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[casi] Real reasons for the rush to war/George Monbiot article in The Guardian

Dear list members

Interesting Guardian article from George Monbiot:,5673,897814,00.html

Depressing analysis - not sure how it can help against sanctions - but
useful as ammunition against Tony Blair's 'moral' stance for a war with
Iraq - and to challenge Bush to come clean on his real reasons for
saying he's 'running out of time/patience' with Saddam Hussein.

best wishes
Cathy Aitchison
PS: reference for the lectures from Professor David Harvey, mentioned in
the article:

Guardian, Tuesday 18 Feb 2003
Too much of a good thing
Underlying the US drive to war is a thirst to open up new opportunities
for surplus capital
George Monbiot
Tuesday February 18, 2003
The Guardian

We are a biological weapon. On Saturday the anti-war movement released
some 70,000 tonnes of organic material on to the streets of London, and
similar quantities in locations all over the world. This weapon of mass
disruption was intended as a major threat to the security of western
Our marches were unprecedented, but they have, so far, been
unsuccessful. The immune systems of the US and British governments have
proved to be rather more robust than we had hoped. Their intransigence
leaves the world with a series of unanswered questions.

Why, when the most urgent threat arising from illegal weapons of mass
destruction is the nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan, is
the US government ignoring it and concentrating on Iraq? Why, if it
believes human rights are so important, is it funding the oppression of
the Algerians, the Uzbeks, the Palestinians, the Turkish Kurds and the
Colombians? Why has the bombing of Iraq, rather than feeding the hungry,
providing clean water or preventing disease, become the world's most
urgent humanitarian concern? Why has it become so much more pressing
than any other that it should command a budget four times the size of
America's entire annual spending on overseas aid?

In a series of packed lectures in Oxford, Professor David Harvey, one of
the world's most distinguished geographers, has provided what may be the
first comprehensive explanation of the US government's determination to
go to war. His analysis suggests that it has little to do with Iraq,
less to do with weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with
helping the oppressed.

The underlying problem the US confronts is the one which periodically
afflicts all successful economies: the over-accumulation of capital.
Excessive production of any good - be it cars or shoes or bananas -
means that unless new markets can be found, the price of that product
falls and profits collapse. Just as it was in the early 1930s, the US is
suffering from surpluses of commodities, manufactured products,
manufacturing capacity and money. Just as it was then, it is also faced
with a surplus of labour, yet the two surpluses, as before, cannot be
profitably matched. This problem has been developing in the US since
1973. It has now tried every available means of solving it and, by doing
so, maintaining its global dominance. The only remaining, politically
viable option is war.

In the 1930s, the US government addressed the problems of excess capital
and labour through the New Deal. Its vast investments in infrastructure,
education and social spending mopped up surplus money, created new
markets for manufacturing and brought hundreds of thousands back into
work. In 1941, it used military spending to the same effect.

After the war, its massive spending in Europe and Japan permitted
America to offload surplus cash, while building new markets. During the
same period, it spent lavishly on infrastructure at home and on the
development of the economies of the southern and south-eastern states.
This strategy worked well until the early 1970s. Then three inexorable
processes began to mature. As the German and Japanese economies
developed, the US was no longer able to dominate production. As they
grew, these new economies also stopped absorbing surplus capital and
started to export it. At the same time, the investments of previous
decades began to pay off, producing new surpluses. The crisis of 1973
began with a worldwide collapse of property markets, which were, in
effect, regurgitating the excess money they could no longer digest.

The US urgently required a new approach, and it deployed two blunt
solutions. The first was to switch from the domination of global
production to the domination of global finance. The US Treasury, working
with the International Monetary Fund, began to engineer new
opportunities in developing countries for America's commercial banks.

The IMF started to insist that countries receiving its help should
liberalise their capital markets. This permitted the speculators on Wall
Street to enter and, in many cases, raid their economies. The financial
crises the speculators caused forced the devaluation of those countries'
assets. This had two beneficial impacts for the US economy. Through the
collapse of banks and manufacturers in Latin America and East Asia,
surplus capital was destroyed. The bankrupted companies in those
countries could then be bought by US corporations at rock-bottom prices,
creating new space into which American capital could expand.

The second solution was what Harvey calls "accumulation through
dispossession", which is really a polite term for daylight robbery. Land
was snatched from peasant farmers, public assets were taken from
citizens through privatisation, intellectual property was seized from
everyone through the patenting of information, human genes, and animal
and plant varieties. These are the processes which, alongside the
depredations of the IMF and the commercial banks, brought the global
justice movement into being. In all cases, new territories were created
into which capital could expand and in which its surpluses could be

Both these solutions are now failing. As the east Asian countries whose
economies were destroyed by the IMF five years ago have recovered, they
have begun, once more, to generate vast capital surpluses of their own.
America's switch from production to finance as a means of global
domination, and the government's resulting economic mismanagement, has
made it more susceptible to disruption and economic collapse.
Corporations are now encountering massive public resistance as they seek
to expand their opportunities through dispossession. The only peaceful
solution is a new New Deal, but that option is blocked by the political
class in the US: the only new spending it will permit is military
spending. So all that remains is war and imperial control.

Attacking Iraq offers the US three additional means of offloading
capital while maintaining its global dominance. The first is the
creation of new geographical space for economic expansion. The second
(though this is not a point Harvey makes) is military spending (a
process some people call "military Keynesianism"). The third is the
ability to control the economies of other nations by controlling the
supply of oil. This, as global oil reserves diminish, will become an
ever more powerful lever. Happily, just as legitimation is required,
scores of former democrats in both the US and Britain have suddenly
decided that empire isn't such a dirty word after all, and that the
barbarian hordes of other nations really could do with some civilisation
at the hands of a benign superpower.

Strategic thinkers in the US have been planning this next stage of
expansion for years. Paul Wolfowitz, now deputy secretary for defence,
was writing about the need to invade Iraq in the mid-1990s. The
impending war will not be fought over terrorism, anthrax, VX gas, Saddam
Hussein, democracy or the treatment of the Iraqi people. It is, like
almost all such enterprises, about the control of territory, resources
and other nations' economies. Those who are planning it have recognised
that their future dominance can be sustained by means of a simple
economic formula: blood is a renewable resource; oil is not.


Cathy Aitchison

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