongering, "ultra-nationalism" and human rights, the US has a far worse record than the countries it is lecturing.

EU governments may have a better recent record, even allowing for the blind eye they turned to the CIA's rendition flights, but even so, their ultimatums to other countries also leave a bad taste in the mouth, particularly when the country is one which has suffered enough at the hands of foreign meddling. Would Yugoslavia have broken up in the first place without the encouragement that the EU, and in particular, Germany, gave to Slovenia and Croatia? It's highly unlikely.

To illustrate the breathtaking, imperialist arrogance of both the US and the EU, it's always useful to imagine a bit of role reversal. What would have been said if the Iranian navy, while patrolling the English Channel (after an Iranian invasion of France), had some of its sailors captured by British ships? Would the British be hailed in Washington and Brussels as the aggressors? Would a tersely-worded statement calling for the "immediate release" of the Iranian hostages be released? I think not.

What would have happened if Yugoslavia had armed and financed the IRA in the early 1970s and then led a coalition of Eastern European countries in bombing Britain for 78 days and nights after it had refused to withdraw its troops from Northern Ireland? Would the US and EU blame the war on Britain?

And how would the US and EU react if President Putin poured millions of roubles into funding anti-American political parties in central and southern America, and, after the "right" parties had come to power, announced the formation of a Russian-led military alliance and the stationing of Russian military bases on central and south american soil?

Until the world's two most powerful empires start behaving as they would like others to behave, we should treat their threats and ultimatums with the contempt they deserve.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic, fantastic piece Neil!
Keep the bastards on the run!

Patzer said...

As you say, Neil, role reversal can be illuminating.

"Do as you would be done by" is an unknown concept to western governments, it seems, as are some of the ten commandments. This is particularly surprising when the two highest profile leaders are devout Christians.